To Pike or Not to Pike, that is the question

To Pike or Not to Pike, that is the question

The success of the White Flint Sector Plan depends on a workable and effective plan to revitalize and improve Rockville Pike, the main north-south¬†highway through the Sector. There is general agreement that the Pike needs to be converted into a “boulevard,” with sidewalks, transit improvements, and retail opportunities closer to the street (instead of being pushed back behind parking lots).

There are now two competing visions on how to make this transformation. The Planning staff has proposed an existing 150′ right 0f way, with transit in a “diamond lane” at the curb side of the existing Pike. The White Flint Steering Committee (the advisory committee established by the Board last year at the conclusion of the citizen Advisory Group process) has endorsed a different proposal, offered by the White Flint Partnership; Friends of White Flint has also endorsed the Partnership proposal. The Partnership proposal is sometimes called the Glatting Jackson model, after the international transportation consulting firm which crafted it; Glatting Jackson also proposed the “robust street network” model which the Board adopted to siphon traffic off the Pike. The Partnership proposal would move transit to a wide central median on the Pike, provide wider, pedestrian-friendly sidewalks, and bike-friendly intersections.

The other major distinction between the proposals is the time to implementation. The Planning staff proposal is said to take until 2032 to renovate the Pike; the Partnership proposal is said to be ready for implementation far earlier.

The Planning Staff memorandum prepared for the June 4 Board worksession contains a discussion of these two options. See, http://montgomeryplanningboard.org/agenda/2009/documents/20090604_Item5.pdf, after page 18.

The Planning staff convened an inter-agency meeting on May 18 to evaluate the two proposals. The Partnership also sent representatives to the meeting. The staff memo reports “primary conclusions” from the meeting, including that the Partnership proposal has no “fatal flaws,” but ultimately recommends leaving the decision as to which proposal is to be implemented for further planning. The staff recommends a design study during the first phase of White Flint Plan implementation, with Plan language describing the purposes of the improvements.

The staff also addressed the issue of transit in the median. The staff noted that transit in the median depends on the availability of Bus Rapid Transit in other areas, but argued that additional space should be reserved in case additional transit opportunities become available in the future.

The staff memo also addressed another contentious topic: parking. The original draft of the Plan included a recommendation for a parking district, similar to that used elsewhere, with public parking availability. The new staff memo reverses that proposal, arguing that private parking garages would be preferable.

Barnaby Zall

Barnaby Zall

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One comment

Ben Ross

I am puzzled by several of the staff recommendations.

Why is the value of a median busway dependent on the county BRT planning study? The planned county-wide study is focused on single reversible bus lanes operating only in rush hour, which is a form of BRT entirely unsuited to Rockville Pike. Route 46 on Rockville Pike is already one of the most heavily traveled routes in the Ride-On system and it would benefit enormously from the proposed reserved lanes. If improved speeds and the visibility of the busway attract more riders, Ride-On knows how to add buses; no study is needed.

What will the proposed “operational analyses” of on-street parking measure? The greatest value of the on-street parking (other than the convenient parking itself, which requires no study to measure) is the benefit to pedestrians and cyclists of calming traffic. An “operational analysis” that evaluates the movement of motor vehicles will be irrelevant to the trade-off between good communities and maximum throughput of motor vehicles and thus will delay rather than clarify the decision that must be made.

How is it that on-street parking during rush hour creates a safety risk that requires further study, while on-street parking on the same road at other hours creates no such safety risk?

Why impose minimum parking requirements and then create a bureaucracy, the “Parking Management Authority,” for the purpose of “relieving the requirement for smaller properties to self-park”? Why not just have no minimums for small properties? (Or no minimums at all.)

The staff proposes to create incentives for the private sector to provide parking, in order to provide parking for properties that don’t build their own. But the solution doesn’t match the problem. The issue is not how much parking other properties build, but whether the other properties open their parking to the public. A rule requiring parking in the zone to be operated on a common carrier basis, offered for sale on identical terms to all vehicles regardless of destination, would make parking available to all and promote pricing of parking at the true market rate (parking revenue covers cost of construction and operation).

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