The Amazing Resiliency of America's Cities

by Mariia Zimmerman


While we are witnessing the rise of urban bike paths, shared use mobility options, and a renaissance of housing and retail in our cities. These factors came into play through changes in policy, land use, and markets that have taken decades to develop and implement. Setting the table for change takes time. But once the ingredients are in place, change can happen quickly leading to gentrification pressures not previously imagined.

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Regional Planning Through Local Action

by Mariia Zimmerman


An emerging trend unfolding in many regions is the decision to more strongly support local implementation of regional plans and policies through targeted technical assistance, sub-granting of federal, state and regional funds to undertake neighborhood, corridor or station area planning and more effective strategies to fund and bundle local capital improvements. It is through local action that good regional plans become reality.

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Transit as an Affordable Housing Tool? The Feds Think So!

by Mariia Zimmerman


Transit can be a powerful catalyst. Transit advocates like to argue about the positive economic development impacts that a new rail line can have on adjacent property. Community advocates argue against transit as a gentrification tool. In reality, both may be right and the latest "Annual New Starts Recommendations" issued in February by the Federal Transit Administration at USDOT asks communities wanting federal funding for their transit project to consider these trade-offs. Public funds are simply too scarce to not ensure that we are getting multiple benefits and maximum efficiency from every dollar invested. The latest MZ Strategies policy brief, Creating and Preserving Affordable Housing Through the Federal Transit Capital Investment Program, offers examples of how some communities are threading this needle.
 

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Talking Headways Podcast features Zimmerman on Transportation Transformation

by Mariia Zimmerman


Jeff asked Mariia to be a guest on his regular Streetsblog podcast "Talking Headways" to discuss the recently completed "Transportation Transformation" project which MZ Strategies, LLC undertook for a group of national funders at the Ford, Rockefeller and Surdna Foundation and TransitCenter. The project looks at key trends affecting transportation reform particularly at the local level, and offers a set of recommendations for philanthropy and advocates to further innovation and opportunities for transit to better serve community goals.

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Mapping America's Transportation Transformation

by Mariia Zimmerman


Throughout 2014, MZ Strategies conducted a national study to assess and map the key trends influencing transportation reform, particularly those occurring at the community level in which changing market factors played a key role. What we found is that in communities large and small, public leaders, community advocates, business leaders and entrepreneurs and philanthropy are working to transform how transportation serves their community. We've created a new webpage to share key documents from the Transportation Transformation project, including the recent Final Report providing key recommendations to funders and advocates seeking to reform transportation in their community.

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Transportation For America's Release of the Innovative MPO

by Mariia Zimmerman


MZ Strategies, LLC is excited to spread word about the upcoming webinar by Transportation for America (T4America) to celebrate the December 10th launch of their new report, "The Innovative MPO". T4America contracted with MZ Strategies to research and write the publication which features best practices and cutting edge planning by regions across the country.

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Acting Locally Requires Care and Feeding

by Mariia Zimmerman


Local transportation advocacy is a long-term commitment. Financially, that can be a challenge to sustain. Community organizing is a tough but vital job. Equally important is the ability to build technical capacity so they can be effective and informed. While it’s never easy for non-profits to raise sufficient funds, those organizations working on transportation or planning issues have an especially tough time. Let’s be honest, when asked to choose between an environmental cause like saving the polar bears, or a social cause like feeding the homeless, most people go with their heart. Streetcars, bike lanes, and mixed-use communities are also lovable, but to a much more limited subset of the population. (Photo credit: Twin Cities LISC)

 

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Reaching for Regionalism

by Mariia Zimmerman


If you haven’t noticed, we are in a time of “renewed regionalism” and the common theme across these efforts is better integration across issues to better respond to the complexity of the challenges that no single jurisdiction alone can address. Climate adaptation and resiliency clearly fits right in this wheelhouse, whether working together to recover from a major weather event or to find strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Here are a few thoughts from involvement last week by Mariia Zimmerman of MZ Strategies at the Institute for Sustainable Communities: "Think Resiliently, Act Regionally" Leadership Academy.

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Sharing Our Secrets to Making Great Communities

by Mariia Zimmerman


I'm looking forward to the national Rail~Volution conference happening Sept 21- 24 in Minneapolis, where I’ll join 1,500 of my closest friends who share a passion for transit and great communities. One thing I especially value about this annual conference is its ability to bring together a diverse set of "practitioners." By which I don’t just mean planners, engineers or architects. Yes – they will all be there. But also the community practitioners who ultimately make this stuff happen: the elected officials, developers and financial lenders, community advocates and philanthropic partners. Creating vibrant and inclusive communities takes many hands – sometimes clasped and working together, and sometimes wrestling for dominance.

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Starting Anew with Community-Oriented Transit

by Mariia Zimmerman


The challenge before us now is how we will shape the future of our cities. Will growing demand for urban living and walkable neighborhoods help reduce greenhouse gas emissions but lead to gentrification and greater suburbanization of poverty, or will we find a better balance to great place making, equitable access to opportunity, and greener cities? I had an opportunity last week to think about this in my presentation to Baltimore's Transit Choices Coalition.

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Transforming Transportation in the Nation’s Capital and around the Bay Area

by Mariia Zimmerman


Over the past 6 months, MZ Strategies, LLC has examined the recent history of transportation reform efforts in the San Francisco Bay Area and Greater Washington DC regions. Both metro areas have witnessed a significant transportation transformation over the past 15 years – in the types of transportation investments happening, the linkage to land use and development, and the connection to broader social, economic and environmental goals. We are pleased to release today a new report that summarizes key lessons learned from these two regions where advocates, philanthropy, the public sector and private entrepreneurs have created powerful coalitions to make transportation investments work better for people, places and the environment.

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Vienna and Berlin: Transportation Inspiration from Abroad

by Mariia Zimmerman


I just returned from 2 weeks in Europe, which always provides lots of inspiration to me as an urban planner, yet this time I noticed that in many ways great US and European cities are having more in common. Bike sharing, cycle tracks, streetcars and mobiles apps are spreading in both continents, to name just a few of the visible ways that mobility is being expanded – creating a new sense of urban vibrancy and excitement. Berlin and Vienna offer great examples of how transportation is creating vibrant urban centers and new mobility.

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Five Years of Federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities

by Mariia Zimmerman


Earlier this week, and without any fanfare, the Federal Partnership for Sustainable Communities turned five. This anniversary is a bittersweet one for me. I was incredibly honored to serve as the Deputy Director for the Office of Sustainable Housing and Communities (now the Office of Economic Resilience) at HUD to help stand up this historic effort. With new leadership at HUD, DOT and EPA, its time to weigh in and make the case for sustained government collaboration. We need efforts like the Partnership for Sustainable Communities -- not to grow government, but to make sure that we're recalibrating programs and policies so that they meet the new challenges and opportunities of a 21st Century America.  

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Urban Innovation Is All Around Us

by Mariia Zimmerman


It seems lately in my work that everywhere I turn, people are talking about how to be more innovative and celebrating the growing diversity of models we are seeing in the transportation world. This is an exciting time to be working on urban issues. Whether driven by changing demographics, new technologies, growing market demand and/or shrinking public resources especially at the federal level, innovation is happening and at a rapid pace.

Earlier this spring, MZ Strategies, LLC conducted a national survey to help map the field of transportation-reform advocacy and innovation. Results will be shared later this fall at Rail~Volution in Minneapolis (Sept 21-24), but a sneak peek shows the diversity of places that are looked to as innovation models.

Findings of spring 2014 MZ Strategies, LLC survey on innovation regions and communities. The word size indicates the frequency of mentions for each place. For example, the Bay Area was noted 35 times, Denver 19 times and Tampa mentioned once. (Source: MZ Strategies, LLC May 2014)

Findings of spring 2014 MZ Strategies, LLC survey on innovation regions and communities. The word size indicates the frequency of mentions for each place. For example, the Bay Area was noted 35 times, Denver 19 times and Tampa mentioned once. (Source: MZ Strategies, LLC May 2014)

When asked “In your opinion, what US regions or communities are emerging places for transportation innovation, and what types of innovation are they involved with?” Respondents offered over 400 different innovation cities and regions. Bike and care share programs, new transit investments especially in bus rapid transit, and innovative financing options such as pricing, public-private partnerships were most frequently noted innovations.

Mayors in cities as diverse as Buffalo, Indianapolis, Minneapolis and New York City are investing in bike infrastructure to improve quality of life especially for young workers who they hope to attract to their city. Ride-sharing and bike-sharing companies like Carma and Alta are investing in new technologies to make real-time information more available to customers. And community engagement itself is being transformed through social media, open planning tools, and better data that informs the needs and efficacy of outreach efforts.

Last week I joined a group of California funders and Bay Area advocates to discuss ways that regional innovation was being occurring to link transportation with climate change and social equity goals. The 6 Wins Coalition in the Bay Area is an amazing example of community-led advocacy and technical policy expertise coming together to push for bold new thinking in transportation planning and spending.

This week I joined private and non-profit sector new mobility providers and transportation policy wonks to discuss “Innovations in New Mobility.” Often referred to as “shared use mobility” we are seeing an explosion of new ways to get around our communities, be it Car2Go, Uber, SoBi, NiceRide and Capital Bikes, or good old fashioned carpooling. I enjoyed moderating a panel to discuss the equity impacts of these emerging mobility trends.

Among the big take-aways:

  • new mobility is being used as a compliment, not a substitute for how people get around

  • new mobility options are especially important for making non-work trips

  • biggest barriers for low-income users are either structural (there aren’t any bike share stations in their neighborhood) or cultural (marketing and education programs are not typically aimed at minority or low-income riders).

  • financial barriers also exist, but smart phones and debit and money cards have reduced past challenges faced by those without access to the internet or a bank account

New mobility options bring many questions that remain to be answered including a more complete picture of how rural communities, low-income households and seniors or people with disabilities are best served. Answering the biggest question: "How will cities and state departments of transportation adapt to new mobility?" may set the stage more broadly for how innovation, entrepreneurship and public policy come together in dynamic ways to rethink transportation. It’s great to see new partners coming onto the scene, including the Shared Use Mobility Center – the latest innovation by the Center for Neighborhood Technology – to support peer learning and collaboration.