"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.
Saturday, January 21, 2017
Will buses ever be cool? Boston versus the Raleigh-Durham's GoTransit Model
Stacy Thompson wants buses to be cool. It might seem like a long shot, but she’s not alone.
Public transportation advocates have long lobbied the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority for better bus service, with varied success. Now, they’re trying another approach: giving the humble bus an image makeover in hopes of boosting its popularity and, perhaps, its perceived status.
“Buses are not the second-class citizens of the transit system,” said Thompson, executive director of Livable Streets Alliance, a local transportation advocacy group. “They can be awesome, and they should be fun.”
The alliance launched a “Better Buses Week” initiative in the fall with a session called “Making Buses Sexy,” and the Barr Foundation in the coming weeks will encourage people to share photographs from buses in a social media campaign called “Beauty and the Bus.”
The basic concept is to disruptively rebrand bus service by using a different kind of bus, complemented by a wide variety of other upgrades to the service and amenities package surrounding bus service.
Because of the popularity of the double deck bus in London, and throughout the UK, I figure the best way to do this is to shift to the double deck bus.
(In North America such buses are used by tourist transit services and a few transit agencies. Ottawa, Ontario has the largest fleet of double deck buses in traditional transit service.)
Later I suggested given anti-transit, I mean anti-streetcar people say we don't need streetcars, just better bus service, that we should truly test a high quality bus service, using double deck buses versus streetcar service, to see if making bus service great, which includes:
double deck buses
a great design scheme
high quality shelters and stations
great marketing and wayfinding information
reliable and frequent enough service
that is efficient in getting people to their destination
In DC, it would be relatively easy to shift to double deck buses, because for the most part, utility wires and traffic signal infrastructure doesn't go across the roads--except on side streets. Although there would be a problem accommodating such vehicles in bus garages.
It would be harder in the suburbs because their utility wire and traffic signal infrastructure is different.
Bus rapid transit positioning as the model. One of the ways bus rapid transit systems aim to reposition their service vis-a-vis traditional bus service is through design, design forward shelter and station infrastructure, marketing, wayfinding materials, and fast, frequent service.
Wall Street Journal graphic.
But why should we limit such "amenities" to premium bus service?
In most places, traditional bus service, as a legacy system, is in dire need of a reboot. Metroway bus stop, Arlington County, Virginia. Flickr photo by BeyondDC.
Raleigh-Durham and GoTransit. For years I have argued transit/transportation planning in the DC metropolitan area is sub-optimal, that we don't really plan at that scale, that by default WMATA (Metrorail and Metrobus) is the planner, and for the most part, network breadth and frequency of service is satisficed in favor of year-to-year vagaries of the annual budget.
Across the Research Triangle region, the transit agencies there--Triangle Transit provides service across jurisdictions, while the major jurisdictions (Raleigh, Cary, Chapel Hill) each have intra-city transit services also--have been developing an integrated form of collaborative service delivery for over a decade.
So I sought out and interviewed David Eatman, the transit administrator for the City of Raleigh, who was kind enough to speak to me at length about the transit program there.
The level of transit service integration includes:
- coordinated schedules
- one single call center 485-RIDE (in DC, each transit agency has its own set up/phone number to provide information), as well as an integrated mobile product that includes information f. rom all the transit agencies
- a common fare media product
- a regional transit pass charging one price for use of all or any of the transit services (the DC area does have a regional bus pass, but it is not well marketed; it's easier for Baltimore to do this because they do not have multiple agencies providing services and information, whereas in the DC area at least nine different agencies provide bus service)
- joint purchasing
- transportation demand management services across jurisdictions (in the DC area, the MPO provides some services across jurisdictions and in Baltimore, and individual agencies, especially Arlington County, deliver additional programs)
And more recently:
- the introduction of a common brand, GoTransit, with a common design scheme, differentiated by assigning different primary colors to each agencies. Thus far, only the Chapel Hill Transit agency hasn't shifted to the GoTransit brand. Each agency is sub-branded, such as Go Cary for the Cary system, Go Raleigh, and Go Triangle, for the regional transit agency, Triangle Transit.
This integration process has been going on for a long time and has been a three-stage process.
The area is covered by two different transit planning organizations (metropolitan planning organizations sanctioned by the US DOT) and 12 municipalities.
There had been interest in reducing costs, so integrating the services had been studied beginning in the 1990s. That was the regional study and consolidation consideration phase.
The decision was made not to consolidate, but to go forward together, by collaborating and coordinating to an extremely high degree, but on a voluntary basis. This hinged on an unwillingness to give up unique identities, while recognizing the reality of being part of a larger region.
The analogy many people used was of the college sports teams. The schools have individual identities, but at the same time are part of a strong conference, the Atlantic Coast Conference. People can be proud of both their school and team as well as the history and prominence of the ACC as a coordinating league.
The third stage is unified branding and further development of the services. One reason that they moved to a common design and brand is that citizens were sometimes confused about differently branded buses seemingly serving the same areas, and believed, incorrectly, that the services were inefficient and wasting money. The agencies also were in favor of a stronger visual identity, and a forward and colorful design.
The area is looking to build a light rail line, and in November citizens voted in favor of a regional sales tax for transit.
The "GoTransit" brand has been extended across the services provided by the agencies, although most of the services provided at the metropolitan scale are performed by Triangle Transit. GoLive is the integrated transit information app which includes transit information for university-bus services as well as the regional transit service from Greensboro. GoSmart is the brand for transportation demand management. The GoPass is the discounted/free transit pass offered to students and staff by universities and to employees by participating employers.. GoTogether is the marketing campaign promoting sustainable mobility and transit use, while GoAmbassador is the sub-brand for their transit volunteer program.
In short, transit service coordination and branding in the Raleigh-Durham region is a model example of best practice, demonstrating that multiple agencies can build and deliver better and seamless services to riders by working together.
Systems with multiple modes like in the DC area (train, subway, various forms of bus, streetcar; in Boston, ferry service and light rail too) might argue that it's easier to integrate in Raleigh-Durham because thus far, they only provide bus services.
Common transit infrastructure design. I doubt though, that the transit agencies in the Triangle area of North Carolina have settled on a single model for bus shelters and stations. That is an issue in the DC area too.
1. Transit infrastructure brands transit
2. Transit stops and stations are key marketing touchpoints
3. Transit stops and stations should better integrate within neighborhoods
4. Transit stops and stations should, when practical, interpret and present transportation-transit history
5. Transit vehicles can be an element of city/urban design and branding
6. Transit vehicles can be an element of transit marketing
Because DC is a large city by comparison, there is interest on the part of large advertising companies like Clear Channel (which has the contract), JCDecaux, Cemusa, and others to provide transit shelters in return for being able to place and sell advertising on the structures.
In 2005, DC signed a long term contract with Clear Channel, and the city has upgraded the shelters across the city. Meanwhile, the other jurisdictions, and WMATA have different standards, shelters, etc. Some are better than others. DC's old bus shelters are comparable to the shelters still used today at Metrorail stations Current DC bus shelter Montgomery County Maryland bus shelter, Wikipedia photo
It would be optimal to build a common transit shelter system at the metropolitan scale so that "surface transit" would read the same way across the metropolitan area, regardless of what city or county you're in. Much of the analysis in my recent review of the new Takoma Langley Crossroads Transit Center is relevant to this general point.
MBTA Silver Line bus station. Photo by Steve Pinkus. One problem I have with these shelters is that they are open to the elements, which is no fun in bad weather. The stations typically include kiosks with route maps and sometimes interpretation boards on cultural history. Conclusion. Boston doesn't have the same issue of polyglot and discoordinated branding and services that is the case in DC which has a separate service for most of the separate jurisdictions.
By contrast, like in Baltimore, all of the transit services are provided by one agency, the MBTA. The problem is that bus service is a legacy service and in desperate need of a reboot--and its branding lags the train and subway services.
That's the kind of quantum change that needs to be considered by most transit agencies.
The Raleigh-Durham model of coordination is one that is relevant to transit agencies and metropolitan areas whether or not they have one transit agency or several.
The learning is that riders hanker for a seamless service and that agencies can change and reposition legacy services to do this, if they are willing and committed to doing so.
1. If there are multiple agencies: coordinate and collaborate.
2. Develop and implement a common branding system.
3. Develop and implement a common system of transit infrastructure.
4. If it is a single (but legacy) system: rethink; reboot; reposition; rebrand
Boston's newer transit stations incorporate some design thinking that is quite forward, but as a whole the system hasn't been rebranded. Image by the SubwayNut. The tagline reads: "America's first subway and the best way to get around Boston."
Interestingly, the additional developable space created by the plan is assigned to the district generally, not to individual parcels, which allows for creating amenities and community benefits in more directed ways than is typical of development processes that are led by the private sector, which ultimately owns and develops the properties. According to the article:
The plan places new emphasis on design and environmental sustainability and would require property owners to pay for parks and affordable housing to get permission to build bigger and taller — up to 29 stories along the neighborhood’s central artery.
The hope is that the downtown Bethesda of 2035 will truly be greener, more walkable and architecturally striking. In other words, a significant change.
Under the new plan, all additional density, 4.6 million square feet, would go into a central pool.
To tap into it for their projects, property owners would have to pay a $10-per-square-foot “park impact” fee that would finance the acquisition of new green space. They also would be required to set aside 15 percent of all new apartments as affordable or workforce housing (instead of the usual 12.5 percent) — meaning that prices would be within reach of families making between 60 and 120 percent of the area’s median income, in a neighborhood where new apartments rent for an average of $2,750 a month.
Developers want to go forward because they expect to generate considerable income from young professionals eager to move somewhere close to the District on the Red Line, with many bars and restaurants. And Montgomery County planners are eager because they anticipate a tax revenue windfall. They also argue, with some justification, that if there is to be development in Montgomery County, it’s better that it be in areas dense with public transport than out in, say, Germantown where cars are the main mode of transport.
But there is one major problem with these plans: They would bring more people (with more cars and more children) to a location where the public schools are already bursting at the seams and where drivers experience daily a kind of traffic Armageddon during rush hour on the Wisconsin Avenue corridor, affecting local residents and D.C. commuters alike.
This is in-line with companies moving headquarter operations to more transit-friendly locations, like how a couple years back, Choice Hotels moved from a completely car-centric location on Colesville Road in distant "Silver Spring" to a site within the Rockville Town Center development, adjacent to subway service.
What some people call a corporate "back to the city movement" is really more subtle, as it is a move from car-centric locations to transit/walkable locations that aren't necessarily in cities.
Counties too are intensifying, and in fact the long-time Bethesda Row development was an early example of this (Bethesda Row, ULI Case Studies), whereas now in both Montgomery County (White Flint) and Fairfax County, Virginia (Tysons), large swathes of what had been islands of suburban development are being reproduced into more town-like urban design configurations marked by connectedness.
It is this intensification that Bethesda residents are objecting to, because it conflicts with their understanding of what the suburban land use development paradigm means, and admittedly, because at the edge of the commercial district, some residents will be more directly affected by the changes (tall buildings looming over low scale residential housing).
But as I say, a plan isn't an end, it's a beginning, and there remains a lack of consensus amongst Montgomery County residents about how to go about "reproducing space" in the context of the "new" Master Plan.
This house in Suburban Los Angeles stood in for exterior shots for "The Brady Bunch" television show.
The general intent of the plan is to shift mobility towards sustainable modes away from automobile dependence, although the message doesn't always get through to either the Montgomery County Department of Transportation or the Maryland State Highway Administration, and to intensify land use in areas with high capacity transit.
Incorporation as a city as a strategy to ward off change. Some of the objecting residents have called for incorporating Bethesda as an independent city ("Bethesda Residents Weigh Merits of Incorporating as a City," Bethesda Magazne") which they believe would give them more control over land use policy within the incorporated area.
But this is unlikely for two reasons. First, the County Council has to sanction a vote by the residents.
Second, the County Government would retain control over land use and transportation policy within the area, unless the City of Bethesda is able to get home rule legislation passed by the State Legislature, which is now vested within the county.
It's unlikely that Bethesda residents could muster enough support to change that law, even if they passed the initial hurdle of being able to vote on incorporation, and then were successful in getting people to vote in favor--let alone all the difficult work of creating a new governmental body.
Interestingly, while there are many examples of cities and counties merging over the past couple decades, there is also the trend of deconsolidation or the creation of separate cities or school districts such as in Suburban Atlanta ("Suburbs secede from Atlanta," WND.com) or Memphis ("One county, seven districts: Vying for students as Shelby County Schools de-merges," Chalkbeat), where the city and county school districts merged a few years ago, are about maintaining "white control" of local government. Fortunately, that's not what's going on in Bethesda.
County government as a structure separate from cities. I am from Michigan, where for the most part, cities and to some extent townships, are the primary form of local government, supplanting counties, which mostly focus on social service matters (hospitals, public health, sometimes roads).
Bethesda is the major west county activity center that is town-like in design and practice, whereas much of the development paradigm is otherwise focused on automobile-centric development. Photo: Bethesda Magazine.
When I moved to DC in the late 1980s, I was surprised at how "around here," counties are dominant form of government and that in Maryland especially, there are large conurbations that function like cities, but aren't incorporated as such.
In Montgomery County, Bethesda and Silver Spring are the primary examples, although incorporated cities and towns (e.g., Rockville, Takoma Park, Chevy Chase) do exist elsewhere in the county.
Similarly, for the most part, in this area public schools are organized at the county scale, rather than according to the boundaries of cities and townships as is the case in Michigan. For example, Oakland County, Michigan, which is about twice as large as Montgomery County, has 28 separate local school districts while there is only one school district in MoCo. (In Northern Virginia, school districts are organized at the county scale, with a couple of exceptions, such as separate school districts in Falls Church in Fairfax County and Manassas City and Manassas Park in Prince William County.)
While I do understand the value of local control over land use and transportation policy, to be effective and substantive, increasingly such matters need to be addressed at larger scales, and with changes in the financial capacities and demands on local governments, smaller units of government are becoming less sustainable.
Because Hennepin County relies on property tax revenues for the bulk of its annual income and because Minneapolis comprises a disproportionate share of the county's tax base, the County Government was alarmed over the economic deterioration of the city.
The county found that except for neighborhoods around parks and lakes, the city's property tax base was rapidly declining in value. As the property assessments declined, so did the amount of money collected in property taxes.
As a matter of risk management, the County realized they needed to to step in and invest in urban economic revitalization in order to reverse the downward trajectory of property values within the city.
Initially, they focused on the expansion of parks, open space, and trails development, and later the program incorporated the development of light rail transit service as a way to further build value in the core of the metropolitan area.
Conclusion. Were Bethesda to incorporate and win home rule control over land use policy and practice and to adopt an anti-growth approach, likely this major economic center would start to decline in terms of its centrality, while also negatively impacting the county's revenue picture.
Montgomery County is known for particularly thorough and time consuming planning processes and sometimes the amount of time required to go through the process militates against innovation and taking advantage of opportunities as they are presented because those concepts "aren't in the plan." Nonetheless, despite the complaints, it is robust and transparent process.
Even so, that isn't enough. Montgomery County needs to invest more time and energy in educating citizens about the economic constraints faced by the polity and how selective intensification, the addition of new transit services, and other steps can help their community become more successful and resilient, and relevant in 21st Century, and that the conditions these choices are made in are fundamentally different from the Postwar period in which all the trends favored simple choices promoting growth of any kind, rather than better choices and optimality.
Believe hard enough, and you can get what you want. Or at any rate that’s the theory behind the fashionable cult of manifestation, as championed by Oprah; focus on your heart’s desire, tell yourself you’re going to get it, and it’s amazing what positive thinking can achieve. Only now this form of secular prayer seems to be catching on in Downing Street too.
Fawning coverage of DC school "reform" doesn't push better practice forward
DC's Schools Chancellor, Kaya Henderson, left her position at the end of September. The Post, in articles and an editorial hailed her great accomplishments, although they are arguable, and never came close to fulfilling the measurable promises first made by Michelle Rhee to her foundation overlords -- Guy Brandenburg's series of articles evaluating Rhee's promises found a pass rate of 1.5 on 62 items ("Did Michelle Rhee Actually Close Those Achievement Gaps").
... A 40/40 school is among the 40 lowest performing schools in the District. When she announced her plan, Henderson said her second-highest priority—“invest in struggling schools”—was to increase proficiency rates in those schools by 40 percentage points by the end of the current school year. Initially, DCPS defined “proficiency” according to the D.C. Comprehensive Assessment System (DC-CAS), designed to test mastery of English, math, and science according to local “content standards,” but it abandoned that metric after the 2013-2014 school year.
Schools designated as 40/40 schools have certain traits in common: They mostly reside in parts of the city plagued by high crime, high unemployment, high rates of disease and mortality, and high numbers of single-mother households. More than half are elementary schools, which experts agree is the educational stage that is most critical to any future prospects for success in academics—or life. ...
As Kaya Henderson departs DCPS, the schools are nowhere close to the goal she set, with marginal or inconsistent gains in some schools, stagnation in some, and losses in others, according to a City Paper review of DCPS performance data. DCPS, after four years, still lists 10 of the 40/40 elementary schools as “priority” schools, meaning they still need “intense support to address low performance of all students” and require “special quality monitoring and professional development.” Six are labeled “focus” schools, meaning they need “targeted support to address large achievement gaps,” according to the DCPS website. Just five are considered to be either “rising” or “developing.”
Which is not surprising, given that investment in 40/40 schools has ranged from non-existent to inequitable to compromised, according to DCPS funding data, proficiency scores, budget experts, and education watchdogs.
The resignation of Kaya Henderson offered the city and its media an opportunity to take stock, to compare DC's "reform" efforts to other cities, to gauge the impact of the charter schools on the traditional school system, to look in-depth at specific initiatives, and even to compare DC to other best practice K-12 efforts in the area (Arlington County, Montgomery County).
Outside of the City Paper article and some e-list discussion, such a review did not occur, even to how the Mayor inadequately followed the law on selecting a chancellor that was passed as part of shifting authority of the school system over to the Mayor from an elected school board ("Antwan Wilson confirmed as chancellor of DC Public Schools," Post).
Although we must concede that school systems become bureaucratic and lose focus on what matters. Teacher's unions often end up focusing on maximizing pay. And too often personnel decisions can be particularly arbitrary--I know plenty of good teachers who got screwed by vindictive principals or other school administrators.
A failure to focus on the need for different types of resources. But comparably to how I argue that the problem with a disinvested property is lack of investment and the solution to disinvestment is not demolition but investment, the problems around teaching low income children aren't solved by forcing students to spend lots of time studying for and taking tests or to fire the teachers, but are solved by providing additional, focused and the "right" resources necessary to address economic and other gaps that make it much harder for children from such households to succeed.
I used to get furious in how Michelle Rhee was allowed to shift the argument from resources to teacher blaming, when just about any successful charter school is successful because they have more resources in terms of special programs, more instruction time, etc. For example, the Harlem Children's Zone model ("The Harlem Project," New York Times).
Community Schools model as an alternative. A model for delivering an actual program for the "40/40" schools is the Community Schools concept, which is not new and pre-dates programs like the Harlem Children's Zone. It's about bringing to impoverished schools a wide variety of additional types of resources.
From 2010 to 2015, Webb went from the lowest-performing middle school in Austin ISD, based on its test scores, to one of its best. Its enrollment has grown 55 percent, and fewer students are leaving the school mid-year. Reagan’s enrollment has more than doubled and its graduation rate has improved from 48 percent to 85 percent.
The Observer says the report:
lauds Webb and Reagan’s discipline policies built on restorative justice, early college partnerships, daycare programs and mobile clinics for student mothers, new mental health and trauma support programs, on-campus English classes for parents, and new band, orchestra and dance troupes.
It's not that DCPS hasn't implemented bits and pieces of these kinds of programs here and there across the system. But they haven't developed and implemented a comprehensive program.
What has prevented development of comparable stories of success in DC is a complete failure to develop, fund, and implement a real plan for improvement--asking and answering the right questions instead of the wrong ones.
And it's not apparent that anything will change with the new regime.
Public Education Reform Amendment Act of 2007 (the mayoral takeover legislation).
Sec. 105. Chancellor; appointment; duties.
(a) The DCPS shall be administered by a Chancellor, who shall be appointed pursuant
to section 2(a) of the Confirmation Act of 1978, effective March 3, 1979 (D.C. Law 2-142; D.C. Official Code § 1-523.01(a)), and in accordance with subsection (b) of this section. The Chancellor shall:
(1) Be the chief executive officer of DCPS;
(2) Be qualified by experience and training for the position; and
(3) Serve at the pleasure of the Mayor.
(b)(1) Prior to the selection of a nominee for Chancellor, the Mayor shall:
(A) Establish a review panel of teachers, including representatives of the Washington Teachers Union, parents, and students ("panel") to aid the Mayor in his or her selection of Chancellor;
(B) Provide the resumes and other pertinent information pertaining to the individuals under consideration, if any, to the panel; and
(C) Convene a meeting of the panel to hear the opinions and recommendations of the panel.
(2) The Mayor shall consider the opinions and recommendations of the panel in making his or her nomination and shall give great weight to any recommendation of the Washington Teachers Union.
A great example of the market at work: making a business in restoring blighted properties/curing nuisances (Philadelphia)
Many times I have written about how the State of Ohio has a strong receivership statute which allows nonprofits to take over properties that are "notorious" nuisances, "cure" the nuisance, and get awarded ownership of the property, which they subsequently sell.
The Cleveland Restoration Society has acted under that statute to fix properties and preserve their historic character, and then to sell them to property owners committed to maintaining the property ("Housing receivership to cure nuisance properties").
Operating under the more-corporate-sounding Scioli Turco Inc., they have mastered the ins and outs of an obscure state law called Act 135 that enables nonprofits to take control of blighted properties, fix them up, and sell them ("Philly nonprofit finds way to reverse blighted properties," Philadelphia City Paper). The owner gets the proceeds, minus the cost of repairs and Scioli Turco’s expenses.
It sounds almost too easy, yet Scioli Turco’s successes with Act 135 promise an alternative to the usual, slow-moving approach to attacking Philadelphia’s blight problem.
Scioli Turco is the brainchild of two Bella Vista activists, Joel Palmer, a retired pharmaceutical salesman, and Jeffrey Goldman, a database analyst. Frustrated by a long-vacant VFW post in their neighborhood, they asked the courts in 2011 to appoint them as the building’s conservators under the Act 135 rules.
Using their own money and loans, they put in $100,000 to stabilize the building. After selling it for almost three times that amount, Palmer said, they realized “the process was scalable” and decided to form a nonprofit to pursue other eyesores. ...
Since then, Scioli Turco has rescued 50 problem properties, not just in Bella Vista, but around the city.
Seems like a pretty creative and proactive method for revitalizing neighborhoods and addressing persistent problems.
Great concept, but I don't love the videos: Orlando's "Discover Your Urban" promotion campaign
A very early blog post of mine (late in December I passed 10,000 entries, although some are reprints, and others mostly just a photo, but even so it represents a body of work of many millions of words) from February 2005 is "Town-City branding or 'We are all destination managers now'," where I make the point that those of us in commercial district revitalization, urban revitalization, tourism development, cultural planning, economic development, etc., are "brand managers" for our communities.
Later I extended this idea in a couple commercial district revitalization framework plans I did for two small communities, Brunswick, Georgia and Cambridge, Maryland, where I wrote:
Just as the study team believes that “we are all destination managers now,” elected and appointed officials in particular and in association with other community stakeholders serve as a community’s “brand managers”—whether or not they choose to think of their roles in this manner.
That means that decision-making on land use and zoning, business issues, infrastructure development (roads, sewers, water, utilities, transit), technology (broadband Internet, etc.) and quality of place factors (arts, culture, historic preservation and heritage, education, public schools and libraries, etc.) must be consistent and focused on making the right decisions, the decisions that collectively achieve and support the realization of the community’s desired vision and positioning.
And if you work with campaigns, or sign onto campaigns, it's not unusual for an identity system to be in place, with constraints on how you can use logos and other identification elements.
Were DC to develop the concept of brand management for the city, such a document would have to be produced. (This isn't the Richmond branding guide I found--which is buried somewhere in my files or piles of stuff that need to be filed--but it's comparable.)
I came across the "Discover Your Urban" campaign from the Downtown Orlando organization and while I think the execution in videos is too wacky for my tastes--featuring players from the town's hockey team, I guess because "snow-related sports" would be the last thing that comes to your mind when thinking about Orlando, Florida--the tagline is super strong as are the print-based materials.
According to Jen Hiatt, the chief designer and Graphics Supervisor for the City of Orlando's Office of Communications when the campaign was originally developed:
This work was done in conjunction with the Downtown Development Board marketing team during my tenure at the City, most notably Kelly Allen, the Downtown Orlando Marketing Coordinator. While I developed the creative concepts and design for the campaign, I cannot take credit for all the hard work invested by others on the concept, tagline, content, advertising/marketing plans, photography and award-winning videography.
What I find very interesting is how as Graphics Supervisor, Ms. Hiatt acted as a "brand manager" for the city within the position and the Office of Communications & Neighborhood Relations. According to Ms. Hiatt's resume:
Daily responsibilities included developing overarching vision for the City’s brand and marketing initiatives; designing marketing collateral for the City’s initiatives, programs and events while coordinating with City departments, including the Office of the Mayor, on marketing initiatives and brand development. Also assists with digital branding, including website conception and design.
I find that conceptualization of the "job" as graphics supervisor very interesting.
For all the talk of cities and reformulating how they approach information technology, innovation, and data (e.g., in Boston "Walsh appoints Haverhill native as city's first chief data officer," Boston Globe; "Chief Innovation Officers in State and Local Government," Government Technology), cities need to be reconceptualizing how they think about, implement, and execute their communications program, using the design method and process--managing the city's brand and "brand promise," but through the lens of authenticity, not merely "selling." (Note that no brand manager would ever say that they are focused merely on selling.)
What strikes me about the RVA logotype is how versatile it is in so many different applications. I am not particularly enamored with the DC Cool campaign, see "I don't get DC's visitor marketing ad campaign at all, for the same reason I don't like the Downtown Orlando videos, because neither the DC ads nor the Orlando ones accurately captures either city's identity and authenticity--and note I came across the Orlando ad on tv, during a rebroadcast of the Citrus Bowl Parade.
It might be just that I am a fuddy-duddy, having written a couple years ago ("Area Tourism Development") about the Pure Michigan campaign and Visit Fairfax video, which I think does a good job of capturing the variety of elements that characterize Fairfax County, although it's not quite so punchy as a 30-second ad.
I have come across a couple of planning firms that use the design method and process in their approach to planning projects, including Arnett Muldrow.
(3) I haven't gotten around to writing about the opportunity for universities in creating "graphic design studios" comparable to the community planning and architecture design studios that typically exist, such as the Nashville Civic Design Center or the Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative program by Kent State University, to work with community programs on communications and design matters.
It's hard for me to stay on top of this, both locally and nationally. Locally, it is so depressing that a transit system has to decline so precipitously before the political will can be mustered to fix things--although it's not clear yet that the will has been mustered for the DC area and its heavy rail transit system, WMATA/Metrorail.
1. Bad Metro.
2. Good Metro.
3. Opening of the DC Streetcar.
4. Sudden snow the afternoon of January 20th, paralyzing the evening commute.
5. Transportation project scoring systems introduced in Virginia and Maryland. (Gov. Hogan in Maryland is not supportive.)
6. I-66 widening/tolls.
7. Virginia's "Atlantic Gateway" project, which will invest in rail and highway expansion in the I-95/DC to Richmond corridor ("What to expect from Virginia's Atlantic Gateway projects").
8. Nuclear Security Summit didn't contribute to gridlock.
9. Beach Drive closing.
Here's my list, separated into local and national. At some point the order becomes arbitrary. What did I miss?
1. The continued service failures of WMATA. Dr. Gridlock's second most important story is WMATA's improvements. I'm not there yet, seeing such.
A DC board member's call to not connect the Silver Line extension to the system because "Virginia won't approve a sales tax for WMATA" is grandstanding of the highest order and not helpful. Then again, DC Councilman and chair of the board Jack Evans' call for the Federal Government to take WMATA over is equally unhelpful--imagine Mitch McConnell in charge of the "local" transit system--hmm, sounds like England, where the national government calls most of the shots.
2. Virginia's plan to extend HOT lanes to I-395 and I-66 and to toll the road within the Beltway at all times. HOT lanes promote single occupancy vehicle trips and that isn't good from a sustainable mobility standpoint. But tolling within the Beltway is interesting (not unlike Toronto's call to toll its two freeways, "How John Tory went from calling tolls 'highway robbery' to crusading for them," Toronto Star). Whether or not there will be transit and bicycle and pedestrian improvements in association with the project, only time will tell. (The HOT lane extension and other improvements on I-95 are part of the "Atlantic Gateway" initiative.)
5. The DC streetcar finally opened, although the line is too short to have much transportation impact, but it sure is having impact on real estate development, and on that basis, has already paid for itself ("Update/revision of H Street transit oriented real estate development table"). The failures in opening it have made it much harder to make arguments in favor of expansions to rail transit. I'm sure it is in the minds of people when it comes to the Purple Line.
6. DC agrees to seek funds to repair the Memorial Bridge in conjunction with the National Park Service ("Park Service makes deadline to apply for Memorial Bridge funds," Post). The DC area is a cross cut of separate jurisdictions. Because technically, DC extends to the edge of the bank on the "Virginia" side of the Potomac River, Virginia has no financial obligation to fund bridges that cross the Potomac and connect to the city.
This is further complicated by the fact that some of those bridges are under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service, like the Memorial Bridge. Because the Bridge mostly serves commuters, NPS shouldn't be financially responsible for it. But that's an argument for another day.
8. Car2Go service privileges between DC and Arlington. Car2Go one-way carsharing was introduced into DC a few years ago, and to Arlington a couple years ago. But users couldn't travel between jurisdictions on a one-way trip. Now we can.
Now if National Airport would allow Car2Go vehicles to park there. They've opened a lot for "For Hire" vehicles including Uber, why not carsharing?
10. East side Anacostia Trail network is completed, linking trail networks in DC and Prince George's and Montgomery County, Late November's opening of a long segment of the trail between Benning Road and Maryland enables trips from DC to Greenbelt and various points in Montgomery County, providing a viable commuting route to and from the city for many ("New segment of Anacostia Riverwalk Trail expands the region's trail network," Post), linking 60 miles of trails.
Although there are issues in terms of facilities integration and trail width, the basic wayfinding signage system is great. And it makes it so much easier to explore the east side of the city by bike.
Although as we have seen with opposition to the Purple Line light rail and streetcars in Arlington County, Virginia and DC itself, such opposition is not limited to places with limited experience with transit (shockingly).
1. The Election. It empowers the Republicans who now fully control both houses of Congress and the Presidency. It's important to distinguish between Congress and "the President." Congress makes the laws. Not Trump.
2. President-elect Trump talks about infrastructure. To my way of thinking, what he proposes is a wacky concept, putting the onus on the private sector to lead the process, giving them huge tax breaks for providing financing, and ultimately, ownership of the asset, which completely redefines the concept of "public goods" ("Trump's big infrastructure plan? It's a trap," Post). From the article:
First, Trump’s plan is not really an infrastructure plan. It’s a tax-cut plan for utility-industry and construction-sector investors, and a massive corporate welfare plan for contractors. The Trump plan doesn’t directly fund new roads, bridges, water systems or airports, as did Hillary Clinton’s 2016 infrastructure proposal. Instead, Trump’s plan provides tax breaks to private-sector investors who back profitable construction projects. These projects (such as electrical grid modernization or energy pipeline expansion) might already be planned or even underway. There’s no requirement that the tax breaks be used for incremental or otherwise expanded construction efforts; they could all go just to fatten the pockets of investors in previously planned projects.
Moreover, as others have noted, desperately needed infrastructure projects that are not attractive to private investors — municipal water-system overhauls, repairs of existing roads, replacement of bridges that do not charge tolls — get no help from Trump’s plan. And contractors? Well, they get a “10 percent pretax profit margin,” according to the plan. Combined with Trump’s sweeping business tax break, this would represent a stunning $85 billion after-tax profit for contractors — underwritten by the taxpayers.
But because the Republican Congress isn't big on funding investments in much of anything, I can't see this program ending up equal to the hype, especially because such projects take so long to come to fruition, even if Trump were to be re-elected, most of the projects would not be realized until after his second term of office.
The gasoline he was smelling came from Colonial Pipeline's Line 1, an underground pipeline three feet in diameter that normally pushes 1.3 million barrels of gasoline per day from refineries in Houston to distribution centers across the Southeast and along the eastern seaboard.
That 36-inch line, built in 1963, has been estimated to supply the east coast of the United States with up to 40 percent of its gasoline supply. Colonial Pipeline initiated a shutdown of Line 1 within 20 minutes of receiving the report about a potential leak.
That section of pipeline remains closed. Eight days later, official estimates climbed to 336,000 gallons of lost gasoline. More than 700 people were working around the clock to dig up the pipe, plug the leak, clean up the old mining property south of Birmingham and restore supply.
Sustainable mobility is a far more resilient foundation for transportation.
4. Gas prices remain "low." The glut of oil on world markets keeps prices comparatively low, stoking car sales, especially of bigger cars, and puts a brake on significant increases in transit ridership. It also makes electric cars, at least in markets without high gasoline excise taxes, less competitive with gasoline fueled cars. Nonetheless, many analysts believe that electric cars will overtake the industry ("Oil groups 'threatened' by electric cars" and "Diesel faces global crash as electric cars shine," Financial Times).
And he got the elimination of the state estate tax in return.
5. Driverless technologies. They might not have worked out so well for Joshua Brown ("Tesla driver dies in first fatal crash while using autopilot mode," Guardian"), but this topic is all the rage. Too many threads and articles to count. My own take is it will take decades to re/build the road network to integrate the necessary "intelligent transportation systems" required for cars to operate on their own.
But instead all the punditry is focused on the impact of the driverless car "on cities" and presumes huge benefits. I think it will result in some benefits. Although an article I read recently says that it will cost billions of dollars to set up streets to be able to accommodate driverless technology, money local and state governments don't have.
But the reality is that promoting single occupant vehicle trips isn't necessary a benefit to the capacity of the road network, even if it will result in a significant reduction in crashes. Driverless cars can can induce more trips, not fewer, even if it reduces the amount of land and building space devoted to car storage, a/k/a parking. Finally, some attention is being paid to this reality ("Self-Driving Cars: A Coming Congestion Disaster?," Human Transit).
From a transit standpoint, driverless buses and shuttles could enable what I call tertiary or intra-neighborhood transit between home and commercial districts, transit stations, grocery stores, schools, etc., because it would reduce the labor cost of providing such a service. Labor costs are usually what doom such programs.
6. Ride Hailing. Remember when Uber said drivers could make thousands of dollars per week, prevaricating about the reality that most people who drive taxis do it because they can't find other better paying work, so it's always a race to the bottom? I've gotten a couple marketing letters from the firm, stating I could make $140/day driving on the weekend. That's before gasoline and other expenses.
Anyway, Lyft is having a hard time raising money. Uber continues to experiment with other forms of delivery (which won't likely have much upside except in a couple markets) and driverless technologies so they won't have to worry about pesky drivers. There were some high profile regulatory matters. A vote earlier in the year by residents in Austin, Texas requiring that ride hailing driver get fingerprint checks led Uber to drop out of that market.
85% of Taxi Costs Are the Direct Costs of Vehicles, Fuel and Drivers
There are four major components of urban car service costs: driver compensation (take home pay plus the benefit costs they must cover), fuel and fees directly related to passenger service (credit card fees, airport access fees, tolls, cell phone charges), vehicle ownership and maintenance, and corporate overhead and profit (including dispatching and branding/marketing).
7. Transit expansions in other cities like Seattle and Los Angeles to high in demand places results in significant increases in use. Interesting about LA is that the weekend ridership increases are greater than during the week.
I think that's because the area is so decentralized, it's hard to capture significant numbers of work trips except over long periods of time as people make job choice and residential location decisions with an eye on transit connectivity.
Why do these lines show bigger increases on weekends than weekdays? Riders tell Metro they like saving money on parking.
Parking at the Sept. 18 Los Angeles Rams game at the Los Angeles Coliseum was as high as $200, according to some bloggers and fans. The Expo Line — with stops at USC and Exposition Park — carried 21,000 of the 80,000 who jammed the Coliseum for the Ram’s first win, Metro reported.
“I know some friends from West Los Angeles who are music aficionados and go to the Music Center downtown but hate to pay $35 to park your car,” said Bart Reed, executive director of The Transit Coalition, a nonprofit, pro-mass transit group based in the San Fernando Valley.
While exiting the symphony for the nearest train station may be a breeze, hopping an Expo train with 20,000 riders exiting the Coliseum meant long lines and required plenty of patience. It took about 90 minutes to clear the last passenger, and that was with three-car trains every six minutes, Hillmer said.
If that's not evidence of the "value" of high parking costs in increasing transit use, I don't know what is. Too bad the new football stadium in Inglewood won't be opening with transit access.
8. Chevrolet releases the Bolt electric car. For all the talk of Tesla, they are more a stock play than a significant manufacturer of automobiles. Chevrolet re-engineered and re-imagined a new electric car, the Bolt, from the ground up.
But as pointed out above, comparatively low gasoline costs make electric cars less of an economically rational decision. That being said, electric cars are more reliable and require fewer trips to the mechanic.
What's particularly interesting about the Bolt, is that it is the first electric car by a traditional manufacturer that has been designed from the ground up as an electric car, rather than a car model that had been designed out of the paradigm of the internal combustion engine ("How GM Beat Tesla to the First True Mass-Market Electric Car," Wired Magazine).
(Note with regard to the latter, during my student protest days in college, I used to say we shouldn't bother taking over the Administration building, which is more about visibility, but taking over the parking garage across the street, where their cars were parked, and the university's two computing centers.)
11. School bus crashes. A vehicle-centric school transportation system puts children at risk. This past year there were particularly devastating crashes with deaths in Baltimore and Chattanooga, and a scary crash in Metropolitan Nashville that didn't kill anyone, but injured 23.
12. Many transit votes succeeded (Los Angeles, Seattle, San Francisco) while others failed (Detroit, Virginia Beach, etc.). Generally they pass, at about a two-thirds rate. But it's really hard in places with limited modern-day experience with transit.
In DC, at the end of the year the first double stack freight train traveled through the Virginia Tunnel, enabling double stack container trains in this part of the Mid-Atlantic. I have since noticed double stack containers on the freight trains on the Metropolitan Branch CSX line. But generally, freight railroads are having a tough time, with the decline in trade with China, the oil glut, and a decline in the use of coal for power generation.
There has been coverage of this in newspapers from Boston to DC, focusing on regionally-specific provisions. For example, in Connecticut some cities don't like a proposed "straightening of the line" in one area, which would go through their community unlike the current alignment ("Shoreline Officials Want To Hit The Brakes On Federal Railroad Proposal," Hartford Courant. From the article:
Mayor David Martin said Thursday he likes the plan to expand capacity at Stamford's busy train station. But he's against building new track routes to Greenwich and to Westport that might eat into his city's neighborhoods or commercial base.
"This plan looks more like fantasy than fact, and we're going to fight it," U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal told reporters.
The Federal Railroad Administration's proposal to overhaul sections of Amtrak's Northeast Corridor route in Connecticut has already hit heavy resistance in southeastern Connecticut, where the agency wants a new 30-mile inland segment to bypass the curving, twisting tracks between Old Saybrook and Kenyon, R.I.
Martin is the first Fairfield County leader to raise concerns about how it would affect the southwestern region, but Blumenthal predicted that opposition will keep growing.
I am an urban/commercial district revitalization and transportation/mobility advocate and consultant and a principal in BicyclePASS, a bicycle facilities systems integration firm, based in Washington, DC. Urban economic competitiveness is dependent on efficient transit and mixed use, compact places. Therefore, I end up writing mostly about mobility and urban design. While I am based in and write about Washington, DC issues, I try to write so that "universal lessons" are evident in the entries.