Category: Emails

495/270 Update | July 2020

Photo credit: urbandispute, Flickr

Last Friday, the Maryland Department of Transportation released an 18,000 page draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) on Governor Hogan’s plans to expand the Capital Beltway (I-495) and I-270 with private toll lanes. The study details the impacts on air, water, parks, noise levels, traffic, and more. The DEIS is available to read here

More than 140 acres of public parks and historic sites, as well as 70 acres of wetlands and 1,400 acres of forest canopy, could be affected. We’ve said from the beginning that Governor Hogan began with the conclusion, and failed to consider a comprehensive transit, demand management, and land use option. Maryland has committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, yet toll lanes will fuel more long-distance living and commuting.

It’s overwhelming, but there’s still plenty that you can do to help. Here are three easy ways:

1. Sign up for a virtual or in-person public hearing.

2. Tell Maryland to extend the comment period to 120 days.

3. Sign up to be a community reviewer ⁠— no experience required!

At first, Governor Hogan claimed the project wouldn’t cost taxpayers a dime due to the public-private partnership (P3) structure. Now, the DEIS finally admits that the project could require a government subsidy up to $1 billion. Imagine if Maryland invested $1 billion in sustainable transit and transit-oriented development instead. That cost doesn’t even include the costs imposed directly on residents: water bills could nearly triple in Montgomery and Prince George’s Counties due to water and sewer relocation.

We’ll continue to keep you updated and work on this issue with our partners, including the Maryland Advocates for Sustainable Transportation (MAST) coalition. You can visit MAST’s website and follow us on Twitter and Facebook for the latest news.

ACTION: Ensure transit survives the pandemic!

Transit ridership and revenue have plummeted due to people sheltering at home during the ongoing public health crisis. At the same time, transit has continued to serve our essential workers. Transit is also essential to the restoration of economic activity and to fighting the next big challenge, climate change. 

There are two actions Congress can take — one will save transit right now and the second will ensure we build a more sustainable world by putting transit first in the next 6-year federal transportation bill.

  Email your Senators and Representatives today to support federal transit funding!

First, transit agencies nationally need $32 billion in emergency operating funds to cover the collapse in fare revenue, maintain service, prevent service disruption, and provide health safety. The current funding provided by the CARES Act will only keep many transit agencies running until September.

Second, last week the House approved the INVEST Act (6-year reauthorization) — transformative legislation which emphasizes access, equity, and climate when considering transportation projects, all of which relate to smarter growth. The bill prioritizes repair and maintenance over building new roads, addresses safety for vulnerable road users, and most importantly, increases funding for transit and passenger rail. This is a refreshingly progressive approach to transportation policy, so take action today!

Email your Senators and Representatives today to call for $32 billion in transit relief and for Senate support for the INVEST Act.

Public transit can survive and even thrive with these crucial pieces of legislation. For more information on these pieces of legislation, visit our website. Make your voice heard and contact your Congressional representatives today!

Thoughts about where we live on this Earth Day

Thoughts about where we live on this Earth Day

Where we live and how we design our communities matters

Today we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the first Earth Day, when millions of people took to the streets to demand better stewardship of the planet that is our home. While we may not be able to gather in the same way on this day, we can reflect on actions we can take.

Just as natural systems on our Earth are interconnected, so too are land use, housing, transportation, and our environment. Reliance on cars is the single largest source of carbon emissions in the U.S. and a major contributor to respiratory illnesses, however, by designing our communities to reduce reliance on vehicles we can create a safer, healthier world.

That’s why CSG has campaigned for walkable, transit-oriented communities. We recently released a presentation and fact sheet summarizing the benefits of transit-oriented communities for fighting climate change.

Amid the COVID-19 crisis, people are rediscovering the value of walking and bicycling, and the need for parks, greenways, and safe streets for our quality of life. Dedicating more space for bicycling and walking on our streets will allow for better physical distancing and reduce air pollution and carbon emissions.

Just as we need to focus on stopping future pandemics with science, preparation, and global cooperation, we will need to do the same if we are going to address the existential threat of climate change. We are social creatures and our walkable cities, towns, and urban neighborhoods offer important social, economic, and environmental benefits that we will continue to depend upon as a society.

So, thank you for supporting CSG and more sustainable communities. We wish you the best on this Earth Day and hope that you and your families are safe and healthy.

All the best,
Stewart, Cheryl, Jane, Sonya, Emily and Alina

Photo credit: Jane Lyons

A bit of good news for future sustainable commutes

Photo credit: Elvert Barnes, Flickr
Photo creditElvert Barnes/Flickr

DC Council Votes Unanimously for Flexible Commuter Benefits

On April 7, 2020, the DC Council unanimously voted to support flexible commuter benefits! The law, promoted by CSG and our supporters, will give workers the option to walk, bike and take transit to work using the value of an employer-subsidized parking space.

The Transportation Benefits Equity Amendment Act will allow employees who are offered a free or subsidized parking space to exchange the benefit for a transit benefit (with cash to make up any difference in value), for cash if they walk or bike to work, or for an enhanced health care benefit. 

This bill will lead to more sustainable commuting. It will mean fewer vehicles on the road, which reduces traffic congestion, speeds up buses, and leads to fewer carbon emissions. Get the details here.

This decisive victory would not have been possible without the advocacy of supporters like you, so thank you for contacting your Councilmembers and advocating for these changes. While nonessential commutes remain on hold for the time being, workers in DC will soon be incentivized to enjoy a more sustainable ride to work with the new option to cash out their parking benefits. 

Winning this bill will help us build a more equitable and sustainable DC. It would not have been possible without a sustained push by CSG and our allies and activists. 

NoVA Conservation Cafe Webinar: Meet the New NoVa Eco-Advocates!

NoVA Conservation Cafe Webinar: Meet the New NoVa Eco-Advocates!

We are changing next Thursday’s Conservation Cafe: Meet the New NoVA Eco-Advocates to an online webinar in response to closure of Fairfax County facilities and the need for social distancing. Please join us online from the comfort of your home to meet the new local advocates, hear about 2020 priorities, and share your thoughts on how we can work better together for a healthier environment in Northern Virginia. 

Smart growth, environmental and active transportation organizations are staffing up in Northern Virginia and we want to hear from you. The event is a panel discussion featuring new staff from the Coalition for Smarter Growth, the Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling, the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, the Audubon Naturalist Society, and Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions. Elenor Hodges, Executive Director of EcoAction Arlington will be our moderator. 

This is a free webinar, but registration is required. Register today with our partners at the Audubon Naturalist Society. 

Hope you can make it!  

COVID-19 Update

COVID-19 Update

Dear Friend,

First of all, we hope you and your families are coping as best you can under the circumstances. This is a time for us all to work together and support each other — even as it means staying physically apart to stem the spread of COVID-19 and protect the most vulnerable among us.

The CSG team went to full-telecommuting mode on Friday. We are postponing some events and converting others to webinars. Please see the current event list below.

We will not slacken our efforts to promote and win a more sustainable way to grow in the DC region. Our work is important for people to have homes they can afford, streets where it’s safe to walk, affordable transit that connects to jobs and opportunity, and healthy air and water. Walkable, bikeable, transit-accessible communities are also critical for reducing the emissions that cause climate change, an existential threat to all of us.

Here is our updated calendar of CSG events:

3/21 — Healthier Streams for Healthier Communities Walk with CSG, Audubon Naturalist Society, and Fairfax County staff (Rescheduled to June 13) 

3/26 — Conservation Cafe with CSG, Audubon Naturalist Society, Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling, the Virginia League of Conservation Voters, Faith Alliance for Climate Solutions, and EcoAction Arlington (Converted to webinar, information to follow)

4/2 — Montgomery County Homeowner Accessory Dwelling Unit Workshop with Habitat for Humanity Metro Maryland and Ileana Schinder (Postponed, new date to be determined, probable webinar)

4/4, 4/18, 4/25 — Courageous Conversations on Housing, Land Use, and Racism (Postponed, new date to be determined)

4/21 — Livable Communities Leadership Award event (Postponed, new date to be determined)

Look for updates from CSG on a menu of educational webinars that will not only help us advance smarter growth but keep us all connected and engaged.

It is our hope that we will come through the current health crisis committed to working together to address the many challenges we face as people who share this earth – realizing a more sustainable and equitable future for everyone.

All the best to each of you. May you and your families stay well.


Stewart Schwartz
Coalition for Smarter Growth

Thank you to Joe Flood for his photograph “Almost There”