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A new highway would improve access to walkable White Flint, but for whom?

The Maryland State Highway Administration wants to build a new highway in White Flint, one of the region's most celebrated transit-oriented redevelopment efforts.


Project map by the author from SHA base map.

White Flint supposedly needs the grade-separated highway to improve access to new developments and the Metro station, bring down congestion, and improve safety. But how well will the project really do these things, and for whom?

The highway in question is Montrose Parkway East, a planned $119m, 1.6 mile divided highway running between Rockville Pike to the west and Viers Mill Road to the east, paralleling the existing Randolph Road, just north of the White Flint Metro station.


Base image from Google Maps.

Montrose Parkway has been on the drawing board in various iterations since it was originally conceived in the 1960's as part of a mostly-mothballed Outer Beltway. After years of controversy, Montrose Parkway West opened in 2010 between Tildenwood Drive and Rockville Pike (MD-355).

The highway would "improve" access, but only for people in cars

In engineering-speak, the project would "improve" access for though-traveling motorists by cutting the number of lights they encounter between Rockville Pike and Viers Mill Road.

But those are the only people whose access would "improve." The project would bring a massive single-point urban interchange (SPUI) to Parklawn Drive. This kind of interchange is the exact opposite of walkable and transit-oriented, which is what's being cultivated elsewhere in White Flint.


Proposed SPUI interchange at Parklawn Drive and the proposed Montrose Parkway East. Diagram from SHA.

According to emails MCDOT (to whom SHA would eventually turn the project over) has exchanged with Friends of White Flint, the agency supports modifying the exact layout of the SPUI to support the community's desire to see a more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly solution. That's encouraging. The project proposal also incorporates ten-foot mixed-use path on one side and a five-foot sidewalk on the other.

But any intersection and highway of this scale, regardless of the exact configuration, presents a major challenge to knitting a walkable urban fabric. The large scale of the highway and interchange would create a visual and geographic barrier that would discourage walking across such a long distance to reach destinations on the other side.

SHA built a similar intersection a block west from where the SPUI would be built,at Rockville Pike and Montrose, in 2011. There, missing sidewalks force pedestrians to walk on narrow shoulders and across dirt paths, while the crosswalks that do exist are placed at the foot of high-speed on/off ramps.


Pedestrian conditions at the existing interchange between Rockville Pike and Montrose Parkway. Images from Google Streetview.

Congestion is declining, even without a parkway

SHA project documents estimate that average daily traffic along the existing Randolph Road will reach 42,000 vehicles by 2020, and suggest that the capacity increases the parkway brings would help mitigate that projected congestion.

Leaving aside that it's widely understood that giving roads more capacity just leads to more people driving on them, traffic in the area is currently declining. SHA's own traffic counts for Randolph show that traffic there has decreased by 32% since 2002, falling to 23,052 in 2014.


Graph by the author.

Part of what SHA wants is to improve a railroad crossing

The project's purported safety benefits relate to an existing at-grade rail crossing on Randolph Road.

The new road would divert much of today's existing traffic away from the existing at-grade CSX railway crossing at Randolph Street, to a new above-grade crossing on the Parkway. But it would leave open the existing at-grade railroad crossing at Randolph Street, leaving open the possibility of collisions.

More to the point, an MNCPPC analysis found the number of railroad accidents at the existing intersection was negligible compared to the number of collisions between cars.

The highway mindset is still common

This isn't the first time the State Highway Administration has tried to push through plans for over-engineered roads in White Flint. Last year, the agency provoked an outcry when it sought to widen Old Georgetown Road, backing down only when the County Council threatened to pull funding for the project.

While this gulf between projections and reality may be jarring, it is typical. Transportation and land-use patterns are in the midst of a structural shift, one which many transportation agencies have been unable or unwilling to acknowledge.

The White Flint community supports walkable transit-oriented development, not highways.

Many local residents don't want to see Montrose East move forward. Residents, property owners and elected officials in the White Flint area have consistently supported the area's redevelopment into a walkable, transit-oriented activity center, and are organizing with the help of the Coalition for Smarter Growth. Also, Friends of White Flint is organizing an effort to make the project at-grade and walkable.

Montrose East would be a major blow to the walkable, urbanist White Flint vision. Not only would the project extend a physical barrier through the heart of the community, county tax dollars would fund it, at a time when the county cannot afford to advance the Rapid Transit System and is laying off teachers to close a $50m budget gap.

MCDOT's comment period for the project closes this Thursday.

How zombies made me a better writer

A lot of people want to be better bloggers, but either aren't sure how or doubt whether they'd be good at it. Thanks to some easy tips, those concerns needn't stop you from writing!


Image by House Buy Fast.

The following is a collection of tweets from the How to Blog workshop that that members of Greater Greater Washington's editorial board hosted to give bloggers skills they need to be effective writers. The workshop was a session at StreetsCamp on Saturday.

Check them out, and remember: Greater Greater Washington is always looking for new contributors. If you're interested in giving it a shot, send an email to info@ggwash.org.

The big goal of blogging is to give people useful information in an accessible way.

When you start a post, the key takeaways should go in the first two sentences. The harder it is to find and understand the main point, the less likely people are to read and engage with a post.

It's also good to err against using the passive voice. That's because passive voice often makes sentences more complicated than necessary. It also often puts the person or entity taking action second, or leaves them out altogether.

The editors shared this rule of thumb: If you can end a sentence with "by zombies," either by simply adding it to the end or swapping it out with the existing end of the sentence, it's passive voice. For example, "The road was widened" is passive voice, and so is "The road was widened by the State Highway Administration." "The State Highway Administration widened the road," on the other hand, isn't passive.

When blogging, it is also important to keep the post short and to the point. Lengthy posts take longer to write and read, and large blocks of text discourage readers.

Including imagery and photos in your posts is a great way to further engage the audience. Greater Greater Washington readers love maps!

Lastly, when looking for ways to blog effectively, it is important to remember why you are blogging in the first place. Being mindful of the audience and knowing what you are trying to achieve are the keys to writing great blog posts.


Become a great advocate (and a blogger) for safer streets, transit, and more at StreetsCamp 2015

Next Saturday, June 20, join Greater Greater Washington and urbanist organizations in the DC region to up your smart growth game at StreetsCamp 2015.


Schedule board at Transportation Camp, a national unconference for transportation professionals. Photo by M.V. Jantzen on Flickr.

After 50 years of being auto-centric, our region still has too many dangerous streets, too many surface parking lots that could be housing for new neighborhoods, and too many schools or Metro stations that are unsafe or too hard to walk to.

The groups that advocate to counter this through smart growth and sustainable transportation can't weigh in on every neighborhood detail on their own.

StreetsCamp is a one-day summit where you'll learn background on key issues and advocacy skills to help create change in your community. You'll also get a chance to meet many of our contributors and commenters in real life and connect with people who share similar goals for the region.

The event is $20, which includes lunch. The day will be jam packed with expert-led panels on topics you've read about on Greater Greater Washington, including best practices in street design for walking and cycling, zoning, how we can improve transit in our region, safe routes to school, and transportation equity. There will also be panels on how to blog and organize a campaign.

Share what you learn

We know not everyone can attend, so we're making sure to compile StreetsCamp's most salient lessons here on the blog.

We need your help to do that, though: we're asking everyone to tweet facts and tips you pick up in each session with the hashtag #streetscamp. When you tweet, consider whether others would learn from what you're sharing: for example, "Two-way streets can be safer than one-way streets" fits that bill, while "We're talking about two-way vs. one-way streets" doesn't.

We're also recruiting volunteer curators, and they'll pull the top tips together and turn them into Greater Greater Washington posts. If you're willing to help, shoot kelly@smartergrowth.net an email.

The details matter, and that's why it's essential that more people become informed and engaged in the business of working with their neighbors for safer, more sustainable, more equitable ways of getting around and living together.

We hope to see you there!

Events


Events roundup: #GGWchat with Catania, urban agriculture, tours, and more

Take some time to stop, listen and engage in our many events this week! Don't miss our lunchtime chat with David Catania. Plus, there are several information-packed symposiums this week and if you want to get outside, CSG is hosting a beautiful walk-a-bout in College Park.


Photo by Adam Fagen on Flickr.

#GGWchat with David Catania: Did you love our chat with DC mayoral candidate Muriel Bowser? Don't miss our lunchtime talk with one of her opponents, David Catania, this Wednesday, October 22, from noon to 1 pm.

Follow the chat and propose questions live using the hashtag #GGWchat or submit your questions beforehand in the comments in this post.

After the jump: streetcars, urban agriculture, the Purple Line, College Park, and Safe Routes to School.

Streetcars in Southeast and Southwest: An environmental study to plan out the streetcar in Southwest Waterfront and Near Southeast is kicking off, and the first public meeting is Wednesday, October 22, 4-6 pm at Van Ness Elementary, 1150 5th Street SE. At the same time, DDOT officials will talk about updates to the citywide streetcar system plan.

Talk urban ag: Friday, the University of the District of Columbia will host a free Urban Agriculture Symposium from 9 am to 4:30 pm. Local and national leaders will come together to discuss today's food economy. Enjoy speakers and breakout sessions, followed by a green roof tour.

A vibrant Purple Line: Do you live or work near the Purple Line corridor? Do you want to take part in making it a healthy and vibrant neighborhood? Join the Purple Line Corridor Coalition (PLCC) this Saturday, October 25, from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm for the first of a two part workshop. The focus will be on community and economic development in the region. Space is limited.

Weekend walk: Join Coalition for Smarter Growth this Saturday, October 25, 3-5 pm for an afternoon walking tour of College Park. Discover and discuss the many ways this college is using its assets to create a more walkable and central hub for the region.

Safe school commute: Every student deserves a safe ride to school. Join Safe Routes to School on Tuesday, October 28, 8-12 pm to hear from North Carolina Safe Routes expert Mark Fenton, to talk about how to give students a safe commute. Registration requested.

Do you know of an upcoming event that may be interesting, relevant, or important to Greater Greater Washington readers? Send it to us at events@ggwash.org.

Events


Events roundup: Party Wednesday with Gabe Klein

Don't forget! Tomorrow, the Greater Greater Washington happy hour comes to DC as we head to the 2014 Smart Growth Social with Gabe Klein. Join us tomorrow, October 15, from 6:30 to 8:30 at Eastern Market.


Gabe Klein. Photo by Steven Vance on Flickr.

Party with Gabe: Join contributors, editors, GGW readers, and a broad swath of smart growth enthusiasts for some drinks, snacks, and lively conversation. For this month's meetup, we're joining up with the Coalition for Smarter Growth for their 2014 Smart Growth Social where you can enjoy drinks and pupusas and talk with Gabe Klein!

Ticket presales end tomorrow at noon, but you can buy tickets at the door ($25) with cash, check, or credit card. See you there!

Can't make it tomorrow night? After the jump, we've got NoMa underpass design, a tour of Friendship Heights, the maker movement, and of course, our live chat with David Catania.

A better NoMa underpass: The NoMa BID received 248 submissions when it launched its competition to redesign the underpasses at Florida Avenue and M, L, and K Streets. See the competition finalists on Thursday, October 16, from 6-8 pm and share your two cents to help the competition jury select winners.

Weekend walking: Learn the good, the bad, and the ugly about Friendship Heights with the community activists of Ward3Vision and the Coalition for Smarter Growth this Saturday, October 18, from 10 to noon. The walk will cover both sides of the DC/Maryland line, as well as the history of development in the area. RSVP requested.

Meet the makers: What is the maker movement, and what's a makerspace? Head over to MLK Library on Monday 10/20 to find out. Learn about 3D printers, 3D scanners, laser cutters, and their impact on the American entrepreneurial scene from an expert panel, from 7-9 pm.

#GGWchat with Catania: Now that we've chatted with Muriel Bowser, next Wednesday, October 22, we'll live chat with her opponent David Catania from 12:30-1:30 pm. Use the hashtag #GGWchat to follow the chat, and propose questions. Or leave your questions in the comments on this post.

Do you know of an upcoming event that may be interesting, relevant, or important to Greater Greater Washington readers? Send it to us at events@ggwash.org.

Events


Join us at the 2014 Smart Growth Social

For October, the Greater Greater Washington happy hour comes to DC's Eastern Market, with a twist. We're joining up with the Coalition for Smarter Growth for their 2014 Smart Growth Social where you can enjoy drinks and pupusas and talk with Gabe Klein!


Gabe Klein. Photo by Steven Vance on Flickr.

The event is at Eastern Market, 225 7th St SE, from 6:30-8:30 pm on Wednesday, October 15. It does require a $25 ticket, which you can buy at the door or online. For that $25 you get unlimited local beer, wine, and pupusas from La Plaza (not so different from what you might spend on drinks and food at a regular happy hour); plus, it supports a good cause.

Many readers will recognize the Coalition for Smarter Growth's staff as regular contributors. Their small staff of six work for more walkable, bikeable, and transit-oriented places across the Greater Washington region.

There will also be a raffle for a copy of Cards Against Urbanity, but the biggest attraction for Greater Greater readers might be meeting Gabe Klein, DC's and Chicago's former transportation director, who'll be the event's special guest.

Eastern Market is a two-minute walk from the Eastern Market Metro station (Blue, Orange, and Silver lines) and there are two Capital Bikeshare stations nearby, at the Metro and at 7th and North Carolina. From Union Station or Navy Yard, you can also take the DC Circulator, or there's Metrobus 90, 92, and 30s routes.

Our happy hour moves to a different part of the region each month. In recent months, we've been to downtown DC, Arlington, and Silver Spring. Next month, we'll be back in Virginia. Let us know in the comments where you'd like us to go!

Events


Events roundup: Happy hour, Purple Line, and Metro art

If you don't have plans for after work this week, there's plenty to help you fix that! Join us for our monthly happy hour tomorrow night, check out a walking tour, or head up to Silver Spring for ACT's monthly meeting.


Photo by Thomas Cizauskas on Flickr.

Join us tomorrow for happy hour: With summer coming to a close, it's time to resume our regular happy hour series. Join us at Denizens Brewing Company tomorrow night from 6 to 8pm in Silver Spring for drinks, food, and conversation on an outdoor patio within sight of the Red Line. You'll find Denizens at 1115 East-West Highway, one block west of Georgia Avenue. Here are more details on how to get there.

After the jump: ACT meeting tonight, Metro art, a Bethesda walking tour, and cards against urbanity.

Talk Purple Line with ACT: Don't have plans yet for tonight? Head up to the Silver Spring Civic Center for Action Committee for Transit's monthly meeting. This month, Wayne Phyillaier will speak on "Last Throes of Purple Line Opposition: Amphipods, Fences, Lobbyists, and the Kitchen Sink" starting at 7:30 pm. More info here.

Metro art exhibit opening: Is art more your style than beer and BBQ? If you can't join us tomorrow for happy hour, instead check out The Heurich Gallery for the opening of Roberto Bocci: Metrorail, an exhibition featuring recent work by the Washington-based artist. Metrorail, Roberto Bocci's newest body of work, is a multidisciplinary project that explores urban environments in and around the Metrorail system. Head over to the calendar for more info.

Walk downtown Bethesda: Looking to get in a bit of exercise, and learn something too? Head up to Bethesda on Saturday morning at 10 am to join CSG at for this season's second installment of their popular walking tours. There are still a few slots open for Reimagining Downtown Bethesda, but if you want to attend, you should probably go ahead and RSVP before they're all gone.

Cards against urbanity: GreaterPlaces & DoTank DC are creating "Cards Against Urbanity," a party game about horrible places, based on (and with permission from) the "Cards Against Humanity" card game. They are organizing
a Kickstarter kickoff party at Spider Kelly's in Clarendon next Tuesday, September 16 at 6 pm. Play prototypes of the game, brainstorm cards, and generally have an inappropriately good time.

Do you know of an upcoming event that may be interesting, relevant, or important to Greater Greater Washington readers? Send it to us at events@ggwash.org.

Events


Events roundup: Silver Line opens, Rapid Transit happy hour, central public spaces, and more

Years of anticipation have led up to this weekend: The Silver Line will officially open to passenger service. Don't miss a ride on the first train! On Wednesday, drink to rapid transit in Montgomery County or discuss Pennsylvania Avenue or Arlington's Courthouse Square.


Photo by Ben Schumin on Flickr.

And at long last... it's here!: The first Silver Line train taking passengers on the new tracks will leave at noon on Saturday, July 26. Let's ride together! We'll be congregating at the new Wiehle-Reston East station leading up to the noon train.

We had been organizing carpools, but it's not necessary to drive there any more: Fairfax Connector is running shuttle buses all morning from West Falls Church to Wiehle Avenue, so Metro on out to WFC and hop on a bus (or bike, or drive yourself) to get to the opening.

We'll meet at the north entrance to the station. From the Fairfax Connector bus bays, go up the escalators to the glass enclosed area of the plaza. There's a large space here, and we'll have signs to help you find us. See you Saturday!

The future of America's Main Street: Pennsylvania Avenue is a major symbol of our nation's capitol, but poor urban design and aging infrastructure inhibit activity there. The National Capital Planning Commission and other federal agencies are hosting a workshop to kick off a new study for the street. It's Wednesday, July 23 from 6:00 to 8:00 pm at 401 9th Street NW, Suite 500 North.

Rapid transit happy hour: Join the Coalition for Smarter Growth, Communities for Transit, and Friends of White Flint also on Wednesday, July 23rd at 5:30 pm at Paladar Latin Kitchen (11333 Woodglen Drive, Rockville, 20852) to hear the latest news about the MD 355 corridor and our booth at this year's Agricultural Fair. Did we also mention that Paladar has $5 Mojitos and Margaritas at happy hour? RSVP here.

A new Courthouse Square: Come and get a first look at the future of Courthouse Square. Planners will unveil three draft plans based on input from the public and a working group. See them on (once again) Wednesday, July 23rd at the 1310 N. Courthouse Road Office Building, third floor, from 7:00 to 9:00 pm (Metro: Court House).

Remember Southeast Southwest: Come out of the heat and watch the latest in the Summer in the City Film Series Thursday, July 24th, from 6:00 to 8:30 pm at the Southwest Library (900 Wesley Place, SW). This week's film, Southwest Remembered, follows the effects of urban renewal in Washington during the 1940s. Southwest was one of the first neighborhoods to undergo this effort, which displaced more than 23,000 residents in the process.

Do you know of an upcoming event that may be interesting, relevant, or important to Greater Greater Washington readers? Send it to us at events@ggwash.org.

Events


Events roundup: Precocious pedaling, Potomac Yard, trees, and transit

This week is jam-packed with engaging events to keep you entertained throughout the dog days of summer. Participate in a grown-up science project. Attend the groundbreaking for the Crystal City/Potomac Yard Transitway and take the kiddies on a bike ride through Alexandria. With so much to do, why stay inside?


Photo by Colville-Andersen on Flickr.

Kidically Arlandria: Join the family biking party this Sunday, July 20 from 11:00 am to noon (followed by an optional group lunch after the ride) as Kidical Mass takes you and your kids on a bicycle tour through Alexandria!

The tour will pass through the exploding soon-to-be-exploding Potomac Yard retail corridor, around the leafy neighborhoods of Del Ray and through Arlington, before returning to the playground behind the Harris Teeter at the Eclipse in Potomac Yard. Ride will start from this location as well. Roll-out at 11:15am, but come early to play!

Groundbreaking new transitway: Come attend the groundbreaking ceremony for the region's first dedicated bus transitway on Friday, July 18, 9:00 am at 33rd Street and Crystal Drive in Arlington. This innovative system will provide faster, more reliable bus service along the Route 1 corridor through Crystal City and Potomac Yard. Learn more about the benefits of BRT in Arlington and Alexandria at this historic event!

Grown-up science projects: Ever wanted to participate in a study? Need some encouragement? Casey Trees will be offering restaurant gift cards to participants in a study which attempts to monitor the accuracy of data collection. Their goal is to standardize urban forest monitoring across the US and abroad, in an effort to improve urban life.

More information about volunteer requirements and a general study overview are here. The studies will take place Thursday, July 17th from 6-9 pm and Saturday, July 19th from 9 am to noon at 3030 12th Street NW.

Tacos and transit: Next Wednesday, June 23 at Paladar Latin Kitchen in Rockville, the Coalition for Smarter Growth, Friends of White Flint, and Communities for Transit will be holding a rapid transit happy hour Besides noshing on latin food and $5 margaritas and mojitos at happy hour, learn the latest news about Rapid Transit in Montgomery County and how you can get involved. Connect with fellow allies, volunteers, and supporters.

Ride the Silver Line! Saturday, June July 26 is opening day for the Silver Line. The first train will leave Wiehle Avenue at noon, and you can get there by bike, car, foot, or Fairfax Connector bus. A group from Greater Greater Washington will ride to East Falls Church, then head back and stop at each of the new Tysons Corner stations along the way. Hope to see you there!

Events


Events roundup: Streetcars, H Street, bridges, and dead ends

Celebrate the arrival of June by learning something new. Get involved in the DC streetcar planning process, learn about the intricacies of urban housing markets, explore the history of H Street, and more at events around the region.


Photo by DearEdward on Flickr.

Streetcar planning: DDOT is holding its final round of open house meetings for its study of a future north-south DC streetcar. You can see DDOT's analysis of possible streetcar routes and weigh in. All three meetings last from 3:30-8:30 pm, with overview presentations at 4 and 7 pm. The full schedule is:

  • Central meeting: Monday, June 9, at the Banneker Rec Center, 2500 Georgia Ave NW.
  • South meeting: Tuesday, June 10, at the Department of Consumer and Regulatory Affairs, 2nd floor community room, 1100 4th St SW.
  • North meeting: Thursday, June 12, at the Emery Rec Center, 2nd floor community room, 5701 Georgia Ave NW.

Affordable housing panel discussion: Affordable housing has been a popular topic in the news, especially in the Washington area. Possible solutions range from free markets to public housing, but what are the implications of these ideas?

On Thursday, June 5 from 6:30-8:30 pm, Matthew Yglesias from Vox.com, Matt Robinson of MRP Realty, Christopher Bledsoe of Stage 3 Properties, and Chad Ludeman from Post Green Homes/Hybrid Construction will talk about housing costs at Georgetown University's School of Continuing Studies (640 Massachusetts Ave NW). You can RSVP here.

H Street walking tour: There's still one more chance to attend one of the Coalition for Smarter Growth's spring walking tours! This Saturday, June 7, explore H Street NE and learn about one of DC's most rapidly changing neighborhoods. Plus, get the scoop on the DC Streetcar. The walking tour runs from 10-noon. RSVP soon to secure a spot! Update: the CSG tour is now sold out, and their waitlist is at capacity.

Meet the 11th Street Bridge Park designers: The field has narrowed to four teams competing to design a park on the piers of the old 11th Street Bridge across the Anacostia. They haven't actually done designs yet, but each of the four will talk about their approaches and early ideas on Tuesday, June 10, 6:30-8 at THEARC, 1901 Mississippi Avenue SE.

Dead End book talk: On June 12, hear Greater Greater Washington contributor Ben Ross talk about his book, Dead End: Suburban Sprawl and the Rebirth of American Urbanism, at the Tenley-Friendship Library (4450 Wisconsin Ave NW) at 7 pm. A lively discussion on walking and biking in cities will ensue. Please RSVP here.

Do you know an event that should be on the Greater Greater Washington calendar? Send an email to events@ggwash.org with the details and a link to a page on the web which has more information.

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