Campus Bicycle Study Released

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Since it is Bike To Work day it might be a great time to download and read The Campus Bike Study we posted about a few weeks ago. The Department of Transportation Services and the University of Maryland Bicycle Advisory Group solicited the study from the Toole Design Group, LLC based out of Hyattsville. Continue reading Campus Bicycle Study Released

Campus To Become More Bike-Friendly.

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You see anyplace for a bike? I've lost track of how many times I've been squeezed into that curb going to work or a game. Where is the love for our carbon-free friends?

The Campus Department of Transportation solicited a eight month study to determine the best way to improve bike ridership on campus. This Gazette Article reports the details.

A university survey found that 5 percent of respondents rode their bikes on campus. J. David Allen, director of the university’s Department of Transportation Services, said he’d like to get that number up to 9 percent.

The campaign would address the many obstacles — too few curb ramps and marked bike lanes, narrow trails and a lack of parking — that hinder on-campus riders.

“There are these little things that will discourage people from biking,” Allen said. “We want to eliminate as many of these things as possible.”

I can tell you from years of personal experience that UMCP is certainly not the most bike-friendly campus and DOTS should be applauded for taking steps to improve. 9 percent is still a dismal number but it is a step in the right direction.

Another contributor to RTCP says.

“I think you’re not casting your net wide enough,” said Councilman Robert Catlin (Dist. 2).

Preach on Brother Bob, preach on.

Approval of Two New Student Housing Projects Provides 1167 Beds

Full build out

Md. approves $80M for new dorm

The Maryland Board of Public Works approved the $80 million for Oakland Hall on Wednesday. Construction is scheduled to start August 2009 and be completed by April 2011.  Some of us at RTCP have wondered why Foulger-Pratt/Argo Investments (the developer of East Campus)  is not paying for this new dorm since it is slated to replace the beds lost from Leonardtown.

University View expansion passed with condition

On Tuesday the College Park City Council approved a preliminary plan for expanding University View to include the 13-story building called the Freshman Connection. On the bright side this expansion will cover the hideous parking garage currently fronting University View.


Public Works Punts On Vote for Oakland Hall

The DIAMONDBACK reports today that the Board of Public Works has postponed the vote for Oakland Hall for two weeks. The state is expecting a $1 billion deficit next year and there is concern about spending $88 million for this dorm. The Board would prefer the Public/Private partnership model whereby a private developer fronts the construction costs. However this model doesn’t work as well when trying to add a freshman dorm to an existing quad. The Board is scheduled to vote on the matter on October 15th. If approved construction would begin this summer, otherwise it would be delayed by at least one semester.

Oakland Hall is set to replace the beds lost from Leonardtown due to East Campus development.

See our previous post regarding Oakland Hall

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

What’s New in CP

As many are well aware, RTCP is in semi-hibernation mode at the moment. We’re planning on a kickoff meeting to discuss the future of the site sometime in May. Until then there are a couple tid-bits to report despite the dampened state of the real estate market. Thanks to everyone who continues to email and post comments about all the great changes coming to the city….

-> Starview Plaza – The Diamondback reports that Starview Plaza is progressing through the early stages of the approval process. The project, which sits just north of College Park Carwash, has languished for years (at least 5?) and the underlying land is owned jointly by the City and University. Originally planned as a hotel, the developer now plans a 500-Beleagured Starview Projectbed mixed use student housing project with an impressive LEED Silver rating. As the Diamondback reports, there has been much debate over exactly what materials should be used on the facade. The Sector Plan requires 75% brick and as the Mazza Grandmarc debate showed us, the city and the county in particular hold tightly to that standard regardless of how visible certain parts of the building are. The choice is between hardyplank – a composite of recycled materials which helps a buildings LEED rating – and brick (an energy-intensive material) on the least visible parts of the building. Let’s hope the county council departs from its absolutist ways by avoiding unneccessary delays…

southwest district phasing-> Campus Construction – The University has released an updated campus construction map, which shows progress on several different projects we’ve blogged about over time. The new journalism building is progressing, the Tyser Tower expansion at Byrd Stadium is underway, and improvements to the Southwest quad and in front of the business school are coming to a close. Also, North Gate Park, a project mired in bureaucracy, funding constraints, and development SNAFUS for the better part of four years is scheduled to start construction this summer. North Gate Park is a joint venture between the city and university and was designed by undergraduate students. 

-> Parking – Recognizing the serious burden that parking requirement place on private developers of student housing, UMD-DOTS via the university’s strategic plan has agreed that students at select off-campus housing complexes can park on-campus. This is a smart move that we think could pay serious dividends by encouraging more student housing. Building lots on Route 1 are small and shallow, thus making the provision of suburban-style parking ratios extremely difficult for dense mixed-use projects. Hopefully the city/county can capitalize on this new policy to implement their Transportation Demand Management plans.

-> Purple Line – There are signs that Campus Drive advocates are making serious inroads. More to come shortly.

UMD Updates Facilities Master Plan

The UMD administration has completed an “update” to the Facilities Master Plan that reflects changes since the original plan was approved nearly seven years ago. It includes a re-affirmation of many of the original plan’s goals, changes to construction timelines, and tables summarizing changes to campus facilities that have taken place since the 2000 Master Plan. The update also includes updates on the progress of the East Campus Redevelopment Initiative.

The only specific mention the update contains relating to the Purple Line is this text:

“Maximize use of alternatives to driving to campus.”

“Support Purple Line stations on or adjacent to campus consistent with providing central pedestrian movement.”

However, attendees at the recent East Campus Community Review Steering Committee received much different information relating to the Purple Line. Last week, Associate Vice President for Facilities Management J. Frank Brewer gave this presentation containing this illustration overlaying the administration’s preferred Purple Line alignment over the Master Plan map.

Jan28 Presentation Master Plan Illustration

We have several reactions:

1. Is this part of the Master Plan update? If so, it should be included on the official version on the Facilities Master Plan website. If it is not, it should not be presented as such to the public.
2. The map omits the two other alignments under official consideration, making it not a planning document but an argument for one option.
3. The plan presents incomplete and inaccurate information annotated on top of the official master plan map. It includes “2,000 units” at the Knox Box area despite the fact the property remains fragmented in different owners and no specific proposal has been made. Even if the owner of much of the land wants to redevelop it, acquisition, design, and approvals would take perhaps a decade. There is a similar situation for a parcel labeled “600” across from the Architecture Building, no specific proposal has actually been made. It also only includes numbers for housing, not the extensive office and classroom space planned by the university along a new mall.
4. Despite the distortions and omissions above, the irony is the illustration still seems to support a campus drive alignment anyway! If you imagine a Stamp Union station, the 10-minute walking circles would encompass not only the proposed new housing, but also the substantial amount of existing housing on North Campus and excellent access to planned construction there and elsewhere. The university’s plan presents a walking radius that spills over into low density cul-de-sacs to the south.

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.

Community Voices Supporting the Campus Drive Alignment

Over the past four days, over 100 faculty, alumni, staff, students, and neighbors have signed our petition supporting the Campus Drive alignment for the Purple Line on Campus. We have been overwhelmed by this outpouring of support and hope it demonstrates broad-based and diverse support for the alignment preferred by the Maryland Transit Administration’s planners and engineers. We thought we would highlight some of the interesting comments contributed by community members.

StadiumDriveFence_013“The University made a terrible mistake .. when campus leadership forced Metro off campus. We must not make the same mistake again. Light rail is part of any sane future energy and transportation policy and the University stop should be near the center of things. This will help the campus maximize its oft-boasted strategic advantage of having easy access to the research and internship opportunities of the National Capital area. Campus leadership has talked of closing Campus Drive to regular traffic for more than 20 years, but has done absolutely nothing. The Purple Line will increase safety by getting frustrated private vehicle drivers off Campus Drive, leaving it for the Purple Line, professionally-driven buses, and emergency vehicles.” — Professor Maynard Mack, Jr.

“This is a must to help make the campus more accessible and raise its status as a top-level university.” — Andrew Hallowell, Undergraduate

“I also live near campus. The purple line would make it possible for me to use Metro to travel to many place I regularly visit around the area. As Metro is presently constructed, it is often time consuming and inefficient to travel by Metro instead of car. This would increase my use of Metro. Furthermore, as a resident of a neighborhood close to campus, the Purple Line could enable many sports fans and attendees of other university activities to use public transportation rather than driving.” — Anonymous University Employee

“One of the main reasons I have not considered applying for jobs at the University of Maryland is that I want to live in a more walkable and transit-oriented community. For these things, I’ll stay in Ann Arbor, Michigan.” — Kevin Hawkins, Alumni

“The University should support the Purple Line down Campus Drive!” — Andrew Rose, Former Undergraduate Student Body President

Purple Line 5“It is crucial that UMD takes steps to reduce its CO2 output and the number of cars driving on campus. I spent 2 years commuting from Washington DC to the UMD campus. On a daily basis, the shuttle ride up Campus Drive was stalled by the high volume of traffic – mainly personal cars. Bringing the purple line to Campus Drive would make the campus much more attractive for pedestrians and would reduce the need for people to drive to campus.” — Heidi Ruffler, Graduate Student

“Making such a central and visible commitment to public transportation would really transform campus and the College Park community in a dramatic and very positive way!” — Dana Coelho, Alumnae

“It makes no sense to route the Purple Line down Stadium Drive. This route is longer, much less-convenient to the center of campus, and would present a safety hazard before and after football games. If the university is serious about getting people out of cars and into alternative forms of transportation, it should support the Campus Drive alignment.” — Jim Elliot, Graduate Student

“I support the Campus Drive alignment. There is no central gathering place on Stadium drive. Most of the foot traffic getting off at the Stadium Drive location would most assuredly migrate to Campus Drive and further south. Also, there is nothing to greet you at Stadium Drive. There is no central hang out.” — John W. Euill, III, UMUC Student

“This route is ‘straight’ and services two cores, the Stamp Student Union and East Campus since the line passes directly through them as opposed to a diverted route. Direct access is considered a boon to many and it is likely that the two centers will appreciate managed mobile options to attract regional clout. While safety concerns are always a priority in any project, I feel the ones that the president are coming up with are rather ludicrous and unfounded. Walking to Susquehanna every other day, I find that crossing Campus drive is already a chore dodging around cars and trucks and buses, and there are those few rude enough to keep going, but I wait patiently because I know I’M NOT GOING TO GET RUN OVER. … Adding a street train is no different than another bus or truck. Sometimes I think those trucks are more hazardous on campus since they … jump the curve … I feel many stand to benefit from a centralized location that serves the -region- as a whole. I don’t want future generations of passengers and students to suffer, Campus Drive is our best alternative!” — Andrew Newsome, Civil Engineering Undergraduate

> Sign our Purple Line on Campus Drive Petition
> Library Page on Purple Line
> See previous news items about the Purple Line

Sign Our Campus Drive Petition

3 Alignments

We have described before why we think the Campus Drive Alignment (purple above) is the best location for the Purple Line in College Park. However, some campus leaders have continued to advocate for an alternative, “Stadium Drive” alignment.

Today we launch a petition in support of the Campus Drive Alignment. Please add your name if you agree.

> iPetitions: Build the Purple Line on Campus Drive