Thursday, November 12, 2009

Meanwhile, over in Montgomery County…

There are approximately 8,000 acres of surface parking in Montgomery County. This is just one of the insights provided by Rollin Stanley in his lecture in Columbia Tuesday night.

To put this into perspective, 8,000 acres is over half the size of Columbia.

Rollin was in Columbia at the invitation of Bring Back the Vision to share his views on the need and desirability of compact development. He is the Planning Director for Montgomery County who was recruited from St. Louis a little over a year ago to help the county manage its growth. According to this story by Sarah Krouse in the Washington Business Journal, Stanley believes the county needs to “eliminate its strip malls, use surface parking lots for high-rise developments and encourage residents to bike and walk to stores. Stanley added that eliminating cul-de-sacs and slowing down traffic on main streets are key to improving an area's walkability.”

Some of his other key points were:

-18% of county resident’s household costs are taken up by transportation.

-There are more cars than people in Montgomery County.

-Howard County will never have the density to justify a subway extension, even with the proposed additional residential units in Town Center.

About 60 people attended the evening lecture at the Vantage House in Town Center, among them were Councilperson Mary Kay Sigaty and State Senator Jim Robey.

It’s a too bad more folks didn’t turn out. Rollin Stanley is a dynamic speaker who peppers his talk with humor. He may not have changed any minds about GGP’s proposed plans for Columbia Town Center but at least he provided a compelling argument for giving it serous consideration.

I always feel a little funny about going to meetings in Vantage House. The community room is certainly one of the nicer meeting facilities in Town Center but there is just something that always makes me feel a little uncomfortable about my own mortality when I go into that place.

Perhaps it is because of the signs like this one that I spotted in the elevator.


Anonymous said...

Yes, meanwhile over in MoCo.

Sounds too familiar.

Bob O said...

Yea, Montgomery County. Make me laugh.

"Compact development." Doh. Some people actually don't want that, and Montgomery County is not an example to hold on high, from any point of view.

I mean really, let's think about this. Wordbones, think please?

Sounds like Social Darwinism at its best.

PZGURU said...

More cars than people in Montgomery County? I doubt it. If he's factoring in all of the police cars, public works vehicles, fire official cars, and cars for local officials and employees, then maybe.

Then again, there are tens of thousands of ILLEGAL IMMIGRANTS there who predominantly don't own cars, so seems like a stretch.

Montgomery County is actually a GREAT example of how people DONT use public transportation, even when it's within walking distance of their home. Just look at Rockville Pike (Route 355), along which lies the highest concentration of residents. There are numerous BUS routes and METRO stations, but the percentage of poeple using those facilities is low. And no matter how much they are "encouraged" to use public transportation, people just won't.

And for developers to "proffer" public transportation as an amenity to gain approval of a development, especially those of large scale such as the proposed TC re-design, or to say that traffic volumes WONT increase because of bus usage and the like, is laughable on a grand scale.

Anonymous said...

Hmmm. If "Howard County will never have the density to justify a subway extension, even with the proposed additional residential units in Town Center" then why do the fans if GGP's proposal think we will get mass transit if it gets passed?

It is a pipe dream and they ought to know better. They think the plan will magically happen just because GGP says it will.

Bob O said...

Public transportation is a lot like common sense, in Howard County.

It is neither public, nor transportation.

Look at the demographics, and then look at the transportation patterns.

Knowledge works don't need no stinkin' public transportation.

Bob O said...

And yea, like public transportation is going to serve my needs.

Seriously, I have too much shit to do. Can we just intstitute a lane on Rte. 29 for "People who have shit to do"?

Oh, that would be the "passing lane" helped along by signs that say, "Left Lane Passing Only" or "Slower Traffic Keep Right."

I mean, really. Be part of the problem or part of the solution.

Anonymous said...

Bob, every lane on 29 is for people who have things to do.

If you're hindered by anyone driving the posted maximum legal speed limit in front of you in any lane including the leftmost one, you're the problem, not them. Most will move to the right, but not when it's not safe to do so, and definitely not when there's someone both speeding and tailgating them. Stay 243 feet back (yes, 243 for following the 3-second rule safe following distance at 55 mph, double that at night or in light rain/fog/snow, or triple that if heavy rain/fog/snow), give the person ahead of you the time to find a safe point to move right, and be civil about it.

Or get up earlier, get a watch, and plan your day so you don't have to be a dangerous, more polluting whatever on the road whining about others who did plan their day better. Were it not for the tailgaiting nimrods, the speed limit COULD be higher for everyone.

Bob O said...

Anon., thanks for responding in a reasonable and literate way. You even get the math and physics correct.


You avoid any understanding of human nature or traffic engineering, and the two are inextricably intertwined.

You make the fundamental mistake of thinking that traffic is like water, it just flows. This is the stuff of madness.

Traffic is not water; it is made up of an infinite number of people in a finite space controlling machines that have finite performance envelopes converting energy to motion.

What's the uncontrolable variable? The people.

What's the problem? People with different driving styles on the same road. They all have different physical abilities, different machines, and different attitudes. Some drive slower than the legal limit, some drive the limit, some drive faster than the limit.

How is the limit set? I could refere you to "The Handbook of Civil Engineering," which talks about road width, sight lines, banking, drainage, etc ad nauseum. The reality is that people drive at a speed that they think they can safely sustain on any given road.

Thus, the problem: Rte 29 is the type of road that in most cases could sustain a 65 mph speed limit, but it is posted as a 55 mph road for historical engineeing reasons (this subject is worth a doctoral dissertation in and of itself).

The problem is complicated by the fact that Maryland, unlike most states, and countries for that matter, does not have any laws governing overtaking traffic and right-of-way. Ergo, most Maryland drivers suffer from one of two problems: first, ignorance of lane discipline; and second, arrogant obstinance. This leads them to think that it is fine to be in the left (also know as the passing or fast) lane, doing the posted speed limit, on a road that has been re-engineered to have a much higher posted limit (at the cost of millions of dollars).

That's just sloppy driving.

Compound this with the use of cellphones, and you have situations that will frustrate hundreds each morning, and kill several.

I've driven all over the world, from Asia to Europe to the Australian Outback. I can tell you in all seriousness that the average Maryland driver would probably die on the Autobahn--and take a couple of other drivers with them.