Because the future is closer every day
Volume 4, #1, March 6, 2014
Transportation concurrency as it’s morphed over 20 years By Jo Laurie Penrose, AICP Recently, I found a copy of the action report that I wrote for my master’s degree in public administration (MPA) in 1993. It was on implementing the 1985 transportation concurrency policy in Florida. I went back and started reading what I had written and researched. Of course, much has changed with transportation concurrency in Florida since the ‘90s. It became optional in 2011, but developers and local governments still struggle with how to pay for needed roadway improvements. Most of my work in the MPA program was on intergovernmental relations. I covered that extensively in my action report. At that time, the network of planners and engineers working in transportation concurrency wasn’t completely developed. I would say that it is now, since concurrency as a part of growth management has a strong network of stakeholders. How Shall We Grow in central Florida is a good example. The stakeholders monitor everything. Local governments are doing more collaboratively, in a shared authority situation, than they used to. CUTR undertook a study in 2007 to determine best management practices to implement concurrency. One is to increase interjurisdictional coordination, from implementing similar LOS standards to having partner governments participate in traffic impact reviews of large projects. Florida has taken the lead in doing regional planning, with numerous regional transportation groups having been formed in the last 15 years. However, the idea of linking transportation and local growth is still done, some might say haphazardly, at the local level. This occurs as an outcome of the concurrency provision, which prohibited development in areas that lacked adequate infrastructure. Local jurisdiction are reluctant or unable to find the funds to make necessary improvements, the concurrency provision has in effect thwarted much urban development.
Still growth machines? At the time I was writing, many local jurisdictions were functioning as growth machines. (Harvey Molotch, The City As a Growth Machine, 1976). They offered the best packages possible to increase population and economic growth. This hasn’t changed at all. Even after the Great Recession, with so many vacant homes and commercial developments, cities and counties are still chasing growth with economic development incentives. One of the results of concurrency permits as a scarce resource is interjurisdiction competition. Several Florida counties have gotten rid of concurrency, based on the 2011 changes and gone to mobility fees to raise money for capacity improvements. This kind of puts the playing field out of synch again. The cities and counties that don’t have the fees could get more growth and development than the ones that do. We’re consuming roadway capacity faster than it can be constructed, and depend too much on roads for mobility. Alternate modes are gaining favor and being pushed in CIPs and long-range transportation plans. Yet, too many people would chain themselves to the steering wheel before using their cars any less. What good is it to have a concurrency management system if you can’t ever catch up on the capacity? Using Florida Level of Service standards, I once did a calculation of how much capacity would need to be added to a road, and how much actual traffic volume was planned for the future. The road would have been over its current LOS capacity before it ever opened. Making things easier with acronyms We’ve seen a long list of alternate funding and policy mechanisms produced to make it clearer who pays for eliminating roadway deficiencies, or what alternative could make it easier to develop a project. The multimodal districts, which I worked on in Destin, are a way to encourage alternate modes rather than emphasize capacity for motor vehicles.
Since the ‘90s, the Florida Legislature has cranked out new exception programs with a good array of acronyms. From MMTDs, to TCMA, to TCEAs, to DULAS and backlog authorities, the criteria have been to make it easier to develop, even if the roadways can’t handle the extra traffic. The funding ideas have created more problems than they solved. Proportionate fair share doesn’t seem to have taken off because it’s too hard to understand. The last project in still gets stuck paying for improvements after all the capacity has been sucked up. The difficulty with transportation concurrency is that someone has to pay for the roadways that support vehicle movement. In Florida, impact fees that were attached to new homes have been repealed. A proportionate fair share ordinance seems to have created confusion on who pays and when. In 2009, a statewide study supported by FDOT and DEO, and conducted by CUTR, looked at mobility fees as a way to fund infrastructure. Concurrency fees only consider transportation. Mobility fees can be implemented to consider land use and transportation. The mobility fee study from 2009 focused more on how land use and transportation interact to make it easier to determine how much a mobility fee should be. “The proposed working concept suggests the development of a regional mobility plan. However, localized mobility needs clearly also need to be addressed. Such needs may require another funding alternative, such as a transportation utility fee. Alternatively, a local impact fee may also be needed to fund localized improvements not reflected in the mobility plan. This raises additional concerns relative to cost of infill and the need to avoid double‐charging development for its impacts.”—Florida Mobility Fee Study, p. 7, 2009. Twenty three local governments in Florida have rescinded transportation concurrency. In several instances, these local governments replaced transportation concurrency with alternative transportation mitigation strategies such as mobility fees. So far only St. Johns, Pasco, Jacksonville and Alachua County are using mobility fees. Gainesville has implemented a multimodal district plan that
relies on the cityâ€™s comprehensive plan as well as fee schedules for new development. Mobility fees could be used for other modes than roads, such as transit and bicycle-pedestrian projects. They could also be used to implement land use goals and reduce sprawl. Jacksonville has tried this with higher fees in the less developed areas and lower in the more urbanized sections of the city. Itâ€™s still too early to tell if the mobility fees can make up enough funding to improve roads and build other infrastructure. The morphing continues Transportation concurrency may well undergo another change by the 2014 Florida Legislature. HB 7023, a wide-ranging economic development bill by the House Economic Development & Tourism Subcommittee, would prohibit local governments from applying impact fees or transportation concurrency to new business developments of less than 6,000 square feet. A city or county commission could vote to opt out of the requirement. The law change would expire after three years. This bill was unanimously approved by the committee on March 5, 2014. The sponsor says it encourages a business-friendly environment in the state. One of the selling points of concurrency when it was approved by the 1985 Legislature was that it would guide development to available infrastructure, such as in an urbanized area. Well, it did guide development but the projects went out to greenfields where roadway capacity was available. In some ways, transportation concurrency did what it was intended to do. That is, until Florida legislators were persuaded that anything that slows development and population growth is bad for the state. To date, the concurrency aspect of growth management is weakened, but still alive.