Considering a New Way to Combat Traffic

Posted by & filed under Design.

guest post by Larry Cole

Transportation planners often say we cannot build enough roads to fix congestion. In fact, building new roads or expanding existing roads accommodates growth but can also encourage people to move farther out. The result is more people driving longer distances, more carbon emissions, more wasted time in traffic. This effect can be amplified when increased traffic on widened roads lessens the desirability of established neighborhoods.

We believe that there is a better way. This week, we will present the Planning Board with preliminary recommendations for a countywide transit network. Our goal is to increase the appeal of transit serving our activity centers, such as Silver Spring, Bethesda, White Flint, and Germantown, and to move … Continue reading

Designing for Joy

Posted by & filed under Design, Places, Public spaces.

At a panel discussion in late October, where architect David M. Childs of SOM received the George White Award for Excellence in Public Architecture from the American Architectural Foundation, the notion of joy in planning came up.

Amid discussions of floor area ratio, compatibility, function, and infrastructure, bringing up joy seems frivolous in the least, perhaps even foolish.

Childs recalled that he and George White, the ninth Architect of the Capital between 1971 and 1996, proposed allowing ice skating on the reflecting pool, an idea that was quickly dismissed as not serious.

But imagine the feeling of gliding between Lincoln and Washington. That stretch of city would become a place for people as well as a place for history. I … Continue reading

Maybe Money Does Grow on Trees

Posted by & filed under Design.

Who doesn’t love trees? As we’ve learned, shoppers perusing downtown shops for the latest bargains are among the tree lovers. That’s why property owners in the Silver Spring and Wheaton Central Business Districts should take advantage of the Planning Department’s new program offering free trees.

Last month, the Department unveiled Shades of Green, a pilot program that provides trees of choice to qualifying property owners, plants them, and ensures care and maintenance for two years. That’s quite a deal.

Download our online maps for details on who qualifies – CBD property owners and property owners in Montgomery Hills – as well as tree species on offer.

Learn more about how the Shades of Green program works … Continue reading

Small Pieces of Big Streets

Posted by & filed under Places, Planning, Public spaces.

The District’s plan for eco-friendly redevelopment in Southwest Washington is a big one, but M-NCPPC environmental planner Tina Schneider points out that one of the plan’s small elements could apply in Montgomery County.

Alternating tree panels with stormwater panels is a way to slow and filter run-off while enhancing streetscape. The County requires stormwater management treatment, but it’s often easiest to use methods that have already recieved approval than to try something new. And, let’s admit it, there’s a lot of competition for the limited right-of way space. We want to make room for bicycles, streetscaped sidewalks, and–oh yeah–cars. It can also be a challenge to thread a new drainage path among existing underground infrastructure.

But other places have managed it–you … Continue reading

“Forbes Ranks Bethesda Among America’s Coolest Cities”

Posted by & filed under Design.

And I hardly know what to make of this. Did someone redefine cool or cities or  Bethesda? And as one commenter on Bethesda Patch noted, Baltimore ranked 14, just beating Bethesda at 17.

Cool is subjective, and (she says snarkily) is the measure of cool the number of  hipster pickle makers per loft? By the way, Brooklyn, which seems to be the epicenter of cool hipster pickle-makers, did not make the list. Though I suppose it was subsumed into the NYC-White Plains-Wayne (NJ) census mess.

And moving on from snark to bureaucratic nerdiness, Bethesda is not a city or even a town. It’s an unicorporated place that can leap perceptual boundaries whenever a realtor needs to gin up another … Continue reading

A New Generation of Malls Track Downtown, Again

Posted by & filed under Places, Planning.

We grew up as planners learning that shopping malls sapped downtown of its energy–whether it was small town retailers wiped out by the mall just over the county line or urban retail boulevards gutted of life as suburbanites left the city to follow jobs and the shopping followed them.

Over time, downtowns began to reimage themselves as malls. Beginning in 1980, The National Trust for Historic Preservation’s Main Street program was based on that very premise, organizing disparate retailers to work together on signage, opening hours, seasonal sales, and marketing.

Federal Realty took it one step further, simply buying up retail streets in places like Westport, Connecticut and Bethesda, Maryland to create a single, curated retail environment from brick … Continue reading

A new(ish) Park in DC

Posted by & filed under Design, Places, Public spaces.

The Yards Park has already won a list of awards, but I’ve just discovered it.

I can see why it’s won awards–there are so many things I love about it–the variety of spaces, the classic Holly Whyte bits of urbanism (movable chairs, touchable water, something to eat, people to watch), and its connections, running from Diamond Teague Park at National’s Stadium and through the Navy Yard, with a few bikeshare docks along the way.

 

 

 

 

 

Walkable Communities vs a Walk-in Closet

Posted by & filed under Design, Places, Planning.

Suburbs have always been an indicator of economic status. If you lived in them, you were wealthy enough to take on a mortgage, maintain a house and yard, and eventually own and maintain one or even two cars.

At some point, that shifted. Living in the city and maintaining a middle class lifestyle took an upper class income. Limited attractive neighborhoods and buildings cost a premium. And if local schools and services were not up to par you needed to pay tuition and fees.

Now, according to Christopher Leinberger and Mariela Alfonzo in the New York Times, a larger number of city neighborhoods are outstripping the suburbs in desirability and thus in per square foot value. Their recent report finds that walkable … Continue reading

Planning for Access to Parks

Posted by & filed under Planning, Public spaces.

Yesterday the Planning Board discussed a draft Park, Recreation and Open Space Plan (PROS Plan) that lays out a strategy to ensure access to open space for County residents:

The purpose of the 2012 PROS Plan is to estimate the future needs for park and recreation facilities and natural, historic and agricultural resource preservation and to develop specific service delivery strategies to meet future needs through the year 2022 and beyond.

This broad-ranging Plan covers traditional park and trail facilities on public and private land, but also delves into preservation and enhancement of historic, cultural, and agricultural resources.

Like the recently created Parkscore system established by the Trust for Public Land, important parts of the PROS Plan … Continue reading

How far can you get on transit in 10, 30, 45 minutes?

Posted by & filed under Design.

What a fun toy!  Mapnificent shows you how far you can travel on transit from any address for several cities around the world.

You can choose the travel time along a sliding bar and choose specific addresses or drag a pin on the map around.  Here’s the blob from the Planning Department’s address set at 30 minutes:

I was able to quickly look at Chicago and Philadelphia, two cities I’ll be visiting soon, and the times looked about like I’ve experienced before (as does Silver Spring’s).  Nothing for Providence, another city I’ll be visiting this summer, although I know RIPTA has a decent system.

Maybe more soon.

More info and examples were posted on The Atlantic Cities site.