Is Smart Growth a Budget Bargain?

Posted by & filed under Planning.

For the first time, Smart Growth America has gathered enough comparable development data to determine a national average of what communities can expect to save by using smart growth strategies.

Smart growth, most genreally described as an efficient use of land by building mixed uses near each other in a well-connected pattern of walking, biking, and transportation options. Kind of makes quick back of the envelope sense. If communities don’t have to spend to extend roads or water and sewer pipes, or if an ambulance doesn’t have to drive as far, or if residents can use a renovated and expanded existing library, communities eat up fewer tax dollars. More efficient use of new and existing infrastructure has long term budget … Continue reading

Biking Benefits

Posted by & filed under Design.

By the end of the summer, the first Capital bikeshare will be open in Montgomery County. In the meantime, here are some interesting statistics about bike riding and bike-friendly places.

Capital Bikeshare has released the second part of its user’s survey–who report spending less money on transportation, and being more physically fit.

But it takes some infrastrucutre investment to get those benefits. American Bicyclists have released some nice infographics on increasingly bike-friendly places–the DC metro region has increased by 315%.

Ding, ding–on your left!

Current Zoning in Montgomery County

Posted by & filed under Planning, Zoning.

Pop quiz: match the zone categories with the acreage for Montgomery County (this excludes municipalities with their own zoning authority).

Click to enlarge:

The answers, which may surprise you, are on the next page along with graphic representations.

 

New Transit & New Artwork Coming to Arlington

Posted by & filed under Design, Places.

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 … Continue reading

The Proposed Zoning Ordinance: Implementation Phase

Posted by & filed under Design.

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 … Continue reading

Strides in Twinbrook

Posted by & filed under Design.

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 … Continue reading

The Next Generation of Transit: the Key to Montgomery’s Green Future

Posted by & filed under Design.

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!):

Montgomery’s Historically Black Communities

Posted by & filed under Places.

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 … Continue reading

Transit improvements Should Not Be Considered Anything Paved

Posted by & filed under Design.

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 … Continue reading

Transformation in White Flint Recognized by State Sustainability Panel

Posted by & filed under Design.

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, … Continue reading