James Davenport Transportion (Past, Present and Future)

31Aug/18Off

Could a Van Pool Work For You?

Written by nspiregreen on . Posted in BlogSustainabilityTranspo

Find out a little history and how successful some vanpool programs have been throughout the years.

19Feb/18Off

Didn’t see This Coming – Dulles and National Airports up for Sale?

I just read earlier this week from the Washington Business Journal that a part of President Trump’s Transportation Infrastructure Plan calls for the possible sale from the federal government of both Dulles and National Airports to a public and/or private entity. Sorry, I still refer to the airport in Arlington as National Airport. I’m used to the older name and never felt it necessary to change it. I was quite taken by surprise from this proposal. I understand that the current administration would like to divest itself from major funding responsibilities that the federal government had taken on for many, many years, but I didn’t think the administration would specifically identify these key facilities in the Washington DC area.

As the article stated, the administration’s justification for the sale is that local agencies and/or the private sector may be better at managing these facilities. The administration is looking for the federal government to off-load the infrastructure, thinking that the taxpayers will benefit from the sale since more funds will then be available in the federal coffers. The future costs for capital improvements, operations and maintenance would be covered more by the users of the facilities and/or the local entities, whether private or public. To me, it looks like a Federal Government fire sale.

National Airport
Credit - NBC News

Local officials are saying it is difficult to say what the impacts would be at this point. Dulles and National Airports are the only two federally owned airports in the country. I would presume members from the US Congress would not favor such a sale as it may inhibit members being able to push the airports to include flights that best meet their schedules. Maybe this would provide more local autonomy in the management of the two airports.

The first question would be - is this even possible? In listening to Kojo Nnamdi’s show this afternoon, there is doubt that this will even happen. And it is impossible to determine at this point what the impacts would be. It seems to me, on the surface, it’s just another way the federal government is looking to divest itself of past responsibilities and put more of the burden on local and state government.

Many living in the region probably thought the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority (MWAA) owned the airports anyway, since they operate them. MWAA operates both the airports under a long-term contract with the feds. MWAA is governed by a 17-member Board of Directors which establishes policy and provides direction to management. Members of the Board are appointed by the Governors of Virginia and Maryland, the Mayor of Washington, D.C., and the President of the United States. Would MWAA be the logical choice to take this on? Do they have the resources to do so? What would be the impacts on local governments within the region and its citizenry?

Again, there are just too many unknowns here. It seems like it would make sense for MWAA to take on ownership, but do they have the capacity to do so? Surely state and local governments cannot purchase the airports. Private ownership of the airports would have its issues as well. Cost of using the facilities, such as airline tickets and long-term parking, would probably increase.

This proposed sale concerns me because it appears to be a part of an overall effort for the federal government to de-invest in our nation’s infrastructure. We all were encouraged by the president identifying transportation infrastructure being a priority, but funding amounts he is proposing just don’t add up. In the announcement of his infrastructure plan, The White House says its plan will “create $1.5 trillion for repairing and upgrading America’s infrastructure. However, only $200 billion of that would come from direct federal spending, the rest is supposed to come from state and local governments, which are expected to match any federal allocation by at least a four-to-one ratio.”

Dulles Airport
Credit - Huffington Post

States have gradually assumed more of the responsibility for funding infrastructure in recent years, and the White House says it wants to accelerate that trend. Yes public/private partnerships have worked in some areas, and the Commonwealth of Virginia has led the charge. But there are examples where they have not worked. Route 460 comes to mind.

If the President was truly serious and committed to improving our nation’s infrastructure, especially our highways and transit systems, he would seriously consider a gas tax increase in addition to leveraging funding from other sources. In fact, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has proposed “hiking the federal gas tax, which hasn’t gone up since 1993, to raise $394 billion over 10 years. The White House is open to that idea, but hasn’t ruled anything out.” I would like to have seen a more enthusiastic endorsement of gas tax increase, than “the White House is open to that idea.”  Relying more on state and local governments to fund more of these transportation improvement projects may become impractical since most state and local governments are already cash strapped.

Please let me know how you think the sale of the airports will play out. Is it good for the DC metropolitan region?

 

3Oct/17Off

A Respite from Jargon

This blog was first posted in January 2014. Seem appropriate to post it again since Halloween is almost upon us enjoy. Enjoy.

Yes we all do it. All professions have its own jargon and acronyms. We use them constantly. It is quite extraordinary we as professionals constantly use terms unique to our profession and we don't even notice that those outside our working world have no clue what we are talking about.

We as planners are not immune from this. Lord no. And being the profession so involved in speaking with the public, it is a problem. Much of the animosity about our profession may be tied to the terms we use in presenting information to our communities. In my previous job at NACo I was involved in a project in partnership with National Association of Regional Councils (NARC) and other organizations which developed a livability information portal. http://narc.org/narc-launches-online-livability-portal/. As part of that project we conducted an interactive message testing webinar on how to communicate the message of livability to the general public. This effort was especially pertinent at the time with the backlash to Agenda 21 was especially emotional and intense.

The one thing that came out of that webinar was that some of the terms such as Smart Growth, Sustainability, Livability, TODs, etc. can be perceived as confusing and condescending. In fact, some of the webinar participants who were county officials, indicated to us that it is difficult to frame many livability or sustainability related ideas since they have such a negative connotation for many people. It may be wise to look on livability or sustainability from the context of a cost/benefit analysis. They also stated that elected officials and planners should use more positive and direct terms such as Local, Choice, and Economic Prosperity. We need to know our audience

As a treat for you, I wanted to present to you a story I wrote many years ago as part of a writing class available through the USDA Graduate program. The assignment was to write a story with only one syllable words. It was not easy but I came up with a story that everyone in the class seemed to like. So, I'm wishing you a Happy New Year with this story as part of my blog posting. The story is set for Halloween and is called The Face. So the next time you write a report or presentation to the planning commission, please remember to keep it as simple and straight forward as you can.

More information on the USDA program is available at http://graduateschool.edu/. The graphics (below) are clip art from the Images of Halloween website.

 

Credit: Images of Halloween

THE FACE

When I was a child, I loved this time of year. I was not too proud to walk the streets near my home and beg for treats. Though at times I would eat my loot at a pace that would bring ache to my gut and wrath from my Mom and Dad, it was still my night. Come the month when the leaves turn to sharp hues and plunge to the ground, I would wait for the last night of the month. On that night, I would stop at all the homes on my street but one, the house with the face.

Though most, if not all, the homes had a face that sat on the stoop or stood back from the glass pane, this face would stop me in my tracks. This time of year, the face would glow from the old house where no kids would stop. No one knew who lived in the house, but all would tell tales of a witch who put spells on those who came close.

The house would scare me all year round but the face would add more fright. This face was the face whose glare would scare a blind man. This face was the face whose leer would stop a herd of beasts in their tracks. This face was the face whose stare would haunt me in my dreams. I did not once walk up that long path (miles and miles long) to the door where the glow of the face would fall on me.

 

From Images of Halloween

My age had reached a time, when my trick- or-treat nights were close to an end.  One year I was to make one last trek, sure to make my last time the best time. I was to load up. Then I came to the house with the face.  Since this was my last time, I had to take that walk up to the door. As I drew close, the face leered. I got to the front door. whew. Then I thought I heard it scream. No just the wind. I shook in fright from its glow, but I rang the bell.

The door creaked wide. I saw a face. No! Not the face. No, not the face of a witch. How strange, this face smiled, not leered. No kids come up to see me, the kind face said to me. I have all these nice treats and no souls come to my door on this night. I thought my carved face with the bright light as a piece of art and it would bring kids up to my house, she said with a sad grin. This time of year I feel I have no friends at all. You are the first in a long time. She poured vast types of treats in my bag as I shook, this time with glee.

She said she would make a pie in a few days and asked if I would like a piece some time. I thought, pie from that face?  Well, it did not scare me now; I then did see it as a piece of art. As I walked down the stoop, I told her I would come back.

In fact, I could not wait to come back to the house, the house that once filled me with such a fright. And since that night, I have done just that.