CP’s ‘Labyrinth’ and Route One Traffic

Berwyn Maze2.jpgAs anyone familiar with College Park’s neighborhoods knows, in some neighborhoods officials gone to great lengths to limit traffic on residential streets. Although most were developed with interconnected, gridiron street networks, over the years many streets have been cut off totally or made one way.

The result is what one local resident calls a “traffic labyrinth” where visitors are often bewildered and ask for directions to find a house or even to find the exit. Ironically, the parochial interest in reducing traffic on residential streets may be causing larger traffic headaches on Route 1. Hierarcheal street systems designed around collector roads are notorious for their congestion, since the collector road must carry high volumes of traffic and the entire system is highly sensitive to any problems with the connector roads. In plain English, grid systems like Washington, D.C., allow more drivers to get to more places with fewer back-ups. Urbanists have long argued that grid street designs encourage walking, since the many connections allow walkers to take the shortest routes.

How can College Park get more connected? The boldest plan might involve opening many streets at once for a test period to measure the impact. Because this approach would likely prove politically and financially unfeasible, a more selective approach could work. Although open only to pedestrian and bicycle traffic, the city’s Trolly Trail we discussed yesterday connects the various segments along the old route of Rhode Island Avenue, enhancing access to many neighborhoods. We hope the city better marks and promotes this recently developed trail.

We also strongly support introducing a grid street system in the East Campus development connecting both to Route 1, Paint Branch Parkway, and the Old Town neighborhood. (Indeed, many early proposals used in university documents show such a design) We think additional intersections on Paint Branch Parkway in particular could slow traffic in the area, enhance walkability, and ease traffic congestion on Route 1.

9 thoughts on “CP’s ‘Labyrinth’ and Route One Traffic”

  1. Actually the map shown of the Berwyn neighborhood is how the streets were laid out in their 1890s subdivisions. Two brothers developed the subdivisions for Berwyn and adjacent Lakeland. The brothers didn’t get along, so the streets in the two communities were not designed to connect the two plans together.

  2. Well, I’m all for communities restricting vehicular traffic as they see fit. Riverdale Park, north of MD-410, is good example of this.

    University Park, where I live, restricted access to Queens Chapel Rd. in the early 1990’s, but is now having serious trouble with commuters:

    a. Tuckerman & Sheridan streets to bypass the US-1/MD-410 intersection
    b. using Pineway/Wells Parkway as a shortcut from US-1 to (northern) Adelphi Rd.
    c. using Pineway/College Heights Dr. as a shortcut from US-1 to (southern) Adelphi Rd.

    As a pedestrian (and sometimes bicycle) commuter, I’ve seen all kinds of drivers in the morning & afternoon – soccer moms in minivans, workmen in trucks, college kids in rice burners, balding baby boomers in sports cars, schoolbuses, etc. The majority of these drivers DO NOT CARE that there are a 20-30 school-age kids that live on these streets, or, that the speed limits here are between 15-25 mph. The town installed ineffectual “speed humps” in Pineway that actually cause driver acceleration.

  3. My favorite example is the ridiculous network of one-way streets in Old Town near the metro. When I lived there near the Post Office, driving south through the neighborhood was an incredible pain.  I couldn’t help but get the feeling that outsiders were not welcome.

    (One-way streets are indicated by the red arrows)

  4. Studies of Portland show many signs of enhanced walkability/”smart growth, but they also show that the degree of interconnectivity of the street system is very low – causing people to drive far out of their way just to get out of their neighborhood. This is actually a common component of new subdivisions and it’s clear that some of the older CP neighborhoods have adopted such a system piecemeal – one way streets, speed bumps, etc. From a neighborhood perspective it makes sense, but from a big picture perspective where every street is doing it, problems arise. For instance, look at University Towers on google maps and you’ll see that the most direct route for students to campus and Downtown CP is virtually impossible to walk.

    (College Heights drive)

    We had always assumed Rhode Island Avenue was cut off at some point, but looking at this picture:
    I don’t see any road crossing at the Paint Branch stream. Was it just the trolley that went all the way through?

  5. Is it really “the parochial interest in reducing traffic on residential streets may be causing larger traffic headaches on Route 1” or the fact that Route 1 wasn’t built to handle the amount of traffic it currently experiences?

    Further, I have to say that between the astonishing number of parked cars on the streets of my neighborhood and the amount of through traffic that we already get, I’m pleased as punch that we don’t have more traffic using our streets as a bypass.

  6. David is correct. Rhode Island Avenue has never existed directly north of where Paint Branch Parkway is now. The streetcar line was largely constructed from Hyattsville north, on a privately owned right-of-way, cut through what was largely wilderness/farms in 1898/1899. Even though our streetcar service ended in 1958, the owner of the right-of-way, O. Roy Chalk, refused to sell the land. In 1997, shortly before Mr. Chalk’s death, the City purchased his property in College Park through a quit claim deed, because another party had acquired it in settlement of a long standing (35 year old)lawsuit. We then spent the next year having the property surveyed and doing title searches to try to figure out exactly what we had purchased. We still are in litigation over a small piece of the right-of-way in Berwyn. Mr. Chalk’s former property in Hyattsville and Riverdale Park (with the exception of the old right-of-way on the now Caffritz property, just south of College Park)is now owned by WMATA, which is a another story for another time.

    To quote our Mayor: “Nothing is every easy in College Park, but we never quit trying.”

  7. It will be quite an accomplishment if the trail makes it down to that small retail strip in Hyattsville.

  8. David, are you talking about the Riverdale town center, next to the MARC station? I would love to see that connection too. I live near there and bike to UMD daily; currently I ride on Route 1 for lack of an alterantive that doesn’t double my distance. Route 1 is not, shall we say, “bike-friendly.”

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