Prince George's transportation plan, part 2: transit alignments old and new
Part 1 looked at road, pedestrian and bicycle improvements in Prince George's Preliminary Countywide Master Plan of Transportation. The plan also evaluates the county's many railways, identifying numerous proposals for expansion.
The County fully endorses plans to increase MARC service on the Camden and Penn lines, which would bring additional tracks to segments of the routes, mitigating the delays that come from sharing the tracks with Amtrak and CSX. The Purple Line is also a priority. The plan lays out future plans to extend the could-be circumferential light rail line to National Harbor via Largo, Westphalia, and Suitland.
This alignment (light purple in the map above) is rather indirect. It runs outside the Beltway to Westphalia, serving a greenfield development, while missing potential infill sites in District Heights and Forestville. Worse yet, it turns inward, bypassing Andrews AFB, a BRAC site unserved by rail that will gain thousands of new jobs over the next decade. Planners should put more track inside the Beltway, such as by the alternate Purple Line alignment in darker purple on the map above. Nonetheless, it is promising to see this segment in some form in the County's plan. If the Purple Line ever runs all the way around the city, Prince George's County will have by far the largest segment, and this plan testifies to the County's interest in seeing such a project come to fruition.
The plan also shows an alignment from New Carrollton to Bowie (blue in the map above). I can't determine if this is supposed to be MARC or Metro. The county lists a Green Line extension to Fort Meade and possibly BWI as a priority (green), and the study shown has the line running along Route 1, which would be much better for future TOD than other proposals that follow I-95. A Green Line extension would also bring better transit to another BRAC site, the isolated, high-density job center of Fort Meade just over the county line. Adequate service to the NSA and the main base could potentially take thousands of automobiles off the road as it strengthens transit links with the Baltimore region.
There are also some entirely new transit lines (brown on the map). There's the proposed light rail from the Green Line's southern terminus at Branch Avenue down MD-5 toward Brandywine and ultimately Waldorf. This route has been tossed around for a few years now, but no formal plans exist, as right now it sits behind the Purple Line, Corridor Cities Transitway, and Baltimore Red Line on Maryland's transit priorities. There's also an extension of a streetcar coming out of DC along Rhode Island Avenue up to East Riverdale on the Purple Line, which would further exploit the potential for TOD along Route 1 and the Port Towns.
A fixed guideway running along I-295 to National Harbor and over the Wilson Bridge appears disconnected from another terminating on the Purple Line extension in Oxon Hill less than a mile away. The study doesn't specify mode, but this ought to use a compatible mode with the Purple Line, allowing it to eventually run all the way around DC. Light rail from DC along South Capitol Street would be better than I-295, and could connect to the Indian Head line with a detour to National Harbor.
I also question the merit of running rail transportation south past National Harbor. This area consists of very sparsely populated suburban sprawl with little chance of transit oriented development. That line would be redundant to the Branch Avenue line, and would wastefully serve exurbs when more beneficial projects could be studied to connect areas inside the Beltway such as Forest Heights, which is completely by-passed by this rail alignment.
Finally, there's one glaring omission in the plan: bus facilities. WMATA is advocating for increased transit capacity through priority bus corridors. Montgomery County Councilmember Marc Elrich responded by identifying 10 corridors in his county that could receive such upgrades. Meanwhile, no Prince George's leaders have discussed any of WMATA's proposed corridors in their county, and there's no mention of them in this plan.
Also missing is the transit center proposed at Takoma-Langley Crossroads, the region's busiest transit node without a Metro station. The proposed bus facility would serve the 11 bus lines that service the intersection while complementing a planned Purple Line station.
The County proposes many transit lines that will enhance mobility in the County. As with roads, though, they seem to treat transit as a set of individual facilities, rather than as an overall network. They should move forward with many of these links. They should also think harder about how to help people move around by transit, by connecting transit lines and focusing new alignments on existing, densely populated communities and potential infill sites inside the Beltway.
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