Rating the Region (Metropolitan Report, v1 #1)
Rating the Region: We're Better Than We Think
Baltimore is a good place to live, work, and do business. Three recent benchmarking studies gave the Baltimore region high marks for quality of life in areas such as the arts, transportation and recreation.
Places Rated Almanac bills itself as "Your Guide to Finding the Best Places to Live in the United States and Canada." In the Special Millennium Edition, editors David Savageau and Ralph D'Agostino rated metropolitan areas - from Abilene, Texas, to Yuma, Arizona - according to living costs, transportation, job outlook, education, climate, crime, the arts, health care and recreation.
The Baltimore region finished in the top 10 percent, with an overall rank of 34 among the 354 places rated in the US and Canada. Among the metropolitan areas with higher rankings were the Washington, DC, area (2nd), San Francisco (15th) and Philadelphia (29th). But the Baltimore area fared better than St. Louis (38th), Boston (41st) and Chicago (67th), and was virtually tied with Atlanta (33rd).
Baltimore ranks in the top 10 percent in the arts (17th), transportation (19th) and education (22nd). The region is among the top 15 percent in health care (49th) and recreation (54th), the top 25 percent in job outlook (86th), and the top third in climate (108th). Places Rated noted that the National Aquarium in Baltimore is one of 28 zoos and aquariums in North America that draw a million or more visitors a year.
Cost of living continues to be a problem because of the state income tax and cost of health care, and the region ranked 275th in that category. The Washington area ranked even lower, at 338th. Baltimore's weakest area is the crime rate, where we're ranked 340th of 354. Chicago ranks below Baltimore, at 346. West Palm Beach, New Orleans, New York and Miami also rank worse than Baltimore in crime.
Places Rated Almanac judged transportation by commute time, transit use, highway, rail and air connections, and proximity to other metro areas. Baltimore received high marks. Baltimore also fared well in two other recently released transportation studies.
The Texas Transportation Institute publishes an annual Mobility Report to monitor travel conditions in major urban areas in the United States. The 1999 report evaluated travel conditions and operations of the freeway and principal arterial street networks in 68 urbanized areas. The Maryland Department of Transportation (MDOT) was one of nine state DOTs that participated in designing and funding the report.
The Travel Rate Index (TRI) compares the time it takes to make a trip during peak travel periods with the time it takes to make the same trip during off-peak hours. A TRI of 1.30 indicates that the average peak trip takes 30 percent longer than a trip in free-flow conditions. For example, a 20-minute trip would take 26 minutes.
The Baltimore region ranks 25th, with a TRI of 1.23, slightly better than the average for urban areas of similar size. The Washington, DC, area is 4th worst in the nation, with a TRI of 1.41. Thirty-five urban areas have TRIs of 1.20 or higher.
The Mobility Report also indicates that drivers in 24 urban areas spent the equivalent of at least one work week (40 hours) stuck in traffic in 1997. The average Baltimore-area driver was stuck for 47 hours. DC area drivers lost 76 hours a year in traffic.
The American Highway Users Alliance released a report in late November that identified 167 highway bottlenecks in the US, and ranked them by average annual delays and number of drivers affected.
Only four of the ranked bottlenecks are in the Baltimore region: I-83 in Baltimore County (48th), I-695 at the Key Bridge in Anne Arundel County (62nd), I-695 at US 40 West in Baltimore County (126th) and the Beltway at I-97 in Anne Arundel County (146th). Among the twenty worst bottlenecks are four each in Los Angeles and the Washington area, three in Atlanta, two in Houston, and one each in Seattle, Boston, Albuquerque, Chicago, Denver, Fort Lauderdale and the San Francisco Bay area.
Posted: February 19, 2000
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