Posts about Montgomery
Greater Greater Washington staff editor Dan Reed appeared on Fox 5 to talk about Montgomery County's BRT plans along with opponent Paula Bienenfeld. Visually, even just the scene on set brings into sharp relief the changes the county is undergoing.
The segment, starting with the anchor's introduction, seems to frame the issue around what this means for drivers. Reed talks about how BRT will move more people, and even those who don't ride the bus will benefit.
Bienenfeld, meanwhile, reads out the standard playbook of opposition. "We're not opposed to public transit," she assures everyone, before casting everything associated with transit as bad, such as devoting any space to bus stops. She also claims that having to cross a bus lane is unsafe for children. Reed later points out that crossing the regular car roadways is far more dangerous.
Bienenfeld criticizes the plan for not including things like Google self-driving cars, signalization, and "personal electric vehicles." Montgomery County already times its signals to move the most cars, even at the expense of those children walking and crossing the street, and none of the other options could move more people in fixed space.
Primarily, though, her objection is that "there was no public input" into the plan, which was created through "secret behind-the-scenes deals that have been cut." This seems astounding, given that a task force worked for a long time to create a plan, then released that plan a full year ago. Since then, county officials have refined and, in many cases, scaled back the plan, each time in full view of the public.
As Reed pointed out in the segment, this is still only a draft plan, with many more hearings yet to come. Unfortunately, people argue that there hasn't been enough input or a good enough public process almost no matter how long or short the public process actually is. This creates a "boy who cried wolf" effect for those times when government agencies really do try to ram a plan through with minimal public comment. The BRT plan is, at least thus far, not one of those cases.
One other argument from Bienenfeld rings particularly hollow: she argues that the plans "cram all the bus routes downcounty into underserved areas and lower-income, avoiding the wealthier parts of the county." Yet the bus routes include Wisconsin Avenue, which passes through some of the county's most affluent communities; most of the opposition has come from the neighborhoods between Bethesda and Friendship Heights.
Late this summer, Capital Bikeshare will expand into Montgomery County with 51 stations and 500 bikes. County officials have released maps of where they hope to put the stations, and they will hold meetings later this month to talk about the new service.
30 stations will go in the downcounty area, including Silver Spring, Takoma Park, Bethesda and Friendship Heights. In conjunction with the City of Rockville, the county will also place 21 stations in Rockville and the Shady Grove Life Sciences Center as part of a pilot program to see whether bikesharing can work in suburban areas, especially for carless low-income residents and reverse commuters.
County Department of Transportation officials will hold 3 meetings later this month where residents can learn how Capital Bikeshare works and offer feedback on the proposed stations. For more information, visit the county's new bikesharing website.
All 3 areas where Capital Bikeshare will go already have higher-than-average bicycling rates, like downtown Bethesda, Takoma Park, and even Rockville Town Center. That's not surprising, as these communities have an older, urban built form that easily lends itself to bicycling.
Bikeshare stations will also serve major employment centers, like NIH and the Shady Grove Life Sciences Center, along with local schools, like Washington Adventist University in Takoma Park and both the Rockville and Silver Spring campuses of Montgomery College. This will make bikesharing a real option for residents who live too far to walk, while helping students who either can't or don't drive.
However, the maps also show the need for improved bike infrastructure. The Washington Area Bicyclist Association and MoBike have proposed a network of new bike lanes to compliment the CaBi stations, but it'll be a while before the county actually builds some.
In addition, it looks like some of the stations are spaced too far apart to be useful. The station at Flower and Piney Branch in Silver Spring, for example, is over a mile from any other station and at the top of a hill. That means users are likely to bike from there and not come back, creating a rebalancing problem.
What do you think of the station locations?
The 1994 Clarksburg Master Plan envisioned a "transit- and pedestrian-oriented community" in upper Montgomery County with comprehensive transit service, a bustling town center, and phased development to protect the environment. 20 years later, many residents feel the promises have been broken.
Instead, Clarksburg has little transit, no town center, and children who are bused across the street to school. Residents have formed a new organization, the Liveable Clarksburg Coalition, to influence the process for the final stage of development, which they call "our last chance to get it right." Their first meeting on May 26 drew a standing-room only crowd of 250 people.
The Liveable Clarksburg Coalition wants to halt further development until the plan's promises are fulfilled. And they warn against any development that might put pristine, environmentally-sensitive Ten Mile Creek at risk.
A town without a center, TOD without the T
The Master Plan called for 4 stages of development. Property owners in some areas could not build until adequate sewer infrastructure, some roads, and parts of the town center were in place. Meanwhile, safeguards tried to protect the health of Ten Mile Creek, called the county's "last, best creek."
Map of Clarksburg showing each of the 4 stages along with existing and proposed transit. Click on the image to see an interactive map.
The first stage was Clarksburg Town Center, which broke ground in 2000. Stage 2, including the Clarksburg Village and Arora Hills developments, started around 2003. And work began on the third stage, Cabin Branch, last year. The continuing construction suggests that development has gone smoothly. But actually, the opposite is true.
In 2004, residents discovered hundreds of site plan violations, a scandal that led to the resignation of the Planning Board chairman. The town center that was supposed to come first never got built; instead of stores, a supermarket, and a library, there are 17 acres of vacant land.
For Clarksburg to get its first supermarket, set to open in Clarksburg Village this year, the County Council had to pass a limited amendment waiving the master plan's requirement that commercial development happen in the town center first.
Meanwhile, the promised "comprehensive transit system" has turned out to mean 2 Ride On routes: the 75, which runs every 30 minutes on weekdays between the Germantown Transit Center and the Montgomery County Correctional Facility, and the 79, which runs non-express every 30 minutes during rush hour between Clarksburg and Shady Grove.
The Corridor Cities Transitway was supposed to stop in Clarksburg at Comsat, 2 miles south of Town Center and across I-270 from Cabin Branch. Now, the Maryland Transit Administration plans for the still-unfunded line to end at Metropolitan Grove in Gaithersburg, 9 miles south.
And as for pedestrian-friendly roads: children in the Gateway Commons neighborhood take the bus to a school across the street because it's unsafe for them to cross on foot. There will be a crosswalk and traffic signal after a bypass of Route 355 is built, as the master plan calls for. However, the bypass would go through the school.
Plan requires more evaluation before developing around Ten Mile Creek
The fourth and final stage of Clarksburg development is on the east side of Ten Mile Creek. Because the creek is environmentally sensitive, the master plan requires the County Council to evaluate its water quality before Stage 4 can begin.
If the water quality is worse, they must decide whether to require property owners in Stage 4 to take extra measures to improve the creek, study the water quality further, make changes to Stage 4 to prevent additional deterioration, or just let Stage 4 go forward anyway. In 2009, the Department of Environmental Protection completed the required evaluation and found that construction in Town Center had degraded the water quality in the Ten Mile Creek watershed.
The Planning Board recommended that the County Council amend the master plan to change Stage 4. Instead, the council appointed a water quality working group to study whether planned development could occur without harming the watershed.
The working group's recommendations split along predictable lines. Consultants felt that development could continue without problems thanks to more stringent requirements for stormwater management and sediment control.
However, the majority of the group, including county government staff, a Clarksburg resident, and a member of an environmental group, felt that the planned development could not happen without harming the Ten Mile Creek watershed. They cited studies that show urbanization at any level degrades water quality, as well as the way construction at Town Center had already degraded one Ten Mile Creek subwatershed.
This majority recommended changing the master plan for Stage 4, and last October, the County Council asked the Planning Department to prepare a limited amendment to the plan.
The stakes are high
On June 20, the Planning Board will hold a worksession to present and discuss the proposed amendment. A public hearing will follow in September. If the Planning Board votes to endorse the amendment, it will then go to the County Council for a final vote that will determine how Stage 4 development will proceed.
Groups including the Sierra Club, Audubon Naturalist Society, and the Liveable Clarksburg Coalition are calling for changes to the Clarksburg Master Plan to protect Ten Mile Creek and support the vision of Clarksburg as a transit- and pedestrian-oriented town.
However, the two major developers in the watershed are pressuring the county to let Stage 4 proceed without major changes. Pulte Homes owns 538 acres in the Ten Mile Creek watershed and says they've spent $70 million preparing for the 1,000-unit development they're already advertising. And the Peterson Companies want to build a Tanger Outlet Center on a 98-acre property in the creek's watershed east of I-270.
Councilmember Craig Rice, whose district includes Clarksburg, has introduced 2 bills that would let projects with pervious pavers include more paved surface area than the Master Plan's limits would otherwise allow. Planners say that these bills "propose a solution to a problem that does not exist, and would create new problems."
For nearly a generation, development in Clarksburg has been a history of missteps, mistakes, empty words, and broken promises. Instead of a transit- and pedestrian-oriented town, the first 3 stages of the Clarksburg Master Plan have produced a car-dependent, transit-less sprawl. With the master plan amendment on Ten Mile Creek, Montgomery County has one last chance to get development in Clarksburg right.
Thanks to everyone who came to our resurrected happy hour Wednesday night! Still hungry for more conversation? Over the next 2 weeks, you can learn about pedestrian safety in Montgomery County and DC, talk about the future of Prince George's and Tysons Corner, and hear about the intersection of food and smart growth.
Take it outside in MoCo: Tomorrow, join the Action Committee for Transit and the Coalition for Smarter Growth for an al fresco discussion of pedestrian safety and transit at Fenton Street Market. We'll promote ACT's new website, SafeWalktoSchool.com, let kids draw their favorite ways to get to school, and chat about ways to improve county transit, like the Purple Line and BRT. Join us from 10 am to 12:30 pm at the market, located at the corner of Ellsworth Drive and Fenton Street in Silver Spring.
After the jump: events in Bloomingdale, Tysons, Montgomery Village, College Park, Anacostia, and Trinidad.
Mobile design workshop in Mid-City East: If you spend time in Bloomingdale, Eckington, LeDroit Park, or Truxton Circle, DDOT and the Office of Planning want to hear from you. They've rented a ZipVan and will move around the area hosting "design on the fly" sessions all day on Saturday and Wednesday as part of a study on ways to improve pedestrian and bicycle access.
You'll find the workshop at a variety of locations, including the Bloomingdale Farmers' Market, along the Metropolitan Branch Trail, and outside Dunbar and McKinley high schools. For more details and times, visit the Mid-City East study website.
Evolving transportation in Fairfax: Learn about how the county's transportation network has changed over time at an event hosted by Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova, the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, and the Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Associations.
It's this Wednesday, June 12 from 7:30-9:30 pm at the (very swanky) Angelika Film Center at 2911 District Avenue in Merrifield, not far from the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro station. For more information or to RSVP, visit the chairman's website.
The return of M-83: No, the French electronic band isn't playing here, but Montgomery County has restarted work on Midcounty Highway Extended, also known as M-83, a proposed highway between Montgomery Village and Clarksburg. The Department of Transportation and Montgomery Village Foundation are hosting a public meeting on the controversial highway next Thursday, June 13 from 7:30 to 9:00 pm at the North Creek Community Center, located at 20125 Arrowhead Road in Montgomery Village.
Get schooled on Prince George's future: Planners in Prince George's County want to encourage more walkable neighborhoods and transit-oriented development, and they'd like to talk to you about it. They're holding a town meeting next Saturday, June 15 at the University of Maryland from 9 am to 1 pm and will serve free breakfast. You can register here or visit their website for more information.
This month, contributor John Muller will give 2 tours of Old Anacostia with a focus on the life of Frederick Douglass, who made his home there. The tours are this Saturday, June 8 and Saturday, June 22 from 11am-12:30pm, and tickets are $25. For more info visit the event's website.
Planners and developers in Tysons Corner will give an update on ongoing development and transportation projects at an open house this Tuesday, June 11 from 7-9 pm at Westbriar Elementary School, 1741 Pine Valley Drive in Tysons Corner.
The Historic Anacostia Block Association will hear presentations from the Office of Planning on future development in that area, including St. Elizabeth's East Campus and the Big K site, this Thursday, June 13 at 7pm at the UPO, 1649 Good Hope Road SE.
DDOT's studying ways to improve pedestrian and bike safety along Florida Avenue NE. They're hosting their first public meeting Wednesday, June 19 from 7 to 9 pm in Chapel Hall at Gallaudet University, 800 Florida Avenue NE.
Join food critics and restaurateurs for "Food in the City," a panel discussion hosted by Smart Growth America on the intersection of smart growth and DC's growing food community. The event's on Thursday, June 20 from 6-8 pm at Union Market, 1309 5th Street NE. For more information, visit their website.
Some Chevy Chase residents are fighting one of Montgomery County's proposed bus rapid transit routes on Wisconsin Avenue, saying it will create new pedestrian hazards. But building a better transit system can lead to a safer, more walkable environment as well.
Photo used with permission from BethesdaNow.com.
Pedestrian safety is an issue in Montgomery County. On average, drivers strike 400 people in the county each year, accounting for 20% of all traffic deaths. Nationally, buses were responsible for less than 1% of all crashes, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. The lion's share of threats to pedestrians come from passenger vehicles, not transit.
As they stand now, the proposed BRT routes are a dangerous environment for pedestrians: fast, wide roads designed to maximize the flow of cars. By promoting a more multimodal transportation network, building a better transit system on these roads can be part of the solution. After all, people have to walk to the bus, and we need to get them there safely.
Concern that dedicated lanes will hurt pedestrian safety by allowing buses to travel faster also doesn't hold up. In Los Angeles, which has two major BRT lines, the rate of accidents in designated BRT lanes is significantly lower per mile than in the city's conventional bus system. Los Angeles has also reduced the speed limits for buses crossing intersections, reducing collisions even more. BRT is a fast and reliable service because vehicles have their own lane to bypass traffic, not because they speed on our already-busy roadways.
The rate of accidents in BRT lanes in Los Angeles is significantly lower per mile than in the city's conventional bus system. Photo by Oran Viriyincy on Flickr.
At a basic level, more cars on the roads means more potential for trouble. According to a recent report by EMBARQ, higher driving rates lead to more traffic fatalities. By attracting more riders, high quality transit service reduces the amount of vehicles on the road, directly reducing the chance for crashes and fatalities.
Montgomery County Planning Department staff have found that without rapid transit, countywide vehicle miles traveled (VMT) will increase 22% by 2040. That's a whole lot of additional cars on the roadways, meaning even more danger to pedestrians. In contrast, the Rapid Transit proposal is projected to actually reduce VMT levels by as much as 6% by 2040.
Higher transit use also means a greater number of pedestrians on the road, which studies have demonstrated make drivers more attentive. A report on the health impacts of BRT in the San Francisco Bay Area reinforces the safety in numbers concept, finding that pedestrians are less likely to get hit by a car if there are more pedestrians around.
Implemented correctly, Montgomery's rapid transit plans will add more foot traffic to the county's major thoroughfares, exponentially increasing pedestrian safety.
New Bike-Pedestrian Priority Areas in Montgomery's Bus Rapid Transit plan. Image from the Montgomery County Planning Department.
Design that encourages pedestrian use and alerts drivers to the presence of pedestrians will be critical. The current BRT proposal before the Montgomery County Planning Board incorporates several important recommendations for pedestrian and bike safety, like designating several new Bicycle Pedestrian Priority Areas, a state designation which targets investment in pedestrian infrastructure to certain areas. The plan also calls for improving intersection and sidewalk lighting, using different lane striping to highlight pedestrian areas, having more traffic signals to accommodate pedestrian and cyclist crossings, and building median refuges at intersections near bus routes.
These recommendations are a strong start, but we need to ensure the county both implements these plans and additional measures to stop treating pedestrians like second-class citizens. The proposed BRT routes are all roads under the jurisdiction of Maryland's State Highway Administration, which historically has prioritized moving cars over moving people. We will need to remain vigilant to ensure that BRT can help transform these dangerous, suburban roadways into multi-modal boulevards of the 21st century.
Doing nothing ensures continuing the status quo of unsafe roads, high pedestrian fatalities, and worsening traffic. Redesigning these roads to accommodate mass transit, as the BRT proposal suggests, provides the opportunity to improve these conditions and create a more walkable, safe environment on these roadways that Chevy Chase residents and undoubtedly many others desperately want.
I recently discovered that the transit authority for Houston's Harris County, Texas has different transit maps showing service on weekdays, Saturdays, and Sundays. WMATA has never created such maps.
WMATA redid the bus maps last year. The maps clearly mark frequent lines. But service on Sundays is far different.
Where can you get to in the region on Sunday? More importantly, where can't you get?
I've often joked that the reason WMATA won't create a Sunday transit map is because it would tip over to the left
I decided to take matters into my own hands. I spent several hours modifying WMATA's transit maps for Montgomery and Prince George's counties to show only the service that is available on Sunday.
Right: Sunday service. Image modified by the author.
View weekday or Sunday service in larger maps (PDF).
If you can't see the images and are reading this article on the home page, try going to the full post page.
In Prince George's, large swaths of the county are left without transit service on Sundays. None of the Prince George's County Transit (TheBus) routes operate on Saturdays or Sundays, and Metrobus service is severely curtailed on Sunday.
Only one frequent transit route operates in Prince George's on Sundays: the C4, which runs between Prince George's Plaza and Langley Park before entering Montgomery County and continuing to Wheaton and Twinbrook. The frequent K line along New Hampshire Avenue does run right on the county line in Langley Park.
In Montgomery, on the other hand, Ride On does operate 7 days a week. And transit service stretches to many parts of the county, though admittedly, some areas are without buses on weekends.
Right: Sunday service. Image modified by the author.
View weekday or Sunday service in larger maps (PDF).
If you can't see the images and are reading this article on the home page, try going to the full post page.
Still, even low-density parts of the county, like Potomac, have service. And several frequent service lines crisscross the central and southern parts of the county.
If WMATA were to publish Sunday bus maps, it would help riders know where they could go, without going back and forth between map and bus schedules. It could also show where gaps in service exist, and to push the jurisdictions into improving transit service on weekends.
In Montgomery and Prince George's counties, the state of Maryland is responsible for funding Metrobus service. It's up to the state to determine whether to fund Sunday bus service through WMATA. However, the counties each control their own transit service. While Prince George's TheBus does not operate on weekends, Montgomery has made the conscious choice to operate Ride On on weekends.
We cannot expect people to give up their cars if it means being stuck at home one or two days a week. How would people feel if we closed the Beltway on Sundays? What if driving were made illegal on the Lord's day?
For those of us living in the suburbs without a car, or even car-lite, the lack of Sunday bus service is like that. The state and county tell many residents that they don't need to go anywhere on Sundays, unless, of course, they have a car.
It's not practical, of course, to run buses everywhere on Sundays that they run on weekdays. But it is unacceptable to leave so many residents, especially in Prince George's, so far from transit, even one day a week.
WMATA can't solve the problem of Sunday bus service overnight. But they could easily publish a Sunday-only bus map to help riders get around where there is service.
Montgomery County's new zoning code will allow less parking in new developments in order to use land more efficiently and encourage alternatives to driving. However, the regulations still require parking in ways that will hinder the walkable urban places the county wants to build.
For four years, the Planning Department has been revising its complicated, unwieldy zoning code. First written in 1928, the code hasn't been updated since 1977, when the county was still mostly suburban. The new code will go before the County Council in a public hearing June 11.
Under the current code, buildings must have lots of parking, even near transit or in areas where most people don't drive. The new parking regulations are simpler and allow developers to build fewer parking spaces, though they do require other amenities, like bike racks, changing facilities and spaces for car sharing or carpools.
New rules require less parking, more amenities
The new code reduces parking requirements throughout the county, especially in its parking benefit districts where public parking is available, like Silver Spring, Bethesda, Wheaton, Montgomery Hills and eventually White Flint.
Restaurants currently must have 25 parking spaces per 1000 square feet, a little smaller than a Chipotle. Under the new rules, a restaurant would only need between 4 and 10 spaces, depending on whether it was in a parking district. Meanwhile, office buildings outside a parking district will only need 2.25 spaces per 1000 square feet, compared to 3 today.
Some rules have been simplified. The current law requires different amounts of parking for different kinds of stores; for instance, a "country market" must provide 5 parking spaces for each 1000 square feet, while a furniture store needs only 2. Under the new code, all stores would be required to have 3.5 spaces per 1000 square feet in parking districts, and 5 spaces elsewhere.
New buildings would also have to accommodate alternate modes of transportation by providing bike parking. Larger buildings will have to include space for car sharing, while developers would be able to swap out car parking spaces for carpool spaces, bikeshare stations or changing facilities.
However, the parking requirements for housing won't change much. Single-family homes and townhomes would still need 2 off-street parking spaces or 1 if they're in a parking district, same as before, while new apartments would need at least 1 parking space, regardless of where they are. However, apartment developers could build less parking if they "unbundle" them, meaning that residents could buy or rent a space separately from their unit.
Do we still need parking requirements?
While the new requirements are an improvement, some local groups argue that there shouldn't be parking requirements at all. The Coalition for Smarter Growth, the Montgomery County Sierra Club, and the Action Committee for Transit, where I sit on the board, have all come out against parking minimums.
Why? For starters, parking is expensive to build and rarely pays for itself. Construction costs for a space in a parking lot are about $3,500, compared to $30,000 for one in a garage and $100,000 for one underground, not counting the cost of land. Parking fees rarely cover these expenses alone, so the costs get passed on to the public in other ways, like higher prices at a restaurant that's charged higher rents by its landlord.
Meanwhile, our communities pay for a glut of parking. Surface parking lots that are only full on Black Friday take up valuable space that could be used for buildings or parks instead. And even attractively designed parking garages like this one in Rockville still create a dead space, hurting street life. On top of that, parking lots produce a lot of stormwater runoff, polluting waterways.
This isn't to say that we shouldn't have any parking, but the costs of excess parking outweigh the benefits. As Matt Yglesias writes in Slate, people will continue to want parking, and any developer who wants to stay in business will satisfy them without being told to:
Almost 100 percent of Washington-area residents like to sleep on a soft comforable surface at night. But there's no regulatory requirement that residential buildings contain mattresses. The lack of mattress mandates doesn't mean people are forced to sleep on the floor. It means that if people want to sleep on a mattressOnce you take away the Agricultural Reserve, residential neighborhoods, and other uses, you're left with about 4% of Montgomery County that's available for development. That land is valuable, and we need to use it well. Covering it with big parking lots isn't the right solution, but that's what our current zoning code requires. While the new law's a step in the right direction, it may not go far enough to create the kind of places we want.
— and they generally do — they need to go buy one.
The County Council will hold a public hearing on the Zoning Rewrite on Tuesday, June 11 at 7:30pm. To sign up to testify or submit written comments, visit their website.
After a year-long search, Montgomery County's new planning director will be Gwen Wright, a senior official at the City of Alexandria's planning department. Will she be able to move the county forward?
Montgomery's new planning director. Photo from Gwen Wright's LinkedIn page.
Wright spent over 20 years at the Montgomery County Planning Department before becoming Alexandria's chief of development in 2008. She's played a role in transforming huge swaths of the city, from the redevelopment of Landmark Mall to Potomac Yard, one of the nation's largest urban redevelopment projects.
It's likely that Wright will continue the vision set by her predecessor Rollin Stanley, who sought to urbanize the county's aging commercial corridors. She seems to have a strong understanding of what makes urban places work. "The way pedestrians and bicyclists and the folks on the ground interact with buildings is really, really key to making great communities," she recently told the Post.
Before resigning last year to become the planning director in Calgary, Stanley tried to make the planning process more accessible to laypeople, which encouraged public involvement and got people excited about the future of their communities. But he was also known to shoot from the hip, and residents and elected officials alike complained that he didn't take their concerns seriously.
It's also true that any planning director who tries to push a jurisdiction to evolve often faces strong opposition. Some of that opposition includes claims that the director or department don't involve residents enough, whether or not that's true. Still, planners indeed must work hard to involve residents and create an inclusive dialogue. It's rare to find a director with both the fortitude to buck entrenched interests and the skills to make everyone feel a part of the process.
Montgomery County is changing. It's gone from being the "perfect suburbia" to a majority-minority county with substantial urban areas, and with it the discussion over how and where we should grow has shifted.
Gwen Wright's task is to make sure Montgomery County can continue to attract new residents and businesses while directing investment to the right places, particularly near transit, in close-in urban areas, and in the underdeveloped East County. The big question, however, is whether she can do it while acknowledging different perspectives and making everyone feel welcome.
For years, the White Oak area north of downtown Silver Spring has struggled with disinvestment. Last week, residents, community leaders and major landowners endorsed a vision to bring jobs and people back.
Montgomery County planners recently finished a draft of the White Oak Science Gateway Master Plan, a proposal to turn the 1960's-era suburb that inspired The Wonder Years into an urban hub for scientific research. The centerpiece would be LifeSci Village, a partnership between developer Percontee and Montgomery County to turn a 300-acre brownfield into a mixed-use community.
During last Thursday's public hearing before the Planning Board in Silver Spring, all but a handful of the 35 speakers spoke in favor of it, highlighting the need to bring more investment to East County, which has lagged behind the rest of Montgomery County for decades. Many White Oak residents travel to Bethesda or the I-270 corridor for jobs or shopping, while some neighborhoods in the area grapple with crime and blight.
Many speakers highlighted the potential to make White Oak the "Silicon Valley of health care," using the FDA's presence to draw companies from around the world. Bringing more jobs and amenities to the east side of the county, they said, would relieve the county's east-west jobs-housing imbalance, reducing the need for long commutes. Other speakers stressed the need for alternatives to driving, like improved bike and pedestrian infrastructure and the 3 Bus Rapid Transit lines proposed for White Oak.
Meanwhile, a handful of representatives from local civic and homeowners' associations expressed concerns about the potential for traffic. Some residents opposed the plan's recommendation to rebuild and reopen a shuttered bridge on Old Columbia Pike, which planners say could help improve traffic circulation.
Over the next several weeks, the Planning Board will discuss the plan during a series of worksessions before voting on it later this summer. If it passes, it'll go to the County Council, which will hold another public hearing this fall, followed by a vote next spring.
I live-tweeted the hearing and compiled the best tweets in this Storify:
- Community stories show the shift to a walkable lifestyle
- Young kids try to assault me while biking
- Focus transportation on downtown or neighborhoods?
- Metro bag searches aren't always optional
- Endless zoning update delay hurts homeowners
- DDOT agrees to repave 15th Street cycle track
- Some are pushing to limit sidewalk cycling