Greater Greater Washington

Upper Marlboro is too remote for most Prince Georgeans

Access to government is an essential part of a functioning democracy. When a county's government is too far away from its citizens, it impedes many who would otherwise participate. Prince George's County's seat in Upper Marlboro is a particularly poor location.

I created this map showing where the county seats relate to the geographic and population centroid of each county in Maryland:

Click the image for larger version.

Upper Marlboro is on the far eastern edge of Prince George's County. The courthouse, in fact, is only 2 miles from the border with Anne Arundel County.

That means that for many residents, it is a long, tedious trip to the county seat to testify before the council or otherwise participate in events at the county's administrative center.

For those with a car, it's a long trip. For those without a car, it is a long, and at some times, impossible trip. The last bus leaves Upper Marlboro bound for Addison Road station at 6:40 pm. If you want to testify at the council after that, you'll need a car.

When I was called for jury duty last year, I had to borrow a car to get there. Jurors are expected at 7:30. For people living in the northern end of the county, that means catching the 6:30 bus from New Carrollton. And if your bus doesn't get to New Carrollton by 6:30, you're out of luck. For example, the first bus from the north end of Greenbelt doesn't get to New Carrollton until 6:49.

Upper Marlboro is not central

Upper Marlboro is not particularly close to the geographical center of Prince George's County. The geographical centroid (the average latitude and longitude of all points in the county) is just northeast of Andrews Air Force Base, just over 5 miles west of Upper Marlboro.

Of Maryland's 23 county seats, Upper Marlboro is the 9th most distant from the geographical centroid of its county. The worst is Oakland, over 10 miles from Garrett County's center. On the other hand, Denton is less than a half mile from the center of Caroline County. The state average is 3.97 miles.

More important than geographic centrality is that the seat is close and accessible to the populace. In that regard, Upper Marlboro fares much more poorly.

Upper Marlboro is 9.66 miles from the county's 2010 centroid of population (the average latitude and longitude of each resident's home in the county). That's the 2nd largest, after only Worcester County (home of Ocean City).

The distance between population centroids and county seats ranges from a high of 12.83 miles in Worcester County to a low of just 0.32 miles in Caroline County. The statewide average is 4.02 miles.

The 2010 population centroid of Prince George's County is near the intersection of Martin Luther King, Jr Highway and Sheriff Road in the Landover area. This is about halfway between the Cheverly (Orange Line) and Morgan Boulevard (Blue Line) Metro stations.


Centroids of Prince George's and Montgomery counties. Click for interactive map. The blue dot represents the population centroid, and green is the geographic centroid.

If we compare this to Montgomery County, we find that Rockville is only 1.75 miles from the population centroid and 4.51 miles from the geographic centroid of the county.

CountyCounty seatMiles to pop.
centroid
Miles to geo.
centroid
AlleganyCumberland3.743.76
Anne ArundelAnnapolis8.426.32
Baltimore CountyTowson1.745.15
CalvertPrince Frederick2.491.26
CarolineDenton0.320.47
CarrollWestminster3.691.45
CecilElkton6.166.60
CharlesLa Plata3.102.20
DorchesterCambridge3.676.27
FrederickFrederick0.782.93
GarrettOakland8.5610.38
HarfordBel Air2.102.37
HowardEllicott City4.175.50
KentChestertown1.973.34
MontgomeryRockville1.754.51
Prince George'sUpper Marlboro9.665.01
Queen Anne'sCentreville4.703.45
SomersetPrincess Anne5.586.34
St. Mary'sLeonardtown3.401.75
TalbotEaston1.520.95
WashingtonHagerstown1.675.53
WicomicoSalisbury0.461.58
WorcesterSnow Hill12.834.22
Click on a column header to sort the table.

Time for a change?

The population centroid is a contantly-changing point on the map.

In 1920, for example, the population centroid for Montgomery County was located north of Rockville. By 1960, it had moved as far south as Garrett Park, as the downcounty area urbanized. But then the wave of population growth moved north, and pulled the centroid with it.

In Prince George's County, since suburbanization began with streetcars in the early 1900s, growth has always stayed close to the DC boundary. Even as sprawling neighborhoods began to appear throughout Prince George's, the density of the close-in neighborhoods means that the population centroid has stayed close to DC.

Because so many Prince Georgeans live in the northern part of the county and close to the DC border, moving the county seat could make it easier for county residents to get involved in their government.

The county has already taken steps to move some departments to Largo, including the county's Department of Public Works & Transportation.

Prince George's should continue that trend, and moving the County Council should be a top priority.

If Largo were the county seat, it would be about the same distance from the geographical center of the county (5.16 miles instead of 5.01 miles), but it would be much closer to the population centroid (2.79 miles away instead of 9.66 miles).

Additionally, a seat in Largo would be much more accessible to residents without access to cars. Largo has a Metro station, and is a transit hub for several bus routes. Transit service there lasts almost until midnight, as opposed to shutting down at dinner time, as it does in Upper Marlboro.

A seat with Metro service would also put Prince George's in the same category as some of the other counties in the region. DC, Arlington, Alexandria, and Montgomery all have Metro-accessible seats.

Upper Marlboro is very inconveniently located. It's time Prince George's stopped asking its residents to slog more than halfway across the county just to participate in local government.

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Matt Johnson has lived in the Washington area since 2007. He has a Master's in Planning from the University of Maryland and a BS in Public Policy from Georgia Tech. He lives in Greenbelt. Hes a member of the American Institute of Certified Planners. He is a contract employee of the Montgomery County Planning Department. His views are his own and do not represent the opinion of his employer. 

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Wow. If we start moving capitals to where people live, few capitals would stay where they are. Bye bye Annapolis, welcome Laurel as Capital of Maryland. Or you end up with Harrisburg, conveniently located in the middle of nowhere between the two large population centers of PA.

If you want better transit to Upper Marlboro, fine, that is a good argument. Why not extend the Blue Line there along Penn Ave?

by Jasper on Mar 4, 2013 10:26 am • linkreport

@Jasper

Gotta stand up for my hometown. Harrisburg isn't in the middle of nowhere! It's the fifth largest MSA in PA. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harrisburg_metropolitan_area, with over 650k people.

by Stevey Jones on Mar 4, 2013 10:36 am • linkreport

Matt is absolutely right, PG's county gov't is far too removed.

Not sure how to make an extended blue line (along Penn Ave) work since the farthest end is in Largo..the opposite direction from Penn Ave.

by HogWash on Mar 4, 2013 10:50 am • linkreport

If I'm not mistaken, when all the beat reporters in our viewing area conclude their reports on cases there, they say "reporting live from Prince George's County." At some point, I learned that was in Upper Marlboro. Then one day out of curiosity, we stopped by there. Kind of weird town, with seemingly more signs for bondsmen than cafes.

Anyway, I bet the reporters would love to see a move closer to the center.

by Jay Roberts on Mar 4, 2013 10:54 am • linkreport

I live in Prince George's (not in Upper Marlboro) and would prefer to see the county administrative offices and departments remain in Upper Marlboro. In most other aspects of life, common wisdom is that people will find ways to make work what is important to them, even county government participation. What I think is necessary is that public transit piece be addressed so that people have a means to reach metro after council meetings.

by Black on Mar 4, 2013 11:04 am • linkreport

@Jasper, you're comparing apples to oranges. Matt is suggesting moving a county seat, not a state capital. Huge difference. People need to interact with country government directly on a much more regular basis than with state government. No one is suggesting moving any state capitals.

by Alex on Mar 4, 2013 11:04 am • linkreport

Or, split the county into two. It's only in very recent history that county-splitting has become rare; it used to be the first option that state governments would consider when the population got too unwieldy for one county seat to handle.

by Tom Veil on Mar 4, 2013 11:05 am • linkreport

Fascinating map, Matt.

I always thought Upper Marlboro was in a weird location.

In olden days, there was a direct connection between Rockville and UM - what's now Viers Mill Road, Kensington Boulevard, University Boulevard, Riggs Road, Ager Road, Landover Road, Largo Road. But that's been sliced and diced to the point where it's no longer recognizable.

by Frank IBC on Mar 4, 2013 11:08 am • linkreport

What's interesting is how many counties get the location just right - Alleghany, Washington, Frederick, Carroll, Calvert, Charles, St. Mary's, Harford, Kent, Talbot, Caroline, and Wicomoco. Of course, in the less populated counties, it may just be that the central location was picked for the seat, and that became its biggest city and thus its centroid of population.

by Frank IBC on Mar 4, 2013 11:16 am • linkreport

As mentioned in the article, it can be nearly impossible for some county residents without cars to get to jury duty on time. I'm not sure what the solution is, but needing a car to get to jury duty (a legal obligation) makes car ownership a de facto requirement in some areas, which should not be the case for someone living so close to DC.

by jcs on Mar 4, 2013 11:21 am • linkreport

@Matt Johnson, agreed. I also like @Tom Veil's suggestion of splitting the county. To me that is the best solution.

by Tina on Mar 4, 2013 11:21 am • linkreport

Prince George's is a large county (population and area). I'm not surprised this is new to some. I'm sure quite a few regular posters would be very surprised by the lack of development in much of the county. This will be fun... where and how would you divide Prince George's County?

by selxic on Mar 4, 2013 11:30 am • linkreport

I've heard similar arguments used for ehy Fairfax County should have more services available at their South County center on Rt 1, especially given the high transit-dependent population in southeast Fairfax County. It's VERY difficult for those folks to get out to the main county government center near Fair Oaks.

by Froggie on Mar 4, 2013 11:30 am • linkreport

Or, split the county into two.

Dear Lawd, that would be amazing! Where do I sign?

by thump on Mar 4, 2013 11:33 am • linkreport

@Jasper:
I'm not suggesting anyone move the state capital in any state. As Alex pointed out above, people need to participate in local government far more frequently than state (or federal, for that matter) government.

However, there's absolutely nothing wrong with moving state capitals. Many state capitals have moved over the years.

Georgia's state capital, for example, has moved 13 times since statehood (in 1776). The most recent move was to Atlanta in 1868.

The most recent move of a state capital was Oklahoma's, which moved in 1910 to Oklahoma City from Guthrie (which had served as the territorial capital since 1889 and the state capital since 1907).

Perhaps most notable is Rhode Island, whose capital rotated among the 5 county seats from 1776 until 1853 and then alternated annually between Providence and Newport from 1854-1899.

by Matt Johnson on Mar 4, 2013 11:46 am • linkreport

At a time when more and more government services are being offered online, I think it is an excellent idea to spend tens of millions of dollars (at least) to move the physical location of the county government a few miles. Its not like PG County could find other uses for that money.

by dcdriver on Mar 4, 2013 11:46 am • linkreport

Completely agree that the county seat is far too remote and inaccessible.

@dcdriver

The court system does not happen online. That alone should be sufficient reason to move it.

by Tim H on Mar 4, 2013 11:53 am • linkreport

@Froggie: I seem to recall that there was a plan, some years back, to build a secondary courthouse in the South County area for just that reason. I agree, Fairfax is too remote from us down there for true government purposes. (It takes me 45 minutes to an hour to drive out there...fine for a concert, less fine for something like jury duty.)

Perhaps that would be something PG County could consider short of a county split? (Nothing wrong with a split, mind; I think it should be considered more often.)

by Ser Amantio di Nicolao on Mar 4, 2013 11:57 am • linkreport

split PG in two? Given the precarious state of PG in terms of incomes, crimes, schools, and budget you'd have to be very careful that both of the new counties were about equal in terms of incomes, demographics, growth potential etc - or you would create one stronger county, and one heading rapidly into "suburban death spiral".

by AWalkerInTheCity on Mar 4, 2013 11:57 am • linkreport

However, there's absolutely nothing wrong with moving state capitals. Many state capitals have moved over the years.

The fact that no state capital has moved in over 100 years probably speaks to the tremendous cost associated with moving a large government center. Governments were a lot smaller 100+ years ago.

PGC's poorly located county seat is a problem that's unfortunately not likely to be cost effective to fix. The location was probably chosen because it was the lowest cost option which was the a short-sighted decision (much like how many of PGC's metro stations were located in the low-cost option such as the floodplains of Landover and that is now limiting TOD opportunities). Probably the best PGC can do now is provide better bus service between Largo/NC and the county seat.

by Falls Church on Mar 4, 2013 12:00 pm • linkreport

...The location was probably chosen because it was the lowest cost option

..hm..i bet it had more to do with where someone making the decision lived at the time...

by Tina on Mar 4, 2013 12:05 pm • linkreport

...The location was probably chosen because it was the lowest cost option

..hm..i bet it had more to do with where someone making the decision lived at the time...

Or, it could have been some kind of pay-to-play arrangement with the developer for the County Seat. Someone made a killing selling/developing that land in Upper Marlboro.

by Falls Church on Mar 4, 2013 12:20 pm • linkreport

Where would I divide the county?

Probably somewhere between Central Avenue and Pennsylvania Avenue.

As bad as the location of Upper Marlboro is now, it was far worse (in terms of the geographical centroid) in early days. PG County used to include all of Montgomery, Frederick, Washington, Allegheny and Garrett Counties, as well as western Carroll County (everything east of Parr's Ridge was then part of Baltimore County) and the Indian Head section of Charles County.

As for the population centroid, Washington DC and its suburbs did not exist at the time, and the population lived much closer to the Tidewater. So who knows.

by Frank IBC on Mar 4, 2013 12:23 pm • linkreport

@Stevey Jones:Harrisburg isn't in the middle of nowhere! It's the fifth largest MSA in PA.

Yeah, when also counting a bunch of surrounding counties and then you still don't get to the population of DC.

BTW: I am not saying anything negative about Harrisburg. Just that it's small and between Philly and Pittsburgh, two two big cities of PA. There are plenty of wonderful little city state capitals.

@ alex:moving a county seat, not a state capital. Huge difference.

Yeah. County capitals matter even less than state capitals.

@ Froggie:It's VERY difficult for those folks to get out to the main county government center near Fair Oaks.

It would not be if Fairfax were to extend the Blue Line along the County Parkway and VA-123 to GMU/Fairfax City/Govt Center and beyond.

@ Matt:However, there's absolutely nothing wrong with moving state capitals. Many state capitals have moved over the years.

True. Back in the day when there was no massive administration to move along with a capital. Also, all your examples are from more than 100 years ago. New buildings, massive moving costs... Call that nothing wrong.

And I know what I am speaking of. I am a citizen of the EU, which has a(n insane) parliament that moves back and forth between Brussels and Strasbourg. Moving capitals is a waste of money, only worth it when walls come down.

But more seriously. Why move the capital, and not just decentralize the government. As PG County needs new buildings, why not spread our through the county? PG County is not that large (compared to counties out west), and it would be good for county employees and executives to travel around more.

by Jasper on Mar 4, 2013 12:23 pm • linkreport

The location was probably chosen because it was the lowest cost option
..hm..i bet it had more to do with where someone making the decision lived at the time...

Uh, it has everything to do with when the County was founded and the County seat was placed. Upper Marlboro was at the highest navigable point of the Patuxent at that point in time. Much the same reason that Georgetown was located where it was (highest navigable point on the Potomac), and Bladensburg (highest navigable point on the Anacsotia - then, at least).

It wasn't until later that urbanization in the county started (1830s and onward around the railroad lines in places like Hyattsville, Laurel, and Bowie), and then around DC with the streetcar lines (places like Mount Rainier, Edmonston, etcetera). There are a wealth of incporated places in PG (far more than other counties in this area), incorporated precisely because it was difficult to rely on the County for services when the County Seat was so far away. (as compared to Montgomery County, where Rockville is centrally located to urbanization).

This isn't a new issue, and although it's apparently fun for our Virginia comments to make pay-to-play comments, it has nothng to do with the actual reasoning for the location.

by Jarrett on Mar 4, 2013 12:32 pm • linkreport

...The location was probably chosen because it was the lowest cost option

Upper Marlboro is one of the oldest communities in the state and was a very important part of PG County's tobacco and plantation economy before the Civil War. According to Wikipedia, it became county seat in 1721.

by dcdriver on Mar 4, 2013 12:37 pm • linkreport

Upper Marlboro was once a port, at the head of navigation for the Patuxent. That's why it's the county seat. It was once the most important town in the county.

by Paul on Mar 4, 2013 12:39 pm • linkreport

or you would create one stronger county, and one heading rapidly into "suburban death spiral".

Yes please! I already subsidize the hell out of the sprawling parts of PG county and have no desire to do so. Let them have to pay for their "drive till they qualify" homes, police stations, schools, fire/ems, overbuilt water/sewer/arterials. I'll take my streetcar suburb grid, low transportation costs, a responsive police dept. (thank you incorporation), and easy multi-modal access to just about anywhere in the metro area.

by thump on Mar 4, 2013 12:44 pm • linkreport

So I guess the real question is then, when PG County went to build a new courthouse and other government buildings in the past 20 years, somebody in charge didn't say "hey, wouldn't it be a good idea if this were actually someplace people could get to?"

I would bet that there are plenty of examples across the country of places where they didn't put all the governmental functions in the county seat precisely because things have changed since 1721.

by MLD on Mar 4, 2013 12:46 pm • linkreport

@Jarrett: This isn't a new issue, and although it's apparently fun for our Virginia comments to make pay-to-play comments, it has nothng to do with the actual reasoning for the location.

Thanks for the explanation.

Making pay-to-play comments is not my idea of fun. I can assure you that it's a very serious issue and one that has affected my interests.

by Falls Church on Mar 4, 2013 12:50 pm • linkreport

Actually Upper Marlboro is not on the Patuxent itself, but on a branch that is no longer navigable.

Lower Marlboro, 15 miles to the south, is actually on the Patuxent, but on the Anne Arundel shore. Anyone who wondered about the "Upper" in "Upper Marlboro", your mystery is solved.

by Frank IBC on Mar 4, 2013 12:51 pm • linkreport

The federal court pays for transportation, but the state courts just provides $15. If the state is not going to pay for transportation, it should run buses from Largo and Branch Avenue to Upper Marlboro.

Upper Marlboro's location has many advantages: For jury duty, one must travel in the opposite direction as rush hour traffic, making for a relatively pleasant and predictable drive. Only people from the northwestern part of the county even need to get on the beltway to go there. And once you are there, if you have the time, you realize that Upper Marlboro is in a sense at the gateway to the County's rural tier.

It's also near the dump. If you have alot of old paint cans etc., jury duty is an opportunity for visiting the hazardous waste disposal site.

And as Jarrett mentioned, there is the Patuxent. If you have a kayak, canoe, etc.--or even just a fishing pole--there are alot of nice places nearby to launch for a peaceful afternoon after the trial, before you go back into town.

by JimT on Mar 4, 2013 1:02 pm • linkreport

Are there jurisdictions with multiple courthouses? The only example I can think of is NYC but then the 5 boroughs are counties in the eyes of the courts anyway.

by Drumz on Mar 4, 2013 1:03 pm • linkreport

@Drumz: There is a District Court in Hyattsville, but it only handles minor offenses without jury trials.

by JimT on Mar 4, 2013 1:22 pm • linkreport

Drumz, The Fairfax District Court has offices in Fairfax, Herndon, and Vienna.

by dseain on Mar 4, 2013 1:30 pm • linkreport

I'm learning a lot today thanks. But if you are in a jury pool then that doesn't help much I guess.

by Drumz on Mar 4, 2013 1:34 pm • linkreport

The police department is located in Palmer Park (near Landover), and many of the parks offices are in Greenbelt, so there has been attempts to relocate some government offices of importance away from the seat. Growing up in southern MD, I always did find it strange how rural Upper Marlboro is and how urban Rockville is. Though, 100 years ago, both were in the middle of nowhere, and in most directions out of DC, Upper Marlboro would be situated in a much more urban setting. The lower desirability of the communities closer to DC along Penn Avenue, the larger lot residential zoning and environmental concerns have over the years 'built' or in this case, not built, Upper Marlboro to be in the middle of no where.

Many of the 'county seats' in Virginia are out of the way locations that are just government compounds that were built in the middle of nowhere, and instead of even taking on a town name, take on the name "Hanover Court House", "Amelia Court House", or are otherwise arbitrarily located, like in Henrico, Fairfax, Spottsylvania, Charles City County. Probably at least partially because of the independent cities of VA making many of the otherwise logical government centers not part of the County that surrounds them.

by Gull on Mar 4, 2013 1:35 pm • linkreport

That means that for many residents, it is a long, tedious trip to the county seat to testify before the council or otherwise participate in events at the county's administrative center.

According to Census data, the median travel time to work for a Prince George's County resident is 35.8 minutes. Anyone know if the median travel time to the county seat is less or more than that? Hard to imagine that the trip is that much of a "long" "tedious" "slog" if the residents are willing to commute that long or longer to and from work 260+ days a year.

by Scoot on Mar 4, 2013 1:56 pm • linkreport

@ Scoot -

I did a quick-and-dirty check for driving times from UM to various points in northern PG County. It looks like everything west of the BW Parkway and north of MD 193 exceeds 35.8 minutes.

The maximum trip times I got were to Chillum (42 minutes) and Laurel (39 minutes).

by Frank IBC on Mar 4, 2013 2:12 pm • linkreport

Definitely an interesting question. Not being a PG county resident, I dont really have an opinion. Perhaps some satellite one stop shop offices and improved transit would be a compromise? Looks like PG has county buses that serve the area. The problem with municipal facilities is that some of them can be quite sprawly especially transportation, utility, parking etc so its not necessarily efficient to have it all in denser areas.

by Alan B. on Mar 4, 2013 2:56 pm • linkreport

@Jasper: however, a Blue Line extension is not realistic for probably another 20-30 years. Even to Ft Belvoir, let alone around and up to Fair Oaks!

by Froggie on Mar 4, 2013 3:06 pm • linkreport

@Jarrett, @Falls Church, @MLD- Thanks for the explanation.

Yes interesting history. makes sense. Thanks. Although

The real question is then, when PG County went to build a new courthouse and other government buildings in the past 20 years, somebody in charge didn't say "hey, wouldn't it be a good idea if this were actually someplace people could get to?"

Making pay-to-play comments is not my idea of fun. I can assure you that it's a very serious issue and one that has affected my interests.

Me too. I live in PG Co.

by Tina on Mar 4, 2013 3:21 pm • linkreport

I live in north College Park, I am about 17 miles from Upper Marlboro. It's about 20 miles and 30 minutes away by car.

For comparison, Montgomery County's seat (Rockville) is 14 miles away, or 17 miles and 22 minutes by car. Even Tyson's Corner is comparable at 18 miles away, or 23 miles and 27 minutes by car.

It's time for PG County to find a new county seat when places in northern Fairfax County (and Arlington) become comparably convenient for many residents.

by DAK4Blizzard on Mar 4, 2013 3:43 pm • linkreport

@Frank IBC:

Lower Marlboro is in Calvert County, not Anne Arundel.

by Andrew on Mar 4, 2013 6:01 pm • linkreport

DAKBlizzard - is the first of each pair of distances that you list "as the crow flies"?

by Frank IBC on Mar 4, 2013 6:10 pm • linkreport

@ Andrew -

Ooops! Right shore, wrong county. Thanks. :)

by Frank IBC on Mar 4, 2013 6:11 pm • linkreport

For a few years, I've suggested that if PGC really wants to promote "transit oriented development" that it should move its government center to one of the transit stations, for all of the reasons you delineate.

by Richard Layman on Mar 4, 2013 6:14 pm • linkreport

@ Jasper -

Why would you want to extend the Blue Line to Fair Oaks? The Orange Line is much closer - just two potential stations away, one at Fairfax City and then the other at Fair Oaks.

by Frank IBC on Mar 4, 2013 6:24 pm • linkreport

Seat Pleasant is at the centroid of population, and it has a Blue Line station, but I suspect it would be a very hard sell for a relocated County Seat.

Maybe Morgan Boulevard would be a good location.

by Frank IBC on Mar 4, 2013 6:26 pm • linkreport

@Frank IBC,

Yes, the first distance I give is the straight-line "as the crow flies" measurement between the 2 locations.

The second distance I give (with the estimated time) is based on the quickest route by car (according to Google Maps) between the 2 locations. That's why the second distance is always longer than the first distance. This distance may be even longer if using another mode of transportation.

by DAK4Blizzard on Mar 5, 2013 12:05 am • linkreport

New Carrollton is the obvious place to put it. It's within a mile or two of the centoids, but it's where PG County's Amtrak station is, it's where 495, Route 50, 410, 202, 295, 450 and 704 meet. There's metro...just about every bus route in the county runs to New Carrollton, and it's basically the natural center of the county already. If you put county government and courts in New Carrollton you will revitalize the county's economy just by making the courts and county government more accessible to people and businesses.

by Adam Ali on Mar 5, 2013 1:25 am • linkreport

So how often to people, in any county, "testify before the council or otherwise participate in events at the county's administrative center?"

by Karl on Mar 5, 2013 6:18 am • linkreport

Since the premise of this seems to be saving people a long trip for jury duty, you must address the fact that the Circuit Court there serves all of Southern Maryland. Given your GIS skills, perhaps calculate the geographical and population centers of PG-Calvert-Charles-St.Mary's County.

@DAK4Blizzard: I live in north College Park, I am about 17 miles from Upper Marlboro. It's about 20 miles and 30 minutes away by car. For comparison, Montgomery County's seat (Rockville) is 14 miles away, or 17 miles and 22 minutes by car.

by JimT on Mar 5, 2013 8:37 am • linkreport

Google says that right now it takes 49 minutes to driver to Rockville and 35 minutes to Upper Marlboro, from the College Park metro station. The train saves you no time.

by JimT on Mar 5, 2013 8:38 am • linkreport

I love the fact that so many people are sending comments on this article. I am a Prince Georgian of 12 years and would like to say that travelling to Upper Marlboro (which is not only out of the way but in a floodplain) is not the ideal location. By moving the county seat to a more metro accessible location would help to connect the more people to the County Council and the administration of one of the largest counties in Maryland. Not sure I would say Largo, but am open to ideas. This may spur development too, like others have said. Prince George's needs to change. We as a county need to expect more and better from our leaders. Make a bold decision that puts a stake in the ground. Do things differently than how we've done them in the past. Embrace change!

by Carl from Bowie on Mar 5, 2013 1:38 pm • linkreport

I've lived in PG county for 12 years, and have had several occasions to go to Upper Marlboro...including serving on a grand jury. The town itself is not conducive to being a county seat...there is nothing there except county offices! It seems like better access to public transportation would greatly improve citizen participation...it would also make sense to have regional offices for such a large county.

by Bonnie Moore on Mar 5, 2013 4:09 pm • linkreport

I can't speak about anything but Garrett County in far western Maryland. Its county seat and commercial hub is Oakland. State highways lead to a from it following the valleys of the western Maryland mountains. Roads leading to the specified population and geographic centroids exist, but the county's public transit is set up to transport those without POAs to public places and medical facilities and providers which are in or near Oakland. Oakland itself is near the crest of the mountains where the B & O railroad first crossed into West Virginia and beyond, and stopping there (and having a community form) was a natural process that worked then and still does.

Centroids make an interesting study but are not always compelling.

by Lindsley Williams on Mar 5, 2013 4:40 pm • linkreport

PG has already purchased several large office buildings in Largo for county agencies. I think the trend will be to relocate most county government functions to the Largo government center. Once the County Administration Building in Upper Marlboro is due for replacement you may hear more about relocating the County Council and Executive to Largo instead of the proposed Western Branch Civic Complex at the current courthouse surface lots. It would be much more efficent to relocate out of Upper Marlboro instead of building a new government center there. I believe the judicial branch will remain indefinitely in Upper Marlboro, as the courthouse complex is fairly newish and proximity to the PG Correctional Facility is key.

This will evolve something like the current setup Fairfax County has - the newish Government Center in Fair Oaks and the old government center and court/prison complex in Fairfax City (interestingly enough, technically in a different county). I think this arrangement would work very well as Largo and Upper Marlboro are only 10 minutes apart connected by MD 202, similar to the Fairfax setup.

In terms of county government efficiency, the most important is locating the court system near the prison system. In Montgomery County, the decision to build the correctional facility in Clarksburg resulted in a two jail system with the old jail being used as a intake center, a highly inefficent system of having two jails in a low crime county. But land use considerations in Montgomery forced this circumstance.

by Cyrus on Mar 5, 2013 10:22 pm • linkreport

The Fairfax Courts (of which the City of Fairfax it part) and the Fairfax Public Safety Center sit in an exclave of the County of Fairfax within the City of Fairfax. So, they're surrounded by the City but not part of it.

by dseain on Mar 5, 2013 10:37 pm • linkreport

So basically the center of PG County is about Forrestville give or take?

It would be easy on transit to Upper Marlboro if

1 PG County The bus ran the same or similar hours to Metrobus & Ride On

2 Purple Line; currently it is a pain in the ass going north/south by transit in PG County as you must either take many buses or go to DC to transfer lines

3 The design for the Orange, Blue an Green lines in PG County was stupid; they completely missed areas that had populations to build stops like Cheverly, Landover, Greenbelt and Branch Ave which hardly have any people around them for atleast 2 to 3 miles

4 One of the Metro lines should have been planned to go to Upper Marlboro from the get go there is no excuse when Largo was planned to be the end of the Blue line from the get go.

5 The county could use atleast 2 bus routes that travel north/south one inside the Beltway close to DC and one outside of the Beltway

@ Jasper

The Green line would be the better route due to just being able to go straight down Pennsylvania Ave whereas the Blue Line would have to travel through woods or down an empty Largo RD which is basically woods, farmland and or just empty land. With using a Greenline route to Upper Marlboro you could atleast get a stop in Forrestville, Westphalia and possibly even develop a brand new area.

@ Adam Ali

Just about every bus in the county does not go to New Carrolton where did you get the info that most do. I know almost every single Metrobus, Ride On and PG County The Bus route in DC, Montgomery & Prince Georges County by heart and no where near all of PG County buses go there.

First there are less than 5 that go near a Blue Line station in PG County to New Carrolton.

No Bus routes except for the f14 Metrobus and 21 PG County the Bus go anywhere south of Marlboro Pike in PG County and start at New Carrolton so therefore the southern portion is disconnected from New Carrolton disproving that just about every bus goes to New Carrolton.

Most buses from New Carrolton go to either Greenbelt Metro Station, Rhode Island Ave Metro Station or Bowie with others going toward Laurel, Washington Business Park and PG Plaza

To go from anywhere south of Marlboro Pike to New Carrolton would require multiple bus transfers or a trip into DC with Metrorail. Almost all buses in southern PG County originate from Addison Rd, Southern Ave, Naylor Rd, Branch Ave or in DC

New Carrolton is no where near convenient to all of PG County it is just a bit better than Upper Marlboro.

Why would Amtrak even matter its not like anyone going to the Courthouse etc even if it was location there. By the way New Carrolton Metro/Amtrak/Marc/Greyhound Station is just barely if it is in New Carrolton, Maryland which i'm not 100% sure is the case.

by kk on Mar 6, 2013 3:43 am • linkreport

I grew up in Orange County, NC. The county seat is in the small town of Hillsboro in the center of the county, but more than half the population are in the twin cities of Chapel Hill - Carrboro at the southeastern corner. The county prison is in Hillsboro, but the court alternates sittings between Hillsboro and Chapel Hill. Maybe that'd be an option?

by Evan on Mar 6, 2013 3:37 pm • linkreport

I recently found it ironic that Prince George's apparently has had trouble recruiting planners to work on transit oriented development: they advertised two positions last year, then reopened them this year. Why would someone keen on TOD want to work in Upper Marlboro, which not only has little usable transit service but very little development to boot?

The USA's two most populous counties, Los Angeles and Cook, both have numerous district courts -- 47 in LA and 17 in Cook -- and many departments that similarly have district offices.

Not sure why Jasper would advocate billion-dollar Metrorail extensions through farm fields as any cheaper or easier than moving some offices in the metro area's highest-vacancy, lowest-price office submarket. (2011 asking rents for office space in Prince George's were 2/3 below Capitol Hill, 1/2 that of Arlington, and 1/3 below Montgomery or Fairfax.)

by Payton on Mar 6, 2013 11:19 pm • linkreport

It is an extreme hardship to make it to Upper Marlboro for jury duty or any other county business if you don't drive. I live in Mount Rainier, and it takes over two hours to get there. I've had to serve twice. It's also difficult to get to our "community college", so that's nothing I could do either. Prince George's County has always been hostile to pedestrians - I know, because I've lived in it for 50 years. I do all my business in DC or Mount Rainier, and only venture farther into the county (that I support with taxes) when I am with someone who drives.

by Patricia Pugsley on Mar 7, 2013 11:21 am • linkreport

@Patricia Pugsley -PGCC has a campus at the University Town Center across the street from the Prince Georges Plaza metro stop. Did you check if the classes you want are offered at that campus?

by Tina on Mar 7, 2013 11:32 am • linkreport

Tina - It's too late for me to go to school now. I have too many chronic pain/health problems and barely enough energy to work full time. I could have done it 10 or 20 years ago, but I don't have the stamina. It's just always bothered me that the campus was so hard to get to without a car. Some students can't afford one. Thank you for posting this information, though. Perhaps someone younger can benefit! (I just hope I don't have to go to Upper Marlboro again for jury duty. Don't get me wrong - I loved jury duty - it's fun and interesting, just hard to get there. Too bad.)

by Patricia Pugsley on Mar 7, 2013 2:57 pm • linkreport

@Patricia, there are some courses offered online. Maybe you could take one of those? Life long learning!

by Tina on Mar 8, 2013 10:10 am • linkreport

@Drumz - "Are there jurisdictions with multiple courthouses?"

Yes, San Mateo Co., Calif. has three : Northern Branch (So. San Francisco), Central Branch (San Mateo), and Southern Branch (Redwood City).
https://www.sanmateocourt.org/general_info/locations_and_contact_info/

The gargantua of counties is Los Angeles Co. Here's their list (40+ ?) :
http://www.lasuperiorcourt.org/locations/ui/listbyname.aspx

by Ted K. on Mar 11, 2013 4:01 am • linkreport

I heard from a man who was a long-time Upper Marlboro council member (or whatever the town's governing body is called), who said that there was a time in the 60s or 70s when there was a vote to move the county seat out of Upper Marlboro, but obviously it stayed.

He said he regretted this decision, because he thought it lead to the town being more unliveable. As someone who lives here, I can tell you there's nothing to do. You have to go to Bowie or Waldorf for any kind of shopping or entertainment. All that's in Marlboro are lawyers, bondsmen, and a few small eateries.

by Frank on May 21, 2014 11:40 am • linkreport

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