Wednesday, December 20, 2017

My report on Maryland transportation performance measures is out

I’m pleased to say that my report on Maryland transportation performance measures is now available here.
This is work that I have done for 1,000 Friends of Maryland and the Central Maryland Transportation Alliance, two excellent nonprofit advocacy groups that have been leading the struggle to defend and improve good transportation decision-making in the state.
The back story (very condensed) is that as a result of the last gubernatorial election, Maryland transportation and land use decision-making took one of its periodic steps backward (elections have consequences!).  The Legislature, with outside leadership supplied by 1,000 Friends and CMTA, enacted a law requiring a quantitative, transparent project selection process for transportation capacity increase projects as a way of preventing too much slippage.  The law specified a set of goals and performance measures and directed the Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) to adopt implementing regulations.  MDOT said – rather incredibly – that these performance measures were too difficult to implement.  As part of the ensuing hullabaloo (you don’t want to know all the details), I was brought on board to demonstrate that implementing these performance measures is, in fact, very doable.  Hence, the current report, which is an expanded version of legislative testimony submitted previously by 1,000 Friends and CMTA.
The report reviews each of the statutory performance measures and identifies best practices which MDOT can bring in to implement the law.  (Interestingly, MDOT is now circulating a draft report that aims at getting back in the game.)

This controversy is not over, but I think the takeway is that advocacy groups, if they stay focused and bring in expert help, can hold agencies to a higher standard.  DOTs do better when they have energetic, well-informed, and well-equipped groups engaging with them.

Monday, December 11, 2017

York PA takes the prize!

One of the many good things the advocacy group “10,000 Friends of Pennsylvania” does is to hand out annual “Commonwealth Awards” recognizing the state’s best Smart Growth developments (full disclosure: 10,000 Friends is a client of mine).
This year’s awards celebrated the great stuff happening in York PA.
York is a mid-size city (~40,000 city, ~100,000 metro) with an industrial past, urban texture, lots of empty rustbelt-type buildings, AND several dynamic and successful redevelopment schemes.  The awards ceremony testified to the vitality of public-sector, developer, and nonprofit initiatives.
The full list of awardees will be posted on the 10,000Friends website, but here are some of my personal favorites:
·      York College has restored and renovated a classic townhouse (the former Lafayette Club) in the center of the city to serve as the college’s “downtown foothold,” housing its community engagement center and various town/gown programs.
·      Warehaus” – an “interdisciplinary design firm with deep industrial roots” – has renovated an old plumbing supply warehouse into a modern, LEED-platinum, industrial-style headquarters, complete with ground-level commercial development.
·      Another old industrial site – the Keystone ColorWorks – is being transformed into a residential site, with 29 high-end, loft-style units, complete with a fitness center and a green rooftop deck overlooking the Codorus Creek.
·      The “Think Loud” development – in another industrial setting – includes a world-class recording studio (home to the York rock band LIVE) and space for startups.
·      The big award winner was the “Royal SquareDistrict,” a four-block area transformed by RSDC developers into a mixed-use neighborhood with art galleries, restaurants (including a space for popup restaurants), shops, a brewpub, and a wedding and event venue.

Congrats to York for its many successful redevelopment schemes – and to 10,000 Friends for spotlighting them!

Friday, December 1, 2017

Thanks Dru!

Dru Schmidt-Perkins, executive director of 1,000 Friends of Maryland for 19 years, has decided to move on.  A big loss for them, but hopefully a big gain for someone else in the Smart Growth and Transportation Reform world!  (Full disclosure: 1,000 Friends is a client of mine)
Dru’s many accomplishments are summarized in a good story from the Bay Journal (here).  For me, Dru’s work demonstrates that smart, thorough, persistent work can make a big difference.  As the article indicates, she has been a fixture at the Maryland legislature, continually educating and working for better outcomes.  Obviously she couldn’t single-handedly prevent all the nuttiness that happens in a legislative setting, but she made a huge difference.  Her work also reminds us that the state legislatures are more than even the front lines in the struggle for smarter growth, smarter planning, and smarter transportation.  And her example should reinvigorate all of us that work at the state level.

Thanks Dru!