"Nimbyism" on commercial corridors in DC and Prince George's County (+ Fort Meade)
In 2005, at the Preservation Maryland conference, I went on a walking tour of Annapolis, and we went past a big mixed use project--office, housing, hotel, some retail--under development on West Street, and the tour guide discussed the public opposition to the project.
It made me appreciate better the difference between putting up development in places in DC, where, at least at sites with robust transit service, the impact on the generation of car traffic is much reduced.
But in a place like Annapolis, virtually every trip generated by a new development is going to be made by a car, and therefore the impact is much different, more negative, and "nimbyism" isn't merely reflexive, a reaction against any sort of change at all, but maybe is a reasonable response, depending on the state of the transportation infrastructure, in particular the road network, to accommodate the changes.
Now, you read crazy s*** in newspapers like the Examiner, "BRAC road Band-Aids needed now," which blames Montgomery County for not widening Wisconsin Avenue/State Road 355 to accommodate new trips to the expanded and consolidated Walter Reed Military Hospital in Bethesda (formerly the Bethesda Naval Hospital), when anyone with sense knows that the ability to widen that road is extremely limited, and to do so requires a massive amount of land takings, which the Examiner doesn't favor either.
Note that Northern Virginia Congressman James Moran says equally moronic things about the need to widen 14th Street NW in DC for his constituents so that they can get home easier from their federal jobs. The only way to do this is to tear down dozens of buildings. See "Va. congressman upset at D.C.'s lack of communication" from WTOP Radio.
2. Calling attention to failures to provide adequate transportation infrastructure. Meanwhile the Washington Post writes about the transportation fallout from consolidation of military installations at Fort Meade, in "Fort Meade BRAC moves bring uncertainty to surrounding communities." From the article:
When the federal government announced in 2005 that thousands of military personnel and defense contractors would be transferred to Fort Meade, local officials drafted a list of $1.1 billion in roadway improvements needed to accommodate the growth.
In 2009, the Department of Defense identified six of those projects, totaling $671 million, as “critical and immediate” needs because of Base Realignment and Closure restructuring. But as the Sept. 15 deadline nears for the BRAC personnel moves, most of those projects have been delayed at least until 2020 because of a lack of funding. Federal and state governments have contributed just $46 million for improvements.
The insanity of the BRAC process was that the Commission was charged with making decisions without taking transportation impact into effect, and the charge for the reconsolidation process specifically repudiated federal government responsibility for dealing with paying for the construction of new transportation infrastructure necessary to accommodate the changes.
From the article:
The objections are predictable; they’re also wrongheaded. They ignore the experience of other close-in suburbs in the region — think of Arlington and Bethesda — that have added dynamic commercial centers without adverse impact on established residential neighborhoods. They disregard the fact that the location of the proposed project — inside the Beltway, close to a Metro station and barely eight miles from Capitol Hill — would attract just the sort of well-educated and relatively affluent residents who can support businesses and amenities such as those Cafritz envisions. And they are heedless of what has become known nationally as the Whole Foods Effect — the grocery chain’s potential as a catalyst for redevelopment and higher property values.
Note that I probably think this site can handle the increase in traffic, but there is no question that there will be an increase in traffic, and that travel times will increase generally in that area, even if the Post is right in assuming that not having to drive farther away for premium retail will have some positive impact on reducing vehicle miles travel overall. Even so, that might be great for getting to and from Silver Spring, but doesn't help Route One all that much...
There isn't much road capacity, and much of the area isn't directly served by high quality transit (subway service), but is served by bus. Some of the heaviest used bus lines travel Wisconsin, Connecticut, 14th Street, 16th Street, and Georgia Avenue, but the typical trip from the top of the city to downtown takes one hour, because of the number of stops. There is Express service on many of these lines now, but even so, it's a long trip.
The Riverdale Park location has minimal bus service (the 86/83 buses come about twice an hour), and is a hike from the College Park and the Prince George's Plaza Metro Stations. And nearby East-West Highway is pretty full of traffic too.
On Georgia Avenue, proposals for redevelopment of the Walter Reed site will further add traffic to the corridor. The Examiner story quoted in the previous entry, "Residents vow to stop Wal-Mart on Georgia Ave.," stated that:
In June, a Ward 4 local Advisory Neighborhood Commission report slammed Wal-Mart's traffic plan. Still, DDOT has approved revisions to the site plan.
Morris called the traffic fears an "overreaction" said the company has reached out to the community. "We've held no less than 50 to 60 meetings with local residents, business leaders, faith-based leaders, the ANC ... and throughout that process we've really taken time to listen," he said.
Reaching out to the community means zilch as far as road capacity is concerned. Our recommendations for shuttle service between the proposed Walmart and the Petworth Metro Station were ignored. So was the very urban idea that if people spend at least $50 on a transaction, that they should be able to get the products delivered.
Ward 4 Councilwoman Muriel Bowser said Mayor Vincent Gray is working on a community plan requiring Wal-Mart to participate in job training efforts and support businesses in the Georgia Avenue corridor. Wal-Mart last week donated $3 million to a citywide job training program.
"We're talking about 300 jobs just on Georgia Avenue, plus [the upcoming development at] Walter Reed," Bowser said. "What's very exciting about this is that for the first time in many years a lot of developers are interested in the corridor."
Similarly, in the mid-1990s, the Maryland Transit Administration produced a plan for streetcar service on Rhode Island Avenue/Route 1.
6. "The Arlington way, green and lean." Dr. Gridlock's Sunday feature does discuss the integration of land use and transportation planning, infrastructure, and process. From the article:
Leach, who has been in that job for seven years, thinks the county has done pretty well in using the transit and land-use strategy developed decades ago to create communities that work, but "we're never done." He foresees at least four decades of retrofitting and refining.
This view treats the Orange Line and the Blue Line as a great start, then adds sidewalks, bus hubs, bike routes and enhanced travel information to the getting-around strategy. It looks at how people move, not just vehicles.
Leach also knows that the county government needs to have the data when its own communities look over new development and transportation plans: "We need to be able to tell the story of how these neighborhoods perform, how do people travel, in addressing people's concerns about change."
Often, the transportation and land-use plans increase density. Is that going to create a better place, or just add traffic? ...
The county's physical environment and its transportation policies encourage residents to leave their cars at home.
Driving: Arlington residents make 40 percent of daily trips by driving solo, a rate lower than that for any part of the region except the District. When they drive alone, it's most often for work, commuting or shopping. They drive alone for 33 percent of trips made within the county.
Alternatives: They make a larger share of daily trips by transit and walking than do residents in any part of the region other than the District: 16 percent of trips are on foot, 11 percent are by train or bus, about three in 10 trips are by driving or riding with others.
DC has the right spatial pattern, and in many parts of the city, robust transit infrastructure.
But too often we ignore these real life examples of what works (and what doesn't).
Over the long term, that will cost us all greatly.