Sound Off on Shuttle-UM, Win an iPod

Love it or hate it, Shuttle-UM is a daily fact of life for most students. In fact, the Diamondback reported ridership on the system is up a staggering 50% so far this year, thanks to the ongoing parking crunch and the impact of new routes serving new high rise apartments near campus. In order to evaluate the community’s “use and attitudes” towards Shuttle-UM the Department of Transportation is conducting a survey of riders. If you complete the survey you could win either an iPod Nano or one of 50 parking coupons. (Which we think is an ironic prize for a bus survey …) The survey is part of a larger study of campus transportation being conducted by PhD student Feng Zhang. A flyer Zhang is circulating is below. In addition to the basic survey they are looking for some people to complete detailed “travel diaries” about their Shuttle-UM riding habits.

We applaud Shuttle-UM for responding rapidly to new apartment buildings with new routes, and were glad to see them distributing maps and other information near the Student Union the past couple weeks. The one resource we think would help students navigate the system is a system-wide map (if one exists we haven’t found it) and a more accessible website without so many PDFs.

> Take the Shuttle-UM survey

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Sparse Attendance at East Campus Forum

University officials presented detailed plans about the East Campus Redevelopment Initiative at a sparsely attended public forum held today. University Vice President John Porcari pledged that the event was the “First of what is likely to be a series of open forums.” The presenters reviewed maps and documents available on the newly created East Campus project website and explained the Request for Proposals (RFP) process they have set up to select a developer. In response to our questions we were assured there would be opportunities for public input during this process.

We estimate 10 to 15 people who were not university employees attended the event, including several who told us they read about the event here. We are confident students and the larger campus community will be excited by the potential of the project as more information becomes available. Rethink College Park will continue to follow the project’s development closely.

Corporate Chains in College Park

This week’s Gazette has a good article about the increasing number of corporate chains in College Park. The story reports that since 2000 three small businesses have moved out of the College Park Shopping Center and with the recent closure of Paperworks Balloons and Gifts, very few independent businesses remain.

There are a variety of public policy options available to local leaders to protect small and local businesses. The city of Washington, D.C. is requiring at least 30% of the retail space in the redeveloped old convention center site be businesses with less than 6 locations, and other communities provide tax credits and other incentives to protect a healthy mix of businesses. Some have even banned them completely from downtown districts. In addition to protecting the character of the city, local businesses may make good economic sense: studies have shown more money spent at local businesses stays in the local community. What approach should College Park take?

> Gazette: “Small shops a dying breed in Downtown College Park

Public Meeting Monday on Massive ‘East Campus’ Project

Rethink College Park just noticed this article reporting the University will host an important public meeting about the East Campus Redevelopment Initiative tomorrow, Monday, September 11, at 3:30 p.m. in the Colony Ballroom of the Stamp Student Union. We wrote in August about the project when the university launched a website targeting developers.

University leaders hope to build offices, housing, stores, and a conference center on 38 acres of University land bounded by Paint Branch and Route 1. The facilities currently occupying the land — including the Shuttle-UM bus barn, maintenance shops, and mail facilities — will be relocated elsewhere on campus. University officials are also holding a “Developer Information Session” on Thursday, September 14 at 9:30 a.m. in Ritchie Coliseum. We encourage community members to attend the meeting Monday to learn about this important project and learn how they can contribute input in the process.

What: Public Meeting on East Campus Redevelopment Initiative
When: Monday, Sept. 11, 3:30 p.m.
Where: Colony Ballroom, Stamp Student Union

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Redevelopment Area in Purple

Student Design Charrette

The SGA has been kind enough to provide us with the results of their April 15th student design Charrette – a sort of public architectural brainstorming event – where students and architecture faculty tackled College Park’s lack of ‘College town feel’. This event was an unmistakable indication of students’ bottled up feelings about the city and it became an impetus for starting this site.

Some issues discussed include

  • developing gateways to identify the entrance to College Park
  • strengthening pedestrian access from existing and planned developments to campus
  • where to locate new retail, residential and commercial space,
  • the redevelopment of east campus and the Knox Boxes
  • strengthening connections from campus to the existing metro station
  • building heights
  • exploiting natural resources

Download the full SGA presentation here (Warning – file is a 28 megabyte .pdf and may take several minutes to download)

Knox box redevelopment

Knox Box Redevelopment accounting for the slope of the hill to Guilford Run

Pedestrian Street

Downtown Concept

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Campus Access from Knox Box Redevelopment and relation to the Metro Station

Metro Line and Proposed Boulevard

Proposed Pedestrian Boulevard to the Metro

City Considers Condos Adjacent Campus

The Diamondback reported today about a proposal to construct a 300-unit condominium building adjacent to campus near Hillel and the Business school. The project, which the developer calls “Mosaic at Turtle Creek,” will be marketed towards University faculty and staff and contain no units reserved for graduate students or other workforce housing. Technically, the developer has requested the site be re-zoned to allow for the 6-story development, and the City Council will vote on the issue next Wednesday before it moves to the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission and the Prince George’s County Council for final approval.

The project design includes residential space “wrapped” around a parking garage. While we support wrapped parking if it is absolutely required, we urge the city to re-consider parking requirements for new buildings. By eliminating or reducing parking requirements the city can simultaneously alleviate traffic problems, boost ridership of public transportation, and help develop vibrant local streets. In Ann Arbor, Michigan the city has negotiated special deals in recent years where developers instead contribute towards spaces in municipal garages, which can be utilized more efficiently than private lots. In Ithica, New York, parking requirements were even eliminated for the Collegetown neighborhood for a period in the 1980s.

What does the University’s Master Plan say about the area? The “Southwest District” plan shows the site wedged between a planned campus road and other outlying properties.

Shuttle UM Ridership at all time high

The Diamondback reported today that Shuttle UM bus ridership is up 50% from last year; apparently due to the increasing cost of gasoline and parking permits. construction10,000 rides (not riders) were counted on the first day of classes according to the Transportation Services director, with much of the new ridership coming from the recently built high rises integrated into Shuttle-UM routes.

This change in shuttle ridership, although small in comparison to the total UMD commuter population (we estimate 25,000 students and 12,000 faculty), represents a noteworthy trend in student residency and transportation choices. Just add the 8,250 beds spread over the 34 campus residence halls/apartments to South Campus Commons (1,825 beds), Courtyards (700 beds), University View (1,056 beds), and the new Towers at University Town Center (910 mostly UMD beds) and it’s not hard to see the trend; vast amounts of new student housing being built over a relatively short period. Taken together, all of this housing probably surpasses the University’s 1960’s high rise building frenzy.

It seems clear that more student housing on and around campus has the potential to both reduce congestion on Route 1 and meet insatiable housing demand. Hopefully new projects in the pipeline will also have the added benefit of dampening exorbitant rental rates and putting more “feet on the street” in College Park.

City Posts September Calendar

Calendar_Clipart.jpgThe city of College Park has posted to their website their September calendar of events, and posted agenda information for the three city council meetings scheduled this month. The meetings, to be held September 5th, 13th, and 26th, includes discussion of development plans and a pedestrian overpass for the Greenbelt Metro station (9/5), and proposed changes to parking restrictions in two neighborhoods (9/26).

The city is also holding a “landlord forum” this Wednesday the 6th, the Advisory Planning Commission meets this Thursday the 7th, and the Committee for Better Environment will meet Monday the 25th.

Linking the Archives to Campus

U.S. Representative Steny Hoyer likes to boast about his role in convincing the National Archives and Records Administration to construct a new, state-of-the-art research facility in College Park in the 1990s. The facility, located at 8601 Adelphi Road, is among the largest of its kind in the world and houses millions of U.S. government documents, photographs, maps, videotape, and digital records.

National Archives - College ParkWhile the facility is modern and located on a well-designed site complete with jogging trail, it is difficult to access without a car and poorly integrated into the College Park community. Although located just a few miles from the center of College Park, cyclists or pedestrians must use the narrow sidewalk on the busy stretch of Adelphi Road or wait for WMATA’s R3 route which provides hourly service from the Prince George’s Plaza and Greenbelt Metro stations. Little to no new construction is planned for this part of campus in the University’s Facilities Master Plan.

While the facility’s location limits what could be done, at a minimum the sidewalk and pedestrian linkages to campus could be improved. The University should also consider possible steps to make access to the facility more convenient to the campus community.