Tag: kelly blynn

Coalition For Smarter Growth Has a New Manager

The Coalition for Smarter Growth, an organization dedicated to promoting walkable and transit-oriented communities, has a new advocacy manager in its Montgomery County office.

Pete Tomao is taking over the position held by Kelly Blynn and said as the new advocacy manager he hopes to work on increasing transportation choices for the county.

“Whether that is through more bicycle lanes, more 8-car trains on Metro, expanded RideOn service, or a bus rapid transit system,” Tomao wrote in an email to MyMCMedia.

Tomao added there are a lot of “great plans and ideas circulating” in the county. Plans that, according to him, will be necessary to meet the population needs.

“By 2040, forecasts project that Montgomery County will have 70 [percent] more road congestion, 21 [percent] more residents, and 40 [percent] more jobs than today, so our need for a robust variety of transportation choices has never been greater. … from the bus rapid transit network to the Purple Line, to more Metro investment, to making it easier for people to bike or walk,” Tomao wrote.

Tomao is originally from Long Island, New York, and moved to the region to attend American University. He is also a former union and political organizer.

“I’m excited to be working for CSG and look forward to meeting many new friends and smart growth supporters in Montgomery,” Tomao wrote.

The new manager took the job during a busy time for transportation advocates. Maryland Governor Larry Hogan announced on June 24 the Purple Line– a proposed $2.44 billion light rail extending from Bethesda in Montgomery County to New Carrollton in Prince George’s County- is scheduled to move forward. Tomao wrote he was glad the governor approved the project but “want to make sure that Montgomery and Prince George’s get the support and funding they need to successfully build the project.”

“We were disappointed by some of the announced service changes — decreased frequency and fewer train cars. That could have a negative effect on reliability and level of service, and will only be more expensive to fix in coming years. We still feel positive that the project is moving, but will be watching developments very closely in the coming months and will be prepared to help out where we can,” he wrote.

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The Purple Line Will Happen, But It’ll Cost the Suburbs More

Governor Larry Hogan surprised suburban transit advocates Thursday in announcing that his administration will go forward with the planned Purple Line light rail between New Carrollton and Bethesda, but that does not mean advocates for the project can breath easily. While Hogan’s election last November sparked fears that the Annapolis Republican would make good on his campaign’s skepticism of the project and kill it outright, he threw a new twist into the long-anticipated railway’s fate by drastically reducing the state government’s contribution.

Maryland’s coffers will only put in $168 million on the 16-mile Purple Line instead of a possible $700 million. The project, which was first proposed in 1994 as an expansion of Metro, is estimated to cost $2.45 billion to build. The Federal Transit Administration is in for $900 million, leaving the remainder of the costs to Montgomery and Prince George’s counties. Each county previously pledged to spend $110 million on the project, with Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett later saying he could potentially contribute another $50 million. But that still leaves the Purple Line nearly $1 billion short of its total funding.

Hogan, who on Monday disclosed he is being treated for non-Hodgkins lymphoma, made the Purple Line announcement during a press conference touting $1.97 billion in road and bridge construction projects across the state, including the widening of Interstate 270 and other arterial highways. But committing additional funds to roadway projects—for which the benefitting communities will not have to pay extra—leaves less for mass transit. While the Purple Line got a reprieve, Hogan canceled a $2.9 billion planned Red Line in Baltimore.

While the Purple Line is still in planning stages, the cuts today will impact its final design. Instead of six-minute headways when it opens, trains will run every seven-and-a-half minutes; there may only be enough money for one rail yard; and the project might lose a wall protecting nearby communities from the rumble of trains. Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn says the Purple Line, as originally envisioned, was “a Cadillac project, not a Chevy project.”

“He talked a lot about cost effectiveness, but a lot of the road projects on the list may not be that beneficial to economic development as the Purple Line,” says David Alpert, editor of the pro-development website Greater Greater Washington. “It is unfair that he didn’t say, ‘I reached out to Garrett County to say that if you want this road you’re going to come up with your own tax money.’ He sees it as saying the state money should go to roads and not transit.”

The number of vehicle miles traveled per capital in Maryland peaked in 2005 at 10,888, according to a 2013 study by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments. The Maryland Department of Transportation under former Governor Martin O’Malley estimated that the Purple Line would average 74,000 riders daily by 2040. By comparision, the Intercounty Connector highway, which runs between Gaithersburg and Laurel, was found to carry an average of 50,000 cars per day, well below initial projections.

Kelly Blynn of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, a nonprofit organization that advocates for increased mass-transit spending, is relieved to see the Purple Line survive, but chafes that its presumed state funding is being mosly hacked off.

“It’s very much a double standard, especially in light of the governor’s decision on the Red Line to spend all this money on roads and bridges,” she says.

Even with funding more uncertain than ever, though, Purple Line backers are relieved the project did not share the Baltimore Red Line’s fate.

“If he wanted to kill it, he could have said ‘I’m killing it,’” says Alpert.

Read the complete article here.

Transit advocates see midcounty problems

“Even more telling is that in the draft EER (Environmental Effects Report), you can see that with alternative 9, the same intersections in the southern (already built) portion of Midcounty Highway continue to fail. If you open up a new stretch of road that will attract more commuters heading north to south to the same failing intersections, what do you think is going to happen?” Blynn said.

Testimony to restore capital funding to the Bicycle Pedestrian Priority Areas

While Bicycle Pedestrian Priority Areas were first created 20 years ago by state legislation, the program has been slow to start. Now, as driving has begun to decline in the county over the last decade and rates of walking, cycling, and transit use in the county have been on the rise, it’s more important than ever to ensure it is safe and comfortable to walk, cycle, and take transit. Last year, people driving struck 483 people who were walking in the county – 60 more people than in 2013. We have much more work to do.

State Transportation Priority Letter to Montgomery Co. Council

State law governing the priority letter process “requires MDOT and the local jurisdictions seeking project funding to demonstrate the relationship between prioritized projects and the long-term goals of the Maryland Transportation Plan and local land use plans.” The goals of the Maryland Transportation Plan focus on safety for all users, system preservation, and environmental conservation.

Newton looks for state and county APFS input

Mayor Bridget Newton hopes to temporarily stop the council’s consideration of the city’s adequate public facilities standards (APFS) for schools in order to wait for county and state input.

The APFS for schools determines how much school capacity must be available for residential development to move forward in the city. On Nov. 17, Councilmember Tom Moore made a presentation arguing for aligning the city standards with the county standards, which some consider more lax toward developers.

At the council’s public hearing on Jan. 5, Newton said the county will soon convene a workgroup to look at school standards and she would prefer to wait to see the results of that before moving forward.

She also said she intends to write to the Maryland Attorney General for an opinion on the council’s authority to change the APFS in the first place. Don Hadley, chair of the city’s Planning Commission, told the mayor and council in December that a recent reconfiguration of state law as well as opinion from the attorney general to the city of Mt. Airy indicates the APFS falls under the master plan which is ultimately Planning Commission territory.

The city attorney reviewed Hadley’s reasoning and said the mayor and council have control because the APFS is a resolution implementing Rockville’s comprehensive plan, rather than part of the plan itself. Newton said she still wants the attorney general opinion and believes she has the authority to write to the state as the presiding officer of the council, even without majority support.

“I really think it would be the smartest thing we could do to step back and make sure that we are on the right path and that we do have the authority that some of us think we have,” Newton said.

In the meantime, former mayors and city officials as well as residents and developers weighed in at the public hearing.

In advocating for changing the standards, Moore has said the standards have hurt the city because the county is less inclined to fund city schools. Rockville evaluates program capacity for two years from the time an application is approved and does not allow development to bring the projected enrollment to more than 110 percent of program capacity per school. Rockville also looks at capacity per school. In contrast, the county evaluates program capacity for five years from the application date, sets the limit at 120 percent and looks at capacity on average for each cluster.

Rose Krasnow, mayor from 1995-2001, said the county standards would have fewer negative consequences for the city than the current standards.

“The city has no control over construction of new schools since that is strictly a county responsibility,” she said at the hearing. “They view Rockville’s attitude as somewhat antagonistic and not willing to work with them.”

But others involved in the original adoption of the APFO in 2005, such as former councilmember John Hall, said it is disingenuous to describe the APFO as “harmful” to the city.

“What we have is a well-founded, well-researched, rational set of standards regarding school capacity when it comes to the APFO and I really encourage folks to recognize that these suggestions that somehow Rockville’s standards have harmed the city are entirely without merit. It’s really a misleading argument to suggest that that’s the case. The county has made it clear to us has absolutely no impact whatsoever on their approach to capital improvement funding,” Hall said.

Former Mayor Larry Giammo, also involved in the original adoption during his terms from 2001-2007, said it is also a myth the standards have hurt the city. He said the 13 most overcrowded schools are not in Rockville and only two of the top 30 are. In addition, the county recently funded an addition to Julius West Middle School and is pushing for a fifth elementary school in the Richard Montgomery cluster.

“If you were the captain of a boat and the boat was given to you so you had no control over how big the boat was, and you have a long line down the dock of people wanting to get on your boat, at some point, wouldn’t you want to say ‘enough, I can’t have any more people on the boat. It’s going to sink,’” Giammo said.

But others originally supportive of adopting the APFO now want it to be changed. Steve Edwards, a Rockville resident since 1976 and on the board of the Chamber of Commerce, said the APFS takes away the city’s “leverage” with the county.

“It has become very apparent that the school board does not recognize the APFO in considering funding projects,” he said at the hearing.

Some also said development is necessary for the city to thrive and would benefit the schools. Kelly Blynn, a campaign manager with the Coalition for Smarter Growth, said she supported aligning the city and county standards to create walkable, transit-oriented communities.

Andrea Jolly, president and CEO of the Rockville Chamber, said the standards do not help schools, hurt business and so hurt the city overall.

But to Giammo, slowing overcrowding is just as important to development and the planning issues need to be thought about at a broader county planning level.

“It’s disappointing to hear folks from the business community saying those kinds of things because at the end of the day high quality public education is essential to success of business community,” Giammo said. “If anything, ensuring that schools don’t get overcrowded in the long run is about the best thing for business possible.”

Residents have also advocated going to the county to work for lowering the county’s standards, which allow schools to reach 120 program capacity — the highest of any county in the state.

Moore has said he’s supportive of that but changing the standards to align with the county is the first step in moving the conversation to the county council.

The city first passed the APFO, the ordinance related to the standards, in 2005 after about a year of talking to different stakeholders, including developers and residents. The city of Gaithersburg also passed its own APFO that took effect in 2007.

The council amended the APFS in 2011 to exempt the addition of portable classrooms and delineate when the county test could apply to some applications rather than the city test.

In 2011, now-Councilmember Julie Palakovich Carr chaired a committee to review the APFO and APFS and issued recommendations about how the city can be more transparent, keep track of enrollment and advocate at the county level for updated numbers and Rockville projects.

The committee also supported the two-year rather than five-year capacity evaluation.

In 2012, the Planning Commission recommended the city keep the key components of its APFS for schools and reiterated those recommendations in a December memo to the mayor and council.

The city plans to hold a second public hearing on the city’s APFS on Jan. 26.

Read the original article here.

Aligning the Rockville School Standards with Montgomery County’s School Standards

Young people and families increasingly want to live in walkable, transit-accessible communities like Rockville, with its mix of both old and new walkable neighborhoods. Empty-nesters looking to downsize are looking for new housing options that allow them to stay in and continue to contribute to the community. 

Montgomery County to hire three new department heads

Kelly Blynn, who leads a “next generation of transit” campaign for the Coalition for Smarter Growth, credits the department with launching the new system of Bikeshare stations around the county. But she said Montgomery is lagging behind Northern Virginia, where a walkable Arlington and the new Silver Line hold strong appeal for those seeking less car-centric lives. “A director who understands transit, walking and cycling will be key for the county’s economic development,” Blynn said.

Transit supporters to host Rockville open house

Supporters of a countywide transit system will hold an open house to discuss the system Wednesday in Rockville.

Two groups, the Coalition for Smarter Growth and Communities for Transit, are sponsoring the forum at Rockville Memorial Library, where residents will be able to learn more about the county’s planned 81-mile bus rapid transit system.

When: 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, June 25

Where: First floor large meeting room, Rockville Memorial Library, 21 Maryland Avenue, Rockville

What: Rockville Rapid Transit Open House

RSVP at http://bit.ly/rockvilleRTS

It will feature a basic overview of bus rapid transit and what is planned for the county and the Rockville area in particular, said Kelly Blynn of the Coalition for Smarter Growth.

Blynn said the system will connect areas not served by Metro and help link downtown areas with surrounding residential areas.

There also will be a presentation from Rockville staff on how the city wants the system to fit into its downtown, she said.

Organizers will discuss how people can help plan the system, Blynn said.

In Rockville, three bus rapid transit corridors are planned to converge at or near the Rockville Metro station on Md. 355.

From there, the lines would run north to Clarksburg, south to Washington and southeast to Wheaton.

City officials have expressed some concern about the impact the system will have on Rockville Town Center.

The forum, which runs from 6:30 to 8 p.m., is free, and Blynn said a sign language interpreter will be provided. More information is at smartergrowth.net.


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