In an effort to educate voters, we will be posting responses to our candidate questionnaire. Questionnaires were emailed to each candidate running for City Council, President of City Council, and Mayor. Candidates have until March 4th to submit. We are publishing results in the order they are received.
How frequently do you use a mode of transportation other than your car to navigate the city? Based on your experience, where should the city prioritize resources for transportation?
DW: I live and work near the Inner Harbor, and I use the Water Taxi or I walk to get to and from my office often. A connected transportation system is critical to creating jobs, connecting city residents to opportunity, and improving our city’s environmental health. But Baltimore has not had regular, public audits since 1983, when William Donald Schaefer was mayor. We can’t determine budget priorities without an audit of the city’s finances; that audit would be my first priority.
What role do you believe biking and walking improvements can play in creating a safer, healthier, more livable Baltimore?
DW: Each year, more and more people are choosing to commute on foot and by bicycle to work, school and recreational activities. Having options about modes of transit are an integral part of any city’s quality of life, and we have to do everything we can to expand transit choices in our city.
In Baltimore, our goal of building 253 miles of bike lanes and trails by 2028 is just the beginning of what our city can do to decrease traffic, encourage recreation, and improve the health of our citizens. Preserving and expanding bicycle lanes, and making roadways safe for bicyclists and pedestrians, is a critical part of building a transportation system that works for every citizen of Baltimore. We need to grow a Baltimore that is safe, healthy and connected, and building roads that are friendly to bicyclists and pedestrians is critical to achieving that.
Are you supportive of the city’s plan to implement bike share in 2016? If so, what do you believe to be the critical components of success?
DW: Yes. I believe the most critical component of a bike share’s success is safe, protected bike lanes that are planned properly so that biking easy and safe for the average bicyclist. Baltimore has a great, comprehensive bike master plan and we need to focus on prioritizing projects, developing a schedule, and implementing these important infrastructure improvements. When biking is easy and safe, you’ll see an increase in ridership, and an increase in bike share use.
Recent audits have discovered that the Department of Transportation struggles to measure key performance indicators. The city’s procurement and project management processes have also faced scrutiny. This has led to significant delays of key improvements to bicycle infrastructure in Baltimore. How will you work to improve performance and accountability of city agencies like the Department of Transportation under your leadership?
DW: We have to understand that the quality of our city’s transportation system, and the growth of our city are inextricably linked. When I become mayor, I will immediately mandate a public audit of our municipal departments.
But we already know from this year’s audit of the Department of Transportation that the department simply lacks accountability measures. DOT couldn’t provide any documentation of how targets were set, or met, in any of the major audited categories – roads, lighting, bridges, traffic management, or paving. For example, DOT said that 59% of city roadways meet acceptable paving standards – but they could not provide any documentation that this was the case. What’s worse, DOT could not provide any documentation that supported the information they reported to CitiStat, our city’s accountability arm. If that’s not “struggling to measure key performance indicators,” I’m not sure what is.
I’ll develop a basic, public set of performance measures for each agency that the taxpayers of Baltimore can use to hold that agency accountable, and evaluate the performance and success of every department based on those measures. With strong leadership in the mayor’s office, who takes responsibility for outcomes and follow-up, we can make the changes necessary to improve.
What impact do you see increasing rates of biking and walking in Baltimore having on the public health and safety of our residents? In what ways will your administration invest in the creation of safe places to encourage more people to engage in physical activity?
DW: Bicycle transportation doesn’t just improve the health of the rider – it improves communities. Cities that improve bike and pedestrian infrastructure see environmental benefits, and improved economic activity, like increased sales at businesses along bike lanes and increases in local spending as people spend less on gasoline. In extreme cases, like Copenhagen where 30% of its residents commute by bicycle, cities see overall reductions in healthcare costs and mortality rates.
To benefit from biking in the same way, Baltimore needs to make real investments in roads that make biking and walking safe. We need to take a “complete streets” approach, so that people on bikes and people walking are a part of, not an afterthought, in a city’s transit system.
A recent study by Harvard economists found that the single strongest factor affecting the odds of a child escaping poverty is not the test scores of his or her local schools or the crime in the community; it is the percent of workers in his or her neighborhood who have long commutes. How do you plan to improve transportation options and commute times for our most vulnerable residents?
DW: We need to take a serious look at which communities are underserved by our transit system, and be a leader in Annapolis for a regional transit system that works for all the citizens of Baltimore. Our city can’t become the city we all know it can be, without a great transportation system. We need to build a transportation system that’s going to serve our neighborhoods 20, 30, 50, 100 years into the future, not just to serve the realities of our city today.
That means public transit to current and future job centers from all of our communities, smart planning for the transportation modes of the future, including a connected, protected bike network, public transit, and electric vehicles, and investment in transit oriented development around Penn Station, MARC stations, Light Rail and transportation hubs like Lexington Market where, under my plans, a modified Red Line could meet the Light Rail and Metro to finally connect Baltimore’s disparate transportation systems. That will immediately turn Lexington Market into a transportation and economic hub that connects people to each other, and connects our most disconnected communities to employment opportunities in the region.
Baltimore should be a regional leader in building the transportation network of the future for all of our residents. That means we need to be at the table in Annapolis, and with our federal partners, both of which bear a significant cost in the construction of large-scale projects. I like to say, “If you’re not at the table, you’re probably on the menu” – we witnessed this with Gov. Hogan’s decision to cut the Red Line, which was going to serve some of our city’s most isolated communities. That can’t happen again.
Often road redesigns that improve the safety for people on bikes or people walking do so in a way that removes priority for single occupancy vehicles. This can look like removing lanes for travel or decreasing available street parking. Can you describe how you would manage public expectations during project implementation, and handle any backlash from constituents that don’t share in the City’s vision for complete streets?
DW: Making the city’s vision for complete streets a reality requires two things: vision, and courage. One thing is for certain: Other cities are leaving us in the dust. It’s not just Portland. Pittsburgh, Washington, DC – these cities are all ahead of us when it comes to implementing complete streets in their transit planning and improving infrastructure so that people on bikes and people walking are a part of, not an afterthought, in a city’s transit system.
Bicycle and pedestrian-focused road improvements can affect parking, narrow lanes of travel, and have an impact on traffic. But at the end of the day, Baltimore needs a mayor who says, “This is important and we’re going to do it.” Other cities have had tremendous success and while it will take a paradigm shift, it’s possible.
What other information about your candidacy would you like to share with our members?
DW: If there’s anything Baltimore learned in 2015, it’s that we’re all in this together. Our city needs a leader who can bring everyone to the table, and work collaboratively to solve the challenges facing us – this is more evident than ever in our city’s transportation planning, as advocates struggle to be heard by the Department of Transportation. We need to work together to change the arc of Baltimore, and Baltimore needs a new leader who can take our city in a new direction.