Archives September 2015

Our testimony to the Transit Task Force

Below you’ll find the testimony I’ll give tonight at the Transit Task Force Public Forum.  Tomorrow, look in our e-newsletter for a story about what happens at tonight’s public forum. (What? You don’t receive our weekly eblast?  Then sign up and stay up-to-date about everything in the White Flint area!)

My name is Amy Ginsburg, and I am the Executive Director of Friends of White Flint, a nonprofit organization with nearly 1,300 supporters, including residents, businesses, homeowners associations, and property owners.  Our only mission is to ensure the full implementation of the White Flint Sector Plan so that the promise of a walkable, transit-oriented, smart-growth community is achieved in the Pike District.

A Rapid Transit System is critical to creating an energetic, prosperous community in the Pike District. RTS is indispensable for improving the quality of life for a growing population and to attracting businesses and retailers to the Pike District. In fact, 7,400 residential units in both the White Flint 1 and White Flint 2 sectors are linked to developing an RTS along Route 355.

We need to provide Montgomery County with the ability to efficiently and quickly create the kind of walkable, transit-friendly community so important to our future. Just as bread needs a baker, RTS needs a Transit Authority which we believe is a strong option for managing this complex system.

Moving forward with RTS is vital for both the County and the White Flint area.  Many employees and residents, especially millennials, want to ditch their cars; RTS will enable many of them to do just that. Traffic doesn’t attract business to Montgomery County; transit options and walkable communities like the Pike District do.  Creating jobs is the key to enabling Montgomery County to remain competitive and sustainable in the future. RTS is key to attracting those businesses and creating those jobs. In fact, studies have shown that after factoring in the cost of RTS, the County will net $871 million in revenue over twenty-five years.

There are many thorny issues to work out, including funding, but I urge Montgomery County government to make rapid transit on Rockville Pike a top priority.  We believe that Bus Rapid Transit on Route 355 should be the first line.  A successful Rockville Pike line will demonstrate how RTS can have a positive impact in a highly visible manner.  Fortunately, the White Flint area has the density, commercial development, and support to be a successful pilot.  Such a pilot program on Route 355 will make it easy to see a Rapid Transit System creating a vibrant, thriving community.

From all of us at Friends of White Flint, thank you for your continued support of transit and the White Flint Sector Plan.


White Flint Transportation Open House – Oct 19 at WJ

Transportation Flyer


A White Flint Transportation Open House will be sponsored by the Montgomery County Dept. of Transportation and will include a presentation on the ongoing White Flint Transportation Demand Management Study.  After the presentation, there will be staff available at tables around the room to collect comments and answer questions on various White Flint Infrastructure projects, including White Flint road projects, the parking garage under design for the Conference Center, the separated bike lanes being designed for Nebel Street, as well as information on several Commuter Services and programs like the ability to sign up for Smart Cards, Senior Smart Cards, Parking Apps, etc.

More on Marriott


Did you catch this interview with Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson?  It’s an interesting, and quick, read, but below is the part that most concerns the Pike District and our #PickthePike campaign.

BTW, rumor has it that Marriott is considering Friendship Heights, Bethesda, and the Pike District. In a week or so, we’ll be a launching a new #PickthePike social media campaign to showcase all the Pike District has to offer Marriott and its employees.

Bethesda Magazine: Tell me about the possibility of Marriott leaving Bethesda? How much of this is about attracting millennials, who might not want to come out to a suburban office building and prefer to use public transportation to get around?

Arne Sorenson:  There are a few things going on here. First, this building is leased, not owned. The lease expires in 2022. The second factor is that to renovate this building, which was opened in the ’70s, would cost almost as much as to build a building from scratch. And a brand-new building is almost always going to be better than a renovated building, no matter how much money you want to put into it. It’s not going to be state of the art.

The third driver, we talk about millennials and millennial mindset, but I actually have many of the same views. I’d like to be someplace that is accessible by public transportation. I’d like to be someplace where I can walk to restaurants or be part of a community that seems more vibrant, that doesn’t require me to have a car. Obviously, that is a more pronounced bias from our younger workers.

The overwhelming likelihood is we will not be in this building after the lease expires. And so that means we need someplace else. And we have 900,000 square feet in this building.

Even if we are more efficient about our use of space in the future, we’re not talking about a small office space. It takes a number of years to go through the process, to find locations. I think there are places in Montgomery County that can be accessed by public transportation, have an urban feel, and where we could build a new building that would meet our needs. But there are obviously places in Virginia or D.C. that could be considered, as well.

We’ve made no decision to move from Maryland. And I’ve assured the governor of Maryland, for example, we’re not starting any negotiating process. You’re not going to wake up one morning and read in the paper that we’ve decided to move. We’re going to spend the next year or so figuring out: How much space do we need? Are we going to put everyone in the same building, or are we going to put some disciplines in different buildings? Only when we’ve really completed that process will we start to focus on possible locations.

I have talked to Gov. Hogan, Gov. McAuliffe and Mayor Bowser. I’ve had calls from other states. The likelihood of our moving out of the Washington area, where we’ve been for our entire 88 years, is very slim. The overwhelming likelihood is that we will be in the Washington area for many, many decades to come. I suspect sometime in 2016, or more likely in 2017, we’ll start to zero in on a location or two.

White Flint Separated Bike Lanes Network — A Brand New Report

Montgomery Planning has just released  its White Flint Separated Bike Lanes Network Report as part of the Bicycle Master Plan.

The report says, “Montgomery County residents and employees are more likely to bicycle in low-stress environments, so improving bicycling throughout the County requires developing safe, low-stress connections between activity centers, transit facilities and neighborhoods. Based on the analysis in this document, the current master-planned bikeway network in White Flint would benefit greatly from modifications to the proposed facilities in order to encourage cycling as a mainstream choice. Due to the pace of development in White Flint, the Planning Department is advancing work in this area of the County so that meaningful opportunities to construct segments of the preferred bike network are not lost before the Bicycle Master Plan is completed.”

White Flint Separated Bicycle Plan

Proposed White Flint Separated Bicycle Network

There are three different types of upgrades proposed.

Upgrade master-planned bike lanes to separated bike lanes.

Roads in this category are already recommended to have bike lanes in the White Flint Sector Plan. Since bike lanes are typically 5.5 to 6 feet wide in Montgomery County and separated bike lanes in a high-demand area are 7 feet wide, 1.5 additional feet are needed on each side of the road to upgrade to separated bike lanes. This space can be gained by narrowing the traffic lanes per Bill 33-13 (the Urban Road Code bill). Upgrading to separated bike lanes would not require a reduction in the number of travel lanes or an expansion of the master-planned right-of-way.

Roads in this category include: • Nicholson Lane from Old Georgetown Road to Nebel Street • Nebel Street from Randolph Road to Rockville Pike • Edson Lane from Rockville Pike to Woodglen Drive • Old Georgetown Road from Rockville Pike to Nebel Street

Upgrade existing bike lanes to separated bike lanes.

Roads in this category currently have striped bike lanes even though such lanes were not recommended in the White Flint Sector Plan. They would be upgraded to separated bike lanes.

Roads in this category include: • Marinelli Road from Executive Blvd to Rockville Pike 2• Security Lane from Woodglen Drive to Rockville Pike

Add separated bike lanes on additional roads.

Three additional roads would be included in the network of separated bike lanes: • Rockville Pike from Edson Lane to Montrose Parkway • Woodglen Drive Extended from Nicholson Lane to Marinelli Street 3• Marinelli Road from Rockville Pike to Nebel Street • Old Georgetown Road from Nicholson Lane to Rockville Pike. • Hoya Street from Montrose Parkway to Old Georgetown Road. • Executive Blvd west of Old Georgetown Road. • Executive Blvd (realigned) from Marinelli Street to Old Georgetown Road.

The report prioritizes these projects into three tiers. Tier One includes those bikeways that must be substantially completed to open Stage 2 of the White Flint Sector Plan, as well as those connecting various areas to the White Flint Metrorail Station. Tier Two includes those bikeways that are important for connectivity, but are not required to begin Stage 2 of the sector plan. Tier Three includes recommendations that are important to complete as part of the MD 355 bus rapid transit network and are, therefore, longer term recommendations.

Tiers Bike Plan

Want to learn more and to add your thoughts? Attend the Bicycle Master Plan Meeting at Walter Johnson High School on October 6 at 7:00 pm

How gorgeous is BF Saul’s Building A?

Last week at a public meeting and a couple of days ago at the White Flint Implementation Committee meeting, BF Saul introduced the public to their plans for their site located on the west side of Rockville Pike between Marinelli and Nicholson (where the McDonald’s currently offers Big Macs and nuggets.) And now, we’re happy to share these drawings with you.

Building A is heading for site plan approval and boasts 330 dwelling units (rental units) as well as 15,000 square feet of non-residential space. The architects aimed to maximize pedestrian feel with an iconic pedestrian plaza. Building A features a green roof and neutral colors. A low water feature will create white noise so outdoor diners won’t be disturbed by the cars driving on the Pike. The water feature is designed to be equally attractive in the winter when it’s too cold to run water. Building A will be anywhere from 210′ to 260′ away from the Grand.

And now, without further delay, the drawings of Building A!


What you missed at last night’s White Flint Implementation Committee Meeting

It was a rainy night so you wisely decided to stay home, throw on sweats, and catch up on an old series on Netflix rather than attend yesterday’s Implementation Committee Meeting.  No worries — here’s what you missed.
  1. An amendment to Pike and Rose Phase 2 concerning the addition of solar panels on their garage was approved.
  2. The Planning Board has not received any new applications. “It’s very quiet,” said Nkosi Yearwood.
  3. The Planning Board reviewed the Western Workaround Mandatory Referral and received a positive response from Department of Transportation.
  4. There is Master Bicycle Plan meeting October 6.
  5. White Flint 2 sector planning has kicked off with a meeting at Luxmanor and a meeting about school issues at WJ.  There will be many more WF2 planning meetings in the future.
  6. October 10 is the next meeting of the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee
  7. The County Executive’s office will soon release the DOT traffic study for the Pike District.
  8. On October 19, there will be a Transportation Update/Open House, including the Western Workaround, bikeways, BRT, and the Conference Center garage.  (We’ll give you more details as they are available.)
  9. BF Saul presented their plans for Building A on the East Side on Route 355.  We’ll do a whole blog post on their plans, including drawings very soon.

A brief primer on Bus Rapid Transit (BRT)

With the Transit Task Force public forum on September 30 and the recent release of the Transit Task Force Draft Report, there’s a lot of chatter online and in the real world about how MoCo creates, funds, and manages an RTS. So  I thought it would be helpful to write a quick blog post to provide some background on this complex topic.

What makes a Rapid Transit System (RTS), also known as Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) work the best?

Graphic from

Graphic from


Here’s one example of a successful BRT line. The 9.2 mile RTA HealthLine in Cleveland was financed primarily by the state of Ohio, the federal government and naming sponsorship from the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospital.  This BRT encouraged billions of dollars of redevelopment projects along the corridor, and in just three years, ridership has increased more than 60 percent over the bus routes that formerly ran along the corridor.

There are now 402 BRT corridors and bus lanes, stretching over 5,229 kilometers worldwide.  According to The City Fix, every day, in 195 cities across the globe, nearly 33 million people use bus rapid transit.  From 2004 to 2014, BRT nearly quadrupled in size, growing particularly fast in rapidly urbanizing countries such as China, Brazil, and Indonesia.

You can learn even more about BRT by reading one of our previous blog posts, Tell me again what this BRT-thing is all about?

141 cities around the world are currently planning or constructing new BRT systems.  Will MoCo be one of them?

What happened at last night’s Meeting on Schools and the White Flint 2/Rock Spring Master Plans

It was a packed house at WJ last night as Gwen Wright, Glenn Kreger, Nkosi Yearwood, and Pam Dunn from Montgomery  Planning and Bruce Crispell from MCPS carefully explained how they plan for schools and listened to passionate comments from the audience.

Councilmember Roger Berliner and Planning Board Chair Casey Anderson opened the meeting. They both reminded everyone that the Master Planning process for both White Flint 2 and Rock Spring are at the beginning stages and cheered this collaboration occurring at the front end of the process.

Here are some highlights from the very informative presentation.

The planning process is long and complex with a great deal of public engagement. A master plan includes land use and zoning recommendations, transit and bikeways, parks, schools, public safety/emergency services, and an implementation plan.  The White Flint 2 sector plan should go before the council for review and adoption in early 2017.

Enrollment growth in the WJ Cluster has been phenomenal. For example, Garrett Park ES has grown from 446 students in 2007 to 807 students this school year. WJ increased by 339 students. Total growth in the cluster from 2007 to 2015 resulted in an increase 1,242 of students.


Despite renovations and expansions in many of the cluster schools, projected enrollment numbers will result in schools bursting at the seams.. For example, Tilden MS is projected to have 1,200 students by 2020.  WJ is projected is to have 2,798 students by 2021, 463 more than its capacity.

Options for increasing school capacity include reopening a closed schools (Alta Vista, Montrose, Arylawn, Kensington), constructing a new school at a future school site (White Flint Mall site), purchasing land for a school, considering nontraditional options (urban designed school.)

The enrollment surge is caused by turnover of existing homes rather than new development. For example, a review of 4,934 high rise units in the WJ Cluster showed a student generation rate of .039 for elementary, .012 for middle, and .016 for high school. That means 100 units would generate 4 elementary school students. More specifically, PerSei yielded 4 elementary students, 0 middle school students, 1 high school student.

MCPS’s role in the master planning process includes providing student enrollment projects, requesting a school site be designated when justified, and providing data for use in the Subdivision Staging Policy. (SSP.)

SSP defines school adequacy and set the rules for conducting the Annual School Test for the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance. The kick off for the next SSP is October 16.

MCPS has redone how they calculate new student generation, now using real data. Fore example, multi family low to mid rise developments have a new student generation rate of .077.

A development impact tax is assessed on new residential and commercial buildings as well as additions to commercial buildings. This tax goes to MCPS and represents 90% of the cost of a student seat generated by a new unit. For example, a single-family detached home has a school impact tax of $26,827 and a multifamily high-rise unit has a school impact tax of $5,412. Last year the school impact tax raised $45 million and to date this year, has raised $32 million.

The School Facility Payment stays in the cluster and is triggered when schools are over 105% of capacity. In 2014, in the WJ Cluster, the School Facility Payment generated $237,600 and to date in 2015, $577,684.

Many of the questions and comments from the audience received applause and cheers. The room full of people clapped enthusiastically when a parent in the audience said he believed schools are getting too big to properly teach students and when another parent suggested that schools are going downhill. The question “Why aren’t we getting a new school each year from the impact taxes?” received great applause.

For another take on the meeting, here’s a Bethesda Beat article.

Recommendations of the Transit Task Force

Below you’ll find the Recommendations of the County Executive’s Transit Task Force Draft Report that was released yesterday.  You can read the full report here and learn more about the Transit Task Force here.  (You can testify at the September 30th  on the public forum on the Transit Task Force Draft Report by calling 240-777-7165.)

Bottom line, the 75-page report concludes that subject to a broad range of conditions and limitations that address labor, funding, and governance concerns,  the Task Force recommends the creation of a new transit authority empowered to develop and operate a Rapid Transit System. An RTS network will address critical transportation, economic, environmental and social needs in the County, and the faster we create a RTS, the better the County will be. The Task Force urges enabling legislation to be introduced in and adopted by the General Assembly.

More specifically, the Task Force recommends:

The enactment by the General Assembly of enabling legislation authorizing Montgomery County to establish a transit authority, subject to certain terms, provisions, conditions and limitations as listed below:

That the governing board of the transit authority consist of up to 7 members, appointed for staggered 4 year terms, with several suggested criteria for appointment.

That the County Council be authorized to establish special tax districts consisting either of the entire County or specifically defined areas within the County.

That the transit authority be authorized to impose special real property taxes within special tax districts, the revenues from which would be dedicated to the use of the transit authority for transit. The transit authority would impose such taxes and set tax rates annually, subject to the veto of the Council.  The maximum rate be set at 7¢ per $100 of assessed valuation.

That the transit authority be authorized to impose a new excise tax, taxing the privilege of leasing property defined as “commercial property” within the County. Revenues from such an excise tax would be dedicated to the use of the transit authority for transit functions assigned to it. The transit authority would impose such taxes and set tax rates annually, subject to the veto of the Council. The maximum rate be set at 30¢ per square foot of gross commercial space leased or being marketed for lease.

That all dedicated transit revenues be used only to fund transit authority activities.

That the transit authority be required to submit to the Council and Executive a multi-year capital improvement program, an annual capital budget and an annual operating budget, each of which shall be subject to the review and approval of the Council.

That the exercise by the transit authority of the power of eminent domain be subject to Council approval consistent with Title 12 of the Real Property Article of the State Code.

That the Council’s implementing legislation require the transit authority to submit to the Council annual independent financial audits and periodic management audits, to be published for public review, and adopt reasonable performance metrics for the transit corridors after they are operational.

That the Council subject the transit authority to County Ethics laws; to review of its personnel, functions and activities by the County’s Inspector General; to the County’s Open Government initiative, and to a requirement to develop and periodically report performance metrics.

That the transit authority be empowered to enter into interjurisdictional agreements to promote both inter-county and regional transit service, and authorized to enter into agreements with municipalities where appropriate.

That the County government consider whether it wishes to sponsor legislation for enactment by the General Assembly to authorize a one-half cent sales tax for Montgomery County, the principal and income of which to be used only to fund transit authority activities.

That all county employees who are or could be members of a collective bargaining unit under County law, including but not limited to Ride On and Department of General Services employees, will remain as County employees.

September 17 Meeting on Schools and the White Flint 2/Rock Spring Master Plans

This is a reminder about the 7:00 pm Thursday, September 17 meeting at Walter Johnson High School for the Rock Spring and White Flint 2 master plan efforts.  The Planning Department staff and staff from MCPS will spend the first part of the meeting describing how their agencies address schools in the planning process.  They will then take comments for thirty minutes before transitioning to smaller table discussions as show below.

The Planning staff is well aware of how important this issue is to the community.  That’s why they have begun the schools discussion early in the Rock Spring and White Flint 2 master plan efforts. Some in the community are already familiar with the process and have been actively engaged.  Other community members are not, and it is important for everyone to have a basic understanding of the process in order to provide effective input.  We hope that all attendees will be patient while they try to explain the process.

  1. Welcome and Introductions (Casey Anderson, Roger Berliner)- 10 minutes

  2. Purpose of Tonight’s Meeting (Gwen Wright, Glenn Kreger)-5 minutes

  3. Comprehensive (Master) Planning (Nkosi Yearwood)- 10 minutes

  4. School Facility Planning (Bruce Crispell)- 20 minutes

  5. APFO and the Regulatory Environment (Pam Dunn)- 15 minutes

  6. Comment Period-30 minutes

  7.  Individual Conversations with Staff @ 4 tables- 30 minutes

  8. Wrap-Up/Next Steps (Glenn Kreger)- 5 minutes

Rock Spring (Don Zeigler, Nancy Sturgeon)

White Flint 2 (Nkosi Yearwood, Andrea Gilles)

MCPS (Bruce Crispell)

APFO/Regulatory (Pam Dunn)

 RSVP to the meeting here.