Infrastructure Week: #TimeToThink

by Mariia Zimmerman


Infrastructure is key to the national economy and to the economic opportunity that every Amercian faces. Safe water. Affordable energy. Mobility and accessibility. We have artificially made infrastructure investment a zero-sum game by letting the “no tax” voices win.  Infrastructure is the ultimate public good. Public investment in all forms of infrastructure costs the individual user less than paying for it through user feeds, or perhaps not even getting the service if it’s too cost prohibitive for the private sector. Yes, it’s time to build, but even more importantly, it’s time to think.

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MZ Strategies, LLC at the American Planning Association 2017 National Conference

by Mariia Zimmerman


Mariia Zimmerman, Principal of MZ Strategies, serves as Vice-Chair for Metropolitan Planning on the American Planning Association's Regional and Intergovernmental Planning Division. She will be speaking at numerous events between May 5 - 8, 2017 at the National Planning Conference in New York City. Among the topics she will cover, which represent work MZ Strategies is doing with several clients and communities, are emerging best practices in regional planning, changing federal support for innovative planning and community development, regional economic resiliency, and the role of private-sector planners in affecting change.

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In Response to Trump Budget, A Lenten Appeal for America's Communities

by Mariia Zimmerman


It’s that time of year again. For Catholics, March is Lent, a time of commitment to sacrifice and good deeds. It’s also when we get the annual Lenten Appeal request to tithe in support of the Church’s ability to serve as God’s emissary on earth and help those most in need. In Washington DC, March is budget season. The time of year when the Administration unveils its spending priorities for the coming year and when Congress demonstrates where it will invest the trillions of dollars provided by American taxpayers. This year, the disconnect between God’s priorities and Republican priorities could not be more clear, unless we focus only on the word sacrifice.

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Metropolitan Planners Leaning In to Make Regions Great

by Mariia Zimmerman


Two new resources spotlight ways planners working at the regional and metropolitan level are leaning in to solve complex social, environmental and economic issues through better use of data, improved partnerships and collaboration, and a mix of innovation, tenacity and leadership. “Emerging Trends in Regional Planning*” released last month by the American Planning Association celebrates the ways that regional planning is evolving across the country with numerous examples of regions large and small tackling water and land resource issues, regional economic development and housing issues, climate change and public health issues through integrated planning strategies.  Meanwhile, Transportation For America this week released national survey results detailing how metropolitan planning organizations are developing and using transportation performance measures. Both are useful documents for learning how planners are pushing the envelope, innovating and making great regions.

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New Publication by MZ Strategies, LLC: Advancing Equitable Transit-Oriented Development through Community Partnerships and Public Sector Leadership

by Mariia Zimmerman


Over the past four years, MZ Strategies has worked with numerous communities to advance equitable development strategies ranging from specific policy initiatives and funding programs, to strengthening multi-sector coalitions, and updating regulatory approaches. Today, we are excited to release a new publication, "Advancing Equitable Transit-Oriented Development through Community Partnerships and Public Sector Leadership." The new report spotlights strategies being used in four regions to create more inclusive communities near transit, and discusses federal tools available to support development of transit real estate assets for affordable housing.

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October Speaking and Report Release Events featuring MZ Strategies

by Mariia Zimmerman


This month MZ Strategies is at Rail~Volution in San Francisco, the Shared Use Mobility Summit in Chicago and releasing a new report funded by the Ford Foundation on local and federal strategies to support equitable Transit Oriented Development (eTOD). Follow us on Twitter @MZStrat and check back later this month to download a free copy of "Advancing Equitable Transit Oriented Development through Community Partnership and Public Sector Leadership."

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Restorative Justice and Infrastructure Investment: Our Moment of Opportunity

by Mariia Zimmerman


This summer I found myself on a professional journey of self-discovery as I realized the limits of my knowledge when it comes to how race and infrastructure are intricately linked. Equitable Transit-Oriented Development (eTOD) is being led in many regions by multi-sector coalitions to ensure that TOD projects and the planning process itself create communities of opportunity where residents of all incomes, races and ethnicities participate in and benefit from living in connected, healthy, vibrant places connected by transit. Efforts in Phoenix and Richmond underscore the need & opportunity for eTOD to address generations of racial injustice from past transportation and urban planning decisions.

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Celebrating Regional Planning’s Golden Anniversary

by Mariia Zimmerman


Regional planning - at the federal level and in many areas of the country - is celebrating 50 years of practice. Yet the role of implementation is something that few regional agencies have the authority to do. By its very nature, regionalism is the art of collaboration. Somewhat surprisingly, federal transportation provisions are often the catalyst for integrated and collaborative planning efforts.

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Actions to Address Inequality Are All Around Us

by Mariia Zimmerman


Addressing social inequalities is a thread through the consulting that MZ Strategies engages in with public agencies, non-profits and philanthropic organizations.  Yet recent experiences with environmental justice in South Phoenix and educational disparities in Richmond, VA remind me how very far we have to come in restoring equitable outcomes, especially in the face of multi-generational poverty and structural racism.

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We Get What We Ask For: Why America’s Transit Experience Lags Behind

by Mariia Zimmerman


A recent study published by the Mid-Atlantic Universities Transportation Center (co-authored by Ralph Buehler, Kyle Lukacs and Mariia Zimmerman) compares two major transit regions in the US with several European counterparts. The authors found that money  -- both the lack of it and the strings attached to it -- is a key reason as to why transit in the United States isn’t better.

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Economic Competitiveness Demands Collaboration: Metropolitan Washington’s State of the Region

by Mariia Zimmerman


America enjoys the world’s strongest economy, and our long-term national growth and prosperity depend on strong regional economies. These in turn, rely on tackling the societal challenges that can slow growth and result in disparities across income and racial groups. Just as each region’s challenges, assets, geography and culture are different, there is no one model of collaboration. Over the last year MZ Strategies worked with a number of regions on these issues, including in metro Washington where COG just released its 2016 State of the Region Report looking at Economic Competitiveness threats and opportunities.

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Mixed-Income Neighborhoods Require More than Rhetoric: Lessons from the Twin Cities

by Mariia Zimmerman


Given the unmet housing demand in many communities and the strengthened federal guidance to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing, mixed-income housing should be seen as one of many tools in the affordable housing toolkit. Policy makers need to recognize that wishing or mandating mixed-income housing does not make it happen though. A recent MZ Strategies, LLC Policy Brief looks at the experience of three mixed-income project in the Minneapolis-Saint Paul metro area. We find that when cities, developers and investors are willing to partner, take acceptable risks, and put their money where their mouth is, successful mixed-income projects can happen in cities and suburbs.

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Creating the Communities we Want means Supporting the Grassroots we Need

by Mariia Zimmerman


The future of inclusive urbanism depends on building a robust pipeline of cross-disciplinary practitioners who represent a range of socio-economic backgrounds. But even the most innovative leader or practitioner can only go so far if the public is not with them. To sustain and expand urban innovation, we must have a strong community advocacy ecosystem. Equitable, sustainable and economically resilient communities requires strong grassroots organizations with the technical capacity and community organizing power to sit at the tables where decisions are made. Yet in far too many communities this is simply not the case. I share my thoughts on why personal support for grassroots advocacy should be a priority for all of us working in the planning, transportation, design and sustainability professions.

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Recapping the House Transportation Authorization Bill

by Mariia Zimmerman


This week the US House of Representatives did the once unthinkable and passed a six-year transportation bill. At best, the bill isn't as horrible as feared given the over 200 amendments filed to do things like eliminate transit and bike funding. In reality though, it's a missed opportunity on many levels and some of its small changes could have big impacts. On the flip side, in the same week local voters proved once more they want better transportation options and investments that prioritize people and communities.

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STiRRing things up in transportation … for the worse

by Mariia Zimmerman


My take on the House of Representatives transportation authorization bill: The Surface Transportation Reauthorization and Reform Act (STRR)  is not good for the environment, does not genuinely address safety and maintenance needs, is not good for social equity, does not adequately fund our transportation system and is not great for the economy. I’ll just say it …. I’d rather have yet another continuing resolution of the current bill than go down the STRR path for the next 6 years. America needs and deserves better. Congress needs to keep stirring until they get it right. 

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