Greater Greater Washington

Poor bike/ped links push Metro commuters to park-and-rides

Metro planners are looking at how people use the system's park-and-ride lots. While they help people at the region's edges access transit, many commuters in closer-in areas drive very short distances to Metro stations because good pedestrian and bike connections don't exist.


Where Metro's parking customers come from. Image from WMATA.

On the PlanItMetro blog, system planners studied how people use each of the 35 stations where Metro operates parking lots or garages and where they come from. They found that people drive from as far as Baltimore, Annapolis, and Manassas to use Metro's 9 terminal stations, which have lots of parking and are some of the system's busiest.

Meanwhile, 26 other stations serve "neighborhood parking" needs, attracting commuters who drive very short distances. Two-thirds of drivers at Forest Glen station come from within two miles, while 30% of drivers at Van Dorn Street, West Hyattsville, and Fort Totten come from within one mile. These commuters could walk or bike instead, but many of these stations are located in a way that makes doing so hard, if not impossible.

Fort Totten is in the middle of a park, and while surrounding neighborhoods are fairly dense, there are very few street connections to them. West Hyattsville is surrounded by vacant lots. Van Dorn Street is hemmed in by rail yards, busy roads and the Beltway. Forest Glen actually has decent street connections, but people living south of the station have to cross the Beltway on a dark, dangerous pedestrian bridge.


Aerial photo of Van Dorn Street Metro from Google Maps.

As a result, people living near these stations feel like they have to drive there. This means more car traffic and more pollution, since cars produce the most emissions within the first few minutes of operation.

But poor pedestrian and bike access also restricts the capacity of a station to how many parking spaces it has. If those spaces are filled by the morning rush hour, that station is effectively closed to new riders until the evening. That might explain why stations like Forest Glen and West Hyattsville have some of the system's lowest ridership.

How can we fix this? Part of the answer is eliminating barriers for pedestrians and bicyclists, by creating new street or path connections and by making the streets that do exist safer and more inviting to them. Another is to put more people around the stations themselves by building housing and other amenities there, like shops.

Not only can this justify investment in better foot and bike connections, but it provides "eyes on the street," making the walk to and from the station safer. And residents living farther away may be more likely to walk to the station if they can also grab coffee or drop off their dry cleaning on the way there.

Local jurisdictions are planning for more housing and other amenities around end-of-line stations, which already have to accommodate thousands of car commuters. "Neighborhood parking" stations don't need as much parking and are usually in established communities, making them good places for infill development.

There are already plans to build compact, walkable neighborhoods around Fort Totten, Van Dorn Street, and West Hyattsville, including housing, shops, and a well-connected pedestrian and bike network. These are all in various stages of execution, though a development at West Hyattsville has been stalled for years.


Single-family homes across from Forest Glen's park-and-ride lot. Photo from Google Street View.

But Montgomery County purposely restricted new development at Forest Glen in the 1990's in the name of preserving the neighborhood's "single-family character." While its other Metro stations are booming with new construction, the only thing being built near Forest Glen today are 7 single-family homes.

Metro is a huge public investment, and the land around each station is very valuable. Allowing it to lay fallow, or to be developed with low-density uses, is a total waste of land and taxpayer money. Park-and-ride lots are very useful, but when they're the only way to use Metro, they make stations less accessible to riders without cars and reduce the value of Metro to people living nearby.

In the coming years, Metro will open the new Silver Line in Fairfax and Loudoun counties, while Maryland will hopefully complete the Purple Line in Montgomery and Prince George's counties. In order to get the most out of these projects, we have to make the best use of the land around them. That means not repeating the mistakes we've made at places like Forest Glen and Van Dorn Street.

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Dan Reed is an urban planner at Nelson\Nygaard. He writes his own blog, Just Up the Pike, and serves as the Land Use Chair for the Action Committee for Transit. He lives in downtown Silver Spring. All opinions are his own. 

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Word. Many of these outer metro stations were designed with pedestrians as an afterthought: Crosswalks near stations are only striped on one side of an intersection, lots of green turning arrows for drivers with no warning about yielding to peds at intersections, short pedestrian road crossing times, lots of median pedestrian fences, lots of pedestrians cutting through parking lots and garage entry ramps due to lack of sidewalks and lack of pedestrian striping, inadequate bike parking...

by aaa on Sep 4, 2013 2:46 pm • linkreport

Greenbelt station is a perfect example of an outer metro station where most of the nearby people drive and park or are dropped off in cars. There is some decent bus and rail ridership too. But it's terrible for biking (no bike lanes or paths other than the sidewalks, high speeds, terrible pavement) and even worse for walking (no direct routes, poorly positioned crosswalks and sidewalks even with the new roundabout).

Heck even for people in cars, the drop off areas are poorly designed. And even for bus riders, the accommodations are meager -- no sight lines to the station manager for safety, no shade.

Metro may be for moving people, but Greenbelt station is designed to accommodate motor vehicles only. People not so much.

by Greenbelt on Sep 4, 2013 2:58 pm • linkreport

This is going to become a larger issue at some end-of-line stations, like Huntington. Around Huntington, there are thousands of apartments in either construction or planning and virtually NO cycle or pedestrian infrastructure to get those people from their apartments (within less than .5 miles from the station) to the station without either using a car or a private shuttle bus (which is what several existing complexes do). Thanks to the input of one community (Jefferson Manor), the situation on North Kings has been made better with a concrete median and stripped crossings, but they only serve that one neighborhood. In my neighborhood (Fair Haven), we don't have a single marked crosswalk despite having heavily used sidewalks throughout the neighborhood ... and usage that will only increase when three separate apartment developments are finished on the opposite side of our neighborhood from the metro.

Plus, don't get me started on how inhospitable the pedestrian entrances to the Huntington Station really are ... or how the quickest access for many people is to walk through the parking garage.

by Thad on Sep 4, 2013 3:06 pm • linkreport

re: West Hyattsville - I didn't see in the EEK/Perkman Eastman plans anything on Queens Chapel & Chillum Rds and especially the intersection of the two. Ped/bike access to the metro from the triangle shaped neighborhood between Chillum & QnsChpl Rds could be improved instantly with the installation of a HAWK signal/something similar where the trail crosses Chillum to the sidewalk on the other side.

I have a whole list of design changes. Thats just the one I think is most needed. I often drive by there and stop for pedestrians who have clearly been waiting and waiting for drivers to stop to let them cross at the MARKED but unsignalized crosswalk.

Often when I stop other drivers don't stop, so then I'm stopped there waiting and waiting for other drivers to stop along with the people on foot trying to get across. There's not even a street light. its dark at night. It's a really hateful set-up from the County/SHA to people walking in that area.

If the design elements to cue drivers to stop were there, they would. We know this b/c a half mile away where the trail crosses Ager Rd there are pedestrian facility enhancements and drivers are VERY GOOD at stopping.

The contrast in those two crossings is a great example of what design can do to help drivers improve their behavior. Its the same people stopping on Ager that are not stopping on Chillum.

by Tina on Sep 4, 2013 3:12 pm • linkreport

@Greenbelt -Greenbelt station is...terrible for biking

Several years ago when we were looking for a neighborhood to live in we looked at Greenbelt and liked the town then went to see what it would be like to bike to/from the metro. We crossed Greenbelt off our list.

by Tina on Sep 4, 2013 3:16 pm • linkreport

more West Hyattsville -Queens Chapel within 1/2-1 mile of the metro station in both directions is terrible and dangerous for biking and walking. Queens Chapel is a MD SHA road so the city of West Hyattsville can't change it, much like Rte 1 in Mt Rainier. To repeat, Queens Chapel is terrible for biking and walking in both directions immediately in front of the metro station.

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

I'll add to what Tina said Re: W. Hyattsville. The biggest barrier isn't lack of buildings around the station itself, it's the SHA and the STROADS that surround it. Queens Chapel is a nightmare to cross on foot. Ager, though it has a 30 mph limit, is equally as dangerous, with drivers often doing 45+. Chillum Rd./34th St. on the Mt. Rainier side, is relatively OK, though the sidewalks could use expansion. It get's quite dicey around the Queens Chapel intersection though, with strip style, suburban development (lot's of MV entry and egress points..7-11, 2 gas stations, strip mall and auto parts store). I've seen drivers deliberately accelerate and switch lanes to scare peds crossing against the light (wait times are massive for pedestrians!) on QC. Densities around the station are fairly high, with several apt. complexes (2 off Ager, 1 on Chillum, 1 on Eastern-Kaywood Apts.) w/in walking distance and higher density SFH's.

So, I do think there is a very high ROI potential here, but you have to get the MDSHA to play ball, and they don't seem to be the least bit receptive to pedestrian or cyclist's needs.

by thump on Sep 4, 2013 3:27 pm • linkreport

Amen to seeing Van Dorn on here. The entire S. Van Dorn Street area could use a redo, as the plan linked to mentions. I'm glad to see those empty warehouses on S. Pickett are being turned into apartments, but there are still many warehouses in this area that make walking or biking just not friendly (not to mention the car traffic, bad pedestrian signals or lack thereof, etc). I really think, though, that a concerted effort could be made to turn all of the warehouses on S. Pickett on both sides of Van Dorn into condos and apartments, which combined with better pedestrian access to the station would be a boon to those in the immediate area.

by JDC Esq on Sep 4, 2013 3:29 pm • linkreport

Thanks for sharing the TOD master plans, very cool. Hopefully we will see good traction (especially at Fort Totten) in the near future.

by BTA on Sep 4, 2013 3:32 pm • linkreport

I suspect that considering the locations of the stations in the suburban car centric areas that this has been one of those issues that it never occurred to them to address. With more infill - most of which is likely to be more dense apartment/condo - and redevelopment of old stock this is going to be a bigger issue than it is now.

It may take a sustained effort to make the problems known but they won't get fixed if they don't even know it is a problem in the first place.

by ET on Sep 4, 2013 3:38 pm • linkreport

@Thad - First off, thanks for the kind remarks on our new median. Our vision was always that it would serve useful for all of the surrounding communities, but that's neither here nor there.

If Fair Haven should legally have marked crosswalks within the community, you can get VDOT to have them installed. We did that years and years ago in Jeff. Manor. Just took getting someone out to walk the streets. I work well w/ your civic association, and would be glad to get the ball rolling.

- Chris, President Jefferson Manor Civic Assoc.

by Chris22303 on Sep 4, 2013 3:43 pm • linkreport

@ JDC:Amen to seeing Van Dorn on here.

Van Dorn, or actually Eisenhower Ave looks horrible, but it is actually not that bad to walk around. And near the railroad overpass you can sneak onto a trail.

The problem of Eisenhower Ave there is that it looks disjointed and ugly. Well, that's what you get next to a Federal Office, a UPS facility and whatever that plant is. In between however are quite a number of semi-dense apartments and condo complexes. No, they're not like living on Mass Ave, and while they're still pricy, they're much more affordable.

by Jasper on Sep 4, 2013 4:07 pm • linkreport

Disagree with most of the comments. I live a mile East Falls Church. Since the lot is generally full by 8am, I drive downtown instead. I am not going to walk the one mile, nor am I an going to wait for bus.

if you want use of metro, parking is a huge attraction.

by Hank Hill on Sep 4, 2013 4:10 pm • linkreport

@Chris - As a driver on N. Kings, I appreciate the median for several reasons (to be honest, the biggest is the elimination of the illegal turns into/from the Metro parking lot). Also, we know each other, I am the VP in Fair Haven and we are working on several things in the neighborhood related to pedestrians/cyclists/vehicles. Hopefully things will progress quickly once the Grande development starts ...

@JDC Esq. - Don't forget the UPS complex that is across Eisenhower Ave from the station or the stretch of commercial/industrial along Eisenhower.

by Thad on Sep 4, 2013 4:12 pm • linkreport

@Hank Hill

Wait, Strickland Propane has a branch in DC? I've been going out to Arlen to get propane and propane accessories for my grill all this time!

by dan reed! on Sep 4, 2013 4:14 pm • linkreport

@Hank Hill

You are not actually disagreeing with any of the comments. You are AGREEING with the comments.

If some of your neighbors who live within a half mile or mile that currently park at the station felt comfortable walking/biking to the station, than that opens up more spots for you, and it wouldn't fill in at 8:00, and would potentially still have openings until 8:30 or whatever.

No one has said get rid of parking, just make it more accessible for people who DO CHOOSE to walk/bike.

by Kyle-w on Sep 4, 2013 4:15 pm • linkreport

Small world, Thad. Don't forget to use our bitchin' median strip to get the great pastries at the new place in the strip mall.

by Chris22303 on Sep 4, 2013 4:17 pm • linkreport

I live one mile from EFC. I found it quite convenient to take the bus because the routes start to converge meaning a bus will get to my stop every fifteen minutes or so.

Maybe that's not the case in all directions but lots of buses go to EFC and are all pretty popular.

by drumz on Sep 4, 2013 4:39 pm • linkreport

Van Dorn is not a vibrant urban space, and we could certainly make better use of some of those parking lots.

However, most of those warehouses house active businesses. I wouldn't be in a hurry to push them out until some of the other land has been developed. The station certainly wasn't designed with the thought that anybody would walk to it, but the sidewalks/crosswalks in the area are decent. (Far better than, say Rockville or Huntington, or Greenbelt).

Heck. I don't consider there to be any pedestrian infrastructure at Greenbelt.

by andrew on Sep 4, 2013 4:41 pm • linkreport

van dorn

the issue is not only the area right near the metro station - its the autocentrism of the entire landmark area. While some of that is a tad far to walk, it could be an excellent place to bike to the metro from.

and thats the response to andrew - the cost of the warehouses is not only the mixed use that could be oh their sites - its the deterrent to walking and biking from slightly farther away.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Sep 4, 2013 4:46 pm • linkreport

The biggest problems I see is that with the far out stations not even the terminals is that you have car access closer than bus or pedestrian access.

Add West Falls Church and Dunn Loring to the list.

With West Falls Church it is the awkward paths for vehicles and pedestrians and wrapping around the school. When you come out of the station the buses are to the far left and right not directly infront of the station like at many others. It takes buses at least 10 minutes to get in and out of the station with the stupid ass path they take entering the station from Lessburg Pike instead of making a left or right off Lessburg Pike to Haycock Rd.

At Dunn Loring the bus stops on Gallows RD and on Prosperity are too damn far from the entrance of the station. I see people jay walking across Gallows due to you having to exit the station walk down the street to crosswalk and then walk back the street to almost the exact same spot taking atleast 5-10 minutes. On Prosperity the terminals for buses that end at Dunn Loring is atleast a damn 1/4 to 1/2 mile away from the station which makes no fucking sense.

by kk on Sep 4, 2013 8:07 pm • linkreport

Re: Fort Totten...

The one trail that leads west from the station is pretty full of walkers at all hours of the day (though I'll admit rather sparse at night). Granted there could be more, but in terms of ped/bike connectivity, its pretty good. From the north and east its a different story though, but the main barrier is the Metro tracks themselves.

I'd imagine the real reason you see it full is because two lines meet there and a third ends there, so even if you live closer to, say, Takoma or W. Hyattsville its faster to drive down to Ft. Totten for a lot of commuters. That and there's not that much parking.

Would be great to see some housing built on top of that lot though...

by Vinnie on Sep 4, 2013 8:14 pm • linkreport

For good measure, I'll throw in Franconia-Sprinfield. Yes you can walk there, but it ain't a pleasant walk. And the crosswalks are all a mess, if present. And the connection with the VRE station is horrible. Why can't WMATA build joint stations with VRE, so you don't have to cross yet another stairs to get somewhere?

by Jasper on Sep 4, 2013 8:58 pm • linkreport

New Carrollton. Boxed in by the Beltway on one side and US 50 on another.

Suitland could be better too.

by David C on Sep 4, 2013 9:43 pm • linkreport

We have the same problem in Vienna metro.. the whole station was once a big parking lot.. some recent developments have changed that, but it is still horrible on Saintsbury dr going west towards Blake ln. the road is poorly lit and overgrown discouraging people to walk. There are several townhouse communities on blake lane within a quarter mile to the metro and there is no easy pedestrian access ... we have to cross a stream every morning to get to the metro.. Its pathetic ..I dont know when Fairfax will get the TOD concept.

by sandeep on Sep 4, 2013 10:29 pm • linkreport

Hank Hill,

If you only live a mile from efc, how about biking. The station has great bike access and has one of the highest number of riders who get there by bike in the system.

by Falls Church on Sep 4, 2013 10:58 pm • linkreport

I live in the 'single-family-home' area around Forest Glen Metro. And yes, my neighbors and I did do everything we could to block development of apartments at the Forest Glen metro site, as was done at Wheaton. But NOT because we didn't want more neighbors; it's because there was absolutely no allowance made in the plans for how to deal with the increased traffic those apartments would generate. Although Forest Glen is a small station, it sits on the corner of one of the busiest and most dangerous intersections in Montgomery County - right where the Beltway and Georgia Avenue meet. On top of that, it is the intersection right next to both the metro and Holy Cross Hospital. There have been so many driver and pedestrian injuries and even fatalities there that we call it the IOD, Intersection of Death. We've been lobbying the county for almost a decade to extend the existing metro pedestrian tunnel all the way across and under Georgia Avenue, and our efforts are finally beginning to pay off. This would allow people to avoid the IOD altogether, and hopefully ease some of the traffic problems and increase ridership as well if people feel it's safe to walk or bike there. I don't want to see another pregnant woman nearly sideswiped as she tries to get from the metro to her maternity appointment at Holy Cross; or hear of yet another person rushed to that same hospital after being struck.

by Erika S on Sep 5, 2013 6:52 am • linkreport

In Fairfax County, the stalled Bicycle Master Plan would address many of these issues by making it mandatory for development to follow principals that encourage bicycle and pedestrian access to transit facilities. I know the Van Dorn and Vienna stations well -- and neither is far from a great bike commuter trail on at least one side of the station, so would be pretty easy to join up. At least Vienna has wayfinding signs in some areas. Bottom line though, is that a Master Plan requires planners to look at the WHOLE picture, something developers can currently ignore. So if you live in Fairfax County, contact your Supervisor and ask, "Where is the Bicycle Master Plan? When will it come before the Board of Supervisors?" p.s. I love that the anti-spam device is the metro map. Well done, GWW!

by KBikeVA on Sep 5, 2013 7:41 am • linkreport

the issue is not only the area right near the metro station - its the autocentrism of the entire landmark area.

Oh, totally agreed. That's why I gently rolled by eyes at the assertion that the warehouses were the problem.

Tons of people already live in Landmark. The "center" of the area is rather far from the Metro. The whole thing is unwalkable, unbikeable, and has very little usable local transit.

Ironically, despite the overabundance of parking lots, public parking is also rather difficult to come by.

These are all problems that will need to be fixed separately from developing the existing light-industrial sites adjacent to the Metro.

by andrew on Sep 5, 2013 8:46 am • linkreport

@Erika S: Setting aside the fact that that those apartments would have been on the same side of Georgia, so residents in those buildings wouldn't need to cross Georgia to get to the metro...

Are you saying that if a pedestrian tunnel is built under Georgia, you would support dense development around the metro station?

by Gray on Sep 5, 2013 8:47 am • linkreport

@ Gray
Don't get me wrong, i'd love to see Forest Glen develop, but living about a mile from there, I can understand the reluctance at the same time. It's not just about a pedestrian tunnel under Georgia Avenue, the entire corridor is 6 lanes of traffic crammed into the right-of-way of 4 lanes, with narrow sidewalks, and no right or left turning lanes, which constantly block traffic and cause very aggressive driver behavior. The fear is with any new development, it won't be 100% transit users living there, at least some new car trips would be generated. There is zero capacity for additional cars in the Forest Glen area without massive roadwork that would disrupt hundreds of houses that directly front Georgia Avenue, and while we're at it, a full redesign of the Georgia @ Beltway interchange that would involve removing a church and more housing. Unless someone can come up with a very creative (and expensive) way to deal with the existing traffic, it's probably best not to develop Forest Glen.

@AWalker
I have to agree with Andrew about Van Dorn - there is so little industrial land left in Many parts of NOVA and Montgomery County, it's not always best policy to remove it for the sake of a few new condos. The industrial/service jobs are all being pushed to Frederick, Fredericksburg and PG County because Fairfax and MoCo have actively pursued redeveloping industrial land as mixed use neighborhoods. It may be a higher value and add tax revenue, but it makes it harder and harder for these service jobs to service the needs of the growing population. In MoCo there was a conscious effort to retain industrial zoning around Twinbrook in an area that otherwise is screaming for mixed use redevelopment because the demand for the industrial space was so strong. Similar plans in Lyttonsville/west silver spring purposefully left industrial land that otherwise would make for good redevelopment. Fairfax is losing Dun Loring, and is losing land near Springfield, does it need to lose Van Dorn too?

by Gull on Sep 5, 2013 8:59 am • linkreport

@Gray: If all of the people in the apartments rode the metro/walked/biked, then absolutely, I would be fine with it. If they merely worsen the existing traffic situation by adding more cars to it, and make it even more dangerous for everyone else to use the intersection (and therefore less likely to use the metro), then, no. That was our complaint regarding the construction, that there was no provision for making the situation, if not better, than at least not worse than it was. The problem is not adding more pedestrians, the problem is adding more cars. If they completed the tunnel, then the apartments would be much more feasible. It would still increase traffic accidents between cars - that intersection is a nightmare. If you're asking if I'm willing to trade more car/car accidents for fewer car/pedestrian accidents, then yes, I guess so, but it's not a pleasant equation either way.

by Erika S on Sep 5, 2013 9:09 am • linkreport

@Gull, Erika S.

Most of the traffic in Forest Glen comes from people outside of Forest Glen using the two major roads that pass through it. Building new housing there doesn't mean there won't be any additional traffic, but it does mean there are more people to take advantage of the Metro station. New households that are 50% car-free in Forest Glen are better than new households in Olney that are 100% car-free (and will still drive through Forest Glen anyway).

The solution to traffic and pedestrian safety in Forest Glen is to provide more and better sidewalks and crossings, and to give people alternatives to driving on a regional scale. It's not to prevent people from living within walking distance of a Metro station, or to block opportunities to give people already living here additional things to walk to, because right now, there's very little you can walk to in Forest Glen, which means residents have to drive more.

Heavy rail transit is very expensive to build, and the public deserves a return on that investment (i.e., the ability to access it beyond a park-and-ride lot that fills up by 8am). If we can't build around a Metro station in Forest Glen, we shouldn't have built a Metro station there.

by dan reed! on Sep 5, 2013 9:10 am • linkreport

@Gull: I get that that area is gridlocked, but it's been gridlocked for years. If we don't build densely around the station, traffic will still get worse on Georgia because of lower density development farther North.

The vast majority of the neighborhood residents moved to a location that was already next to the Beltway and a major hospital, not to mention a metro station. Georgia has been that wide for decades as well, and I'm sure it's been full of traffic for a long time. The Beltway didn't sprout up overnight, and Georgia didn't turn into a traffic cesspool in the past several years either.

I'm all for improving those horrible intersections, and agree with neighborhood residents that particularly with the hospital on the opposite side of Georgia from the metro station, they're definitely needed. But I don't see how that's related to arguing that now, all of a sudden, we have to draw the line on new development once there's a proposal for anything but SFH.

by Gray on Sep 5, 2013 9:12 am • linkreport

@ Gull - I agree that preserving industrial and heavy commercial is a good thing. I want my plumber to be nearby for a service call, I want to be able to run to a UPS depot quickly, etc. But, my point earlier mentioned how many of those large (ugly) industrial buildings on Pickett were empty. One empty one on Pickett just burned this past week. Some of these industrial sites are hidden or located off of non-residential or commercial side streets, so that is fine. But the industrial nature of Pickett (and the sorry state these buildings are in) does detract from the area and from streets that otherwise could use more housing and ground floor retail below. Van Dorn/Landmark area could indeed be a pretty walk able and very bike able area.

by JDC Esq on Sep 5, 2013 9:22 am • linkreport

@JDC Esq - I second your response to Gull about the state of those buildings. Plus, there is an older strip mall between S Pickett and Edsall that could be easily redone into a mixed-use development.

Many of the light industrial buildings on Eisenhower are occupied (or at least, they appear to be while driving down the road), but that does not mean that the area couldn't be improved. For example, look at the parking lots surrounding this new building that is very close to the Metro:


View Larger Map

by Thad on Sep 5, 2013 10:01 am • linkreport

The problem with Van Dorn isn't just the land uses, it's the street grid. The pedestrian pathways to get to and from the station are very limited, which limits the walkshed of the station.

Jarret Walker has a nice visual demonstration:

http://www.humantransit.org/2010/05/culdesac-hell-and-the-radius-of-demand.html

Look at Van Dorn on Google Maps: there is no walking connection to the south at all - plus the barriers of the train tracks and the Beltway. There are residential neighborhoods there close to the station as the crow flies, but with no way to access the station except by car.

To the north, there's actually a fair amount of stuff within a short walking distance, but the railroad tracks mean that the only pedestrian crossing is via Van Dorn Street itself. This means if you lived to the Northeast of the station, you have to walk a long way out of your way to the west to get to the crossing, and then cut back to the east to get to the station.

by Alex B. on Sep 5, 2013 10:07 am • linkreport

@Dan/Gray

Even if we did build higher density around Forest Glen, there will also be new development further north, because not everyone wants to live in high density near heavy transit therefore we can't assume building housing in one location will keep it from also happening somewhere else.

Maybe this begins to expose a couple of issues in mitigating for development with adequate public facilities laws. For one, any new development at Forest Glen would have to prove adequacy for local roads to serve the projected new automobile traffic the use would generate, which would become prohibitively expensive in trying to fix Georgia Avenue. The second, a lot of the reason for the failure of Georgia avenue as mentioned is the development further north, which does not have to analyze or pay into a fund to fix the 'downstream' problems created.

I'm 110% about having high density around the transit, but not just because the transit is there. If we don't have a realistic plan for mitigating for the new development, then it's not the right time for it to happen. When Silver Spring, Wheaton and Glenmont start running out of new development capacity and the demand for more urban transit accessible housing is still there, the economics may make a new plan looking at density and roadway capacity worthwhile. I'm just not sure the worth is there yet.

by Gull on Sep 5, 2013 10:51 am • linkreport

Oh, okay. So you're "110%" in favor of building high density around the metro station. Just not any time soon, and not without meeting demands that you say are impossible to meet.

Sounds like strong support to me.

by Gray on Sep 5, 2013 11:16 am • linkreport

Do you really think if we changed the zoning around Forest Glen tomorrow and opened it up for development that it would add more people living near transit than already would with the other stations up and down the transit line? Having new apartments at Forest Glen would add competition to Wheaton and Silver Spring, likely resulting in the delayed construction or occupation of a project in one of those areas. There are thousands of approved and upbuilt or under construction apartments in Silver Spring, and about 1,000 in wheaton that are under construction and will take a couple years to occupy. Add this with more planned apartments in Silver Spring and Glenmont that add up also into the thousands. Silver Spring, Wheaton and Glenmont have been planned for the density, including how infrastructure can be expanded to meet the needs of the new uses. Opening up Forest Glen to development without planning for the appropriate infrastructure will do little to nothing to further the goals of more people living near transit in the near or mid term, but would likely lead to a reduced quality of life for everyone who lives near the station or who uses Georgia Avenue to commute. Is that good Planning or is that just pushing an urban agenda with no regard to the surrounding community? I am all in favor of good planning for density around transit. Lets do the planning and infrastructure first and stop perpetuating the reactionary action that public works and planning has taken for the last 50 years. Forest Glen was passed over in part as Erika said because right now there is no effective solution to mitigate the traffic problem. Maybe we should wait 10-20 more years for the density to take hold at the other transit stations, which may actually reduce the car traffic on Georgia Ave and make construction at Forest Glen practical!

by Gull on Sep 5, 2013 11:26 am • linkreport

Do you really think if we changed the zoning around Forest Glen tomorrow and opened it up for development that it would add more people living near transit than already would with the other stations up and down the transit line?

If you give enough time for the development to happen? Yes.

Having new apartments at Forest Glen would add competition to Wheaton and Silver Spring, likely resulting in the delayed construction or occupation of a project in one of those areas.

Doubtful - the demand for living near transit is high, there is more than enough pent-up demand for developments at both places.

Even if your concern is valid, that's a risk for developers to take. It isn't a valid reason to prevent development to occur around transit via zoning.

Opening up Forest Glen to development without planning for the appropriate infrastructure will do little to nothing to further the goals of more people living near transit in the near or mid term, but would likely lead to a reduced quality of life for everyone who lives near the station or who uses Georgia Avenue to commute.

I don't think you have any evidence of this at all - you assert that more development will 'likely' reduce quality of life, but I don't think there's anything to back up that case.

Contrary to that point, the very presence of walkable development will be a bonus to quality of life.

Does development have impacts? Yes, but it is a mistake to assume (as you imply in your comment) that the impacts are only negative. This is the worst kind of loss aversion and status quo bias in the way we plan and build cities.

Maybe we should wait 10-20 more years for the density to take hold at the other transit stations, which may actually reduce the car traffic on Georgia Ave and make construction at Forest Glen practical!

Or, just change the rules to allow development to happen and let the market determine if it is practical or not.

by Alex B. on Sep 5, 2013 11:42 am • linkreport

+1!! If we can't build around a Metro station in Forest Glen, we shouldn't have built a Metro station there.

Same for every other metro station! Dan is right; a metro station is a huge public investment and the logical best use of that investment is to make the station as easily accessible to as many people as possible.

by Tina on Sep 5, 2013 11:50 am • linkreport

pet peeve:I'm 110% . No, you're not.

by Tina on Sep 5, 2013 11:59 am • linkreport

So sorry for being a realist in a blog full of people who are too pie in the sky to realize that their opinion is not the only one that is out there, or that matters when making decisions. Never mind the residents of Forest Glen who already live there and have issues with higher density. We're not talking about NIMBY's who live in neighborhoods around a redeveloping commercial area with transit (Silver Spring, Bethesda, Arlington's Orange Line), but an actual neighborhood that would have to have dozens of individual single family homes bought up to transform. None of you care because it's not your house, and you don't plan on driving a car so you don't care about what the traffic situation will be like either.

I find it so hypocritical that people will say there is so much pent up demand for urban living and any new development at Forest Glen would fill up quickly and benefit the community... the same people and blog that complain that there is no transit oriented development occurring in Prince Georges County. Clearly if demand were so high that we could build an unlimited supply of transit accessible housing and have it filled in no time, developers would be cashing in on Prince Georges County. As obstructionist as some of the County policies may be, there is still low hanging fruit in PG county that's not even being developed right now. There are also hundreds of apartments available for rent RIGHT NOW in Silver Spring, if there was such a high demand for transit accessible housing in southeastern MoCo wouldn't these units fill up faster than they are? Yes, there will be a need to redevelop Forest Glen, but it's not today. How about we actually finish Wheaton and Silver Spring, and Bethesda, and White Flint and Twinbrook and Shady Grove and Glenmont. The orgional planners of WMATA had no problem building heavy rail into areas with low density, it shouldn't be such a crime to have a couple of these communities kept that way for a while longer.

None of this should make me anti-density around transit. On the contrary I wish the Silver Spring and Bethesda Plans would be redone to allow the same 6-8 FAR and 300' height limits that White Flint has, and I wish Shady Grove had 2x more density allotment than it does. The locals around Forest Glen have already admitted the pedestrian and bicycle access to the station is terrible and making the fixes opens up whole new neighborhoods to being transit accessible.

This blog is Greater Greater Washington, and part of making a region great is listening to each other and finding areas where we agree and go forward with them, and finding areas of disagreement and finding compromise. Pushing a pro-density opinion without working out the other issues that come with it does not make the region greater, if anything it makes problems worse, be it traffic or unhappy community members. That's what planning is all about, working through problems, finding solutions, and allowing things to happen in a controlled way. It's not about permitting density now, hoping the issues don't actually materialize and if they do, we worry about it then.

by Gull on Sep 5, 2013 12:56 pm • linkreport

@Gull -you did not address the premise of Dan's article, that metro rail and metro stations in particular are a huge public investment. I.e., the Forest Glen metro station was paid for originally and is maintained currently by everyone in the region not just residents of Forest Glen. The Logical ROI for that public investment (the metro station) is maximizing the number of people who can access it easily.

by Tina on Sep 5, 2013 1:50 pm • linkreport

The orgional planners of WMATA had no problem building heavy rail into areas with low density,

Population has increased significantly since the Forest Glen metro stop was planned and completed.

by Tina on Sep 5, 2013 1:53 pm • linkreport

hoping the issues don't actually materialize and if they do, we worry about it then.

The problem has materialized: The population has increased significantly.

by Tina on Sep 5, 2013 1:56 pm • linkreport

I find it so hypocritical that people will say there is so much pent up demand for urban living and any new development at Forest Glen would fill up quickly and benefit the community... the same people and blog that complain that there is no transit oriented development occurring in Prince Georges County.

It's not hypocritical at all.

Two quick reasons why:

1. Location matters. There's huge demand for walkable, urban living - but that doesn't mean that the demand is equal everywhere. The context matters, and the location matters. Anacostia will take more time to develop than U Street.

2. It's not like Prince George's Metro Stations don't have constraints. If you want to know why there's not a lot of TOD around some of the stations, part of the reason is that the land is not available to be developed. In many cases, it's owned by Metro. In other cases, there are other constraints on the property, such as zoning that does not allow TOD (same as in this Forest Glen case).

There are also hundreds of apartments available for rent RIGHT NOW in Silver Spring, if there was such a high demand for transit accessible housing in southeastern MoCo wouldn't these units fill up faster than they are?

What are you talking about? The apartment vacancy rate in Silver Spring is very, very low:
http://silverspring.patch.com/groups/jeff-zemans-blog/p/bp--moco-apartment-vacancy-rates-drop-in-2012-d45afeb5

by Alex B. on Sep 5, 2013 1:59 pm • linkreport

@Gull:
. . . an actual neighborhood that would have to have dozens of individual single family homes bought up to transform. None of you care because it's not your house, and you don't plan on driving a car so you don't care about what the traffic situation will be like either.
I'm not clear on what the problem is here. If you don't want to sell your house, you don't have to. And if you're morally opposed to living anywhere near a four story building, you probably should have considered that when moving to a place at the intersection of the Beltway and a major road, half a mile from a hospital, and next to a metro station.
There are also hundreds of apartments available for rent RIGHT NOW in Silver Spring, if there was such a high demand for transit accessible housing in southeastern MoCo wouldn't these units fill up faster than they are?
Guess what: there are hundreds of apartments and plenty of office space available in just about every part of the DC area. Clearly, the existence of an active market for housing and offices in each of these areas (and therefore a reasonable amount of turnover) proves that there is no demand, right?
None of this should make me anti-density around transit.
Again: if you advocate not building densely around transit until some arbitrary demands are met then yes, you are against density around transit.

by Gray on Sep 5, 2013 2:10 pm • linkreport

I agree with the comments from @Gull. As for myself, I live in Arlington (near East Falls Church). There has been talkb about eliminating parking by the Metro and turning it into a mixed-use area w/ apartments, etc...There has been talk about increasing the density of the area. I am opposed. I live in North Arlington because I want a suburban feel while living close to town. I don't like the trends i am seeing in the virtually unaccountable planners. They have a stated goal of becoming as dense as NYC.

I have no problems with density in the Courthouse/Rosslyn/Ballston coridtor, but don't want that to spread.

by John L. Smith on Sep 5, 2013 2:24 pm • linkreport

@ Dan Reed:

I'm sure you're aware of the history of Forest Glen station? Residents tried very hard to get the station deleted from the Adopted Regional System, precisely because they didn't want to see higher-intensity land uses in then neighborhood.

by Reza on Sep 5, 2013 2:37 pm • linkreport

@John L. Smith, to paraphrase @Gray and a famous prayer,

if you don't want to live in a neighborhood that is justifiably targeted for development due to its proximity to metro and increasing pressure from increased population, you can curse the world for changing (and fight the inevitable change), accept it, or change where you live.

by Tina on Sep 5, 2013 2:37 pm • linkreport

It has always been a neighborhood of single family homes. Why change now? Adding density to change the feel of the neighborhood, increase traffic. If you want density, there is always H Street.

Increasing pressure, from whom? Developers or "urban planners."

by John L. Smith on Sep 5, 2013 2:47 pm • linkreport

I don't like the trends i am seeing in the virtually unaccountable planners. They have a stated goal of becoming as dense as NYC.

The planners are accountable to their bosses who in turn are accountable to elected officials. Planners are as accountable as most any other civil servant in government.

They don't have the stated goal to becoming as dense as NYC. The closest thing I can think of is the Rosslyn BID's attempt to brand Rosslyn as "Manhattan on the Potomac". The BID is an association of businesses and not part of the government.

I live in North Arlington because I want a suburban feel while living close to town.

It's possible (and in fact, the plan is to) develop the area adjacent to the EFC metro station without changing the character of the rest of North Arlington. For example, Lyon Village which is very close to the Clarendon station retains a suburban feel and if you go one neighborhood over to Cherrydale, it's even more suburban.

by Falls Church on Sep 5, 2013 2:50 pm • linkreport

@John L. Smith:
It has always been a neighborhood of single family homes. Why change now?
Excellent point! The strength of the DC area has always derived from the fact that nothing changes here, ever.

It's just like with people. You know what happens to people who grow or change? They die.

by Gray on Sep 5, 2013 2:54 pm • linkreport

It has always been a neighborhood of single family homes.
No, it hasn't. Please see history of north America, history of VA and history of Arlington Co. It has changed a lot, and a lot of people were unhappy with the inevitable changes, most of which were inevitable due to domestication of plants (and animals) which spawned a major population growth we are still in.

Increasing pressure, from whom?

From people.

"The commonwealth’s growth rate (13 percent) outpaced the nation (9.7 percent) and was only slightly lower than the 14.4 percent growth rate of the prior decade. Virginia is the only state in which natural increase (more births than deaths) and net in-migration (in-migration less out-migration) contributed equal shares to population growth."

http://www.coopercenter.org/publications/VANsltr0611

by Tina on Sep 5, 2013 2:56 pm • linkreport

Plus there are only about 100-200 spots at EFC. Replace that with a mixed use building and you've brought in more people than the lot could handle.

Better yet there is an ambitious plan to deck over 66 at that location you could locate metro parking and build there.

Tina also said what I was going to. It hasn't "always" been sfh's and like someone else said, there are lots of sfhs to be found even in Clarendon and such.

Finally, NYC is always everyone's go to example but its very extreme and even if planners had a stated goal of transforming Arligton into manhattan they're doing a poor job of it.

Hundreds of cities have figured out how to blend SFH hoods with apartment buildings of various sizes. Arlington isn't so unique that it won't work in the county as well

by drumz on Sep 5, 2013 3:10 pm • linkreport

@Reza, the history of metro records there was considerable protest for the originally planned above ground station, and the normal amount of for-and-against seen in every community where a station was planned, for the plan for the underground station -a plan that was changed to accommodate neighborhood concerns re: the above ground station -a plan that increased expense of the station substantially.

by Tina on Sep 5, 2013 3:11 pm • linkreport

@ Tina, I don't think this was the same case as the Red Line "A" segment, which was originally supposed to be elevated between the Beltway and Bethesda but was changed to tunnel due to community opposition. As I read in the Great Society Subway, residents wanted the station deleted entirely, not merely modified to be underground. Which as you say, was done at considerable expense, as the station is so deep that is the only one in the system to not have escalators.

by Reza on Sep 5, 2013 3:49 pm • linkreport

I completely agree with the basic point that better pedestrian and bike routes are needed around the Forest Glen Metro.

I must back up and ask, why is it surprising that most parking at Forest Glen is local which is all this map is showing? Did I miss where it showed the proportion of walkers/parkers? If I was coming from further north wouldn't I stop at Glenmont or even Wheaton and not proceed down to this little lot? There are no good long distance east-west connections to FG parking; you can't get there from the beltway in rush hour. With no long distance parkers you are only left with locals.

Another thing to keep in mind is the Forest Glen station is not built like other stations. Unlike others it is limited by the six (hopefully all working) elevators to the platform. Anecdotally, at times in the evening I already see the next train arrive before everyone has been able to catch an elevator. I'd like to see what projected load FG could handle versus what it already carries. Could it support a truly urban development?

by Steve on Sep 6, 2013 6:37 am • linkreport

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