New Report Generating a Buzz

New study with Urban Institute and Institute of Transportation Studies looks at links between transportation, housing and economic opportunity for voucher recipients.

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Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability (PALS)

PALS is a new, campus-wide initiative designed to provide high-quality, low-cost assistance to local governments while creating valuable real-world problem solving experience for UMD students. 

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Purple Line Corridor Coalition

The NCSG has formed a coalition to stimulate sustainable and equitable economic development throughout the Purple Line corridor without displacing affordable housing or small businesses.

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Makeover Montgomery 3: Balancing Change in America’s Suburbs

In May 2016, the NCSG hosted a widely-attended conference addressing the future sustainability of America’s suburbs.

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UMD’s Gerrit Knaap, Matthew Bell Discuss Smart-Growth and the 21st Century City at National Building Museum

The Brick Industry Association presents Smart Growth and Transit-Oriented Development: A Policy, Design, and Planning Perspective, December 14, 2016. UMD's Gerrit-Jan Knaap, director of the National Center for Smart Growth and Professor of Architecture Matthew Bell are two of the three speakers at this day-long seminar, held at the National Building Museum: 


  • Gerrit Knaap: "Demographic change, driverless cars, and future development patterns in the Baltimore-Washington region: What might we expect?"
  • Matthew Bell: "Enhancing Livability Through Design at the Scale of the City"
  • Marcel Acosta: "Smart Growth and the Federal Government"


To read lecture descriptions, register for the event and learn more, visit the event website.

PALS Program Shares First Semester Project Results with City of Annapolis, Anne Arundel County

December 15, 2016


College Park, Md. — University of Maryland (UMD) students and faculty met with Annapolis city and Anne Arundel county officials this week to present findings from 14 projects, the first results of a yearlong partnership between the City of Annapolis and Anne Arundel County, and UMD’s Partnership for Action Learning in Sustainability (PALS) program. The projects, which stem from social, economic and environmental sustainability priorities identified by city and county government officials, aim to offer regional stakeholders fresh ideas for old challenges.


“This is a collaborative effort that spans every aspect of Anne Arundel County,” said Anne Arundel County Executive Steve Schuh. “The work these students have done is top notch and they did it in a very short period of time. I think their fresh eyes on some very old problems really paid off.”


Graduate and undergraduate students from colleges and departments around the UMD campus, completed the 14 projects—ten for the county and four for the city—throughout the past summer and fall semester. In addition to reports and recommendations on a number of topics, the coursework generated a recommendation and demonstration of software to help the county track electricity usage in county facilities in real time, and mapped analysis of public safety hotspots to help improve EMS service.


A landscape architecture studio, led by Dr. Christopher Ellis, developed initial plans for a trail extension between BWI Airport and Ellicott City, closing the gaps between several existing Maryland trails and essentially creating an uninterrupted pathway from Ellicott City to Annapolis’ Sandy Point Beach. The proposed 6.5 miles of trail would connect Baltimore, Howard and Anne Arundel Counties, as well as connect users to the East Coast Greenway, a path that runs from Florida to Maine.


“The final products were very impressive and well thought out,” said Dawn Thomas, Director of Anne Arundel County Parks and Recreation. “It’s something we would have seen from a consultant.”


“What is really exciting for me is the regional projects that have emerged, not only between the county and city, but across several counties,” said Uri Avin, director of the PALS program. “That’s one of the things that PALS can do. It can break down silos within agencies and it can do the same between programs and students within the university.”


An urban studies course, taught by Dr. Scott Dempwolf, examined ways to strengthen the maritime industry in Annapolis, an integral piece of the city’s economy and culture. Ideas include zoning changes, educational opportunities for maritime trades, such as sail making and a maker space that could potentially cultivate new start-ups.


“I am thrilled with the results of the project; the class went above and beyond my expectations,” said Hollis Minor, Economic Development Manager for Annapolis’ Department of Planning and Zoning. “The team collaborated continually with the maritime community throughout the project and produced very targeted recommendations with specific actions, rather than a broad report that would sit on a shelf and gather dust.” 


The Philip Merrill College of Journalism’s documentary course, Viewfinders, tackled the opioid epidemic in Anne Arundel County, an idea that emerged during a meeting with county officials in June; at that time, the county was facing one overdose a day and one death a week from heroin use.


“I have never been as proud of the work produced at the Philip Merrill College of Journalism as I have been of the work my students accomplished in Anne Arundel County this semester,” said Bethany Swain, who ran her sixth PALS class this semester. “We are telling stories that otherwise might not get told. Local media doesn’t do this stuff anymore, particularly not this in-depth.”


Watch Viewfinders Fall Documentaries


Developed by the UMD’s National Center for Smart Growth, PALS pairs faculty expertise and student ingenuity with sustainability challenges facing Maryland communities. The PALS mission is to provide high quality, low-cost assistance to local governments while creating an active and valuable real-world learning experience for UMD students. PALS initiated its first partnership with The City of Frederick, Maryland, in September 2014, adding a second, smaller collaboration with College Park in January 2015. In the fall of 2015, PALS launched partnerships with Howard County, Md., and the Columbia Association (CA). In addition, a smaller collaboration last fall with the Southwest Partnership in Baltimore helped create feasible development projects on several Southwest Baltimore sites and built a GIS database that shows key statistics, such as job opportunities, vacant housing and vehicle ownership. This fall, PALS also provided similar support to the Mount Royal Community Development Corporation in the City of Baltimore.



The partnership with Anne Arundel County and the City of Annapolis marks the first time PALS has partnered with both a city and county concurrently, a nod to County Executive Shuh and Annapolis Mayor Mike Pantelides’ continued efforts to collaborate for stronger, more sustainable communities. The combined jurisdiction—over half a million people—is nearly double the size of last year’s efforts in Howard County.


“This is our biggest partnership and, in a sense, it has been the biggest challenge,” said Avin. “It’s a large county with a lot of departments; it’s only feasible because of the support we’ve received from city and county staff. This has been a fabulous experience.”


Avin estimates that this year’s investment is yielding $22 for every dollar spent by the city and county.


The plan for 2017 will bring an additional 19 projects to the county and city, including projects to help the county expand transit options to BWI, improve boat access to the bay and county waterways, create a master plan for the Arlington Echo Outdoor Education Center and develop a public health and recreation plan for Annapolis.


See PALS Courses for 2017


“It was a really good experience and, honestly, the first time we’ve worked in a professional setting,” said Gerrit Foss, a landscape architecture student, whose team developed a Town Center Park Design for Odenton. “Working with a client, getting that feedback, results in a project that’s constantly changing. That can be challenging, but it’s the norm for a real project. We all found it very rewarding.”


Read more about the presentations in the Capital Gazette.

New Report: Impact Analysis of a Beverage Container Deposit Program

The University of Maryland Environmental Finance Center, with support from the Waterfront Partnership of Baltimore, Inc. and the Abell Foundation, recently completed a study on a prospective beverage container deposit program in Maryland. The study looked at potential impacts on recycling rates, employment, beverage sales, and greenhouse gas emissions. 

New Program to Improve Air Quality at Port of Baltimore

The Maryland Port Administration (MPA)/Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) announced today that it is providing funding to enhance the Mid-Atlantic Dray Truck Replacement Program, which is funded by a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and administered by the Mid-Atlantic Regional Air Management Association (MARAMA) and the University of Maryland Environmental Finance Center.

Reclassification of Sustainable Neighborhoods: An Opportunity Indicator Analysis in Baltimore Metropolitan Area

The “Sustainable neighborhoods” has become widely proposed objective of urban planners, scholars, and local government agencies. However, after decades of discussion, there is still no consensus on the definition of sustainable neighborhoods (Sawicki and Flynn, 1996; Dluhy and Swartz 2006; Song and Knaap,2007; Galster 2010). To gain new information on this issue, this paper develops a quantitative method for classifying neighborhood types. It starts by measuring a set of more than 100 neighborhood sustainable indicators. The initial set of indicators includes education, housing, neighborhood quality and social capital, neighborhood environment and health, employment and transportation. Data are gathered from various sources, including the National Center for Smart Growth (NCSG) data inventory, U.S. Census, Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), many government agencies and private vendors. GIS mapping is used to visualize and identify variations in neighborhood attributes at the most detailed level (e.g census tracts). Factor analysis is then used to reduce the number of indicators to a small set of dimensions that capture essential differences in neighborhood types in terms of social, economic, and environmental dimensions. These factors loadings are used as inputs to a cluster analysis to identify unique neighborhood types. Finally, different types of neighborhoods are visualized using a GIS tool for further evaluation.

The proposed quantitative analysis will help illustrate variations in neighborhood types and their spatial patterns in the Baltimore metropolitan region.  This framework offers new insights on what is a sustainable neighborhood.

Fixed Effects Panel Data Analysis of Gasoline Prices, Fare, Service Supply and Service Frequency on Transit Ridership in Ten U.S. Urbanized Areas

Gasoline price increases since 1999 have generated substantial discussion about their effect on
travel behavior. Using panel data for ten selected U.S. urbanized areas between 2002 and 2011,
this study analyzes the effects of gasoline prices and three factors that are internal to transit
agencies—fare, service supply, and service frequency—on ridership of bus, light rail, heavy rail,
and commuter rail, as well as their aggregate ridership. Improving upon past studies on the
subject, this study accounts for the simultaneity relationship between service supply and
ridership, and controls for factors that are external to transit agencies’ control but may potentially
influence ridership.
The analysis results found the possibility of the simultaneity is low, using fixed effects
models that examine temporal changes within each urbanized area. The results of estimated
coefficients show that the short-term increase in ridership due to gasoline price increases is
relatively small for bus and aggregate transit and marginal for rails—certainly smaller than the
effects of the three internal factors. The total influence of the three internal factors was found
more substantial than that of external factors, indicating better possibility to increase ridership by
transit agencies’ efforts when resources are available. In addition, transit agencies are
recommended to prepare for a ridership increase more for bus than for rails due to gasoline
prices, considering that even a small increase could require a substantial service increase to
accommodate travelers’ needs during peak periods.

Smart Growth Facts

CAFE standards suggest the MPG ratio for cars will average 27.5 by 2016, and 56.2 by 2030.