Updates to the County’s Pedestrian Master Plan

(The plan isn’t pedestrian but it is all about pedestrians.)

Pedestrian Shortcut Map

For the past several months, the Planning Department has promoted a Pedestrian Shortcut Map on their project website. This map is an effort to understand the shortcuts that pedestrians take that aren’t sidewalks or trails. To date, they have received over 500 contributions from community members identifying lines where they walk through the grass, dirt, or gravel to get where they’re going as quickly as possible. This map is still open for your contributions.

The project team will review the submissions and eventually include a list of master-planned pedestrian connections as part of the Pedestrian Master Plan. Master-planning these shortcut connections will make it easier to upgrade them to more formal sidewalks or trails through private development or the public capital improvement program process.

Pedestrian Preferences Survey in the Field

One important part of the data collection phase of the Pedestrian Master Plan is improving our understanding of how often and for what reasons people are walking and rolling in Montgomery County. While the Census provides information on how people commute to work and traffic counts conducted as part of development projects collect pedestrian data at specific locations, we do not have a comprehensive understanding of the extent of pedestrian travel in the County.

At the end of this month, postcards will go out to thousands of households in the county directing recipients to complete a survey about their pedestrian travel habits. This statistically valid survey will provide insights into how people in different parts of the county get around on foot and using mobility devices. Questions focus on how often and for what purposes people are walking and what changes would encourage them to walk more, so the project team can make sure plan recommendations are tailored to increase the number of people walking.

Final Days to Participate in Montgomery County’s Vision Zero Survey

Montgomery County’s Vision Zero program, which seeks to eliminate serious and fatal traffic crashes, is gathering the ideas of residents to improve safety for walking, biking, rolling and driving. Let’s make sure White Flint viewpoints are represented: take the survey today.

The survey will close on Sunday, Aug. 9. It was launched on June 18 as part of developing a strategic plan that will guide the County toward reaching its Vision Zero goals by 2030.

“Our County is large and diverse, so achieving Vision Zero will look very different in places like Downtown Silver Spring than it will in Germantown or than it will in Damascus,” said County Executive Marc Elrich. “That is why we need to hear from our residents on their needs and ideas for improving transportation safety in their neighborhoods. This online survey will be one of many opportunities for residents to share their views.”

The survey will take an average of five to seven minutes to complete. The results will help shape future Vision Zero activities. The survey can be found at https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/visionzero/2030plan.html .

For more information about the County’s Vision Zero program, go to the program’s website at https://www.montgomerycountymd.gov/visionzero/

Take the Vision Zero Community Survey

Help Montgomery County eliminate serious and fatal traffic crashes in the coming decade! The County is creating a 10-year Vision Zero strategy and needs your input to make it happen.

Please take the Vision Zero Community Survey so the White Flint/Pike District is represented and include specific improvements you’d like to see in our community. The deadline is August 10.

To learn more about the county’s current Vision Zero efforts read the current Plan. If you have any questions or feedback on their efforts, email them at visionzero@montgomerycountymd.gov.

Tell the Planning Department about your favorite Pike District cut-throughs.

Do you use a cut-through to get to your destination faster? If so, the Planning Board wants to hear about it. Use their new online pedestrian shortcut map to tell them! Your feedback will help them make recommendations for the Pedestrian Master Plan. We know there are lots of them in the White Flint area.

The map is part of the county’s first Pedestrian Master Plan aimed at making walking and rolling safer, more comfortable, convenient and accessible for pedestrians of all ages and abilities in all parts of the county. It is also an effort to understand what informal pedestrian connections – apparent in trodden grass, dirt or gravel on public or private property – exist in Montgomery County.

A public draft of the Complete Streets Design Guide is now available for review.

Montgomery County is developing a new approach to designing county roads using a concept called Complete Streets, roadways that are designed and operated to provide safe, accessible, and healthy travel for all users of the roadway system, including pedestrians, bicyclists, transit riders, and motorists. On a Complete Street, it is intuitive and safe to cross the street, walk to shops, and bicycle to school. Click to read the newly released Complete Streets Design Guide.

  1. Safety – maximize safety for all (pedestrians, bicyclists, and motor vehicles),
  2. Sustainability – enhance ecological functions and economic appeal of a streetscape, and
  3. Vitality – create streets that are great, dynamic places.

Schedule

In July, a formal public hearing will be provided by the Montgomery County Planning Board with additional opportunity for public comment. Planning Board work sessions will follow in September, with transmission to the County Council for their review anticipated in January 2021.

Contacts

For more information, you are encouraged to contact either of the two co-Project Managers listed below:
Montgomery Planning – Steve Aldrich (301) 495-4528 Email
Montgomery County DOT – Andrew Bossi (240) 777-7200  Email

District 16 Delegation Asks for Route 355 Crosswalk Repairs

In a recent letter to the State Highway Administration, Senator Susan Lee and Delegates Mark Korman, Ariana Kelly, and Sara Love wrote:

… In recent months, we have received increased reports of crosswalks along MD 355 that are in need of maintenance. In the attached document, we have compiled a list of crosswalks that warrant your office’s attention. The document catalogs every crosswalk along MD 355 that is in need of either A) new paint,B) stripes added, or in some cases, both. The pictures in the document are current as of January 2020. Consistent with SHA’s own recommendations laid out in the Context Driven guide, we encourage the addition of “continental” crosswalks because they are more visible to motorists than the standard parallel lines. Additionally, the continental stripes indicate to pedestrians where to cross safely.

Thank you, delegation from District 16, for staying on top of this important pedestrian safety issues, and we look forward to seeing those new and improved crosswalks from SHA.

Here are are few images from their document, and you can see all the crosswalks by clicking here. (The White Flint/Pike District section begins on page 19.) Because of the advocacy of Friends of White Flint, the intersections of Route 355 and Nicholson Lane, Marinelli Street, and Old Georgetown Road already have freshly painted crosswalks with stripes.

How is MoCo Doing on Pedestrian Safety?

Adam Pagnucco wrote a terrific analysis in The Seventh State about spending on pedestrian safety projects and the impact of that spending. The entire article is below, but if you only have a couple of minutes, here are the sentences Friends of White Flint thinks is most important. This analysis argues for smarter, lighter, quicker, faster projects to enhance pedestrian safety in the Pike District and across Montgomery County. (See our blog post from Feb. 12)

MoCo’s spending on pedestrian and bikeway projects steadily accelerated from $44 million in the FY7-12 CIP to $225 million in the FY19-24 CIP.  Major projects like the Metropolitan Branch Trail, the MD-355 BRAC crossing and the Capital Crescent Trail are partially responsible for these increases.  However, the FY21-26 executive recommended budget is a step back.  The six-year total pedestrian and bikeway spending of $181 million is the lowest since the FY13-18 amended budget.  So is the percentage of the total capital budget accounted for by pedestrian and bikeway projects.

MoCo spends a lot of money on pedestrian projects, but is the county getting a good return?  A 2007 county council press release states that the county averaged 430 pedestrian collisions per year from 2003 through 2006.  The Maryland Department of Transportation estimates that the county averaged 459 pedestrian crashes from 2014 through 2018.  Between the two periods, the county’s population rose by 13% while its pedestrian crashes rose by 7%.  Is that a sufficiently positive result from the enormous sums the county has spent in recent years?  Given the significant needs in this area and the limited resources in the capital budget, the county may wish to study the most cost-effective ways of promoting pedestrian safety and direct its funding accordingly.

From The Seventh State by Adam Pagnucco

Pedestrian safety is arguably THE hottest issue in MoCo government right now.  With several recent high profile pedestrian deaths and residents swarming a county council meeting on the subject, alarmed elected officials are terming pedestrian crashes a “public health crisis” and demanding action.  The county has responded by hiring a full-time pedestrian safety coordinator and is promising more to come.

Pedestrian safety has been a challenge in Montgomery County for decades.  How well is the county doing on this issue?

First, let’s look at MoCo’s rate of pedestrian involved crashes in comparison to the rest of the state.  The table below, sourced from data provided by the Maryland Department of Transportation, compares the average annual number of pedestrian crashes by county to county populations.

Three of the top four counties on a per capita basis – Baltimore City, Baltimore County and Prince George’s County – are among the most urbanized jurisdictions in the state.  The other county in the top four – Worcester – has an unusual amount of pedestrian activity on the Ocean City boardwalk.  MoCo ranks 7th of 24 counties on crash rate but its average annual crash rate per 1,000 residents (0.44) is below the state average (0.54).  Admittedly, the state average is skewed upwards by Baltimore City.

It’s interesting that MoCo’s pedestrian crash rate is similar to less urbanized jurisdictions like Wicomico, Dorchester and Washington Counties.  Urbanized counties should have greater volumes of pedestrian activity because of a greater abundance of walkable districts.  MoCo certainly has more of those than Wicomico, Dorchester and Washington Counties.  That suggests that MoCo isn’t a relatively bad performer on this measure given its substantial (and increasing) urbanization.

One thing MoCo does is spend significant amounts of capital money on pedestrian projects.  The table below compares capital budget spending on pedestrian and bikeway projects (the two are one category) to total capital spending excluding the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission in the last 16 Capital Improvements Program (CIP) budgets. 

MoCo’s spending on pedestrian and bikeway projects steadily accelerated from $44 million in the FY7-12 CIP to $225 million in the FY19-24 CIP.  Major projects like the Metropolitan Branch Trail, the MD-355 BRAC crossing and the Capital Crescent Trail are partially responsible for these increases.  However, the FY21-26 executive recommended budget is a step back.  The six-year total pedestrian and bikeway spending of $181 million is the lowest since the FY13-18 amended budget.  So is the percentage of the total capital budget accounted for by pedestrian and bikeway projects.

All of this gives rise to two questions.

1.  MoCo spends a lot of money on pedestrian projects, but is the county getting a good return?  A 2007 county council press release states that the county averaged 430 pedestrian collisions per year from 2003 through 2006.  The Maryland Department of Transportation estimates that the county averaged 459 pedestrian crashes from 2014 through 2018.  Between the two periods, the county’s population rose by 13% while its pedestrian crashes rose by 7%.  Is that a sufficiently positive result from the enormous sums the county has spent in recent years?  Given the significant needs in this area and the limited resources in the capital budget, the county may wish to study the most cost-effective ways of promoting pedestrian safety and direct its funding accordingly.

2.  As noted above, the executive’s new recommended capital budget decreases pedestrian and bikeway spending to its lowest level in seven years.  One reason for that is that the overall level of capital spending is declining.  (That’s a subject for a future series.)  With all areas of the capital budget under stress and the looming possibility that school construction delays will trigger residential moratoriums, it’s extremely difficult to add or even maintain funding for any program, not just pedestrian and bikeway projects.  That said, county elected officials will look terrible if they declare pedestrian safety to be a “public health crisis” but then cut funding for pedestrian and bikeway capital projects.

Overall, MoCo’s record on pedestrian safety is not a bad one when compared to the rest of Maryland.  But funding constraints could hinder its prospects for improvement.