As promised in an earlier Yardstick post here are the results from our September 27th event Economy Forward: Help Shape the Future of the Region. America Speaks an organization which captures opinion data with live electronic polling helped facilitate the gathering and recorded these instant survey results.
From the questions posited to the audience of local elected officials planners business and non-profit leaders several major themes emerged including how to strengthen the region’s Activity Centers and transportation system. An overarching theme was regional cooperation and how the Council of Governments can help leaders better integrate transportation environmental and land use planning.
Strong Activity Centers
One of the event’s table discussions focused on Activity Centers the locations that will accommodate the majority of the region’s future growth. Participants were asked to think about ways to enhance these urban centers priority growth areas traditional towns and transit hubs.
54 percent of participants identified improving accessibility to and within Activity Centers as a priority. Better connectivity within these Centers means more nimble modes of accessibility like improved pedestrian amenities bike lanes and bike share. Participants also focused on housing zoning and land use strategies in addition to transportation ones. 49 percent called for focusing development around existing infrastructure and transportation and 38 percent called for creating attractive places where people want to be. And to ensure that these places are welcoming to diverse groups many participants stressed the need to preserve and create affordable housing in the region’s Activity Centers.
To help local leaders and communities address these issues the Council of Governments has been preparing the Activity Centers Strategic Development Plan which will offer strategies tailored to different types of Centers from the District of Columbia to outer suburbs like Frederick Maryland and Prince William County Virginia.
A Well-Maintained the Transportation System
Funding rose to the top of the event’s discussion regarding transportation. 84 percent of participants supported the idea of regionally dedicated transportation funds. Given that Maryland and Virginia passed legislation earlier this year to increase transportation funding the creation of a new regional funding stream is unlikely. That said there appears to be opportunity and interest among leaders and stakeholders to focus on how the region pools its revenue sources to fund major transportation priorities.
Take Metro for example. After years of intergovernmental work and the steadfast support of the Council of Governments and partners federal and regional leaders crafted a 10-year $3 billion funding agreement. As mentioned in Economy Forward this agreement is set to expire in 2020 and there is currently no legislation to extend the measure nor is there a commitment by the state to match.
Keeping the road and rail system in a state of good repair is critical to the region’s economic growth and a top priority of the Transportation Planning Board’s new Regional Transportation Priorities Plan. During the event officials discussed how the new Priorities Plan will help inform decision-makers as they prepare the region’s long-range transportation plan.
One Regional Voice
Finally one of the major themes discussed at the event revolved around regional collaboration and challenges. Participants noted that our region is unique. Nowhere else in the country features a three-state region that hosts the federal government nor has the same rate of economic growth with highly paid highly skilled jobs. While people acknowledged the competition amongst local cities counties and states they also recognized that the region’s real competitors are other metro areas in the U.S. and world.
55 percent of participants said coordinating the needs of metropolitan Washington’s over 5 million residents calls for a regional voice. Following this event and in the weeks and months ahead officials active at the Council of Governments will use the ongoing work on Activity Centers and transportation priorities to reinforce why COG is the organization well positioned to provide this collective regional voice. Through our vision Region Forward and economic competitiveness plan Economy Forward COG is helping decision-makers think regionally when acting locally. Through its plans data and diverse relationships COG and its partners can shape a more prosperous accessible livable and sustainable region.