Archives May 2013

New parking regulations are looser, but not enough

Is this space best used for cars, or people?

Montgomery County’s new zoning code will allow less parking in new developments in order to use land more efficiently and encourage alternatives to driving. However, the regulations still require parking in ways that will hinder the walkable urban places the county wants to build.

For 4 years, the Planning Department has been revising its complicated, unwieldy code, which sets rules for how buildings and neighborhoods are laid out. First written in 1928, the code hasn’t been updated since 1977, when the county was still mostly suburban. The new code will go before the County Council in a public hearing June 11.

Under the current code, buildings must have lots of parking, even near transit or in areas where most people don’t drive. The new parking regulations are simpler and allow developers to build fewer parking spaces, though they do require other amenities, like bike racks, changing facilities and spaces for car sharing or carpools.

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County Planning Board Extends BRT Comment Period

As a reader of this blog, you know that Friends of White Flint believes that Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) is the right solution for the traffic on 355.  We’ve posted before that congestion in this region is only getting worse – and is projected to do so substantially.  We must seek a sustainable solution.  On May 16th, FoWF testified before the County Planning Board in support of a BRT plan that dedicates lanes to the rapid transit vehicles.  In areas of Rockville Pike/Wisconsin Avenue that are already constricted, that means repurposing lanes presently used for cars.

In fact, we believe that dedicated lanes are the only way this plan will reach its potential.  Otherwise, these “rapid transit” vehicles will just be vehicles sitting in traffic along with everyone else.  By dedicating lanes with frequent stations, the rapid transit vehicles will move swiftly and reliably – moving more people in the same amount of space.  Community concern has been vocalized, particularly in areas south of White Flint, and this has prompted the County Planning Board to extend its deadline for comments from today until June 7th.

It would be a shame for this concept to be derailed, pardon the pun, because of misunderstandings about the project.  Rapid transit is a successfully functioning system in many urban parts of the world and is the flexible, cost-efficient solution to our record-breaking traffic problem.  It’s been suggested that resources would be better spent by improving Metro and bus service.   But, the Metro stations between Friendship Heights and Rockville are not as well-spaced as they are downtown, leaving unwalkable gaps.  Similarly, there’s only so much we can do to improve existing bus service when its  reliability deteriorates due to traffic delays.

As we’ve said, by taking fewer than 1% of cars from the roads, we will feel a substantial difference in our traffic.  But, in order for folks to leave their cars behind, we need to give them a fast and reliable alternative.  BRT is the solution and, if you agree, please let the Planning Board know by emailing them by June 7th at  MCP-Chairman@mncppc-mc.org.

For even more information on Bus Rapid Transit, search the term on our blog, or click here.

Minutes of FoWF’s May 23, 2013, Board Meeting

** These minutes will remain in draft form until approved by the Board of Directors at their next meeting.  Until then, please email any edits to Info@WhiteFlint.org **  **Updated May 29, 2013, to incorporate comments found in italics below** ** Updated October 16, 2013, to remove “draft” status as the Board of Directors approved this version on September 19, 2013 **

Minutes of the May 23, 2013 FoWF Board of Directors Meeting

Minutes

2013 Board of Directors Meeting

May 23, 2013, 7pm

Federal Realty Investment Trust Offices, Rockville MD

The Friends of White Flint (FoWF) Board Meeting was called to order at 7:04pm at the Rockville offices of Federal Realty Investment Trust. The agenda was prepared by Lindsay Hoffman. Present were Directors Barnaby Zall, David Freishtat, Mike Springer, Suzanne Hudson, Mike Smith, Evan Goldman. A quorum was present. Lindsay Hoffman and Amy Donin, staff from Friends of White Flint were in attendance. Also present were guests and members Dee Metz, Paul Meyer, Theresa White, Tommy Mann, Bernard Regaick, NK Spickler, Shiva Zargham, Chad Salganik, Mandy Lippman, Linda Greenwald, Ronda Taitz, John Olguin, John Robinson, Aaron Kraut, David Neumann, Maureen Neumann, John Malone, Francine Waters, Rachel Newhouse.  Not present were directors Todd Lewers, Ken Hurdle, and Greg Trimmer.

 

Approval of Minutes from February 21, 2013, Annual and Board of Directors Meetings

Draft minutes of the February 21, 2013, meetings were circulated via email, posted on the blog and available in hard copy.  The motion to approve the minutes as written was made by Mike Springer, seconded by Suzanne Hudson and unanimously approved.

 

Treasurer’s Report

Barnaby Zall gave the Treasurer’s Report in lieu of Greg Trimmer. While there was a net loss for the first quarter of 2013 and FoWF has dipped into its reserves, this was to be expected given the relatively nonactive 2012 year. The organization’s finances are still in better shape than they were this time last year. In addition, some organizations owe money to FoWF.

 

Transfer of Administration of FoWF to CityBlock Solutions

Lindsay Hoffman announced the transfer of the administration of FoWF to CityBlock Solutions, a sole proprietorship in her name. She announced that there would be no change in staff or staff’s pay rates, but there would be fewer administrative hurdles for staff to receive more timely paychecks. The motion to transfer administration was moved by Mike Smith and seconded by Mike Springer, and was unanimously approved. Lindsay explained that the contract with CityBlock Solutions expires on July 24th, and the next Board meeting would not be until August or September. The motion to holdover administration of FoWF to CityBlock Solutions until the next board meeting was moved by Mike Smith and seconded by Suzanne Hudson, and unanimously approved.

 

FoWF Update from Lindsay

** Website/Social Media Traffic – since the last meeting on February 21st, 2013, there have been 14,704 page views and 4142 unique visitors to the website. Additionally, FoWF now has 105 Facebook followers and 106 Twitter followers.

**Membership – Since February 21, FoWF gained 56 new residential members and two new business members. Lindsay is in talks with a couple of other businesses in the area. Lindsay noted that it has been easier to engage new businesses coming to the area, rather than older, more established companies who may be wary of redevelopment. She asked that members connect FoWF to the area businesses they frequent, so FoWF can grow its network.

**Events – Lindsay recapped the events FoWF has either held or participated in since the last meeting: a promotional event with SweetFrog, an online contest with a Seasons52 gift certificate, a monthly presence at the Central Pike Farmers Market, a morning breakfast panel on social media engagement with Montgomery Housing Partnership, a walking tour with Coalition for Smarter Growth and a development showcase at the North Bethesda Market Whole Foods. When looking at sponsorship opportunities, efforts will be made to not favor one business over another. Lindsay noted that White Flint in general has also been mentioned during a variety of conferences over the past few months.

FoWF has also been advocating for certain projects in the White Flint area.  We kept the community aware of the possible closure of Montrose East Parkway at the railroad crossing. The Planning Board has stated their preference to keep the crossing open, and Theresa White from WRIT explained that the State Highway Administration is planning to comply but must go before the Council with final engineering plans. FoWF’s Amy Donin testified at the Planning Board’s public hearing for the Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan in favor of BRT, specifically for dedicated lanes on Rockville Pike. Francine Waters explained that the Master Plan of Highways does not currently reserve the most effective right of way for transit, meaning it may be difficult to include ideal transit in the future. A new group in the area, Communities for Transit, will also be participating in advocacy activities.

 

Updates on White Flint Projects from Property Owners/Developers

** Dee Metz from the County Executive’s Office explained that the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) will be presenting the 35% design in the western workaround at the June 10th Implementation Advisory Committee meeting.

**Theresa White from WRIT explained that the design for Montrose parkway extension is at 30%. Cars will be able to go over the CSX tracks, but won’t connect with the Parkway; however it will connect to Nebel Street.

**Evan Goldman from FRIT told the group that they are continuing to make progress with an office building, movie theater, retail and garage. FRIT also broke ground on a 19 story high-rise; residential leases may begin in April of next year. They are 72% leased on retail, which will open in September of next year. The recently-announced Strathmore venue will overlook the Pike and Rose park and will be available for all seasons. There will be a mix of restaurants from fast/casual to cafes to sit down. FRIT will be breaking ground on phase 2 of their project in February, which will include a hotel. Leasing on the second phase is going very well and FRIT expects to be at the Planning Board this fall for approvals.  Additionally, FRIT is working on a way to keep the food trucks available at the Pike Central Farmers Market once the restaurants begin operating.

**Mike Smith of LCOR reported that the residential building, the Aurora, has reached 13 of its 18 stories.  The NRC building remains an issue and is now the subject of congressional hearings.  GSA is also involved with that.  MC-DOT has recently informed LCOR that they will no longer plan to build the bridge of the Metro station.  As preferred by WMATA, LCOR will now build the bridge, which will require a new design as Metro has expressed concerns about winter weather effects.  The bridge will be an important east-west connector in the sector plan and will be at pedestrian scale with possibly three lanes. An MOU process with the county is still outstanding.  Board Member Suzanne Hudson noted that the bridge offers a great opportunity to incorporate the “pedestrian promenade” concept we see in the Sector Plan.  It would be the perfect glimpse into what the future White Flint will resemble.

**Francine Waters from Lerner said that the mall property is moving toward a site plan, but nothing is finalized yet. There is still no date for when the mall will be demolished.

**Rachel Newhouse from Montgomery County Parks explained that they recently finished renovating the playground at Wall Park.  Additionally, Parks is still designing the new Wall Park and is accepting any ideas and suggestions from the community. They want to get more ideas, and possibly use FoWF as a resource to do charrettes or have the community vote on ideas. Parks is working with their engineers to save the trees currently in the park, perhaps moving them to the edges with a trail through them. The Parks Department is filling out project description forms for Wall Park for the FY 2015-2021 CIP Budget.  Also, a new policy allows parks to be named after sponsors, so there may be funding opportunities through that route. The first phase of the project will deal with parking, then green space, then facilities. Traffic studies are underway to determine how many spaces will actually be needed at Wall Park. The Parks Department will also be in front of the Planning Board in the next couple of weeks with a facility plan for Josiah Henson Park.

**John Malone from Gables Residential explained that they will have a sketch plan for their property in early June, and will go in front of the Planning Board with a site plan in early fall.

**David Frieshtat reported that the Implementation Advisory Committee (IAC) has created a new steering committee. The next meeting will be on June 10th and, as mentioned before, topics will include the western workaround and a new project from Foulger-Pratt. Issues on biking have been delegated to the Downtown Advisory Committee. The groups are still working on delineating which organization will be in charge of certain aspects of the implementation/planning process.

 

Issues for Discussion

**Washington Gas Tower – Washington Gas is proposing a 145-foot communications tower in the center of their property on Nebel Street (currently zoned as industrial). However, the properties around the area are changing and the communications tower will have an impact on them.  Lindsay has spoken to the engineer in charge at Washington Gas; that person was not aware the planned redevelopment in White Flint. The county’s Tower Committee will be the ultimate approving body, but first approval is needed from the FAA (regarding air rights) and the FCC (to assure no duplication). Lindsay will be meeting with Kelly Caplan, community outreach representative for Washington Gas, next week and to discuss the community’s concerns. One of the main reasons why Washington Gas wants the tower at their property on Nebel is because it is in the line of sight of two existing towers (on Hungerford and Wisconsin). No one is sure how the current and pending construction in the area will affect the line of sight. The tower will not be used for private use; its main use will be to improve internal communication for Washington Gas in times of emergency. Lindsay will also reach out to Roger Berliner’s office to make sure he is aware of the situation. If the tower ends up being installed, many suggested trying to make the tower look as aesthetically pleasing as possible.

**Roads and Department of Transportation Issues – Lindsay asked the group if anyone felt a need for FoWF to get involved on these issues. It was agreed that getting from 35% design to 100% as soon as possible will be critical. If the design isn’t ideal, FoWF may need to advocate and get more Council members involved to make roads in White Flint a priority in the county. Dee Metz explained that there is enough money in the current CIP to continuing designing, and road design for White Flint will go through the full CIP process (as opposed to just being an amendment); she is currently meeting with the County Executive on this issue. However, as costs go up for this project, the money will need to come from other projects. CIP budget season begins in March, and FoWF/community members will need to lobby. Evan Goldman suggested that FoWF get as many businesses and residents involved as possible, so when budget season comes we are ready. There is a community concern about how much the tax base will be increased. Currently, it is estimated that after 40 years, there will be a $7billion impact. White Flint has a transportation tax district, but right now it collects less than $1million a year (it will increase as improvements happen). The western workaround is already costing $100million, and there are issues with facilities, stormwater management, etc. In this sense, White Flint is competing with other projects in the County such as the Great Seneca Science Corridor/Belward Farm.  Lindsay said that in the meantime, FoWF will discuss the complete streets model on the blog more to educate the community.

 

Resolution to Amend the Bylaws and Expand Board Size to a Maximum of 15

Barnaby Zall proposed a resolution to amend the FoWF bylaws and expand the board size from 9 to a maximum of 15, with the composition of the board (equal representation from the three categories of residents, businesses and developers/property owners) remaining the same. He explained that FoWF has a fairly stable board with a lot of institutional memory. However, the organization is growing. The motion was moved by David Frieshtat and seconded by Mike Springer.  As raised over email by Greg Trimmer and Evan Goldman, an amendment was proposed to change the maximum from 15 to 12, explaining that one day FoWF may need 15 board members but right now that number might be too large and unwieldy. The amendment was passed unanimously, and the amended resolution was passed unanimously. There will be an open call for nominations for the three new seats. Nominees can present to board members before the next board meeting, and then there will be an election. The new board members will have their first year be a stub year, and then will go into the regular election cycle.

 

Vision Discussion: What impact do you see FoWF having over the next year?

Lindsay explained the three main facets of FoWF: education, engagement and advocacy. Members agreed that programming has been very important. The venue for events should move around, and there should be an effort to have elected officials come to provide more opportunities for advocacy. Evan Goldman suggested growing residential membership. The issue of what to call the new White Flint came up again, and the example of Tysons in VA came up. Residents can put pressure on the postmaster for the area to have its own zip code, like Tysons (currently there are about 4 zip codes in the area). Some members from the community said that the area shouldn’t be North Bethesda; Mike Smith explained that LCOR already has invested in the name North Bethesda, as the consensus 10 years ago was that the area should be North Bethesda.

 

Other Matters

WSSC is upgrading stormwater pipes in the Luxmanor area in Cabin John as part of their EPA requirements. FRIT is also upgrading some sanitary pipes, which will be rerouted along Executive and Montrose, to avoid taking property from single family homes.

John Olguin from the Timberlawn HOA explained that his community is concerned about the lighting on the Trolley Trail. Members have talked to Montgomery County about these concerns and is trying to strategize.  One idea is that the community is willing to pay for the light installation if the county will pay for the lighting and maintenance.  Cost is a major concern.  Dee Metz explained that there are several trails around the county, and once you light one you have to light them all. Members from the Timberlawn HOA would like Lindsay to come to speak about White Flint.

 

Evan Goldman motioned and Suzanne Hudson seconded to adjourn the meeting; adjournment was unanimously approved at 9:01pm.

Smart growth saves money

Smart Growth America’s new report Building Better Budgets: A National Examination of the Fiscal Benefits of Smart Growth Development examines how land use decisions impact municipal finances. The three takeaways (taken directly from the Executive Summary) are:

1. In general, smart growth development costs one-third less for upfront infrastructure.

Our survey concluded that smart growth development saves an average of 38 percent on upfront costs for new construction of roads, sewers, water lines and other infrastructure. Many studies have concluded that this number is as high as 50 percent. Smart growth development patterns require less infrastructure, meaning upfront capital costs, long-term operations and maintenance costs, and, presumably, cost for eventual replacement are all lower. Smart growth development also often uses existing infrastructure, lowering upfront capital costs even more.

[The report later notes that “The State of Maryland found that following a smart growth approach would save approximately $1.5 billion per year statewide on new road construction through 2030—reducing overall costs by 28 percent and the costs to local governments by 60 percent.”]

2. Smart growth development saves an average of 10 percent on ongoing delivery of services.

Our survey concluded that smart growth development saves municipalities an average of 10 percent on police, ambulance and fire service costs. The geographical configuration of a community and the way streets are connected significantly affect public service delivery. Smart growth patterns can reduce costs simply by reducing the distances service vehicles must drive. In some cases, the actual number of vehicles and facilities can also be reduced along with the personnel required.

3. Smart growth development generates 10 times more tax revenue per acre than conventional suburban development.

Our survey concluded that, on an average per-acre basis, smart growth development produces 10 times more tax revenue than conventional suburban development.

Read the full report here, and check out some more articles on Building Better Budgets from sources around the country:

http://www.baconsrebellion.com/2013/05/the-fiscal-benefits-of-smart-growth.html

http://www.modbee.com/2013/05/25/2732910/study-sprawl-hits-a-citys-bottom.html

http://www.houstontomorrow.org/livability/story/smart-growth-does-wonders-for-local-economies/

http://www.usgbc.org/articles/how-much-can-your-community-save-smarter-growth-hint-more-you-think

http://gettingto2100.org/as-if-its-news-smart-growth-saves-taxpayer/

Larger apartments could draw families to White Flint

A school bus stops outside  the apartments at North Bethesda Market on Woodglen Drive.

A school bus stops outside the apartments at North Bethesda Market on Woodglen Drive. Photo by the author.

We’ve noted before that a growing number of families are interested in urban living, whether to be closer to work, to be less reliant on driving, or to give their kids more exposure and independence. However, apartments or condominiums big enough for families can be hard to find, even in areas like White Flint with lots of new construction.

Growing up, I lived with my parents in a 2-bedroom apartment in downtown Silver Spring. I didn’t have a yard, but I found that the “the city was my playground,” filled with interesting people and new experiences. Our building, and the other apartment buildings around it, were filled with kids, and in the summer I could ride the elevator to the roof and hang out in the pool. I loved walking with my parents to stores, the Metro, and Woodside Park across the street.

However, when my brother was born, our family needed more room, so we moved to a house on a cul-de-sac several miles away. There wasn’t much to walk to, but there were still lots of kids around and, of course, we had a big yard. I’m not sure if we would’ve moved there had we been able to find a big enough apartment closer in.

Other families in Montgomery County seem to desire an urban experience as well. While the county’s largest concentrations of young families are in East County and the Upcounty, young families still make up one-tenth of all households in White Flint, downtown Bethesda and downtown Silver Spring, and 15% of all households in downtown Wheaton, areas which are almost entirely made up of apartments and townhomes.

Does that mean we’re building lots of family-sized apartments for them? Not quite.

Writing about the virtues of family-sized apartments, Washington Post columnist and architect Roger K. Lewis notes that municipalities prefer smaller units because developers market them at childless adults, who often pay more in taxes than they use in return. Montgomery County Public Schools estimates that it costs as much as $180,000 to educate a child from kindergarten through 12th grade, which means people without kids effectively subsidize those who do.

Another reason why there aren’t more family-sized apartments is the difficulty of getting construction financing. Fire codes require that high-rise apartments be built out of steel or concrete, which makes them more expensive to build than houses or garden apartments, which have wood frames. At the same time, there’s a perceived lack of demand for family-sized apartments, so lenders are reluctant to give developers money for them.

As a result, the few large apartments or condominiums that do get built are expensive. A quick look at real estate listings around the White Flint Metro station revealed just 3 apartments with 3 bedrooms, ranging in price from $3,995 to $4,700 a month, and 4 condominiums priced between $549,000 and $959,000.

Those prices are out of reach for many working families, even in an affluent area like this, but even those who could afford them could buy a nice house for the same money. Families seeking the urban experience might just settle for a more affordable house or townhouse, justifying lenders’ reluctance to fund the construction of larger apartments.

However, there are ways around that. Lewis recommends public subsidies to make larger apartments more affordable for families, arguing that the government already favors homeowners by giving them tax breaks on their mortgages.

Another solution that doesn’t require government assistance are so-called “mortgage helpers,” or condominiums with a built in rental apartment, kind of like a granny flat. In Vancouver, where “mortgage helpers” are common, this could be a 3-bedroom condo in which one of the bedrooms had its own bathroom, kitchen and private entrance.

In this scenario, a family would buy the entire unit and rent out the third bedroom, giving them a source of income. Later on, if they need the room for another child, they can just take it over. This flexibility makes “mortgage helpers” attractive to families who otherwise may not be able to afford a high-rise condominium, which in turn increases demand and makes lenders willing to fund them, meaning more of them get built.

A combination of changing desires, changing demographics and limited budgets has pushed more and more people, including parents, to urban environments. While many families will continue to prefer houses with yards, it’s important that places like White Flint accommodate the families who want to live here. Building more family-sized apartments may not be easy, but by responding to changing needs, White Flint will be able to draw and keep new residents for decades to come.

Protect bicycle and bus lanes, protect local businesses

We’ve written about how installing bicycle lanes can bring more customers to businesses and why dedicated lanes for Bus Rapid Transit make sense. For even more statistics on why streets should be more inclusive of pedestrians, cyclists and transit riders, check out the study Measuring the Street: New Metrics for 21st Century Streets from the NYC Department of Transportation. The prominent theme: more inclusive streets are safer for everyone, have improved traffic flow (without compromising safety) AND contribute more to the local economy.

NYCDOT dedicated lanes

Source: New York City Department of Transportation

A crash course in “Retrofitting Suburbia”

“We tend to think that downtowns should be dynamic, and we expect that. But we seem to have an expectation that the suburbs should forever remain frozen in whatever adolescent form they were first given birth to. It’s time to let them grow up…”

Ellen Dunham-Jones, professor, architect, and author of Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Solutions for Redesigning Suburbs, covers it all in her TED Talk on why and how communities around the country are transforming their suburban landscape. Nearby Silver Spring and Hyattsville are just some of the examples she mentions. And, while White Flint is not directly mentioned in the video, Dunham-Jones calls out a Friends of White Flint post on Pike & Rose on her Facebook page!

Check out the full video here.

Proposed Agenda & Resolution for Next FoWF Meeting

Friends of White Flint conducts much of its business during Board of Directors Meetings, which are open to all.  Our next meeting is this Thursday, May 23rd, at 7pm at the Rockville offices of Federal Realty Investment Trust (1626 E Jefferson Street).

You’ll find our proposed agenda below, along with a link to a Resolution proposed by Co-Chair for Business, Barnaby Zall.  The resolution proposes to increase the size of our board from nine to fifteen, remaining balanced among our categories of membership.  This change reflects our growing organization and will allow for greater engagement.

 

Board of Directors Meeting

May 23, 2013, 7pm

Federal Realty Investment Trust Offices, Rockville MD

 

Agenda

  1. Call to Order, Welcome and Introductions
  2. Confirmation of Quorum
  3. Approval of Minutes from February 21, 2013, Annual & Board Meetings
  4. Treasurer’s Report
  5. Transfer of Administration of FoWF to CityBlock Solutions
  6. Friends of White Flint Update from Lindsay
    1. Website/Social Media Traffic
    2. Membership
    3. Events
  7. Updates on White Flint Projects  from PO/Ds
  8. Issues for Discussion:
    1. Washington Gas Tower
    2. Roads and Department of Transportation issues
    3. Other Items as Suggested
  9. Resolution to Amend the Bylaws and Expand Board Size to a Maximum of 15
    1. Discussion
    2. Vote
  10. Vision Discussion:  What Impact do you see FoWF having over the next year?
  11. Other Matters
  12. Adjournment

 

BRT supporters turn out for public hearing, but skeptics remain

BRT in Los Angeles. Photo by the author.

Over 50 speakers packed the Planning Board auditorium in Silver Spring last night to offer comments on Montgomery County’s proposed Bus Rapid Transit network. During a hearing that lasted over 3 hours, residents debated the merits of the 10-route, 79-mile system envisioned by county planners.

A slight majority of speakers spoke in favor of the plan, saying BRT could give people a real alternative to driving and support projected population and employment growth. Many speakers highlighted the importance of transit in attracting new residents, particularly young adults who already flock to the county’s walkable, transit-accessible neighborhoods.

Skeptics of the plan had concerns about taking away space from cars on Wisconsin Avenue in Chevy Chase and Route 29 in Four Corners to give buses dedicated lanes, arguably BRT’s most important feature. These corridors already have the county’s highest transit ridership and are projected to carry the BRT network’s most-used routes.

The Planning Board will discuss the plan and potentially make changes to it during a series of worksessions over the next several weeks. After that, they’ll vote on whether to approve it. If it passes, the plan will then go to the County Council later this year for additional public hearings and worksessions and a final vote.

WTOP and BethesdaNow have additional coverage. Kelly Blynn of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, who live-tweeted the event with myself and Ted Van Houten from the Action Committee for Transit, compiled this summary of the hearing on Storify.

Friends’ Testimony on Bus Rapid Transit

Earlier tonight, Friends of White Flint’s Amy Donin testified before the Montgomery County Planning Board in support of Bus Rapid Transit in White Flint.  Find our testimony below:

 

Good evening, Commissioners, my name is Amy Donin and I am here on behalf of the Friends of White Flint.

Friends promotes a sustainable, walkable and engaging White Flint. We include residents, businesses, and property owners and seek consensus to achieve positive solutions. We have been actively involved in the White Flint Sector Plan since 2007, holding hundreds of meetings and meeting with thousands of residents to find consensus and community support for the Plan in place today.

The award-winning White Flint Sector Plan recommends [quote] “a transit-focused, multi-modal mobility system that supports the proposed urban center and local neighborhoods.”  More specifically, it suggests Bus Rapid Transit on Rockville Pike, and we believe it is the right solution for this emerging area. We are pleased that the Countywide Transit Corridors Plan includes BRT through White Flint, and notes that “The MD 355 South corridor [where White Flint is] has the highest daily ridership forecast for any corridor evaluated in this Plan.” White Flint is already a nationally recognized example of suburban redevelopment, and is poised to become an economic engine in this county, which is the economic engine for the state of Maryland.  But, in order for White Flint to reach its potential, we must have the most forward-thinking infrastructure possible.

Right now, traffic on Rockville Pike through White Flint is no treat. Even without redevelopment, this traffic will only get worse unless we put some smart solutions to work. We use cars because we don’t have a choice. However, with a reliable alternative, we can entice more drivers out of their cars for more of their trips.

We believe that this is only, truly, Rapid Transit when lanes are dedicated for its use.  Otherwise, the vehicles are just buses sitting in the same traffic as everyone else.  The reliability offered by dedicated lanes gives riders the confidence to trust transit to get them where they need to be, when they need to be there.  And, each time a rapid transit vehicle buzzes by cars stalled in gridlock, the system will earn a few new customers.

We are not anti-car, we are pro-options. But, car has long been king on Rockville Pike, and just as we are introducing a new mix of uses on the Pike, we need to introduce new modes of transportation as well. We do not want to welcome our new neighbors and businesses to the area with unmanageable traffic, nor penalize those who are already here, many of whom are excited to be a part of a visionary new community, but are understandably concerned about an increasingly bad traffic situation.  A new Rockville Pike is the crux of a new White Flint.  We ask that you continue to support the vision of the White Flint Sector Plan with the Countywide Transit Corridors Plan, and not only include BRT on Rockville Pike but also dedicate lanes for transit. Thank you for your time and attention.