Monday, May 6, 2013

American Institute of Certified Planners’ (AICP) examination answers

Here are sample questions and answers for the American Institute of Certified Planners’ (AICP) examination.

The Gateway Corridor has entrusted their plans to west bank University students. Are they engineers? No, they study public affairs -- technically they study how to get a good score on the AICP exam. One of the main rules for both the Gateway Corridor and the AICP exam is that guessing is expected -- there is no penalty for wrong answers. Ethics and professional conduct only count for 5%.

  •  $495 first-timers (63% pass), $425 try-try-again
  •  70 multiple-choice questions
  •  150 scored; 20 are pretest items (pool of 600 questions)
  •  3.5 hours
  •  15 minute orientation before you begin
  •  Plan to arrive early
  •  No penalty for wrong answers
  •  Guess, don’t leave anything untouched

The test will say "wards." Most of the country should read wards as county or district. The term wards is used because the AICP test was written by the American Planning Association (APA) of Chicago, Illinois. Chicago has wards. (Chicago had Montgomery Wards.) Why Chicago? Pay attention planners, this will be on the AICP test. Chicago was leveled in the fire of 1871, causing the city to rebuild with brick and stone to become a very modern city when it hosted the Columbian Exposition in 1893. After the rebuilding and the successful world's fair, planner Daniel Burnham established a plan for Chicago in 1909 (after everything was built and done).

Geography Question
What do many consider Frederick Law Olmsted's greatest example of a suburb?
        A. Petaluma, California
        B. Belle Isle, Michigan
        C. Riverside, Illinois
        D. Ramapo, New Jersey
The answer is C. The question is asked because Riverside is part of Chicago and Frederick Law Olmsted was the first president of the American City Planning Institute, forerunner of the AICP and APA. There is no practical purpose for this information. It is just APA advertising.

Demographics Question
According to 2010 Census Data, where is the mean center of population for the United States?
        A. St. Louis County, Missouri (St. Louis, MO)
        B. Phelps County, Missouri (Edgar Springs, MO)
        C. Texas County, Missouri (Plato, MO)
        D. Cook County, Illinois (Chicago, IL)
The correct answer is C for 2010. The answer for 2000 was B. The purpose of this question is the quantification of people without divisiveness nor specificity to any location.

Safety Question
Rubber mats cover the unused light rail tracks at University of Minnesota crossings to prevent light rail cement-embedded track dangers. Which of the following objects have become stuck in light rail tracks, causing deaths?
        A. Stroller
        B. Wheelchair
        C. Motorcycle
        D. A and B
The correct answer is D. This question compares wheel sizes to embedded tracks, addressing safety issues of objects trapped in the tracks. Notice the noun-verb agreement requires a plural answer. This is a dead giveaway. [light rail hazards]

Geographic Safety Question
Debris has caused light rail trains to derail. Match the debris with the location of the derailment.
        A. Leaf oils and rust in Tacoma & gravel in Cleveland, Ohio
        B. Gravel in Tacoma & leaf oils and rust in Cleveland, Australia
        C. Marbles in Portland & motor oil in Detroit
        D. Sand in Chicago & motor oil in Detroit
The correct answer is B. Gravel in the tracks derailed a light rail train in Tacoma in 2012. Leaf oil and rust was blamed for the derailment of a light rail train into a station bathroom in 2013.

Legal Question
Which federal agency governs the standards for cement-embedded light rail tracks?
        A. AREMA
        B. FRA
        C. both AREMA and FRA
        D. there are no Federal standards
The correct answer is D. Chicago has neither light rail nor embedded tracks. APA doesn't care. APA gets confused by multiple federal agencies.

Diversity Question

Which of the following pieces of federal legislation focused on slum clearance?
        A. 1906 Antiquities Act
        B. 1934 Federal Housing Act
        C. 1949 Housing Act
        D. 1968 New Communities Act
The correct answer is C. The question provides the legality for the acquisition of low income housing for higher income development.

Financing Question
Who is credited with the following quote "a budget may be characterized as a series of goals with price tags attached"?
        A. Jane Jacobs
        B. Aaron Wildavsky
        C. Matthew Barnaby
        D. Robert Moses
The correct answer is B. The question is asked as a nod to every planner's dream of unlimited funds, originally known as the Las Vegas planning experience, now called the Dubai experience.

Transportation Question
The current federal transit planning process, with its policies and institutional emphasis on cost effectiveness, biases the alternatives analysis toward routes with existing right-of-way and ease of obtaining right-of-way, especially for rail service, without regard to potential real estate developments on inexpensive land. This results in transit lines that are direct and cost-efficient from an engineering standpoint, but do not have the dangers associated with embedded tracks and multimodal roads encouraged by the planning profession.
Which best identifies the transportation goals of transportation planners?
        A. Eliminate urban blight, low-income housing, and diversity
        B. Economic growth of real estate developers
        C. Federal money for infrastructure increases chances of Olympics or Super Bowl, just not for Minneapolis or Detroit
        D. Planner pride in change for change's sake
"There are no right or wrong answers," the American Planners Association will say before they start grading. They will only mark B or C correctly, most of the time. There is no oversight.

Labor Question
For bus and rail operations, labor costs are directly linked and become a financial burden on the system itself. Which of the following scenarios have labor implications:
  I.    Bus drivers make too damned much money for steering, braking, and collecting fares.
  II.   The honor system of light rail fare collection requires no cashiers or ticket takers. Businesses should consider using this exchange model.
  III.  Light rail train operator training just sounds redundant, especially for a job without steering, braking, collecting fares, or making announcements.
  IV.  Houston light rail planners promised quiet light rail to residents and when residents complained, MetroRail track workers began manually greasing the rails several times per week. MetroRail has since introduced automated rail lubrication for noise abatement and reduced derailment.
  V.   Transit security officers are replaced with cameras.
  VI.  The Atlanta Olympics insulted local bus drivers by offering $6/hour. Hiring from outside Atlanta, caused a massive transportation debacle. Bus drivers got lost, crashed buses, and quit during their shifts.
  VII. Changes to cement-embedded light rail tracks must be made with a jackhammer.
        A. All of the above.
        B. None of the above.
        C. I and II. Couldn't read any more.
        D. II, III, and IV
The correct answer is A. The question addresses the labor component of transportation, to reduce a positive impact for low income neighborhoods. When you run into long questions like this one during the test, use the Mark option on the exam to mark it and move on to shorter questions that involve less reading.

Planning Question
Which is the most common mistake made by planners?
        A. not talking with community residents and businesses
        B. not providing insider investment information to politicians
        C. not developing corridors where property values are low for quick turnaround
        D. not using the Critical Path Method, the Ouija board of decision making
The correct answer is A, but the American Planning Association will make the mistake of marking C instead because that's where the money is. "That's why, without consulting anyone, I spent the entire town budget on the thing that is under this tarp." - Mayor Shelbourne, Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009)

Eminent Domain Question
Which best describes the result of Kelo v. City of New London (2005)?
        A. Planners can take private property if the property is part of a spiffy real estate development project.
        B. Planners banked on companies to increase the tax revenues and attract a wealthier population in place of the lower middle class home owners. The property was taken and sits abandoned eight years later.
        C. Eminent domain was strengthened  by the Supreme Court, the President, and several states.
        D. The NLDC did not change its name to RCDA. Connecticut Governor John Gowland (federal inmate 15623-014) and development commissioner Peter Ellef did not go to prison for corruption.

The correct answer is B. Watch PBS Constitution USA episode 2 which shows the property damage and personal hardship resulting from the New London CT fiasco. Forty-four states (and a Presidential order) have since enacted legislation restricting eminent domain. Opposition to the ruling was widespread but never filtered down to the APA. The APA material says, "government’s pursuit of a public purpose may benefit or depend upon individual private enterprise" and then it mumbles to itself "until they screw up and leave us holding the bag." Pfizer closed its New London facility in late 2010 with a loss of over 1000 jobs. In 2012, its New London tax breaks were set to expire which would have increased Pfizer's property tax bill by almost 400 %. The developer, Corcoran Jennison Companies, couldn't get a loan despite being given 91-acres of waterfront land for $1 per year.

Condemn-Nation Question
Between the moment a project redraws maps and city inspectors are sent to find property defects to determine condemnation, homeowners and businesses can learn if their property will be targeted for condemnation. How?
        A. Freedom of Information Act
        B. by hiring a lawyer
        C. by inviting the city inspectors over for coffee and/or a brewski
        D. transparent government

The Washington Post received the list of properties, that Maryland would be either condemning (or otherwise acquiring) for the Purple Line, through a FOIA request. The correct answer is A, although B isn't a bad idea either. Columbia University Professor Tom Merrill provides a concept for legally requiring greater than fair market value. But what's the FMV of a forest? An ancient woodland in Kent, England was condemned for its rocks in September 2013.

Step Down Method Question
The latest census reported the population of Centerville to be 24,000. Riverside is the neighborhood you are studying. Riverside is located within Centerville, and has historically been one of the larger, more vibrant neighborhoods. At the time of the last census, 8% of the population lived in the Riverside neighborhood. Five years have passed, and City has experienced growth in all of its neighborhoods. The current population of Centerville is estimated to be 32,000. Use the step down method to calculate the population.
        A. 1,920
        B. 2,016
        C. 2,560
        D. 19,200
Use the Tongue To Corner of Lips Method also. The question implies that the answer should be calculated for the current population. It doesn't say that. Take 32,000 x .08 = 2,560. The answer is C.

Saturation of Plans - Spatial Areas of Practice Question
Smart growth includes reduced fiscal burden on governments and their taxpayers caused by the costs for financing and maintaining ever-increasing infrastructure deficits or shortfalls. Which of the following is not an example of smart growth?
        A. A balanced transportation system that makes it possible for residents to walk or ride a bicycle to a store, school or work.
        B.  In 2010, Federal Transit Administration head Peter Rogoff chastised transit agencies for planning new rail lines when they couldn't maintain current ones.
        C. Smart growth encourages urban sprawl by extending metropolitan transit into rural communities instead of allowing inner city housing construction to increase urban density.
        D. Every transit agency that builds new rail lines eventually hits a financial wall that forces service cuts. San Jose hit the financial wall in 2001, cutting service by 25 percent and losing more than a quarter of its riders. America's whitest city, Portland, hit the financial wall in 2012, cutting service by 12 percent and predicting cuts of as much as 70 percent will be needed to meet its financial obligations.

This question is in the Saturation of Plans section but it seems to be another transportation question. The APA should know that just about the entire country needs plans to address critical water shortages, except for Chicago which slurps from several straws in Lake Michigan. This question should be about water: fixing leaking water mains, prioritizing needs, reducing runoff... but no, water doesn't make the AICP Current Topics list. LOL. The correct answer is C.

 Other resources: APA Bulletin
                             AICP Exam tutorial
                             AICP Exam for May (current year)
                             AICP Exam Prep for 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, & 2010
                             American Planning Association policy guides
                             State Chapters with good materials: Florida, GeorgiaNorth Carolina, & Utah
                             Light rail crashes
                             Flash Cards of planning law

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