Seth Morgan, a graduate student in urban planning at Florida State University who grew up in Montgomery County, delivered a paper on White Flint at last week’s national conference of the American Planning Association. The Abstract of Morgan’s paper says:
In an era of increasing emphasis on transportation sustainability, one community has taken a longstanding tradition of transportation oriented development and applied it towards a highly auto-centric suburb. The White Flint area, located in Montgomery County, MD outside Washington, DC, is home to a major regional shopping mall, strip commercial, light industrial and some more recent condominium high rises. At the center of this district is a heavy rail station providing rapid access to central Washington and nearby transit oriented development nodes. Here, Montgomery County planners seek to prove that intensive transit oriented development can work in highly unfavorable circumstances. This paper will evaluate the likely effectiveness of the White Flint plan in the regional context, with a focus on what transit oriented development has meant thus far for the national capital region.
The paper was drafted in 2009, before the final Council action on the White Flint Plan, so the conclusions are general, rather than specific:
VII. The Significance of White Flint
White Flint is not really a groundbreaking development for Montgomery County. The finished product of this development will not vary greatly in form from what has already been done or is being done at nearby metro stations such as Silver Spring, Bethesda or Rockville. The true implication of White Flint is that with the appropriate transportation infrastructure, transit oriented development can be accomplished in virtually any type of commercial district. Arguments are frequently made that the urban environment is largely set in its current form for the foreseeable future, and that auto-oriented land uses do not lend themselves easily to more transit-oriented uses (Downs, 2004, pp. 202). What Montgomery County has proven by moving forward with this project is that, at the very least, there is private sector interest in transit oriented development even in highly auto-centric districts.
The paper is available here: White Flint paper