Archives May 2010

Speakers’ Series: June 2, Rollin Stanley on Public Private Spaces

Everybody wants more open space in urban design. But how to provide enough open public space in a renovation where land is really expensive?

Governments just don’t have enough money to provide the level of green and open spaces most people have come to expect, particularly in an area moving from a suburban to an urban level of development, like White Flint. In White Flint, for example, one proposal (now designated as a “backup”) for a small school site would have cost $60 million for land acquisition alone; instead the Montgomery County Council decided on a lower-cost proposed site on a parking lot on the edge of the Sector as its principal choice for the school.

The solution often proposed is to require or accept open spaces which are paid for and controlled by private interests. The fountain at the Barnes & Noble store in Bethesda may be the most well-known local example, but White Flint proposals also include those spaces. The renovation of White Flint Mall, for example, may include a “festival” area that would be part of the Mall’s regular access roads off of Rockville Pike, something like what is done in the front parking lot now for the annual Pike’s Peak road race.

But some people are concerned that these “private public spaces” will be inadequate or inappropriate. For example, LCOR’s North Bethesda Center’s special “tree save” area, designed to protect stands of existing trees, was criticized for not providing unfettered public access, even though LCOR was relying on good forest husbandry practices in its design. “It just blew my mind,” LCOR’s Mike Smith told me. “We were blamed for trying to save trees.”

It turns out that size isn’t the critical factor. It’s design, FoWF Board member David Freishtat (representing the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber of Commerce) reminded me. The Bethesda fountain is tiny, but it’s become a community focal point. “Meet me at the fountain.”  

Friends of White Flint has been researching this question for more than a year, and Freishtat led an investigation to New York City last year to examine private public spaces there. That research led to a collaboration with the MNCPPC (Park and Planning) staff on their own research and visions for such spaces.

The public presentation of that research, however, has been delayed repeatedly by the on-going development of the White Flint Sector Plan.  Everyone was just too busy to do the work the justice it deserved. Now the discussion of “private public spaces” in White Flint will begin.

The next White Flint Speakers’ Series event will be held on Wednesday, June 2, and will feature Park and Planning Director Rollin Stanley discussing “The Best Public Spaces, Are Public Places.” This session, presented by the White Flint Partnership, and co-sponsored by FoWF and the B-CC Chamber, will be held, as have all the Speakers’ Series sessions, at Dave & Busters in White Flint Mall.

Unlike prior sessions, and in an effort to increase the accessibility of these discussions to residents (who may have to work during the day), this event will be held in the early evening, from 5:00 to 7:00PM. The event is free, and light refreshments will be served.

Because space is limited (and prior sessions have been full), you MUST RSVP to Gail Calhoun, 301-692-2377, gcalhoun@lerner.com.

This should be a good session. I’ve seen Rollin make similar presentations and he is lively and informative. Hope to see you there!

Barnaby Zall

A Window Into White Flint

Say what you want about the demise of “old media,” but once in a while newspapers remind us of their former glory as treasure troves spilling forth wisdom and piquing interest. Today’s Washington Post has a column by architecture critic Philip Kennicott that prompts some reflection into a pillar of New Urbanism philosophy. New Urbanism has, at its core, the idea of compact growth — the concept that if you put work, fun, food and the other parts of life nearby, there will be no need for cars; the romantic view is of the old town, where you wallked everywhere because you wanted to. (For more on New Urbanism: http://www.friendsofwhiteflint.org/shop/page/6?shop_param=)

Part of that longing for the old form of human organization was the idea that people would saunter, “window-shopping” as they went. It’s part of the urban model, as in Macy’s windows in New York City in the holiday season, and as in the plan for activating the streets of the new White Flint. “Build to the street,” “make the streets lively,” and “give people a reason to walk,” are parts of the philosophy behind Montgomery County’s acceptance of the New Urbanism philosophy as a way to simultaneously increase sustainability, quality of life, and economic value, all by increasing walkability.

Now here comes Kennicott, challenging a fundamental, if unspoken, assumption behind the attractiveness of walkability: “It’s plain to see that storefront windows are a smudge of what they used to be.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/05/21/AR2010052101652.html. Kennicott, quite rightly, points out that economics, security fears, and retail design have all conspired to defeat the “window-shopping” premise of New Urbanism:

All over the city, where development is going forward, buildings are constructed with the old promise of Dickens’s poultry shop in the architect’s mind — empty space meant to be filled with the visible bustle of people and shopping. And yet, these windows have been summarily defeated, reduced to meaningless panels of glass with nothing behind them. Look at a CVS or a chain grocery store, and you’ll find these dead orifices, stopped up and neutered by panels of wall board or cloth that hide the view into the store. Even as architects struggle to give a feeling of depth and substantiality to our ephemeral commercial architecture, store owners board up these windows from the inside, and thus reveal how thin and generic the space really is.

 In addition to those concerns, however, Kennicott identifies another culprit, more familiar in the debates over New Urbanism, sustainability and modern urban design:

The other powerful force is inertia. With the rush to the suburbs, and with urban mobility happening at the car’s pace, not the flaneur’s, street window displays became essentially obsolete. They have survived mainly in the shopping mall, a highly controlled environment, where metal grates can be pulled down and the whole edifice emptied of people when day is done.

The urban streetscape is ideally a round-the-clock locus of desire, fantasy and curiosity where you can carry on a secret romance with the doggie in the window at 3 a.m., alone and a little alienated from the drunks, club kids and stray taxis still trolling for fares.

 I don’t recall hearing stories of “secret romances” with doggies, in windows or otherwise, during the hundreds of White Flint meetings, except in the context of dog parks. But Kennicott’s analysis proceeds from his own vision of what the “urban streetscape” is (or perhaps ought to be):

What a sad and strange reversal. In the 19th century, artists struggled to compete with and capture the vitality of the commercial streetscape, whether in novels by Balzac that dealt with the sorrows and grandeur of the new industrial economy, or a streetscape by Van Gogh showing a cafe in Arles drenched in artificial light, opposite storefronts that still beckon in the thickening twilight. Into the 20th century, storefront windows provided inspiration to museum designers, who sought to frame cultural objects with the same care as designers who worked for major department stores.

Today, the reflexive thinking says: Got a hole in your streetscape? Stuff in some watercolors. The art is usually lousy, and it almost always looks silly stuffed into little glass coffins.

CVS and Harris Teeter are all about moving vast quantities of goods, objects that for the most part are necessities, not luxuries, objects that have no fantasy attached to them. Today, we covet and, increasingly, purchase through the Internet. Stores that sell luxury goods still try to create a tangible connection between the passerby and the physical object. But this is a rear-guard action: “browsing” into cyberspace.

For Kennicott, this urban scene is part of the “voyeurism” which is “essential to city life.” And so it is. When we talk about “night life,” we often mean human interaction, with the form depending on individual proclivities. You might like dancing, I might like food (my scale tells me so), and my wife may care about just “being” with the kids.  And some people, perhaps most, might like people-watching.

When I was a kid, I never understood how or why my dad used to like just sitting on a bench at an amusement park while us kids raced from attraction to attraction. Then I had kids, grew older, and do the same thing. And enjoy it. People-watching is not an empty solitary or abstract sport; it involves the senses intimately as evolution programmed us to do for thousands of years. So it has intrinsic value in urban design.

But it is not the end-all of design, and therein lies my suggestion that Kennicott missed both the idea and the realization of the window-shopping question. He is absolutely right that if you let distant chain-store designers plan window displays they will fill the “empty” spaces with saleable goods. And that expanses of glass are security nightmares. And that drivers in otherwise empty cars won’t really care about gorgeous and intriguing window displays.

But that confuses the symptoms with the problem. Look at revitalized Bethesda: kids play in the fountain. Local stores are cheek-by-jowl with chain stores. Crowds pack the sidewalks. You don’t see Kennicott’s “empty” windows in that environment.

Why not? Because those are complete streets, part of communities, rather than just pipelines for fast cars. It is not enough to have work, homes and schools in close proximity. Those are the essentials of modern life, but they aren’t what make a community lively. Or safe. Or what the urban dream is all about. You must “activate” the streets, and to do that, you must add something more.

For four lonely years I have been crying about “fun, families and fitness” as the critical elements in any New Urbanism plan. My answer to Kennicott? Four years ago, I produced my first major work for the White Flint Advisory Group: a video asking the exact same questions, even talking about “window-shopping.” http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=9130436078951858281&hl=en#

I suggested a mix of big and small stores, easy parking, entertainment, places for families and kids, in a big enough environment to draw a critical mass of people. I’ve learned a lot since I made that video, particularly about street and traffic design, but my answer to Kennicott’s store window dilemma is still the same.

Something to draw people into an area. Then there will be a reason for windows to be filled. Windows, used as Kennicott (and I) would like, are just advertising. But why waste advertising if there’s no one to see it? Bad design kills windows, like it kills the environment and pedestrians.

If your streets are designed just for cars and travel, you won’t have lively window displays. Drivers don’t have the time to see windows; they’re looking down the street. And pedestrians won’t walk on busy, fast streets. Who wants to bring their toddler to play among the cars?

Even the security concerns, one of the biggest concerns Kennicott identified, are answered on lively, complete streets. One of the essential elements in urban security is “eyes on the street.” You can do that electronically, as in New York’s Times Square. But it’s much more important to have actual people on the streets, as the recent failed Times Square bombing showed; it was returned veterans, working as street vendors, who quickly identified something anomalous in the smoking SUV.

So Kennicott is on to something. He has identified a particular problem with urban design. But he stopped too soon. Rather than simply explaining the problem, he might have gone the next step to identify the solution: a complete revitalization does not stop with adding a CVS store. You have to draw people into an area if you want your vision of sustainability and vitality to follow walkability. That requires the 3-Fs: “fun, family and fitness.” Or just entertainment. And, just as importantly, you must deal with street design, not just the buildings on the sidewalks.

Windows, like so much of our urban design dreams, cannot co-exist with fast cars. You must have good design that permits mobility of cars, bikes and people. Like roundabouts and promenades. With all the amenities of fun, families and fitness.

f you have that, merchants, at least the local ones, will want to have lively window displays. And, as we are increasingly learning with traffic calming, getting people out of their cars, and encouraging the use of transit, the answers to many of our questions are in incentives, not proscriptions.

Create a reason for merchants to want lively windows. Something to make their advertising dollars seem worthwhile. Then the economics of windows will be different, and the streetscape will shift to be more like all of our dreams.

Barnaby Zall

The Tao of Traffic — Lessons from the 2010 White Flint

“Traffic calming” sometimes seems like a misnomer; it just makes people mad, like drivers who honk when they go over speed bumps. But I just spent two days sitting at the feet of a traffic calming master, Ian Lockwood of Glatting Jackson, and learned that I was wrong. Or at least sadly out-of-date (which doesn’t surprise my kids).

The OLD method – traffic calming through physical barriers – IS maddening and counter-productive. It doesn’t “calm,” it doesn’t reduce traffic, it doesn’t protect neighborhoods; it just pits neighbor against neighbor and moves the traffic to annoy someone else. I spoke to Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett about this yesterday and he pointed out that traffic calming proposals always generate huge battles, which he didn’t like. I told him we had discovered a better way: don’t focus on physical barriers, but on drivers’ psychology. He wanted to hear more about it.

So, here’s what I learned about traffic calming at the 2010 White Flint Town Hall (www.TownHall.WhiteFlint.org):

Modern traffic calming uses design to communicate with drivers so they will take responsibility for their own behavior. The “built environment” tells them what to do, gets drivers to focus on the near and middle distance, and emphasizes people and not motorists. It puts a “there” in neighborhoods.

Just as New Urbanism shifts the debate from how fast cars move through intersections to how to get people out of cars, the new traffic calming shifts the debate from how to block cars from a particular street to how to get drivers to WANT to slow down. It’s about enhancing the neighborhood enough to make drivers focus on the near and middle distance, rather than far, far down the road.

Driver’s vision at various speeds

(How much drivers see at various speeds, faster – upper left) 

Today, traffic “calming” is more than that; it’s neighborhood enhancement, which has the EFFECT of protecting pedestrians, the same way that enticing drivers out of their cars altogether does. It’s a win-win for everyone.

The new method is mental, not physical. You have to design streets to meet the psychology of drivers. If drivers expect to go fast on a street (something conveyed by the streetscape and design “vocabulary”), they will want to go fast, no matter what you do. If you do something which is inappropriate to the messages the environment sends, drivers will get mad. For example, if you put speed bumps on a long, straight, wide street where drivers expect to look far ahead, drivers will get mad enough to honk as they go over the bumps.

Stop signs are another common old traffic calming device, but they only work in the right environment. If you just plunk down stop signs in the middle of long, straight streets where drivers EXPECT to drive fast, they’ll want to keep driving fast, resulting in screeching halts and jackrabbit starts from each sign. Not the smooth, lower speeds overall of traffic calming.

Effect of Stop Signs on Traffic

If, on the other hand, you do something in the environment to get drivers to focus on the near and middle distance (like landscaping, or just making the entrance to a community distinctive enough from the outside road to convey that the driver is entering a special place), drivers will slow down, protecting pedestrians and neighborhoods.

In other words, as White Flint Realtor Emily Mintz put it Thursday night, the answer is to “get inside their heads.”

ian-lockwood-and-emily-mintz.jpg

(Ian Lockwood and Emily Mintz)

Streets are the biggest public realm in neighborhoods, more than schools or parks. People identify with them, and identify your neighborhood by the streets. They should be carefully designed for multiple purposes to help define and develop the neighborhood, not just move cars. For example, use “rain gardens” designed to accept water in a natural setting, rather than iron storm grates.

Use of “Rain Gardens” on streets instead of grates

(Use of “rain gardens” to calm streets, beautify neighborhood and handle storm water) 

One of the more popular forms of modern traffic calming is “roundabouts,” circular areas which collect and distribute traffic without the need for signals. (These are not the larger traffic “circles” which tend to have higher speeds.) Several places in White Flint neighborhoods are good candidates for roundabouts, including Old Georgetown at Tuckerman and at Tilden/Nicholson. You can walk easily across them, and they are hugely safer for pedestrians. At a signal, traffic is coming at pedestrians from all angles, but in a roundabout, traffic approaches only from one direction. Maintaining a roundabout is much cheaper than a signalized intersection. Huge reduction on how much fuel is used as well, so some federal funds are available for roundabouts from energy reduction and air quality programs.

Roundabouts can handle a lot of traffic, reducing asphalt and increasing green space. This roundabout, in Florida, handles up to 50,000 cars a day, yet it’s easily walkable and safe for pedestrians and bicycles:

Busy Roundabout

Route 50 near Centreville, Virginia, now has four roundabouts. The congestion is gone and accident rates are way down. In California, Ian narrowed a five-lane signalized road to a two-lane road with a roundabout and not only cleared congestion, but enlivened the community. A new restaurant opened nearby named the Roundabout.

Design in the neighborhood’s context. Emphasize place, not throughput or speed. Build something beautiful, so drivers will have something to see when they slow down. Studies show that drivers will slow in well-designed spaces, even on wide roads. Emphasizing speed and reducing travel time actually increases sprawl and energy use. If you reward the unsustainable trip, the land use changes to respond, exacerbating your problems. Instead reward the sustainable trip, the short trip, the biking trip. The person cutting through the city is not as important as the city itself; they can still go through, but on the city’s terms, not the highway’s. 

Roundabout

Think about all the quality of life issues in the area. It’s not just traffic calming; it’s context-sensitive design. Complete streets. Smart transportation. Safe routes to schools. Just competent street design. Vibrant uses made possible by good street design.

You still have to accomodate the motorist, but let’s level the playing field for the pedestrian, the bicyclist, the kids. You get a better community over time. You can replace many traffic lanes with good design, with many benefits for the surrounding neighborhood.

Neighborhood

Summarizing some of the calming methods most likely to prove useful in White Flint neighborhoods, Ian saw many similarities through several neighborhoods, including limited access. Those tend to have “cut-through traffic” issues, although studies show that most such traffic is from neighborhood residents and visitors. “I would highly discourage closing off your streets, because you’ll just re-route the traffic to your neighbors’ streets.” Deal with the busiest streets first. Improve entrances so drivers know they’re entering a special place. Remove double yellow lines on neighborhood streets.

Barnaby Zall

At last, the new White Flint begins.

I’ve done lots and lots of citizens meeting on the White Flint Plan over the last four years. And after every one, someone asks, “When?” I usually respond, “it’ll take a while.” But finally I can say: “Today. The new White Flint starts taking shape today.”

New NRC Building

Last October we told you about the new building for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. http://blog.friendsofwhiteflint.org/2009/10/27/sigh-even-good-news-neglects-white-flint/ The building broke ground today, in the rain and cold wind. It will be 14 stories tall, and currently has a LEED silver rating, but former NRC Director of Administration Mike Springer (a Board member of Friends of White Flint) told me that they were still trying for a Gold rating.

Shielded by a tent, lots of officials, federal, state, local and private sector, greeted the silver shovels and hard hats of the traditional ceremony. Much discussion of how NRC (a member of Friends of White Flint) was rated the best place to work in the federal government.

Officials at NRC Groundbreaking

Maryland Secretary of Transportation Beverly Swaim-Staley talked about how “transit-oriented development” was “sweeping the state.” She said that Gov. O’Malley had signed an Executive Order directing all government agencies looking for offices to locate in transit-oriented locations. She praised the NRC for having more than half of all its employees take transit to work.

Maryland Transportation Secretary Beverly Swaim-Staley

Metro Board Chairman Peter Benjamin pointed out that he was a resident of the Town of Garrett Park: “Many residents of the Town would be concerned by my being here today. They view this as a symbol of major change, and they are worried about congestion and traffic changing their town. But they are wrong. This is a Metro station, and this is the place for this kind of change to happen. This is the beginning of sustainable, transit-oriented growth in the White Flint area.”

WMATA Chairman Peter Benjamin

And County Executive Ike Leggett, who spoke last, said that “most people in Montgomery County appreciate and support the White Flint Sector Plan.” He pointed out that the new NRC building would consolidate NRC employees from around the County into White Flint.

County Executive Ike Leggett

Following the ceremony, Leggett and the other officials trooped out into the rain with silver shovels for the actual groundbreaking.

Barnaby Zall

Harvard Business Review: Cul-de-sacs = Smog + Obesity

From the May issue of the Harvard Business Review:

“Recent studies by Frank and others show that as a neighborhood’s overall walkability increases, so does the amount of walking and biking—while, per capita, air pollution and body mass index decrease.”

Not news to anyone who’s followed the discussions here on New Urbanism: If you isolate people in cul-de-sacs, they’ll drive; they have no choice. But put everything within walking distance and driving decreases and walking increases. You won’t have to force people out of cars, because they won’t need them.

The maps in the article even follow the White Flint “robust street network” debate:

Ian Lockwood and the White Flint Road Network

The brief article is here: http://hbr.org/2010/05/back-to-the-city/sb1

Barnaby Zall

American Planning Association Paper on White Flint

Seth Morgan, a graduate student in urban planning at Florida State University who grew up in Montgomery County, delivered a paper on White Flint at last week’s national conference of the American Planning Association.  The Abstract of Morgan’s paper says:

In an era of increasing emphasis on transportation sustainability, one community has taken a longstanding tradition of transportation oriented development and applied it towards a highly auto-centric suburb. The White Flint area, located in Montgomery County, MD outside Washington, DC, is home to a major regional shopping mall, strip commercial, light industrial  and some more recent condominium high rises. At the center of this district is a heavy rail station providing rapid access to central Washington and nearby transit oriented development nodes. Here, Montgomery County planners seek to prove that intensive transit oriented development can work in highly unfavorable circumstances. This paper will evaluate the likely effectiveness of the White Flint plan in the regional context, with a focus on what transit oriented development has meant thus far for the national capital region.

The paper was drafted in 2009, before the final Council action on the White Flint Plan, so the conclusions are general, rather than specific: 

VII. The Significance of White Flint

White Flint is not really a groundbreaking development for Montgomery County. The finished product of this development will not vary greatly in form from what has already been done or is being done at nearby metro stations such as Silver Spring, Bethesda or Rockville. The true implication of White Flint is that with the appropriate transportation infrastructure, transit oriented development can be accomplished in virtually any type of commercial district. Arguments are frequently made that the urban environment is largely set in its current form for the foreseeable future, and that auto-oriented land uses do not lend themselves easily to more transit-oriented uses (Downs, 2004, pp. 202). What Montgomery County has proven by moving forward with this project is that, at the very least, there is private sector interest in transit oriented development even in highly auto-centric districts.

The paper is available here: White Flint paper

Barnaby Zall

Neighborhood Mobility Balance: 2010 White Flint Town Hall

Ian Lockwood, an expert in traffic calming and mobility design, with the firm of AEcom, formerly known as Glatting Jackson, is the presenter at the 2010 White Flint Town Hall. Live-blogging from his presentation.

Quick summary: old traffic calming methods focussed on physical barriers, which had many problems. Newer methods look at influencing drivers’ behavior through psychology. Throughout the world, traffic calming, done right, can reduce carbon emissions and congestion, increase property values, and create a sense of “place” in a community.

Lockwood did his graduate work on traffic calming at a time before it was well-known. In fact, there wasn’t any good academic work at the time, so he was a pioneer in the field.

The traffic calming experience in North America is about twenty years old, but in other countries it is much older. Traffic calming is now a widespread field.

With the increase in the number of people driving, the problems are exacerbated much more so than in the 1980’s. Traffic calming is physically changing the nature of the street to result in calmer traffic. Ian took a tour of neighborhoods today; he took a similar tour only a few years ago, but things have changed in only that short time. Driver expectations have changed and aggressive behavior has changed.

Traffic calming will result in fewer deaths on the street. All has to do with reducing speeds, so more likely to reduce collisions. Fields of vision expand so drivers can see more. At higher speeds, drivers focus further away; at slower speeds, drivers focus closer. Collisions at 40 mph result in 80% of pedestrian victims dying; at 20mph only 5% die.

Traffic control devices are attempts to communicate with you, like a stop sign. Route modifications like street closures remove in a less connected neighborhood; generally we don’t support them any more, because they always created winners and losers. Someone always wanted them on someone else’s street. It pits neighbor against neighbor. All these behaviors are avoidable if you change driver behavior. Street scaping is principally a beautification measure.

Traffic calming is directly addressing driver behavior by slowing them down. Slower routes reduce cut-through traffic.

Planners split streets into 2 categories: framework streets that collect and distribute traffic. Most arterial streets are framework streets, but also some neighborhood streets, such as Tilden Lane. On non-framework streets, there are more options for calming, including changing the cross-section of the street.  Bulb-outs shorten the width of the streets, reducing the crossing distance for pedestrians, helping to enforce parking rules, and controlling drivers’ expectations. Putting trees in them creates a beautiful sense of closure.

Speed bumps – 2-3 inches high — aren’t allowed on public streets because they don’t work but hurt  cars. Speed humps, on the other hand, are some of the most effective measures. If you add sufficient numbers of measures, deployed properly, the crash rate drops by half.

Ian presented a long series of examples of calming devices from around the country and the world. Many of these were around schools.

One of the things to use in White Flint neighborhoods would be “marking your territory.” Identify to drivers that they are entering a neighborhood, and moving out of high-speed streets. Make the landscaping conspicuous or use signs. The key is coming up with a menu of measures, space them correctly, don’t use too many, and stage your implementation.

Traffic calm enough, stop, see if it solves your issues. Then do more if needed, but if your problem is solved, then stop.

In White Flint neighborhoods, there are lot of double yellow lines on neighborhood streets. That is the wrong vocabulary for a local street. Double yellow lines are highway markings, and they communicate higher speeds to drivers. Plus, at night, drivers focus on the lines, and more pedestrians are at risk.

Your streets are the biggest public realm in your neighborhood, more than parks. People identify with them, and identify your neighborhood by the streets. They should be carefully designed for multiple purposes to help define and develop the neighborhood, not just move cars. For example, use “rain gardens” designed to accept water in a natural setting, rather than iron storm grates.

Several places in White Flint neighborhoods are good candidates for roundabouts. They reduce speeding and are good candidates to replace signals, without the overhead machinery. Roundabouts are safer than signals, but not the larger traffic circles. You can walk easily across them, and they reduce crashes. Hugely safer for pedestrians. At a signal, traffic is coming at pedestrians from all angles, but in a roundabout, traffic approaches only from one direction. Circles have higher traffic speeds because they are so big. Maintaining a roundabout is much cheaper than a signalized intersection. Huge reduction on how much fuel is used as well, so some federal funds are available for roundabouts from energy reduction programs.

On Route 50 near Centreville in Virginia, Ian put in four roundabouts. The congestion is gone and accident rates are way down. In California, he narrowed a five lane signalized road to a two lane road with a roundabout and not only cleared congestion, but enlivened the community. A new restaurant opened named the Roundabout.

Tuckerman at Old Georgetown, or Tilden at Old Georgetown could be candidates for testing for roundabouts.

In the old days, streets were “shared space,” without sidewalks or double yellow lines. 1904 video of streetcar in San Francisco (Youtube it) shows “the flow of the city” across the street. In shared spaces in England, Finland and Switzerland, accident rates go down. A big difference is the paving, and the attitude of the municipality.

Cause drivers to take responsibility for their own behavior. The environment tells them what to do. Get drivers to focus on the near and middle distance. All about place and emphasizing people and not motorists.

Traffic calming plans tend to be very simple and clear, so they can be implemented in stages. They use only a couple of methods uniformly across an area, rather than all possible devices.

Emphasize place, not throughput or speed. Design in context. Inappropriate places “violate your space” and neighborhood. Emphasizing speed and reducing travel time actually increases sprawl, not to mention energy use. As soon as your reward the unsustainable trip, the land use changes to respond, exacerbating your problems. Instead reward the sustainable trip, the short trip, the biking trip. The person cutting through the city is not as important as the city itself; they can still go through, but on the city’s terms, not the highway’s. 

Change of attitude toward highways; as they come down, new land is made available. Think about all the quality of life issues in the area. It’s not just traffic calming; it’s context-sensitive design. Complete streets. Smart transportation. Safe routes to schools. Just competent street design. Vibrant uses made possible by good street design.

You still have to accomodate the motorist, but let’s level the playing field for the pedestrian, the bicyclist, the kids. You get a better community over time. You can replace many traffic lanes with good design, with many benefits for the surrounding neighborhood.

Summarizing some of the calming methods most likely to prove useful in White Flint neighborhoods, Ian saw many similarities through several neighborhoods, including limited access. Those tend to have “cut-through traffic” issues, although studies show that most such traffic is from neighborhood residents and visitors. Deal with the busiest streets first. Deal with your entrances so drivers know they’re entering a special place. Remove double yellow lines. “I would highly discourage closing off your streets, because you’ll just re-route the traffic to your neighbors’ streets.”

Ian Lockwood will be holding meetings tomorrow with individual neighborhoods. For more information, see www.TownHall.WhiteFlint.org.

Barnaby Zall

Reminder: 2010 White Flint Town Hall Thursday Night

Just a reminder: the 2010 White Flint Town Hall will be held tomorrow night, Thursday, May 13, at 7:30PM at 1626 E. Jefferson in Rockville.

The topic will be “Neighborhood Mobility Balance,” which is the balance between access for surrounding neighborhoods to the amenities of the new White Flint and protecting those neighborhoods against congestion and cut-through traffic. The presenter will be Ian Lockwood, of Glatting Jackson, who designed the “robust street network” for the new White Flint and the “median transitway” plan for renovating Rockville Pike, both of which are in the White Flint Sector Plan adopted by the County Council in March.

More details, including schedule, parking and directions: www.TownHall.WhiteFlint.org.

This meeting is open to the public and admission is free. Please join us.

Barnaby Zall