Archives April 2016

Genuinely Interesting Info from Last Night’s BRT Open House

Below you’ll find ten of the informational boards from last night’s MTA/SHA/Montgomery County BRT Open House at BCC High School. (There is one more open house on Tuesday, May 3 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM at Gaithersburg High School. )  At the Open House, a wide variety of state and county rapid transit experts were available to answer questions and gather public opinions. You can see all of the information provided and learn more about this BRT process at http://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/RTS/md355openhouses.html.

Here are two quick interesting Rapid Transit facts from last night’s presentations. Non-work trips account for 88% of overall existing travel along Route 355. Projected increases by 2040 along Route 355: population up 33%, employment up 31%, traffic up by 20%, peak period travel time increases by 30%

Look at the final image to find out how you can tell the BRT planners what you think about BRT along Route 355.

 

 

See you tonight at our Community/Board Meeting

Please attend the Community/Board Meeting tonight, April 27th, at 6:30 pm at the Shriver Aquatic Center, 5900 Executive Blvd, Rockville, MD 20852.  The agenda is below, but here is a quick summary.  Property owners, government officials, and others will be presenting and showing drawings of upcoming development projects.
6:30            Call to Order
6:31            Approval of Minutes (Amy Ginsburg)
6:35            Financial Report (Eric Grosse)
6:40            Update on White Flint/Pike District Development
  1. Gables (Eddie Meder)
  2. Saul Centers West (Brian Downie)
  3. Pike & Rose Phase 2 (Jay Corballis)
  4. Transportation Projects (Bruce Johnston)
  5. Conference Center Garage (Tina Benjamin)
7:15            Update on White Flint 2 (Nkosi Yearwood)
7:20            How the White Flint area is faring in the CIP and Operating Budgets
  1. Montrose Parkway (Bruce Johnston)
  2. BRT (Francine Waters)
  3. Fire Station (Dee Metz)
  4. Wall Park Garage (Eddie Meder)
7:40            SHA/MCDOT Pedestrian Safety Project (Amy Ginsburg)
7:45            Montrose Parkway East (Ed Rich)
7:55            New board member to replace Amber Tedesco (Amy Ginsburg)
8:00            Adjourn

It’s not just MoCo who is looking at BRT — so is our competition across the river

Officials are proposing a bus rapid transit system along Route 7, connecting Tysons Corner and Alexandria. Planners estimate the BRT system could attract about 10,000 daily riders as it passes through 11 miles of Tysons, Falls Church, Seven Corners, Bailey’s Crossroads, Mark Center, and Alexandria.

Falls Church City Councilman Dave Snyder said, “We’re trying to be realistic. In the areas where the highway has the capacity, we will do [dedicated lanes]. But in areas like the city of Falls Church and parts of Alexandria, it is just simply not feasible because those roads are already two lanes in each direction.”

181024

Also, the Crystal City Potomac Yard Transitway officially opened recently, upgrading Metroway bus service to bona fide bus rapid transit in Arlington.  Arlington’s Transitway section includes a new all-day dedicated transit lane in Potomac Yard, a peak period transit lane in Crystal City, and seven new transit stations.

Metroway runs between Pentagon City and Braddock Road Metro stations. For much of its route between Crystal City and Potomac Yard, it runs in dedicated bus lanes, making it the Washington region’s first real foray into BRT.    The Alexandria portion of the transitway opened in 2014. Arlington’s portion through Crystal City opened April 17.

Montgomery County  must not let Virginia get the jump on Rapid Transit. Just like BRT can help solve Virginia’s transportation problems, rapid transit can have a significant impact on traffic and life in the Pike District.

NRC Staying in White Flint!

Here’s some great news for the Pike District. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission just renewed its lease with Lerner Enterprises for Two White Flint. The NRC has been based there for more than two decades. The building is owned by a partnership between Lerner Enterprises and the Tower Cos.   On Tuesday, the GSA signed a full-building lease renewal, which totals 348,000-square-feet, for the NRC headquarters.

“We are very pleased to continue our relationship with the General Services Administration and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  Two White Flint North has long been one of the premier commercial properties in Montgomery County, and we are thrilled that the GSA and NRC have recognized this in extending their lease.  We look forward to continuing to provide the NRC with a first-class home for many years to come,” stated Mark D. Lerner, a principal of Lerner.

You can read more about the NRC lease renewal at the Washington Business Journal and at Morningstar.

357858

 

Montrose Parkway East

SHA/MCDOT want to extend Montrose Parkway to Parklawn Drive. Supporters of Friends of White Flint have differing opinions on this road. They’ve expressed opinions that range from “needed road to bring traffic from the east” to “good idea but a terrible SPUI intersection that needs to be changed” or “over my dead body will that road be built.”

Yesterday, the Coalition for Smarter Growth sent out an alert concerning funding (or more accurately, not funding) Montrose Parkway. I want to share it with you, in case there are Friends of White Flint supporters who want to participate in their email campaign urging the County Council  “to properly fund our school and transit needs, not the Montrose Parkway East extension.”  Here is the CSG alert.

Stop a highway, save a school

Badly-needed school funding, or an unneeded new highway in walkable White Flint: which should Montgomery County fund?

Before Thursday’s County Council hearing on the budget, tell councilmembers to properly fund our school and transit needs, not the Montrose Parkway East extension.

Send an email »

With the latest price tag clocking in at $140 million for just 8,000 feet, extending Montrose Parkway is an expensive boondoggle and incompatible with the walkable White Flint plan.

What’s a better use for this $140 million ($90 million in this six-year capital improvement program)? Properly funding new school construction and bus rapid transit.

We don’t want a new Montrose Parkway East undermining a walkable, transit-friendly White Flint. What we do want are top quality schools for our children and modern transit to attract and retain top employers, like Marriott, and the revenue they generate.

In tough fiscal times, we should put our tax dollars where they can do the most good: schools and transit, not the Montrose Parkway East extension.

This past January, Coalition for Smarter Growth supporters like you spoke up when County Executive Leggett’s budget contained over $300 million dollars for new roads and nothing for bus rapid transit or near term bus improvements. The County Executive heard you and committed funds to both. We know the power our community has when we speak up. Tell the County Council to fund schools and transit, not the Montrose Parkway East extension.

Send an email now»

Thanks for all that you do,
Coalition for Smarter Growth

Pike District Discussed in National Magazine

The Commercial Real Estate Development Association published an article “Retail Streetscape Redevelopment” that featured the Pike District in their spring magazine. (You can read the part about the White Flint area below.)

Landowners Come Together in Maryland

rendering of street view

Property owners in the White Flint sector of Montgomery County, Maryland’s Rockville Pike corridor have proposed turning part of “the Pike” — now a typical suburban commercial strip highway — into a walkable boulevard, and have created a special revenue district to help fund the transformation.
White Flint Sector Plan, Montgomery County Planning Department

Two hundred miles to the south, Montgomery County, Maryland’s Rockville Pike is well-known in the National Capital Region for its miles of shopping centers and traffic congestion. The White Flint sector of “the Pike” is a 430-acre area along both sides of the corridor.

The owners of major retail outlets in the White Flint neighborhood started making plans for redevelopment more than a decade ago. What made this effort different from others was that several large, independent owners decided to work together and with the county to transform the streetscape. They proposed turning a key part of the Pike into a walkable boulevard and eliminating over 80 percent of their surface parking spaces. The Rockville Pike makeover is a jumbo-sized example of a retail streetscape renovation.

The renovated Pike — as envisaged by these property owners, the community and the county — will have a landscaped center median wide enough for two lanes of bus rapid transit (BRT). The renovation will put utilities underground and add hundreds of new trees. A majority of the owners, led by Federal Realty Investment Trust, The JBG Companies and Lerner Enterprises, voted to raise about $100 million for streetscape improvements in the public right-of-way using a special revenue district. The district framework will allocate increased property tax receipts to pay for the streetscape renovation. The developers will invest well over $1 billion more in public space and streetscape improvements on their own land, in mall renovations and in new commercial and residential construction.

Montgomery County’s plans for the sector provide for the separation of local traffic from regional traffic on the new Pike and for the expansion of the adjacent street network. All streets will be “complete streets” designed to be used safely by cyclists, pedestrians and transit riders as well as motorists. The plans envision a mixed-use neighborhood with public spaces.

While the plans also call for BRT, the county acknowledges that the funds for it are not yet in hand or even identified. The county says that while BRT on the Pike may be an early part of the project, the entire BRT project will take 20 to 30 years and will cost much more than the streetscape renovation.

Federal Realty Investment Trust has completed the first phase of its mall reconstruction, a walkable mixed-use development known as Pike & Rose, and is starting the next phase. JBG has multiple projects open or under construction. The county has received and approved many proposals for additional development in the sector plan area.

Part of the sector plan met a bump in the road when Lerner Enterprises, owner of White Flint Mall, lost a suit brought by a tenant over the closing of the mall for redevelopment. As of press time the case remains under appeal.

Evan Goldman, a vice president at Federal Realty, was the public face of the effort to win support for the special revenue district and streetscape renovation, which included a social media campaign. Most of the nearby neighborhood associations have become supportive of the project. Goldman’s advice to other owners and developers is “Don’t underestimate neighbors’ desires for really great communities.”

Streetscape renovations can turn a corridor into a “place” by improving land values, connecting sidewalks to storefronts and improving the value proposition for retailers. Retail streetscape redevelopment is also good for local governments. The new business activity creates revenues for the municipality from higher property tax, sales tax and income tax receipts, without new taxes or a general rate increase. Goldman estimates that Montgomery County will collect at least $6 billion in additional tax revenues in the next 35 years as a result of the Pike makeover.

Owners and developers elsewhere could use a similar approach to finance streetscape renovations in their own communities. Goldman notes that “If a few owners control much of the property in a neighborhood, and if they have a record of working together, the chances are better that they could pull off a project on the scale of the Rockville Pike makeover.” It helped that the Rockville Pike developers were well-capitalized, had some major leases expiring in properties that were showing their age and had a commitment to the region, but these factors are not all required. A clear lesson from the Hackensack and Rockville Pike stories is that the streetscape redevelopment model, combined with innovative financing, offers commercial property owners and developers an excellent opportunity for leadership — and for increasing the value of their own properties.

What the Downtown Advisory Committee Meeting Discussed Last Week

The White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee met last week for their monthly meeting, and here’s what they discussed.

Ken Hartman, Director of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Center, reported that crews have been working on cleaning up the medians and other areas in the Pike District.  He also reported that the Western Montgomery Citizens Advisory Board met at the Shriver Aquatic Center last month.

Dee Metz, White Flint Coordinator in the County Executive’s office, said that the Conference Center Garage goes for mandatory referral May 12.  SHA agreed to off-road separated bike lanes on Towne Road with an FY18 construction start date.  The Western Workaround is projected to be completed in 2020.

Peggy Schwartz of the Transportation Management District reminded everyone that Bike to Work day is May 20. There are 83 pit stops, including 12 in Montgomery County and an expected 15,000 participants.

Nkosi Yearwood, a Planner at Montgomery Planning Department, said the Saul Centers West Phase One Site Plan will come before the planning board on June 2.

Committee Chairman Brian Downie, said County Executive Ike Leggett got an update on the Downtown Advisory Committee.

Cliff Cohen, Chair of the Strategic Planning Committee, reported that the business improvement district legislation didn’t get out of committee at the state legislature.  Next year, he suggested, we will need to better educate delegates, especially the MoCo delegation, about the need for new business improvement legislation. He added that there are other Bethesda Urban Partnership-like entities across Maryland which lessens the demand for the legislation.  The strategic planning committee will work on determining what services we need in the White Flint area.

Brian Downie said that the Urban Land Institute Technical Assistance Panel had many interesting, innovative ideas. The panel took a tour of the area, held a roundtable discussion, hunkered down to discuss how to brand and identify the area, and asked for additional information via email before presenting their thoughts on how to create an identity for the Pike District.  The panel ended up focusing on the spine of the area, Rockville Pike, rather than being concerned with the borders of the area. The panel suggested that the White Flint area be broken down around major developments and intersections.  Whimsical artwork on the Montrose Parkway bridge is one example of what could be done to visually identify this area. The goal is to create gathering places, focusing on Route 355 first then branching out.  The ULI staff will write the final report which will be done in a few months, then the Advisory committee will start to work on implementation. The panel had suggested the White Flint Partnership be a leader in the implementation, but Brian suggested this needs a great deal more thought since community support and lots of public/private partnerships will be critical to its success.

Tom Murphy, Chair of the Communications Committee, said that the Advisory committee participated in the BCC Chamber Big Event. The committee will include a postcard with Fall Fest and Pike District information in all Pikes Peak materials to promote the area.

Francine Waters, Chair of the Fall Fest Committee, said that the committee is working hard to make the Fall Fest a great kick-off event, including food trucks, the Nighthawks, volunteers from WJ High School, and other all-age activities.

Are you coming to our April Community/Board Meeting?

Wednesday, April 27, 6:30 pm to 8:00 pm  Shriver Aquatic Center
Agenda:
  1. Update on White Flint/Pike District Development (each presentation will include photos and details of the projects)
  • Gables (Eddie Meder)
  • Saul Centers West (Brian Downie)
  • East Village (Rob Eisinger)
  • Pike & Rose Phase 2 (Jay Corbalis)
  • Western Workaround (Dee Metz)
  • Conference Center Garage (Dee Metz)
2. Update on White Flint 2 (Nkosi Yearwood)
3. How the White Flint area is faring in the CIP and Operating Budgets
  • Montrose Parkway (Dee Metz)
  • BRT (Francine Waters)
  • Fire Station (Dee Metz)
  • Wall Park Garage (Eddie Meder)
4. Update on SHA/MCDOT Pedestrian Safety Project
5. Thank you to Amber Tedesco who will be resigning from the board and appointment of new board member to finish Amber’s term

Bus Rapid Transit is Gaining Traction Across the Country

In an article on Governing, Wes Guskert, President and CEO of The Traffic Group, declared that rapid transit has most of the benefits of light rail at a fraction of the cost.  He writes that ” BRT usually costs 20 percent of a light rail system but can capture 80-85 percent of those who would ride light rail.”

The article also notes that a rapid transit system has all of the amenities of modern rail, including Wi-Fi, level boarding and off-vehicle payment systems while retaining vital flexibility.

Nationally, BRT has resulted in a 400 percent return on investment along transit corridors. The thriving HealthLine BRT in Cleveland delivered more than $4.8 billion in economic development, $114.54 for every dollar spent on the line.

When you look at the data, rapid transit down Route 355 appears to be both a smart money move and smart transit move.