The Washington, DC region is great >> and it can be greater.

Posts from May 2010


3 questions with Md. delegate candidate Scott Goldberg

Scott Goldberg is a candidate for the Maryland House of Delegates, District 16, which includes Bethesda. Scott lives in downtown Bethesda, and founded his own small property management company.

At his campaign kickoff, he expressed his support for the Purple Line in addition to detailed visions for alternative energy initiatives in Maryland. After the event, he enthusiastically explained some of his positions on issues for southwestern Montgomery County and the state.

1. What do you foresee as the the largest challenge to bringing the Purple Line as endorsed by Governor O'Malley, a project that you support, to groundbreaking?

According to the Purple Line engineering team, the metrics are in place for the FTA to fund the Purple Line. I believe that both Montgomery and Prince George's Counties will come through with funding on their end. My biggest concern is the ICC's fiscal situation. Like you, I question whether the ICC tolls will pay for the road's debt service. If the tolls aren't enough, the bond payments will further eat away at Maryland's transportation fund. Currently, ICC construction is on schedule for completion as the Purple Line finishes its engineering phase. As a member of the Maryland House of Delegates, I will work to responsibly appropriate adequate state funding to ensure that the Purple Line moves from engineering to groundbreaking.

Montgomery County has recently put a lot of emphasis on job growth in the biotech sector. The Purple Line will provide a major competitive advantage for the county and state because it will connect the NIH and private biotech companies in western Montgomery County with the tremendous human capital and research initiatives at the University of Maryland, in addition to points in between and east.

2. On your website, you endorse using more solar power as part of our strategy to become energy independent and carbon-neutral. How would such a Goldberg Plan work?

We would use a part of Maryland's rainy day fund as collateral at Maryland banks to borrow money at low interest rates for Maryland businesses to install panels on the roofs of state buildings. The funds would be extended to all Maryland counties and Baltimore to install solar panels on county (and Baltimore City) buildings.

County buildings include schools, which use less energy when students are on summer break. In the long run, Maryland will make money from selling the energy from the solar panels back to the grid.

I am also against drilling for oil off the east coast of the United States. I like Old Bay on my [Maryland Blue] crabs, not crude oil. I want future generations to enjoy the bounty of the Chesapeake Bay.

3. Recently, the Washington Post took note that Maryland's smart growth laws have been "toothless." As a delegate, what steps would you take to encourage other Maryland jurisdictions to enjoy the successes of Bethesda rather than the current car-dependent gridlock in neighboring Fairfax County, Virginia?

The Maryland House of Delegates has the state's purse strings. We should use the power of the purse to encourage Maryland jurisdictions to engage in Smart Growth planning.

For example, Prince George's County wants the state to help funding their hospital system. If Maryland contributes funding to the county, they should look for something in return. The state should require Prince George's County to plan new sustainable, traditional human-scale towns around their Metro stations. Maryland spent billions in previous decades and also pays the yearly WMATA operating and capital subsidy. The state should get more return for the investments.

We have learned that car-dependent sprawl doesn't work here in Montgomery County because the road construction and maintenance costs are threatening to be more than we can afford. We know that Maryland won't be able to afford lots of new road projects to create more car-dependent sprawl 25 years from now. Investing in our existing traditional towns and transit-oriented infill is far more cost-effective in the long term, as our experience with Bethesda has shown.

Disclosure: I reside in District 18.


Social media enabled instant organizing for streetcars

The rapid and intense backlash against DC Council Chairman Vincent Gray's cutting streetcar funds was a great victory for transit advocacy, but it was also a great victory for "social media"—blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and more.

Tweets for streetcars.

It was amazing to see the speed with which the news and calls to action spread, which according to Council officials generated over 1,000 calls to Gray's office within the span of only a few hours, most before the Council even took its vote. It's also interesting to see the way reporters responded to this. Most talked about the effect, but a few mysteriously left social media's role out entirely.

Our report was very quickly picked up and reconfirmed by many other blogs. DCist, We Love DC, Prince of Petworth, Frozen Tropics, The Hill is Home, H Street Great Street, Life in Mount Vernon Square, the Sierra Club's Streetcars4DC, and many more asked people to call Gray's office, in most cases well before the vote.

Twitter, too, lit up with the news. Our first tweet was retweeted with and without modifications numerous times; According to's summary, it got 388 clicks and 70 "shares" on Facebook, and 47 retweets, which don't even include the ones using Twitter's "native retweet" functionality. And that was just one tweet from one blog. Here's the one for DCist's first tweet. Dave Stroup, Frozen Tropics, and numerous others kept tweeting developments in the story and snarky jokes about the situation.

The development even drove some people and groups to start using social media. A new Twitter account, DCTransit, appeared yesterday right after the Council vote and started tweeting developments quickly. Lisa Rein from the Post seems to have joined yesterday as well. Social media often grows in spurts around big events; maybe this will drive even more Twitter usage in the DC local news space.

I was somewhat surprised to read today's Loose Lips Daily, however. Someone reading it without knowing about the issue might assume that nothing happened until noon, when the Council took its vote and DC Wire reported the news, even though Monica Norton's DC Wire report did credit the Internet eruption.

Loose Lips Daily writer Jason Cherkis calls "excellent coverage" the final Post article from Tim Craig and Nikita Stewart, which is indeed excellent in its analysis of the political calculations and motivations going on, but the words "blog," "Twitter," and "Internet" appear nowhere in the article, an odd omission given that the Examiner, WBJ, and City Paper (as Housing Complex) talk about the role of social media.

In the past, an activist group like Sierra Club might have sent out an email alert, but most people would have read about the issue in the newspaper the next morning, TV that night, or heard about it on the radio. Some people might have been watching Channel 13. But to generate 1,000 calls to a Council office in a few hours would have been unlikely on such short notice.

This time, Sierra Club still played a huge role, but used blogs and Twitter to magnify it. The public statements of officials still influenced opinions, but were spread rapidly by social media. And new activists, like bloggers and readers of blogs, mobilized in the span of hours in a way that wouldn't have been possible before.

Maybe that'll be the subject of the next article in the Post. Meanwhile, Mr. Cherkis, we encourage you to subscribe to at least a few blogs, like your predecessor did. The day's news is still illuminated very much by the Washington Post, the Examiner, the Business Journal, WTOP, the City Paper and more, but that's not all there is to it.


Style vs. character determines Silver Spring's future

Last Saturday, designers, architects and planners held a charrette, or design workshop, at Fenton Street Market in downtown Silver Spring.

East Silver Spring resident Hannah McCann, who founded the market last fall, organized the event. A senior editor for Architect magazine, she enlisted several local design professionals to lead the workshop, talking and drawing with those who came by. With my help as moderator, we developed three questions to ask the public:

  1. What kind of development should we have in Silver Spring?
  2. How much development should we have?
  3. How should we get around?
Dozens (if not hundreds) of residents stopped by to give input on how they'd like Silver Spring to grow. Most seemed happy with the community they live in today, but there was a lot of disagreement over its future. Today and Tomorrow, we'll look at some of the issues that charrette participants raised.

Style vs. Character

Style is how most people who aren't architecturally trained understand the built environment. It's easy to "get" buildings if you can classify them as Victorian, Modernist or Art Deco. But style doesn't describe how a building works with or against its occupants, site and neighbors.

Building Strangler (Steve Knight)
An "ugly, modern box." Drawing by Steve Knight.

Many people complained about the increase in "ugly, modern boxes" in Silver Spring. "I'm sick of all this glass and chrome," complains one woman. (We eventually figure out that by "chrome" she means "steel," as downtown Silver Spring is not a 1957 Chevy Bel-Air.) She feels that newer buildings downtown were cold and sterile and preferred older buildings. They're the soul of Silver Spring, she says.

She also doesn't like the new development on Ellsworth Drive. It has little glass or steel, but it was designed to feel like an outdoor shopping mall, not a city street. It feels "fake" to her, the woman laments.

"Of course it looks fake," I say, picking up a marker. "It's new." I start drawing and explain. Parts of Ellsworth pay homage to the old stuff—the Majestic 20 theatre, for instance, mimics the curved façade of the historic Hecht Company building (now City Place Mall) across the street.

Fenton & Ellsworth (Dan Reed)Fenton and Ellsworth In The Snow
Left: My drawing comparing the Majestic 20 (left) to City Place Mall.
Right: the Majestic 20 in real life.

"And even though the buildings may seem inauthentic, the people are always real," I continue. "Kids my age, who grew up with Ellsworth Drive, love this place. I'll bet you that in twenty years, it will be an integral part of Silver Spring's culture."

Nonetheless, she asks me to draw her some traditional buildings for Silver Spring. I draw her a picture of some old storefronts on Georgia Avenue. They look much as they did in the 1920's, but have since experienced ninety years of history: different shops, different people, different times. "I love it!" she says, throwing up her hands in delight.

"What you're looking for is character," suggests Darrel Rippeteau of Rippeteau Architects. "In the future, say you want more character, not less modern."

Vision of Fenton Village (Tony, Sandy & Steve Knight)
Steve, Tony and Sandy's "Vision for Fenton Village."

A few tables away, architect Steve Knight of David M. Schwarz Architects and my friends Tony Maiolatesi and Sandy Schwartz—like me, both recent grads of the University of Maryland—are drawing a "Vision for Fenton Village" with traditional buildings. It didn't look too different from Bethesda Row or Kentlands, developments purposely designed to feel old.

These places have good urban design, with buildings close to the street and smaller, human-scaled features. There's also been no shortage of complaints that their style, with lots of bricks, double-hung windows, and arches, feels "kitschy" or nostalgic.

The Good Life (Darrel Rippeteau)
1920's-era storefronts on Georgia Avenue, drawn by Darrel Rippeteau.

Of course, many people like and often prefer this aesthetic. But these two things are mutually exclusive. You can have an attractive building with poor urban design, like this strip mall in Frederick. But you can also have buildings with great urban design but poor aesthetics, like those along Ellsworth.

Yet none of these buildings can really have "character," no matter how old they look, if they're new. Character takes time to create, but it doesn't discriminate by architectural style. It is helped, however, by good urban form that encourages people to spend time in a place. If we want a Silver Spring with character, we should worry less about the aesthetics of a building and more about how they relate to the user and to their context.

Come back tomorrow for part two of our charrette recap, but in the meantime, check out this slideshow of the Fenton Street Market charrette.


Video animates streetcar on K Street

Even with the H Street streetcar project on track, it'll be several years before the streetcar can extend westward to K Street.

The K Street Transitway plan would reconstruct K Street to have dedicated transit lanes in the center. The original design didn't include a streetcar, but anticipated adding one to the transit lanes in the future. The Downtown BID and DDOT hired ZGF Architects to plan that streetcar, and to create this video showing the streetcar on K.

Note how at 1:34 it shows the streetcar approaching Farragut Square and dropping the pantograph to enter the wire-free zone, and then from another angle at 2:02. Another car then approaches from the other direction, stops at a station, and raises its pantograph back up.

At the streetcar technology meeting, officials showed this video. When asked whether the streetcar could really drop the pantograph while in motion, the technology experts said that some models do allow that. Of course, it can also just stop to drop the pantograph if that's not possible.

Mount Vernon Square would be another wire-free zone, and the designers envision a dedicated lane on the inside edge of the square. By using "grass tracks," the park could seem to extend out beyond the current edges. You can best see this in the video clip starting at 4:20.


Breakfast links: Big votes on money

Image from Dave Stroup.
What's in the DC budget?: In: $1.5 million for Bruce-Monroe's temporary urbanism, and sales taxes on soda along with Healthy Schools. Out: a tax hike on the wealthy to pay for social services, raiding the bag fee fund and $3 meters. Also out, but not reported as far as I can see: money to replace coin meters with credit card meters. (Park View DC, Post, Examiner)

Fares hike may be approved today: WMATA Board members are close to a deal to raise fares about 15% with a 20¢ peak of the peak. They are also likely to start buying new railcars and enter into a new advertising contract worth about a third of the last one, which was negotiated at the height of the advertising market. (Post)

Motivated seller: By far the cleverest response to yesterday's streetcar cut (before its restoration) was this Craigslist ad by Frozen Tropics Dave Stroup offering "Barely used streetcar equipment for sale, LIKE NEW, $9000000 (Greenbelt, MD)." (Actually, the three existing cars are for the Anacostia line, but still.) (Frozen Tropics)

N Street eclipse: The Historic Preservation Review Board today will review the proposed "N Street Follies" hotel, which could plunge the adjacent Tabard Inn into darkness. (Post) ... I'm testifying for shaving off some of the rear addition that will cast the shadow.

How you talk about it matters: When gas tax hike supporters and media articles talk about "crumbling infrastructure" and "economic progress," proposals are more likely to pass than when coverage focuses on closing long-term budget gaps, a University of Vermont report found. (Streetsblog Capitol Hill)

And...: Consider volunteering for CSG to help the region's best smart growth organization! ... Neil Flanagan is going to Yale, but won't stop posting here entirely ... Fairfax's Planning Commission will vote on the Alcorn plan today. (Post)

Up in Maryland: The Maryland MTA has had over 800 meetings at UMD and in College Park about the Purple Line (Housing Complex) ... Baltimore's version of SmarTrip, the Charm Card, is still not ready after seven years (WBAL) ... Prince George's police have created a new unit to focus on traffic safety and enforcement. (Crime Scene, Stephen Miller)

In the west: San Jose, California's airport might get PRT (MercuryNews, David C) ... What would LA look like with no cars? (Michael P.) ... Can we improve on the simple stop sign? Maybe. (Slate)

Have a tip for the links? Submit it here.


You did it! Streetcars restored... mostly

DC Council Chairman Gray has restored most funding for the streetcars after being swamped with calls from constituents upset at his 2 am excision of the project.

Photo by The Aardvark on Flickr.

The budget amendment, introduced by Gray after lunchtime discussions with streetcar supporters including Public Works and Transportation Chairman Jim Graham, restores $10 million in FY2010 so that DC can move ahead with streetcar purchases and $37 million in the FY2011 capital budget for the H Street-Benning Road line.

The funding still leaves the District without funding for about 3 of the needed cars. That would either force longer headways on the H-Benning line or mean that no service will run on the Anacostia line, which is already under construction. DDOT officials say they still plan to operate the Anacostia line.

This would not have happened without the immediate and powerful groundswell from residents including readers from Greater Greater Washington, We Love DC, DCist, and other blogs that covered the news. The Fenty campaign saw a huge spike in requests for lawn signs and new volunteers today.

Some Councilmembers seemed surprised at the speed and intensity of the reaction, which is a testament to the power of social media. An enormous number of people tweeted about this morning's streetcar news, spreading it very quickly. Councilmember Thomas expressed some frustration at the way calls and emails came in to Councilmembers in real time from the Council session broadcast on Channel 13, which seems like the best kind of democracy to me.

There are still questions about Great Streets money, which DDOT had originally planned to redirect to streetcars and then fill in later with other federal funds. Some Great Streets projects are not ready to go, and some of their funding came from federal stimulus money which must be spent quickly. The streetcar project would have spent it, but the new money comes from other sources including general obligation bonds. It may be that DC will still have to rearrange some capital dollars to meet the requirement to spend the stimulus money fast enough.

Also, the money involves borrowing, which will cost $4 million per year. It's great the streetcar is back, but the budget is in worse shape now than it was before Gray made this cut this morning.


What's That? #25: The answers

Congratulations to Keith Shovlin, Teyo, Arm, Dustin, Reid, Joey, Justin S., Boots, Steven Yates and Sean for getting all three answers to last week's What's That?

The three answers are: The Jefferson Memorial, Monticello and Jefferson on the nickel.

A number of you noticed some changes. A litter wider geographic area and some relevant objects will find themselves here from time to time.



Moving AU law school could revitalize Tenleytown

American University is developing their 2011 campus plan, which will guide growth for the next decade. In effect, the plan is also an understanding between the neighborhood and the university about what the part of the city they share should look like in 2020... and 2060.

Tenley campus from Wisconsin Ave.

In addition to some new buildings on campus AU proposes two major changes: First, the university would erect several buildings on some underused parking lots near campus, which I'll discuss in a later article. The second proposal would relocate the growing Washington College of Law to the Tenley Campus, a facility between Yuma and Warren streets on Wisconsin Avenue at Tenley Circle.

In the abstract, the relocation should benefit the neighborhood and bring more life to the southern part of Tenleytown. The current location of the school is in an autocentric and distant office park on Massachusetts Avenue, a poor location for a professional campus. However, whether the new building benefits or burdens the community will depend on the quality of its execution and the policies with which the administration operates the school.

Currently, around 800 students live on the Tenley Campus, most of them taking part in the Washington Semester program. They occupy a buildings built for the former Immaculata School, which American purchased in 1987. A handful of those structures are designated landmarks, which AU will preserve; others are forgettable midcentury structures, which AU will demolish to handle the law school's 2,500 students and faculty.

The site has tremendous potential to make Upper Northwest more walkable and more sustainable. Moving the law school closer to the Tenleytown-AU metro station will reduce the net amount of traffic along Nebraska and Massachusetts Avenues. To get to the current law school building, students and faculty can either drive to the generous parking garage, or take the AU shuttle from Tenleytown.

That access to the Tenleytown metro is especially important to these law students, because most live outside the neighborhood and merely commute in for the school day. Likewise, the Immaculata campus sits right on several bus lines—and a potential streetcar line—that will receive efficiency improvements through TIGER Grants.

As a side benefit, the new school would put more foot traffic along the southern block of Tenleytown's retail area. The current shuttle buses isolates students from neighbors; the three-block walk down Wisconsin would put them face-to face on the main strip. The steady stream of students and faculty would patronize stores and restaurants and justify streetscape improvements that will make Tenleytown nicer for everyone.

On Nebraska Avenue, a well-designed campus would significantly improve the urban architecture of one of DC's monumental boulevards. Against the other streets, a good architect would be able to make the building disappear into the trees that line the perimeter of the campus. Because the university has no plans or even a design architect yet, the possibilities for integrating the school into the neighborhood are vast. The campus plan is the right opportunity to ask for them.

For all of the potential benefits, the College of Law could still hurt the neighborhood. American could ask for an introverted suburban campus and receive an eyesore and a traffic nightmare. The negotiation between the ANC and the university administration will allow for specific terms of approval to be stated. Design guidelines, operations requirements, and community benefits can be spelled out ahead of time to ensure that both sides gain from the construction and trust is not broken.

American University's plan is good at first glance. Whether it is good for the next fifty years will depend on how well residents and the university work together to make a lasting improvement to the city.

Cross posted on цarьchitect.


Metro isn't the NYC subway, part 2: Don't forget transfers

The Post's Sunday editorial says that Metrorail fares are subsidizing bus fares. It points out that in places like New York, people pay $2 or more for a bus ride, compared to $1.25 for a SmarTrip bus ride here.

Photo by Stephen Rees.

It's true that bus fares are very low, and as Michael Perkins has pointed out, they haven't kept pace with inflation. Michael said that a $1.50 bus fare would bring them back in line with inflation, and sure enough, that's just what WMATA plans to do. But the Post says, "It's not enough to bring Metrobus in line with other major transit networks."

However, saying that New Yorkers pay $2.25 for a bus ride only explains half the issue. New Yorkers also get to ride the bus for free if they also ride the train. That's because the $2.25 fare in New York includes a free transfer. Many riders take a bus to the subway, and here, many people take the bus to Metrorail as well.

If a rider takes rail and bus, Metro still charges the rail fare plus a bus fare, with only a 50 cent credit for the transfer. Therefore, while a rider who only uses the bus only pays $1.25 (soon to be $1.50), a rider who rides the bus to a train can pay far more.

The average National Harbor worker pays $8.30 round trip, according to UNITE HERE Local 25, in many cases to take a bus to the Green Line to the NH-1 bus to work. In New York, such a large hotel would be on top of the subway, and the trip for a resident of the city would only cost $2.25 each way. Actually, it would be a lot less, because almost all New Yorkers also buy unlimited passes.

Anthony Giancola, an alternate WMATA Board member from DC, suggested increasing the transfer discount to 75¢ from the current 50¢, Coupled with the 25-cent bus fare hike, that would keep bus rides constant for transferring riders but increase it for bus-only riders.

If fares have to rise, it makes sense to raise bus fares, but if they rise more than rail fares and become a little more New York-like, then the transfer discount should rise to also become more New York-like. Unfortunately, the proposal didn't go anywhere.

The Post makes a valid point, which David Gunn also made in his report to the Board, that it's not sustainable to put all fare increases on rail indefinitely just because rail riders are richer on average. However, any serious discussion of bus vs. rail fares must not forget about the people who ride both. In New York, all bus riders who transfer to rail pay nothing for their bus ride (or their rail ride, whichever you count). That isn't leading to criticism that the rail system is "subsidizing" the buses.

In recent debates, Fairfax alternate member Jeff McKay insisted it was unfair for parking fees to rise at the same time rail fares rise, which he said was too much for his constituents. However, he lacked similar outrage on behalf of his residents who ride the bus to the rail system, even suggesting that a higher transfer cost could pay for lower parking fees.

We can think of parking and buses as a "car to rail" transfer and a "bus to rail" transfer. Both feed the rail system. In both cases, Metro is subsidizing the feeder systems—car and bus-based—more than it's subsidizing the trains. But it's all part of a regional system, where each piece is connected to the others. The fares and costs for one aren't independent of each other, here or in New York.

Cross-posted at All Politics are Local.


WABA announces new Executive Director, Shane Farthing

The Washington Area Bicyclist Association has announced Shane Farthing as its new executive director, effective June 3.

Photo from Shane Farthing.

He takes over from interim director Dorcas Adkins and former head Eric Gilliland, who is now executive director of the National Association of City Transportation Officials.

Since February, Farthing has served as director of the Office of Green Economy at the District Department of the Environment; he began in a different position at DDOE in March 2007. Before working at DDOE, Farthing served as a Capital City Fellow.

The new director's priorities include improving outreach to communities that are or could be bicycling but are not sufficiently engaged with the rest of the city's bike community. "WABA needs to reach outside its core demographics in order to serve all different types of cyclists [and] I intend to make WABA more active outside its core geographic areas of influence," he said.

Farthing noted that it's important to "limit the resources expended in preaching to the choir" and that cyclists in communities that have traditionally been less organized often have more to gain than cyclists already in bike-friendly environments.

Farthing is also interested in renewing the organization's focus on law enforcement issues. Seeing that DDOT has made great strides in bicycling infrastructure, he believes that "the next major step for the District involves integrating cyclists in other ways, such as ensuring that safety laws are enforced and fairly applied." In addition to changing the contributory negligence standard, Farthing would like to see consideration of "other laws that are more tailored to the realities of urban cycling."

Finally, Farthing sees WABA playing a stronger role in the District's development review and planning processes. While the organization has a strong relationship with DDOT, many decisions that affect bicycling are made by other city boards and agencies.

"Most major decisions that impact our transportation needs, our environment, or our allocation of public funds make public input a possibility," he said. "And I think that my familiarity with those forums will enable WABA to be present and ensure that its members' voices are heard when such decisions are to be made."

Here are Farthing's complete written responses to my interview questions:

Q: What attracted you to this position?

I moved to the District in 2002 to attend law school at GW, and that was the first time I was totally car-free. For the first year of so I was primarily a pedestrian, then I started adding more bike trips, and by the time I finished law school I was a dedicated, daily bicycle commuter. I think I have the sort of personality that is just naturally attracted to problem-solving, so the more I biked, the more I saw elements of the city experience that could use improvement from a cycling standpoint. So I started reading and learning about the policy issues that impact cycling. I had known about WABA for a while - mainly through its events - but in doing that reading and learning, I came to see its importance as an information center, an advocacy center, and an education center.

And over time, as I've continued to read and learn and think about bicycling, I've only become more convinced that full integration of cycling into the region's (and nation's) transportation priorities is a critical step to addressing some of the biggest problems we face. The bicycle is the tool that can change how places are planned and built, making them more human-friendly and more environmentally appropriate—not to mention making us healthier.

I wanted to lead WABA because I think WABA is pushing the Washington area toward that more human-friendly region that I want to see by getting people onto bikes and working to make cycling a safe, effective lifestyle choice. So the short answer is: I believe that cycling is important, and I think that WABA is important to effectively integrating cycling as a viable transportation option throughout the region.

Q: Your resume doesn't include much experience in the bicycling or transportation worlds specifically. Do you anticipate much of a learning curve on these issues?

I certainly anticipate a learning curve on these and other issues. But I am not wholly new to these worlds. I've been a daily bicycle commuter and a recreational cyclist in the area for a number of years. So while I've not formally studied transportation design, I know good design from bad design from experience. And due to my personal interest, I have studied and read a great deal about transportation policy, bicycle law and safety, and the processes by which transportation policy is made and implemented.

Additionally, I have worked on a number of transportation projects--though generally on environmental and land use planning issues rather than the pure transportation issues. For example, I worked with DDOT to resolve several late-stage design issues on the [Metropolitan Branch Trail], made recommendations to the Office of Planning to create higher bicycle parking requirements near major trails, and was involved in the review of countless roadway projects through various planning and permitting exercises.

So I do believe that there will be a learning curve. But I think that with my existing background in these areas, the expertise already at WABA, and the many potential partners around the region who seem remarkably willing share their expertise, I hope I will be able to get up to speed quickly.

Q: Your background in law and nonprofits is particularly intriguing. What do you hope these skill sets can bring to WABA?

In any form of advocacy, I think that law is a key tool. It is law that provides the rules of the game, and one key goal of bicycle advocacy is a set of rules that are appropriate for cyclists and fairly applied. Having a clear knowledge of how laws are made, applied, and integrated into behavior informs strategic decision-making and provides another method, in addition to pure education and issue advocacy, to impact social behavior. Different situations call for different approaches, but I hope that the addition of legal advocacy to WABA's toolkit will make the organization more effective in pursuing its mission.

My nonprofit background, on the other hand, has more to do with managerial and operational capacity. In addition to maintaining advocacy efforts, the Executive Director's job is to ensure that the organization itself remains strong, and my nonprofit experience will help me in working with the Board to set priorities, plan strategically, and ensure the fundamental health of the organization. From membership services and fundraising to budget planning and administration, there are certain core tasks that come with the nonprofit model. I firmly believe that the nonprofit model is a powerful tool, but like any tool it must be well maintained and used appropriately. I've already mentioned the advocacy and education that I believe constitute "appropriate use." But keeping the tool well maintained is equally important. And my experience with nonprofits has shown me how to do just that.

Q: WABA and the District have made great strides over the past decade in becoming national leaders when it comes to bicycling advocacy and infrastructure. DC is a good city for cycling; what is needed to bring it to the next level?

I agree that the District is a great place for cycling. And I think it will only improve now that federal and local priorities ensure that cyclists are considered whenever transportation projects are being designed and funded. So while we must ensure that there is no backsliding, I do believe that we have crossed an important threshold on infrastructure design.

As I mentioned above, however, I believe that there is more than infrastructure involved in keeping cyclists safe. I think the next major step for the District involves integrating cyclists in other ways, such as ensuring that safety laws are enforced and fairly applied and ensuring that motorists know that cyclists have equal rights to the roads. I think that may also mean revisiting some laws and policies that may have been accepted in the past, such as the outdated contributory negligence standard, and perhaps considering other laws that are more tailored to the realities of urban cycling.

I think that currently the District is making great strides in making it physically possible for bikes to share the roads with cars, and certainly the District's leadership should be praised for that. I would like to see the same strides made in the legal realm to ensure that cyclists are adequately protected by the legal structure while sharing the road. We don't have the protection of the vehicle surrounding us, so we need the protection of properly tailored and properly enforced laws.

Q: What can WABA do to expand outreach to Latin American, African American and other minority populations that are too often outside of the "bike culture" mainstream?

This is one of the main issues I hope to focus on at WABA, and one that I raised in my very first discussion with members of the Board. I firmly believe that WABA needs to reach outside its core demographics in order to serve all different types of cyclists. I am a resident of Ward 5, and I know that my neighborhood is filled with cyclists outside the "bike culture mainstream," and when I speak with them I find that few of them have heard of WABA or know of its offerings. So I intend to make WABA more active outside its core geographic areas of influence and intentionally hold events and outreach activities in places that the organization may not have gone previously.

I think the opportunities to meaningfully improve the position of cyclists in the region are greatest in areas that may have been less of a focal point previously, and I intend to devise a plan to identify new target areas and populations for strategic outreach.

While the "bike culture mainstream" is of fundamental importance to WABA and comprises our core supporters, as an organization with finite resources it's important that our offerings reach those who need them and that we limit the resources expended in preaching to the choir.

In many ways, I think my fundamental goal is to significantly expand the definition of the "bike culture mainstream." There are multiple elements to achieving that goal - but outreach to people who aren't considered a part of it now is certainly a key first step.

Q: WABA covers more than just the District. What are the non-DC issues that are of specific interest to you that WABA should be involved with? (These can be either region-wide, state level or specific non-DC issues or projects.)

To be frank, I recognize that I will have the steepest learning curve on the non-DC issues. While I bike frequently in the surrounding jurisdictions, I cannot claim the same level of familiarity with the individual projects outside the District. But I look forward to reaching out to regional advocates to learn their priorities, understand their pressing issues, and take action.

Generally speaking, I am encouraged by the fact that many of our suburban neighbors are in the midst of significant planning sessions and redevelopment plans that provide the opportunity to convert some of our most car-dependent areas into truly multi-modal centers. Tyson's Corner, White Flint, and Wheaton spring to mind as excellent examples.

Ideally, these planning and development processes will themselves look regionally and seek to improve opportunities for cycling not just within their own borders, but in a truly connective fashion so that we can build a truly first-class regional network where our centers of population and commerce can be functionally accessed by cyclists as easily as by drivers.

Q: What are some examples or scenarios where you would like to see WABA take a more prominent role in District development review and planning processes?

Having been part of the planning of numerous major projects on behalf of the District over the past few years, I recognize the importance that advocates can play in ensuring that their priorities are incorporated into projects. That's not to suggest that the transportation agencies or other governmental actors around the table are not doing their part to advocate cycling. But they are expected to balance demands and make tradeoffs to meet the project's constraints. I think that having advocates present to evaluate those tradeoffs before they become accepted assumptions can have a significant impact. Luckily, we have a system in which most major decisions that impact our transportation needs, our environment, or our allocation of public funds make public input a possibility. And I think that my familiarity with those forums will enable WABA to be present and ensure that its members' voices are heard when such decisions are to be made.

Support Us
DC Maryland Virginia Arlington Alexandria Montgomery Prince George's Fairfax Charles Prince William Loudoun Howard Anne Arundel Frederick Tysons Corner Baltimore Falls Church Fairfax City