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Can we reduce commute time?

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Clogged roads make for long commutes and slow down business too. Photo by Emily Calkins.

Getting from here to there is a growing problem. And, it’s negatively impacting business.

Roadways are clogged and rush hour now has added an ‘s’ as commutes to and from work get longer on the way in and on the way home.

Commutes in our area are some of the longest in the United States. As frustration grows, county government is looking for solutions.

At the BWI Business Partnership’s most recent Transportation Think Tank (T3) meeting, Ramond Robinson, the Anne Arundel County director of transportation, discussed efforts to reduce commute times and offer greater efficiencies for workers and businesses, while creating a cleaner, safer environment.

Robinson said jurisdictions around the region are working to create a multi-regional program, Commuter Connections, which is “like a clearinghouse where commuters can identify a variety of options.”

The Idea

Commuter Connections, a regional network of transportation organizations coordinated by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (MWCG), is designed to improve commutes using alternative methods of transportation like transit, carpooling and vanpooling, hiking, biking and walking, with a guaranteed ride home program in case of emergency.

“We call it a smarter way to work,” Robinson said, noting that technology and apps can help solve issues on the fly.

The idea behind making connections is simple, according to Robinson, who used vanpooling as an example.

“Let’s say we have several neighbors who work in the same place and we get a seven-seat van. [Those commuters] would pay for a seat based on the total cost to rent the van, which could be [approximately] $500 a month, and less with a government subsidy,” Robinson said. “The more people on board, the less the cost is for each. And the group can go to the Commuter Connection website to find additional riders.”

Vanpooling can reduce traffic congestion mitigation. “Instead of seven people driving individual cars, you have one unit, the van,” he said.

He said, multi-modal transportation options provide financial and environmental benefits. “It all layers together so commuters have options that work in tandem to solve a problem in a safe, reliable fashion.”

Poolin’ It

To get the word out about its service, Commuter Connections engages transportation demand managers (TDMs) and transportation management agencies, like the BWI Business Partnership.

Private businesses are part of the mix, too, including Linthicum-based Commute With Enterprise, a division of the rental car company.

Enterprise Branch Manager Amber Frame said the challenge is ensuring that commuters are aware of their options, such as vanpooling.

“People like the idea, especially with the numerous government locations in the area because they get a subsidy of up to $265 per month,” said Frame. “In addition, private companies are offered free payroll tax deductions.”

The vans run between Fort Meade and Aberdeen Proving Ground in Harford County with a minimum of four riders per van.

She said the Commute With Enterprise fleet consists of 120 vans – 110 of which are rented by government employers, including about 35 at Fort Meade – that are on the road in the Baltimore-Washington Corridor and beyond.

“We have customers from New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Virginia,” Frame said.

To illustrate the scope of the needs, “One local private employer could have easily leased 15 vans,” she said, adding, “We don’t have a limit to the number of vans that we lease, given the size of our corporation.”

In Howard

Like Anne Arundel, Howard County gets funding from the state and pays the MWCG for access to its database to promote TDM.

Allison Calkins, TDM specialist for the Howard County office of transportation, said the program is being rebranded as Go Howard, “because we want people to not just think about their commute but their overall transportation. With the growth of Downtown Columbia, obviously people will commute in, but they don’t necessarily have to get into their vehicle to go to lunch. They can try a bike share, for instance.”

Calkins works with employers and residents in Howard “to promote carpooling with ride matching services, notably Commuter Connections, which allows commuters to input their schedules and ride match in the region.”

The county also offers a guaranteed ride home program for those who use alternative methods of transportation at least twice a week. “That equates to four guaranteed rides home per year,” she said, “usually via cab or bus.”

Plan Part

Anne Arundel County is rebranding to “Move Anne Arundel.”

The County Council plan includes performance metrics to improve overall travel system reliability, reduce fatalities and injuries, improve water quality, increase ride sharing in high traffic areas and maintain county-owned transportation assets in good condition.

“Its performance measures are resolute. Everyone is holding everyone accountable from legislators to businesses to citizens,” Robinson said.

“Any transportation [option] that can get cars off of the road, the better we are,” he said. “The goal is to figure out how to share a ride. The more opportunities presented, the less vehicle miles will be travelled, which contributes to better air quality.”

Noting that ride sharing will also reduce the probability of accidents, Robinson said. “If people see Move Anne Arundel can work for them, they are apt to keep using it.”

Ball testifies in support of House Bill 1: Built to Learn Act of 2020

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Howard County Executive Calvin Ball joined county and city leaders from across Maryland to testify in front of the Maryland General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee in support of House Bill (HB) 1: Built to Learn Act of 2020. HB1 would provide $2.2 billion in funds to build and renovate schools across the state. The plan will be funded in part by Maryland Stadium Authority bonds and dollars from the state’s casinos.

“We need to make sure we create the best teaching and learning environment for our students and educators, and this isn’t just money ― it’s an investment,” said Ball. “We’re looking at $2.2 billion statewide, if we all come together we can make sure every jurisdiction is taken care of. As much as there’s a need in Howard County there’s a need in each of Maryland’s counties and Baltimore City.”

 

HCPSS named a 2020 Best Employer by Forbes

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For a second year in a row, Howard County Public School System (HCPSS) was named one of America’s Best Employers for Diversity for 2020 by Forbes magazine. HCPSS is No. 168 overall on the national list of 500 employers.

The Best Employers for Diversity 2020 were chosen based on an independent survey from a representative sample of 60,000 employees working for companies employing at least 1,000 people in their U.S. operations. The full rankings are available at www.forbes.com/best-employers-diversity/#6dd7ab079b9e

BWI Marshall among Top 10 airports for diners

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BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport checked in at no. 8 on the Wanderu list of The Best & Worst Airports for Food in the U.S. Wanderu stated the following about BWI Marshall, which features 28 restaurants and 12 high-rated restaurants:

“Fresh, healthy and authentic may not be the first three words that come to mind when you think of airport food. But changing that perception is the idea behind Gachi House of Sushi (which Wanderu rated the airport’s top facility), located in both Piers A and B of BWI. The restaurant opens daily at 5 a.m., but if raw fish in the morning doesn’t sound appetizing, there’s also fruit sushi and a breakfast sushi that’s better suited for an early wake-up call.

“If crab cakes (and football) are more your style, grab a seat at Obrycki’s Restaurant and Bar. Serving “crab cakes and more since 1944,” the Concourse B spot offers its original recipe and a spicier version – on a platter, a sandwich, or even frozen and packed in an insulated bag to shove in your carry-on.”

Wanderu analyzed the following itmes to determine the Best Airports for Food in the U.S.: Busiest airports in the United States; Total number of airport restaurants; and Total number of highly-rated airport restaurants.

 

New library named for Busch

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The new library that is rising at 1410 West Street in Annapolis has been given an official moniker. Anne Arundel County Executive Steuart Pittman announced that the 32,500-square-foot library will be named the

Mike Busch speaking at the AAACCC Legislative Breakfast

Annapolis Library. It will be the first county library to be built in 15 years and is expected to open this spring.

Busch was first elected as a delegate from Annapolis in 1987 representing District 30. He served as Speaker of the House from 2003 until his death on April 7, 2019.

Bipartisan leaders of the General Assembly and Annapolis Mayor Gavin Buckley had written letters of support for naming the library after Busch.

“Mike Busch held a deep belief in the power of education to lift up children and families,” said Maryland Speaker of the House Adrienne Jones. “He cared a great deal about his community and worked tirelessly to make sure their needs were met. That’s why it is so fitting that the Annapolis Library, just a few blocks from his home, will be named in his honor.”

Skip Auld, Anne Arundel County Public Library CEO, said that under Busch’s leadership, public libraries received more than $1 billion in operating and capital funding.

The $24 million facility will feature:

● 85,000 print books and materials

● Large community meeting room with space for 500 people

● Six collaboration spaces for studying or meetings

● Expanded children’s area, including an outdoor play space

● Teen Area

● Tech Zone

● Tinker Space

● Vending Café

● Community Living Room

 

Defense contractor signs 118K lease in Linthicum

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A defense contractor has signed a full-building lease with St. John Properties for 118,000 square feet of space within 1500 W. Nursery Road. The four-story Class A commercial office building, which was constructed on a speculative basis and delivered last fall, is designed to accommodate up to 700 employees.

The Department of Defense and St. John did not release the name of the new tenant. The contractor intends to move the first wave of professionals to the project contained within BWI Tech Park in July 2020.

“Our portfolio-wide philosophy of developing speculative commercial office product enabled us to immediately respond, and provide a timely solution to, this large requirement,” said Sean Doordan, senior vice president of leasing and acquisitions for St. John Properties. “Retailers and area businesses contained within the BWI submarket, as well as the regional economy, will be the beneficiary of the high-paying, technical jobs housed in this building.”

Appointments for Maryland Venture Fund Authority set

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TEDCO, the Maryland Technology and Development Corp., announced that its Venture Fund Authority has been appointed. The nine appointed Authority members are:

● Brian Darmody
● Aaron Eidelman
● Grace Kee-Yang Garry
● Eileen O’Rourke
● Ann Quinn
● Michael Murray Thielke
● Michael Tumbarello
● Renee Winsky
● David Wise

Earlier this year, TEDCO announced that it opened a new online application portal to begin accepting applications from Maryland companies. With many application submissions underway and the authority in place, the organization is now able to commence investing in four of its programs: Rural Business Innovation Initiative, Builder Fund, Seed and Maryland Venture Fund.

Of the Authority’s nine members, seven are appointed by Gov. Larry Hogan with the advice and consent of the Senate; one member appointed by the President of the Senate; and one member appointed by the Speaker of the House.

DHS S&T awards $750K to SecuLore

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The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) awarded $750,000 to SecuLore Solutions, an Odenton-based cybersecurity company, to improve and increase the resiliency of the nation’s emergency communications infrastructure, including Next Generation 911 (NG911) technologies.

“Our nation’s emergency communications network is at risk to escalating cyber-attacks,” said Vincent Sritapan, S&T Program Manager. “We are undertaking this project to strengthen the cybersecurity firewalls protecting these critical communications networks that quite literally are the lifeline for our citizens who require first-responder assistance during an emergency.”

Through this research-and-development project, SecuLore will use predictive analytics and collect cyberdata to determine whether these resources can be used to improve the detection and elimination of cybersecurity attacks against emergency communications systems. If successful, SecuLore will add the new capability to its existing cybersecurity solutions to provide near-real-time behavioral threat analysis of the traffic hitting an emergency communications center’s network and provide recommended remediation steps that are based on the behavior and/or the type of malware.

Seculore also would conduct one or more pilots with public safety agencies to help capture user feedback on their capabilities and help DHS better understand how security operations centers would deploy and manage the capability.

Ribbon cut for HCGH expansion

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Photo by Emily Calkins

Howard County General Hospital (HCGH) has officially opened its two-story, 50,000-square-foot expansion. The project houses a new entrance and waiting area for the emergency department, replaces observation and psychiatry units, and cost approximately $45 million.

Howard County General Hospital (HCGH), which serves approximately 220,000 people each year, is the only hospital in the county and often reaches capacity for medical and behavior health units, affecting wait times and overall experience. Emergency room staff (ER) sees nearly 80,000 people each year and 75 percent of hospitals visits come through the ER.

The expansion also includes more beds for the psychiatry unit, including additional private rooms, safety enhancements, patient amenities, modern treatment spaces and a new nurses’ station.

“Howard County General Hospital’s year-over-year increase in admissions was the highest of all of the 23 hospitals in the greater Baltimore region,” said Howard County Executive Calvin Ball. “This expansion is critical to provide greater access to health care, more efficient services for our community and ensure all our residents are healthy and thriving for years to come.”

 

New leader steps up for innovation: Q&A with Chuck Bubeck

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Long-time tech executive and entrepreneur Chuck Bubeck is an adept builder, especially since he just sold a Managed Cloud Services Provider, Columbia-based EaseTech, that he and colleagues built from the ground (of his basement) up, then created numerous spinoffs. After that success, he could
have retired but instead he’s now running the Maryland Innovation Center to build a bigger regional powerhouse.

Why did you sell EaseTech?

The company needed to move into another phase of growth. I’d become more deeply involved in the local technology community and this leadership opportunity with the Howard County Economic Development Authority (HCEDA) became available. The timing is perfect due to pent-up demand of the region’s businesses, the need to lower silos and to get various professionals to interact and embrace innovation.

How did you start your career?

My family moved here in 1969 and I grew up in Columbia. In the late ‘70s, I started working at one of the first computer stores. I then started my first company at age 25, Columbia Micro Systems with none of the business resources available today. Then in 1983, Apple hired me as a systems engineer right as the Mac was being introduced.

How did EaseTech grow?

In 1993, I started EaseTech in my Columbia basement. After a couple of years, we moved to the Merrill Lynch building in Downtown Columbia. That’s when we started creating software for Alex. Brown & Sons after working for them on trading floors. We also worked in the legal industry when we created document management systems for large firms. It was called StarLaw, which we also spun off into various subsidiaries. We later got very involved in cloud computing at EaseTech, which eventually grew to more than 50 employees.

What made you want to continue in the local tech community?

I grew up in Columbia when it was a smaller place and I liked that community approach. It was the same thing at Apple during the Mac vs. PC days. Apple was the underdog and it created a mission. I want to bridge people together again in that community fashion.

What do you tell innovators when they hit roadblocks?

It’s important to talk to others who have been there. That’s part of what our innovation center is about. We’ve got other entrepreneurs here to offer assistance as well as representatives from SCORE, The Kaufman Institute and state commerce represemtatives who are here to offer support. That option wasn’t available when I started EaseTech; we were just winging it.

EaseTech sold spinoff products to more than 100 investment banks. Can you create similar success at the Innovation Center?

With startups, you must identify the problem before you come up with a solution. In other words, many people get an idea for a solution who don’t really understand the problem. That sounds simple but finding real solutions is harder.

What was the genesis of your organization’s name?

We’re using the term innovation in our name because the word “technology” can be exclusive to some. On that note, you’ll soon see a rebranding of our organization and we will lose some acronyms. We want to pitch a big canvas tent and are talking to other organizations around the region to create a strong innovation community that isn’t bound by geography or specialty.

Is there a certain product area you’ll focus on?

No. Our goal is to look at innovation as a topic that does not have a vertical foundation. It doesn’t have to have an app or be about coding. Innovation can be a process, a sensor that records ship pollutants or a smart sprinkler that saves water.

What is available to innovators in Maryland?

We have world class educational offerings and workforces as well as proximity to the federal government that provides extra synergy. The diversity of our region is part of that, especially in Columbia. The only thing Silicon Valley has over us is a funny TV show on HBO.

How will you collaborate with the regional business community?

Share with them that we want to tear down the moss-covered silos and that we are not competing for members. The way to bring them in is to share connections and offer ourselves as a regional hub and as innovators for the region, state and beyond. We don’t want any borders or over protection of member communities.

What will the Innovation Center do differently?

We want to stress that while cyber is a key component of the local innovation mix, there are numerous other areas that are just as important, such as health tech, artificial intelligence, agri-technology and many others. We don’t have to be identified by a single tech vertical. Cybersecurity is a horizontal sector as much as it is a vertical, as it’s integral in any innovation.

What is your greatest challenge?

Fighting through the tough times. For instance, when I founded EaseTech none of us got a paycheck for more than a year and I remember chasing the mailman for a check more than once. It got to the point where I had a wife, three young kids and Labrador retriever, plus close to 10 people working out of my basement. That meant it was time to get an office. It all ended well but my wife who supported me chasing my dreams. It’s all worked out better than expected so far.

What is your greatest success?

Working with some of the brightest and dedicated people. While at Apple, I was surrounded by some of the most incredible talent who were accelerated by the culture. I took those concepts and instincts into my other startups and made sure I always surrounded myself with people at the top of their game, many smarter than me, who always worked even better as a team.

This Q&A was originally published in our January 2020 issue, http://online.fliphtml5.com/byfyt/oeur/#p=1.

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