New Suburbanism: Walkability & Transit

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In previous posts, I’ve discussed the economic challenges facing Montgomery County: stagnant wage growth, an aging workforce and increasing poverty. I’ve also highlighted our assets, including high incomes, low unemployment and a highly educated workforce. I’ve pointed out that high housing costs are the result of limited supply and that both businesses and residents of all ages prefer neighborhoods that look and feel “urban,” even if they aren’t located near transit or in major city centers. I hope that I have been successful in showing how and why real estate development is essential to economic development. In particular, the supply of housing (at every price point and including both subsidized/regulated projects and market-rate units) is crucial to attracting and retaining the mix of workers … Continue reading

New Suburbanism: Not Just for Millennials

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Investing in more transit and walkable, amenity-rich neighborhoods will attract more residents and employers to Montgomery County

Both businesses and residents in Montgomery County increasingly show a preference for walkable, compact neighborhoods with a mix of uses. This kind of development is commonly described as “urban” in form, but its underlying design principles can be applied at lower densities and at smaller scale in suburban settings.

In Montgomery County, we have been encouraging this kind of development near existing Metro stations and our future Purple Line light rail stations. But we’ve also scaled down and used the same concepts  – walkability, diversity of uses and compact design – where redevelopment offers an opportunity to add badly-needed housing and new … Continue reading

New Transit & New Artwork Coming to Arlington

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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 … Continue reading

Transit improvements Should Not Be Considered Anything Paved

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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 … Continue reading

Considering a New Way to Combat Traffic

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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

Panel will Discuss Montgomery’s BRT Plans

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If you live or work in Montgomery County, you’ve probably heard about the ambitious plans to build Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) here. You can learn more about the proposal at a panel discussion in Silver Spring this Wednesday.

Bus Rapid Transit is a type of transit using buses, which can include many of the aspects normally associated with light rail. Attributes like reserved lanes, all-door boarding, traffic signal priority, and off-board fare collection speed up buses, and allow transit riders to get where they’re going faster.

The county has announced plans to build as much as 160 miles worth of BRT in Montgomery, to bring quick transit to as many residents as possible.

The Coalition for Smarter Growth is … Continue reading

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

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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.

Connecting our “Life Sciences Triangle”

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On a recent trip to Savannah, we not only had a wonderful time – we learned a few unexpected things. There’s more to the city than the beautiful downtown (with omnipresent SCAD buildings), there’s the economy built on an infrastructure that allows Savannah to be the fourth busiest port in the country (according to our boat tour guide) linked to an extensive heavy rail system. And evidence was obvious on the river – even from the window of the restaurant where we had lunch one day. Transit, however, is generally absent; the free Downtown Transportation (DOT) bus is fine, but it covers an area that’s easy enough to walk.

MoCo’s economy seems more diverse than Savannah’s, but is becoming … Continue reading

Hear Human Transit’s Jarrett Walker in DC or Silver Spring

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Building a successful and attractive transit system takes more than drawing lines on a map and buying snazzy vehicles. In addition to the many technical issues, one of the most important factors is values. Who is the system for, and why will they use it?

International transportation consultant Jarrett Walker, who writes the blog Human Transit, has a new book by the same title about the values behind transit, transit’s limits and opportunities, and why people do and don’t ride.

On Tuesday, February 7, the Planning Commission is hosting Jarrett as a part of our speaker series. The talk will start at 7:30 pm in the Planning Board auditorium at 8787 Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring.

If you can’t … Continue reading

The BRT Experience

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While the Planning Board, staff, and County are facing down the challenges of retro-fitting bus rapid transit into the suburbs, some transit planners are thinking about the soulfulness of mass transit.

Beyond the engineering and economic  calculations, the languge used to describe the service, its frequency and legibility, whether you can eat on a train car or check your email all contribute to how you feel about transit and whether you’re likely to use it.

I am not a frequent Metro user, but when I think about a local trip I consider it an alternative. I usually find it timely and convenient, but am always stymied by figuring the fare. Am I in the peak or peak of the … Continue reading