CSG comments: Capitol Heights Metro station changes for redevelopment

TO: WMATA’s Feedback form 
RE: Support of proposed changes to transit facilities at the Capitol Heights Metro Station, Docket R23-05
DATE: November 19, 2023
FROM: Cheryl Cort, Coalition for Smarter Growth, E: cheryl@smartergrowth.net

Please accept this testimony on behalf of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, the leading organization advocating for walkable, bikeable, inclusive, transit-oriented communities as the most sustainable and equitable way for the Washington, DC region to grow and provide opportunities for all.

We have worked to create a safer, more vibrant, walkable, bike-accessible Capitol Heights Metro station for many years. We are excited by the possibility that long-delayed changes to create a  mixed use, people-friendly place could happen in the next few years. 

To transform this station, we support the redevelopment of the 372-space Park & Ride surface parking lot, relocation and reduction of Kiss & Ride spots, and relocation of the bus facilities. We support the urban street layout for bus bays, which necessitates a right in/right out driveway access on East Capitol Street.

By replacing the existing vehicle-oriented designs, we can create a pedestrian-supportive environment that attracts quality mixed-use development, public spaces, and better places to wait for the bus or connect to the Metrorail station entrance. These changes benefit the surrounding community on both sides of the DC/Maryland boundary. The changes will also benefit the region in general by creating a more vibrant Metro station that enables more people to live and work at a Metro station, and gives people better access to bus and Metrorail transit. 

Replacing these transit facilities is the first step towards realizing the vision set out in County Executive Angela Alsobrooks’ Blue Line corridor initiative. We encourage WMATA to continue to work with the surrounding community, Town of Capitol Heights, Prince George’s County, and the District of Columbia to shape the future transit station, including road diets, complete streets reconfigurations, building design, streetscape and safer access for people walking and bicycling. 

Below are some specific recommendations:

Parking facilities: We reiterate our support to replace the 372-space Park & Ride surface parking lot. We also support relocating and reducing the Kiss & Ride facility from 27 to 8 total spaces. These changes are needed to free up space for much more productive uses, and we can accommodate drivers to the Metro station in other ways: 

  1. Ample long-term parking is available at the nearby Addison Road-Seat Pleasant Metro station garage. 
  2. On-street parking can be made available by reconfiguring Davey Street. On-street parking on East Capitol Street on the Maryland side could also be permitted, which could match DC’s management of on-street parking west of Southern Avenue. Parking on Southern Avenue should also be assessed as well. These on-street parking spaces can be managed to provide short-term parking for Metro riders. On-street parking also benefits all road users by slowing down driving speeds.
  3. Drop-off and pick up spaces can be better managed to provide sufficient space for short dwell times with the proposed 8 spaces. 

Bus facilities: We support the proposed changes to the bus facilities. The plan calls for on-street bus bays in a sawtooth design and creates a right in/right out access drive on East Capitol Street. The new bus bays would retain appropriately close proximity to the Metrorail entrance. This new layout creates a connected street grid which improves motor vehicle and bicycle circulation. It also can create a pedestrian-supportive environment.

We ask that WMATA use a parallel curb bus bay design rather than sawtooth design given the more urban, pedestrian-oriented dimensions of a parallel bay for an urban street. 

Support the proposed bus entrance from East Capitol Street for right in/right out turns. We support this new driveway on East Capitol Street to create the urban street connection across the site. We recognize that this drive is close to the intersection with Southern Avenue. The drive at this location, however, is justified and is standard practice in DC, which owns the intersection of Southern and East Capitol street, and is responsible for its operations. We also ask that the current drive access on Southern Avenue be closed for motor vehicles.

Fix East Capitol Street and Southern Avenue intersection: We urge WMATA to work with DDOT, Maryland SHA and PG DPW&T to address this overly wide intersection that is difficult for people to cross by walking or biking. This is a complex intersection that deserves a concerted, coordinated effort by all the relevant stakeholders. On East Capitol Street — the eastbound slip lane on the DC side and the westbound slip lane on the Maryland side should be closed and repurposed. A more accessible design for people walking and biking will increase transit ridership and foster economic development, and address safety for these high-crash corridors. 

East Capitol Street (MD 214) road diet: We ask WMATA to work with MD SHA to implement a road diet which is under consideration by SHA. We appreciate that SHA recently changed the posted speed limit to 30 mph for this roadway segment, but the design of the roadway needs to be altered to indicate to the driver the appropriate speed. We recommend taking a travel lane in each direction and consider configurations for protected bike lanes and on-street parking. We note that SHA might still be using outdated vehicle Level of Service (LOS) standards that should not be the metric to drive street design in a multimodal Metro station environment and is inconsistent with Prince George’s County approach to its local centers. A context driven approach would support a road diet to achieve a 30 mph or 25 mph design speed, and major improvements to walk and bicycle facilities. 

Davey Street redesign: A redesign of the excessively wide Davey Street, with its poor pedestrian facilities, has been recommended for many years. We urge WMATA to finally implement a road diet with two travel lanes, bike lanes and on-street parking. Davey Street should also feature bulbouts and a maximum 15’ corner turning radius to slow turning vehicles. Effective turning radius can be used to measure turns, which includes on-street parking and bike lanes. Stop bars can also be recessed if necessary to accommodate buses and other larger turning vehicles. 

Central Avenue Connector Trail: WMATA should coordinate with state and local partners to ensure full accommodation and seamless connections for the Central Avenue Connector Trail.

Capital Bikeshare: We ask WMATA to coordinate with DC and Prince George’s to create a more robust network of Capital Bikeshare stations for Ward 7 and Capitol Heights to make getting to and from the Metro station quicker and easier. This may mean adding bikeshare capacity at the Metro station or providing additional stations nearby. 

We thank WMATA for the opportunity to comment and support this important opportunity to create a vibrant, mixed-use, walk- and bicycle-friendly Metro station a reality. 

Thank you for your consideration.