As we shared in June, we’re bringing on two correspondents to add more regional context to Greater Greater Washington’s coverage. Please welcome skilled journalists and longtime readers Alex Holt and Wyatt Gordon to the Greater Greater Washington family!
Alex (based in Baltimore, Maryland) and Wyatt (based in Richmond, Virginia) will write articles about transportation issues in those metro areas and statewide. They’ll also cover the state legislatures when they are in session.
While Baltimore and Richmond aren’t officially part of the Washington region, people do commute between them, and the states of Maryland and Virginia influence how people travel around the area. Transportation policies in one state can be models (or warnings) for other local jurisdictions. Plus legislators who represent those areas vote on policies that affect communities in the Washington region, and vice versa.
The correspondents will be writing transportation stories that relate to the interconnectedness of the regions, or to state policy. They’ll also be looking to highlight local decisions that illustrate ways a community is solving a problem that people in the other regions also face, like road safety for people walking, or how to make transit work well, or how to effectively engage a community around bike lanes.
Here’s a little bit more about Alex and Wyatt, in their own words:
Alex Holt says:
The first time I came across the concept of urbanism was in grad school at the University of Maryland in College Park. But I was an urbanist long before I knew the word. The notion that a mix of transportation modes are better than just cars for the environment, for people who are disabled and disadvantaged, and for placemaking in general? The idea that it’s often better to build up than out? These things I had already picked up from comparing and contrasting what I liked and disliked about the cities I grew up near (Albany and Buffalo), the town where I went to college (Ithaca), the city where I studied abroad (London), and the city I had just moved to (Baltimore).
I use transit because I have to and because I want to. It gets me where I need to go, sure, but it also exposes me to places I wouldn’t see if I were driving and makes me feel more connected to where I live. And I’ve never lived in a place where I’ve found that to be more true than in Baltimore. Baltimore is a complex and contradictory city. It’s got great architecture, a culinary scene that punches way above its weight, fascinating history, lots of fun and weird culture, and people who fight tirelessly to make it better. It’s also a city plagued by systemic and structural racism and inequality which manifest themselves in every aspect of the place, especially education, transportation, and housing (we had redlining decades before the Red Line).
To paraphrase the incredible Baltimore Beat editor Lisa Snowden-McCray, “Baltimore is a myth.” It built one of its main highways directly on top of a river and abruptly stopped building one of its other main highways. It started planning a public transit system at roughly the same time as DC, yet only has a single subway line and a single light rail line (which are poorly connected to each other) to show for it. The former had to be abruptly shut down for more than a month last year. The latter has barely functioned for over a month, ever since one of the light rail stops abruptly became a subway stop. Its bike share program couldn’t make it two years before closing, though the dockless scooters were an instant success. Its cycling culture stands on par with much larger cities, but so does its “bikelash.”
Baltimore and its transit are wild, weird, wonderful, and well, great. But like their sister city and system at the other end of the BW Parkway, they could be so much greater. What I aim to do is show why they haven’t been, and how they could be.
Check out “Two experts weigh in on how to transform transit in Baltimore and beyond,” “This plan aims to help Baltimore’s Penn Station reach its full potential. Will it really happen?,” and “A sinkhole and erosion ate a third of Baltimore’s light rail stops. Then people couldn’t find the buses.”
Wyatt Gordon says:
I was born in Richmond and raised in Chesterfield (the suburban county south of the city), and spent most of my childhood in Virginia’s Tri-Cities and on the family farm in Prince George County. After living overseas for most of the past decade in Germany, Indonesia, and Hawai’i, today I’m working in my hometown of Richmond as an urban planner focused on affordable housing, public transit, and participatory budgeting. For the past two years I’ve been reporting on local politics, planning, and culture for RVA Magazine and Style Weekly.
I got my undergraduate degree in International Political Economy from the American University in Washington, DC. While working for the State Department and living with a friend in Petworth, I became fascinated by the sweeping changes gentrification brought to her neighborhood. Partly thanks to reading urbanist outlets like Greater Greater Washington and Washington City Paper’s Housing Complex, I applied for a Graduate Degree Fellowship from the East-West Center to get my master’s in Urban & Regional Planning from the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa.
In the islands, I became deeply involved with my local community serving on the Mānoa and Mōʻiliʻili Neighborhood Boards, volunteering with the Hawaiʻi Bicycling League, and co-founding Hawai’i Feast—an event platform that crowdfunds public art. I took my first step towards journalism with an op-ed in Civil Beat arguing for more affordable rates and options for low-income and unbanked locals. Soon after, I began writing professionally and publishing articles in a variety of outlets, including the Times of India and Nairobi News.
Since moving back to Richmond from Berlin last December, I have reengaged with my hometown by creating MonGays, the city’s first queer film series, as well as writing GRTC Connects—a monthly column in RVA Magazine exploring Richmond’s changing sociopolitical landscape via two neighborhoods on opposite ends of a bus route. As Greater Greater Washington’s new Virginia Correspondent, I’m excited to report on the transformation of the former capital of the Confederacy into a 21st Century city that invests in transit and other sustainable forms of transportation.
Stay tuned for more of their great reporting!