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Advocacy, Outreach, Education: CTASLA Makes Inroads in the Land of Steady Habits

Connecticut's moniker as “The Land of Steady Habits” reflects the challenges of advancing innovation and new ideas at the legislature. Despite the “blue state” label, state politics are sharply divided along party lines with progressive, urban lawmakers often diametrically opposed to their conservative, rural counterparts. Building consensus at the Capitol requires a great deal of patience – and a broad issue where members of each party can claim a victory.

Several years ago, Connecticut began investing more than $500 million in Federal Transit Administration funds in the creation of Bus-Rapid Transit (BRT) to connect the cities of New Britain and Hartford. A further $190 million in Federal Railroad Administration funds were used to establish commuter rail service between New Haven, Connecticut and Springfield, Massachusetts.

The results have been a game changer for both the cities and small towns. More than 10,000 riders use the CTfastrak busway each day, and 2,000 more commuters take the CTrail trains daily. Adjacent to new transit stations, renovation of derelict factories into apartments and development of new housing units is helping increase the tax receipts for municipalities, revive struggling downtown businesses, and create new jobs. Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) is not a new idea, but it's been largely absent for the Connecticut legislative lexicon.

With this in mind, CTASLA hosted Transit-Oriented Development: Places, Spaces, and Showcases at the State Capitol to educate lawmakers from both parties about the benefits of TOD for their communities. The full-day panel program featured landscape architects and other allied professionals reflecting on some of the state's initial TOD projects. Other panelists included municipal officials, regional planning agencies, economic development specialists, CT DOT staff, and other state government employees that contributed to the projects. Continuing education credits were offered for landscape architects, architects, and planners which helped draw a diverse audience.

Also part of the day's festivities was the celebration of Connecticut Olmsted Day to mark the 197th birthday of Frederick Law Olmsted, a native son of Hartford. CTASLA honors his life and legacy through the Connecticut Olmsted Award, which recognizes an individual or organization that exemplifies the conservation and land stewardship ethos of Olmsted. This year's recipient was Senator Chris Murphy for his work on the permanent reauthorization of the Land and Water Conservation Fund, as well as the passage of the Living Shorelines Act of 2018.

Timing was a key lesson learned. A busy legislative calendar made it challenging for legislative officials to devote their full time and attention to the event. However, the overall event helped CTASLA make connections with a diverse audience of allied professionals and state agencies.

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