Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Scooter regulations: A tempest in the teapot

In a city beset with big almost intractable problems, the happy-go-lucky electric scooter users have once again fetched the limelight on page one of the paper and become a headliner in the local evening news. The occasion? Bill 19-0324 introduced by Council President Young on behalf of City DOT to give DOT "enabling power" to issue regulations, fees and permits for the operators of scooters and bikeshare. The bill comes in anticipation to the end of the 6 months trial period in which dockless scooters and bikes were allowed under certain conditions in Baltimore.  How would such a dry affair get so  much interest?
Councilman Dorsey tweeting about the scooter tempest

Included in part 4 of under "penalties and enforcement"  the draft bill, which was introduced this Monday at City Council, includes  language which threatens "any person" violating any of the provisions of the bill with a misdemeanor with, on conviction, would result in a fine of maximally $1,000 or 30 days in prison.  The SUN headlined their first online article: "Baltimore officials propose 30-day jail terms for riding electronic scooters too fast". (Later versions and the print edition toned this screamer way down).

DOT immediately clarified, that the language was intended towards the operators and not the riders and that the rider section of the bill enumerates fines of $20 for unlawful operation or parking. The bill will go through three "readers" in the council, plenty of opportunity for the error to be fixed. The City Council President made it clear that he doesn't like the criminal provision, (“I don’t want to criminalize any more citizens in Baltimore,” he told WMAR), he is also no fan of scooters. "Some people like them, I don't" he said on WBAL. "I'll keep why to myself", he continued, but then gave the reason as "There are various criminal activities that's associated with some".
Council President Jack Young on the evening news of  WMAR 

Such a negative attitude isn't necessarily the tenor of the draft bill. Overall it is an extension of the rules spelled out during the trial period with various modifications:

  • the bill would allow not only 2 but up to six providers of dockless vehicles
  • the bill would allow not only 1000 vehicles per vendor but up to 12,000 vehicles total
  • it limits speeds to 15mph (some scooters are currently reaching 17mph)
  • allows sidewalk use where speed limits on adjacent roadways are higher than 30mph but requires that on the sidewalk scooters go no faster than 6mph
  • increases the fees charged on vendors from a flat rate per vehicle per day to a 10 cent "excise tax" per each rental payment)
I had asked Baltimore City shared Mobility Coordinator Meg Young last week about the future of scooters in Baltimore beyond the pilot program which ends at the end of February. She mentioned the upcoming bill and stated that the trial would be extended until the Council had voted on the enabling legislation. Asked whether DOT feels that there has been sufficient public input regarding the pilot program she pointed to the Dockless Vehicle Committee that had been created to advise DOT and had met six times to discuss details. When I asked what effort had been made to include actual users  Ms. Young pointed to the online survey and the around 5,000 responses DOT received. ("More than surveys in DC and Seattle"). When initial responses didn't seem to represent the population properly, DOT reached out to Coppin and Morgan universities as well as AARP to extend the responses to the survey. My inquiry happened well before the bill was made public and the tempest about the fines. Today Councilman Ryan Dorsey tweeted  "In months of meetings of an ad hoc group to come up with this scooter bill  there was not one young black voice in the room, even though black teenagers seem to make up a significant part - maybe a majority - of users."
BC-DOT Dockless Vehicle webpage

The upheaval about the scooters must be seen in the Baltimore context, where the overall transportation system is still very car-centric, where congestion and air pollution are high, where commute times for transit are too long, where transit is still performing below expectations and where on most streets almost empty sidewalks show that walking isn't a popular option of getting around. Additionally, the initial docked bikeshare system failed, even though it was introduced here long after other cities had already learned their lessons. A city where the installation of protected bike-lanes was long torpedoed by the fire department and are hated by merchants who fight for survival and think they need every single parking spot in front of their stores. This is a city where high crime rates instill fear in suburbanites so they frequently don't dare to walk even downtown beyond the minimum necessary to get from the car to the workplace.  Squeegee kids and young black people on scooters easily bring the stew to a boil and unpleasant perceptions and racism to light. In this volatile setting Jack Young's comments about crime on scooters just validate stereotypes without serious data back-up. 

The proposed legislation (once the penalty error has been fixed) seems like a good balance that recognizes issues on both sides of the matter. Of course, it is a question how the 6 mph on sidewalks would be monitored, how fines would be administered (since riders don't have to carry ID) and whether the "excise tax" is too high.  No doubt, those questions will be and should be asked in the upcoming council hearings.

If in doubt, the City should make use of these scooters less onerous and not more. Baltimore needs something that is fun, something that tips the balance towards transportation that is not a car and towards the preferences of younger residents who are the future of this city. 650,000 rides in the time since scooters first showed up in Baltimore in July 2018 certainly indicates that people are using them. 

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA 

Friday, January 25, 2019

Ride-share: Heaven or hell for Cities? Here Lyft's numbers for Baltimore

American transportation technocrats lately have thrown water over the initially raging fire of excitement about car sharing companies which they have dubbed Transportation Networking Companies or TNCs.

For a while everyone saw TNCs as harbingers of a future in which cars are shared and eventually being automated. As a result cars would need much less space in cities and open up a whole new urban renaissance. The new generation of "millennials", which gave the concept of car sharing a boost, would abdicate the self-owned SUV, use small urban apartments without garages and would hop on Uber or Lyft after a transit ride in order to cover "the last mile". The option of using one's own car to drive commercially would give hundreds of thousands of people a space in the "gig economy".
New Lyft Report: Not necessarily a deeper story

Recent studies in large cities such as San Francisco and New York showed a different story. Instead of reducing car travel, TNCs added to congestion. Instead of being complimentary to transit they started taking a significant bite out of the already shrinking transit apple.

170,000 vehicle trips are made by TNCs within city limits on a typical weekday, which is about 15 percent of all car trips, and 9 percent of all trips, across different modes.(San Francisco

Additionally, various leadership missteps at Uber have shed a light on car share drivers as a new class of exploited people and elevated especially Uber into the loathed class of global operations which steal our data. Uber's problems helped polish the smaller competitor Lyft's standing, but both companies are now no longer small start-ups but international corporations with an image problem.
Baltimore Lyft website
Lyft was founded in 2012 by Logan Green and John Zimmer to improve people’s lives with the world’s best transportation, and is available to 95 percent of the United States population as well as select cities in Canada. Lyft is committed to effecting positive change for our cities by offsetting carbon emissions from all rides, and by promoting transportation equity through shared rides, bikeshare systems, electric scooters and public transit partnerships (Lyft website)
This week Lyft published a nationwide report to polish the brand. Not surprisingly, according to Lyft, the news are good for cities, for drivers, for riders and for transit. Lyft, initially with a mobile app that wasn't as convenient as Uber's, has not only matched the competitor's app but has recently pulled ahead in innovation by introducing those little glowing dashboard flip signs that make Lyft cars recognizable anywhere and through color coding allow riders to identify their own in a place where many rideshare vehicle pull up at the same time like at events or airports.
Baltimore Lyft driver statistics

The online Lyft report is interactive and can be tailored to specific states and cities, including Baltimore. It is based on surveys of 30,000 riders in 54 cities taken in 2018. The report also gives numbers on "economic impacts" on local businesses and restaurants. As any economic impact analysis, those effects have to be taken with a grain of salt.

More telling are the numbers about drivers and riders. For example, that 90% of drivers use driving only to supplement other work and drive less than 20 hrs a week or that 65% of drivers in Baltimore identify themselves as "minority", a pretty good reflection of the population overall.

Counter to public perception and traditional taxi driver demographics, 39% of Baltimore's Lyft drivers are female, compared to 27% nationally. Nationally 35% of Lyft users don't own a vehicle (43% in Baltimore). As far as Baltimore, Lyft maintains that it doesn't take away transit riders but increases transit ridership by 5%. (it derives that claim from another study which it cites as its source. Interestingly, that source actually studied Uber's impact on transit). 46% of Lyft riders take transit at least once a week. In Baltimore 58% of all rides begin or end in low income areas. (44% nationally). According to Lyft Baltimore, the most sought out destinations are R-House, Sagamore Pendry and Lexington Market. Indeed, a very diverse set of destinations.
Baltimore Lyft rider profile

The new national report is easy to read, interactive, and full of simple statements but poor on actual data sources or methods (at least on the public facing side). No PDF with the data background is available on the main website.

The strategy is effective. Already business journals across the country report the happy numbers which will, no doubt also heat up the tweeter-sphere.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Clipper Mill: Additional development plans revealed

Tonight the Clipper Mill and Woodberry communities will hear about two additional projects on the Clipper Mill campus. Here some details about the projects:

Clipper Mill history 
The 17.5 acre $88 million transformation of a defunct industrial site dating back to 1850 into a model of historic preservation, sustainability (including the nations presumably first green wall) and transit oriented development (TOD) opened in 2006 under the name Clipper Mill. By all accounts, the redevelopment was a huge success. 13 years later, its restaurants, studios, offices and residences form a vibrant community that has become a regional destination and a must see demonstration of authentic redevelopment of brownfields in an industrial legacy city.
Clipper Mill site plan (Cho, Benn Holback Architects)
The Urban Land Institute published the development as a successful case study. ULI described the Clipper Mill development this way:
[...] a long underused 17.5-acre (7.1-ha) site that once housed Maryland’s largest and most productive machine manufacturing complex into a vibrant, mixed-use community. The development team reused the 1853 historic site and its five deteriorating buildings to create 61,500 square feet of office space, 47,500 square feet of studio space for artists and craftspeople, and a wide range of housing, including 34 townhouses, 38 semidetached houses, and 62 condominium and 36 rental apartments. [...] Clipper Mill is a transit-oriented community that integrates many elements of sustainable development. It offers a unique sense of place that is created in part by the preservation of the site’s history and the incorporation of the work of resident craftspeople into the project’s design. [...] SBER wanted to provide safe, code-compliant, and affordable studio space for resident artists; preserve the charm of the historically significant site, which contained five buildings in varying states of disrepair and convert the complex into a viable mixed-use community that would attract families from outside the city of Baltimore. Its goal was not just to rehabilitate the property but also to inspire the neighborhood.
Valstone Partners' proposed projects

However, the original planned unit development was never completed. The financial crisis and the downfall of the developer, Struever Bros. Eccles and Rouse intervened. Eventually SBE&R offloaded their development and in 2009 parts fell into foreclosure. In 2017 ValStone Partners, a Michigan-based private equity investment firm, bought the commercial buildings and properties of the Woodberry site and began planning for the remaining gaps. A preliminary study that investigated what could be done on the undeveloped lots  showed hundreds of new apartments, a potential coffee shop and sandwich place, small offices and parking garages. The new density brought neighbors and Woodberry residents out en masse to discuss and question what Valstone proposed. Existing residents and neighbors were especially opposed to repealing the 2003 Planned Unit Development Plan (PUD) in favor of more density.
Aerial of the Clipper Mill site with a view of the Tractor Building
(Photo: Baltimore SUN)

This Tuesday the community will receive an update presented by Caroline Paff, a principal at VI Development, which is shepherding the entitlements for ValStone. The proposed development is limited to just two sites (The Tractor Building and the Poole & Hunt parking lot at 2001 Druid Park Drive. The density and uses are based on the the existing 2003 PUD, even though the underlying zoning was changed as part of the new City zoning code to be a TOD-2, a zoning category that favors density around transit stations. The proposed projects are further developed from the feasibility study presented in 2018, done by Marren Architects who are also retained to be the architect for the Tractor Building in concert with Design Collective. The designers for the townhomes will be BCT architects. Valstone selected two developers as partners for the two projects, Commercial Development for the Tractor Building and Garver Development Group for the townhomes. The sites will be subdivided from the rest of the Valstone holdings.
Valstone considers the properties in Clipper Mill long term investments. [..] Valstone understands the significance of the clipper mill aesthetic and is prepared to invest in a plan that preserves the tractor building. The plan is keep the building and remove the old roof and rear wall to enable redevelopment (Paff)
No use of historic tax credits or any other public funds is planned, Ms Paff told Community Architect Daily upon request.
Potential Valstone development parcels in green
(Site plan as shown at 2018 meeting)

The development plans foresee approximately 99 apartment units, between 140 – 155 parking spaces, and a small amount of street level commercial space for a 6 story tall redevelopment of the Tractor building with one level of below grade parking. For the Poole & Hunt lot 48 rental 2-3 bedroom townhouses are envisioned, three and four stories high. The total square footage is to be about 48,000 s.f. The proposed developments are far less than the 336 units that were discussed in prior meetings, but they also do not include all potential development parcels.

VI Development states that the development team hopes to start construction for the townhomes in the fourth quarter 2019 with about 15 months until completion and that construction on the Tractor Building could start a year later, estimated to take 16 months to complete.

At a community meeting at Poole & Hunt building on the Clipper Mill site Caroline Paff opened the meeting and had the two development and design teams present the concept plans for the Poole and Hunt parking lot site and for the Tractor Building. The site plan is done by Colbert, Matz and Rosenfelt, Carla Ryon explained the subdivision plan associated with the development. For BCT architects Bob Gehrman explained the townhome design and for the Tractor House architect Martin Marren and Design Collective's Mike Goodwin took the floor to show their four story building inside the building concept. The plans showed a completely new apartment building on top of two parking decks installed in the old shell. The new walls will be around 5-8' set back from the existing walls but will receive light and ventilation through the large opening of the existing Tractor Building facade. Design Collective is using a similar approach on the former Hendler Creamery project in Jonestown on East Baltimore Street.

"The Tractor Building" needs "a longer runway" (Paff) and has less developed concepts to date. The townhomes will be presented at the UDAAP meeting this Thursday at 2:30pm right after a presentation on the design of the Woodberry Station right around the corner on Clipper Mill Road.

The meeting was attended by far fewer community members than the one in the summer of 2018. Except for some concerns about traffic and the scale of the proposed townhomes vis a vis the existing houses there was little discontent. Caroline Paff observed "this was the fastest Clipper Mill meeting in history". Below some of the images that were presented.

Site plan showing lot lines and outline the VS properties

Overall rendered site plan showing in green the forest conservation area

A massing rendering showing the townhouse development (BCT Architects)

Site location plan for the townhouses (BCT Architects)

Basement parking level for Townhouses (BCT Architects)

Section showing existing houses on the right and Clipper Mill buildings on the left
(BCT Architects)

Eye level view of the townhomes 

Rendering illustrating the intended materials  

West elevation of the Tractor Building  (Marren/Design Collective)

Tractor Building: Rear wall to be removed (Marren/Design Collective)

Tractor parking parking level and corner retail (Marren/Design Collective)

Tractor building, apartment level  (Marren/Design Collective)

Tractor building section  (Marren/Design Collective)

Tractor Building, street level front view (Marren/Design Collective)
Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

the article was update 1/23/19  to include the meeting presentation and images

Baltimore Fishbowl reported about the developer selection
Baltimore SUN reported about a community meeting in August 2018

Friday, January 18, 2019

Shopping in Baltimore remains a challenge

There is a lot of irony in that Target and Marshalls should shut their Mondawmin stores. Not that the country wouldn't be hopelessly over-retailed in light of a diminishing demand for brick and mortar stores. Not that big boxes and malls are closing all over the country. The US has about 5 times more retail area per person than Canada or Europe. But Baltimore actually continues to suffer from being under-retailed.
Struggling Mondawmin: The new Planet Fitness won't cater to shopping
needs (Photo: Baltimore Sun)

In spite of a fairly high population density and aggregate purchase power, retail in Baltimore is scarce. Attractive and modern retail can basically only be found at the periphery in places such as Canton Crossing or, in an older less up to date version, out on the historical radials such as Reisterstown Road. A copy of Canton Crossing is planned as Yard 56 in Greektown and a redo of the Northwood Plaza by the same developer is also in a non central location and based on a typical suburban strip center layout with parking in front.

Real urban shopping like at the Gallery Place at the Inner Harbor and the stores of Harbor Esst remains rare, and hardly serves typical daily needs. The shops at the Inner Harbor and along Pratt Street struggle and rarely stick around for long. Even the ubiquitous drugstores don't always stay in the strategic downtown spaces as the closure of the Rite Aid at Howard and Lexington proves. In 2011 the Baltimore SUN was hopeful:
Shuttered Target at Mondawmin (Photo: BBJ)
"Downtown is ripe for additional expansion for retail companies that at one point dismissed coming into the city," said Mark Millman, chief executive officer of retail executive hiring firm Millman Search Group. "You'll continue to see more and more of this all over the country. Retailers are looking at cities closely as major profit areas."
Some retailers are expanding amid the recovery, and for many, urban sites are in high demand. Long after suburban retailers began tapping into urban markets, cities such as Baltimore still find themselves underserved in some areas, experts say. (Baltimore SUN)
Online shopping, robot delivery: Kroger test Phoenix AZ
But in spite of an ongoing recovery since 2011, Baltimore's retail never saw a really convincing wave of retail seeking out downtown as a "major profit area". Large parts of Baltimore continue to have trouble finding a decent full service supermarket and for the popular national chains like Target residents have to travel all the way to Canton, a place much more difficult to reach than Mondawmin Mall with its transit center and subway station. While several "main street" commercial districts such as "the Avenue" in Hampden or Eastern Avenue in Highlandtown see a certain renaissance, it remains difficult to find standard articles like hardware, office supplies, kitchen needs, furniture or toys in the city.
McKenzie market data 2018: A scarcity of useful data

In this complicated situation the historic downtown retail center known as Market Center is trying to define its future. It shouldn't be too hard to support retail with so many new residents in Baltimore's "fastest growing neighborhood" (Downtown Partnership slogan) and the large inner city neighborhoods to the west nearby. But retailers remain skiddish and the local offerings remain very heavy on barber and beauty shops or places selling luggage. That this doesn't have to be this way, has been pointed out by the Urban Land Institute when they were called to provide suggestions for the Westside in 2010. The national experts pointed to Cincinnati and its Over the Rhine area as a good precedent on how to revive an ailing historic retail area. In a visit not too long ago I found a bustling district full of shops and restaurants, mostly local specialty store, not national chains in an area that at the turn of the century looked much like Howard Street.
Retail on Howard Street (Photo: Philipsen)

As I have described in previous blog articles, the Cincinnati turn-around was the result of a big investment initiative in part fueled by  local corporations, an approach that is eyed with suspicion by many local activists. The new Opportunity Zones with their designated federal and state funds may make a difference. Baltimore has certainly designated a record number of those zones. But critics have already pointed out, that via the promised tax credits most of the money will go into the pockets of investors and will not necessarily fuel local entrepreneurs such as storekeepers.

As the national retail scene develops, it may well be that amidst online shopping, robot deliveries and failing malls the small, local, walkable urban storefront with the friendly owner behind the counter providing human based service will be the format that is most likely to survive.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

BBJ: Yard 56 article
Kroger CEO: Harris Teeter acquisition was a preemptive shot at Amazon
Harris Teeter has been expanding across the Baltimore area and its local stores include Locust Point, Canton, Severna Park, Columbia and Ellicott City.

Friday, January 11, 2019

Share what you think about those dockless bikes and scooters

Even though their real impact on the regional transportation problems is minimal, dockless scooters have captured a large portion of the national discussion about transportation, about cities and about the sharing economy. (For am overview see here). Even  Rolling Stone took notice: From Toy to Thrash: How Scooters Are Becoming Millennials’ Extreme Sport of Choice.
Latte sipping, helmet free scooter zipping on the sidewalk: Not the whole story

And as it has become common, unfortunately, two seeming irreconcilable camps have quickly formed, those who love scooters and those who hate them. In whatever city one travels in the US and increasingly also internationally, unused scooters are cluttering sidewalks and happy scooter riders are zipping around, all too often in the streets against the traffic or on sidewalks stealthily and silently approaching from behind whisking by sometimes within inches of the walking public.

The debate mirrors most of the usual opinion blocks. There are those who want more regulation opposed to those who hate regulations, the young and the old, the able bodies and the ones with impairments, the ones who care about the environment and those who don't want car driving any further impeded. But the battle lines in the equity debate have become more complicated. Unlike in the earlier debates about bike-sharing, the scooter discussion is less racially charged because, unlike bicycles, the scooters have quickly been accepted by young people of color  and their use has penetrated well into the disenfranchised and disadvantaged communities; possibly this, in turn, has hardened the scooter opposition of suburbanites riding into town in their cars.
Old docked bikeshare is out, at least in Baltimore (Photo: BBJ)

Meanwhile new arguments are pouring in, injury reports from emergency rooms attributed to scooter crashes, reports about the near monopoly of one scooter manufacturer in China (Bloomberg: Almost Every Electric Scooter in the World Comes From This Chinese Company) and increasingly experience with scooters that don't operate properly. Not surprisingly, the lawyers are just waiting to pounce. Plenty to sue about: How do scooter companies enforce the rules that their vehicles are to be used with helmets, not operated by anyone under 18, not be operated on sidewalks?

Regulators in Cities are right behind the lawyers. Some cities have banned scooters altogether, some declared them motor-vehicles and others, like Baltimore take a wait and see attitude. Actually, Baltimore's DOT isn't entirely hands off. They provided the share companies of Lime and Bird temporary licenses with a maximum number of vehicles, fees per scooter and bike, a requirement to share data,  and certain obligations for facilitating access to the poor. (Details can be found on BC-DOT's website here). The pilot will end in February. In 2018 649,343 scooter rides were logged (starting August 15) and 4,635 Lime bike trips in December alone.
Bird and Lime scooters are permitted in Baltimore

Baltimore City, led by DOT, has launched a Pilot Program for shared dockless vehicles which will last from August 15,2018 until February 28, 2019.  These vehicles can include bicycles, e-bicycles, and e-scooters which are available to the public for rent. At this time there are two companies who have entered into agreements to operate during the pilot period (website)
In an effort to tally up experiences in Charm City, BC-DOT now wants your opinion and launched an online survey in which users and non-users, lovers and haters alike can voice their opinions.  The four page survey can be found here. No matter where you stand, take the survey before it is too late (the survey closes on Jan 20) and the City will decide whether to extend the program.
Dockless Lime bikes also have electric power. (Photo Stephen Babcock)

The scooter debate doesn't have to be all or nothing and using dockless vehicles doesn't need to become a regulatory nightmare either. Scooters could easily become safer and more comfortable with bigger wheels that don't get caught as easily on Baltimore's rugged streets, more protected lanes should be provided so scooters don't have to be used on sidewalks or amidst of cars and trucks and visibility could be increased with better front and rear lights. The companies could be forced to do better maintenance and better collection of damaged scooters. Nothing is more annoying for haters and lovers alike, than damaged scooters which litter the sidewalks and can't even be used. So there may be some common ground, after all. And in terms of equity: Dockless vehicle collection and scooter repair provide low threshold job opportunities as part of the burgeoning gig economy.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

online DOT survey

If the survey doesn't do your concerns justice, contact Meg Young, Shared Mobility Coordinator Baltimore City Department of Transportation, e-mail for comments: dot-community@baltimorecity.gov

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Is New Orleans like Baltimore?

After the comparison with Fort Worth was just too much a stretch and, as far as policing, is obsolete now, how about New Orleans? There is a general sentiment in Baltimore, that the Big Easy has a lot in common with Baltimore, in terms of problems, and in terms of attractions.
Baltimore and New Orleans (Data USA)

As has been discussed on all platforms since the Mayor's new favorite police commissioner was announced, NOLA and Baltimore both have had lots of issues with their police departments which brought a federal consent decree to both, to NOLA, in fact, much earlier and possibly for even more egregious transgressions. Both cities regularly rank tops in crime and murder rates. Are there other commonalities?

New Orleans lost a lot of its population as well, although not only in a steady trickle like Baltimore, but through one big catastrophe, hurricane  Katrina which hit the city in 2005.
New Orleans cultural cliche: Music and jazz
(Photo: Philipsen)
Both cities are the largest in their state. Both dealt swiftly with their Confederate Monuments, both have a majority black population, both have now a female black mayor.  Both share high poverty rates.

New Orleans isn't doing as well with job creation as Baltimore, but home values are a bit higher there. Baltimore's metro area is twice as large as that of NOLA and, obviously, the Big Easy sits far away from the nation's capital and has no nearby city to lean on. Baltimore's history has strong German influences, New Orleans' is French. Both are port cities. Both are known for their historic architecture. Both cities know entrenched poverty and an economy that benefits some and leaves many behind. Both cities seem to be perpetually at the crossroads.
New Orleans cliche: The historic red streetcars
(Photo: Philipsen)
As New Orleans approaches its 300th anniversary next year, it ranks as the third-most unequal city in the U.S. based on income gap, according to a recent Bloomberg analysis. The metro economy is adding lower-paying jobs at a faster rate than higher-paying jobs that could build a stronger middle class. The poverty rate in the city remains a staggering 27 percent, twice the nation's rate. [...] minority-owned businesses represent 27 percent of businesses in the New Orleans metro area and get only 2 percent of all revenues generated in the city, according to The Data Center. That 2 percent hasn't changed - nationally, it's 4 percent - despite all of the post-Katrina spending.(The Times-Picayune Sept 21, 2017)
New Orleans cultural cliche: Bourbon Street (Photo: Philipsen)
Of course, the Baltimore Convention Center would be glad if it had the occupancy and conventions that NOLA can regularly attract.  Fells Point and the Inner Harbor attract day tourists, but Bourbon Street and the Mississippi  attract tourists from around the world. In fact, New Orleans residents may find it a stretch to be compared to Baltimore. Yet, they mourn the departure of their police chief and Baltimore leaders are celebratory:
Six weeks ago, I had the opportunity through the Baltimore Metropolitan Council to visit New Orleans and meet Chief Harrison to learn what was working there that may be applied in our City and region.
Within minutes, it became clear that Chief Harrison was the type of leader that Baltimore needed, that Baltimore deserved. He understood the role of a police department to rebuild trust among all as the basis for safer communities. He spoke of the federal Consent Decree reforms in New Orleans as the driver for culture changes that reduce violence. And he spoke of partnerships with human development agencies to reduce crime by empowering people. 
Ethnic diversity, Baltimore and New Orleans (Data USA)

And it has worked. As of 2018 and four years with Chief Harrison at the helm, New Orleans saw the lowest violent crime rates in the City since 1971. They are in the midst of exiting their Consent Decree successfully. And they've restored trust and accountability between law enforcement and the residents of the city. That type of experience and leadership is what our Baltimore Police Department and the citizens of Baltimore deserve.(Senator Bill Ferguson in an e-mail)
Median income, Baltimore and New Orleans (Data USA)
New Orleans is a much less densely populated city and spreads over a much larger area (about twice the land area of Baltimore). NOLA police offers about 3 officers per 1000 residents, Baltimore has 4. In spite of a hefty budget increase in 2018, the NOLA police budget with just shy of $200 million is still less than half of Baltimore's.

Endless rows of boarded houses are uncommon, but 5 years after Katrina the city counted 47,700 abandoned properties, in 2018 there were still 14,700 vacant residences, based on population that is on par with Baltimore.
Sinking vacancies in New Orleans (Report)

Even though it, too had serious leadership problems with a mayor who was indicted and sentenced, the city seems to be less inclined to self loathing as Baltimore's residents, not even after Katrina when the entire state of Louisiana was frequently compared to a third world country. Mayor Mitch Landrieu who followed Nagin was well respected not only in his city but across the US until he left office in May of last year.

All in all, in the end New Orleans may not be all that similar to Baltimore, but unlike Fort Worth it is a city with which we can identify, and maybe even one, we would like to be compared with, at least when it comes to reforming the police department.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA
Downtown glitz does not spread into all neighborhoods
(Photo: Philipsen)

New Orleans on pace in 2018 to have fewest murders since 
New Orleans Police Chief Michael Harrison leaving to head Baltimore policeNOPD Budget presentation 2019

Also on this blog:
Confederate Monuments: Learning from NOLA?

Thursday, January 3, 2019

No, Fort Worth isn't much like Baltimore

Ever since Forth Worth's police chief Joel Fitzgerald (born in Philadelphia) has been first rumored, and then confirmed, to be favorite pick for Baltimore Police Commissioner, people have been grappling with this choice. One of the reasons for the consternation: Considering the DNA of Baltimore, whether it is historical, demographic, economic or geographical, there is hardly a place that is more different than Fort Worth, Texas, a place that many consider the most Texan of all Texan cities.
Baltimore and Fort Worth,  hard to compare (Date USA)

Since there is so much talk about Fort Worth, here a few fun and not so fun comparisons:

When Baltimore was America's second largest City, Fort Worth had hardly even been considered as a stop on the Crisholm trail. But today Fort Worth's population exceeds that of Baltimore by roughly 250,000 and is home to several Fortune 500 companies. (Baltimore: Zero). Fort Worth's largest employer is American Airlines (about 22,000 employees), Baltimore's is Johns Hopkins (about 35,000 employees). Both metro areas are home to Lockheed Martin plants. Baltimore's unemployment rate in May 2018 was 5.6%, that of Fort Worth 3.5%. Baltimore's poverty rate is 23%, that of Forth Worth is about 22% (2016) but because of different statistical methods it is also sometimes given as a much lower 17%. Our property tax rate is 2.25, theirs is 0.78 per $100 valuation. (Baltimore's actual average effective rate is $1.65 due to homestead credits).
Christmas at Sundance Square, Fort Worth
(Photo: Philipsen)

The largest universities in Baltimore, MD are Johns Hopkins University, with 8,159 graduates, University of Maryland-Baltimore, with 2,126 graduates, and Loyola University Maryland, with 1,642 graduates. The largest universities in Fort Worth, TX are Tarrant County College District, with 7,759 graduates, Texas Christian University, with 2,796 graduates, and University of North Texas Health Science Center, with 663 graduates. The median property value in Baltimore, MD is $153,500, and the homeownership rate is 45.7%. Most people in Baltimore, MD commute by driving alone, and the average commute time is 28.9 minutes. The average car ownership in Baltimore, MD is 1 car per household. The median property value in Fort Worth, TX is $151,000, and the homeownership rate is 57.1%. Most people in Fort Worth, TX commute by driving alone, and the average commute time is 26.7 minutes. The average car ownership in Fort Worth, TX is 2 cars per household.(Data USA)

From a policing point of view both cities share a rough and tumble past. Baltimore is also known as Mobtown whereas Forth Worth had its "Hell's Acre" or "bloody third ward".  Both cities also have a strong railroad past, Baltimore as the origin of the nation's first passenger rail line, Fort Worth as historically the westernmost rail-head and a switching station for cattle transport. Both cities' history includes an influx of black Americans followed by segregation policies. However, overall Forth Worth has only about 20% black residents. The Texan town has a Star as its local paper, Baltimore, of course, a Sun ("light for all"). Both Cities have ridiculous visions and slogans. "Fort Worth will be the most livable and best managed city in the country" and Baltimore of course simply wants to be "the best city in America".
Christmas in Baltimore (Photo: Philipsen)

Interestingly, Fort Worth is also home to one of the oldest public housing projects in the nation (constructed in 1939) and a Housing Authority (FWHA) that goes back as far as 1938. Butler Place, the locale of the historic public housing project there, is today separated from downtown in a similar way as Cherry Hill from downtown Baltimore, namely through a jumble of elevated highways and railroad tracks. Like Cherry Hill Butler Place is a mostly African American community. Like Baltimore Housing, FWHA (now called Fort Worth Housing Solutions (FWHS) is experimenting with federal rental assistance demonstration program money (RAD) to engage the private sector in rehabilitation. Like Baltimore Housing is re-imagining Perkins Homes and Somerset as  a new mixed use, mixed-income community, so is FWHS looking for ways to "re-invent" Butler Place, considering relocation of all of its residents. Displacement, apparently, isn't a big issue there.

Both cities have women mayors, but that is where the similarities end. Baltimore's Mayor has lots of power whereas Forth Worth's Mayor Betsy Price is more of a figurehead in a city manager system. Baltimore is landlocked and surrounded by a county with its own government, in Texas cities are part of the county. Tarrant County is Republican, Baltimore City Democratic. Baltimore's murder rate is 307, Fort Worth's is under 70.
Butler public housing in Fort Worth  (Photo: Philipsen)

Baltimore's downtown once was a vibrant retail center, Fort Worth's downtown has only recently become a real place after Downtown Forth Worth Inc. was founded in 1981 (a group similar to the Downtown Partnership here) and created  Texas' first public improvement district in 1986, then in 1996 a downtown tax increment financing district. Today Sundance Square gives Fort Worth a "there" that many find worth visiting and that has plenty of programming, retail and restaurants. Baltimore has the Amtrak Northeast Corridor as an excellent rail connection, Fort Worth has an anemic commuter train linking it to its twin city Dallas and is dreaming about high speed rail that will one day connect it all the way to Houston.

While Maryland forewent fracking as economic development because of its environmental hazards, the Fort Worth economy is heavily relying on fracking and gas.
Chief Fitzgerald was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1971, and was educated locally and attended Villanova University, where he graduated with a Baccalaureate Degree (B.A.) Liberal Arts. He continued his education at Eastern University, where he earned his Master of Business Administration (M.B.A.) degree, and later earned a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Business Administration. Fitzgerald received appointment to the City of Philadelphia Police Department in 1992, and served over 17 years in various ranks before his 2009 selection to serve as Chief of Police in Missouri City, Texas. In December 2013, he became Chief of Police in Allentown, Pennsylvania, where he faithfully served until 2015.. (Fort Worth website)
The Baltimore police department has 2,514 sworn members with a budget of nearly half a billion dollars policing 92 square miles. Forth Worth has 1,700 sworn officers policing 350 square miles a budget that is a bit more than half of Baltimore's ($253,000). Fort Worth's operating budget is about $1.9 billion, its General Fund $611 million (2016). (Baltimore's combined budget is $3.4b)
Unemployment map of Fort Worth: Another black butterfly

Fort Worth's murder rate "has mostly mirrored the national trend. From 1985 to 1995, an average of 138.5 murders occurred each year, including a high of 200 in 1986. In 10 of those 11 years, no fewer than 108 murders (1995) occurred. The outlier, 1987, saw 97 murders, a number that hasn’t come close to being matched since homicides in the city dropped dramatically in 1996....In 1986, Fort Worth’s population was 432,342. By 2016, it hadulged to 851,849." (Star Telegram).

Based on population the Fort Worth murder rate is about 8.1 per 100,000, Baltimore: 51.1.

Baltimore residents can meet the proposed police commission this weekend in two "meet and greet" events. The City Council will have a conformation hearing coming Monday.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

The interviews  City Council members conducted in Forth Worth can be found here.
The job application and resume Fitzgerald submitted to the City can be found here.

Update: The below meetings have been cancelled due to a medical emergency, so Mr Fitzgerald has postponed his visit to Baltimore (Baltimore SUN, Ja. 3, 4:46pm)
City Council meeting: The council will take comments from the public on the nomination at a 10 a.m. meeting Saturday in its chambers at City Hall.
“Westside Community” meeting: A meet and greet with members of the community will be held 10 a.m.-11:30 a.m. Sunday at the Jewish Community Center, 5700 Park Heights Ave.
Fort Worth has conflicting views on Baltimore police commissioner nominee Fitzgerald, report shows
Eastside Community” meeting: A meet and greet with members of the community will be held 2 p.m.-3:30 p.m. Sunday at Morgan State University, Morgan Business Center, 4200 Hillen Road.
Second City Council meeting: At 5 p.m. Monday, the council will hold a second meeting in its City Hall chambers, during which members will question Fitzgerald
. (Baltimore SUN)