Walkable Cities And The Commuters Paradox

Here are a few articles that might be of interest that were recommended by a few Rethink readers.

Shaping The City by Roger K. Lewis from the Washington Post writes a thought provocative column that espouses the notion of walkable cities.

The term “transit-oriented development” (TOD) paints an incomplete picture of state-of-the-art planning and urban design. The terminology should change, along with our mind-set. We should talk about and advocate multi-modal-transportation-oriented development.

Here Comes the Neighborhood by Christopher B. Leinberger from The Atlantic discusses how the conventional suburb is overbuilt and out of favor and how transit oriented development will be in demand.

Urban-style housing in walkable neighborhoods—including those in the inner suburbs—is what’s in demand today. And for a variety of reasons, that demand will intensify in the coming years. Only by serving it can the country kick-start growth in an enormous and essential part of the economy.

“It is very unlikely that new projects in sprawl areas will be financed,” says Jonathan Rose, the CEO of the national development-and-investment firm Jonathan Rose Companies, based in New York City. “Urban areas with diverse transit options and thriving universities are the choice of Baby Boomers and young people.

Continue reading Walkable Cities And The Commuters Paradox

UMD Breaks Ground on Physical Sciences Complex (VIDEO)

RTCP may have differences of opinion with University officials from time to time but there is no denying that the University of Maryland is on the move in a positive way. The University broke ground last week on a state-of-the-art $128-Million Physical Sciences Complex. This project is a doozy. The 158,068 square-foot of space will house 53 labs.

A prominent feature of the building is its planned multi-story elliptical glass cone that opens to the sky and will provide a 2000 square foot open space in the plaza as well as natural lighting for the interior of the structure.

The space around the ellipse on the upper floors is much wider than a normal corridor, and is designed to encourage and stimulate scientific conversation. “We’ve made the hallways serve as extensions of the rooms, where people can meet and congregate. The light and transparency contributes to a sense of interaction,” said project designer Simon Trumble of CUH2A, a global architecture, engineering and planning firm.

Continue reading UMD Breaks Ground on Physical Sciences Complex (VIDEO)

UMD fights phantom fences

The University of Maryland and the Maryland Transit Administration remain at odds over the Purple Line. One argument that UMD loves to trot out is that the light rail line will turn campus into a maze of tall fences.

While MTA fiercely denies that they are planning to install fences, the University of Maryland claims evidence to the contrary. Administrators cite the University of Minnesota, where a light rail line connecting Minneapolis and Saint Paul is under construction. Staffers at UMD claim that the light rail line there caused 42 inch high fences to be erected to keep students off the tracks.

There are several problems with this logic, but the most important is that the fences pre-date the light rail line, and are being removed as a part of the light rail project.
Map of the U-Minn area
Continue reading UMD fights phantom fences

UMD Needs to Stop Playing Games

“I’m not going to kill the campus to get the Purple Line.” ~ Dr. CD Mote, UMD President

Hornbake more peds

That latest push from the  UMD Administration for a tunnel will add $51 million to the Purple Line project will effectively kill the federal funding for the Purple Line. This proposal presents exactly the same tunnel problems that their past tunnel proposals did, albeit it’s a bit cheaper. RTCP has been saying for 3 years that advocating for a campus tunnel is tantamount to a rejection of the entire 16-mile project. That’s regardless of whether UMD foots every penny of the tunnel bill or not. In the eyes of the Federal Transit Administration, the cost-effectiveness of the project is reduced equally:

Even if the university pays for the tunnel, the cost increase would still hurt the project’s chances at federal funding, said Purple Line project manager Mike Madden, due to FTA criteria that look at total costs, regardless of funding sources. UM wants underground tunnel for Purple Line [Gazzette]

The MTA has conducted 800 meeting (that number might have been said in jest) in College Park over the last 10 years about this project and literally 100s on campus including many related to concerns about EMI and vibration impacts on research. The time for proposing new alignments is long past.

This latest move along with the “test” closing of Campus Drive to all transit this summer is just another attempt at achieving a “pedestrian walking mall” on Campus Drive… a vision that is in no way, shape, or form advocated for in UMD’s Campus Master Plan. While such road closure practices can be successful in some areas and has been on other parts of campus and at other universities, UMD’s street network and the realities of the Purple Line planning process make such a vision impractical on Campus Drive. A Campus Drive closure would greatly hinder basic area transit access now and in the future.
Continue reading UMD Needs to Stop Playing Games

Campus Drive Purple Line Alignment Forum Update

On Monday the 24th Rethink College Park co-sponsored a public forum on the Purple Line Campus Drive alignment.

Joanna Calabrese [Director of Environmental Affairs, Student Government Association] kicked off the event.

Councilman Eric Olson acknowledged the value of student government as a consistent advocate for the Purple Line, and for a routing that takes light rail to the heart of the campus. He emphasized that there is unanimous support for the Purple Line among county council members. He pointed out that even the arguably hapless transportation planners of Northern Virginia came together to recognize the value of metro expansion for business and for the community.

Continue reading Campus Drive Purple Line Alignment Forum Update

Looney’s Pub Coming to The Varsity

Still sad about losing Santa Fe? Don’t be. The Varsity has signed up Looney’s Pub to occupy a location in its ground floor retail location. This is a prime location for a new bar/restaurant. As a frequent visitor to Baltimore watering holes in a previous life I can vouch for Looney’s as a great bar. Plus it was featured in the 2004 blockbuster movie Ladder 49 staring John Travolta. What more could you ask for?

This will be the first of 10 or so tenant announcements for the four student housing projects currently under construction on Route 1. Here is the approximate phasing (although stores won’t necessarily open at the same time the buildings are finished):

Fall 2010
University View II (11,600 SF of Retail)

Fall 2011
The Varsity (20,000 SF)
Starview Plaza (9,580 SF)

Fall 2012
Mazza GrandMarc (10,000 SF)

Where We Live

College Park is featured today on the blog WeLoveDC. Many thanks to Shannon for writing up that positive review of College Park. Here are a few highlights.

College Park is best known for the University of Maryland and its 36,000 students, but there is so much more to this community than just the university.  College Park is full of great restaurants, shops, running trails, arts and cultural opportunities, sporting events, and more.  Sure, it’s got a lot of students, but it’s not just riots and frat parties.  And since I’ve mostly only seen the riot/frat party side of College Park while visiting friends who attended the university years ago, I’ve asked our friends at the fantastic planning and development blog Rethink College Park to tell us what’s great about their community outside of UMD.  Read on to find out what College Park residents love about their community, and what you’ll have to check out next time you’re in the area.


Why We Love College Park: If you’re looking for a suburb that has an endless supply of entertainment and educational events, College Park might be perfect.  The university offers so many events, concerts, and sports that there’s always something going on.  The area connects with great trails and is close to many parks, and it provides easy access to the rest of the region through Metro and the Beltway.

And while the area isn’t as walkable or compact as other DC suburbs, there’s lots of potential for it.  Colin says, “College Park has much to offer already, but it also has so much unrealized potential. If the university’s East Campus town center project, together with the Purple Line, both finally get off the ground, then the city could be poised for a dramatic change.”

UMD Announces Compromise Campus Drive Bus Plan

Stamp Bus Bay

BREAKING NEWS: In an email sent to members of the University Senate today, UMD Vice President of Administrative Affairs Anne Wylie announced a compromise plan that will keep transit on Campus Drive for most of the summer. The plan cuts in half the length of the UMD administration’s original plan for a summer trial closure of the road to transit (from 8 weeks to 4). Cars will still be banned from the campus’ main street for the full 8 weeks beginning June 19th and running till August 13th. Most transit vehicles (Shuttle UM and WMATA) will be diverted to Regents Drive during the second half of that period starting July 17th (Read a Q & A from the University about the closure).

CampusDriveFence_013This represents a mild victory for advocates of sound transportation policy in College Park and across the region and is a clear response to the widespread criticism the administration received for their original plan. It remains to be seen whether the consultant that UMD will hire to analyze the effects of this closure will properly weigh the implications of this experiment on long-term ridership and the viability and convenience of transit in/thru College Park. RTCP believes the consultant should be hired on jointly by UMD and WMATA.

A firestorm erupted over UMD’s original plan that began at a May 4th SGA forum and culminated a week later with a letter written to USM Chancellor Brit Kirwan by a diverse coalition of concerned stakeholders. Not only does this new plan maintain transit access on Campus Drive for longer this summer, but it will more appropriately inform the Campus Master Plan Update process than the originally proposed eight-week transit closure. That update will be presented to the Board of Regents in September 2011 and is the whole impetus for this trial closure. Long term implementation of some form of a Campus Drive closure could begin as soon as 2011.

This outcome would not have been possible without SGA Director of Environmental Affair Joanna Calabrese (and the SGA Legislature), the Graduate Student Government, the Residence Halls Association, County Councilmember Eric Olson, the College Park City Council, Purple Line NOW. All worked in close partnership with Rethink College Park, which provided coordination and technical assistance.

In the Q & A sent out by Dr. Wylie, she presents two distinct “visions” for Campus Drive; one of which she believes will emerge after the conclusion of the summer trial and during the Facilities Master Plan Update process. The first “Vision” is her and outgoing UMD President CD Mote’s myopic long-term vision of Campus Drive as a “pedestrian walking mall”…. one that “does away with streets and sidewalks.” The second is the Vision held by every transit expert, smart growth advocate and stakeholder group that has weighed in on this issue. Wylie casts it in a rather unappealing light. Note how Vision 1 is 160% longer than Vision 2…. also take note of how Dr. Wylie now frames the Purple Line alignment in Vision 2: Continue reading UMD Announces Compromise Campus Drive Bus Plan

RTCP Sponsoring Monday 5/24 Purple Line Forum

Come out and participate in a critically important briefing by the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) on the preferred Purple Line alignment on campus and related issues impacting College Park’s Future.

As you may know, there has been a long-running debate on campus as to the proper location for the Purple Line. After an exhaustive analysis and several technical research studies, state transportation officials provided a comprehensive briefing to the University of Maryland System’s Board of Regents on Monday (5/17) definitively making the case for the Campus Drive Alignment (with a stop in front of the Student Union). The state’s briefing was followed by a presentation from outgoing UMD President Dr. CD Mote holding to his opposition to the Purple Line in any achievable form.

State transportation officials are pursuing Preliminary Engineering money from the Federal Transit Administration as early as this summer and it is critically important that this impasse get resolved as quickly as feasible, so that we proceed in the most unified manner as possible. The Purple Line depends on it. Come out and learn more.

This event is sponsored by:
UMCP Student Government Association (SGA)
Purple Line Legislative Caucus
City of College Park
Rethink College Park
Purple Line Business Alliance
Purple Line NOW
County Councilman Eric Olson
Action Committee for Transit
Prince George’s Advocates for Community Based Transit
Coalition for Smarter Growth