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?
NM: I try to use public transportation when possible- during my 24 hour campaign session yesterday, I used the Light Rail to travel to my campaign office and posted about its importance on social media. I also enjoy biking with my daughters.
Prioritization of resources depends, in part, on the mode of transportation that we are discussing. In terms of transit writ large, we need to establish priority transportation corridors connecting the City East to West, particularly in developing communities that do not benefit from the City's supplements to MTA transit like the Charm City Circulator. We know that access to jobs via public transportation is a tremendous indicator of economic mobility, so investing in neighborhoods that have troubling employment indicators improves their economic opportunity while also increasing access to vital goods and services.
What role do you believe biking and walking improvements can play in creating a safer, healthier, more livable Baltimore?
NM: At a fundamental level, when we talk about a City that is more walkable and bikable, we are talking about engaging in a culture change. A vibrant biking community can and should be a catalyst for more transit friendly development- rolling back parking minimums, implementing complete streets designs, and improving density, for instance. Those improvements make for smarter, transit oriented development irrespective of the mode.
The accessibility of walking and biking, however, along with the less expensive investment- as compared to other modes of transit- required for creating bike infrastructure, allow those modes to be the bellwether catalyst that begins shifting the City away from auto-first transportation choices. A population that is more willing to walk or ride bikes is also a population that is more willing to take the bus or rail, and just as importantly, to support a City allocation of resources for improving and expanding those other modes of transportation. If we focus on getting biking right in Baltimore, biking can and should become a vehicle for changing the way the City and its residents approaches multimodal transportation across the board.
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?
NM: Yes, I absolutely support implementing bike share in 2016. There are three critical components to its success: 1) A critical mass of bike share bikes available, with sufficient "stables" at convenient locations, so that people can truly take advantage of and popularize the program. 2) Residents must buy into the program, which means the City should work with stakeholders and residents not just to determine the best strategy for implementation, but to sell them on the benefits of regularly using bike share. 3) Bike share can only flourish in Baltimore if it is both safe and convenient to bike in Baltimore, which means the City must expand and connect its bike lanes- and build protected bike lanes whenever possible- so that bike share users have a bikable grid to utilize. Of course, that grid must include high traffic destinations and significant population centers.
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?
NM: The City must create offices of project management and contract management where professionals who are trained in delivering large capital projects on time and on budget can begin taking ownership of the City's capital improvements. Cities that utilize these offices get projects done more quickly, but also see significant cost savings. Moreover, revitalizing CitiStat and folding it within an Office of Data and Analysis is imperative. 21st Century governance requires meticulous tracking and storage of data, regularly reporting it internally and externally in the form of performance metrics, and then utilizing those metrics not just to respond to underperformance, but to proactively make decisions.
These offices are vital means to improved performance, but they only matter if the mayor truly embraces them and holds departments accountable to them. I am committed not just to reorganizing the mayor's office around these management tools, but to a truly open data government that allows everyday citizens to hold my office accountable whenever the numbers do not demonstrate adequate performance. For far too long, data has either been uncollected or obscured from public view, preventing citizens from knowing how well City Hall is or is not performing, and being able to respond informedly to the underperformance. That will not be the case in my administration.
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?
NM: A city that bikes is a city that is more active, and a more active city is a healthier city. Healthier cities have less burdened public health systems, which leads to cost savings for residents and government alike, not just in health costs but in associated social service costs that are related to health. Cost savings allow for Baltimore to reallocate funding to proactive investments like Bus Rapid Transit or universal pre-k, so that we can focus increasingly on improving quality of life outcomes rather than dealing principally with the effects of poor quality of life outcomes.
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?
NM: Many vulnerable residents live in communities with significant levels of vacant housing. Vacant infrastructure can be treated as an opportunity to redevelop these communities using transit oriented development models, such that transportation hubs become the centers of the community. My housing plan's use of BOLD (Building on Leveraged Development) Zones to focus the City's development incentives around neighborhood anchors in order to create a critical mass of investment meshes well with a transit oriented development model. Moreover, my housing plan calls for a stronger inclusionary housing law, in order to keep residents from being priced out of their communities as property values improve. Reimagining Baltimore's transit grid around transit hubs in neighborhoods that house vulnerable residents gives those residents access to external opportunity, but also helps them grow their property value if they are home owners, and promotes denser development with more proximate access to commercial goods.
An immediate step laid out in my transportation plan is creating job shuttles to centers of industry. We know that areas like Sparrows Point are going to be adding thousands of jobs over the next decade, and it is vitally important that we give our vulnerable residents access to those jobs now. My plan also focuses on improving the quality of extant modes of transportation like the MTA's buses, by working with the MTA to put GPS trackers on City buses now. We can also leverage the funding promised in the governor's new bus plan to expand the Charm City Circulator's routes to underserved neighborhoods. Implementing transportation demand management strategies and improving the City's usage of intelligent transportation systems are also important components of improved commute times. And of course, I continue to advocate a strategic bike plan with protected bike lanes as a very feasible point of access that can connect vulnerable residents more effectively with existing transit options.
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?
NM: Leadership means being prepared to experience pushback when tough decisions are made. From the start, the City's mayor must move carefully and inclusively towards making the right transit decisions for Baltimore. Once the right decision is arrived at though, it is imperative that we stay the course and see the project through to a robust implementation.
One of the most important parts of this process that the City often comes up short on is communication. Residents deserve to be heard and meaningfully responded to before decisions are made, period. If residents are included in the decision making process, disagreement over the ultimate decision may remain, but there is an opportunity to earn the respect of the residents and to ensure their principle concerns about lane reallocation or parking decreases are adequately addressed. It is imperative that the City properly present its decisions to residents and win them over to the decisions' merit as well though. Explaining that parking minimums drive up the cost of rent, letting drivers know that a more robust bus system actually means less cars on the road to compete with them, or conveying that protected bike lanes improve safety for bikers and cars alike are just a few of the crucial truths that the City must make common knowledge. Misinformation and poorly conveyed plans are an area of improvement that my administration will improve upon, so that residents know they are receiving real benefits from a 21st Century transportation plan.
What other information about your candidacy would you like to share with our members?
NM: I really encourage voters to look at the extent of the plans being offered by the mayoral candidates, and how their parts fit together to form a truly comprehensive vision for the City. We are the only campaign that has offered a comprehensive plan for the City, not confined to only two or three areas of emphasis. We are also the only campaign to release a detailed plan for transportation in Baltimore. You can find information for each of these at my website, mosbyformayor.com