At Three-Day Workshop, Citizen Leaders Learn About Regional Transportation Decision-Making

May 6, 2013

Seven years ago, the Transportation Planning Board hosted its first Community Leadership Institute, or CLI, a workshop-style event designed to help current or emerging citizen leaders from around the Washington region learn about how transportation decisions are made and how to become more involved in the decision-making process.

On Saturday, May 4, a group of 22 individuals completed the latest CLI, which occurred over three days in late April and early May and was the eleventh session of CLI that the TPB has hosted since the program began in 2006.

Participants at the most recent workshop represented a range of groups from around the region that have been recognized as forces of change in their respective communities, including civic and homeowner associations, business and advocacy organizations, and local citizen advisory boards.

Central to the CLI curriculum is a diverse agenda of educational presentations, experiential group learning, and interactive discussions.

Presentations during CLI provide information about the TPB and its partners, including state and local departments of transportation and elected officials, and help explain the many different processes -- at the regional, state, and local levels -- for developing and advancing individual transportation projects.

Presentations also describe some of the key transportation challenges facing the region, especially worsening congestion, inefficient land-use and development patterns, and severe funding shortfalls.

One of the main interactive group activities in the most recent CLI emphasized the crucial link between transportation and land-use, and highlighted the challenge of accommodating future growth in the region given tightening funding constraints.

In the first part of the exercise, groups each proposed on a map where to locate the growth of nearly 700,000 new households and more than 1.3 million new jobs that is forecast to occur through 2040 and what transportation improvements need to be made to accommodate the new growth.

Groups then had to confront the region's funding challenges in the second part of the activity by adding up the costs of their proposed improvements and identifying sources of new funding to pay for them.

Another activity in the CLI curriculum called on participants to assume the roles of different neighborhood-level interest groups in tackling a hypothetical local transportation issue. The activity underscored the obstacles and opportunities that exist in trying to build consensus among people who have different opinions and perspectives and in engaging government at all levels.

This spring's CLI was facilitated by Kathy Porter, a former mayor of the City of Takoma Park and a former Chair of the TPB. Porter currently serves on the Board of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which operates the region's Metrorail and Metrobus system.

This spring's CLI was also the first to be spread over three days, which provided an opportunity to hold each day of the event in one of the region's three state-level jurisdictions. CLI participants gathered in Arlington, Virginia, for the first day of the workshop, in Silver Spring, Maryland, for the second day, and in the District of Columbia for the third and final day.

On the second day of the workshop, Montgomery County Council member Marc Elrich, who also serves on the TPB, spoke to CLI participants about his experience in developing and promoting the idea of a countywide system of bus rapid transit. Elrich's reflections illustrated the process by which ideas can turn into more formal proposals and, perhaps, eventually be built or implemented.

At its next regularly-scheduled meeting on Wednesday, May 15, the TPB will hold a brief ceremony to honor the 22 "graduates" of this spring's CLI. These individuals will join nearly 200 former graduates in a newly-established alumni network designed to build and maintain relationships among all the leaders who have attended the workshops over time. At the final session of the most recent workshop, three members of the alumni network spoke to participants about how CLI has influenced their work as citizen leaders.

The date of the next Community Leadership Institute has not yet been set. However, the workshops typically take place in the spring and fall. The TPB selects participants from a pool of applicants who have either been nominated by local elected officials or who have chosen to apply individually in response to an invitation by the TPB.

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