Greater Greater Washington

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Montgomery making Conn. Ave. more like a freeway

Montgomery County's DOT wants to increase vehicle speeds on Connecticut Avenue, build a road through parkland, and cut off a neighborhood's local street connections to Connecticut, further showing that they are out of touch with what we've learned about traffic and the design of communities since the 1960s.


Photo by Andrew Bossi on Wikimedia.

The upcoming move of Walter Reed to Bethesda Naval will bring more traffic, partly due to the increased employment and partly because the county's DOT has taken few steps beyond a few bike trails to improve non-auto access to the area.

Instead of aggressively increasing transportation choices to the facility, the DOT has primarily focused its energies on finding ways to make the surrounding roads handle even more cars and move them at higher speeds.

Their biggest plan is to try to make the entrance to the complex and NIH on Wisconsin Avenue into a freeway-like interchange, but it's not the only one. They also want to widen Connecticut Avenue and restrict turns in and out of the Chevy Chase Valley neighborhood.

To compensate, they propose building a road through adjacent parkland, to create a back entrance to the neighborhood. There are even some houses whose driveways connect directly to Connecticut Avenue. MCDOT is suggesting cutting those off as well in the long run and building more roads inside the neighborhood.


Montgomery County DOT's preferred plan for Chevy Chase Valley.

Across the region and the world, communities are trying to make large roads more hospitable to their surrounding communities by increasing the connectivity of roads and adding places for pedestrians to cross. Virginia now requires a certain level of connectivity for new subdivisions. At White Flint, plans call for making a more walkable, bikeable, and transit-friendly boulevard, and even Prince William County is adding a stoplight on VA-234 where a pedestrian (ironically the contractor about to install the light) was killed.

In Montgomery County's DOT and the office of the County Executive, however, no transportation idea less than 50 years old seems welcome. DOT officials constantly talk about "level of service," a measure based on the premise that moving motor vehicles is the only purpose of roads, and use that obsolete concept to grade intersections "F" or "failing." County Executive Ike Leggett keeps trying to kill the White Flint boulevard because it will slightly slow travel times through the area but create a better immediate area.

And in Chevy Chase Valley, they have convinced neighbors that since they need to move Connecticut Avenue cars at high speed, that poses a danger to that neighborhood, and therefore the neighborhood should be partly or fully cut off from Connecticut Avenue.

The better way to avoid the impact of higher speed traffic on Connecticut Avenue is not to make higher speed traffic the objective. Improve access to Medical Center Metro. Build the Purple Line. Build some of Marc Elrich's BRT proposals, too. Put in bus lanes so that transit vehicles can navigate the county more efficiently and become a more appealing alternative.

There will eventually be a Purple Line station nearby, which will create demand for walking along Connecticut Avenue to and from surrounding neighborhoods and businesses. This part of Connecticut Avenue already has far too few places for pedestrians to safely cross. The intersections MCDOT wants to close have no marked crosswalks today (though by law, they areas where crosswalks would be painted are considered crosswalks, like all intersections). The avenue needs to become safer and more friendly to pedestrians, not even more hostile to walking than it already is.

Montgomery County has a lot of choices for addressing BRAC and general growth downcounty. It's too bad Leggett and the officials at the county DOT only have one solution in mind.

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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anything MoCo residents can do to get another set of alternative plans included?

by Tina on Nov 3, 2010 3:19 pm • linkreport

It's going to end up like Fairfax Co. Parkway. Not good.

by Fabian on Nov 3, 2010 3:51 pm • linkreport

That's why I voted for myself for county executive, even though I am a Democrat. There was no good choice this year. Leggett moves purely with political winds. He has no backbone and he does not think holistically.

by Eric on Nov 3, 2010 3:57 pm • linkreport

I could see closing the median on Connecticut at Woodlawn, but not the street closures along Connecticut. Building the road extension, even though it'd be through parkland, would be in line with promoting a grid network...something urbanists tend to promote. I guess David views the parkland as more important than providing a gridded street network here.

by Froggie on Nov 3, 2010 4:01 pm • linkreport

I know this area well, as I live and grew up in Silver Spring about a mile from this area of Connecticut Ave. I've driven through the neighborhood before and it really doesn't need another street connection. It's very small, and is bounded by Connecticut, Jones Bridge, the parkland and the Beltway, literally just beyond the top of the image here. Obviously a grid network is good to promote connectivity, mainly by providing alternate routes in the same direction, as in DC. But here, the extra roads wouldn't be providing that service, and so their purpose is dubious at best. The need for parkland easily trumps the need for that road.

by Eric on Nov 3, 2010 4:08 pm • linkreport

@Froggie - the proposed Rd. through the park would parallel extant Rd. Spring Valley. Thus it would not add any connectivity. In fact it would have fewer connections than Spring Val. The only reason the Rd. thru the forest is envisioned is b/c of the closing of the also exant connectivity with conn Ave.

Personally I value any contiguous forest land like this over unnecessary roads. Again, any arguable need for the proposed roads thru the park are predicated on closing exant connectivity to Conn Ave. Its a solution looking for a problem. Don't close access to Conn Ave. and there's no problem.

by Tina on Nov 3, 2010 4:10 pm • linkreport

I concur with David. Connecticut Ave is one of the most densely populated corridors in the region, starting in Dupont, all the way through Chevy Chase. As such, it is an ideal corridor to increase transit use. The fact that it is dense is no accident, it's a direct result of the old streetcars. However, the red line is just about maxed out on capacity, and the road is so congested as to make the bus lines a poor alternative.

Replacing a lane of traffic in each direction with a combination BRT/bike lane would add the most human capacity at the lowest cost. Transportation planners need to reject moving more cars as a solution, as the majority of them continue to carry only 1 person at rush hour, while taking up approx. 14 lane feet of roadway space each.

Comparatively, a bus requires 65 lane feet, but carries up to 80 people, 4x the space, but up to 16x the people at full capacity (compared to the ubiquitous 5 seat sedan).

by Will on Nov 3, 2010 4:59 pm • linkreport

While I'm also frustrated with this proposal and with the County Executive's attitude towards roads and development (personally, I wrote in Justin Bieber, having already voted for myself in 2006), I actually don't see a problem with closing off driveways to Connecticut Avenue. If there's a way to combine them into a service road or route them to adjacent streets, that seems like a win for both homeowners and for peds along Connecticut Avenue who don't have to contend with as many curb cuts.

by dan reed! on Nov 3, 2010 5:40 pm • linkreport

How about running a streetcar line from Dupont Circle, through Chevy Chase to Kensington or Wheaton?

It would intersect with the Purple Line and MARC and alleviate Red Line capacity issues.

by Andrew on Nov 3, 2010 6:01 pm • linkreport

@dan r.-this proposal cuts off roads to Conn Ave., not just driveways.

by Tina on Nov 3, 2010 6:03 pm • linkreport

I am curious to what extent the MC DOT staffers agree with the transportation-means-moving-cars philosophy of the MC DOT leadership.

by Miriam on Nov 3, 2010 7:32 pm • linkreport

MoCo planning views the area just as a barrier to getting to Rockville and Gaithersburg

Lower MoCo has demonstrated the feasibility of the "new" models of development. Property values held up or increased, the area is humming, and the schools are packed to the gills. So much, that MoCo has to build more schools. Then there is the Purple Line. So, there will be even more people.

Sorry, but if you want to live another 10-20 miles out, don't make lower MoCo suffer for it.

by SJE on Nov 3, 2010 8:22 pm • linkreport

The tone of the piece and some of the replies would make one think that MoCo was going to do something much larger. Back in the days when I had a car and drove to work, I went through here regularly. I can't imagine living on Conn Ave. here and would guess that the homes have evolved into rentals. The area is chronically congested and this is not the worst alternative that one could propose.

by Rich on Nov 3, 2010 8:54 pm • linkreport

I wonder if Walter Reed and/or the Naval Hospital have done any "customer" surveys to figure out where people are coming from. The new medical facility isn't nearly the same as a commercial development. You could work to increase transit options and mixed-use development, losing some car-oriented consumers, but potentially picking up many others. But the people going to Walter Reed and the Naval Hospital today are the same people that will be going there next year. If most people are coming from areas that aren't metro accessible, like Fort Detrick, Fort Meade, Andrews AFB, Quantico, etc., then things like the Purple Line or dedicated bus lanes aren't going to help much. Sure, you'd still get some benefit by getting more local people off the road, but based on the fact that Wisconsin is basically a nightmare now even when its not rush hour, I'm pretty skeptical.

As it stands, how bad would changes to Wisconsin and Connecticut really be? Wisconsin doesn't even come close to being walkable until south of the hospital, and that's not going to change since its sandwiched between two very large government facilities. And it doesn't really sound like they're talking about making huge changes on the Connecticut side. If they'd only make changes down to Jones Bridge Road then its a pretty short stretch of road. And up there Connecticut is practically a freeway already.

As long as the rest of Connecticut basically stays the same, I don't see what the big deal is. I don't think you're going to add that much more traffic in the southern portion of Connecticut by adding a 1000 feet of extra lanes just off the beltway.

by Andy R on Nov 3, 2010 8:58 pm • linkreport

@Rich RE: "I can't imagine living on Conn Ave. here and would guess that the homes have evolved into rentals."

Most of the homes in the area are not rented, are quite expensive, and very much lived in by families. I wouldn't want to live that close to Connecticut either, but people will do it to live more cheaply in a desireable area. In fact the relatively new multi-million dollar corner home at Jones Bridge and Connecticut is so large as to be dubbed an "estate". On the east side of Connecticut at the southeast corner of the intersection is an entirely gated community of multi-million dollar homes.

by Eric on Nov 3, 2010 10:24 pm • linkreport

Re: street network.

The connectivty that could be provided by the new streets would be rendered moot by closing off the access to Conn. ave.

by Canaan on Nov 3, 2010 10:59 pm • linkreport

@Andy R - yes, you describe the current conditions that are very bad for pedestrians in an area that is expected to have even more pedestrians in the near future. That's the point of the post. The design alternative creates even worse conditions when there is opportunity to make a plan that improves conditions and simultaneously provides alternatives to driving that would help reduce congestion thus ultimately facilitating the scared "LOS". And then the little intact piece of forest wouldn't have to be trisected.

by Tina on Nov 3, 2010 11:08 pm • linkreport

I say widen eastbound Jones Bridge Road in the one block just west of Connecticut Ave to ease that left turn out of Spring Valley Road, wither retaining the median break, or carving a small traffic circle at the intersection of Jones Bridge and Platridge Drive.

Do that instead of what they are proposing.

Ideally and on a far greater scale of planning, consider depressing portions of Connecticut Avenue, much as already done beneath DuPont Circle.

Likewise, the official planning to depress a portion of Wisconsin Avenue should be extended to include at least a couple hundred feet of urban deck.

by Douglas A. Willinger on Nov 3, 2010 11:37 pm • linkreport

@Tina,

I can't imagine a world where Wisconsin Ave between the beltway and Jones Bridge Road is going to be pleasant for pedestrians. There are no places to go other than NIH and the hospital. That's not going to change. We certainly need to make changes to the area around Medical Center metro station safer and more convenient for pedestrians. Most of the interchange-like options for that area do that. But we should be realistic with expectations. We're not going to- and we don't need to- turn the area into a magical pedestrian wonderland.

The Naval Hospital was already one of the largest medical centers in the country, and with the additions I wouldn't be surprised if it will be the largest. Unlike many other medical centers, the joint-forces medical facility will not cater mainly to locals. It is unrealistic to think you're going to expand a facility like that without making infrastructure improvements to the surrounding roads.

I agree, as a general rule, better public transit options are needed. But I think those are most effective at reducing the dependence on automobiles in new or redeveloped areas. I don't think that's likely to be a good solution in this particular case. At least, not without also making improvements to roads.

I don't quite see what the big deal is. We have a huge medical facility built right next to a major interstate, with fairly poor access right now. People should have been having these discussions before a decision was made to expand the Naval Hospital, but unfortunately it didn't quite work out that way. The expansion is now nearly complete, and its certain to a very important medical facility for the area. I feel bad for the people that live off Connecticut that will have to deal with more traffic, and perhaps a bit less of green space, but you can't make a omelette without breaking a few eggs.

by Andy R on Nov 3, 2010 11:53 pm • linkreport

Closing off driveways is a no-brainer. Small roads is little less so, but still on balance a good idea. It's not just about increasing the carrying capacity of existing roads (a good thing), it's also about safety. These types of intersections produce a disproportionate number of accidents.

I'm a pretty fearless bike commuter, and roads like this stretch of Connecticute Avenue and most of 16th Street give me the willies. I think you'd need a separated bike lane for safety, and I'm not sure there would ever be enough support for that.

by Tim on Nov 4, 2010 10:16 am • linkreport

OK, I'm confused ... When we advocated that the Purple Line should connect to the new Walter Reed, you scoffed. When we call the Georgetown Branch of the Capital Crescent Trail -- enjoyed by thousands of bikers, hikers, and families daily -- a park, you call us tree-huggers. When we say running trains at 45mph where kids will cross at-grade to go to school is dangerous, you call us NIMBYs. Am I the only one who sees your hypocrisy? Put streetcars on the street, save greenspace for trails and parks, and get real cars off the road with good transit projects for our limited county and state funds. You won't have to worry about Connecticut Avenue being high speed ... Between BRAC and the increased development at Chevy Chase Lake (due to the Purple Line allowing for more growth at the intersection of Connecticut Avenue and Jones Bridge Road), it will be a parking lot.

by Pat on Nov 4, 2010 10:38 am • linkreport

I commute through that area almost every day and it does need road improvements, but this won't even get at the big issue. They are trying to prevent people who are driving south on CT from avoiding the light at CT, Jones Bridge, AND Kensington Pkdy by cutting through local street. The problem IS that traffic light, but they are avoiding examining it. Because three streets merge it's a complex combination of permitting left turns and straight traffic resulting in a 2.5 minute cycle from a green on Jones Bridge to the next green and minimal green time. This slows everything.

It's also a terrible intersection for pedestrians and cyclists who don't even have a crosswalk on the north side because they couldn't fit a safe walking period through the light cycle. (Note that the wider sidewalk to Walter Reed is planned for the north side of Jone Bridge even though people can't cross CT there).

The solution is much simpler than the listed one. They need to block off Kensington Pkwy from that intersection. That would turn this into a fairly standard intersection which would be faster for cars and safer for pedestrians and cyclists. A new traffic light could be installed at Montrose Driveway at CT to let people on Kensington Pkwy go South on CT. If it was synchronized with the CT/Jones Bridge light, it would minimally affect CT traffic speeds and probably be a net improvement.

by Dan on Nov 4, 2010 10:50 am • linkreport

@Andy R-this plan is for Conn Ave, not Wisc. Ave.

by Tina on Nov 4, 2010 10:58 am • linkreport

@Tina-

I know, but this is just one post in a long history of posts on changes to the roads surrounding the Naval Hospital. The post even made references to the Wisconsin Ave projects. I think it makes sense to look at the proposed changes to Connecticut in a larger context than simply the Chevy Chase Valley neighborhood. As it stands, GGW has been pretty consistent with its positions on changes to the east and west sides of the hospital.

So, I've been trying to cover both sides. But, to just talk some more about the Connecticut side, the proposed changes only impact 1000 feet of roadway on Connecticut Ave. The particular neighborhood impacted isn't that densely populated, so frankly the total number of people negatively impacted by this change pales in comparison to the number of patients at the Naval Hospital that will be positively impacted. If the Purple line goes through as a light rail line, the alignment is going to be 1/3 mile south of where these changes are. If the purple line ends up being a BRT line on Jones Bridge Road, people will board the buses on the east and west wides of Connecticut, most of whom will likely use sidewalks off side streets to walk home. Since there's really nothing in this area besides single-family homes, there really doesn't seem to be a great need to make the area pleasantly walkable from one side of Connecticut to the other. I'm not saying that's not desirable- I think that's always desirable- but we have to balance that with the need for improved access to the medical center.

by Andy R on Nov 4, 2010 2:14 pm • linkreport

> I can't imagine a world where Wisconsin Ave between the beltway and Jones Bridge Road is going to be pleasant for pedestrians.

You're clearly not trying very hard!

> There are no places to go other than NIH and the hospital. That's not going to change.

Between them, these institutions employ probably 20,000 people. Is it unreasonable to think that they might walk or cycle to work? I'll give you a clue: despite the lousy infrastructure, NIH has been the regional employer with the highest participation in the annual Bike-to-Work Day four years running:
http://nihrecord.od.nih.gov/newsletters/2009/06_12_2009/story3.htm

> We certainly need to make changes to the area around Medical Center metro station safer and more convenient for pedestrians. Most of the interchange-like options for that area do that.

No, they do not. Most of them are designed to move cars more quickly through the area, and will likely make the area less conducive to walking or cycling.

>But we should be realistic with expectations.

If we were being realistic with expectations, we would realize that expanding Connecticut Avenue or Rockville Pike incentivizes commuters to live in northern Montgomery County, contributing to sprawl and creating even more traffic. Any reduction in commute times would be wiped out in a few years, while quality-of-life would be seriously impacted in the close-in suburbs by the presence of freeway-style commuting arteries.

> We're not going to- and we don't need to- turn the area into a magical pedestrian wonderland.

We're not going to-and we don't need to-turn the area into a magical driving wonderland.

by renegade09 on Nov 4, 2010 2:14 pm • linkreport

ditto renegade

by Tina on Nov 4, 2010 2:59 pm • linkreport

If people are walking to NIH, they're probably going to go in on the Wisconsin Avenue side. I suspect the same thing is true with the Naval Hospital. Given the density of housing in the area, and how expensive it is to live there, there's going to be a limit to how many people walk and bike. Given that on a special occasion NIH had 577 bikers, I can't imagine there's enough people biking to work on a typical day to have them impact decisions very much.

If would be different if they were more urban facilities rather than suburban. If there was dense housing very close to the campuses. If there were lunch options within easy walking distance. But there's not. And the massive size of both facilities contributes to that.

I agree the interchange options seemed to be awfully vehicle-centric given that it was supposed to be done as an improvement to the metro station. But, I disagree they make things worse for pedestrians. Pretty much all of the options got people off Rockville Pike. Sure, that helps cars too, but that's a big safety benefit for pedestrians. Most of the options did so without making it more inconvenient for pedestrians, although there was one or two options that made pedestrians go out of their way to get to the over/underpass.

Expanding Wisconsin and/or Connecticut as described would do little to increase sprawl and commuter traffic. You're not going to make Connecticut that much better by adding 1000 feet of extra lanes just off the beltway, but you might prevent it from getting much, much worse. Do you really think it would help commuters much relative to today? It just not a long enough stretch of road to really help driving conditions, except for dealing with increased traffic to the hospital.

That's probably a little less true on the Wisconsin Ave side, since the metro station and Jones Bridge Road is a bottleneck area. But as it is, Wisconsin is already a nightmare to drive down. It's a nightmare further south of Jones Bridge Road, and if you're a commuter only going down to NIH or the hospital the time spent on Wisconsin south of the beltway probably isn't significant enough to impact people's driving habits.

Seriously, what is your plan for improving access to the hospital? Do you think the driving situation isn't bad enough to warrant intervention? Do you think increased transit options would take significant pressure off of the routes to the hospital? If so, in what way? Patients? Workers at the facility? Commuters?

I really suspect something like the light rail for the Purple Line will increase development just as fast as it will increase transit usage, and certainly not every new person is going to take metro/bus/LRT. Don't get me wrong, I think that's great, and I think its good justification to go forward with the Purple Line. But I think it also means you're going to need to do something about the roads. And, if dense development wouldn't follow the Purple line, then it doesn't seem like a very good investment.

by Andy R on Nov 4, 2010 4:09 pm • linkreport

I can tell you aren't usually in this area during commuting hours. Currently, there are hundreds of people biking and walking up Jones Bridge and along Wisconsin. Many of the current Walter Reed employees who live near Walter Reed will probably be taking this route.

Don't forget Medical Center this is also the closest metro stop for many people, and, since NIH became a secured access site, anyone going to the station needs to walk on the perimeter streets.

As for the number of bikers, the number of filled spots on the NIH bike racks I use is barely different between bike-to-work day and a day with great biking weather.

As for where people walk, just today, I received an official email saying "Within the last couple of months, there have been nearly a dozen pedestrian and bicyclist accidents just outside the NIH property line, most notably along Old Georgetown Road and Cedar Lane." The issue is not just Wisconsin.

If your asking for solutions, every full bus you get on the road or every 40 bikers/walkers means someone a car has to wait through one fewer 2-3minute light cycle.

My solution would have several parts. I listed what should happen at CT and Jones Bridge above. I think Naval Medical should have a bus terminal on it's side of the street with a metro entrance. That way buses would never need to make left turns at that intersection. The major bus routes, like the J1, should have 10 minute spacing during rush hour. In addition to already running at capacity with 20-30 min spacing, more frequent buses will make it more reliable and appealing to commuters. Perhaps it could even become BRT at some point if the demand is clear. Having the purple line elsewhere doesn't prohibit BRT on Jones Bridge.

by Dan on Nov 4, 2010 8:58 pm • linkreport

David Alpert wrote, in part:

Instead of aggressively increasing transportation choices to the facility, the DOT has primarily focused its energies on finding ways to make the surrounding roads handle even more cars and move them at higher speeds.

Ah, has it even occurred to you that while the majority of times, it might be desirable and advisable to have a wide variety of transit choices... but in wartime or in exigent/emergency situations, the ability to get in and out of there in independently operated private surface vehicles might be an issue of national-security priority? Specifically, in the case of mass casualties in or near downtown DC -- g_d forbid -- the more ambulance traffic you can move in the shorter time, the better off everyone will be. Especially the folks suffering from mustard gas, radiation exposure, and/or zombie bites, they'll thank you for having not made them ride the bus. And even the Purple Line riders might thank you for not making them ride the train with stretcher-loads of glow-in-the-dark undead dripping with Sarin.

No, we need to keep the ability to provide rapid emergency vehicle access.

I know that this is one of those things that the Car Haters always forget, until they're the one in the ambulance.

by Thomas Hardman on Nov 5, 2010 7:37 pm • linkreport

@Thomas Hardman,

Except that on 9/11, most roads in and out of lower Manhattan and DC were jammed with many folks abandoning their vehicles. For the purposes you describe, airlift may be the only option in a true mass casualty situation.

Well, of course Metro continued to operate.

by TimK on Nov 5, 2010 7:47 pm • linkreport

Yet have even the pro RR people been able to break the silence on the Pentagon's treasonous disregard of urban evacuation route capacity, even regarding the ARC tunnel?

by Douglas A. Willinger on Nov 5, 2010 7:52 pm • linkreport

RE: Evacuation-

Roads clog quite easily and arterials with numerous access points are difficult to convert to contraflow. But even before that: there are very few zero-warning disasters where evacuation is preferable to shelter-in-place. And for those where advance warning provides time for evacuation: look up Operation Pied Piper. Evacuation can be executed with any mode; and each mode takes extensive planning and resources for execution.

by Bossi on Nov 5, 2010 8:28 pm • linkreport

@TimK wrote, in part:

Except that on 9/11, most roads in and out of lower Manhattan and DC were jammed with many folks abandoning their vehicles. For the purposes you describe, airlift may be the only option in a true mass casualty situation.

Well, of course Metro continued to operate.

I think you are either being disingenuous, or have completely forgotten the complete incapacity of regional governments to intercommunicate. I can't speak to the situation in Manhattan, which is something of a special case due to being an island. Yet I was listening to the scanner on the DC and Maryland/PG/MoCo bands, and the one thing I heard endlessly from officers trying to coordinate evacuation was "I can't reach them", speaking of their counterparts on the other side of regional/jurisdictional lines.

I should point out that the problem of interjurisdictional intercommunications may be pretty close to solved; at least it's better than it was. See also US patent 7,464,403 for clues to a little bitty bit of that. Also please stop to consider that the way that you keep cars/trucks/EMT/police vehicles from getting jammed up it this: you give them someplace to go, rather than leave everything as someplace to be stuck and jammed up.

Hence the intentional design of making it easy for emergency-response vehicles to get where they are going, and once they are there, to get off of the streets so that everyone else can continue to travel.

If Metro alone is known to operate in such a situation, any tactician even from the day of Moses would say "if they shall travel that road, set upon them there".

As many routes as can be left open need to be left open. Funnel all of your escape routes onto one or a few mass-transit systems, and the signal phrase is "sitting duck on a platter moving to a well-known schedule".

And you're right, airlift is clearly the only way to do a mass evac. And if you need to have a mass evac, anything in the air that isn't removing essential officials to undisclosed locations is likely to either get no clearance from flight control, or to be shot out of the air. Keep in mind that the current discussion is, of course, a mere flight from zombies (radioactive ones, dripping with nerve gas, and mutating as they run at appallingly high speeds), rather than anything to do with terrorists or actual -- again g_d forbid -- war. We shouldn't discuss responses to that other than in the most general terms... and the most general terms are still "multiplicity of routes".

With all due tongue in cheek, "any government" (and this includes urban planners) "that doesn't seriously prepare for the eventuality of radioactive rabid zombies dripping with nerve gas and running at 40MPH right past speed cameras as if they didn't give a carp, is a government that doesn't take Homeland Security seriously". And that would be MoCo for starters, at least I thought so until I saw this plan. There is now some slight possibility I could respect at least one or two officials thereof.

Now get your "traffic calming hump-outs" out of the way of our Secret Service commando Chevy Suburbans, or expect your taxes to go up to pay for all of the transmissions you rip out of the commando Chevy Suburbans with your traffic calming measures. ;)

by Thomas Hardman on Nov 5, 2010 9:06 pm • linkreport

Er, I seem to have wandered into the crazy. My mistake.

by TimK on Nov 5, 2010 9:17 pm • linkreport


Wow, some people just have no sense of humor.

Zombies, dontcha know, are all the rage in Pedestrian Friendly Downtown Silver Spring.

They make a great METAPHOR or ALLEGORY for things you really can't reasonably expect -- sort of like 9/11 -- but for which generalities you must prepare.

BTW I think someone said something about ad-hominem attacks, unless perhaps I am misreading your comment.

This reminds me of the time one of the Urban Planners here demanded that we build a MetroRail station specifically to walkably serve Montgomery College Rockville campus. They wanted to plant an unsecured high-traffic system right on top of the terminus of one of the major continental Natural Gas pipelines. Now THAT is crazy.

Um, that wasn't you, was it?

by Thomas Hardman on Nov 5, 2010 9:35 pm • linkreport

@Bossi wrote:

Roads clog quite easily and arterials with numerous access points are difficult to convert to contraflow. But even before that: there are very few zero-warning disasters where evacuation is preferable to shelter-in-place. And for those where advance warning provides time for evacuation: look up Operation Pied Piper. Evacuation can be executed with any mode; and each mode takes extensive planning and resources for execution.

My apologies to all for my verbosity and tongue-in-cheek diatribes. This is an excellently precise summary.

Yet I would offer only one critique to this, and that being, "while in fact for most zero-warning events, shelter-in-place may in fact be preferable, try telling that to the panicked masses". Also note that the panicked masses may not be familiarized with the extensively planned modes, nor perhaps may they have access to the extensive resources.

In all of the cases, above, you have a mad dash to get the family in the car and to get out of town; "they don't know any better than to follow their instincts". Hence the desirability of making it easy to get essential vehicles in and out of the traffic flow, and also to get the traffic flow moving as smoothly as possible. Properly designed highways and entrance/exit facilities might be considered a good start in the right direction. As to anyone else's comments, yes, it's expensive, and it may be an expense that isn't ever put to the intended use, we should all hope. Yet better safe than sorry.

@Mr Willinger: yeah, you wouldn't be the first to get the idea that the basic plan is to evacuate essential personnel, and only a limited number of those, and to let the rest clog the streets with gridlocked vehicles, and try to walk out faster than missiles can fly. There's a name for that in tactical doctrine which I either cannot remember or refuse to mention.

I should probably go take a long walk off of a short pier, after all my silly Cold War thinking is useless in these days of shiny-happy-everything. Nothing can ever go wrong again and there shall never again be any unpleasant total surprises.

No, really. There can be no concerns for future problems because there can be no problems in the shiny happy future.

by Thomas Hardman on Nov 5, 2010 10:34 pm • linkreport

The elitist attitude -- which is against RR and highway -- reflects those that certainly seem to know of the impending disaster, combimed with an atitude of to hell with the masses.

Just look at any foundation datbase to see the preference for depopulation over infrastructure expansion.

by Douglas A. Willinger on Nov 5, 2010 10:39 pm • linkreport

Note that Bossi's comments are anti road period- made in response to the cancellation of the ARC tunnel- which is a NY RR project, and not my DC Grand Arc I-95/MB RR Tunnel.

Ultimately for the general public, its about producing less and less.

by Douglas A. Willinger on Nov 5, 2010 11:04 pm • linkreport

Mr Willinger posted, in part:

Just look at any foundation datbase to see the preference for depopulation over infrastructure expansion.

There are a lot of ways to read this.

Are you suggesting that there was a preference for relocating population "centroids" to an ever-expanding Sprawl, rather than investing in infrastructure upgrade, or re-engineered "higher scale" infrastructure replacement? Actually, that makes sense in the Cold War mindset. Get all of your eggs not in one basket, so to speak. Yet unfortunately that tends to lead to a mindset of "carpet bomb everything everywhere" rather than "surgically strike to decapitate the enemy capital".

Or am I reading wrong what you were saying?

Perhaps this is boiling down some arguments to the philosophical conflict of conserving environment/energy/planning by concentrating humanity into "walkable-centric systems of Machines For Living", versus the opposing ideal of "don't put all of your eggs in one basket because that only creates a concentrated target zone".

Maybe I should drink more until I can stop thinking. Probably the best idea all around.

These idealistic kids are wearing me down.

by Thomas Hardman on Nov 6, 2010 12:08 am • linkreport

IMHO what they are doing is pushing for the alternatives that make it easier for disease to spread from people to people.

These idealistic kids are the product of a college-university education that I would term jesuitical...

http://wwwtripwithinthebeltway.blogspot.com/2008/12/who-really-stopped-washington-dcs.html

http://wwwtripwithinthebeltway.blogspot.com/2010/05/telling-indifference.html

http://wwwtripwithinthebeltway.blogspot.com/2007/02/sampling-of-attitudes-towards-dc-i-95.html

http://wwwtripwithinthebeltway.blogspot.com/2010/05/1960s-washington-dc-freeway-planning.html

by Douglas A. Willinger on Nov 8, 2010 6:19 pm • linkreport

This parochialism also prevails at the USNCPC:

http://wwwtripwithinthebeltway.blogspot.com/2007/03/what-this-was-outcome-of-highly.html

by Douglas A. Willinger on Nov 8, 2010 6:48 pm • linkreport

Think about it- $1 trillion in stimulus, yet they 'can't' extend I-395, or even complete a 4 lane (2 per direction) Canal Road Parkway.

Nor could they save the ARC RR tunnel.

I say because most transit advocates fell for the lie that a nation as wealthy as the USA, could not afford comprehensive public transport -- RR and Freeways, with the incessant campaign for totally unnneccessary and unjustified freeway demappings during the 1970s (remeber by then the freway system had been radically though not fully ideally re-designed) -- distracting from a bloated Pentagon budget that disregards evacuation/civil defence.

How telling!

by Douglas A. Willinger on Nov 8, 2010 9:44 pm • linkreport


IMHO what they are doing is pushing for the alternatives that make it easier for disease to spread from people to people.
[ ... ]

There is a lot in the Urban Planning community which smacks of either stupidity -- if you wish to be charitable and to attribute not to malice what is better ascribed to idiocy -- or of a really horrid worldview of the evolution of the future.

Look, the present population can be supported only so long as the oil lasts. If we look at the "footprint" of what is "sustainable" in terms of what food can be produced after we no longer have a massive surplus of non-renewable petroleum products to drive agriculture, we have about 4 to 10 times the supportable population.

If we attribute to idiocy, we get statements such as Mr Leventhal's remarks to the effect (tight paraphrase) that "since population growth is massive around the world, we have to overbuild here so that we can absorb the inevitable influx. Plus my campaign financiers can make lots of money building stuff." But then again, this is like saying "because our neighbors all have cancer, thus we should start smoking cigarettes 10 packs a day".

If we attribute to malice, you get what you were saying: immense beehives of humanity, each with one source of supply of water, of air-conditioning, of electricity to power the air-conditioning and water distribution, etc etc. How do you kill a beehive, as opposed to killing a bee? You stomp on a bee. This doesn't work for beehives, you'll get stung to death. For beehives, you wrap them in a plastic bag. You make it impossible for them to refresh their supplies. With humans concentrated into beehives-of-humanity, it's very simply to (allegorically) put them in a bag. Cut off water supplies and especially water supplies for sanitation. It'll be worse than Haiti in terms of cholera. Cut off electricity for air-conditioning. People will need to drink more water; any single building/complex has one supply, flood that with cholera and suddenly the population implosion is initiated.

Clearly anyone who would create a system so clearly designed to pack cattle into the knacker's chute is someone who either has a pollyanistic view of the infallibility of security systems, or it's someone who just doesn't care about (or is catastrophically ignorant of) the risks of putting all of your eggs in one basket, so to speak.

Personally, I figure it to be one or the other of the latter options.

Ask yourself: if you knew that 3 out of 4 humans had to die and die quickly all at once, sometime towards the end of the next 50 years, and you yourself intended to live, wouldn't you pack them into hi-rise towers totally dependent on perfect functioning of extremely complex interrelated systems, while you yourself prepared your retreat in gated communities in the agricultural zones?

So, is it an Urban Planning community planning Machines for Living for the masses, or Machines For Getting Killed for the most of the masses?

Any way you look at it, all of these ideas are short-sighted at best. The true test? Ask any of these authors if they've ever heard of Malthus, Peak Oil, the Haber process for creating ammonia and subsequent products. Ask them whether they think population SHOULD continue to grow, which growth is the only possible excuse (aside from making money in the short-term) for building new and population-concentrating Projects.

I've tried asking. None will answer. Possibly that is because in the present day, knowing what we know, there simply is no excuse for expanding the population, nor for making it easy or desirable (again in the short term) to do so.

Again, "because your neighbors all have cancer is no excuse for taking up smoking". But good luck getting these kids to understand that this is what they demand.

by Thomas Hardman on Nov 9, 2010 12:00 am • linkreport

Stupidity or .... see how closely they built that stupid "Elevation 314" apartment buiding in Takoma, D.C. If a train derails, such is at a higher elevation then most ofthis building, meaning people being killed in their living rooms and bedrooms. At least other such developments as those in California, either place the actual living apaces fully above the RR with a derailment intseda going into a parking lot/garage instead.

Or just look at the movie "the Day After Tommorrow" with Manhattan flooded and frozen over with 1000s of people but about nothing in starvation.

All of this represents a blissful disregard to say the least towards civil defense and the Pentagon's treasonous disregard for such.

But why undermine your string of valid points by accepting mathusianism, the food of the mercantilists in promoting the idea that current products are not replaceable? I have written much about the concept of "criminal mercantilism" in my blog "Freedom of Medicine and Diet" which has such a tag:

http://freedomofmedicineanddiet.blogspot.com/search/label/criminal%20mercantilism

http://freedomofmedicineanddiet.blogspot.com/2009/02/what-obama-could-say-about-criminal.html

Have not you noticed how ethanol has been subverted by the idea that it is best made with corn?

The idea of malthusianism, if you have not noticed, is what is often used to 'justify' Washington, D.C.'s continuing kicking the can down the road attitude towards freeways.

by Douglas A. Willinger on Nov 9, 2010 2:08 am • linkreport

To address your point about immigration- please note how 'environmentalisim' is being perverted to keep nations as Bolivia down:

http://continuingcounterreformation.blogspot.com/2010/08/times-green-spin-against-evo-morales.html

by Douglas A. Willinger on Nov 9, 2010 2:18 am • linkreport

Stupidity or .... see how closely they built that stupid "Elevation 314" apartment buiding in Takoma, D.C. If a train derails, such is at a higher elevation then most of this building, meaning people being killed in their living rooms and bedrooms.

Chicago CTA?

by oboe on Nov 9, 2010 10:06 am • linkreport

Chicago transit cars are way lighter then CSX frieght cars.

But it is 'ok' becasue the owner went to secretive society infested Yale University...

by Douglas A. Willinger on Nov 9, 2010 11:12 am • linkreport


Well, there's something to be said for Mr Morales when it comes to modernizing Bolivia. It's becoming one of those states that's right on the precipice, caught between traditions of low technology and a pressing need to adopt higher levels of technology, and to do so in a carefully planned way.

For example, Bolivia is one of the first Andean nations to have a rather large glacier just completely vanish. See also China's Colorado River Also Sometimes Doesn't Reach the Sea and the posts immediately preceding it for more coverage of the escalating glacial melt-off crisis in the Andean nations and indeed all of the Amazonian nations.

Bolivia is having to adopt austerity measures to preserve the ability of the traditional farmers to get enough water for their crops. Not to over-do a rehash of "Quantum of Solace", but there are definitely some non-Bolivian power players trying to put the squeeze on Bolivia and its neighbors.

I'm not claiming to be a Malthusian of any stripe, nor to justify anything with any spin on it. It's just that people need to be aware of what Rev. Malthus said, and to actually think about it. I constantly see the argument of "but everything he predicted didn't happen the way he stated" and then one gets a deafening silence when one points out that at the time of Malthus, they didn't have petroleum, the McCormick Harvester, Kansas had 10 feet of topsoil well-anchored by sod, and the Ogallala Aquifer was full of water. The fact is that our species in general and Western Civilization got windfall after windfall in a near perfect storm of outright serendipity. Yet those windfalls are all based in oil and the industries that oil fuels and energizes. Even if we could replace oil with other energy sources, and did it overnight, we need oil as a basic stock for other chemical industries that it's still irreplaceable. The longer/larger we grow the population, the faster we crash as a species and civilization. If the whole planet did as China does now, "two parents, one child", we might possibly survive with minimal destruction. Wholesale disruption is inevitable in either case.

We should go with the Pickens Plan, and we should hope to live long enough to see a stream of the passenger-bus equivalent of the Prius cruising the BRT lanes of Montgomery's arterials. "Walkability" is good, but not the "walkability" as defined by most Urban Planners. For me and for the general public, "walkability" means you can walk to the store for a 6-pack and the day's groceries. For the Urban Planners, "walkability" means you walk down a long corridor in a towering beehive-of-humanity, and take the elevator down to the shopping levels of the same building. All I can say is that my notion of "walkability" saves electricity on the elevator usage.

A solution that's just as good -- but does not enrich developers and the Urban Planners on their staffs -- is to alter zoning regulations to allow for small stores scattered among the housing, rather than the current model of malls that can be reached only by car (for most people). You can still walk to shop, saves a lot of gas, but nothing new gets built, nobody makes much money off of it, and not in the concentrated creation-of-wealth way that funds political campaigns. So we'll get more and bigger hi-rises that can be afforded mostly by the wealthy or nearly-wealthy, the transit-centric mixed-used Yuppie Convenience Towers. And they will be living like bees in a hive, and like bees in a hive, turn off the air circulation and add enough smoke, and collect all of the honey you want without worrying about the bees. And yes, I realize the metaphor is getting a bit strained here.

But back to making Connecticut Avenue more freeway-like, well, I've spent 45 minutes at a time stuck in traffic in the segment under consideration, and if that particular problem can be fixed, I'm all for it. If the only way they can do that is to turn most of the length of Connecticut Avenue between Kensington and East-West Highway into a cut-and-cover trench tunnel with grade-separated intersections and cloverleaf junctions between the State Highways, it's grandiose but I'd take it.

Yet almost all of these problems could be solved most easily by passing out the birth-control and family planning classes.

by Thomas Hardman on Nov 9, 2010 5:19 pm • linkreport


Sorry to double post, but please run right out and buy Nature 467, (20 October 2010) which has a special issue on Cities in the context of the environment, urban planning, and futurism.

Hmm, now that I got my eyes fixed, I may have to re-subscribe.

by Thomas Hardman on Nov 9, 2010 5:28 pm • linkreport

But back to making Connecticut Avenue more freeway-like, well, I've spent 45 minutes at a time stuck in traffic in the segment under consideration, and if that particular problem can be fixed, I'm all for it. If the only way they can do that is to turn most of the length of Connecticut Avenue between Kensington and East-West Highway into a cut-and-cover trench tunnel with grade-separated intersections and cloverleaf junctions between the State Highways, it's grandiose but I'd take it.

--

Not clover-leaf, but rather "orb"- an evolution of the DuPont and Barney Traffic Circles featuring underpasses.

The tunnel should start north of Jones Bridge Road, and continue at least to the south of 410.

Thanks, I'll check up on the resource.

by Douglas A. Willinger on Nov 9, 2010 8:08 pm • linkreport

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