Pilot Program Lets City Residents Ride Free Shuttle-UM

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File this under “Who Knew?” The City of College Park and the University of Maryland Department of Transportation Services (DOTS) have a pilot program underway that allows city residents to utilize the FREE Shuttle-UM service. This program is funded via a $5000 payment to DOTS each semester. So far only 135 residents have registered for the free service. In order to take advantage of this pilot program residents must fill out and submit this Application to city hall. Since this is a pilot program DOTS is tracking riders and therefore residents are encouraged to notify bus drivers of their presence and have them call it in to dispatch. There has been some press lately in the Diamondback about the number of riders so it is important that each rider is counted.

So if you are a City Resident please take advantage of this service. Shuttle-UM routes go pretty far and wide so ditch the gas guzzler and save a buck or two. Did we mention that the service is FREE? Who doesn’t like free?

Universities miss the train when it comes to transit

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I would think that a fairly obvious aspect of transportation planning is that as convenience increases, so does use. Unfortunately, this lesson is one that apparently needs to be added to the syllabus. As I said last week, the University of Maryland has been fighting the Purple Line for a while. Other universities are making similar arguments against rail plans in their areas.

The Overhead Wire reported late last week that Norfolk State University in Virginia has been successful in getting the NSU station on Norfolk’s light rail system, which is currently under construction, moved away from campus. According to the Hampton Roads Pilot Online, university officials were worried that a stop so close to campus would be a security issue.

Moving the station will add $1.45 million to the cost of the project and will locate the station on the opposite side of Brambleton Avenue. Light rail patrons traveling to the Norfolk State Campus will now have to cross a 5-lane arterial. Of course, this is likely to reduce both the number of criminals and students using the train. The crucial question is which group will be more determined to get across the highway.

While the administration of UMD has decided to partake in a civil discussion regarding the Purple Line, history shows that they haven’t always been so accomodating. Not only did they try and get the Purple Line stop moved away from the center of campus, they were instrumental in the 1970s in getting the Green Line station located far from campus, on the far side of College Park. One WMATA proposal put the Green Line stop under Route 1 at its intersection with College Avenue. This stop would have been adjacent to campus, but the University feared that it would increase crime. As a result, students, faculty, staff, and visitors have to endure a long walk or bus ride to campus.

UM’s arguments against the Purple Line tended to be more along the lines of objections due to safety rather than crime. Of course, if the University is so concerned that light rail vehicles will be a danger to pedestrians, I challenge them to remove all cars from Campus Drive regardless of the fate of the Purple Line, after all, cars are far more dangerous to pedestrians. Rethink College Park further challenged the UM’s arguments by asking, among other things, why all the campus buses didn’t serve the the University’s proposed station location on Stadium Drive. Hopefully, the university’s fears won’t result in another inconvenient station location.

Another university that fought light rail is the University of Minnesota. They objected to the Central Corridor which would connect Minneapolis and Saint Paul on similar grounds as the University of Maryland. Fearing, vibration, traffic disruption, and pedestrian safety, they insisted on a subway route through campus. When that proved too expensive, they insisted on a lenghty detour around the northern side of campus. That route would have drawn too few riders, however. Finally, not wanting to be the last obstacle to the line, they wisely backed down.

These Universities, although they would benefit greatly from the increased mobility, have fought projects which would reduce their need to provide parking, increase their environmental friendliness, and make their institutions a more integrated part of the urban fabric. At long last, some are beginning to wise up. Still, these objections are likely to continue to crop up as transit officials continue to try to expand transit into new areas. Hopefully, in these debates, mobility will be the victor.

Council OKs Starview Plaza with less parking and $200k for Underground Power Lines

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Starview Plaza Front Entrance

First a little background. The Starview Plaza is a mixed-use 2.4 acre facility with 147 units and 548 beds geared towards students and  It is to be located on Route 1 just south of the Jiffy Lube. Some of us maLEED Silver y be old enough to remember the homely Starlight Inn at this location where one could take in a lovely dance show while enjoying a beverage. While we don’t know if the Starlight plans to reopen, there is close to 10,000 sq/ft of retail available in the facility. Personally I would be happy with a Starbucks. The developer is also seeking LEED Silver Certification and will incorporate a green roof on the structure.

On September 9th the District Council in a 5-4 vote approved the modified site plan for the project with a few notable modifications.

Continue reading Council OKs Starview Plaza with less parking and $200k for Underground Power Lines

Purple Line Debate Calms

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The Purple Line has sparked much debate across the region, but perhaps the most contentious debate has come from College Park, where the proposed routing would traverse the University of Maryland on Campus Drive. Rethink College Park has weighed in on the issue many many times, and has long supported the Campus Drive alignment preferred by MTA and by students.

The University administration called for alternative alignments, costly subway construction, and further study; while students pushed for a central location and a speedy construction process. To many, it seemed that the debate was getting us nowhere, with the University proposing new alignments seemingly every week and forcing the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) to rehash old arguments over and over. The student government organizations at both the undergraduate and graduate levels passed resolutions calling for the Campus Drive alternative, but President Mote would not meet with representatives from those bodies to even discuss the substance of UM’s objections.

Finally, however, the debate has settled down into a calm, rational discussion of the issues. The administration, reports the Diamondback, will drop its objections to the MTA-preferred alternative if MTA can allay the fears that trains will be a danger to pedestrians and disrupt research. Accordingly, MTA is studying the potential effects, from vibrations to electromagnetic radiation. They’ve also released revised plans for pedestrian movement and design which will truly improve the appearance of central campus.

The Purple Line is a golden opportunity for UM and the Washington region. By improving transit access, the University can reduce the footprint of its parking facilities and increase students’ access to jobs throughout the region. The region will increase its mobility and will build a vital link missing from the transit infrastructure for so long. If UM’s support is indeed forthcoming, this vision of Washington’s future will be one step closer to reality.

Rt.1: Meeting Reminder, Sector Plan process & amendments

**REMINDER** College Park US 1 Corridor Sector Plan community meeting:       Wednesday 7-9pm @ Lakeland/College Park Community Center [5051 Pierce Ave]

The updated Sector Plan, once initiated, will be a PG County Planning document containing legal stipulations and overall vision for development of properties within its boundaries.  There is currently in place, an older version of the Sector Plan.  It is thought to have problems since it has been around for a while and the Rt.1 mixed-use development it envisioned has not been realized.  A property’s ultimate inclusion in the Sector Plan will ensure its rezoning and development [both if any] conform to  specifications and vision of the Plan.

The updated Sector Plan is still in its planning stage.  Wednesday’s meeting is part of a public process where updates to the Plan will be discussed.  A public design charrette [interactive community workshop] will be held in December for the same purpose.  More information about the Sector Plan @:

M-NCPPC proposed to amend to the updated Sector Plan, properties in two separateM-NCPPC Rt1 Sector Plan w/proposed additions swaths north and south of the current Sector.  The northern swath includes parts of the Ikea, Hollywood, and Cherry Hill Rd. neighborhoods.

The southern swath includes Rt.1-fronting properties between Guilford Rd. and East-West Hwy. (including Cafritz Property).  College Park and University Park both oppose this addition.  County Councilman Eric Olson is planning to not include the southern swath in October when time comes for him to motion initiation of the Sector Plan amendment to voting by County Council.  Once he does that, no one can make a backdoor effort to re-include the controversial properties.

The Sector Plan will also be discussed at a tentative M-NCPPC Planning Board meeting October 2nd, and at a tentative County Council public hearing (where Sector Plan update/amendment is initiated) October 21st.

MD State Budget Cuts Affect Purple Line, Rt.1 Improvements

Articles in today’s Diamondback and Washington Post report on yesterday’s announced state transportation budget cuts.  The cuts occur after the state received less transportation revenue than expected, attributed to the current economic recession.  Local projects affected by the cuts:MD capital [by Flicker user ectsue]

  • Route 1 Corridor Improvements [bus slips, sidewalks, bike lanes]   $7.1 million over next four years, now deferred
  • Purple Line [engineering work for federal proposal]                                 $100 million, now reduced to $75 million

Both projects’ original funding were allocated from the state’s transportation trust fund in a 6-year plan released in January.  The $2.4 billion Inter-County Connector apparently remained unscathed.

Transportation Secretary Porcari reported that the Purple Line will still apply for federal funding (necessary for the project’s ultimate realization) next year.  Apparently the early stages of the project received more budgeting than absolutely necessary, according to other Transportation officials.

“Aviation Plaza” Proposed For TDOZ Warehouse Area.

TDOZ-splotch The Urban Land Institute (ULI) spent a few days in May evaluating the TDOZ warehouse district for potential development. The area of interest is identified by that big red splotch on the image. Currently a large portion of that area is for sale and could be yours for the low price of $6.2 million. This is a greatly underutilized hunk of land in a prime location close to metro and M-Square. ULI is to provide planning and design guidance as well as a strategy for moving forward with the site. The ULI plan calls for

  • 600 Residential units at various price points,
  • 300,000 square feet of office space.
  • 140-180 room Hotel covering 100,000 square feet.
  • 40,000 square feet for Retail space.

They are placing special emphasis on making connections with the Aviation Museum and respecting FAA requirements. They have even suggested that the public space be named Aviation Plaza.

Continue reading “Aviation Plaza” Proposed For TDOZ Warehouse Area.

September Economic Update

The latest economic update From The City is now available. See the link below for the PDF file.

September Economic Development Update 

Here are the items with updated information.

  • COCHRAN PROPERTY/ PARKVIEW STUDENT HOUSING*
  • IC AT TURTLE CREEK*
  • RAYTHEON PARKING DECK*
  • STARVIEW PLAZA*
  • DOWNTOWN PARKING GARAGE AND REDEVELOPMENT PROJECT*
  • JEFFERSON SQUARE APARTMENTS AT COLLEGE PARK*
  • JEFFERSON AT COLLEGE PARK WEST*
  • MAZZA GRANDMARC APARTMENTS*
  • 8300-8400 BALTIMORE AVENUE*

New Dorm Approved for North Campus

The DIAMONDBACK reports today that a new dorm in North Campus called Oakland Hall is to be built for $88 Million providing 650 beds. This is to replace some of the beds that will be lost in the Leonardtown community due to East Campus construction. The expected completion date is Fall 2011. The University has had difficulty obtaining the backing from the Board of Regents for new resident hall construction which prefers public-private partnership projects. The logjam was evidently broken when Regents agreed to pay for the new dorm if the University continued to push for private housing.

Oakland Hall Mock UP