Route One Development and the CP Airport

This Op-Ed article was written by James Garvin, a College Park resident and user of the College Park Municipal Airport. The views expressed here don’t necessarily reflect the views of Rethink College Park. This article is in response to our recent post about the conflict between the airport and development in the Northgate area.

1909 Model A and derrick College ParkI am a city resident and user of the College Park airport. I live here because I wanted to move within walking of an airport where can fly. I come from a family with a heritage of flight and I am trying to pass that on with my household. College Park Airport is my home base. Please help keep the airport open. Now, new development on Route One is threatening our airport. Not only is the airport a unique part of College Park’s history, I believe it should be part of its future. Small aviators are part of the transportation system, and transportation based in small airports is more efficient than the large commercial airlines.

The University View building has greatly impacted my use of the airport. I don’t believe the County’s Airport use policies adequately protect the interests of users of small airports. The University View is serious factor to any approach to Runway 15 at College Park airport. It is a death knell to an airport to have large structures off the end of the runway for obvious reasons. One is bad, but more large structures will be a lot worse. Big buildings in walking distance of transportation facilities are great, and I want them too, but they should not be constructed at the business end of an airport runway.

1912 Wreck at College Park, MDPeople tend to confuse us middle class aviation users with upper class jet users. We are “little people” in College Park who have small aircraft we use on business trips and for personal transport when ever practical. We hate using airlines just as anyone else does. A small Cessna 172 going direct to the destination is much more convenient than riding a 727 with multiple layovers along the way. This efficiency also makes general aviation transportation greener than buying a ticket on the big airlines. However this always seems to be overlooked, and we are seen with the same “greenness” as filth belching 707’s — like lumping a Prius in with a Mack truck!

There is also the future to consider. Will new companies make it possible for small groups of people to go where they need to go inexpensively, efficiently, quietly, and with a small carbon footprint? Already the Florida-based Dayjet company provides on-demand flights in small aircraft to business travelers. Is it really efficient to fly 240 people from a place they don’t want to go (hub 1) to another place they don’t want to go (hub 2) because it’s better for the big airline? I’m sure in the future we will be flying more efficient, quieter, smaller, and higher tech aircraft that can utilize small airfields and don’t need big hub airports. Destroying small airports is like tearing up railroad track beds, once they are gone they can never come back to provide transport solutions for the future.

The onerous and confusing security measures adopted since 9/11 at College Park have also threatened our very survival as an airport. Although the fliers have come to terms with these unreasonable requirements and are rebuilding our vitality as an airport, now we face the challenge of new development.

In addition to the University View, the proposed Northgate and Hilton could further diminish the usability of the airport. I call upon all readers to continue to speak out to keep this vital part of College Park open.

A Dance with Death: Pedestrian Safety on Route 1

Route 1 in CPIn preparation for tonight’s Route 1 Corridor Transportation Study special meeting (7 pm, College Park City Hall), we will share with you the design tips we gleaned from a lecture we attended last night on pedestrian safety through good street design.

Last night’s lecture Designing Complete Streets: How to create safe and efficient streets for pedestrians, bicyclists and drivers hosted by the National Capital Planning Commission featured a presentation by Michael King, a principal at Nelson\Nygaard planning consultancy. King is widely considered the nation’s preeminent pedestrian crossing expert and has worked on projects for various cities worldwide.

King provided some good insights on designing streets to enhance pedestrian safety, a concern particularly relevant to Route 1 in College Park. Since issues of pedestrian safety usually involve walking along streets or crossing streets, King’s design advice applied mostly to crosswalks and sidewalks. As more development projects emerge in College Park, citizens, planners, and developers should keep in mind these recommendations for sidewalk design:

  • Sidewalks should provide at least three feet of passing room at all times (even the occasional utility pole reduces the width of the passing room).
  • Sidewalks should be intuitive and straight (whimsically serpentine walkways may amuse newcomers, but become a nuisance to regular users).
  • Parked cars, planters, trees, or a strip of grass should buffer all sidewalks from travel lanes.
  • Bus shelters should never be placed so as to obstruct or divert the flow of pedestrian traffic.

As for crosswalks, King made several good points:

  • Each crosswalk should connect on opposite sides of the street to ramps at least as wide as the crosswalk itself. “Why should we need to trip?” King asked, referring to the unnecessary curbs.
  • Wide medians actually slow drivers (as a psychological reaction) and provide adequate crossing refuges for slower pedestrians such as young children and the elderly. (Fortunately, the state’s plan for reconstructing Route 1, as we have reported, includes tree-studded medians.)
  • Though one car may stop for a pedestrian at a non-signalized crosswalk (as is the law), other drivers will often dart around the stopped car, nearly running down the crossing pedestrian who has the right-of-way. Thus, even mid-block crosswalks require traffic signals.
  • Crosswalks should line-up with existing sidewalks and pedestrians paths; pedestrians rarely detour from the most direct path to cross at inconveniently placed crosswalks.
  • Unnecessary delays annoy pedestrians just as much as drivers; crosswalk signals should be designed to eliminate any unnecessary wait-time for pedestrians. A long wait-time for a short cross signal should earn an intersection a failing “level of service” grade with government transportation authorities.

This last point is especially useful for College Park, where light cycles are unnaturally long for both pedestrians and drivers and where the need to press a button to elicit a crossing signal further frustrates the hundreds of pedestrians who cross Route 1 downtown each day. The lights on Route 1 are timed clearly to prioritize traffic passing through College Park to the detriment of the pedestrians (and drivers) within College Park. Facilitating cross traffic and accounting for pedestrian behavior are necessary steps in transforming Route 1 from the its current role as “traffic-sewer” into a pleasant pedestrian-friendly boulevard that all residents desire.

King, like many other architecture lecturers, sprinkled his presentation with photo examples from all over the world, including such places as China, Brazil, Mexico, the UK, Cape Town, Seattle, New York, DC, and— drumroll— College Park! Unsurprisingly, both College Park examples featured bad pedestrian designs, including a picture of an overly wide driveway entrance on Route 1 as well as the ramp between eastbound University Boulevard and southbound Route 1. King used car-pedestrian crash studies to show how the ramp design enables car travel at speeds that would surely kill a pedestrian in a collision at the poorly placed crosswalk (below, green arrow) on the ramp. Thus, even New York-based architectural consultants are well-aware of the sorry state of Route 1! Hopefully, tonight’s Route 1 Corridor Transportation Study special meeting at City Hall at 7 pm will help bring these desperately needed improvements closer to fruition.

Smart Growth, Student Housing, and Transportation – What does it all mean?

To clear up any confusion: Rethink College Park is not shutting down in the foreseeable future. We’re limiting ourselves to one post a week over the summer because of time constraints.

This post may just be a rehash of everything we’ve been saying all year, but we’ll try to reprocess it all into one coherent and well articulated message:

The University of Maryland issued 1,200 fewer commuter parking permits this year than 3 years ago. On the day before classes ended this month, Shuttle-UM registered its record shattering 2-millionth bus ride of the school year. If you’ve been following this site for awhile, you know exactly what accounts for this shift: more walkable and transit-convenient student housing like the University View and University Towers (in Hyattsville). Indeed, we knew last September that change was afoot in College Park as Shuttle-UM ridership jumped 50% over the previous year. Also, we discovered during the Fee Waiver debacle that over 75% of UMD student living way out at the UTC Tower in Hyattsville were utilizing the Shuttle-UM route instead of driving to campus. While the graphic below only shows public-private projects like Commons and Courtyards (not the University View and current and future Grad Student Housing), the point is still clear: Students are increasingly moving on or closer to campus while enrollment is holding steady (in the face of the widespread perception that it is increasing).
Campus Housing Trends

(View full size graphic)

Mckeldin MallIt’s should be perfectly clear to everyone that student housing is a brilliant Smart Growth strategy. We’ve been saying all year that college towns are resoundingly pedestrian places because by nature they contain potentially thousands of people living and working in the same place. Yet the fundamental component of that scenario is that students actually live in the city. For the commuter/beltway-oriented UMD and College Park of years past, that ideal college town goal seemed like a distant vision simply because students didn’t live in College Park. Recently, it appears as though the market may conspire to change that vision of a great College Park into a reality as more students and professionals seek to live closer to the University and downtown DC.

Yet students (and professionals) can’t just live in College Park. They have to live at sufficient densities to make transit not only practical, but cheaper and more convenient than driving. A college town and particularly an inner-suburban college town is a perfect place to do that. Our implicit message all year has been: If we can’t achieve common sense growth in College Park, then where can we?

So we’ve firmly established the link between student housing and Smart Growth: more student housing has certainly meant a net reduction University-related car trips on Route 1 over the past 5 years or so and students are the easiest of the 50,000 people that come to campus everyday to get into high density housing on and near campus. The need for thousands of beds of student housing (in addition to faculty and staff beds) on East Campus is undeniable and would go a long way towards alleviating the traffic concerns regarding that project. We’ll leave it at that.

Another thing we have only touched on a little is College Park’s trail system. UMD has a severely lacking bike culture and the University could work much more closely with the City of College Park and the County to get students not just off the roads and onto buses, but onto the city’s extensive trail system. Such a feat will only be possible if officials turn the locally incoherent (but regionally sensible) trail system into a viable commuting alternative. What exists today is a unlit, meandering, unsigned, and largely unknown trail system which is plagued by meager funding and the necessarily piecemeal approach by which it has been constructed. College Park has made a concerted effort to require developers to connect their properties to the trail system. Yet the poor design of University View’s backdoor and its pedestrian bridge configuration leaves the 1100 students in that complex asking “what were they thinking” nearly everytime they walk to class.
Walk Philadelphia!
Fixing these problems will become increasingly more important as various forms of housing go up along the Route 1 Corridor. Unfortunately, as the recent waypoint signinage between the metro station and campus has proven (put in nearly 15 years after the completion of the Green Line) – it takes awhile for obvious things to materialize in College Park.

Bicycle Circulation System

Two Relevant Lectures

Thanks everyone for passing along these great lectures (text taken from the event announcements):

May 23 at the National Building Museum
Bright Lights, Small Cities: Successful Large-Scale Revitalization in Small Communities

Wednesday, 12:30 – 1:30 pm
Bill Niquette, project developer for the City of Winooski, Vermont’s $250 million downtown revitalization effort, will discuss how a mill town of 6,800 forged a public-private partnership to create 1.5 million square feet of pedestrian-scaled, mixed-use development in the heart of its downtown, and how the key elements of their success can be widely applied in other smart growth revitalization efforts in communities of all sizes.
See Announcement from the sponsor
Free. RSVP not required.


May 29 at the National Capital Planning Commission – 401 9th Street, NW – North Lobby, Suite 500
Designing Complete Streets: How to Create Safe and Efficient Streets for Pedestrians, Bicyclists and Drivers

Tuesday, 6:00 pm Refreshments, 6:30 Program
Michael King, of Nelson/Nygaard Consulting: Pedestrian safety has risen to the top of the political agenda, as one tragic death after another demonstrates that our region’s streets are not safe enough for everyday use. Conventionally, the design and operation decisions for streets and intersections place a priority on moving motor vehicle traffic swiftly.  Other users – pedestrians, bicyclists, and transit riders – are often only included as an afterthought.  New thinking among transportation professionals is moving toward complete streets or balanced designs that improve the safe and efficient use of streets for everyone, including the most vulnerable.

Join us to learn from Michael King, considered one of the country’s leading experts on innovative street and intersection design.  Mr. King will share his experience and research from around the world on innovative approaches to safe streets that work for all users.
See Announcement from the sponsor
Free. RSVP (attendance only): 202-244-4408 ext 114, or victor(at)smartergrowth.net.  

Cafritz Workshop Meetings

cafritz hobo path

Rumors sometime become reality – or so it seems given the potential redevelopment of the “Cafritz Property” (Developer Website) which we first talked about last month. Public workshop meetings are planned for early June. County councilman Eric Olson and College Park city councilwoman Stephanie Stullich are encouraging meaningful/rigorous public participation at these events. Such preliminary community input, Olson notes, is rare for development projects.
All workshops are to be held at:
RIVERDALE ELEMENTARY SCHOOL,
5006 RIVERDALE ROAD

cafritz meeting map

– SATURDAY, JUNE 2ND
(10am-2pm, come any time)
– THURSDAY, JUNE 7TH
(7-9pm) [identical to the first meeting]
– THURSDAY, JUNE 14TH
(7-9pm)
[wrap-up meeting]

The first two initial workshops on the 2nd and 7th are intended to give all attendees a forum to share ideas and concerns about the project. The third meeting on the 14th will synthesize the public opinion shared at the first two meetings into principles to guide potential development on the Cafritz Property. The development team will then come up with a more complete proposal for more community meetings in the fall.

cafritz satellite map

The 40-acre Cafritz Property is located in northern Riverdale, just south of College Park’s Albion Road (Great interactive map – snapshot to the right). Route 1 runs lengthwise along the property and train tracks running adjacent to the Metro pass along the back length of the property. The proposed Rhode Island Trolley Trail extension (now a hobo path) runs through the middle of the property, parallel to the tracks.

What is now dense forest on the Cafritz property was once the site of a post-WWII military housing project. The property has since flirted with development possibilities numerous times while under the ownership of the Cafritz Family, and has also been considered as a site for public schools in the past.

Contemporary development possibilities that the public will discuss in said meetings will likely include mixed use residential and retail development. Possibilities include senior housing, a community arts center, and a Whole Foods grocery store. County Councilman Eric Olson has stressed the importance of a buffer of trees between neighborhoods and the development, green building techniques, high-quality commercial establishments, and a pedestrian/bike-friendly inter-connective transit orientation. Olson also encourages any housing be designed to minimize added pressure to local school enrollment, and accommodate active retirees and senior citizens. According to Olson, there is no interest in developing university student housing.

>> Read Eric Olson’s letter sent to the local community.

Terminus of the Trolley Trail at Albion Rd.

Route 1 Transportation Meeting

Which is Most Efficient?

We just heard the County is holding a meeting about Route 1 transportation on Wednesday, May 30th at 7:00 p.m. in City Hall. Here is the announcement:

SPECIAL MEETING
COLLEGE PARK ROUTE 1 CORRIDOR TRANSPORTATION STUDY

Come hear the consultant’s preliminary findings and recommendations on important issues related to new development along US Route 1. A final report will be available after comments from this meeting are considered. Topics that will be covered include:

• Transit and Shuttle Service
• Transportation Demand Management Strategies
• Transportation Adequacy under the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance
• Parking Requirements and Policies
• Access Management
• Bicycle and Pedestrian Facilities

WHEN: WEDNESDAY MAY 30, 2007
7:00 – 10:00 P.M.

WHERE: CITY OF COLLEGE PARK CITY HALL
2ND FLOOR COUNCIL CHAMBERS
4500 KNOX ROAD

SPONSORS: MARYLAND-NATIONAL CAPITAL PARK AND PLANNING COMMISSION & THE CITY OF COLLEGE PARK, FOR MORE INFORMATION CALL THE COLLEGE PARK PLANNING, DEPARTMENT AT 301-277-3445

We’ll be interested to hear especially about the topic of parking requirements. In our view, mandatory parking requirements for new buildings, especially on residential properties near campus and well served by public transportation, increase rents and encourage driving. The “transit-first” policies explored in San Francisco over the past three decades presents a menu of policy options to help reduce traffic and encourage use of public transit. Ithaca, New York is a good example of a college town that slashed parking requirements to deal with a student housing crunch. From the list of topics above, it sounds like some of this will be discussed at this meeting.

The photo above was created for a public education campaign in Munster, Germany. It shows the amount of space required to move 72 people on bikes, in cars, or on a bus. It was contained in this report about bicycling policies in that city.

UMD Purple Line Response

After nearly three weeks of waiting, the University has responded to student concerns about their new position against an at-grade alignment of the Purple Line on campus.

Here is President Mote’s response

Not only does the response completely ignore the basic point of the original student letter (we weren’t simply advocating the benefits of the Purple Line), it maintains the University’s wildly unresponsible position against an at-grade alignment through campus. All we asked is that the University work pro-actively and collaboratively with MTA to ensure that we get the best possible alignment through campus. Instead, Dr. Mote’s letter only reinforces the fact that the University fundamentally misunderstands the Purple Line planning process.

Response to the response:

Dr. Mote,

I appreciate your response to our April 25th letter concerning the University’s position on the Purple Line. I also appreciate the University’s continued support for the project (in the abstract). That being said, I’m extremely disappointed to see that the University is apparently holding to its opposition of an at-grade Purple Line crossing of campus. Our letter was not simply advocating the benefits of the project, but pointing out the fundamental misconceptions about the project’s planning process which reach the highest levels of the University administration.

As has been made abundantly clear by various MTA officials we have spoken with, an underground alignment through College Park has long since been abandoned because of cost constraints. After much study, the only alignment through campus which MTA is considering is an at-grade light rail or bus rapid transit option along Campus Drive. I’m confident that this alignment can be pursued in a safe and effective manner while maintaining and enhancing the aesthetic beauty and pedestrian safety on campus. This ideal can only be accomplished through proactive and collaborative effort with MTA’s Purple Line planning team – an effort which is hindered by the University’s continued opposition to an at-grade alignment. Again, we urge your administration to rescind its at-grade position in order to pursue the best possible options for the Purple Line.

Sincerely,
David Daddio

O’Malley Pledges to “Advance the Purple Line”

ICC still a priority for the state, but gas tax increases seem likely if transit projects are to go forward:

Transit is necessary to solve traffic woes, O’Malley says, the Gazette

(We’re not sure what this talk of an underground Purple Line is. Either they’re talking about certain segments and the reporter took it out of context or O’Malley doesn’t know what he’s talking about.)