Archives February 2014

The 20-Minute Neighborhood

What if you could reach everything you could possibly need within 20 minutes of leaving your front door?  This is a movement that is stretching across the globe – from Melbourne, Australia, to Portland, Oregon – and is exactly what we’re talking about for little ol’ White Flint, Maryland.  A 20-minute neighborhood offers food, schools, parks and transit within a short walk from your home.  Not only are there economic benefits when residents’ hard-earned dollars remain local, but there are health and community benefits, as well.

To create a 20-minute neighborhood, though, we need not only grocery stores and other commercial options, but we need to ensure safe pedestrian access.  The improved street grid and safety plans for the White Flint district will move our area in the right direction, from an infrastructure perspective.

The city of Melbourne, from whom the above image came, recently released a strategy paper on how to make this happen:

A 20-minute city should have jobs for outer area residents and diverse housing in the right location at a reasonable price, a preview of the blueprint released yesterday states.

A “principles” paper released earlier this year said 20-minute cities had “safe, convenient and attractive local areas” that met the daily needs of residents with good local employment prospects and local services.

Mr Guy told the ABC that the city centre should operate over 24 hours but it needed to be managed.

Read more: http://www.theage.com.au/victoria/plans-to-make-melbourne-a-20minute-city-20121026289ll.html#ixzz2ucl8zwgI

Vancouver and Calgary are also marching in this direction; their goals are 15-minute neighborhoods.  Read more about them here.

Montgomery County is starting to hit all the right points by retrofitting our suburb to ensure services, transit and amenities within closer proximity to our homes and jobs.  They’ve also completed work on the Nighttime Economy – an important piece mentioned in the Melbourne plan.  Once again, we need not reinvent the wheel in order to build a vibrant White Flint – our neighbors from around the world are forging the path with exciting results!

“Road Diets” in NYC

As Mayor Bill De Blasio begins his role as Mayor of New York City, people are now examining all the changes the last mayor, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, brought to the city.

Bloomberg and his staff succeeding in changing the built environment of New York City to better the safety and well-being of its residents. His team, including former Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan, were able to change the infrastructure of many roads and streets around the city to help pedestrians and bikers feel welcomed in their city. These changes, often called “road diets”, “shaved off excess space,” providing pedestrian-friendly spaces to once unsafe, car-centric streets. Branden Klayko provided before and after pictures of 25 areas throughout the city that show these road diets and pedestrian plazas.

Check out these amazing before and after pictures! The changes shown in these pictures are truly aspiring for us here in White Flint.

 

Bicycles Outselling Cars Throughout Europe

In a follow up to our post from yesterday, it seems that bicycles are now outselling cars in almost every European country. In his article, NPR’s Krishnadev Calamur and his colleagues examined figures from “27 member states of the European Union for both cars and bicycles.” They found that in 25 out of the 27 countries they looked at, bicycles outsold cars. The top 5 countries are listed below in the graph.

Chart comparing new passenger car registration and bicycle sales in five European countries.Source: NPR;
They also looked into which countries had the highest bicycle-to-car ownership ratio. These top 5 countries are Romania, Slovenia, Hungary, Greece, and Lithuania. But why are bicycles more popular among Europeans than cars? The economic recession has hurt most of Europe pretty hard, which has made car sales decrease significantly. In addition, the millennial generation are not interested in using cars for transportation. Car sales have reached a 20-year low in these countries. Fewer millennials have driver’s licenses than any other generation. They are much more interested in using other means, such as bicycles.

Why is the U.S. More Car-Dependent than Europe?

Car-centric travel was once the model every city, town, and country wanted to follow. In the height of motorization, the U.S. became the role model for the rest of the world for car production and travel. This gave room for other parts of the world to develop other strong modes of transportation. We began to see Europe focus their attention on a more balanced transportation system that encouraged pedestrian and bicycle friendly forms of transit much earlier than the U.S. Only recently has the U.S. and its policies focused on the need for complete streets.  Americans are extremely dependent on cars for transportation, but we are learning as time goes on why we need to focus transportation planning and funding on more infrastructures than roads for cars. But why did the U.S. become more car-dependent than Europe? What elements allowed the U.S. to develop this way? According to Ralph Buehler, there are 9 reasons why this trend happened.

  • Mass motorization– Mass motorization occurred earlier in the U.S. than other countries. In addition, Americans in general have “greater personal wealth” than Europeans, which allows households to purchase more cars more often.
  • Road standards– Related to mass motorization, the U.S. had to adapt its streets and roads to allow for cars to thrive in cities across the country. Infrastructures were created that would allow cars to succeed over any other means of transportation.
  • Vehicle taxes– Taxes on cars and gas are much higher in Europe than in U.S. Also in the U.S., parts of the gas tax are “earmarked” for road construction, which means certain programs or initiatives do not need to compete for funds. Europe does not function this way.
  • Interstate highway system– The highway system was created in the 1950s, allowing for suburban sprawl to explode across the country. As people spread out farther from cities, Americans became more dependent on cars to travel to services and amenities they need.
  • Government subsidies– Prices Americans pay for elements that allow us to drive (gas and tolls) only amount to “60 or 70 percent of roadway expenditures,” with the rest covered by other taxes they pay. In Europe, citizens pay more in taxes that are spent on road construction.
  • Technological focus– Americans focus more attention on “technological changes rather than altering behavior” to hinder the problems surrounding cars and car traffic. In Europe, actions are taken to change citizens’ behavior surrounding cars, such as creating “car free zones” or reducing speed limits in certain areas.
  • Public transportation– In general, the governments in Europe have supported public transportation for longer and with a higher monetary value than the U.S. government. The U.S. government often comes in too late to save a public transit system, allowing the system to slowly disappear.
  • Walking and Cycling– There are many European cities that have “implemented entire networks of bike lanes, separated cycle tracks, off-street bicycle paths, and traffic-calmed neighborhood streets.” The U.S. has only begun to incorporate these elements in redeveloping urban areas. The White Flint Sector has taken notice of this need to incorporate a walkable and bikeable street network or grid.
  • And finally, Zoning lawsRalph Buehler stated that the majority of European cities have a sustainable mixed-use land use planning that incorporates residential space with commercial and retail space. The U.S. has only begun to use this type of land-use planning. This is primarily due to zoning laws preventing commercial and retail spaces to exist in zoned residential areas.  Montgomery County is in the process of revising its own zoning code to bring this thinking into action.

The White Flint district faces many of these elements Buehler lists. With the sector plan, as well as the potential passing of the urban road code updates, we hope that we can start to shift the area’s reliance on cars as the main mode of transportation to a more walkable focus.

Mark Your Calendars! Friends of White Flint’s Showcase and Happy Hour Event is Coming Soon!

Mark your calendars, members! Friends of White Flint is having its first event of the year. On March 10th, we will be hosting a showcase and happy hour event at Paladar Latin Kitchen and Rum Bar. This free event will showcase both the public and private development projects set for the White Flint district.  Come as you please, take a tour of the projects on display, interact with other FoWF members, sample some delicious food, purchase a drink at the cash bar, and listen to remarks from both County Councilmembers Roger Berliner and Hans Riemer. The event is sponsored by Friends of White Flint, Paladar Latin Kitchen and Rum Bar, Lerch Early & Brewer Chtd. and Linowes and Blocher LLC.

Click on the image below to enlarge for the details!

Flyer for Happy Hour_final

 

Another Change for White Flint Post Office

We reported last month that the US Post Office housed in White Flint Mall would be moving to a location on Edson Lane.  Turns out, that won’t be the case after all.

We learned today that the USPS could not come to terms with the owners of the Edson Lane property and have now turned their sights to 5056-B Nicholson Lane (see below).  Although the USPS’s mall lease expires in April, they are hoping for a small extension as their plans are now set back.

Nicholson 2

Image from Google Maps

Located between Parklawn Drive and Nebel Street, the new location is a strip shopping center within the 20895 zip code.  Staying in the same zip code had been a stated priority for the USPS during the location selection process but the Edson Lane spot was actually in 20852.

nicholson 1

Image from Google Maps

 

Agenda for February 24th FoWF Meeting

** After a false start, we’re reposting the agenda this afternoon.  Thanks to our Friends whose eagle-eyes noticed something important was missing!  –LH

 

Dear Friends,

Our next general/board meeting of Friends of White Flint is next Monday, February 24th, at 6:30pm.  Details are available by clicking here.  Please see below for the meeting’s draft agenda.  Comments or suggestions may be emailed to info@whiteflint.org.  See you Monday!

Friends of White Flint

Safe Streets Act of 2014

On February 7th, Senators Mark Begich (D-AK) and Brian Schatz (D-HI) introduced the Safe Streets Act of 2014 (S. 2004) to the U.S. Senate, “which would require all new federally-funded transportation projects use a Complete Streets approach to planning, designing and building roads,” says Craig Chester.

The bill will create standards for federally funded streets and roads to ensure stronger road/traffic safety and more accessibility for all types of transportation, whether that be a car, bus, bike, or foot. A similar bill was first introduced to the United States House of Representatives in June 2013. Both of these bills “will ensure consistency in policies and funding needed to support these local efforts to ensure safe streets,” notes Chester. If these bills are passed, we hope that state and regional level governments will adopt more Complete Streets policies.  Already, we can see 610 jurisdictions in 48 states, as well as D.C taking action towards creating Complete Streets.

This concept has found its way here in Montgomery County too. Some of our County Councilmembers are taking action towards incorporating Complete Streets policies in our county with the introduction of the Bill 33-13: Urban Road Code Standards and Pedestrian Safety Improvements. Our roads, standards, and policies in the county need to encourage complete streets in order for any development project such as the White Flint Sector Plan to be successful in creating walkable and sustainable communities. This updated urban road code under the Bill 33-13 will be one step closer to creating streets and roads we really want and need throughout the county. The bill hopes to strengthen ADA, pedestrian, and bike language surrounding the county streets. As we mentioned last week, this bill might be adjusted by a multi-disciplinary workgroup that has convened to hash out some of its details. We’ll learn more this summer when it returns to the Council for approval.

Both the House and Senate bills are great steps for our nation to take. It is one step closer to  ensuring national infrastructure and support for walkable neighborhoods and communities to develop across the nation.  With these bills, we can see that our nation is moving forward in encouraging healthy and sustainable living in many different aspects our lives, including transportation. We hope that within Montgomery County and specifically, the White Flint district, that we can encourage and promote complete streets through the urban design and standards we will enforce as well.

Why Not Build More Roads?

A couple of weeks ago, I spoke at a local office of realtors with an update on White Flint redevelopment.  During our discussion of the multi-faceted way we are approaching the area’s traffic problems, someone asked “Why don’t we just build more roads?  I’m going to drive anyway.”  

There are many answers to this question including the fact that roads are much more highly subsidized than transit and, overall, more expensive to build.  And, because we will experience a disproportionate improvement in traffic when even a small number of people make different choices and get out of their cars, we can still drive when preferred.  But recently, there’s been another reason why building more roads isn’t the answer for the future.

Last month, Atlanta was paralyzed by two inches of snow because they did not have adequate infrastructure to accommodate the mass exodus of commuters.  It’s estimated that one million cars flooded the highways in a matter of hours that day – those drivers had no other options for reaching their destinations and no realistic amount of new roads would have held them.  Even without approaching the cost comparisons between building roads and building transit, there are logistical considerations that make this matter of choice critical.

Read more from POLITICO and CNN.

 

Shopping Malls Through Out the U.S. are Dying Out

Across the United States, enclosed shopping malls are closing their doors. This is all too apparent for us here in White Flint, with the closing of the White Flint Mall.

There are many reasons behind the closings of shopping malls across the U.S. but one main reason stands out: anchor stores closing. Hayley Peterson, in her recent article for the Business Insider, quotes a managing director from a real estate firm saying “The risk of failure for a mall increases dramatically once you see anchor closures.” Malls with strong anchors stores are more likely to succeed than malls that are losing or already lost their anchor stores. Anchor stores, named for the role they have in holding down the mall, are essential to the health of malls. Without them, people are less likely to frequent the mall.  The good news for White Flint, though, is that our departed anchor (Bloomingdales) has expressed an interest in returning.

As these malls begin to close, however, mall owners and developers hope to bring in a mix of stores and services with mixed-use redevelopment projects, something we are capitalizing on here in White Flint. The issue is really that many of these malls across cities that are left to decay and fall down for years before any redevelopment begins to happen. We still do not have date for when the mall will be razed but we know that with the White Flint Sector Plan, redevelopment is on the horizon.

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This is a photo of Rolling Acres Mall in Akron, Ohio. Source: Nicholas Eckhart