Comment on the Update to UMD’s Campus Facilities Master Plan

UMD is putting the finishing touched on its 2011-2030 Campus Facilities Master Plan (FMP – informational website). The FMP seeks to “establish a framework to guide the orderly growth and development of the campus over the next decade.” It focuses on the campus landscape and transportation systems, which are two major weaknesses of the current FMP.

The FMP Steering Committee will finalize the plan in the coming weeks and present the document to the University System of Maryland Board of Regents in January. Be sure to read the document and submit your thoughts to the Steering Committee.

Ehrlich Transportation Plan Unsuitable for College Park

light rail
Light rail transit in Portland, OR (image via the Rethink College Park Flickr Page).

Before casting your vote today, please consider what you would like your commute and that of future College Park residents to look like. Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob L. Ehrlich surely has: His transportation platform, as outlined below, does not help actualize the vision of the modern college town that we all would like College Park to be.

More buses? The key to Ehrlich’s transportation platform is halting construction of the Purple Line light rail extension to the Metro system. The Purple Line would transverse Washington suburbs, connecting the Orange Line at New Carrollton to the Red Line at Bethesda. The route would have five stops in College Park—just outside the city limits at UMUC, in front of Stamp Student Union, East Campus, the existing Green Line metro stop, and on River Road at M-Square—quickly carrying local faculty and staff to campus, students to internships in D.C., and all residents to the businesses it would attract along the Route 1 corridor. Instead of investing in this speedy, commercially-viable transit system, Ehrlich would like to create a “rapid bus service” along the route, adding to the deluge of buses and shuttles that already hurdle up and down Campus Drive and get caught in mid-afternoon traffic across the region. Even The Diamondback, which endorsed Ehrlich yesterday morning, noted that when it comes to the Purple Line, Ehrlich’s plan is “less popular, less efficient, and less environmentally friendly.”

Roads over rail? Last week, Ehrlich promised to completely halt construction of the Purple Line if he gains office, claiming, “the dollars aren’t there”. While he cannot find money for light rail, there seems to be ample dollars available for roads. Ehrlich intends to divert the $80 million that O’Malley has dedicated to light-rail engineering to local road projects. Ehrlich has long given preference to roads over transit, beginning construction of the $2.6 billion Intercounty Connector during his term, while spurning the $1.6 billion light rail project. As Ehrlich’s representative on the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority board Robert J. Smith told The Washington Post, Ehrlich’s complaints of funding woes for the Purple Line are an attempt to “delay the project” and direct “all money available” to the Intercounty Connector, a nearly completed freeway marked by its environmental infirmity. In College Park, where nearly 50% of students come to campus by some other means than alone in a car, Ehrlich’s antiquated, autocentric scheme is unsuitable for the needs of the campus community.

Simply, when it comes to transportation, Bob Ehrlich does not have the needs of College Park in mind. While the Purple Line surely faces other obstacles in the reluctant University of Maryland administration, the Prince George’s and Montgomery County Councils have already agreed to the project, proving that the need and the desire for modern transit is here. All we need now is a visionary governor who will bring our ideal of a livable, vibrant college town to fruition.

For a similar viewpoint, read architecture professor emeritus and Purple Line NOW president Ralph Bennet’s guest column, “Fear the purple,” in The Diamondback.

UMD Seeks Campus Drive Closure Feedback

After a “half victory” with Campus Drive this summer, here is our chance to speak out as part of the University’s public involvement process and make it known that students, staff, faculty, and visitors do not support plans to restrict Shuttle UM and Metro Bus (and in the future, the Purple Line) access to Campus Drive.
If you were on campus at all this summer, please fill out the University’s survey

Questions 17 and 18 are crucial.

17. If in the future Campus Drive were closed to most vehicles, and Shuttle-UM dropped off passengers on the outskirts of campus (only Campus Connectors would be permitted on Campus Drive), what do you think that would mean for the campus?
18. If in the future the Shuttle-UM bus route were to terminate at Regents Drive garage, how long would you be willing to wait for a Campus Connector to take you to the center of campus?

It’s almost as if the survey design indicates that the administration is leaning toward keeping the roadway open to buses while closing it to cars…. honestly we don’t see any reason why they couldn’t permanently implement such a scheme during the fall semester. Perhaps the “half victory” in May will ultimately lead to some sound transportation planning decisions from the UMD administration.

ANYONE who has been on campus over the past three months– students, staff, faculty, alumni, and visitors included–can fill out this survey so please circulate widely!

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 Forges Ahead With East Campus – Begins to Court New Developers

East Campus Concept - Massing
UMD issued a new phased East Campus Request for Proposal (RFP) Wednesday and will select a developer for Phase I of the project by the end of July. With $5 million in hand to begin relocating their facilities on East Campus to the former Washington Post plant, UMD appears to be forging ahead with a realistic phased implementation plan that takes into account difficult economic conditions. The proposed full build-out of the site plan remains substantially the same (aerial rendering) as the one developed over the course of the past couple years…. although it is subject to further changes to be worked out between the selected developer, UMD, the City and County.

—> See our “10 East Campus Talking Points” to read what RTCP thinks should be incorporated into the project.

Proposed East Capus Plaza behind existing power plant

Peek at the New Journalism Building

knighthalllocationThe Journalism School’s $30 million Knight Hall, having originally been announced in 2006, is now complete. According to the school’s press release, a few spaces in the building won’t be quite complete later this semester but we’re happy to see UMD’s planned west mall (to take the place of lot 1) starting to take shape. It’s expected to be the first building on campus to be certified LEED gold for its many environmental features. Truly a word class facility for one of the nation’s top journalism programs.

Two criticisms:

  • For some reason UMD decided to maintain a rather sizable parking lot between the new building and the Benjamin Building (education school) directly to the east. This is blatantly contrary to the stated vision of the Campus Master Plan to make such intimate spaces pedestrian areas. It’s a strange juxtaposition when you consider the parking lot is adjacent to a very environmentally friendly courtyard next to night hall that uses recycled rain water.
  • Despite UMD’s expansive Campus Bicycle Plan only one rack was installed next to the building. It holds a measly 6 bikes. Either journalism students don’t bike to class or UMD-DOTS is not as fully engaged as they claim to be in the bicycle parking placement process.

Seeing the Forest for the Trees (They’re just trees)

hillock-treehouseIn response to Robert McCartney’s Op-Ed yesterday in the Washington Post, I decided to throw together the following as I continue to ruminate over the massive amount of debate surrounding the proposed development (also see of 9 acres of the 22 acres “Wooded Hillock” behind the Comcast Center:

As an environmentalist and former land conservationist, I mourn the proposed loss of trees as much as the next person. Also, I’m usually less than inclined to side with the University on most issues related to development in College Park. These two things being said, I continue to see no better alternative than the Wooded Hillock for the relocation of facilities on East Campus. I don’t understand how McCartney can say UMD’s examination of alternative sites for these facilities was an “apparently insufficient study”. Somehow studies always seem to be insufficient if the conclusions they reach aren’t in accordance with your own.

Continue reading Seeing the Forest for the Trees (They’re just trees)

Battle Continues for Hillock, We like Golob

[flickr float=center]3972602182[/flickr]

The Diamondback is reporting that the University Senate may come down on the side of the SGA in the Hillock site dispute.

Last February, the SGA unanimously passed a resolution asking the administration to reconsider alternatives to developing the Hillock. But the senate — composed of nearly 200 students, faculty and staff — has a more direct link to university policy than the SGA, which serves primarily as a student advocacy organization.

At a meeting yesterday, the senate’s Campus Affairs Committee charged five members — three faculty members and two students — with reviewing the planned development. The committee will report its findings to the senate by Oct. 26.

We would like the Senate members to look harder at the alternate locations….

Continue reading Battle Continues for Hillock, We like Golob

Campus Plan calls for installation of Bike Box

Yeah that is great. What is a Bike Box?

No, not this kind of box.
No, not this kind of box.

The newly released campus bike plan calls for the installation of several “Bike Boxes” at busy intersections such as Campus Drive and Preinkert Drive. Well the folks at Street Films have a great little video to fill you in on the details. See below the fold for the video.

Continue reading Campus Plan calls for installation of Bike Box