Yet another example of failures in metropolitan transportation planning: no transportation demand management requirements for casinos in Maryland
The MGM National Harbor Casino will be opening soon in Prince George's County.
According to the Washington Post ("MGM National Harbor could more than double traffic in southern Prince George's"):
Vehicle traffic to National Harbor could more than double when MGM National Harbor opens later this year, according to projections, exacerbating a growing congestion problem in southern Prince George’s County where new development has added thousands of commuters in recent years.The article also reports that some "bare minimum" road improvements to the tune of $10 million, will be delivered as the project opens.
If projections hold true and up to 20,000 daily visitors frequent the gaming resort, there could be backups in the local and regional road network with heavier volumes on Interstate 95 around the Woodrow Wilson Bridge on the Maryland-Virginia border. ...
As many as 90,000 vehicles enter National Harbor during an average week, according to the developer, and that number could rise to 180,000 when the $1.4 billion gaming resort opens in December, Digby said. Traffic during the weeks following the opening is likely to be especially heavy, officials say. ...
Besides daily commuters, National Harbor, which has become a top entertainment hub, already attracts thousands of visitors every week, and special events there have created miles-long backups. Residents and community leaders fear that the additional casino traffic could overwhelm the road system.
The Massachusetts counter-example
Traffic study requirements in Springfield. By comparison, the casino projects in Massachusetts had to submit transportation studies as part of their initial bid, and the winners at each site are required to develop and execute a wide ranging transportation demand management plan.
-- Traffic Impact and Access Study MGM Springfield, City of Springfield
Monies for transit improvements in addition to road improvements in Boston. For the casino in Everett on Boston Harbor and across the water from Boston, the Wynn Resorts firm has to invest a minimum of $36 million in improvements to Sullivan Square and Rutherford Avenue, which will be the major entryway across the Mystic River to the casino ("The lowdown on Sullivan Square," Commonwealth Magazine).
This was required because it is expected that 60% of traffic to and from the casino will go through Sullivan Square. Interestingly, the plan also has a penalty per car when the plan's traffic levels are exceeded. From the article:
The Massachusetts Gaming Commission is requiring the Las Vegas developer to spend $10.9 million on projects addressing the immediate traffic impact of the casino and to set aside $25 million for long-term improvements. The company also has to pay a fee of $20,000 for every car coming to the casino via Sullivan Square that exceeds agreed-upon levels, with a maximum penalty of $2 million a year.Boston Globe coverage discusses the commitments to transit improvements. According to "State transportation officials drop objections to Wynn casino", the casino developers have:
agreed to contribute nearly $7.5 million over 15 years to Orange Line subsidies, to increase the frequency of the trains.As well as ("Wynn Resorts offer to bolster Orange Line"):
... shuttle buses to pick people up at the Malden Center and Wellington stations and rely on existing MBTA buses to connect with the Sullivan Square station.Most developers will only do what is required of them by law and regulation. It's interesting that MGM will do a transportation demand management plan when it is required, and won't when it isn't. It's pretty common for developers to not commit to best practice as a matter of course, not building best practice into their SOP/standard operating project when they build projects, because the SOP is merely to respond to what's required, and only in extraordinary circumstances might they go beyond the bare minimum of what is required.
There’s also the possibility of a pedestrian bridge over the Mystic [River] linked to the new Assembly Square T stop: Wynn has agreed to spend up to $250,000 to help study the bridge’s feasibility.
The footbridge could be built over the Amelia Earhart dam, alongside a railroad bridge that crosses the Mystic, or as a standalone structure.
Wynn is also proposing to help pay for changes to improve the flow of MBTA buses at the Sullivan Square T stop, but it’s the plan to help pay for operating costs that makes Wynn’s plan so unusual.
Wynn’s operating subsidies would be aimed at mitigating the clog caused by extra passengers on Orange Line trains once the casino opens, and at providing more general late-night service during the week.
States should require TDM in their casino licensing RFP response and award process. The lack of transportation demand management requirements for the National Harbor development has been an ongoing problem ("Transportation demand management requirements for large developments and the MGM National Harbor Casino as an example of why this is absolutely necessary;" "Eight years and one casino later, a bus line from Alexandria to National Harbor," Post). For example, it means that transit service to and from the site is inadequate, and the site developer has little interest in making extranormal investments for transit.
MPOs ought to be on the lookout for casinos. Although it is incredible that this most basic requirement isn't in the Prince George's County planning and building regulation framework. Metropolitan transportation planning organizations, in the DC area the Transportation Policy Board, and in Greater Baltimore the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, should have recommended to the state and local jurisdictions that TDM requirements be included in the casino licensing and development process.
Note on the Baltimore City Horseshoe Casino. While I don't think that extranormal transportation planning was required for this casino, it is located near I-95 and a light rail stop, and because it is in the city, it's served by regular MTA bus lines. But the information on transportation options for the casino on its website is nonexistent.