Before you go into full Thanksgiving mode, take a minute and tell the County Executive to fund the second White Flint metro entrance

The County Executive’s Capital Improvements Program (CIP) is currently being developed and will be published by January 15, 2020. The CIP covers construction of all public buildings, roads, and other facilities planned by County public agencies over a six-year period. The County Council amends and approves the CIP budget by June 15.

The second entrance to the White Flint metro station is planned for the corner of Old Georgetown Road and Rockville Pike. Initial projections show that the second entrance will increase the number of passengers using the White Flint station by 50 percent over the next 25 years. It vastly increases the number of people and businesses that would be able to walk to metro (generally considered to be a half-mile around the entrance to a station.)

Will you please email County Executive Marc Elrich this week to ask him to include design and build funding for the second metro entrance in his recommended CIP budget?

You can email him at Marc.Elrich@montgomerycountymd.gov. Please copy Peter.Fosselman@montgomerycountymd.gov and Ken.Hartman@montgomerycountymd.gov and info@whiteflint.org.

Here’s some text you can use (although feel free to modify or add to it, of course.)

Your vision statement prioritizes easier commutes, a greener county, and a growing economy. The essential second entrance to the White Flint metro station will help alleviate traffic, improve sustainability, and attract businesses and residents to the White Flint area. Please include funding to design and build the second entrance to the White Flint metro station in the 2021 CIP so that the Pike District/White Flint neighborhood can fulfill the vision of the White Sector plan and transform into a vibrant, walkable, transit-oriented community. Thank you.

You can also communicate with the County Executive on Twitter — https://twitter.com/Marc_Elrich — or call him at 240-777-0311.

Council Panel Pushes To Keep Money for Metrorail Station Improvements

From Bethesda Beat

A Montgomery County Council committee wants funding for station improvements at the Forest Glen and White Flint Metrorail stations to remain a priority in the county’s construction-projects budget.

County Executive Marc Elrich last month recommended deferring $14.7 million from the White Flint and Forest Glen stations projects and pursuing funding from the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority, which operates the regional subway system. Elrich recommended delaying funding for Forest Glen by two years and deferring funding for White Flint beyond the six-year period that the Capital Improvements Program budget covers.

But council Transportation and Environment committee members Tom Hucker, Hans Riemer, Evan Glass and Andrew Friedson indicated that they would not accept the Elrich’s amendments to the CIP budget, which the council is reviewing.

“We need to be prepared to pay for this ourselves,” Riemer said.

Riemer said the station improvement was key to “changing the dynamic” at White Flint in order to spur additional economic development. He said there are plans for transit-oriented development in the corridor and the station improvements are essential.

“It’s in our interest to get those projects completed, because it’s gonna enhance their [WMATA] ridership and there will be greater density around those stations,” Reimer said

Councilmember Andrew Friedson, whose council district includes White Flint, said a lack of county funding for the White Flint entrance sends the wrong message to private sector companies that the county hopes to attract. “Symbols do matter and actions do matter,” he said.

Read the full article on Bethesda Beat.

Extraordinary Mention of our WMATA Advocacy Campaign in The Washington Post

I want to make sure you saw this article in The Washington Post. It’s quite wonderful. Robert Thomson (Dr. Gridlock) spends half his piece directly quoting the Friends of White Flint letter to WMATA which I had also sent to the Transportation Planning Board. After the link to the article, you’ll find the part of his story that mentions us.

Thank you all for your dedication and help fighting service cutbacks to the White Flint metro station.

I saw one example of local concern at Wednesday’s meeting of the Transportation Planning Board. The regional panel has been discussing Metro’s service and budget problems for months. On Wednesday, the board acknowledged receipt of a letter from the Friends of White Flint, a civic and business coalition in Montgomery County that’s focused on turning the area along Rockville Pike into a walkable, bikeable, transit-friendly “neighborhood of residents of all ages, unique shops and restaurants, and large and small businesses.”

With Metro in a tight spot financially, leaders of the White Flint group look with alarm on the proposals for service cuts and fare increases that the Metro board is likely to vote on in March. They expressed their concerns in the letter, stating first what they’ve staked on their community development effort. “Hundreds of millions of dollars are being invested in this area by dozens of property owners and by Montgomery County, and significant additional investment is planned over the next 20 years.” Like so many communities across the D.C. region, they’re hoping that Metrorail service will leverage their investment: “A central tenet of the Pike District/White Flint redevelopment is easy access to transit, primarily Metrorail.”

“We use Metro to get to jobs, homes, and entertainment, and we believe Metro is an indispensable part of our community,” the group wrote. “It is because we believe in Metro that we are convinced that service cutbacks as described in WMATA’s proposed budget would be extraordinarily damaging to not just the White Flint/Pike District area but also the entire metropolitan area.”

Councilmember Berliner Suggests Metro Sell Its White Flint Property

As reported on Bethesda Beat:

County Council President Roger Berliner on Thursday urged the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to sell the land it owns and to use the money to improve the beleaguered system Metro system.

In a letter to Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld, Berliner said WMATA controls what may be the most valuable properties in the county, the sites of the Bethesda and White Flint Metro stations.

“Both properties could be sold, rather than leased, for substantial funds,” Berliner wrote.

In Bethesda, Brookfield Office Properties has a ground lease above the Metro station. The company plans to build a high-rise at the site once the county completes work on the Bethesda Sector Plan.

At White Flint, LCOR has been selected as the site’s master developer, Berliner’s letter said. But LCOR has failed to move forward with 4.5 million square feet of envisioned development just north of the station on Rockville Pike, he said.

In addition to generating revenue from the sale of the land, development of the properties would increase jobs and Metro ridership, Berliner said. “If you can create revenue, and riders, and help local governments create jobs, that’s the trifecta. And that’s growth,” Berliner said in a telephone interview.

Neither LCOR nor WMATA responded to requests for comment.

Berliner said the letter followed a private meeting in November with Wiedefeld and Nina Albert, WMATA’s real estate director.

“I think we’re in sync, but I look forward to their response,” he said.

If Metro sells its land, the agency would create confidence that it is maximizing its assets, especially when Metro is asking the public for higher fares and greater tax support, Berliner said.

Berliner said that part of the problem is that the federal government insists that if WMATA sells land, the money goes toward capital projects, but if WMATA leases land, the money can go to operating costs. The federal government needs to reconsider the distinction, he said.

“If we want to find money for Metro and to try to stem all these ridership losses, the broad concept is we should be doing as much as we can to use the land that Metro has,” Berliner said.

Berliner said WMATA’s real estate holdings at the Bethesda and White Flint Metro stations could bring in tens of millions of dollars. Earlier this month, Metro forecasts put the subway system’s needs at $1 billion over three years.

“Last time I checked, millions help,” Berliner said.

WMATA considering reduced service at White Flint metro

This is something we want to keep an eye on.

WMATA projects that its future operating costs will outpace revenues. (No news there.) To close the gap, WMATA is considering a variety of options, including closing White Flint station during off-peak hours, decreasing how often trains run, and cutting some bus routes.

wmata

 

According to WMATA’s  FY2018 Operating Budget Prep Session,rail service reductions would allow for a matching of service to current levels of demand or to realities of ongoing maintenance. Metro’s current service standards call for maximum headways of six minutes during the peak at all stations except Arlington Cemetery. By providing six-minute service at terminal stations such as Vienna and Glenmont, riders at most closer-in stations see a train every three minutes (e.g., on the Orange/Silver Lines east of West Falls Church, or on the Red Line between Silver Spring and Grosvenor). Given current lower levels of demand, Metro could increase maximum headways from six to eight minutes, so that riders at the closer-in stations would instead have service every four minutes. In the off-peak (particularly on weekends), Metro is not achieving scheduled service levels due to interruptions for maintenance requirements. Weekend schedules could be officially modified to account for this work and better align scheduled service and associated staffing levels to the service actually provided. Metro could also consider offpeak (midday, evening, weekend) closures of stations with low ridership.

Read more on Greater Greater Washington blog from yesterday.