The findings from your climate and transportation study are clear: The region can achieve necessary levels of greenhouse gas reductions under its adopted 2030 climate plan, We cannot depend solely on electric vehicle adoption and a cleaner grid, the region must reduce per capita vehicle miles traveled by 15 to 20% by 2030.
September 21 – The proposed high speed Maglev train between Baltimore, MD and Washington D.C. would harm a national park, a national wildlife refuge, the Chesapeake Bay and numerous nearby communities.
NPCA, the Coalition for Smarter Growth, the West Baltimore Project, Delegate Jared Solomon, and Delegate Robbyn Lewis hosted a conversation about why the proposed Baltimore-Washington Maglev project is wrong for the region and the numerous transit solutions currently being considered.
For Immediate Release
June 17, 2021
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.
June 15, 2021
Hon. Charles Allen
Chair, National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board
Re: TPB Draft CLRP and Resolution by TPB Board Member Evan Glass
Chair Allen and members of the TPB:
We hope you all agree that climate change is an existential threat. You also know that transportation is our number one source of emissions and that electrical vehicles will not be enough to get us to the COG and national goals of a 50% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2030. The last CLRP (2018) is only estimated to reduce CO2 by 23% by 2045,
In the COG scientific and statistically significant Voices of the Region Survey, 84% of the region’s residents indicated they want elected officials to prioritize climate change in transportation plans. Public comment on Visualize 2045 has overwhelmingly supported a plan that addresses climate change.
Therefore, we urge you to address the issues raised in Councilmember Glass’ resolution and by many other members of the TPB seeking a CLRP that more effectively addresses climate change. At a minimum, we urge you in adopting the draft CLRP for air conformity modeling, to concurrently commit to the TPB to adopting a new CLRP by 2024 that meets COG’s climate goals. This includes conducting a rigorous initial climate strategy analysis this year (not just an academic exercise) and beginning immediately in 2022, developing the next CLRP by 2024.
We are running out of time. We need your leadership.
Senior Policy Fellow
Re: Testimony in Support of the FY22 Budget for DDOT
Dear Chair Cheh and members of the Committee:
Thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony. Please accept these comments on behalf of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, the leading non-profit organization in the D.C. region advocating for walkable, bikeable, inclusive, transit-oriented communities as the most sustainable and equitable way for the DC region to grow and provide opportunities for all.
Major Investment Bus Priority:
We wish to express our enthusiastic support for the FY22 budget for DDOT, especially the $63 million for bus priority programs. This is a tremendous step in making the commitment we need to the bus service we should have. This budget makes a major commitment to building out the city’s bus priority network. Over the last decade, we have advocated for better bus service and urged the city to give buses priority on District streets. We are gratified to see such a bold proposal to advance bus service. This major commitment to better buses helps address racial and economic disparities, and build a more sustainable city for everyone.
We commend the proposed budget to both support operating costs for the Bus Priority Program and the $63 million of capital investments for “Bus-Only Lanes and other initiatives to improve bus speeds and reliability on 50+ priority bus corridors throughout the city.” While this investment is most of what we need, we ask that the funding for this program be sustained to ensure its completion in the out years.
We also support $116 million for the K Street Transitway, which is a necessary reconstruction of a central downtown thoroughfare. This project will improve speed and reliability for bus passengers benefiting travel both in downtown and throughout the District. It will benefit residents from all parts of the city as they travel through the corridor to jobs, services, or via bus on their way to another destination. We are excited that the transitway will also accommodate people bicycling, and improve the walking environment.
We support the $375 million for streetscapes, trails, bicycle lanes, Open Streets, and Vision Zero safety improvements. We also are thrilled by the $19 million expansion of Capital Bikeshare. These investments are critical to the city’s ability to make education, jobs, and services more accessible to residents and visitors. To accelerate these investments and get us back on track to achieving Vision Zero, we need to ensure that DDOT has the staffing to plan and guide these projects through to delivery. In the past year, our city has experienced far too many tragic deaths of people walking and bicycling. We need to do more to accelerate implementation of safety improvements and redesigns of unsafe streets and intersections. We ask that the budget add staff positions to the pedestrian/bicycle team to ensure that DDOT can deliver on these critical facilities.
We also want to express our support the FY22 budget’s transfer of the Automated Traffic Enforcement (ATE) program to DDOT. DDOT’s management of ATE will better ensure that safety and compliance are tightly linked to the design and management of our streets to support walk and bicycle access and safety, and effective bus lanes.
This is a set of major investments that will make our city more sustainable, equitable, accessible and vibrant. These investments give people healthier, more sustainable, and more affordable transportation choices. We urge the DC Council to support these investments.
Lastly, we wanted to inquire about the regulations for the Transportation Benefits Equity Act (B23-148). This new law will enable an employee who is offered a parking benefit by their employer to use the equivalent value of the parking subsidy for a transit, walk, or bike commute. We understand that the administration has been working on regulations, but it has gone on for months. As the District begins to reopen, we should have the regulations for the law in place to provide better guidance to employers as they consider any changes to their commuter benefits policies. We ask the Committee to follow up with the administration on the status of the regulations.
Thank you for your consideration.
The MetroNow Coalition is made up of regional leaders who believe that transit is essential to the economic health and vitality of our region. WMATA, especially our Metrobus and Metrorail operators, have kept this region moving and our economy alive throughout the pandemic.
On Thursday, June 10, the WMATA Board will have an opportunity to define the role WMATA, and transit writ-large, will play in the regional economic recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. We area asking WMATA Board members to consider a more targeted list of two principles and specific actions around service and fare opportunities, outline below.
May 19, 2021
Dear Chair Allen and TPB Board members:
You have the opportunity to create a better Visualize 2045, not next time, but now. The region’s residents and future generations are counting on you, and climate science says that we can’t delay anymore. At last week’s COG Board meeting, TPB Director Kanti Srikanth said in regard to climate change and Visualize 2045 that “Every option needs to be pursued as expeditiously as possible to attain our 2030 goal.” We agree.
193 of the 199 public comments submitted to TPB ask for sustainable and equitable transportation investments that prioritize non-auto modes, including land use and demand management strategies. This is consistent with the COG Voices of the Region survey.
Please note these two key findings in today’s presentation on TPB’s Climate Change Study Phase 1 Report:
– “At the regional and local levels, the studies show that land use policies that bring housing and jobs closer together and closer to transit reduce both GHG emissions and vehicle travel. Travel demand policies such as teleworking are also effective at reducing GHG emissions and vehicle travel and are also cost-effective.” and that “In contrast to most of the vehicle-related strategies, many of these policy actions can be implemented in a shorter timeframe contributing to critical near-term GHG reductions.”
– The memo notes the promise of the Transportation and Climate Initiative (TCI), and we agree. However, the TCI Program will only reduce on-road emissions by 7% by 2032. TCI clearly states that substantial reductions depend on jurisdictions, including MPO’s like TPB, adopting “complementary policies.”
Given Director Srikanth’s statement that every option needs to be expeditiously pursued, we are stunned by the staff response to the public comments — that the proposed project list with $40 billion in highway and road expansion projects is generally consistent with and advances TPB’s climate and equity goals, and that it is not as relevant to regional climate efforts.
That is simply not possible. Road expansion fuels more driving and spread out development and diverts billions of dollars from investing in transit and TOD to reduce emissions and address the region’s racial and economic inequity.
TPB’s own studies show we can avoid much proposed highway expansion if the region adopts effective travel and greenhouse gas reduction strategies, which are travel demand and land use policies that focus jobs and housing in walkable areas near transit, and expanding transit investments.
Stewart Schwartz Bill Pugh
Executive Director Senior Policy Fellow
May 4, 2021
House Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure
Subcommittee on Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials
2167 Rayburn House Office Building
45 Independence Ave SW
Washington, DC 20515
Hearing: “When Unlimited Potential Meets Limited Resources: The Benefits and Challenges of High-Speed Rail and Emerging Rail Technologies”
Testimony for May 5, 2021
Jane Lyons, Maryland Advocacy Manager
Please accept these comments on behalf of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, the leading organization in the Washington, DC region advocating for walkable, bikeable, inclusive, and transit-oriented communities as the most sustainable and equitable way to grow and provide opportunities for all. We have strong partnerships with business, conservation, and affordable housing organizations, and received the 2017 Regional Partnership Award from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.
We have been strong supporters of major rail improvements in the Northeast corridor, but are convinced that the proposed Baltimore-Washington Superconducting Magnetic Levitation (SCMAGLEV) project is the wrong technology and design for the Washington-Baltimore corridor and the NE Corridor as a whole. Therefore, we urge you to not provide federal financial support to this project. Instead, we urge significant investments in both the Amtrak and commuter rail improvement programs.
The project would have a negative impact on racial and social equity. Construction would plow through majority Black Prince George’s County, but the residents of Prince George’s County would not be able to take advantage of the project, since the technology and design speed are such that there will only be stops in DC, at BWI Airport, and at Penn Station in Baltimore. Environmental Justice (EJ) communities would be disproportionately impacted, with 80 percent of impacted parcels located in EJ communities.
Furthermore, the high projected cost of a one-way ticket sends a signal that this project is for the wealthiest white-collar commuters, not those who will suffer from the damage wrought by the project or those who need more accessible, frequent, and affordable transit. A $60 ticket for the SCMAGLEV would be about seven times more than an existing MARC commuter rail ticket for the same trip ($8) or existing Amtrak Acela ticket ($46).
We are also concerned about the project’s negative effect on existing taxpayer investments in transit. The project is already diverting attention from repairing and improving our existing MARC and Amtrak infrastructure. If public funding is required for the Maglev, it could divert hundreds of millions of dollars in addition to fare revenue lost due to reduced ridership on Amtrak and MARC.
The Maglev is a potential public-private partnership, and recent experience with P3s in Maryland and other states suggests that public funding will be required. Given that Maglev is a multi-billion dollar technology yet to be implemented anywhere in the U.S., this project could require significant public funding.
The limited time savings is also not worth the cost and risk. The Acela Express between DC and Baltimore currently takes 30 minutes. While Maglev would cut time spent on the train in half, it doesn’t account for time spent getting to the station. The average total trip would go from 90 minutes to 75 minutes, which is not worth the risk, nor the costs to equity and environmental quality.
Investing in the Maryland MARC and Amtrak NE Corridor expansion plans would more effectively serve the transit needs of our region and the NE Corridor. Upgrades to the existing rail system could also more easily be extended to other destinations like New York and Boston, than would be the case with Maglev which would need entirely new right-of-way through the very densely developed Northeast. Existing rail stations are located in more central and well-established transit hubs, like DC’s Union Station. A much more cost-effective solution would be to invest in improving our existing infrastructure and upgrade over time to high-speed rail standards.
In conclusion, we urge you to pursue upgrades to the nation’s existing rail infrastructure, including high-speed rail, in lieu of the SCMAGLEV. Thank you for your time.