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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Bringing the Shared Economy Revolution to America's Medium Size Cities

by Mariia Zimmerman


Shared Mobility is revolutionizing transportation but it still is not clear that America’s medium-size cities will share in this revolution. Lower densities, smaller market size, and a lack of traffic may impede their adoption. Or perhaps we’ll see more experimentation as entrepreneurs work to adapt technologies to meet these different types of markets.        

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Transit Is Stepping Up and Leaning In to Save the Planet and Heal Communities

by Mariia Zimmerman


Let’s be honest, there are few more divisive issues in America today than environmentalism or economic and racial inequality. And transit itself is often under ideological and fiscal attacks. To spend time discussing solutions, lessons learned and honest challenges was refreshing. Last week I spent time in Portland at the APTA Sustainability Workshop and came away inspired by what transit agencies large and small are doing to address climate change and social equity.

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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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