|Coordinated executive order: Governor Hogan on 3/3/0/20|
An executive order to "stay at home" has been announced in a coordinated fashion by Virginia, the District of Columbia and Maryland on the same day. Maryland's Governor refers to this in his 3/30 press conference as the "the national capital [metropolitan] region", an apt description of Maryland's geography and the connections which are our regions lifeblood.
In all three jurisdictions, “essential” businesses remain open. This includes grocery stores, convenience stores, pharmacies, hardware stores, laundromats and dry cleaners, pet shops and animal services, medical facilities, banks and other financial service providers, gas stations, auto repair shops, bike shops, wireless stores, and , as has been widely mocked, liquor stores.
|Baltimore Washington CSA (Census map)|
This concerted effort avoids counterproductive effects, such as residents rushing across the nearest border to escape the restrictions.
Coordination also gives the area more standing with the federal government, which, of course, operates within the area.
Last week, the three leaders Larry Hogan, Ralph Northam and D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser jointly asked President Trump to “provide additional financial support to help our jurisdictions maintain the health and safety of the region and the federal workers who serve the American people.”
Hogan explicitly mentioned the importance of keeping this region healthy and strong, a warning that would also apply in regular times:
The Washington region is where national leaders are actually fighting this battle for the nation, and this region is about to be hit with the virus in the same way that some other major metropolitan areas have been.
We are home to more than 404,000 federal workers in Maryland, D.C., and Virginia. The NIH and FDA are headquartered in Maryland, and these agencies are on the front lines of the battle against the coronavirus. (Governor Hogan)
|Governor Northam announces "stay at Home" order on 3/3/0/20|
The Census has long recognized this and given the area a clunky acronym: Washington–Baltimore–Arlington, DC–MD–VA–WV–PA Combined Statistical Area (CSA). The 2017 Census estimate puts the Greater Washington CSA's population at 9,764,315, right after Chicagoland's population, below the Los Angeles CSA, and that of the now so heavily stricken New York metro area. It is widely expected that the 2020 census would put our region in the #3 spot nationally.
|Mayor Muriel Bowser announces "Stay at Home" order 3/30|
The boundaries of CSAs are constantly changing, and are largely determined by commuter flows. Areas are combined into a CSA if they have connections to neighboring areas exceeding 15% of an area’s workforce.
Transportation is an apt metric to measure interconnection and interdependence. Transportation inherently knows no borders, a fact reflected in the Interstate Commerce Clause of the US Constitution.
Some of the regional transportation connectivity is already obvious in normal conditions: For example, Maryland pays a good portion of WMATA's transit operations due to the many routes they service in Maryland. For the most part, though, Baltimore and DC are governed as two completely different universes and so are Virginia and Maryland, a few collaborative efforts of saving the Chesapeake notwithstanding.
|Motorway back-up of 40 miles at Polish border|
due to COVID 19 border closing
"Balkanization" is particularly obvious when traveling the region's commuter rails: Virginia rails take the VRE trains from the South to Union Station in DC, Maryland's take MARC trains to the same station from the north. Both systems wind up on different sections of Union Station The rolling stock of those two trains systems is not compatible. Transfer from one to the other is possible but not coordinated by design, there is no easy time coordinated transfer as it is common in Europe's ICE train system where connecting trains usually wait on the other side of the same platform with a coordinated departure time. Of course, both rail systems also need different tickets, have different franchise agreements with the track owning railroads, are maintained in different facilities and governed by different agencies. In short, VRE is from Venus and MARC is from Mars.
In a future collaboration the VRE and the MARC service should be integrated, share rolling stock and maintenance, MARC should extend its trains into downtown DC to the current VRE station at L'Enfant Plaza (a bill to study this passed in the MD Legislature this session). A focus on improving Amtrak and commuter rail should replace distractions such as Maglev and Hyperloop. Express buses should connect the two metro areas beyond the single WMATA bus which currently serves BWI. The entire region should introduce a single integrated fare card that can be used on all systems in the entire CSA.
The situation is not much better on the CSA's roads: The BW Parkway is a lifeline between the DC area and the Baltimore area, just as the name implies, but management of this lifeline resides in four different hands: in the departments of transportation of DC, the federal government, the State of Maryland and the City of Baltimore. One can tell by the condition of the pavement, the design standards and the appearance of the artery. The CSA's roadways are managed by the DOTs of Maryland, Virginia, the District of Columbia, the City of Baltimore and 37 counties. Complete street standards should be coordinated among the jurisdictions and Maryland's road heavy investment strategy should be balanced by a metro-wide more transit friendly transportation plan.
The region's population will continue to grow. This in itself should be a strong motivation for collaboration. Not only DC is bursting at the seams, the suburban areas are also rapidly running out of developable land which doesn't run afoul of sustainability and smart growth goals. Meanwhile the City of Baltimore continues to loose population and has a surplus of land, roadways and buildings. It is patently obvious that regional collaboration represents a win-win compared to a competition of each jurisdiction against the other.
|French patient readied for airlift across the border to Germany|
The COVID19 crisis also demonstrates what has been already evident in the climate crisis: Where the federal government wobbles, the States and local government can and will pick up the slack, especially if they work together. In the case of climate change, a compact of 12 states on the east coast have initiated carbon trading for power plants and will soon initiate carbon trading for the transportation sector (TCI).
The corona crisis shows that the initial instinct of walling yourself off is short-sighted and eventually not only ineffective but even counter-productive, wether it is for an individual person, a jurisdiction, a state, or a country.
COVID19 teaches with brutal urgency that competing over scarce protective gear in the marketplace is not the way to go. It kills people instead. The Darwinian approach of "my jurisdiction first" is not a practical and even less a sustainable answer in an age where everyone depends on many others. US governors now routinely coordinate their response to the health crisis. Health professionals from many states have jumped to the aid of New York hospitals.
Solidarity has also replaced the "me first" approach of in Europe after initially closing the borders within the Euro (Shengen) zone in a misguided survival of the fittest instinct which was followed by chaos with 18 hour waits at check-points threatening the vital supply lines. Openness defines the EU, and is a matter of survival in this crisis. In a complete reversal, some less hard hit countries now airlift ICU patients from struggling countries with air force hospital planes and helicopters for treatment in their own not yet overloaded facilities.
|Flying intensive care unit ready to airlift corona patients out of Bergmo|
Slowly it becomes clear: Against our first instincts, what this crisis teaches is that we don't need to close our borders and make everything ourselves but that we need to continue openness and collaboration, even when we need to keep personal distance from each other.
Collaboration, compassion and offering what our place can do best to others while importing what others can do best from others continues to be the better way to go.
Transferred to the greater Baltimore-Washington area, this insight means that everyone has to realize that collaboration is a win-win now and in the future when social tension will rise, especially in Baltimore with its many pre-existing conditions.
Baltimore tends to think of itself as a special case, as an island that needs to heal and provide equity "from within". The "Baltimoreans first" instinct is strong, even among those who otherwise would never use the same language as the President. This notion expresses itself in the demand that all department heads need to not only live within the city but should also be recruited from within. Same for police officers, construction companies, and, according to some, any company that receives any tax dollar support. Some go as far as suggesting that bringing wealthier people in as new residents would be unwanted gentrification, no matter how much it may strengthen the tax base. The more Baltimore shrinks in size and in terms of its own local economy, the less such an approach will be successful, as well intended as it may be. This insight will be especially urgent in the economic fall-out that will follow the virus.
The collaboration in regulation, transportation, resources and trade which we see now, needs to be continued and institutionalized for the future. On any scale, collaboration is the most effective way to conquer challenges. Many challenges remain if and when this particular virus will have subsided, many new challenges will emerge. The current "forced opportunity" of learning how to overcome the "go it alone" impulse is too big to pass.
Klaus Philipsen, FAIA