Category: News

MetroNow Statement on Blue Line Derailment and Ongoing Service Disruptions

Washington, DC — The MetroNow Coalition—comprised of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, Federal City Council, Greater Washington Board of Trade, Greater Washington Partnership, Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce, Prince George’s Chamber of Commerce, the 2030 Group, and Tysons Partnership—today released the following statement on the ongoing WMATA Metrorail service disruptions.

RELEASE: CSG Responds to Anti-Housing Protesters at Planning Board

Montgomery County, Md – “Montgomery County’s Thrive 2050 General Plan update is imbued with the progressive and creative spirit that has long been at the core of the community’s values,” said Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth (CSG). “This is why we are so saddened to see the strident opposition to the county’s efforts to address a housing crisis through Thrive 2050 and a separate study of Attainable Housing Strategies.”

RELEASE: COG’s Initiative for Equity, Smart Growth, Climate

RELEASE: COG’s Initiative for Equity, Smart Growth, Climate

PRESS RELEASE 

For Immediate Release: 
September 23, 2021 

Contact: 
Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director, 703-599-6437 
Cheryl Cort, Policy Director, 202-251-7516 

CSG Applauds COG’s Initiative for Equity, Smart Growth, Climate 

COG Proposal to Focus Development around DC Region’s High-Capacity Transit Stations Vote Scheduled for October 13 

Today, the Washington Post reported that the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, composed of the region’s local elected officials, some state legislators, and state and federal representatives, are on the verge of agreeing to focus development around the DC region’s high-capacity transit stations. These include Metrorail, Purple Line, VRE and MARC commuter rail, and bus rapid transit stations. At the same time, COG intends to prioritize transportation, housing, trails, and other investments around stations within equity emphasis areas, which have high concentrations of lower income residents and high numbers of Black, Latino, or Asian residents. 

COG also announced preliminary findings that show a combination of smart growth, electric vehicles, and pricing tools will be necessary for the region to slash its greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. Focused growth in transit communities is an essential part of this strategy. 

“We applaud COG’s proposal which is to be voted on at their October 13 meeting,” said Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. “COG’s action is the natural outgrowth of the work and long-time advocacy by our organization and COG’s own studies and vision statements over the past two decades. But now this agreement must be followed by action.” 

Founders of the Coalition for Smarter Growth first proposed a “network of livable communities” centered on the region’s transit hubs in reports released in 1992 and 1996, and in CSG’s 2002 Blueprint for a Better Region. It was a vision largely endorsed by the Urban Land Institute’s “Reality Check” conference in 2005, COG’s Region Forward vision of 2010, COG’s follow-on studies and plans, and by many local elected officials who have been approving transit-oriented developments.

“Anyone frustrated by sitting in traffic, or concerned about the growing evidence of climate change including frequent floods in the DC region, should support this COG initiative. Mixed use, mixed-income, walkable, transit-centered communities mean many more people will be able to drive less and reduce the air and climate pollution they generate,” said Schwartz. 

“The region’s east-west economic and racial divide, first highlighted in the 1999 Brookings report ‘A Region Divided,” has persisted for too long. Accelerating investment in transit communities in Prince George’s, eastern Montgomery, and eastern Fairfax and Prince William would shorten commutes, reduce vehicle miles traveled, and improve access to jobs and opportunity,” said Cheryl Cort, Policy Director for CSG. “In fact, building out transit-oriented communities on the east side of our region and investing in affordable housing near transit throughout our region are key transportation and climate solutions.” 

“But there was also sobering news from the meeting of COG’s Transportation Planning Board (TPB) yesterday,” said Schwartz. “Early findings from their climate scenario study confirm that neither the rate of adoption of electric vehicles, nor land use changes, will be enough to slash our greenhouse gas emissions sufficiently by 2030. We’ll need to move on a number of fronts – much faster adoption of electric vehicles, much stronger action to focus growth and reduce sprawl in order to reduce vehicle trips and vehicle miles traveled, increase telecommuting, and use pricing (congestion pricing or vehicle miles traveled fees, and parking pricing), if our region is going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions enough to do our part to address the climate emergency.” 

“Electric vehicles alone can’t save us. We must stop sprawling outward where people have no option but driving, and create inclusive, walkable, transit-centered communities, in order to slash our greenhouse gas emissions. In the process, we will increase access to opportunity and address regional inequity, while improving quality of life for everyone,” concluded Cort. 

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RELEASE: IPCC Climate Change Report

RELEASE: IPCC Climate Change Report

PRESS RELEASE
For Immediate Release

August 9, 2021

Contact:
Cheryl Cort, cheryl@smartergrowth.net 
Jane Lyons, jane@smartergrowth.net
Sonya Breehey, sonya@smartergrowth.net

Today’s Alarming Climate Report – The DC Region Can and Should Do its Part 

Today, the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change issued what the U.N. Chief calls a “Code Red for Humanity” highlighting worse climate impacts to come unless we act without further delay to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. See today’s Washington Post story on the IPCC report. Lead author, scientist Claudia Tebaldi, is quoted in the article urging people to focus on what can still be done to quickly reduce our emissions footprint.

The Coalition for Smarter Growth therefore urges every local, state, regional, and federal official to make fundamental changes in our land use, transportation, housing, and energy policies to slash our emissions. The DC region has committed itself to a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. With transportation now our number one source of emissions, we need to commit to reductions in this sector in particular. Electric vehicles are essential for meeting our climate targets, but studies show that they are not enough and that our cities and suburbs must also reduce the need to drive for daily needs.

The good news is that by focusing on creating walkable, bike-friendly, mixed-use, transit-oriented neighborhoods, creating more housing and more affordable housing in these communities, expanding transit, and ending highway expansion, we can reduce the amount that we have to drive and slash our emissions.

In addition to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, walkable, transit-accessible communities provide a wide range of benefits including lower combined housing and transportation costs, cleaner air and improved health, and access to opportunity for all levels of our workforce.

We can do this! The smart growth climate-friendly solutions are:

  1. More transit that serves travel outside of traditional 9-5 office commutes;
  2. More transit-oriented centers and corridors;
  3. More housing and dedicated affordable units close to jobs and transit;
  4. Streets where walking and biking are priorities for safe travel;
  5. 15-minute neighborhoods where you can walk or bike to daily needs within 15 minutes, without having to get into a car;
  6. Stopping the never-ending and futile highway and arterial expansion that simply increases sprawling development, driving and traffic;
  7. Greener, more energy-efficient buildings;
  8. Switching to clean, renewable energy, and electric vehicles starting with buses, high-use fleet vehicles, and trucks for maximum emissions reductions.

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RELEASE: Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill

RELEASE: Bipartisan Infrastructure Bill

PRESS RELEASE
For immediate release

May 12, 2020

Contact:
Stewart Schwartz
703-599-6437 (cell)

CSG Released the Following Statement from Executive Director Stewart Schwartz

Senators Warner, Kaine, Cardin, Van Hollen Can Fix the Infrastructure Bill

“The bipartisan infrastructure bill would pour record amounts of money into transportation. But there are critical flaws which should be addressed. Fortunately, Senator Kaine and Senator Cardin are two of the Senators proposing critically needed amendments to ensure that the bill achieves our nation’s goal of fixing existing crumbling infrastructure, sets firm goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, and funds the reconnection of city neighborhoods torn apart by highways in the 1950s through 1970s.

We strongly support Senator Kaine’s “fix-it-first” amendment for highways and roads. The infrastructure bill has been sold to the public because of crumbling roads and bridges. While the bill does require aging bridges to be prioritized, and imposes strict fix-first requirements on transit, there is no similar requirement for roads. Senator Kaine’s amendment 2373 would address this and we applaud VDOT for supporting this.

We also strongly support Senator Cardin’s amendment 2465 to require states to set goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from transportation. Transportation is the number one source of U.S. and DC regional emissions. Addressing this will take more than electric vehicles — it will also require reducing vehicle miles traveled through walkable, transit-oriented communities, transit, telecommuting and other demand reduction tools.

We also support Senator Klobuchar’s amendment 2301 to require states to reduce deaths on our roads, and Senator Warnock’s 2167 to invest more money into reconnecting and restoring city neighborhoods torn apart by highways, like those in DC, Baltimore, and Richmond.

While the package provides record amounts to intercity rail — an implicit endorsement of Virginia’s success with passenger rail, we are very concerned that the bill allocates less than 20% of the combined package to the transit upon which so much of our workforce depends. The transit share should be increased by at least $10 billion.

These are critically needed amendments if our nation and our region are going to truly fix its aging infrastructure, fight climate change, and create more sustainable communities.”

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RELEASE: Transportation Planning Board Re-Vote on Governor Hogan’s Toll Lanes

COALITION FOR SMARTER GROWTH

PRESS RELEASE

For Immediate Release

July 21, 2021

Contact

Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director, 703-599-6437

Transportation Planning Board Re-Vote on Governor Hogan’s Toll Lanes

Governor Hogan’s strong-arming further exposes biases and flaws in Beltway/270 study, and the distortions of the P3 approach

Today, the regional Transportation Planning Board voted to reinstate the Beltway/I-270 toll lanes project in the long-range transportation plan for air quality modeling. The revote followed a massive political campaign by Governor Hogan, including threats to cut projects, removals of toll road opponents and appointments of supporters, and weak promises of additional investment in transit.

“Rather than establishing the merits of his toll lanes project, Governor Hogan has reinforced the serious bias and flaws in his approach to the Capital Beltway and I-270,” said Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. “He started with the conclusion that he wanted private toll lanes and has failed to analyze comprehensive alternatives.”

“The toll lanes would reinforce the East-West economic divide in our region condemning Prince George’s commuters to either paying very high tolls or sitting in the general-purpose lane traffic that the toll road companies depend on to generate their profits. A far better alternative is Maryland investment in transit-oriented development on the east side of the region, which would increase jobs, shorten commutes, even out the flows on the Beltway and Metrorail, and help address the E-W economic and racial divide,” said Schwartz.

“The P3 process in Virginia and Maryland is resulting in undue influence by multinational corporations, prejudging and biasing the outcome of environmental and alternatives studies,” said Schwartz. “The premature approval of 495Next in Virginia created a threat of a bottleneck at the American Legion Bridge, which has become a way to force concerned Virginia and Maryland jurisdictions to support the further extension of the toll lanes into Maryland.”

“Not only are we not getting objective evaluation of alternatives, these projects also fail to adequately fund good, effective transit, and include non-compete clauses that potentially block important transit investments such as future Metrorail or light rail at the American Legion Bridge.”

“It is astounding to see our local and state leaders pressing forward with massive highway expansion in the face of the existential threat of climate change. In the past weeks, we have heard more about the melting of ice sheets in the Arctic, Greenland, and Antarctica, massive fires in the Western US, deadly flooding in Europe, the US and China, and shellfish cooking on the beaches of Canada amid record heat waves,” said Schwartz. “As this vote took place today, the DC region has a Code Orange, unhealthy air due to particulate pollution from the haze from massive Western wildfires.”

“Going forward, we are urging the Maryland Board of Public Works to delay action on contracts until completion of the environmental impact studies and the addition of a TOD/transit/demand management alternative,” concluded Schwartz.

Our thanks to the following elected officials and their jurisdictions who stood up for fighting climate change, and for transit and sustainable, equitable communities: Mayor Patrick Wojahn (College Park), Mayor Emmett Jordan (Greenbelt), County Executive Marc Elrich ( Montgomery County), Mayor Bridget Newton (Rockville), Councilmember Kacy Kostiuk (Takoma Park), Mayor Pro Tem Adrian Boafo (Bowie), Delegate Marc Korman (MD House), and Councilmembers Brooke Pinto, Charles Allen, and Christina Henderson (DC).

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RELEASE: New Analysis Measures Racial and Economic Disparities in Transit Access Across National Capital Region

For Immediate Release 
June 17, 2021 

Contact 
Ben Fried, TransitCenter, 347-675-5592
Stewart Schwartz, Coalition for Smarter Growth, 703-599-6437
Ron Thompson, DC Transportation Equity Network, 202-780-7940

New Analysis Measures Racial and Economic Disparities in Transit Access Across National Capital Region

The Transit Equity Dashboard illustrates inequities in access to jobs, health care, and other services for Black and brown residents.

An analysis released today measures racial and economic inequities embedded in the National Capital Region’s transportation network. The Transit Equity Dashboard, produced and launched today by the national foundation TransitCenter, maps and quantifies the disparities in transit access caused by segregation and discrimination in land use and transportation policy. TransitCenter is releasing findings for an initial six U.S. metropolitan regions over the coming week.

The COVID crisis made racial inequities in public health and economic status very plain, and demonstrated just how critical transit is for our essential workers. “As recovery from the pandemic accelerates in greater DC, our organizations call on political leaders to prioritize public investments that will shrink gaps in transit access and address other inequities as a result, putting the region on the path to a just recovery,” said Ron Thompson of the DC Transportation Equity Network.

People of color are more likely to rely on transit in the Capital region — in 2019, 18% of Black residents took transit to work, compared to 12% of white residents. But disparities in transit access linked to race and economic status are undermining transit’s capacity to function as a “ladder of opportunity” connecting people to jobs, education, medical care, and other necessities. Using data from transit agencies and the U.S. Census, the dashboard reveals these disparities.

In addition to job access, the dashboard measures transit access to grocery stores, hospitals, parks, and colleges, reflecting the fact that most trips are not commute trips, and that equitable transit enables people to access more than the workplace. Key findings include:

  • The average Latinx resident can access 157,040 potential jobs in 45 minutes using transit, the average Black resident can access 160,893 jobs, and the average Asian resident 184,018 jobs — compared to 256,140 for the average white resident.
  • On a weekday evening, it takes 40 minutes for the average resident of the Washington D.C. region to take transit to the nearest hospital, and even longer for the average Asian or Latinx resident. Poor access to healthcare is associated with worse health outcomes; it also means long transit commutes for essential healthcare workers working second- and third-shift roles. 
  • On a weekend morning, it takes more than three times longer to reach the closest hospital using transit than using a car, and nearly three times longer to reach the third-nearest grocery store. The dashboard measures time to the third-closest grocery store to show how effectively transit connects people to a variety of options.

Achieving more equitable transit in greater DC will require changes to both the broad sweep of transportation and land use and the specifics of transit operations and fare policy. Advocates have proposed reforms to remediate the racial and economic divides in the region’s transit access, including:

  • Redesigning bus networks in DC, Northern Virginia, and Maryland to expand access to jobs.
  • Operating transit more frequently throughout the day and week, in order to better meet the needs of essential workers.
  • Dedicated transitways to make bus and streetcar service faster and more reliable, both within DC and throughout the region.
  • Addressing the east-west economic and racial divide that cuts across the region as well as the racial and economic residential segregation apparent within each jurisdiction.

Transit agencies and local governments in the Capital region should also adopt new performance targets that measure inequities like those identified by this dashboard, and assess progress toward equitable transit access.

“TransitCenter’s maps highlight once again the need to address the region’s east-west racial and economic divide, as well as the need to prioritize dedicated bus lanes, more affordable fares, and networks redesigned for more frequent service and improved access to jobs,” said Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth.

While noting the recent actions by the WMATA board on service changes and fare affordability, the Alexandria DASH bus network redesign, and planning for regional network redesigns, the groups collectively urged much more rapid progress.

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RELEASE CORRECTED: Removal of 495/270 Toll Lanes from Regional Plan

RELEASE CORRECTED: Removal of 495/270 Toll Lanes from Regional Plan

PRESS RELEASE – CORRECTED (to identify the correct motion maker)

For Immediate Release
June 16, 2021

Contact:
Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director, 703-599-6437

Concern about Climate Change Leads to Historic Vote at the Region’s Transportation Planning Board

Vote removes 495/270 toll lanes from the long-range plan, requires next plan to meet climate goals

Today, in the latest of several significant debates at the Transportation Planning Board, the regional body of local and state officials charged with creating a regional long-range transportation plan Visualize 2045, the body voted to remove the I-495/I-270 toll lanes from the draft plan and to require the development of a climate-friendly plan by 2024.

Gary Ehrenrich, representing Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich made the motion to remove the I-495/I-270 toll lane project from the plan and it passed 16 to 12 with 6 abstentions. Mayor Bridget Newton of Rockville and other Maryland leaders spoke firmly about the reasons for removing the project, with the vote attracting near universal support from local Maryland jurisdictions as well as support from DC and some Virginia jurisdictions. This was followed by a vote on the draft 2022 long-range transportation plan – now minus the toll lane project, and with provisions advanced by Montgomery County Councilmember Evan Glass to commit the TPB to create a new plan by 2024 that significantly reduces greenhouse gas emissions. The TPB voted 26 to 4 with 4 abstentions on the measure.

“The unifying theme in today’s vote was the overwhelming concern of elected officials about climate change. It motivated the vote to remove the toll lane project and to do more to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from our region’s transportation sector,” said Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth.

A number of outer Virginia jurisdictions thought it was too late to change the current draft plan which will move forward into air quality modeling and adoption in the spring of 2022, but they ultimately also joined Maryland and DC in voting to begin work to adopt another more climate-friendly plan by 2024. “We wish the TPB would have acted this cycle to fundamentally reform the current plan because we have no time to waste,” said Schwartz. “Nevertheless, they made an important commitment today to adopt a more climate-friendly plan by 2024.”

  • The scientific consensus is that we must slash our emissions by 2030. The Biden Administration and our regional Council of Governments have each set a goal of cutting CO2 emissions 50% below 2005 levels by 2030.
  • Transportation is this region’s and the nation’s largest source of CO2 emissions.
  • Recent studies show that electric vehicles will not be enough, therefore the region will need to use transit-oriented development, transit, and demand reduction solutions to reduce vehicle miles traveled and associated emissions.
  • The Council of Governments’ recent Voices of the Region Survey found that 84% of the region’s residents want elected officials to prioritize climate change in transportation plans.
  • Public comment on Visualize 2045 has overwhelmingly supported a plan that addresses climate change.

“Removal of the I-495/I270 project from the draft plan means it will not be included in the federally mandated air quality conformity modeling, a huge roadblock for the controversial project,” said Schwartz. “I believe the many flaws in the Hogan Administration’s approach to the project including failure to analyze more sustainable and less destructive alternatives, failure to hear the public outcry or account for the strong opposition of nearly every local jurisdiction, and rush to commit the state to a long-term contract before finishing all of the environmental impact studies, contributed to the resounding rejection of the project today at the TPB.”

“There may also be implications for Virginia’s 495Next HOT lane extension contract with Transurban but that would have to be confirmed with VDOT,” said Schwartz. “Many of us had urged Virginia not to rush into that deal because of the controversy in Maryland and the similar failure in Virginia to consider alternative approaches. We want to see solutions for the American Legion Bridge and 495, and the best solutions lie in addressing the east-west jobs/housing imbalance, focusing jobs and housing near transit, and in the growth in telecommuting.”

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Updates to the DC Comprehensive Plan Pass!

Updates to the DC Comprehensive Plan Pass!

Photo credit: Ted Eytan, Flickr

On May 18, after five years of advocacy and hard work, the DC Council voted unanimously to approve the amendments to the 2006 Comprehensive Plan. Thanks to all those who have taken action over these five years to convince the city to do more to address our acute need for affordable housing and more homes near transit.  

Working with a terrific group of partners in the Housing Priorities Coalition, with the DC Office of Planning, and with the Council, we fought for and helped create a much better document to guide the future of our city. The updated plan puts a priority on affordable housing, sets a goal of 15% for each part of the city, and highlights the opportunity in Ward 3, which today hosts just 1% of the city’s affordable housing stock.

The Future Land Use Map creates room to build more homes, especially near transit. This reduces pressure on existing housing, and helps those who should be able to be served by the market to find a place to live. At the same time, the plan also better addresses displacement of vulnerable residents. 

The update focuses on bringing racial equity into every land use decision we make. Recognizing that Black families in DC earn a third of what white families earn and have a median family income (MFI) at just 40% of the region’s MFI, the plan refocuses goals, policies, and spending priorities to meet the needs of these families. Until now, DC programs have too often focused on 80% of median family income. 

Donate to support our work!

We are eager to get on with implementation — ensuring the Council increases public funding for deeply affordable housing, creating local plans to guide neighborhood change, rezoning for more mixed-income housing near transit, and incorporation of racial equity assessments into Zoning Commission decisions. Then we’ll participate in the full rewrite of our Comp Plan, due to start in 2025. 

Thank you for your involvement and contribution to this success! With this milestone behind us, stay with us as we continue our work to build a more sustainable, equitable and vibrant DC.

Press Statement: CSG lauds final vote on DC Comp Plan update

Press Statement: CSG lauds final vote on DC Comp Plan update

Contact: Cheryl Cort, cheryl@smartergrowth.net

We are grateful that yesterday the DC Council has finally adopted the Comp Plan update to amend the woefully out of date 2006 plan. Through the process, advocates worked with the Council and DC Office of Planning to create a much better document to guide the future of our city. The updated plan puts a priority on affordable housing, and sets a goal of 15% for each part of the city. It cites the opportunity in Ward 3, which today has only 1% of the city’s affordable housing stock. The updated Future Land Use Map gives us room to grow, especially around transit.

The update gives us a new focus on bringing racial equity into every land use decision we make. Racial equity will also be advanced by recognizing that Black DC families earn a third of what white families earn. The plan therefore refocuses our affordability goals and plans to meet the needs of Black residents whose median family income is 40% of the region’s. Until now, DC programs often focused on 80% of median family income — or twice the median income of Black families in the District. 

The Future Land Use Map will encourage building more homes, especially near transit. This reduces pressure on existing housing, and helps moderate income households find a place to live. At the same time, the plan better addresses displacement of residents. It places a priority on lower income families, many of whom are Black. Now, we need to significantly increase public funding and focus these limited resources on helping those with lower incomes.