Draft Principles Released for Last East Campus Meeting

The University has released this statement of principles, significantly more detailed than the last, for the Community Review Steering Committee to debate at the last East Campus meeting tomorrow night. Click here (or “read the rest of the post” below) to review the full text and provide your feedback.

Tomorrow’s meeting will be held at 7:30 p.m. in the Prince George’s Room of Stamp Union.

Also, the presentations from the last meeting, about parking, the Purple Line, and transportation have been posted.

Jan14_Presentation (48 pages)
Continue reading Draft Principles Released for Last East Campus Meeting

DC United in College Park?

With plans to build DC United’s new soccer stadium on Poplar Point in Anacostia (DC) in shambles, Maryland officials are now vying for a chance to build the facility in PG county. The team is interested in “two locations in College Park”, according to a Washington Post article two days ago, but County Executive Jack Johnson wants it near the New Carrollton or Greenbelt (as part of that county redevelopment boondoggle) Metro stations. This seems to be a similar chain of events that brought the Redskins new stadium to Landover…

Signs? We Don’t Need No Stinking Signs!

This post is by Clay Gump, a resident of College Park and member of the East Campus Community Review Steering Committee.

OosterwoldeThe topic of a recent East Campus meeting was traffic and how to plan for it. The East Campus project is going to present a challenge when dealing with the large mix of pedestrian, auto, and bicycle traffic. While the developer representative was detailing the options maintaining traffic flow I recalled a interesting concept I had read about in Discover Magazine called “Shared Space.” The East Campus project could very well present a fantastic opportunity to utilize this concept. Basically the idea is to remove all traffic controlling signs, signals, and rules. Sounds crazy right? Well the numbers sound promising. In the town of Drachten in the Netherlands one intersection had an average of eight accidents per year. After the signs were removed that number dropped to one per year while reducing congestion by 20 percent. Here is a fascinating video discussing this crossing.

The entire concept is based on the idea of perceived risk whereby all creatures (even the road raged commuter) will adjust behavior when there is a perceived risk. Having signs and marking telling the drivers exactly what to do actually discourages drivers to be aware of their surroundings. This might also explain why those with anti lock brakes drive faster and cyclist with helmets get into more accidents. Come to think of it it might also explain why I backed up my new car into a rock even though I had the “parking assist” option. Of course I could just be a bad driver.

Keep in mind this is not a traffic calming scheme or a pedestrian “zone” rather it is a way of incorporating a “community sense” to an area that encourages intermingling of all traffic types. Groovy man.

Another effort is on in the Kensington borough in London to “Declutter” the streets in preparation for the 2012 Olympics. They have reduced pedestrian accidents by more than 40 percent. Considering the safety history of Route 1 in general I think it is time to adopt some new thinking in how we design our intersections. Maybe East Campus could be a model for Shared Space design and give the folks at SHA something to think about when it comes time to improve Route 1.

Washington Post Covers Alignment Debate

Purple Line 7

The Washington Post today ran a story briefly describing the debate about where to locate the Purple Line on campus. While we think the new alignment being considered is superior to the now-abandoned Stadium Drive alignment, we continue to believe Campus Drive is the best alignment for campus. While administrators want to keep it off their “Main Street,” we think that’s precisely where transit belongs.

The Campus Drive alignment brings visitors to the heart of campus, maximizing ridership and minimizing expensive new infrastructure. According to a rough analysis completed last fall the majority of people traveling on Campus Drive today are already on transit, so why should they be relocated to a less convenient location?

We’re far from alone in our views: our Campus Drive petition has topped 200 signatures, including some of the campus’ leading academic experts in transportation planning, and a diverse group of students, staff, and alumni.

This debate aside, we think it’s important to note the community is unanimous in our agreement the Purple Line will be a good thing for both College Park and the region. We look forward to collaborating with all stakeholders to build this much-needed investment.

> Campus Drive Petition
> Previous posts on the Purple Line

Purple Line Route Set, ‘Enormous’ Underground Parking at East Campus

WMATA Bus Route MapThe East Campus project is located roughly half a mile from the College Park Metrorail station, adjacent ten bus routes, bisected by a bike trail connected to a major regional trail system, and the future home of a Purple Line light rail station.

The project developers have made a guess as to how much less parking will be needed than what is already required under the existing zoning. Included in their parking analysis revealed last night, they’ve provided parking at 90% of the existing zoning for office, 75% for apartments, 90% for restaurant visitors, 90% for retail, 100% required for the hotel and grocery store, and 95% needed for the Birchmere and cinema. At the presentation last night, the developers boasted of the forward-thinking that produced their estimate that the project would require 15% less parking than Prince George’s County zoning requires. Although the traffic study estimated roughly half of the peak trips to and from the site will be not in automobiles, the percentages above represent how much parking will be provided for each use – a much higher amount.

Thanks to these estimates, the developers plan to build roughly 4,000 parking spaces in the first phase, and perhaps 1,500 in the second phase. For the most part, the parking will be concealed at the center of blocks and in two “enormous” (their word) underground parking structures that will span nearly the entire width of the site. (When they are posted, we’ll add the diagram shared with the committee last night.)

East Campus Purple Line Alignment #7However, the biggest news from last night’s East Campus meeting was about the Purple Line. It seems the MTA, Foulger-Pratt, and President Mote have agreed to plan for the Purple Line on Rossborough Lane, one block south of the route anticipated in early project plans.(The farthest south in the illustration to the right.) On campus, only two alignments remain — Campus Drive, and a new, at-grade southern alignment dubbed by the MTA the Preinkert Drive/Chapel Drive Alignment. Over the next month, the MTA will be completing a detailed analysis of the new alignment in order to compare it with Campus Drive.

Campus Purple Line Alignments

Also last night, the developers presented their traffic impact study that found the road network would be able to absorb the traffic from the project for the first phase, and for the second phase suggesting several modifications needed including new turn lanes and modifications to traffic lights. As expected, University Park resident Bridget Warren grilled the developer’s traffic consultant over the finer details of the 57-page traffic impact study.

The developers said that now that the Purple Line route has been settled, they will begin to refine and finalize the block structure and architecture of the project. At the next meeting, a committee including the School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation Dean Garth Rockcastle will present a “design principles” document they have created, and the committee will discuss the overall development principles for the project.

East Campus Meetings Tonight, Jan. 28

The next East Campus Community Review Steering Committee meetings will be held tonight (January 14th) and January 28th. Tonight’s meeting will examine parking and transportation issues, and the meeting on the 28th will be concerned with the committee’s overall development principles.

Both meetings will be held at 7:30 p.m. in the Prince George’s Room of the Stamp Student Union.

Yet Another Alignment

Mote Alignment as of 1/11/08

(See interactive map)

After throwing together a handful of alignments, including the “chapel field alignment” (in blue on map) last month, we are getting word that the University is pursuing yet another alignment. Once again (deja vu) realizing the impracticality of a tunnel under campus, the administration is proposing a slightly altered chapel field alignment (in red on map), which veers south of Lefrak hall at street level (instead of across and under the historic Morrill Quad). The sharp turns and narrow right-of-way (shared with heavy pedestrian traffic) between South Campus Dinning Hall and Lefrak make this latest alignment nearly as ridiculous as the proposed tunnel under Morril Quad. Meanwhile the East Campus Developer has been forced to cease designs of that $700 million development out of uncertainty over the Purple Line alignment.

At this point, is the University just trying to save face or is it proposing alignments that are actually practical? We’re leaning towards the former hypothesis. The debate is beyond throwing new alignments into the mix. The UMD administration will find it far more fruitful to work with MTA to refine the Campus Drive alignment to suit the needs of campus. If they preffer to come to that conclusion kicking and screaming, then so be it.

2007 Reader Survey Results

Last fall we completed our first-ever reader survey. We would like to thank the roughly 65 people who completed the survey while it was open. We appreciate your feedback and continued support. Part of the reason we have not posted it until now is the tiny size of Rethink College Park contributors. A lack of writers (not technology, funding, or even recalcitrant leaders), remains our biggest ongoing challenge.

Continue reading 2007 Reader Survey Results

Purple Line and the Vibration Issue

At the University Senate, several faculty members expressed concern that the Purple Line would cause vibrations, interfering with research on campus.

This is an important concern. We raised it with the Maryland Transit Administration’s engineers, who said that it was a problem that could be solved through track engineering. Indeed, that’s why Light and Heavy Rail transit lines can travel through or near a number of campuses doing similar research as at the University of Maryland. At the University of Washington, the Seattle-area Sound Transit is installing shock absorbers under the rails in a Light Rail line that will travel through the campus.

In order to get some perspective on the issue, a friend wrote to Dr. Mark L. Schattenburg, the director of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Space Nanotechnology Laboratory. The laboratory he directs is located roughly 800 feet from Boston’s Red Line subway (right). Here’s the answer he sent:

Vibration from vehicles certainly can effect sensitive instruments of many kinds, including electron microscopes. atomic force microscopes, nanolithography tools, etc. Specially designed buildings and instrument vibration isolation systems can reduce the effects of vibration, but this can add millions of dollars to the cost of a research facility.

At MIT the green line does go by my lab a block away, but truthfully the street traffic, elevator, electric generators, MIT steam plant (across the street), rooftop fans, etc., are much worse offenders.

MIT: Transit and Technology

We will continue to research the issue, however we have not heard the locations of existing laboratories and the tolerances required. As Dr. Schattenburg notes, vibrations can have many sources and the heavy on-campus traffic of trucks, buses, and automobiles no doubt already creates significant background vibrations. Replacing many of them with a well-engineered Light Rail may very well enhance the ability of scientists to conduct nano research on campus. The Purple Line is not going away, and the quicker campus leaders and MTA officials can begin substantive discussions about current and future vibration levels the better.