Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Another Unanimous Vote for New Urbanism

Last night the nine member Montgomery County Council unanimously approved a new master plan for 430 acres in White Flint surrounding the Twinbrook Metrorail Station. According to this story by Miranda S. Spivak in The Washington Post today, the development “would be among the largest redevelopments of post-World War II suburbia in the Washington region. It is aimed at bringing smarter growth to a county with little undeveloped land seeking ways to accommodate a growing population already nearing 1 million, larger than the District of Columbia.”

The process that MoCo folks went through to get to their vote last night will sound very familiar to HoCo folks.

“The approval of the White Flint master plan caps more than three years of often contentious debate about many issues, including the number of cars that should be allowed to back up at a traffic light to where a new public school should be built, whether bus lanes should be at curbside or down the middle of the Pike, and how many parking spaces should be allowed. “

The opposition arguments were equally familiar.

“"The basic concern we have is traffic," said Natalie Goldberg, a resident of Garrett Park Estates, who has been intensely involved with the county's redevelopment efforts. "Particularly in the short term, the infrastructure does not balance out the development," she said.”

Natalie must be the MoCo counterpart to our Alan Klein.

On the pro master plan side a group developers and property owners joined forces and harnessed the power of social media to convey their vision to the public.

“The smooth approval of White Flint redevelopment Tuesday stemmed from an intense, grass-roots organizing effort by a consortium of developers, who turned to social networking on the Internet in addition to traditional face-to-face lobbying and community meetings.”

Back in November, Bring Back the Vision hosted a lecture in Columbia by Rollin Stanley, the Planning Director for Montgomery County. At that time he spoke about the growth challenges facing MoCo like the fact that there are 8,000 acres of surface parking in the county and that there are more cars than people. He made the case for walkable communities that have multimodal transit options and are less dependent on the car.

Last night MoCo, like HoCo last month, took a big step in that direction.


PZGURU said...

To paraphrase Dan Akroyd from SNL: "Wordbone, you ignorant slut!"

Yes, let's look at MoCo. Look at the Rockville Pike corridor. Look at how many residents live along that corridor with all of it's EXISTING metro stations. And look at how FEW of those residents use the metro. This shows, irrefutably, that even if you build mass transit, most people WON'T use it.

If building things just to build things were good (ie: "it grows the tax base which soooooo good for everyone), then why not just get rid of all zoning regulations and restrictions and let's let everyone just build the dickens on their property!

Wordbones - you seriously are a one-dimensional $#*&#^%@ !!!!

B. Santos said...


Anonymous said...

Looks like a great project, thank you for the summary. Looking forward to seeing the development and hopefully, eventually, someday seeing something similar here.

Smirkman said...

Metro is more popular than ever and ridership numbers are way up and the Red Line does quite well considering many trains don't go all the way to Shady Grove. See map:


If you are speaking to local travel, perhaps more people would be inclined to take a local trip if there was something there besides a congested hwy, parking lots and strip malls. This is exactly the type of development large urban areas need to preserve the countryside and reduce the # of car trips.

Anonymous said...

NIMBYs are everywhere. Glad we have government officials who aren't scared by the vocal and negative minority!

PZGURU said...

@ Smirkman,
As a percentage of the driving-eligible population, metro riders are a very very small percentage. It doesn't matter if "ridership" went up from last year to this year, it (public transportation) does little to reduce car trips. If it did, I would be more supportive of it.
It's similar to HATS in HoCo. To go from 2 riders a day to 6 riders a day, you'd proclaim how great a 300% increase there is. But 6 riders a day would still equate to a colossal waste of funds AND fuel (for the bus to be driving around with basically nobody on it).

Anonymous said...

These stories may be of interest to you. Post to your group or blog and get the info on what's going on in the DC-Metro at NBCWashington.com. Also tune into your local News 4 on NBC tonight for the White Flint story

When it's all said and done, the White Flint section of Montgomery County is going to look a whole lot different. How is this commercial strip of buildings and stores going to be transformed into a grand boulevard? More on this tonight on News4 at 5.

Smirkman said...

PZGURU, You don't think the 600,000 daily metro riders + bus passengers doesn't reduce traffic into DC every day? That is absolutely crazy. This MC development reduces auto trips because people can park and walk in addition to the public transit. In fact this will have a far greater impact than the metro stops IMO. This is similar to Columbia (without the metro of course). I have shopped on Rockville Pike and everywhere in HoCo and have had to move my car in the same lot to go to another store because of distance/ safety. See Columbia Crossing. I have also shopped in Reston and shopped without moving my car. Walkable communities are the only way to balance growth with open space.

rugby8682 said...

@Smirkman, I could'nt agree with you more. The reality is, current development trend, i.e. those that are designed around the car,are not sustainable. I read this blog several times a day, and I just cant seem to get my mind around some of the comments that are made about the re-devlopment of Town Center being a "bad thing". I am 30 y/o and cant wait for a more urban,vibarant, and walkable town center.

Matt said...

PZGURU, you do have a point in your argument, but your presentation is at least just as one sided.

The issue with transit in MC is that the primary objective when it was designed was to get residents who lived in MC into and out of downtown DC for work. To that end, it is actually a little to successful. The Red Line in DC is notorious for being well beyond its saturation point during rush hour.

Beyond that objective though, it is useless, especially along the western end that serves the Pike. Yes, the Rockville station now has the Rockville Town Center (though I'm not sure how far the walk is to that), but for most of existence, unless you lived near by, it was the stop you used to go to court. Twinbrook is in a primarily light industrial area. White Flint served what was a high end mall whose customers were traditionally not the type to use mass transit anyways, and now sounds to be not doing so well.

Yes, there are a few east west bus lines through MC, but except for far southern MC (what would be considered part of DC in any other city), they are inconvenient to the wants and needs of their riders. The majority of the system is designed along a north south plan that never considered the idea that people who didn't live in a city would ever want to use transit except for work. It was not designed for people to travel within the county and so if someone tries to do just that, it is frustrating and inconvenient.

If HC's transit system is re-imagined around the new design, and redeployed in a way that makes it convenient for people to use it, then they will use it. To that end, MC is a perfect case study. It is convenient for people to use mass transit in MC to get to work in DC, and so the Red Line is the busiest line in the entire system for that purpose. It is no where near being convenient for shopping, visiting friends, or a night out and so it is not used for those things.

Smirkman said...

Matt, I agree and would like to add a comment or two. The Red Line along Rockville Pike was indeed a commuter rail and even the stops that appear to serve an area such as White Flint do not. Not only do mall users tend not to use transit (as you state) the workers generally don't either because of the distance the stop is from the mall. Even the Rockville stop is across the Pike and users generally use an overpass. See: http://www.wmata.com/rail/evacuation/65.017.pdf Rockville Pike isn't Wilson Blvd. and the Red Line isn't the Orange Line, but it could be it's cousin. Most consider the Wilson Corridor to be a success.

PZGURU said...

Look, I'm not opposed to metro or bus service. My wife and I would use metro if we didn't have jobs that require various trips around the region each and every day. Metro and other forms of public transportation are really only viable for people with true 8-5 "stay in the office" jobs. In this day and age, not too many people fit into that category.

About the only time when it makes sense for us to use metro is if we are going to a ball game in Baltimore or DC, or a concert in DC, or 4th of July in DC.

What I am disagreeing with is the statements that are made that say that metro or public transit WILL reduce or WILL SUBSTANTIALLY reduce car trips. It's just not the case. People that make those statements can not guarantee a high level of usership, and they definitely should not using such claims to say that traffic studies for a new development magically "pass" the test.

Anonymous said...

Wow. WB's cohorts are planning to show up at petition signings to intimidate voters:


Anonymous said...

Anon 7:37:

When I read the dialog, it appears that your (NIMBA's) are doing the intimidation. I've been approached by two people trying to get me to sign this petition. Both times, they had a different story that had nothing to do with the issue at hand.... both times I politely declined and both times I received rude/disrespectful response.

I'd like to ask a question.. what is the average age of the group supporting this petition. My guess is they are on the upper side or beyond retirement age. That should tell you a lot right there...