Friday, October 17, 2008

Transportation Trash Talk

Liz Bobo is “skeptical about Columbia gaining mass transit anytime soon because of high costs.” That’s what Derek Simmonsen wrote in the first of a four part series on General Growths downtown redevelopment plan in the Howard County Times this week anyway.

When I read this I thought,”fat chance we can get any government mass transit dollars for rich old Howard County.” Then I wondered if we can’t get mass transit here “anytime soon” when can we?

And what exactly is anytime soon, five years? Ten years? Twenty years?

I think it makes a difference. GGP is proposing a thirty year development plan for Town Center. At the end of that time, not the beginning, there would be 5,500 new residences. Why can’t we start laying the groundwork now so that in thirty years we’ll be in good shape?

Maybe Liz shouldn’t be so shortsighted and think more long term.

And speaking of transportation Alex Hekimian is claiming that GGP’s Town Center traffic study “is not credible.”

Alex believes he knows better since he is a “retired transportation coordinator” for the Maryland-National Capitol Park and Planning Commission. What exactly is a transportation coordinator?

The title calls to mind someone who manages a motor pool. Would that make him an expert on traffic studies?

It certainly would be valid for Alex to have some objections to certain criteria in the study but to say that a traffic study prepared by a professional traffic engineer is “not credible” is both a little over the top and insulting. Martin Wells, that very traffic engineer responded that he “followed the Howard County design manual that lays out guidelines for traffic engineers and the conclusions were similar to those reached by other firms that have studied downtown.”

You can see Martins Wells traffic credentials here. You can see Alex Hekimians traffic credentials here.

Who looks more credible to you?


B. Santos said...

I have been struggling with this myself, and hope to post something on my blog this weekend. Columbia Talk has also weighed in on this, and I have commented on such.

Chris Bachmann said...

Hear hear! My thoughts exactly. While I would agree that it would be problematic to bring in mass transit to the area, we should certainly plan for it now and avoid the problems that the ICC faced a few years ago with eminent domain. I'm sure that we can find the financing in some way, but it never means that we can't avoid what we can do today.

Anonymous said...

The traffic study by Wells Associates makes a number of assumptions about traffic characteristics without any backup. This is probably the reason it was questioned. Transit increases from 2% to 15 percent, more trips to resturants from the town center than the rest of Columbia and the County as a whole, increases in traffic density (level of service) from 1450 to 1600 without any statement that worse traffic tieups will result. These sorts of things raise questions about the study. Also, no effect on US 29 is considered except to plan another full interchange on US 29 between MD 175 and Broken Land Parkway interchanges.

Anonymous said...

"..similar to those reached by other firms that have studied downtown"?

This new traffic study done for GGP by Wells Associates estimates the additional vehicle trips in Town Center at buildout would be 5,725-8,390.

Yet, the Sabra Wang traffic study done for the County in September 2007 estimated the additional vehicle trips in Town Center at buildout would be 13,090.

Anonymous said...

I'm not absolutely positive about this, but I believe Marty Wells and his firm did the traffic study for the Crescent Property Sketch Plan application that HRD treid unsucessfully to get approved. At that time, opponents of the plan questioned the honesty and integrity of Mr. Wells and cited their disagreement with the traffic study conclusions as part of the reason for their opposition.

Now, 4 years later, those same former opponents love Mr. Wells's crednetials and are just fine with the conclusions of this new report.

At least Mr. Hekimian's opposition and his reasons for his opposition have remained consistent between then and now. You can't say the same for certain other people who now support town center redevelopment.

Anonymous said...

I guess the safest course to take on traffic is assume the best but plan for the worst case scenario. Town Center is a asphalt jungle of parking spaces north and south along Lake Kittamaquandi(sic), a wasteland of unused acreage south of Merriwether, underutilized park surrounding Merriwether, and a mall which grew beyond the imagination of anyone who moved to Columbia in the late 60's and 70's. Thank goodness that something is now being proposed by GGP inspite of the economy.
Although 30 years sounds like a long build out. Mass transit doesn't have to be a boondoggle, expensive or a responsibility of Columbia Association or Howard County. Motorized buses point to point, overhead tram like Hershey Park or escalator type people movers are some options.
I'm throwing a few ideas around since I don't have any answers but am interested in finding the most viable transportation alternative to make the Town Center feasible.
Just some thoughts.