|There had been little if any concerted long-range
planning for the District as a whole (outside the federal enclave) for many
years. However, a variety of new efforts have appeared under the Williams
Administrations which promise to make a substantial impact on the city's future. These items will
be posted most recent, first to ease downloading time:
o Regional transportation planning is suffering from years, if not decades, of inadequate funding. It also appears to be suffering from regional traffic analysis projections which seem to obfuscate the magnitude of the problem. A NARPAC analysis is provided of the MWCOG Transportation Planning Board's "travel forecasting model" which appears to have a host of limitations, the most important of which may be its lack of transparency to decision-makers. The same model results can be used to gloss over the region's severe problems in their Constrained Long Range Transportation Plan, or point to a dire need for additional funds in a separate report entitled "Time to Act!" (which also underestimates the region's looming gridlock problems);
o Analysis of the latest draft of the Federal Elements of the Comprehensive Plan for the National Capital is provided, as well as of major sections (economic and transportation development) of existing DC's existing the existing DC Elements of the Plan are now treated in a separate chapter;
o DC's outdated Transportation Vision, Strategy and Action Plan (TVSAP) is similarly dissected in advance of its long-overdue 2003 revisions;
o An equally important, and more detailed analysis is made of the studies leading to WMATA's new Capital Investment Plan which, does not appear to be related to the two DC plans above;
o And NARPAC provides their comments on the Comprehensive Plan to a DC Council Roundtable considering how to change that important document;
o The impressive, if imperfect, new Strategic Neighborhood Action Plans have been published for all 39 "clusters" of DC neighborhoods, and are accompanied by....
o The second version of DC's Citywide Strategic Plan is now available for comment including NARPAC's;
o Progress was made in establishing a National Capital Revitalization Corporation (NCRC) to be charged with the city's economic development, and "slum and blight removal", which NARPAC hoped could become the centerpiece for long range planning, but....
o The NCRC draft plan, eventually published for comment in December 2000 appears to NARPAC to be another relatively short-range, neighborhood-oriented financial facilitator.
o DC's Director of Planning gave an extended interview to the Washington Post outlining his plans for DC, which NARPAC finds quite discouraging in its limited outlook;
o There is testimony from other cities like Philadelphia that are finding their attempts to rejuvenate "downtown" generally unsuccessful.
o Nevertheless, a new "citizens plan" for DC's economic resurgence, commissioned by the Control Board was released in November, 1998, and is getting very positive reactions as a practical approach.
o The 1997 DC DPW Transportation Plan is the most recent available "Vision, Strategy, and Action Plan for the Nation's's Capital", and offers a list of possible system upgrades for the next 20 years. It is notable for its inclusions--and its omissions.
o In early 2000, the Committee of 100 published their paper Ten Good Ideas for Transportation in the Federal City, which provides an interesting (if bicycle-heavy!) set of major transportation issues for the city to address;
o Mayor Williams held a Neighborhood Action Summit in November 1999, to give DC residents (some 3000 of them) the chance to provide their inputs and priorities to his "City-wide Strategic Plan". The results will be used to shape--or at least fine-tune--his FY2001 budget. It is also the basis for his new "scorecard" accountability system. The draft is summarized here along with NARPAC's commentary.
The Council of Governments (COG)/Transportation Planning Board (TPB) "Travel (not Traffic!) Forecasting Model is a variant of a commercially available, commonly used model. It essentially projects how traffic patterns will evolve over time, based on general inputs concerning changes in population, households, and employment in each participating jurisdiction, as well as changes in major transportation elements (viz., Intercounty Connector; Dulles Metrorail link).
It is important to understand that this model is operated under the direction of the COG political leadership. It is intended to indicate the overall adequacy of the entire transportation network, under the gross projections estimated by each jurisdiction. It is by no means an advocacy model for increasing transportation infrastructure. In fact, it is much closer to the opposite. It tries to answer a relatively general question (here formulated by NARPAC, not COG): Can the planned transportation network handle the needs of the entire metro area if each jurisdiction's growth matches their projections?
While this question may see eminently sensible, it only satisfies each jurisdiction's aim to have X residents in Y households, plus Z job opportunities. There appears to be no assurance whatsoever that residents of one Jurisdiction (J-1) can choose to work in J-2, or that they can choose their mode of transportation. These choices are made within the workings of the model (and not reported out).
It should also be noted that the COG/TPB modeling group exerts no control over the inputs provided by the jurisdictions. It provides a service function, but no "control" or "leveling" functions, nor does it go out of its way to illuminate differences in input assumptions. It should also be noted that while the COG/TPB model is set up to address the aggregate problems of the region, the individual jurisdictions are free to run similar versions of the same model with greater resolution within their smaller domains. Generally, these models are run by contract consultants to each local transportation authority. While NARPAC has no basis for suggesting that jurisdictions use their own models to "cook the books" for the regional model, it does appear evident that there would be no red flags raised at COG/TPB if they did. It is also not known (to NARPAC) whether the capacity added by new transportation elements is estimated by the individual jurisdictions or by the modeling group.
It might also be noted from the outset that the "normal" jurisdictional span of the COG/TPB does not reach out to two of the area's fastest growing counties (Howard and Anne Arundel) to the north and east. However, general inputs are received from these outliers so there is no reason to suspect that the model is spuriously biased by arbitrary geographic limits.
For the current model (out to 2030), the jurisdictions all submitted growth expectations at five year intervals from 2005 to 2030, and these are compared in the aggregate with separate metro area growth projections. Apparently some give and take goes on to adjudicate the inputs so the overall totals roughly match the sum of the parts. Nevertheless, the normalizing appears fuzzy at best. Total employment does not need to match total population or households, since there will be commuting both ways across the metro boundaries. And the relationship between households and populations does not appear particularly consistent. Nor for that matter, do the out-year projections appear to be consistent between different planning efforts.
Three cases in point will illustrate these inconsistencies in the current model, and each introduces significant impacts on DC transportation demands over time:
a) DC population growth is pegged at 95,400 over the next twenty-five years. This bears little relationship to the mayor's goal of 100,000 new residents by 2015, (which forms the basis for the Council-directed DDoT long-range plan!), or the assumptions of the ongoing Comprehensive Plan revisions.
b) DC's projected growth in the next ten years (66,700) is 2.3 times greater than in the following fifteen years (28,700). Why? The total metro area growth in the next 25 years is projected to be only half that of the past 25 years. Why? Whatever the rationale, it surely reduces out-year transportation demands;
c) DC's ratio of population to households is set at 2.31, which does not correspond to the 2000 Census of 2.16, and does not reflect the generally accepted trend that households are declining in size (at least in the "central city"). DC's ratio is a full 10% higher than assumed for Arlington or Alexandria (the other components of the "central city"). Again, smaller households (with fewer kids) tends to increase the demand for transportation. ;
Although NARPAC has not been able to probe this aspect in detail, it also appears that "the model" breaks up a given jurisdiction's population by four categories within each income level, household size, and car ownership. We believe these component distributions are drawn from existing data from the recent past. We do not know how they change with time, or what the impact would be of changing some of them.
Modeling Trucks vs Cars:
The current model does treat trucks separately from cars, recognizing different allowable route structures, and travel times. But beyond that, there seems to be general agreement within the modeling community that the truck model needs major upgrading, and a contractor effort has been funded, but not yet completed. From a casual (not definitive conversation), it appears that the truck model may be deficient in several respects:
a) the truck count is generally set as a fraction of the cars, which is apparently related to population characteristics such as household income level. But that fraction appears to be set at the 1995 ratio all the way to 2030. It is NARPAC's best guess that trucks are becoming a larger and larger share of total traffic, and at quite a significant clip;
b) trucks are assumed to take up more space per lane than cars, but apparently only by a factor of about two. NARPAC's recent guestimate (for our comments on the NY Avenue redevelopment project) would suggest that a factor of five would be better;
c) it is not clear that the presence of a substantial number of trucks on a particular route segment changes (lowers) the "flow rate" in the model (due to slower acceleration, braking, and turning). It is apparently assumed that double-parking trucks will not influence rush hour flow rates.
NARPAC is quite confident that the current model significantly underestimates the growing impact of trucks on the overall capacity of their primary routes, which are also primary routes for other vehicles.
There are sub routines within the model which purport to make "logical" (NARPAC's word) decisions of how "travelers" will change their patterns under various exogenous inputs. For instance, there are choices made within the model relating to the costs of various transportation alternatives. For instance, if parking rates are raised, the model will transfer some car drivers to public transit along the nearest similar routes (!). Other inconveniences are apparently "hardwired" (i.e., fixed coefficients) to other expected reasonable changes in behavior. Presumably, when flow rates on 16th Street drop below a certain level, more drivers will shift to 14th Street. (In fact, the model tends to aggregate parallel routes into "corridors" , and the driver's decision, in the model, will be to shift to an alternate corridor with a higher flow rate.)
But on the other hand, the model has no sub-routines to gage, say, the impact of more or less downtown off-street parking facilities. The model assumes more lanes are available for moving traffic during rush hours than off-rush hours, but beyond that (and cost considerations), the model does not handle long-term, short-term, or delivery-pause parking issues.
It is NARPAC's understanding that there is no representation from WMATA within the COG/TPB group, nor any particular sub-routine of the model that reflects the capacity, needs, or limitations of the Metrorail and Metrobus systems. Hence, for instance, if one raises those downtown parking rates, the model will automatically shift the most financially-impacted drivers onto Metro, but no bell will ring if the choke capacity of the limiting Metro Center station is exceeded. By the same token, there appears to be no value given to modifications to the Metrorail system to eliminate the downtown choke points. The model does not appear to be used to compare various marginal infrastructure improvements between transportation modes.
Modeling Emergency Evacuations:
There is no derivative model to explore the practicality of evacuating the city to any set of temporary receiving units around the metro area. And there is surely no vestige of a model to show the impact of treating compound emergencies involving casualties, building collapse, blocked metro stations, etc. involving the major components of the metro area.
On the other hand, the model will accept changes in lane direction with morning and afternoon rushes, though with the exception of Connecticut Avenue (inside DC, not beyond) DDoT seems to make very little use of this exigency. In fact, boulevards with decorative center medians that seem to be coming back into vogue, will not permit it.
Model running time:
This huge model is the antithesis of the decision-maker's trusty companion. It takes 8 to 12 hours of modern computer time to make a single run, and many more hours to make significant changes in the thousands of input variables. There is no possibility, say, for NARPAC analysts to use the model to run a set of "what if" input variations by which to test the intuitive soundness of changes in the output. In fact, NARPAC strongly suspects that even experienced model operators will have some trouble explaining why some input change produced some specific output change. One worries that the answer to "why did this change result?" will be "because the model says so". No competent decision-maker should accept that answer which essentially certifies zero transparency in the modeling process.
Shuffling residents' jobs to fit the roads (sub rosa)?
Perhaps the most surprising (at least to the uninitiated) is that "the model" decides how the public will react to increasing delays along certain routes, or more broadly speaking, corridors, as well as changing transportation costs. But the ultimate leveler appears to be the automatic reallocation of jobs among the region's residents deep within the model. It is NARPAC's understanding that if traffic is computed to get too heavy, say, along the Northwest corridor (MacArthur Boulevard, Whitehurst Freeway, et al), then the model will reduce the number of residents living in Northwest DC and Montgomery County, MD that work on K Street, and replace them with, say, more residents from Prince George's County, MD who approach K Street from a different direction. As the CLRTP report essentially says in rather small print, "we know traffic will become horrific by 2030, but we're not sure how the public will react to compensate". It would be hard to disagree with that, but apparently "the model" makes its own judgments, and without reporting out to the modelers.
It also seems likely, though not explicitly stated, that model operations are generally in the hands of consultants. While this solves some problems of technical expertise, it would also add at least one more institutional synapse between the needer and the provider of the requisite analysis.
Developing Local Resolution:
The COG/TPB staff acknowledges that the regional model is unlikely to provide adequate clarity to provide useful inputs on such relevant issues as: how much more traffic should be carried over a new South Capitol Street bridge; how many more trucks will pre-empt commuter flow on New York Avenue; what are the future flow requirements for the Wisconsin Avenue "gateway"; who loses if the Whitehurst Freeway is "deconstructed" to satisfy local aesthetes; how new traffic control technologies would increase traffic flow; etc.?
It is also apparent that the current model generates a lot more information than it displays in its summary results. Even the "mapping" presents a problem for the core city, unless different scales are used for different issues. For instance, it requires a special request to the COG/TPB to get a print-out showing in detail the level of traffic congestion projected on the major avenues below the flow-levels of the freeways. NARPAC has made such a request but doubts that it will be honored, if even answered!
"Running the models backwards":
Given the size and complexity of the model, it seems almost impossible to consider "running the model backwards" to determine "what would it take to do xxxxx?" The major reason is that the model runs in four discrete "steps" during which input data is sorted, allocations are made, choices are tested and iterations are made. The model also iterates repeatedly to settle on a "best" solution, and that cannot be reversed. It seems clear that many of the subordinate routines and "decision-making" would have to be frozen. In fact, someone should probably be looking closely to see if it is possible to derive a smaller, faster running model using only the "first order terms" and locking out some of the model's internal decision making.
The above NARPAC analysis may be subject to change if outstanding questions submitted to COG/TPB subsequently produce answers in variance with our interpretations
If one looks at COG's published "Constrained Long Range Transportation Plan" (CLRTP) report, it takes a while to find reflections of the model results. Well into Chapter 5 of their five chapter report, there is a summary of the model reports:
........The expected (highway) congestion levels for 2030 are based on travel demand forecasts. Severe stop-and-go congestion is expected to be prevalent throughout the entire region in 2030, not just isolated areas.
While travel forecasts and simulations of the transportation system predict more congestion in the future, it is less clear how people during the next 25 years will adjust to those conditions......
But by the end of Chapter 5, pages 41 and 42, a summary is provided of the merits of the plan and the remaining challenges, there is no direct reference to a metro area faced with stop and go traffic throughout:
This section summarizes the main findings of the previous assessment. These conclusions concerning the plan's accomplishments and the challenges that remain are intended to provide guidance for future updates to this plan.
Achievements of the CLRTP Plan
o The long-range plan will move the region toward the goals expressed in the Vision. The plan is financially realistic and includes all projects of regional significance;
oProvides enhanced people-moving capacity along existing transportation corridors using a combination of transit, HOV, and highway approaches;
o Expands the region's transit system by extending Metrorail to Largo, by providing rail transit to Dulles Airport by 2010, by building the Corridor Cities Transitway from the Shady Grove Metro station to COMSAT, by adding a station at Potomac Yards and New York Avenue, and by creating the Bi-County Transitway between Bethesda and Silver Spring, the Anacostia Light Rail line, and the K Street busway;
o Improves the region's highway system and adds an additional 1,900 highway and arterial lane miles;
o Meets current Clean Air Act requirements, including the reduction of ozone-causing mobile emissions, although air quality issues will continue to be a challenge for this region;
o Encourages ride-sharing through informational and incentive programs, new park-and-ride facilities, and the expansion of HOV lanes;
o Encourages telecommuting through the establishment of a regional resource center, telework centers, and promotional activities;
o Was developed with public participation and comment, including input from low-income communities, minority populations, and people with disabilities; and
o Increases the awareness of remaining transportation funding shortfalls.
Challenges for Updating the CLRTP Plan
Challenges specific to each policy goal were reviewed in the previous section with information on ways the TPB will be addressing the challenges. This summary presents the general categories or themes these challenges fall into:
o Addressing the projected growth in highway and transit congestion with effective, equitable, and feasible strategies;
o Identifying additional transportation revenues to address these challenges, including funds that are needed to adequately maintain and rehabilitate existing facilities;
o Working towards the implementation of value-pricing projects that will ultimately work together as a system;
o Ensuring that the region takes full advantage of new technologies to maximize system performance and enhance the safety of all transportation modes;
o Continuing to strengthen emergency response, communication, and coordination as the region grapples with increased security threats;
o Accounting for the special issues of moving goods and the needs of freight transportation within the regional planning process;
o Improving pedestrian and bicycle facilities and safety for everyone, including people with disabilities;
o Ensuring that transit services continue to serve the needs of low-income and minority communities, as well as disabled persons, through improved transit information and efficient paratransit services;
o Increasing the regional employment and household share in the regional activity centers and clusters;
o Identifying ways in which regional planning can enhance walking, bicycling, and transit use; and
o Designating "green space" in a composite land-use and transportation map.
Which COG Report Do You Read?
To NARPAC, the statements in the CLRTP above seem to be surprisingly bland, and more focused on social engineering than on maintaining essential regional mobility. The "bureaucratese" is in stark comparison to another recent COG/TPB report entitled "Time to Act" which strongly advocated for substantial (but certainly not enough) additional funding:
Very serious transportation shortfalls threaten the stature of the National Capital Region as the premier place to live, work, and conduct business.
Because of the critical importance of transportation and transportation-related investment, the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board has quantified the impact and extent of these capital funding shortfalls over the next six years. By joining forces and identifying transportation needs and revenues, the region has developed a comprehensive summary of the funding shortfall that requires additional commitment at all levels, state, regional, and local.
The National Capital Region's Six-year Transportation Capital Funding Needs 2005-2010.
The Washington region is at a critical crossroads. Our region is prosperous and continued dynamic growth is forecast. The region currently has 4 million people and 2.5 million jobs in an area of approximately 3,000 square miles, and population and employment are both expected to grow by more than 30 percent over the next twenty-five years. (Not the same base data as used in the CLRTP)
Growth in vehicle miles of travel on the region's roadways continues to far outpace growth in roadway capacity. And in recent years, growth in transit ridership has begun to strain the capacity of the region's otherwise excellent transit system. A looming gridlock crisis seriously threatens the region's mobility, safety and economic vitality. We must act now to address the serious funding shortfalls in transportation.
Critical transportation needs include:
o Maintaining the safety, condition, and efficiency of the existing transportation infrastructure; and;
o .Implementing the capital enhancements and service improvements that are necessary to serve existing travel demand and projected growth.
Over the six-year period 2005-2010, the region's unfunded transportation needs total $13.2 billion
. The needs are not wish lists: they are vital improvements that can and should be implemented to meet growing demands on the region's transportation system. Of the $25.4 billion required to address these critical needs over the next six years, $12.2 billion is expected to be available from funding sources already in place. The remaining $13.2 billion in unfunded five-year needs will not be addressed unless additional funding is found.
These regional funding needs are the sum of funding needs identified for the District of Columbia, Suburban Maryland, and Northern Virginia, which are presented in the following sections. Included in these state totals are the funding needs of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA).
The validity of the compendium of unfunded needs is, of course, subject to question itself. Those needs are apparently defined by the local jurisdictions themselves and not subject to independent verification by regional transportation experts. Localities can over- or under-estimate their requirements as they see fit, and underestimation is surely the preferred option from the standpoints of fiscal resources and "neighborhood" inconvenience. The "needs" are often based on the individual biases of local functionaries operating beneath the radar of their leaders, using analytical justifications that are dubious at best, and most likely misunderstood by the people who innocently (or expediently) assume their validity.
The looming gridlock in the national capital metro area is surely a subject deserving the attention of the US Congress and relevant federal agencies. The bureaucrats seem to be hiding the problems and disguising them with unintelligible, but comforting, computer models.
This section has been moved to a new chapter. Please click here ro review it.
THE 1997 DC TRANSPORTATION VISION, STRATEGY, AND ACTION PLAN FOR THE NATION'S CAPITAL
In 1997, the DC Department of Public Works produced the subject TVSAP transportation plan. It has not been updated since then, but a 2003 Update cycle was initiated in January 2003, and will be the subject of several public meetings. As usual, NARPAC will kibitz on this process and offer views from its own particular vantage point. It developed this summary of the old plan as a basis for challenging improvements in the new one.
The broader parts of that outdated plan are summarized here, so that it can be compared with other plans also under review and formulation at the same time: specifically, the city's "Comprehensive Plan", and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) 10- year Capital Investment Plan (CIP).
The TVSAP is somewhat unique among recent DC plans because it sets out with five scenarios of its own, and draws a composite vision from them by some process not shared with the reader. Each of the five scenarios generates a separate "most probable future based on historical trends (PF)" and divines for it an associated "transportation emphasis (TE)". These scenarios seem to NARPAC to be little more than the "partial derivative of the future with respect to one variable". They are summarized below, even though their future relevance is minimal:
PF #1: DC as a Tourism and Entertainment Center:
PF #2: DC as a Free Market Model City:
PF #3: DC as a City and Federal Partnership:
PF #4: DC as a Regional Partnership:
PF #5: DC as a World Capitol:
the transportation vision
The following quotes are hopefully self-explanatory in a convoluted process that ignores the existence of a Comprehensive Plan:
"By making strategic investments in transportation, the future of the District can evolve from the most likely (Tourism ) to the most desirable (World Capital) outcome, including elements of the City/Federal Partnership scenario."
"At the heart of scenario planning, as it was used here, is the idea that transportation decisions can make a major contribution to the realization of a bright, dynamic future for the District. In order for this to occur, improvements and changes to the transportation system need to be developed to support a vision for the District, and decisions need to be made within a strategic framework. A composite vision that incorporates elements from three of the five scenarios was developed." This transportation vision is stated as follows:
By 2020, the District of Columbia's transportation system will be widely viewed as one of its principal assets. Designed, built, operated and maintained to world-class standards, the transportation system will play a major role in the City's enhanced quality of life, its attractiveness as a residential and business location, the opportunities it offers for entrepreneurship, and its position as the capital of the free world and the cultural and entertainment core of the region.
"With this vision realized, a resident or visitor in the District in the next century will find that:
o People, goods, and information will move efficiently and safely, with minimal adverse impacts
on District residents and the environment.
the transportation strategy
The transportation strategy flowing from the vision above consists of six elements:
1. Develop sufficient and consistent funding to sustain world-class infrastructure and an
exemplary multi-modal transportation project planning and institutional coordination process.
This will be accomplished by creating new revenue opportunities and innovative financing
Elements #3 and # 6 above (highlighted by NARPAC) seem to arrive fully formed on the agenda without the benefit of the preceding vision.
an action plan emerges
"The transportation vision for the District will be realized through the implementation of an Action Plan derived from and consistent with the strategy above.....The following is a summary of the recommendations contained in this Transportation Plan which are necessary to achieve the District's transportation vision for the year 2020 and beyond:"
o Goods Movement
o Multi-Modal Transportation Corridors
o The 1997 TVSAP is far from adequate for DC's current focus on renewal and development. It is vital that the new "State Transportation Plan" broaden its vision, become linked to DC's new Comprehensive Plan, and evidence consistency with The WMATA 10-year Plan. NARPAC offers these broad comments as an input to the new planning effort.
o It appears evident that this 1997 plan was developed without regard
for basic inputs from the Comprehensive Plan, including the city's
vision of its future. Hopefully, this oversight will not be repeated when
the TVSAP is updated;
o In the broadest terms, the TVSAP failed to stress the unique role of transportation as a precursor to economic development either in the large or in the small. While there is a growing recognition of the need for "transit-oriented neighborhoods" (and an excellent new brochure from DC's Office of Planning see left), there is no companion strategy for "transit- oriented commercial centers" as is responsible for the economic growth of Alexandria City and Arlington County, and is sorely needed East of the Anacostia River.
o Similarly, there was no linkage between transportation and socioeconomic development. Can/should the business of transportation provide employment? assist in literacy and job-skill training? improve access to, if not mobility to, health clinics? provide transportation for public schools, colleges and universities?
o The almost total lack of emphasis on maintaining and expanding DC's world-class Metro system was a serious omission, and it is hoped that any future TVSAP will provide better rationale for the content of the DC portions of the WMATA 10-year CIP;
o There was no consideration whatsoever for the implications of economic development insofar as bringing more commuters, customers and visitors into the core city. The notion that they are pot-hole-making, congestion-causing, free-loading nuisances was and is pervasive in DC folklore, even though commercial enterprises bring DC far more net revenues (after expenditures) per acre than do your typical neighborhood residents;
o The stress on developing "internal circulation" without regard for the broader need to "de-congest" the hub-and-spoke Metro system for the entire metro area seems starkly inappropriate, and leads to the dubious concept of "signature systems", almost as if they are to be amusement rides for locals and tourists;
o Even though Amtrak, VRE, and MARC are significant, and significantly under- utilized, means of transportation in the DC metro area, and converging on DC, there was no mention of them, their futures, or their abysmally unattractive rights of way and infrastructure within DC. NARPAC believes it is high time for the city government to embrace railroads and influence their development;
o Also missing from all regional and local transportation planning literature is the ugly, but none- the-less real, metropolitan problem of trash/garbage collection, recycling, "intermodal" transfer and removal. Innovative solutions to this generic issue are sorely needed and well within modern technologies (such as are applied by the container/shipping industry). NARPAC wonders if this is not a major missed opportunity for rail rights-of-way, even including some segments of Metorail.
o There was no quantitative justification for any additional mass transit systems, serious or frivolous, be they trolley, light rail, bus rapid transit, or water taxis;
o Equally serious and a fault of most DC planning documents, there were and are no proposed quantitative goals for the development of improved transportation capabilities for the city, be it miles of trolleys, numbers of rail cars, or added parking facilities;
o There was, of course, no mention of the brand new demands for emergency evacuation;
o The creative notion of a "park once" strategy to get people out of their cars appears sensible, but was not developed (nor subsequently pursued?). New parking concepts, such as for fully-automated, high-density parking facilities could also be stimulated by appropriate TVSAP wording. There is no higher priority for American urban transportation planners than getting people to"check their cars at the gates and ride in". This is clearly evident from Census 2000 "journey to work" statistics:
o There was no discussion of the use of "fare & fee" structures to discourage unrealistic use of cars, or the use of unrealistic cars (SUVs et al). In addition to varying Metro bus and rail fares and taxi fares, there are significant opportunities for adjusting registration fees and parking fees;
o There was no apparent consideration of the impact of new environmentally-clean(er) vehicles, now clearly possible within the next 20 years, even though WMATA has now bought a number of "green buses". In fact, city (if not regional) transportation policies should strongly encourage the application of these technologies to the proliferation of urban vehicles, from municipal (and federal) official cars, police, school buses, and mail delivery, to taxis and the ubiquitous pick-ups and vans for maintenance and delivery services. If the city wants to develop a signature image to go along with its image as a "city of trees" (and leaves!), why not stress the introduction of "green vehicles, public and private"? DC might also find a lead cause to pursue with COG and the entire metro area.
o The treatment of pedestrians and bicyclists in the same context seems fundamentally unrealistic. Cyclists and joggers might be a more accurate pairing, since both apply vastly more to recreation and health uses, rather than the business and commerce of the city. There is a strong need to find a proper niche for both that does not compromise utilization of DC's main traffic arteries for clearly second-order, fringe applications. Maryland's Crescent Trail (below right) would appear to be the best model for recreational jogging and biking.
o The future impact of the introduction of "personal stand-on vehicles (segues?)" deserves some sort of special treatment in any planning document purporting to look ahead 20 years. Their potential nuisance value seems to NARPAC to be huge, compared to bicycles, since they do not require special garb, athletic prowess, or mounting and dismounting finesse. If they catch on, in their current or future incarnations, they will become a source of: conflict with pedestrians; personal injury accidents; and endless sidewalk parking and right-of-way demands.
o The subject of registration of personal vehicles, be they scooters, segues, bicycles, or skateboards probably needs to be addressed. To the extent that each version presents real costs to the city government (just as commuters do), then token controls and license fees may well be appropriate.
o In short, NARPAC senses that DC's transportation efforts have in the past lacked the vision, inspiration, scope, and long-range focus required of the unique core city of the nation capital metro area. By their apparent insularity, resistance to change, and obsessive neighborhood focus, they have risked not only failing to provide a transportation system "worthy of the nation's capital", but also preventing the development of a capital city "worthy of this nation". Let's hope the future will be different.
Testimony by Leonard Sullivan, president, NARPAC, Inc..
"DC's Development Cart Is Way Ahead of Its Unbridled Planning Horse"
Thank you for this chance to comment on the need for much better comprehensive planning for the nation's capital city and metro area.
NARPAC was incorporated to help restore nationwide American pride in our nation's capital. You already have a "Ward 9" comprised of emigres to the suburbs who still exert their influence inside DC. Think of NARPAC as a "Ward 10" dedicated to reminding you that this is not a run-of-the-mill inner city: it is a special symbol of American ideals and promise and deserves the very best.
I have worked in village planning, corporate planning, R&D planning, and Dept of Defense 5-yr and 15-yr planning. I have seen such planning well used, ignored, and badly abused: DC now seems somewhere between ignored and abused. I am presently kibitzing on DDoT's old Transportation Plan, and WMATA's new 10-yr plan.
I will focus on four of the 12 draft recommendations in our order of priority: (The italicized rhetorical question under each of my "bulleted" points illustrates a current problem, mostly related to transportation planning.)
1. Creating a Clear Vision for the City
o DC has a unique role as perpetual host to nation's capital and all its camp followers
o DC is inseparably interdependent on its major American metro area
o DC must view itself in context of nearby entities stress comparable performance
o DC must be economically self-sufficient can't settle for being a "Ward of the Feds"
o DC must emphasize key linkages between limited space, land use, fiscal productivity
o DC must be a living symbol of American life/future (not just museum of its past)
The resulting vision itself should be approved before developing details of plan
2. Making a Truly Comprehensive Plan
o CP must embrace all major urban functions: transportation, housing, poverty, etc.
o CP must connect to the city's financial plans (i.e. the budget/5-yr
o CP must relate land uses to actual/potential revenues, expenditures,
o CP must include all properties impacted by DC services: fed, foreign,
o CP must set priorities between 'necessary' and 'desirable': avoid
all-things to all-people
o DC must insist on developing plans that are "worthy of the nation's
Swap CP platitudes for regularly-updated, analytically-based, quantitative goals
3. Linkage to Other Plans
o CP must avoid ignoring larger plans, over-dictating to lower tier
o CP cannot compartmentalize NCPC , COG, WMATA, WASA, federal legislation
o CP must relate to consistent legislative plan: stop bribing the
marginal; seek the willing
o CP must resolve local demands vs citywide, regional, and national
o CP must resolve truth in labeling: 2-yr neighborhood wish lists =
citywide strategic plan
Higher level people with broader views must be involved in coordinating plans
4. Creating a Comprehensive Planning Commission
o CPC must not deify status quo, status quo ante, special interests,
hidden agendas, etc.
o CPC must avoid legislating life style changes, rather than accommodating
o CPC cannot rely on hunches, biases, conventional wisdom, rumors, 2nd-hand
o CPC must focus on whole District within field of view of the whole
o CPC must see its horizon at least 25 years ahead, not 25 years behind.
o CPC must be chartered to work in concert with other relevant planning
o CPC must avoid dependence on unchallenged data from protagonists or
CPC decisions must rely on factual data and independent professional analysis
(- - end - -)
For those (including NARPAC) who have suspected that the emphasis of the Williams Administration on "neighborhood rights" (like "states rights") was not only somewhat misplaced but also somewhat hokey, it is now abundantly clear that the mayor and his administration are dead serious about focusing on neighborhood needs. With modest fanfare, on October 26th, 2002, 39 separate (and very attractively presented) booklets were provided primarily to the resident activists and government representatives. who had contributed their time and energies to assembling them. Typical covers for three random clusters are shown below:
Neighborhood ActionVarying in length from 40 to 70 pages, these booklets describe the general characteristics of each cluster, with maps, diagrams, highlights, etc. But the core of each booklet is a series of neighborhood-requested coded "action items" and the coded "response item" from each government agency involved in their resolution. Each is sorted within both a "priority" and an "objective" categfory. Although some of the responses are necessarily vague ("we're working on it"), others involve relatively firm commitments to provide specific solutions within a given time frame. All told, there are perhaps 2200 of these action items, varying from a minimum of 11 for Cluster 35 to a maximum of 131 for Cluster 25! NARPAC summarizes six such items below, chosen completely randomly (except for their brevity):
Sample Actions and Responses:
ONE CITY, ONE FUTURE
Both reports are available at DC's excellent web site at www.neighborhoodaction.dc.gov.
Given the diverse character of various communities within the nation's capital, the concept of seeking out neighborhood dissatisfactions, and establishing specific personnel and specific funded programs within specific government agencies to alleviate them is very sensible indeed. The Mayor claims that this is a far better organized program than exists in any other American "inner city", and NARPAC has no grounds on which to dispute that assertion. Given a few years to mature, there is no reason to doubt that this approach can have a very significant and salutary effect on the quality of life in the District.
That said, NARPAC's principle concern is that there does not appear to be an equivalent effort to improve the city either as a whole, or as part of a thriving metro area. Although the city's simple vision statement (see chart below) starts out with "as the world's capital and America's crown jewel, DC should exemplify the highest ideals for diversity, education,....(etc.)", it seems to lack any feel for the larger demands on a urban complex beyond just the happiness of its residents. Happy campers are certainly a necessary, but certainly not a sufficient attribute: there are also important demands for the physical and institutional attributes of the camp itself. Examples are provided in the section referenced above.
Lack of Consistency
For those who are analytically inclined, there is a disturbing lack of consistency between the 39 SNAPs themselves, and between the SNAPs and the CWSP. The terminology and categorizations are not the same, and the differences in the SNAPs would indicate that there has been little if any cross-fertilization between them. One suspects that residents of one cluster might have changed (or added) to their own "wish-lists" if they had seen those of their counterparts in other clusters. For instance, as indicated in the chart below, NARPAC sought to aggregate the cluster priorities and compare them with the CWSP priorities. It does not work very well, but at least in part due to the use of different category labels and content. Furthermore, it seems odd that some clusters have less than 20 demands while others have more than 120:
Nevertheless, the CWSP gives first priority to "strengthening children, youth, families, and elders". There is virtually no way to allocate the top SNAP priorities to confirm that. "Education" come in as a poor eighth priority and "youth" and dead last twelfth. At the other extreme, the clusters show clear and substantial preference for "neighborhood economic development", while the CWSP shows "promoting economic development" as its third priority. NARPAC can think of no obvious way to reconcile these significantly different viewpoints.
The lower left chart above also shows the extraordinary range of different demands from the different clusters (arrayed in decreasing order for this parameter only). NARPAC concludes that there was no attempt to equalize or regularize the local inputs. These differences exist across most of the measurable parameters, as indicated on the chart immediately to the left. There is a range of more than 20:1 difference in adults and/or kids per cluster. The number of housing units per cluster varies by 24:1, the total cluster household income (MHI x housing units) varies by more than 40:1, and the share of cluster land devoted to residential uses varies from 96% to 6%. NARPAC suspects that in all probability, the cluster boundaries were picked well before any of these statistical parameters were available. Nevertheless, it now leaves this planning process open to significant criticism if each of the 39 clusters, each with its own agency staff advocates, is given "equal treatment" in the provision of needed services. If one could live one's life over again, it would clearly be advantageous to assemble somewhat fewer clusters, each with roughly the same adult population, as the most equitable democratic basis.
It is also clear that cluster area was not the determining factor in cluster selection either. The chart to the right here shows that there is also a large variation in cluster acreage (though not provided in the SNAP booklets). This chart also shows where some of the "most"and "least" clusters are for the same parameter. From a purely analytical standpoint, there are many other parameters that should be available for each cluster, assuming that each cluster is also a collection of finite census tracts. Additional information on such diverse parameters as average housing unit value and number of single-mom households would greatly assist in defining the true needs of each cluster.
This raises the politically unpopular question as towhether communities can correctly define their needs, or whether, for the most part, they will only spell out their wants. Hence their notion of economic development may be to get a hair salon or a hardware store in their neighborhood. In fact, they may need better transportation or adult education to broaden their horizons.
Another unpopular parameter that city governments should be interested in is the cost of the services provided to each cluster, compared to its ability to provide the revenues to pay for them. For instance, some of the poorest neighborhoods object most vociferously to the "re- gentrification" of their neighborhoods, thereby perpetuating their inability (as well as the city's!) to pay for the services they need. Perhaps if they saw the connection between the two, they would be more receptive to enhancing the revenue potential of their neighborhood.
NARPAC was pleasantly surprised to find that each SNAP contain information (albeit limited) on the educational achievements of each cluster. Educational achievements are by far the most important parameter in determining income. The chart below plots the "educational factor" for each cluster compared to its Mean Household Income. The trend line is unmistakable, and is virtually "color-blind" as indicated by the color-coding of the dots by the black population share of each cluster. In short, education, whether achieved during normal school years or thereafter, is the single most important determinant of prosperity.
NOTE: In the spring of 2004, the DC Agenda Project published a multi-page table of additional useful demographic, economic, and crime statistics by individual cluster, by certain "targeted neighborhoods", by Ward, and by East and West of the Anacostia River. These data have been used to generate more extensive comparisons by police district (PD) and police service area (PSA), and also to revisit the influence of parental education on local quality of life in separate chapters addressing public safety and education issues.
On October 6th, 2001, the city convened its second Citizen Summit to provide comments on the 2003-2004 City Wide Strategic Plan, a modest revision of the early plan which currently forms some basis for explaining budgets and goals of the Williams Administration. Over 3000 people were expected to attend the day-long session at the old Convention Center, but the actual number may have fallen somewhat short of that. No matter, over 280 tables of ten sat down and expressed their opinions on various action items within each of the five major goals using almost instantaneous electronic polling.
At a total cost approaching $800,000, it was a monument to modern technology, even though considerable question has been raised as to whether the session was too "canned", with too many results pre-ordained. Not surprisingly, the one hundred and thirty-nine page draft plan was not made available prior to the meeting, making it virtually impossible for the attendees to digest the materials. Critics are derogating the effort as being insufficiently "democratic" with a few extremists claiming that the administration is trying the "rule" them and prevent the citizens from making the decisions and setting the agenda. To NARPAC, these complaints are the height of folly: the more basic issue is whether in fact the Administration is trying too hard to involve the citizenry in decisions they are ill-equipped to make.
For those who have criticized the plan without having looked at it, one consistent example may be useful. The latest draft strategic plan continues to hold five "Strategic Priorities" (viz., "I. Strengthening Children, Youth, and Families"). Within each priority area, there are an average of almost 8 specific "goals" (viz., #3: Children and Youth Live in Healthy, Stable and Supportive Families and Environments"). For each of the 38 total goals, there are an average of more than 10 "Action Items" (viz., "Expand entrepreneurial, out-of-school time recreational, and training opportunities for youth between 14-21). For each of the 402 action items, there are one or more "Intended Results" (viz., Increase activities for youth in high need areas; Increase activities/opportunities for youth who are out of school). Less than half of these action items have any quantification of the problem (in this sample there is no indication of how many kids may need this help or how much it might cost per kid). About two-thirds of the action items have a specific completion date (in this sample, the completion date totally without elaboration--is "5/02"). Each action item has an average of four lead responsible agencies (in this case, only one: the Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation (CYITC)(?), and at least as many partner agencies (in this case three: the Department of Parks and Recreation; the DC Libraries; and the State Education Office). Try to imagine 3000 diverse individuals trying to comment on 5 priorities, 38 goals, and over 400 action items, including changes, additions, and/or deletions, in a six hour period (including a box lunch) with no advanced information.
Clearly, the material in this plan is too extensive to summarize here. Instead, NARPAC has read the plan and using its own judgment, singled out one important action item in one important goal of each priority that we feel is well treated and hence constructive, and another which appears poorly treated (for reasons given), and therefore inadequate. We also provide goals which we believe are of high strategic importance that are completely missing:
Strategic Priority I: Strengthening Children, Youth and Families
Sample Constructive Entry:
Sample Constructive Entry:
Sample Constructive Entry:
Sample Constructive Entry:
Sample Constructive Entry:
NARPAC concludes that the Citywide Strategic Plan still falls well short of the mark. It seems to focus far more on neighborhood concerns than "citywide" concerns, and many of the items seem far more tactical than "strategic". The lack of quantification is a serious shortcoming, as is the total absence of any concern for the costs of the actions to be undertaken. It would appear worthwhile to try to integrate and reconcile these aims with budget line items: this seems to be done in some cases, but not in the vast majority.
An elaborate new planning document by the National Capital Planning Commission NCPC) presents a visionary future expansion of the city's "Monumental Core" sure to please the tourist trade, but offers virtually nothing to the rest of the city or its permanent residents. The Commission visualizes expanding the core, using the capitol building as the central focus, and North, East, and South Capitol Streets as the radial axes of new development--to at least partially match the majesty of the mall (which substitutes for a "West Capitol Street") in all directions. It also stresses the redevelopment of the Potomac and Anacostia river banks into an extraordinarily attractive combination of parks, monuments, museums, etc. In the process it would spend tens of billions of dollars (NARPAC's offhand estimate) to re-route most of the highways and railway lines that now tend to constrict the expanse of the federal enclave.
One of the more tragic--and almost certainly unintended--consequences of Home Rule was to restrict federal (i.e., national) planning after 1973 to the federal enclave, leaving the rest of the city to the neglect of its new and inexperience local government. Hence this new NCPC "framework" plan for America's capital for the 21st century gives only lip service to the notion of urban renewal, and then only as it impinges on the areas immediately adjacent to the Capital Street axes near the capitol. Although it includes the proper words about the importance of "jobs, transportation, and housing", there is virtually nothing said about slums, dilapidated housing projects, or antiquated schools--unless they are in the direct path of the expanded "monumental core". This is tantamount to a "trickle-down theory" for eliminating poverty rather than the more appropriate approach of a "superfund clean-up program". The plan emphasizes the pollution of the Anacostia River, but ignores the inherent pollution of very low income residential areas.
The glossy brochure's section on "Hometown and Region" also keys on a statement in the National Capital Chapter of the American Planning Association's commentary on the NCPC plan that "Washington will not survive unless its region, with its incomparable intellectual, managerial and financial resources, can be made one with the city and the federal establishment.". In NARPAC, Inc.'s view, this is the essence of the issue. But NCPC seems to offer no program to accomplish this other than "improving transportation" which is currently being used in part to bring tourists and daytime workers in, but take permanent taxpaying residents out. Collectively, insufficient thought has been given to visualizing just what kinds of residents should be attracted to the residential sectors of 21st century urban areas. If it is not to be unwed child- mothers, the unemployable, infirm seniors, and the ubiquitous soccer moms, who should it be?
It is high time to undertake planning for eliminating the embarrassing parts of our city with at least equal priority to enhancing the beauty and majesty of the already incomparable parts. NARPAC, Inc. would welcome inputs from any responsible quarters that can estimate the costs of "recycling" the polluted parts of the District's residential areas and compare them with the costs of re-routing (or burying) the superhighways and main railroad lines that somewhat spoil the appearance of the southern side of the federal enclave.
On May 3rd, 2000, Mayor Williams, Congresswoman Norton, OMB Director Jack Lew, and Treasury's Undersecretary for Domestic Finance Gary Gensler kicked off the new Congressionally-approved National Capital Revitalization Corporation by announcing the 3 presidential appointees and 4 mayoral appointees (still subject to DC Council confirmation). This new public/private entity is designed to serve as an important new tool for delivering economic development services in DC.
NCRC will work closely with DC's Deputy Mayor for Planning and Economic Development (DMED) which has overall responsibility for developing and executing DC's economic development policy; business attraction and retention; financial packaging and incentives; and intra-governmental coordination for economic development.
The NCRC will be governed by a 9-member Board of Directors consisting of the Mayor, the CFO, and seven appointed professionals. They will select a CEO who will be responsible for day-to-day management of the NCRC and its small staff of professionals dealing with development, design and construction, finance, and legal matters. Its major focus will be "to implement select, large scale development projects consistent with the Mayor's economic development policies for DC to produce substantial impact on the city's employment and tax base". Typical large-scale real estate projects could include St. Elizabeth's and the Navy Yard which will bring new housing, businesses, and jobs to DC's neighborhoods as well as downtown.
As a publicly chartered real estate company, NCRC will have two major roles. As an initiator, it can assemble public/private partnerships to implement very large-scale real estate projects. As a service provider, it will, on request, provide high-quality transactional and asset management services for development parcels owned, leased, or financed by DC. The NCRC will also "provide services throughout the District to enhance the quality of life in a diverse array of neighborhoods".
The Federal Government is providing initial financing for the NCRC with a grant of $25M, and Fannie Mae has committed to invest $75M in NCRC projects over a period of several years. The mayor expects the NCRC to "become a powerful new weapon in our arsenal to spur economic development throughout the District". It is also expected to assume "asset management and disposition of the Redevelopment Land Agency's portfolio".
In NARPAC, Inc.'s judgment, the NCRC can become an essential counterbalance to the myriad of new small projects instigated at the behest of individual neighborhoods. While the smaller projects are key to re-energizing communities' interest in their home town, the nation's capital city must be a great deal more than the sum of its 120-odd neighborhoods. It is vital that there be broader, "top down" planning and execution of major programs, as well as "bottom up" initiatives to improve local quality of life. The key ingredients are to develop and espouse a major long-term vision of the city's role in this unique metro area, while reconciling the mandatory large-scale projects with the smaller, more personal interests of individual neighborhoods.
In this context, NARPAC has three serious concerns:
1. Overall planning for the city's future development still lies with the DMED and his Director of Planning. The NCRC acts to implement its large-scale real-estate programs. To the extent that the city planners' have restricted vision, then so will the NCRC. So far, there has been little indication that the DMED team has a truly broad national vision for the nation's capital city.
2. A large fraction of DC's potentially productive land is still held by federal agencies such as the National Park Service and the Defense Department. Realization of the full potential of the nation's capital city will require either a) the transfer of some of those very large tracts to the city (Bolling Air Force Base is a typical example of major but outdated, non-productive, several hundred acre parcel of land right on the Potomac River), or b) a major expansion of the motivation of the National Capital Planning Commission beyond hundred-year dreams, to making federal lands more productive for the DC metro area. Non-profit holdings in DC are also unusually large, and have been given little or no incentive to become economically productive for the District.
3. There is not one word in the DC press release (or on the NCRC home page) to indicate that DC is the core city of what should become the nation's foremost metropolitan area. Planning and development within DC cannot be sensibly carried out without coordination with other regional jurisdictions. While it may be satisfactory--NARPAC notwithstanding--to renovate individual neighborhoods in isolation, DC's large-scale projects must surely be chosen--and undertaken--in the context of the bigger, largely indivisible, landscape. The primary case in point, of course, is the need for a common, comprehensive regional transportation plan-- which currently does not exist, but which would impact on any major, large-scale DC development.
The NCRC can play a unique role in the future development of our nation's capital city. But now is the time to establish the proper broadly-based context in which it should do its vital work.
The background and intentions for this corporation are discussed below.
Background: The DC Council's Capital Revitalization Corporation Act of 1998, Bill 12- 514
The DC Council passed a major bill to establish the subject corporation, NCRC in 1998. It is similar to a proposal contained in the President's Rescue Plan in 1997, but has several features more to the liking of local politicos. But the essence of the proposal is the same: to establish an independent, well-staffed and -directed, apolitical, bond-issuing, long-range planning, property- foreclosing/buying/owning/selling, revolving-fund operating, subsidiary-forming, limited liability, private corporation with the following general purposes:
"to enhance the economic welfare, health, and safety of the District and its residents by slum and blight removal, and by spurring economic development, job creation and job training, through the development and updating of a comprehensive economic development plan for the District; providing incentives, assistance, and job-training subsidies; facilitating permits, licenses, and approvals; and coordinating District efforts towards these ends, and by other means provided for in this Act." (emphasis added)
It establishes the concept of "Priority Development Areas" in which the NCRC would presumably focus its efforts, and describes seven categories of such areas:
o "Downtown East Area" surrounding the current Convention Center;
o "Capital City Business and Industrial Area"West of Montana Avenue;
o "Capital City Market Area" just West of Gallaudet College;
o "Georgia Avenue Area", involving lots abutting each side of Georgia Avenue from Park View North to the District line;
o "any DC-designated Foreign Trade Zone or Free Trade Zone";
o "any federally approved enterprise zone, empowerment zone, or enterprise community";
o "development zones area"--land areas "designated under section pursuant to DC Law 7-177, as it may be amended from time to time";
NARPAC, Inc. is not qualified to judge the adequacy of these zones, but suspects that they are listed in inverse order to their potential importance. Of great interest, however, is the concept of formally designated "Blighted Areas" (which would become "Development Zone Areas"). The following is quoted in its entirety from draft Section 2, Definitions:
"(7) Blighted Area means an area within the District, including without limitation, each Priority Development Area, which the Council hereby determines to be blighted areas, in which there is:
Hopefully, these definitions will become somewhat simpler to read as the Bill progresses, but together they describe most of the conditions which have led to the gradual decline and decrepidation of the "inner city". They would, if approved give enormous power to the Corporation to eliminate DC's urban "blight". In the language of the environmentalists, they would amply describe candidate sites for the application of "superfund" expenditures to eradicate toxic wastes.
NARPAC, Inc. also notes two primary issues which go unmentioned in the Bill and which seem to indicate the absence of a "systems approach" to urban problems:
a) there is no mention of the desirability of coupling economic growth areas with the city's exemplary modern metro system; and
b) far more serious, there is no acknowledgement whatsoever of the strong coupling between "blighted areas" and, if you will, "blighted schools", "blighted students", and their life-long product, "blighted adults".
In early December, 2000, the Board of Directors of the newly formed National Capital Revitalization Corporation (NCRC) issued their proposed plan for public comment--as required by Section 11 of the NCRC Act of 1998 (DC Law 12-144). The NCRC is an independent DC corporate instrumentality charged specifically with: improving DC businesses; promoting DC real estate development; and "infusing DC economic development". In its own words:
"The Corporation intends to focus its efforts on the neighborhoods of the District and, in particular, those that have been historically under-developed. The Corporation intends to devote the bulk of its energy in the Priority Development Areas (PDAs), which include East of the River, the Georgia Avenue Corridor, the U Street Corridor, the New York Avenue Corridor, and numerous other areas. Business and commercial development will be the focus of the Corporation. Special attention will be given to the commercial corridors in these neighborhoods so as to promote the overall redevelopment of the PDAs."The plan includes "guidelines for the renewal of residential and commercial real estate, development of off-street parking, and public infrastructure improvements. NCRC intends to assist business in obtaining access to capital and other scarce resources, and to provide programs that support lending, bonding, equity finance, and surety programs for DC businesses. It intends to work in close cooperation with the DC Government, economic development agencies, and the federal government, and hopes to "create an attractive environment for national and international business development.....Acting in concert with DC, the Corporation hopes to fuel the DC economy and encourage the expansion, retention, and recruitment of new business" It identifies "strategic industries where investments and assistance will be targeted to help promote diversification of DC's economic base and the creation of sustainable and quality employment opportunities". It clearly intends to create new employment for DC residents, making efforts, "where necessary, to link workforce preparedness with business development".
The NCRC's Board replaces two existing development agency boards which have not been performing well: the Redevelopment Land Agency (RLA) Board, charged with selecting redevelopers and approving development agreements for properties purchased under the urban renewal project, and the Economic Development Finance Corporation Board, which provides financing for businesses and maintains an existing loan portfolio. NCRC's first "key principle" is to implement changed physical conditions in commercial areas in DC either by growing new or existing businesses or by removing blight that impedes economic development. Site preparation can include clearing and grading, removal and abatement of hazardous substances from buildings and brownfield sites, etc.
Key Strategic Businesses and industries being sought are taken from the recent "Citizens Plan for Economic Resurgence of Washington, DC": They include:
The areas in which NCRC is authorized to work are so numerous and overlapping, that virtually the entire city is eligible for something. Twelve different PDAs are delineated, from Downtown East and Georgia Ave, to the Southeast Federal Center and Minnesota Ave., to say nothing of:
There are, however, two recognized limitations:
As regards funding, NCRC is capitalized with $25 million in federal funds, plus a $75 million pledge of investment capital from Fannie Mae. It is authorized to receive contributions of funds and other assets (including, presumably, land), and to raise capital through the sale of either tax-exempt or taxable revenue bonds to raise needed funds, and loan the proceeds to needy projects.
As regards planning, the "NCRC is not a planning entity. It shall rely on OP (DC's Office of Planning), and NCPC (the National Capital Planning Commission), as applicable, to perform planning functions and to make determinations as to consistency with planning policy". Throughout the plan, NCRC promises to coordinate its activities with various DC and federal agencies. Presumably, though not stated however, the NCRC does not intend to have any analytical arm to help evaluate projects or to assess the impact of their successful completion.
The plan spells out in some detail the criteria by which to determine whether or not to approve an 'application for assistance'. These include:
All of this and much more is described in detail in this plan, which might, it seems to NARPAC, be subtitled "All Things to All Neighborhoods, but Nothing for the City as a Whole". In essence, DC gets a brand new business financial assistance organization to take over the jobs done poorly by existing organizations, but it has little or no authority to plan or initiate broad programs not instigated by others. It has wrapped itself in the populist garb of neighborhood autonomy, and appears poised to avoid the tougher issues of what may be good for the city as a whole, even if neighborhoods do not embrace them or welcome changes in status quo. Such projects might include substantial upgrades to the transportation network, both road and rail; major new uses for large under-utilized tracts of land within DC; and the elimination of blighted residential areas. Perhaps those will eventually emerge as things for the City's own planners to address.
Within its admittedly narrower scope, however, several things still trouble NARPAC:
a) the proliferation of enterprise, empowerment, and development zones is reaching absurd proportions (not NCRC's doing, but it might consolidate them);
b) there seems to be high interest in developing jobs, but no interest in developing city revenues per se: many of the small businesses to be enticed into these zones-- as well as the new businesses DC hopes to bring in to the city--will benefit from tax incentives that limit the returns to the city;
c) this plan clearly ignores urban productivity considerations and perpetuates the dubious mantra that more jobs and more residents are a good thing--regardless of whether they bring more costs in city services than they provide revenues in city taxes;
d) the plan also seems to ignore the free market business location decision process which is based on expectations of market potential--i.e., the purchasing power of the neighborhoods within reach. There is a danger that the NCRC will tend to foster subsidized mom-and-pop shops to serve subsidized residents; e) there is no mention of the possible advantage of involving the expertise of the Small Business Administration in developing the skills and entrepreneurship of local residents;
f) there is no mention of the possible utility of underwriting local industrial parks in which local entrepreneurs could manufacture, assemble, maintain, or otherwise create products for sale. Local retail sales shops are some of the lowest paying, lowest profit, lowest growth small businesses in the US;
g) there appears to be absolutely nothing in the NCRC charter that would encourage regional dialogue, cooperation, or funding of certain essential businesses;
h) There is no evident mechanism in the NCRC charter for favoring what's good for the city over what's good for the neighborhood--a common, oft-repeated fallacy in DC's current pre-occupation with neighborhood welfare. This failing allows the city to be run not by elected officials and chartered public instruments but by the squeaky wheels of strident neighborhood activists.
On this last point, there are many instances of decisions sorely delayed if not stopped completely because of local resistance to necessary but unappealing citywide functions. Many of these are discussed elsewhere or recorded in the daily headlines. For instance, how will the NCRC deal with all or any of the following major urban necessities:
o 3-5 large, intermodal parking facilities for commuters, shoppers, and tourists;
o 1-2 very tall digital transmission towers to exploit the new wireless communications technology;
o 2-4 very large trash transfer and recycling stations;
o 1-3 large sports stadia;
o 20-30 miles of widened, re-routed major streets;
o 1-3 new river-crossing bridges;
o 100-200 city blocks of high-density residential/commercial development immediately around existing under-utilized metro stations
o 10-20 more miles of underground subway lines;
o 10-20 expanded, and 20-30 new metrorail stations;
NARPAC suspects that NCRC will look the other way on such projects.
This relatively long article paraphrases an interview between the Washington Post and the head of DC's Office of Planning, providing the alternate answers that NARPAC would have given if similarly interviewed.
This item has been 'archived'
A recent in-depth article in the Washington Post confirms NARPAC, Inc.'s view that fixing up the "downtown area" has little impact on the welfare of the inner city as a whole. In Philadelphia's case, "the downtown has become a showcase, with a new convention and sports arena, and rental occupancy soaring to 98 percent". Former Philadelphia reporter Bissinger, author of a recent book entitled "A Prayer for the City", claims that "the downtown becomes a kind a of stage set in every city, beyond which are acres and acres of despair. Ten minutes from city hall, the mayor claims,"lies the tumble-down, emptied out garbage-strewn sprawl of North Philadelphia, where seven of ten adults are unemployed, and where children by age twelve develop a total lack of hope."
A recent report from the Milton S. Eisenhower Foundation confirms the fact that "for the first time in the 20th Century,most adults in many inner city neighborhoods are not working in a typical week." Two-thirds of students in poor urban schools in these blighted areas apparently fail to reach basic achievement levels, and child poverty, racial segregation, and incarceration have all risen.
The mayor goes on to say that "the sprucing up of downtown Philadelphia has done and can do nothing to fix a fundamental mismatch between the limited job skills of the people left in the inner city, and the highly skilled, post-industrial jobs that cities now offer". He points out that many big American cities grew up on the basis of providing manual factory work for their blue collar residents, and have since become "manufacturing mausoleums". Though New York and Washington, DC may be exceptions, he believes there has been no solution to the future of depopulated cities such as Philadelphia and Detroit, Baltimore and Newark--despite the "starry-eyed assumptions that are cheap, easy, and go down nicely with tax-averse suburbanites."
Although DC can never become a "manufacturing mausoleum", equivalent changes in work skills are taking place in government bureaucracies, and are leaving the inner city's least skilled workers with no means of employment--or escape. This confirms NARPAC, Inc's views that these wasted human lives must be "reprocessed" by government programs, and not left to "work their way out" of their conditions.
Redesigning Metro Area Core Cities
A February, 1999, edition of the Washington Post's Outlook section presented an interesting article on "Downtown's Prospects" entitled "Fixing the Engine of Urban Life", by Joel Kotkin. The basic thesis of this expert on urban issues is that traditional downtowns are obsolete and will never recover their primary role from the suburbs "which stole their jobs and middle class families". Instead of "trying to re-create the grand old days of the past", the author suggests that unique niches will have to be exploited, based on a new urban demography composed of gays, empty nesters, divorced, and never-married people. He could have included other households beyond their family days, such as retired couples and singles.
Health care, entertainment, "boutique businesses" and other attractions should be sought to replace the blue-collar jobs lost, Kotkin claims, as well as opportunities to attract "ethnic entrepreneurs" less comfortable in the suburbs. He broadly implies that inner cities will generally be expected to lose blue-collar, ad middle income population. He also notes that many of the newer US cities do not have single, focused "downtowns", but rather a series of (commercial) centers throughout the metro area.
Many of these views are consistent with those of NARPAC, Inc. However, the nation's capital still has many unique--but changing--attractions that can be exploited, predominantly through the presence of the federal government--and its increasingly international implications. On the other hand, DC too will have to find a new raison d'etre, and a new way to regenerate its vitality.
This item has been 'archived'
The most recent complete DC Transportation was published in 1997. It is summarized in this section along with substantial comments from NARPAC about its evident shortfalls.
This item has been 'archived'
There has been no shortage of transportation plans for DC over the past few years. But there has been no serious attempt to adopt any of them and to begin to implement their recommendations. The daily headlines on regional economic development frequently refer to battles between the conservative governors of Maryland and Virginia who resist spending their newfound tax surpluses, and the neighboring county governments who understand that indecision on future transportation developments is slowly choking the metro area. In a step intended to draw interest back to this area, the Committee of 100 recently summarized several existing plans, including DC's own "transportation vision" by highlighting what they consider to be ten particularly good ideas:
1. Intermodal Transportation Centers:
Intermodal transportation Centers--the latest federal initiative--could intercept tour buses and automobiles before they enter the central district--and keep them from overwhelming transit, walking, and bicycling in the city; they should be located at existing or planned transit stations on the perimeter of the city and Union Station.
2. Transit Service Extension:
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has adopted a 25-year plan "to maximize the effectiveness and efficiency of the regional transportation network" to include:
The Committee reflects NARPAC's strong emphasis on increasing the density of mixed-use developments around Metrorail stations. It also suggests the need to incorporate transportation objectives in its Comprehensive Plan, and suggests adopting a "Split Rate Tax" to encourage "compact growth and neighborhood renewal;
4. Expanded Bicycle/Pedestrian Transportation:
This also reflects a current federal focus which provides funds to integrate bicycle and pedestrian accommodations into transportation projects;
5. Transportation Efficiency:
Suggestions are offered increase the capacity of such major arteries as New York Avenue by greater use of over/underpasses; and dedicated transit and bicycle lanes;
6. E Street NW: Restoration of Street Grid:
This particular project would reunite the downtown and the Kennedy Center, now split by a local throughway. NARPAC believes it is but a single example of needed efforts to re-connect parts of the city seemingly isolated by various major roads such as the SE Freeway;
7. Curb Space Management in Commercial Activity Centers:
Deliveries and short-term parking complicate efficient use of "curb space". Several alternatives deserve pursuit;
8. Transportation Management:
This initiative would combine law enforcement and transportation management to help assure smooth traffic flow;
9. Transportation Financing:
There are important opportunities to raise right-of-way fees, and to increase the contributions of the federal government to transportation sectors serving mainly federal government installations (such as the new Navy Yard Redevelopment;
10. Transportation Management Systems in the DC Government:
The Committee supports the need for a separate Department of Transportation
as recommended by both the Federal and DC Governments.
Many of the ideas recommended here are consistent with those that NARPAC espouses at various places throughout this web site, although it does not share the Committee's infatuation with bicycles. As usual, however, we would have stressed several other concepts as well, whether or not they are contained in other long range plans:
First: the continued extension and connection of Metrorail lines within and beyond DC's borders is essential to the continued economic growth of the region, particularly East of the Anacostia, and throughout the metro area's Southeast Quadrant. Development of the circumferential "Purple Line" roughly paralleling the Beltway is also warranted--particularly in conjunction with the 'intermodal transportation centers';
Second: there is a strong and growing need to recognize the need for urban parking facilities for a population that makes private automobiles its second largest lifelong investment. There are many missed opportunities throughout this city to provide covered parking (single or multi-level) in which the roofs serve other valuable urban functions, from playgrounds and pedestrian malls, to sites for monuments and other non-profit undertakings. The lower levels would thereby produce revenues for the city to support the non-revenue-producing attractions above. Particularly objectionable is the use of many prime acres immediately around the Capitol for staff parking lots;
Third: this Committee paper is strangely silent on the need for greater regional cooperation both in planning, building, and maintaining this metro area's expanding transportation needs--and thereby its ability to grow and attract people. There are other important areas for regional cooperation (such as poverty-sharing and health care), but none so obvious and widely accepted as transportation.
This is a summary of Mayor Williams first draft of a strategic plan, in November 1999.
This item has been 'archived'
MOVED TO A NEW LOCATION to decrease download time
REBUILDING THE SOUTHWEST WATERFRONT
Please click here to reach this item.
KENNEDY CENTER PLANS ACCESS IMPROVEMENTS AND MORE Please click here to reach this item.
DRAFT MASTER PLAN EMERGES FOR OLD DC GENERAL SITE Please click here to reach this item.
Please click here to reach this item.
REDEVELOPMENT OF THE NAVY
Please click here to reach this item.
Please click here to reach this item.
Please click here to reach this item.
THE KING FARM
Please click here to reach this item.
Please click here to reach this item.
Please click here to reach this item.
DC COMMITS ALMOST $1 BILLION
Please click here to reach this item.
Please send us your feedback
© copyright 2007 NARPAC, Inc. All rights reserved