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As many of you know, two streetcar lines are proposed for Arlington County: one along Columbia Pike and one through Crystal City. Many of the benefits of the transit system are laid out in the planning vision for Columbia Pike & Crystal City, including: Encouraging smart development; Providing attractive, comfortable, affordable transit, Encouraging revitalization, preservation, and affordability, and Spurring investment.   Another aspect of the project, however, is a commitment to integrate public art.  In this case, Barbara Bernstein has been commissioned to create works for several bus shelters along the Crystal City line.  Prototypes, renderings, and sample designs were on view until recently at the Arlington Arts Center, but information can still be found on their website. The proposed… Read more »

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On March 7th the Planning Board began the final phase of its worksessions on the proposed zoning code: implementation and impacts of the new code. After more than 4 years of blood, sweat, and tears (mostly figuratively speaking), a Revised Preliminary Planning Board Draft has been released. After several final worksessions and concluding public hearing, a Planning Board Draft Zoning Ordinance will be sent to the County Council for introduction in early May. During the past few years Planning Department Staff has followed an extensive outreach strategy that has included: Over 80 public meetings, Dozens of Planning Board worksessions, Numerous Council presentations, Regular email “blasts” to hundreds of parties following the project, Press releases for project milestones, Almost weekly web… Read more »

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Good things are happening in Twinbrook, the small community sandwiched between White Flint and the city of Rockville, and planners can take some credit. Three years after the Twinbrook Sector Plan was approved, the area has seen a number of positive changes: More housing in an area that lacked housing Service-oriented retail, also previously scarce Green features, like a bike-share program Office construction The Twinbrook Metro Station makes the community a natural place for growth, particularly residential growth. The Sector Plan calls for more residential units, and they have come. Residents of the new Twinbrook Commons, in the city of Rockville, are just steps from the Twinbrook Metro Station, making it a green development even without the bike share program… Read more »

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Join us for the Coalition for Smarter Growth’s panel discussion on the need to “invest in transit to improve our quality of life, protect our open spaces, and do our part in stopping climate change,” on Wednesday. February 13th from 6-8 pm at the Silver Spring Civic Building. The Planning Department will be part of the panel, discussing the update to our Master Plan of Highways, which will move that functional plan beyond roadways to address bus rapid transit, bicycle-pedestrian priority areas, and MARC service. The Coalition shares some interesting data about bus rapid transit: and provides a good description of bus rapdi transit (it’s not what you might expect from buses!):

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Tucked in among subdivisions and stream valleys, the County’s historically black settlements reflect a history that traces back to the County’s earliest days. In 1790, local tobacco plantation were worked by slaves, who made up one third of the County’s population. Josiah Henson, whose memoirs inspired Harriet Beecher Stowe to write Uncle Tom’s Cabin, described the conditions. “In a single room were huddled, like cattle, ten or a dozen persons, men, women, and children. All ideas of refinement and decency were, of course, out of the question.” But alongside planatations, the County’s Sandy Spring Quaker community freed its slaves in 1770, conveying to them land for a church and dwellings. Sandy Spring would also become a key stop on the Underground… Read more »

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In response to the article, “The year ahead: A top 10 list of transportation projects to watch“, I have to say I’m quite disappointed. Not by the content per se, but the title. Of the 10 projects listed, only 4 are truly “transit” projects; the other 6 are highway projects/roadway improvements (all 10 of which are “transportation” projects). The problem that drives some of us in the design and planning business crazy is that it is precisely because these two concepts are conflated, that we miss the opportunity to truly assess progress for more sustainable, congestion-reducing transportation solutions. Words matter because there is so much baggage attached to them. While, broadly speaking, “transit” is the movement of something from one… Read more »

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Since it was approved in 2010, the White Flint Sector Plan has received much praise. The sector plan establishes the framework to transform a car-centric suburban shopping district known for a sea of under-used parking lots and one of the worst stretches for traffic in Montgomery County into a dynamic mixed-use center. The plan also envisions new housing options, retail, greatly expanded public use spaces and, above all, a favorable environment for walking and cycling. In December, planners were pleased to learn that the Maryland Sustainable Growth Commission recognized the implementation phase of the sector plan with a 2012 Smart Growth Communities award. Implementation includes a special taxing district to pay for new transportation infrastructure, a new mixed-use zone, and… Read more »

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How strongly do you feel about your front yard? Is it a reflection of you and your family; the landscape equivalent of putting on a clean shirt in the morning? As we’ve said before, there are rules for life in suburbia, some written and many more unwritten. And lately, some of the more obscure written rules about front-yard vegetable gardens are being read and interpreted, not always in favor of cucumbers. As this New York Times article points out, one neighbor’s “suitable” groundcover is another’s eyesore. And as we’ve pointed out before, there are plenty of personal and community benefits to front-yard  vegetable gardens. In fact, some communities, like Santa Monica, encourage digging up the lawn for a more food-… Read more »

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Over the past few decades, Montgomery County has seen a steady rise in the number of public art pieces, bringing artistry and creativity to spaces large and small. We see sculptures, art-enhanced plazas, benches and more in schools, libraries, parks, retail centers and office buildings. The collection provides a set of assets that contribute an extra appeal to the look and feel of our communities. The Planning Department helps build the collection by encouraging developers to contribute public art in exchange for density. Thus, we have an outdoor pool with real waves correlated to the tides outside the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration building in Silver Spring. An outstretched palm with birds at a busy Silver Spring intersection. And a… Read more »

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Since 2008, when Washington, D.C. rolled out bicycles for short-term, commuter-oriented trips, it has grown to one of the largest systems in the U.S. With more than 175 stations and 1,700 bicycles, bikesharing has changed the way people get around in the city and inner suburbs. The growth in bikesharing reflects a wave of interest in cycling – for commuting, weekend sight-seeing and even running errands. Its business model focused on convenience – inexpensive rentals, hassle-free memberships, flexible pick-up and return locations – taps into a need to get around quickly in traffic. It also provides a green option for environmentally conscious urbanites. The bright red cruisers and rows of bike docks provided by Capital Bikeshare are now ubiquitous throughout… Read more »