The Program on Innovation in Infrastructure is a major research program designed to shed light on significant policy challenges facing all level of governments with emphasis on research questions that occur at the nexus of traditional academic disciplines and conventional policy domains. The Program on Innovation in Infrastructure is based on the belief that federal, state, and local policymakers urgently need rigorous empirical analysis of issues that cut across infrastructure systems including transportation, communications, and the energy grid.
Our research agenda bridges conventional specialties to understand four cross-cutting issues:
Privatization: its changing role in infrastructure provision and operation;
Performance Measurement: its emergence in project and budgetary evaluations, both before and after project selection;
Economic Efficiency: its growing use in project evaluation, particularly dependence on cost-benefit and related economic techniques to justify infrastructure projects; and,
Inter-generational communities: the infrastructure needs and challenges in creating new and retrofitting existing communities to better serve the needs of residents of all ages.
Today, the US faces major challenges in developing, maintaining, and financing physical infrastructure systems. Policy decisions about these choices will ripple across the economy and through the lives of families and business owners, with profound, long-term consequences for economic welfare, equity, environmental quality, and national security. The rigorous empirical research for which the Urban Institute is known can help shed new light on controversial policy choices.
On January 9, 2013, the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) published a new final rule for evaluating the applications submitted by metropolitan areas seeking major capital grants under the New Starts program. Despite the old guidelines, it appears that local characteristics, particularly local financial commitment, better explained the New Starts funding decisions between 1999 and 2011 than did Congressional influence or project justification. This new rule provides an opportunity to revisit the program’s design and grant evaluation process.
In the summer of 2013, the Greater New Orleans Foundation (GNOF), with the assistance of Urban Institute, held a series of Workshops, Urban Water: Strategies That Work. The Workshops informed New Orleans stakeholders about innovative green approaches to stormwater management, highlighting five vanguard cities: District of Columbia, Houston, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Portland (OR). Green stormwater techniques offer significant cost, environmental, health, and economic advantages over traditional, or gray, approaches. This report describes the emergence of green infrastructure for stormwater management; summarizes the main learnings from the five Workshops; and includes case summaries of the vanguard cities showcased in the Workshops.
Income mixing is strongly endorsed as a principle in housing and community development because it is expected to provide social diversity, help low-income people get access to higher-quality goods and services, and achieve social and economic integration. Yet mixing may also pose challenges, and homogeneity may have benefits that should not be abandoned. This paper suggests that the potential benefits of income mixing can be maximized by attending to geographic scale more carefully than has occurred in the past. It reviews policies across multiple scales and proposes research to understand how income mixing works at various scales.
Any enacted immigration reform legislation that is comprehensive in scope will include a path to legalization for the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States. Based on the U.S. Senate bill passed in June 2013, the Congressional Budget Office projects about 8 million people will be eligible for regularization of status, most of whom will likely turn to nonprofits for legal assistance in maneuvering the process. Are there enough immigrant-serving organizations providing legal aid to meet the surge in demand when immigration reform finally happens? This brief begins to answer the question while posing additional ones.
In April 2012, Living Cities asked the Urban Institute to study the Partnership for Sustainable Communities, and the HUD Regional Planning Grants specifically, as a way to understand how the federal government could break down "silos," institutional or political barriers to cooperative and collaborative efforts. The research team reviewed key documents and conducted in-person interviews with personnel at federal agencies as well as organizations leading the regional planning grant projects in five case sites. These findings suggest that federal efforts can, in fact, contribute to breaking down silos both within the federal government and at the regional level.