On Saturday, June 15, 2013, the Coalition for Smarter Growth concluded our spring Walking Tours & Forums Series to discuss recent developments in “Ft. Totten: More than a Transfer Point”. We were joined by speakers from the DC Office of Planning, WMATA, DC Department of Transportation, JBG, and the Lamond-Riggs Citizens Association. Thanks for the great photos go to our Virginia Field Fellow, James Schroll.
The Coalition for Smarter Growth is the leading organization in the Washington D.C. region dedicated to making the case for smart growth. Our mission is to promote walkable, inclusive, and transit-oriented communities, and the land use and transportation policies and investments needed to make those communities flourish.
Having helped win remarkably strong regional consensus for transit-oriented development as the framework for regional growth — reflected in the Region Forward and Economy Forward vision plans of the Council of Governments, and in the priorities of local leaders — the Coalition for Smarter Growth views investment in the Next Generation of Transit as a top priority and essential for supporting this regional vision.
We view the Momentum plan as the vision and framework for setting regional transit investment priorities and for working with all of our jurisdictions to create an expanded, well-maintained, and seamlessly integrated transit system our region needs to remain healthy, prosperous, efficient and competitive.
The Coalition for Smarter Growth is fully committed to achieving the Next Generation of Transit, as reflected in our report earlier this year. Key components include:
- Rehabilitating and improving our Metrorail system as the region’s top priority investment;
- Ensuring high-capacity public transportation networks to support a sustainable region of livable, walkable centers, and neighborhoods;
- Expanding and improving the bus system by adding more service and providing bus priority on roadways is critical to meeting growing ridership demand and using our roads more efficiently;
- Seamlessly integrating, physically and operationally, Metrorail, new priority corridor networks, bus rapid transit, light rail, streetcars, commuter rail and our bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure.
The Momentum Strategic Plan effectively makes the case for the value of the Metro system to our region and of reinvesting and strategically expanding the system. We believe that WMATA, through an extensive consultation process with COG and the jurisdictions, is the best entity for leading the strategic planning for our region’s Next Generation of Transit.
Perhaps no statistic stands out in the Momentum plan more than the value of investing in 8-car trains, which provide 35% more capacity-equal to 35,000 more passengers per hour to jobs downtown. To achieve this with roads, we would need 16-18 new lanes of highways. For comparison, widening just 2.5 miles of I-95 recently cost state and federal taxpayers $261 million or $52 million per lane mile.
Other statistics that we find compelling are that:
- Regional riders will save an additional $100 million per year by purchasing less fuel and other out-of-pocket travel costs.
- The region will avoid building 30,000 new parking spaces, saving $675 million.
Investing in Metro is the most critical step in supporting compact, efficient transit-oriented development, lowering per capita infrastructure costs and saving land.
If we are to continue our regional success and grow without reaching total traffic gridlock, we must rehabilitate Metro, maximize the capacity of the existing system and strategically expand Metro and connecting transit services. This must be our top priority.
Prince George’s County wants to encourage growth in the right places by speeding up the approval process for transit-oriented development. The county council unanimously passed a bill last week that just might do it.
Developers have often said they don’t want to do business in Prince George’s because of its lengthy and unpredictable development review process. Bill CB 20 creates a fast-track development review process for projects within ½ mile of the county’s 15 Metro stations and the Bowie MARC station.
The bill aims to increase transit ridership, reduce auto dependency, and encourage walking for more trips. It’s one of several recommendations county planners say could draw more investment to the county’s Metro station areas.
Concerned about attracting unwanted commercial uses, the bill contains a long list of uses that are not eligible for the expedited review, including adult entertainment, liquor stores, pawn shops, strip malls, and drive-throughs.
An earlier version of the bill would have eliminated most requirements for public meetings or site plan review. This could have potentially rushed low-quality projects to approval without giving the Planning Board and the public enough time to review proposed projects.
Not surprisingly, many people opposed it, and the County Council tabled the bill last year before putting together a roundtable to discuss ways to improve incentives for transit-oriented development. The current bill combines 2 overlapping versions councilmembers Eric Olson and Mel Franklin submitted earlier this year.
The bill’s most important feature is streamlining the review process. It prevents the County Council from arbitrarily dragging out the process, a power they’ve abused in the past that creates uncertainty and discourages developers from working in the county. Developers say that the unpredictability of approvals in Prince George’s County often makes it not worth the time and money spent there.
While the current bill shortens the review process, it still gives the Planning Board and members of the public enough time to offer feedback. If the Planning Board approves a proposal, the County Council has a few days to decide whether or not to review it as well. Project applicants or residents can also use this time to appeal the board’s decision.
Bill CB 20 is just one of many actions Prince George’s County has taken to encourage investment at Metro stations. Recently, county officials have also reduced the impact fees developers pay to support schools and public safety. Economic analysts say excessive fees discourage investment altogether, meaning the county won’t even receive the fees it seeks to collect.
Another element of ensuring development goes at Prince George’s Metro stations is having a good countywide plan. There is a town meeting this Saturday, 10 am-1 pm at the University of Maryland, to work on a plan for the county’s growth over the next 20+ years. You can help push for a plan that works in concert with this legislation to encourage TOD at Metro station sites.
Photo Courtesy of Elvert Barnes on flickr.
There are two schools of thought on whether plans should be made now for building above future Silver Line Metro stations. The Washington Post reports there’s no consensus on the topic yet.
Fairfax Supervisor Pat Herrity, former Congressman Tom Davis and Leo Schefer, president of the Washington Airports Task Force, are urging officials to seriously study the idea of large-scale development on top of the new Silver Line stations along the Dulles Toll Road.
On the other hand, Supervisor Jeff McKay, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (which owns the land and is building the stations) and even Stewart Schwartz, head of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, disagree, saying the market for such development isn’t there right now.
Photo courtesy of Washington Business Journal
In the last couple of years we have seen Montgomery County renewing its focus on transit and transit-oriented development (TOD) — first and foremost with the Purple Line, as well as the White Flint plan, CR Zone and now the Rapid Transit proposal in the list of important county initiatives.