Posts about Laurel
WMATA planners helped STLTransit create an animation of transit across the entire Washington region. That's possible because WMATA has a single data file with all regional agencies' schedules. They hope to make that file public; that would fuel even more tools that aid the entire region.
Click full screen and HD to see the most detail.
One of the obstacles for people who want to build trip planners, analyze what areas are accessible by transit, design visualizations, or create mobile apps is that our region has a great many transit agencies, each with their own separate data files.
Want to build a tool that integrates Metrobus, Fairfax Connector, and Ride On? You have to chase down a number of separate files from different agencies in a number of different places, and not all agencies offer open data at all.
The effect is that many tool builders, especially those outside the region, don't bother to include all of our regional systems. For example, the fun tool Mapnificent, which shows you everywhere you can reach in a set time from one point by transit, only includes WMATA, DC Circulator, and ART services. That means it just won't know about some places you can reach in Fairfax, Alexandria, Montgomery, or Prince George's.
Sites like this can show data for many cities all across the world without the site's author having to do a bunch of custom work in every city, because many transit agencies release their schedules in an open file format called the General Transit Feed Specification (GTFS). Software developer Matt Caywood has been maintaining a list of which local agencies offer GTFS files as well as open real-time data.
We've made some progress. Fairfax Connector, for example, recently started offering its own GTFS feed. But while DASH has one, you have to email them for it, and there's none for Prince George's The Bus.
The best way to foster more neat tools and apps would be to have a single GTFS file that includes all systems. As it turns out, there is such a beast. WMATA already has all of the schedules for all regional systems for its own trip planner. It even creates a single GTFS file now.
Michael Eichler wrote on PlanItMetro that they give this file to the regional Transportation Planning Board for its modeling, and offered it to STLTransit, who have been making animations showing all transit in a region across a single day.
This is one of many useful ways people could use the file. How about letting others get it? Eichler writes, "We are working to make this file publicly available."
Based on the STLTransit video, WMATA's file apparently includes 5 agencies that Caywood's list says have no public GTFS files: PG's TheBus, PRTC OmniLink and OmniRide, Fairfax CUE, Frederick TransIT, and Loudoun County Transit. It also covers Laurel Connect-a-Ride, Reston LINK, Howard Transit, the UM Shuttle, and Annapolis Transit, which aren't even on that list and which most software developers might not even think to look for even if they did have available files.
Last I heard, the obstacles to the file being public included WMATA getting permission from the regional transit agencies, and some trepidation by folks inside the agency about whether they should take on the extra work to do this or would get criticized if the file has any errors.
Let's hope they can make this file public as soon as possible. Since it already exists, it should be a no-brainer. If any regional agencies or folks at WMATA don't understand why this is good for transit, a look at this video should bring it into clear focus.
As enclosed malls continue to decline and close, more and more retailers are opting to locate in pedestrian-friendly urban districts.
3 years ago, I expressed sentiments that the car-oriented shopping mall was a business model with no future. The events since have offered further proof that retailers and customers now prefer an urban format, at least in our region.
Recent news that Bloomingdale's in White Flint and Macy's in Laurel will close has little to do with the sales performance of those stores, and everything to do with their host malls being unable to survive. Both have been visibly declining for years, and will soon be redeveloped into mixed-use walkable urban places.
The Laurel Macy's has managed to remain open for years despite much of its host mall being shuttered. That store would likely have closed years ago if it wasn't making money, especially in the wake of the Great Recession.
Similarly, if it had not been profitable the White Flint Bloomingdale's would have closed in 2007 when another location of the luxury retailer opened a mere 3 Metro stations away.
Within the Favored Quarter, the most economically competitive and healthy part of our region, only the largest and most dynamic enclosed malls are continuing to thrive. The rest are slowly dying.
In Maryland, Montgomery Mall is the most vibrant, while in Virginia the Tysons cluster reigns supreme.
When the White Flint redevelopment plan was approved in 2010, it provided the owners of White Flint Mall the opportunity to earn a healthier profit by giving the market more of what it wants: walkable urbanism.
Elsewhere in the region the malls are doing as bad or worse. Most have either closed or are in the process of being converted to walkable town centers.
Arlington has had success turning the area around its two enclosed malls into mixed-use towns, first at Ballston and now at Pentagon City, where the process is still under way.
In Prince George's County, the area around the Mall at Prince George's (formerly Prince George's Plaza) has been undergoing a process similar to Pentagon City. At Bowie Town Center, County officials are looking at adding more entertainment and housing options.
Meanwhile, urban shopping areas that I mentioned three years ago have increased in prominence:
In the District of Columbia, there are four shopping districts that support clusters of national retail chains that are usually mall-based: Downtown (Old Downtown clustered around Metro Center), Connecticut Avenue between Farragut Square and Dupont Circle, Friendship Heights, and Georgetown. Columbia Heights is emerging and has a different mix of retailers.Urban-format suburban shopping districts also continue to thrive and grow.
Silver Spring's retail is more vibrant than ever. The space vacated by Borders was quickly filled by Smart Toys. Bethesda and Clarendon are continually adding to their mixture of chains and smaller upscale retailers. Wheaton is a work in progress.
Even outside the Beltway, urbanism is catching on. Rockville Town Square and Gaithersburg's Washingtonian Center are growing, and National Harbor is setting the standard for Prince George's County. Two decades ago, all those developments likely would have been enclosed malls.
While purely car-dependent malls aren't going to go completely extinct, they are becoming far more rare. In the future, it is likely the only enclosed malls that remain will be the largest super-regional "winners" inside the Favored Quarter. Meanwhile, no new malls are planned.
As the 21st Century continues, both living and dead mall sites will be either be completely redeveloped or will evolve into mixed-use walkable urban places. Retailers will continue clustering at transit-oriented, walkable urban locations, both downtown and at new suburban "uptowns."
- DDOT has rejected several suggestions for pedestrian improvements in Mount Vernon Square. Neighborhood resident Matt Yglesias is not pleased. (Life in Mount Vernon Square)
- The bad economy may deter legal challenges to DC representation in the House, if the voting rights bill passes. (DCist)
- Bicycle police harassed a cyclist downtown, telling him (incorrectly) that he was required to register his bike. (WashCycle)
- 77% of respondents in the Cleveland Park listserv's unscientific poll support the Giant development.
- Montgomery County's policy of giving parking fine money to the local parking district causes the districts to underprice parking and keep time periods really low to encourage fines, charges Ben Ross of the Action Committee for Transit. Performance parking would be fairer to all. (Ryan Avent)
- Building a skybridge across Wayne Avenue between the parking garage and the future Silver Spring library requires amending Silver Spring's revitalization plan, and the County Council plans to try. Park and Planning officials and a majority of the Silver Spring Citizens Advisory Board oppose the $684,000 bridge. (Gazette) ... Previously: we shouldn't build the bridge nor too much parking.
- Marc Fisher argues that PG's scocer stadium deal with United is bad for taxpayers, and DC made the right choice by not doing a stadium deal. (Post)
- Residents are fighting the scale of the proposed JHU "Science City" at Belward Farm in Gaithersburg. For once, Smart Growth activists probably agree. (Gazette) ... Previously: we should put the transit in first.
- Transportation Examiner Katherine Hill is pleased that Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley kicked off stimulus spending by overhauling the Laurel MARC station.
- Opponents of a downtown Wheaton library argue it should stay "modest", but the best thing for "modest" Wheaton, including reducing crime, would be a downtown library. (Just Up the Pike)
- Arlington can finally turn its red light cameras back on. Cameras have been shown to reduce fatal accidents to drivers and pedestrians. The Virginia legislature forced them to be turned off, then changed its mind, but VDOT just now gave the needed approval. (WTOP)
- Arlington's long-awaited bike sharing program is happening. The County issued an RFP for an operator to share responsibilities with the County. (WashCycle) ... Previously: can it be compatible with DC's?
- HOT lane construction will be forcing pedestrians crossing the Beltway on Braddock Road to follow a 1.6-mile detour for at least 12 months. (WashCycle)
- Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood suggested replacing the gas tax with a VMT tax. Matt Yglesias isn't so sure that's a good idea. The gas tax, at least, specifically discourages burning gasoline. ... Way previously: A year ago, experts discussed the idea at the New Partners for Smart Growth conference. ... Update: President Obama put the kibosh on the idea, Alex points out.
get on a train after a rally in Philadelphia, meet Joe Biden for a rally in Wilmington, then stop in Baltimore before continuing to DC.
By bike: Tommy Wells would like to see a bike valet station at Inauguration. If there is one, he's hoping to use it.
Retail woes: Georgetown landlords are refusing to rent to restaurants, preferring more stable national retail chains, reports Marc Fisher; opening Metro one hour earlier on Black Friday for $27,000 didn't work very well, costing $22.48 per rider.
Rockville caves: The Rockville City Council has taken no action on Beall's Grant II, reports Rockville Central. Since the Montgomery Housing Partnership needed approval to get Low-Income Tax Credits, the project is stalled if not scuttled.
And: 14th and You critiques the ARTS Overlay's restaurant prohibition (here's our take); Laurel authorized bonds to redevelop the Laurel Mall into a "Town Center" style retail hub.
Prince George's County leaders are very proud that Konterra Town Center is moving forward. It's a huge development at I-95 and the future Intercounty Connector in Laurel. It's even bigger and just as auto-dependent as their other totally transit-inaccessible edge city, National Harbor, which, after building itself far from transit, started complaining about the lack of transit.
The county is working hard at making the same mistake with Konterra, which will generate a huge amount of traffic on the ICC, 95, and the Beltway. Konterra is "New Urbanism," but New Urbanism in a highway-only area generates as much traffic as old sprawl. Meanwhile, Prince George's County contains the first and second lowest ridership stations in the Metro system (Morgan Boulevard and Cheverly) among its 15 underutilized stations. Many PG County Metro stations have large, sparsely developed land around them, whether low-density housing, huge park-and-ride lots, industrial warehouses, or all of the above. And the eastern ends of the Orange and Blue Lines are the parts of the Metro system with the greatest excess capacity.
It may be a bit politically easier to build a huge development in the middle of nowhere. And I can understand the appeal of building a shiny new city without hewing to existing constraints or NIMBY neighbors. But it's a recipe for a traffic disaster. The article quotes Dennis Cook, of the West Laurel Civic Association, who worries that Konterra isn't planning the right numbers of jobs and residences to minimize the amount of new commuter traffic.
Maryland officials, with pressure from the developers, are pushing for a Green Line extension to BWI which would go through Konterra. That would be enormously expensive, and we already have a train to BWI: MARC. Instead of spending billions on the Green Line, Maryland should beef up MARC to transit-level service, perhaps adding extra passing tracks so more trains can coexist with Amtrak. Plus, MARC already goes through already-settled areas (like Laurel) which could benefit from development.
If Prince George's had no place to build, a New Urban community would be better than more classic sprawl. But they have plenty of good places inside the Beltway and next to Metro stations.
Update: Ryan Avent argues Prince George's has few appealing options, given their poor financial position, and better regional planning and financing could create a better outcome for everyone.
- Metro bag searches aren't always optional
- Young kids try to assault me while biking
- Redeveloping McMillan is the only way to save it
- Endless zoning update delay hurts homeowners
- Vienna Metro town center won't have a town center
- DDOT agrees to repave 15th Street cycle track
- Residents organize for positive change in Bluemont