Takoma Park residents are more satisfied with city services and their quality of life than they were five years ago, according to a recent survey.
And while residents still have fairly significant concerns over crime, a higher percentage now feels safer in their neighborhoods.
But many still seek better shopping options and quality affordable housing.
“We’re glad to see that people generally like living here and appreciate the work of our staff,” Deputy City Manager Suzanne Ludlow said. “This also shows us that there are some areas for improvement.”
The survey, conducted earlier this year by Boulder, Colo.-based National Research Center, was distributed to almost half of the 6,700 households in the city. The 37 percent response rate was higher than the 34 percent rate for the last city survey in 2009.
Some 93 percent of respondents said the city’s quality of life was excellent or good, for an average rating of 77 on a 100-point scale. That was higher than the average rating of 72 in 2009.
Out of 33 city services that included trash collection and library and youth recreation programs, 24 received a higher rating than in 2009 and nine about the same rating.
Mayor Bruce Williams said during a recent City Council meeting that he was pleased overall with the survey and would like to see some follow-up discussion on the results this fall. “I like to think that we are moving in the right direction and people recognize it,” he said.
Crime was rated as at least a moderate problem by 38 percent of respondents, down from 55 percent in 2009. While 96 percent felt safe walking through their neighborhood during the day, that dropped to 67 percent after dark, up from 60 percent in 2009.
More residents thought the police department has been more effective in reducing crime from five years ago. About 38 percent said they’d like to see more police patrols, down from 56 percent in 2009.
Traffic was another fairly significant concern, with 27 percent rating that at least a moderate problem, also a decline from 36 percent five years ago.
The most frequent reason for living in Takoma Park was being close to Washington, D.C., followed by access to public transportation, having a “progressive” community, diversity of people, trees and amenities.
Council members said they were stuck by how many languages were spoken by residents, including a significant portion speaking Spanish, French, Amharic, Tigrigna and German. Councilman Seth Grimes said it might be good to consider putting materials involving landlords and tenants, to start, in more languages.
Other council members talked about a need to reach more minority respondents. Some 64 percent of respondents were white, while the 2010 Census showed about 49 percent of residents are white.
The data was weighted to make the survey results reflect the population, Ludlow said, but more will be attempted to make future surveys more representative.
Providing more shopping options was another often-cited suggestion. The “unattractiveness” of stores or the surrounding areas was the top obstacle of respondents to shopping in Long Branch, Langley Crossroads and along New Hampshire Avenue. The biggest obstacle to shopping in Old Town was a “limited” selection of goods and services, with “unattractiveness” low on the list.
“Improving the attractiveness of most of our commercial areas is something we need to work on,” Ludlow said.
One program that Councilman Jarrett Smith said he has gotten good feedback from residents on is the “Lunch and Learn” summer day camp program he founded for disadvantaged children ages 7 to 16, held at Washington Adventist University. The free program includes reading comprehension workshops, presentations by university professors, and sports and music clinics.
This year’s camp, which is supported by WAU, Takoma Park, Montgomery County, the school district and Educare, ended Aug. 10. “I am very proud of the program and will continue to expand it,” Smith said.