Regional Transportation Management Association to Have New Director...but will it count this time? ~ Annapolis Capital Punishment

Monday, August 9, 2010

Regional Transportation Management Association to Have New Director...but will it count this time?

ARTMA is not an avant garde gallery show at Dupont Circle, but if you are familiar with The Annapolis Regional Transportation Management Association, you would probably agree with ACP that this publicly-funded organization has not done much. And that's an overstatement.

However, a new director starts on August 23rd and this new person who is known to me, is a hard-hitting and knowledgeable transportation professional. It could be a signal that ARTMA is going to finally get serious.

This public-private, membership-based organization gets a fat county grant every year through the state and through the feds and is tasked with developing ride sharing and generally improving regional transportation. In my estimation from much observation and experience and from reviewing its grants and reports, it has accomplished little in the way of anything and even with its major task of ride sharing, it has produced little. Over the 12 years with which I have been familiar with ARTMA it has gone through a handful of executive directors. With one exception, each director has been an attractive young woman apparently chosen for her personal and public relations skills and has essentially occupied a pr position. They had no transportation experience or background, but they looked nice, smiled, went to meetings--a lot of meetings, and made a lot of press releases and announcements, always showing up for a photo op.

Its most recent director, Heather McColl was a big improvement over its previous directors, and she took an active role in fighting the now completed state garage. It was a bold and proper fight but I think her county handlers or maybe state officials quashed that. There were many reasons to oppose that garage from a mobility standpoint. She has moved on to the NSA. Shhhh......since the only way to tell how many people work there is by the cars parked there, one assumes they  need help with transportation.

Former County Councilman and Delegate Dave Boschert, a former Marine who is not an attractive young female (and is still not as far as I know) served as the director but his term was short-lived. It appeared that he and the board differed but that's just a hunch.

This organization could have been a powerful voice for transportation improvements but it seems to get stymied by its county handlers, who after all, give it the bucks. When I was with the city's Department of Transportation and ARTMA was moving its offices, we offered and asked ARTMA to move to our office for virtually free and to work with us, improve coordination and cooperation. It refused, probably because its county handlers nixed it, but who knows? Its one success has been organizing Bike to Work day each year, but while it is a great event and does promote bicycling, ARTMA really does little on a daily or regular basis to keep up the bike positive momentum. One could say that it backpedaled.

When I investigated ARTMA, I asked Councilman Josh Cohen and Jamie Benoit to take an interest and investigate what it did with its public money every year. Despite showing that it accomplished little, Cohen and Benoit felt no action was needed. Nothing changed.

ARTMA is the perfect place to create a real coordinated transportation brokerage whereby many resources from many suppliers can be pooled and managed to leverage resources and better serve the public. It works in many places but nobody has stepped up to make it happen here. Perhaps its new director can make this happen. I know and respect the person and as long as ARTMA hired this person and supports him or her in being a change agent, it's probably a good fit. Otherwise, I'd give this new person about six months.  Meanwhile, when will Mayor Cohen appoint a real professional to run our bus system and transportation department????

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