Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"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.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

I agree: transportation issues not on the agenda of politicians running for office and why Chris Zimmerman should become the director of the Transportation Policy Board

Dr. Gridlock, the Washington Post's transportation columnist, did a piece today, "Transportation issues deserve more attention in mayoral campaign," remarking that people running for elected office in DC don't appear to have much of a platform for transportation, with a call out to yours truly (related to this post, "DC as a suburban agenda dominated city" which concerns intra-city transit and parking policy), which was nice.

I made the same general point about people campaigning for office not paying much attention to transportation, including also the people running for Governor in the State of Maryland, a few weeks ago ("Tolls, parking taxes, elections, oh my!" and "Write in Anthony Williams?  How to vote in the DC primary election").

This is important because I had a long talk with someone I know who works for WMATA and reads my blog and who made these points during the course of our conversation:

(1)  that the elected officials in the region seem to have no interest in heavy rail expansion except on the edges

(2) that the Transportation Policy Board of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments exhibits no real "metropolitan-scale" leadership on transportation planning and instead is mostly content to tot up the various projects submitted by the separate jurisdictions for the Constrained Long Range Transportation Plan (something required by the US Department of Transportation, to guide funding of local projects);

(3) making it very difficult for WMATA to "lead" on the issue of transit infrastructure expansion, because WMATA in effect is owned by the jurisdictions that fund it, and if the jurisdictions aren't interested they won't provide the necessary funding

(4) and WMATA can't do much on its own.

In short, don't expect very much in the way of transportation vision in the region any time soon.  (Also see "One expert's opinion: How the Washington area has flubbed transportation for 50 years" from the Washington Business Journal.)

Flickr photo by Cliff, featuring Chris Zimmerman at the podium.

2.   So I mentioned why I respect Chris Zimmerman, a member of the Arlington County Board for many years, who recently resigned to take a job with Smart Growth America.

What stands out about him for me is that his leadership on transit and smart growth issues in the County extended to his colleagues also elected to the Board, so that all of them (not so much Chris' replacement...) became equally well-versed and as articulate and committed on these issues.

So Arlington County is the only jurisdiction in the region, where all (again, until recently) of the elected officials are committed to smart growth, sustainable mobility, compact development, and visionary planning.

That's an incredible achievement.  No other County or City Council in the metropolitan area has achieved anywhere near a similar situation.  DC has councilmembers on the WMATA board, on the board of the Council of Governments, but their participation hasn't extended to leadership with their fellow elected officials--it's as if they are on those boards as ciphers.

Which is why Chris Zimmerman should leave his new SGA job, and instead, take on the job of director of the Transportation Planning Board, and lead the agency and the MWCOG and its member jurisdictions to a more visionary and sustainable future.

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At 4:24 PM, Anonymous charlie said...

Brilliant point -- which is that he was able to convey some of his knowledge/worldview to his colleagues on the board.

Of course being the heavy in Arlington politics helps in that.

At 4:58 PM, Blogger Richard Layman said...

There are a couple of other elected officials in the region who are very good on these issues BUT NONE HAVE HAD THE KIND OF IMPACT ON THE REST OF THEIR COLLEAGUES comparable to Chris Zimmerman.

NONE of the other jurisdictions elected bodies function on these issues at the collective level of the Arlington County Board.

It's pretty much unprecedented and a great achievement.

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