Reconnecting America, a national nonprofit that advises civic and community leaders on how to create better communities, released an ambitious report this week that tracks progress in America's regions toward a vision of complete communities.
The report, "Are We There Yet? Creating Complete Communities for 21st Century America," highlights the benefits that complete communities offer all Americans, tells stories about the work being done across the country to create complete communities, and measures progress in every region with a population above 55,000.
"Reconnecting America is all about people, places and possibility," said President/CEO John Robert Smith. "Are We There Yet? clearly illustrates that no matter where you live — big city, small town, Northeast, Southwest — it is possible to live in what we call a complete community. It is a vision that should be a reality for all Americans."
The report introduces the concept of "Opportunity Areas" to help regions track their progress. Characterized by smaller blocks or moderate density housing or jobs, Opportunity Areas have some of the infrastructure in place to help get us "there" by offering greater opportunities to walk, bike or take transit.
Reconnecting America examined all 366 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs) in the U.S. and found 317 have at least one Opportunity Area. In all, one in six Americans lives in an Opportunity Area. Using Opportunity Areas and other regional indicators, Reconnecting America graded each region on its performance in categories we have called Living, Working, Moving and Thriving.
But offering transportation choices is only one element of complete communities. "Are We There Yet?" offers stories and data-driven observations about the role that complete communities play in enhancing the way all Americans live, work, move and thrive and how they contribute to the health of overall regional economies.
"Leaders across the country are working to move America in the right direction, but there is still much to be done to ensure opportunity for all," said Allison Brooks, Reconnecting America's chief of staff. "In issuing this report, Reconnecting America is making a call for a robust national effort to create complete communities for all -communities that are affordable, healthy and well-connected to economic opportunity. This report shows what works and what doesn't work, and offers constructive ideas for how every region can improve their grade, something everyone wants to see on their report card."
To download the report, visit www.ReconnectingAmerica.org/arewethereyet