To consolidate, disseminate, and gather information concerning the 710 expansion into our San Rafael neighborhood and into our surrounding neighborhoods. If you have an item that you would like posted on this blog, please e-mail the item to Peggy Drouet at pdrouet@earthlink.net

Monday, March 3, 2014

Lobbyists ride the streetcar wave


By Byron Tau and Andrea Drusch, February 12, 2014

 An American-made prototype streetcar is unveiled in Portland, Ore. | AP Photo

 Patton Boggs worked with Portland to secure the first modern federal streetcar grant.

  Streetcars are all the rage in urban planning circles. And K Street has taken notice.
A renaissance for the vintage mass-transit option has spawned a new niche area for lobbying — a rare growth spot in an otherwise difficult business environment. Driven by the hunt for federal transportation dollars, a handful of downtown firms is seeing an influx of municipalities, states or private development organizations lobbying for grants and transit projects.
 “It is a growth area because cities have come to the realization that streetcars are incredibly powerful catalysts for economic development and urban revitalization,” said Jared Fleisher, a lobbyist and attorney with Patton Boggs who works on transit and municipal government issues.
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Patton Boggs worked with Portland, Ore., to secure the first modern federal grant for a streetcar system in 2009. That system, which opened in 2001 and later expanded with federal assistance, helped spark a renewed nationwide interest in streetcars, which also got a boost when the Obama administration tweaked its transportation funding criteria to advance “livability” and transit-oriented development.

Four cities — including Washington — are set to open new streetcar lines this year. A dozen more lines are in the construction phase in cities like Charlotte, Dallas, Detroit, Fort Lauderdale and Oklahoma City. Across the country, about two dozen streetcar projects are in the planning process.
In Portland, more than $2 billion in commercial and residential development has been attributed to the city’s 7.2-mile streetcar system.

“The modern streetcar can do a lot of things,” said David Goldberg, communications director for group Transportation for America. “First, it’s a transportation mode, sure, but it also has been an essential element to redevelopment for some of the older industrial areas and downtown areas by connecting these people to the population centers or the activity centers that already existed and strengthening both in the process.

(Also on POLITICO: Full transportation and infrastructure policy coverage)

“So it’s a trigger for development and redevelopment as much as it has been a transportation mode,” he said. “I think that’s why so many cities are interested to see if they can replicate that success.”

A consulting firm hired by Washington estimated that the city’s proposed 37-mile system would spur between $5 billion and $8 billion in development. Washington’s first line is due to open in the coming months — a line that planners hope will someday run through the median of K Street N.W. before ending in Georgetown or Arlington, Va.

Law firms and lobbying shops are most often brought on board to help cities and transit agencies navigate the complications of the federal grant process and put the best possible face on their Federal Transit Administration applications.

“A lot of cities are looking at streetcar projects right now,” Patton Boggs’s Victoria Cram said. But “there is a very arduous process at FTA to get federal funding.”

(From POLITICO Magazine: Jerry Brown's train obsession)

Patton Boggs represents several clients on streetcar issues, including New Orleans, Portland and Riverside, Calif. Other firms have also carved out similar niches. Holland & Knight had three clients with streetcar issues in 2013 and has represented others in the past. The Ferguson Group, CapitalEdge Strategies, FaegreBD Consulting, The Livingston Group and others lobbied on streetcar issues in 2013.

Last year, 13 active lobbying contracts listed streetcars as an issue — mostly from cities or transit agencies looking for help in Washington to get or keep federal funding. Another nine organizations listed light-rail projects or issues on their federal lobbying records in 2013. Those clients include cities like Tucson, Minneapolis, Charlotte, West Sacramento and others with proposed or active streetcar lines.