Transportation Hearing in Review

The PG County transportation hearing in College Park City Hall last night drew a probably unprecedented number of people to the council chambers. After some short presentations from the county, there was a seeminglyExample of unending procession of local politicians and community members lined up for the podium to request that the county government prioritize or eliminate this, that, or the other transportation project.
Everyone in attendance seemed avidly pro-transit and anti-highway and there was of course a large contingent of anti-ICC protesters doling out stickers. The interesting thing was that while everyone wanted more transit, relatively few people talked about the necessity of smart growth and infill development that makes transit feasible and trail extensions (great proposals by the way) prudent. Indeed, it’s hard to distinguish what is more important – development or transportation.
Why is bridging that 1.5 miles of farmland between the beltway and 193 so tempting to UMD administrators? We think it’s because that is the system we have built for ourselves and that is the pattern of land use that is easiest to articulate to passive observers of the debate. How, everyone seems to be wondering, with all this new development, is College Park going to be able to handle all the traffic? It’s up to elected officials to articulate this if they expect to avert the Connector Road.

13 thoughts on “Transportation Hearing in Review”

  1. The County Council representatives there last night to hear testimony are all very familiar with Smart Growth Principals, so there is nothing to say in a sound bite that will make a difference.

    The Council Chambers have been that full on occasion. Generally it is not a good thing when it happens though.

    The traffic generated by development must pass an APF test. That is why traffic mitigation has been required of IKEA and Camden, mitigation is required of JPI, and mitigation is required of EYA in Hyattsville.

    At some point, perhaps very soon, projects will not be allowed to go forward. That is why we need to promote development that is University oriented, improve pedestrian/bicycle options and improve the mass transit option.

  2. It is true that the Connector Rd. will not die if something doesn’t improve on Rt. 1. Public opinion is already mixed. People are frustrated with how Rt. 1 looks, feels and functions.

    An alternative to the Connector Rd would be a wider (but Boulevard like) Rt 1 between the Beltway and 193 with a Dupont-Circle like grade separation at Cherry Hill Rd and improvements to the intersection of Rt 1 and 193. Traffic to the University can then be encouraged onto 193 from which there are four option into Campus and its perimeter parking lots. South of 193 can be kept smaller, slower and more conducive to the College Town feel that most people want. Entry via North gate – which is the worse place to enter from the standpoint of pedestrian vehicular conflicts, can then be discouraged.

    This concept would have a greater negative impact on Rt. 1 businesses north of 103, but it wouldn’t obliterate BARC like the Connector Rd.

    It would be interesting to know why the University President doesn’t view an expressway link bringing thousands of cars to the center of campus with its dysfunctional road system) as a threat to the tranquility of the University while he seems to be getting allergic to the idea of the Purple Line running quietly at grade, on grassy tracks flanked by trees, through campus.

  3. University oriented pertains to the area west of Route 1 between the Founder’s Gate (Northgate) and University. That area has shown the strongest investor interest (and is about the worst part of the corridor now). University oriented uses there would yield the greatest reduction of auto trips and have the greatest incentive to contribute to the improvement of the stream valley adjacent to it.

    Obviously non university uses could also exist there, hopefully to a limited degree. University oriented development can be appropriate in other places too, such as downtown and perhaps further north on Route 1 if it provided connections to the Paint Branch trail and provided transportation to the University, too. The east side of Route 1 is more problematic because of safety issues in crossing Route 1. The area that has the most potential is Lakeland becasuse of its proximity to campus, the UM shuttle to serve the population already there, the various traffic lights and the trail connection under Route 1 to campus.

    The possible Knox Box redevelopment and the proposed Mosaic at Turtle Creek would enhance the University presence at least on the west side of the downtown area.

  4. “At some point, perhaps very soon, projects will not be allowed to go forward. That is why we need to promote development that is University oriented, improve pedestrian/bicycle options and improve the mass transit option.”

    I feel like this approach as it is playing out in reality is just begging for the connector road. For instance, does the city really believe that Northgate Condos with such a high owner occupancy is going to be university oriented? Even in the best case scenario where every single unit was owned and lived in by a university employee, each one of those employees would presumably have a spouse who commutes by car somewhere else. That car comes to them relatively easily because of parking requirements.

    Even in the case of university view (a 100% student project) at the front doorstep of campus, the developer was required to build 4-5 stories of parking! Even worse, student actually have to walk around a large stretch of the building to get to campus via the pedestrian bridge. Apparently the county council is well versed in smart growth, but can’t implement even the most common sense growth strategies.

    On a side note, I feel that a median on route one in conjunction with reasonably timed stoplights would be a capacity improvement. I’m not a traffic engineer, but this seems reasonable.

    Also, I guess I had the impression that city stances on these projects are well known.

  5. Actually the traffic studies model all projects for traffic as if the inhabitants, be they students or faculty, are driving to the Metro or Bethesda or Silver Spring. It doesn’t take into account that the residents can walk to school/work.

    At some point actual traffic studies will hopefully realize that the predicted traffic from development has not occured so we won’t need to have a moratorium on redevelopment.

    It would be great to have less cars, but car alternatives, other than walking, are not well developed now. Even if people don’t drive to work, a strong demand exists for “car storage.” In cities some of this demand is met by weekend rentals. Car sharing would be a good alternative.

    The Northgate developer said that interest is his project was very strong among faculty/staff members. The University agreed with his assessment. With repect to this project, the plan was proposing a shortfall of about 50 spaces from required parking minimums. We supported a waiver to permit less parking spaces and it was granted by Planning Board.

    We would like University to assist in satisfying the near term parking needs of this development, with the expectation that it would diminish over time.

    After University View the University
    said no more. The University says that its future plans for growth preclude it from making new commitments to provide parking. One idea is to provide structured parking on campus adjacent to the projects to meet some of the parking requirement.

  6. A traffic study for the View that assumes people are driving to the university seems rather ridiculous doesn’t it? The university master plan plans for a very large garage directly across the paint branch from the view. It won’t be all that long until people using the trail will see sweeping vistas of 6 parking decks (many hidden under buildings but visible from the back). I’m sure the developers would be happy to forgo parking restrictions and it seems they should be allowed to for student projects – especially those near the university. These students could be treated as on campus and if they really want a car they could be thrown in the same pool as everyone else and the price of permits could go up to regulate demand.

    Stand in front of the View on any given day, you won’t see too many people driving in or out. When faced with buying a $376 parking permit or begging people to take me to the grocery store, I regretfully chose the former.

  7. Point #1.

    Creating a hip Urban type of feel in the new East Campus Development and by Redeveloping the Knox Box area with higher density housing options (think lofts!!!) geared towards students and young professionals will draw more folks to the area and provide alternatives to living in far flung places that require cars that have to clog up Rte 1.

    Bottom line: increase the housing options along the perimeter of campus and students will move closer. “Build it and they will come.”

    Point #2.

    Lets start talking compromise here with regard to the Connector. Stop thinking super highway and start thinking limited / controlled access greenway. I will send David a diagram of some other options that may be more palatable in terms of location for posting to this site but let me try to describe in words: Look, I love the environment as much as the next person and prefer green over asphalt any day BUT I cant stand the smog created by cars stuck in traffic along Rte 1.

    What if the University pushed the road West of the power lines (google the I95 and 495 interchange and look at an aerial view and just south of the park and ride you can see the actual concrete road bed that was poured when there was thought that 95 may someday continue south into DC) then the road would slice just south of the UM System admin bldg, along the northeastern edge of the golf course (will have to relo or reconfigure one of the fairways) then connected with Terrapin Trail.

    Then – and this is the key part: the road is gate controlled and only open 7am – 7pm M-F and for sporting events. Heck you could even put a parking garage up near the park and ride, sell deeply discounted parking permits and run shuttles down to campus.

    Also – the road would be heavily landscaped to build a green buffer between the road and the homes in CP Woods

    Compromise folks. Compromise. Think “everybody wins.” Push the road west of the power lines and 1) it is further away from College Park Woods and 2) it does not disrupt the agricultural lands

  8. You can understand why we would like to have our own zoning authority. Rules written for a County of almost 900,000 people that are largely used to regulate suburban development do not always make sense in College Park, but you still have to use them. Without the 2002 Route 1 sector plan and DDOZ (District Design Overlay Zone) nothing would have been possible here. That plan took about three years to make and get adopted. Perhaps this summer we can get a process started with the County to fix some elements that are not working.

  9. yeah that whole zoning thing has irritated me since I first learned of our challenges (back in the days of Mayor Anna Owens.)

    Couldnt the city PARTNER with the University and PARTNER with the County and PARTNER (catch what Im driving at?) with the state to form a cohesive political force to help everyone understand the importance of College Park as the home of The State’s Flagship University and as such put an end to this madness?

    EVERYBODY WINS when College Park improves – when College Park is a nice attractive college town, the residents benefit (the value of their real estate will soar), The University becomes even more prestigous and that BENEFITS ALL MARYLAND RESIDENTS!!!! ALL OF THEM. The county wins because visitors to the University may actually stay (and eat and shop and spend spend spend) IN COLLEGE PARK instead of over in Bethesda.

    I have been to Alumni Board meetings with prominent alums who visit from NYC and stay in Georgetown. I find that completely unacceptable. (You can bet I sleep and eat in CP on every visit – all 12-15 of them per year)

    When companies send their corporate recruiters to campus to recruit they rarely stay (and spend) and recruit on or near campus. Again – unacceptable.

  10. Anyone who thinks the Connector Road is a solution to anything (except happy alumni going to football games) should take a look at the two SHA Connector road reports and the Connector bus transitway report that have already been published. The third Connector Road study for $1 million is currently underway. The fraction of traffic on Rte 1 which is University-related is 10-15%. The Connector is estimated to cost $100 million. Remember too that $100 million is the estimated cost for Rte.1 upgrade which the city is hoping to get in 2 or maybe 3 chunks. Where should we spend the money? For the benefit of 10% of the traffic or 90%? Think about it.

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