Archives January 2014

What is “Driving” New York and D.C. to have the Smallest Share of Cars?

In our effort to make White Flint a walkable community, we like to find examples of trends or models throughout the United States and globally from which we can learn. Recently, it seems many other urban areas around the United States are also noticing a trend in their communities, declining presence of cars as their main means of transportation.

In a recent article by Derek Thompson, of The Atlantic, Thompson states that New York City and D.C. have the top two “highest share of non-car households in America”, with Boston and Philadelphia close behind, according to the University of Michigan’s Transportation Research Institute. These four cities have something in common: they are known for having relatively good public transportation, which allows residents to rely more on this than a car. But is this the real reason behind the decline in car-use? It is most definitely a factor but even more striking is the overwhelming presence of the millennial generation in these cities. Young, recent college graduates flock to these cities because of the amazing job opportunities and amenities available to them. As we mentioned in past posts, D.C. has become the “millennial capital” of US, something White Flint hopes to capitalize on with its new residences, retail stores and its proximity to public transportation. As groups of people flock to cities, these cities must provide infrastructure that can support them and allow them to thrive. That is why public transportation in cities like New York and D.C. must be effective, which in turn creates smart and productive places. When a city has an effective public transportation system, cars become “an expensive nice-to-have rather than a have-to-have.”

Though this trend may be true for our neighbors (D.C.), can urban areas around Montgomery County begin to see a decline in car-use too?   We certainly have many residents that would prefer option to get around beyond the car.  Our hope is that White Flint residents will not rely so heavily on cars as their means for travel. Many of their goods and services will be readily available to them in a walkable and safe community without the need for a car.

The Power of Walkability: A Town’s Million Pound Loss

TED Talks recently released a video from April 2013 of Mick Cornett, the mayor of Oklahoma City, discussing the healthy transformation his city recently experienced. Mayor Cornett speaks about how his city, once named by Men’s Health Magazine as one of the fattest cities in America, was able to lose a collective million pounds through the use of a few strategies. Cornett mentions that focusing on sidewalks connecting services and amenities throughout the city was a huge factor in this amazing transformation. We hope that the sidewalks and walkable areas in White Flint will inspire healthy changes among our residents, as well!

Please enjoy this video and share any and all thoughts!

 

Celebrate Valentine’s Early at Paladar Latin Kitchen

 

From our friends at Paladar Latin Kitchen:

Paladar Latin Kitchen & Rum Bar

WPFW 89.3 AM’s own Robyn Holden and Carol Tyson will be broadcasting live from Paladar on Friday, February 7th from 7-10pm. Joining them will be special guest, Jim Byers, from the Latin Flavor.

But, wait – that’s not all!
The talented Laura Sosa & Pa’ Gozar Latin jazz band are providing musical entertainment from 7:30 – 8:30 while Ron Abuelo shares complimentary rum samples. (Click here for a sample track.)
There is no admission cost to this event, and our happy hour drink and food menu is available throughout the evening in the bar area.

Early reservations are available between 7 and 7:30pm and again beginning at 9pm. We are expecting a full crowd, so reservations are highly encouraged.
Please give us a call at (301) 816-1100 or you can make a reservation online.

National Building Museum’s Smart Growth Series

The National Building Museum downtown is a pretty fantastic resource.  In addition to unique exhibits and a stellar kids’ play-area, they also host a variety of Speakers Series’ throughout the year.  Next week, their focus will be on White Flint!

As part of the Smart Growth Series, I’ll be at the museum on Wednesday, February 5th from 12:30-1:30pm to share how the community is collaborating to ensure that a redeveloped White Flint reaches its potential.  Admission is free and pre-registration is available.  More details are below (as a side note – we’re always available to tell your community group more about what’s happening in White Flint – just email us at info@WhiteFlint.org).

 

<align=”center”>White Flint Boulevard

Smart Growth: Renewing White Flint, Maryland

Montgomery County, Maryland has approved a plan to transform the suburban, car-oriented area surrounding the White Flint Metro station into a center of residences and businesses where people walk to work, shops, and transit.Lindsay Hoffman, executive director, Friends of White Flint, explains the goals of the plan, efforts to build consensus for implementation, and how the plan can be used as a model for other jurisdictions. 1.0 LU HSW (AIA) / 1.0 CM (AICP) / 1.0 PDH (LA CES)

FREE. Pre-Registration required. Walk in registration based on availability.

Tickets are non-refundable and non-transferable. Registration is for event planning purposes only and does not guarantee a seat. Online registration for Museum programs closes at midnight the day before the scheduled program.

The Museum’s award-winning Shop and Firehook Café are open for one hour prior to the start of the program. Shop and Café hours are subject to change.

Smart Growth is generously supported by the National Association of Realtors, and presented in association with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Additional support is provided by Smart Growth America.

Photo: The transformation of Rockville Pike into a Boulevard that values all travelers is at the heart of the White Flint Sector Plan. Image courtesy of Montgomery County Planning Department.

Date: Wednesday, February 5, 2014
Time: 12:30 PM – 1:30 PM

If you’d like to attend this event you can RSVP online.  Click here to register: http://go.nbm.org/site/Calendar/1334693065

Updates from White Flint Sector Plan Implementation Advisory Committee January Meeting

Here are some updates from the White Flint Sector Plan Implementation Advisory Committee Meeting on January 13th:

The discussion started with a focus on Woodglen Drive and Executive Boulevard. Committee members are concerned with the issues surrounding the shared-use path on Woodglen Drive.  There has been some confusion after the county permitting department made what appears to be a mistake when dealing with Paladar Kitchen and Rum Bar.  Although the sidewalk on Woodglen Drive should have been kept at 8-feet wide to allow for pedestrians and bicyclists, the permitting department told Paladar that 6-feet wide was sufficient.  So, Paladar’s outdoor seating furniture was purchased to these specifications.  Many argue that 6-feet wide is not enough, especially considering obstacles like street signs that create pinch points already.  All parties are negotiating how best to proceed.  Also, we updated you yesterday on the improvements to Woodglen Drive, which will include a bike lane right where Paladar sets its Valet stand.  That will need to be addressed, as well.

The discussion then lead to an update from the County Executive’s White Flint Implementation Coordinator, Dee Metz. The Capital Improvement Budget (CIP) for 2014- 2015 year was discussed. This implementation meeting took place before the budget was released. Dee Metz told the committee that White Flint should expect to receive a significant amount of money from the county. Since this meeting, the budget was announced.  Take a look at this blog post to learn more about what aspects are part of the Capital Improvement Budget and how you can get involved in ensuring that all WF projects receives a fair share of funding from the county.

The focus then went towards discussing the MCPS Board of Education Letter to Chair of the Planning Board. Back in October, the MCPS Board of Education sent a letter to the Chair of the Montgomery County Planning Board. This letter was sent to the Chair to reaffirm the Board of Ed’s position on the locating the school site on the White Flint Park North site. The Board of Education is in favor of co-locating the elementary school with the White Flint Neighborhood Park at the White Flint Park North location. After this letter was sent to the Board of Ed, the Garrett Park Estates/White Flint Park Citizen’s Association met and discussed the letter. Check out this past blog post to learn more about what was discussed at that meeting.  The issue is ongoing and we’ll keep you posted.

Francine Waters from Lerner Enterprises (and a member of the Friends of White Flint Board of Directors) discussed the organization, Communities for Transit. This is a private, non-profit organization in Montgomery County that focuses on educating and advocating for Bus Rapid Transit in Montgomery County. Communities for Transit has worked with FoWF and Coalition for Smarter Growth in the past. The organization recently created a video explaining what Rapid Transit will look like for Montgomery County. You can check out the video here.

The meeting ended with a note about the urban design and health. Nkosi Yearwood sent out two documents, Intersections of Health and Built Environment and 10 Principles for Building Healthy Places, that speak to the connections between the built environment of cities and the health of it’s residents. As the redevelopment in White Flint proceeds, it is important to understand how the urban design can impact the health of those in the area. We hope to provide a walkable, recreational, accessible community that will greatly improve the quality of life for our residents. It is important to remember why this redevelopment is happening and who this redevelopment is for.

The next Implementation Meeting is scheduled for 7pm on Monday, February 10th in the Multi-Purpose Room at Shriver Aquatic Center.

Updates on Woodglen Drive and Washington Gas Tower

Back in April of last year, we shared that Washington Gas was planning a 145 foot tall communications tower that would sit in the center of their industrial property on Nebel Street, not far from where new residential high-rise buildings are planned.  At that time, there were several approvals that were necessary before construction commenced but we’ve not heard any updates since then.  Learn more on the background of the project by clicking here.

We checked in with Washington Gas last week when we realized that no apparent progress had been made on the project.  Washington Gas tells us that the county has asked them to look at alternative sites and determine whether another might suit their needs.  No word, yet, on what the result of that process will be but we’ll keep you posted.

Also, in August, we told you about improvements planned by the county’s Department of Transportation along Woodglen Drive.  Specifically, the plan was to install a shared-use path and bike lanes stretching from the trolley trail to the terminus of Woodglen.  These would be extended to metro (and, hopefully, beyond) as properties along the way redevelop.  Learn more about the plan’s details by clicking here.

At that time, construction of the full project was slated for Fall 2013 but nothing has happened as yet.  So, we checked in with MCDOT for an update and learned that the project was delayed while community concerns were considered.  The delay caused the project to miss the construction season before winter but, all things being equal, it’s better to hash these things out before ground is broken.

The shared-use path proposed for the west side of Woodglen, at 8-feet wide, would have required the removal of some trees and also created some pinch points at utility pole locations.  MCDOT and a technical design team are looking at this piece again and will keep the community apprised as they move forward.  The on-road bicycle facilities, including the bike lane and sharrows, will move forward as planned.  When we learn about any community meetings or a construction schedule, we’ll post them here!

 

 

 

FoWF Testifies in Favor of Proposed Urban Road Code Amendments

Last night, Friends of White Flint Board Member Howard Feldman testified before the County Council’s Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment (T&E) Committee in support of the Urban Road Code Amendments proposed by Councilmembers Roger Berliner and Hans Riemer, who both sit on the committee. Thanks to the input of many of our members, our testimony supported the global concepts of Complete Streets and valuing all users, without purporting to be the experts on exact measurements for appropriate lane widths, etc.

We were pleased to join a wide range of advocates including the Commission on People with Disabilities, Sierra Club, Action Committee for Transit, White Flint Partnership, Montgomery County Young Democrats, Washington Area Bicycle Association, Lerner Enterprises, Coalition for Smarter Growth and Federal Realty, as well as individual citizens, in supporting the legislation.  Many who testified also offered suggestions for improvement.

Even Arthur Holmes, Director of Montgomery County’s Department of Transportation, testified that his agency endorses the goals of reducing speeds, improving pedestrian mobility and implementing the Complete Streets model.  He did, though, share many of the concerns we have also discussed – specifically the mobility of emergency and commercial vehicles and whether a blanket approach is the right one.

We thought Evan Goldman of Federal Realty, also a member of the Friends of White Flint Board of Directors, put it well when describing the places we most like to visit.  People choose walkable, vibrant cities for their travel, so we need to create that place here.  Offering roads that invite pedestrians is smart policy for residents and businesses alike.

Emailed testimony is still accepted for another week, or so.  Please email your support of the Bill to County.Council@montgomerycountymd.gov and copy Councilmember Berliner at Councilmember.Berliner@montgomerycountymd.gov.

Below is the testimony from Friends of White Flint on Bill 33-13:



Testimony of Friends of White Flint

January 23, 2014

Public Hearing on Bill 33-13, Streets and Roads – Urban Road Code Standards and Pedestrian Safety Improvements

 

Good evening, Councilmembers.  My name is Howard Feldman and I am presenting this testimony on behalf of Friends of White Flint, a community non-profit organization that has been working on the White Flint Sector Plan since 2007.  I own a small business within the White Flint Sector and am a business representative on the Friends’ Board of Directors.

Friends of White Flint promotes a sustainable, walkable and engaging White Flint.  Our membership includes hundreds of community members including residents, civic and condominium associations, businesses and property owners and we seek consensus to achieve positive solutions.  As we enter our seventh year, we continue our trend of holding hundreds of public meetings and speaking with thousands of residents to find common ground and community support for the Plan in place today.

The vision of our award-winning White Flint Sector Plan is to “establish policies for transforming an auto-oriented suburban development pattern into an urban center of residences and businesses where people walk to work, shops and transit.”  The plan goes on to say that, “… the pedestrian experience in most of White Flint is barely tolerable.”  Today, the Council is presented with an option to improve that pedestrian experience.

The term “Complete Streets” has been ubiquitous in our work.  This is a concept that calls for our roads and streets to value all users, not just the ones driving cars.  After all, it’s not the car that needs to get to work.  It’s the person.  Giving people more safe options to get around is a primary goal of the White Flint Sector Plan and we believe this legislation moves our county in the right direction.

This is not only a social and economic issue; it’s also a public health issue.  The American Public Health Association has addressed the Complete Streets movement after determining that 11.4% of all transportation-related fatalities in 2009 were pedestrians struck and killed by motor vehicles. They determined that less than 1% of pedestrians ages 72 and older are able to walk at the speeds required to cross most intersections safely. Motor vehicle collisions are the leading cause of death among children ages 3 to 14 and, in 19% of these fatalities, the children involved were pedestrians.

These road code amendments are necessary to improve the pedestrian experience in our county’s urban areas.  Doing things like narrowing travel lanes and limiting speeds will naturally slow  traffic.  Implementing changes in curb radii and adding pedestrian refuges will allow walkers to cross the street more comfortably.  These are important changes to roads that have valued only cars for too long.

We understand that these proposals are not without controversy but, rather than viewing these concerns as barriers, why not view them as opportunities for creative solutions?   Urban areas around the world have made the changes contemplated by this legislation and instead of scrapping the potential for progress, these jurisdictions have found ways to make them work.    If we’re designing our urban areas for the future, we need to be bold and brave and willing to tackle these challenges without throwing up our hands at the first wrinkle.

Car has long been king in our county’s urban areas.  But, just as we are introducing a new mix of uses in these places, we must prepare for a new mix of users.  That means giving people options to safely walk around.

We applaud Councilmembers Berliner and Riemer for their foresight in proposing these amendments and ask that the rest of the Council support this vision of investing in our future.  In order for White Flint to reach its potential, it must have the most forward-thinking infrastructure possible and this is an important step.

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Why Do We Care About the Chris Christie Scandal So Much? Transportation!

In light of Chris Christie’s George Washington Bridge scandal, we’ve learned one thing: transportation can make or break an elected official. Emily Badger, a writer for The Atlantic Cities, focuses on the idea that “[h]ow we get around has an enormous influence on our quality of life, and so it’s central to what we expect from our elected officials.” Transportation may be the most influential aspect on our daily lives because without the ability to travel, we cannot do much of anything.

Transportation is an important issue for many Americans because it involves so many elements such as “parking policy, street design, traffic management and mass transit planning.” This makes it a hard subject for any elected official to ignore. So, if the scandal was surrounding a different topic such as a development project, it may have not been so widely circulated across the US.  But, as it is, the entire country is focused on the importance of transportation issues at the political level.

“Trucks and Cities Are Like Oil and Water. Is There a Solution?”

Last week we discussed the County Bill 33-13: Streets and Roads- Urban Road Code Standards and Pedestrian Safety Improvements that is up for approval. The Council is holding a public hearing tomorrow evening, January 23rd, where testimonies will be heard on this bill, one of which will be from Friends of White Flint. The bill offers amendments to the current urban rode codes that have not be updated in several years. The main goal of the bill is to “to expand and enhance the county’s complete street policy and to facilitate the implementation of pedestrian friendly, bike friendly, walkable, livable urban areas as envisioned in several of the county’s approved master plans.” As Lindsay discussed last week, implementing a bill that focuses more on complete streets is extremely important for White Flint in our mission to create a sustainable and walkable community.

With this bill up for approval, however, it is important to consider how these standards and policies will affect all aspects of transit in the area such as freight or truck movement. Freight movement through city and urban streets is crucial but raises many issues, such as trucks possessing huge blind spots and wide turns that often cut off bike lanes or even popping up on curbs. These issues cause safety problems for other drivers, pedestrians, and bikers, not to mention noise and air pollution. Trucks are necessary for cities to exist because “[O]ur cities run on the goods these hulking trucks deliver.” Reducing the width of travel and turning lanes could have a detrimental effect on truck travel through our urban streets. Instead of viewing these issues as barriers to passing this bill, we should look to creative solutions that include both a complete street model and attention towards other necessary transit movements happening in Montgomery County’s urban areas.

New York City provides a great example of how a city can incorporate freight and truck travel into their building codes by including “onsite loading facilities as part of their design.” There are other ideas that cities could use to cut down on truck congestion and pollution without disturbing the necessary movement of goods from one place to another. These include using more smaller trucks to carry goods than one larger truck, delivering during off-peak hours, consolidation of goods from more than one company into one truck, or cargo bikes/ pedal-trucks.

Friends of White Flint supports complete streets in our urban areas, providing pedestrians and bikers with a more liveable, walkable, and safe community.  But, our community is also comprised of businesses who need these deliveries made by large trucks, for example, and so we must also be conscious of how this complete streets model will affect all aspects of what we’re trying to build here.  It’s to this end that we rely on the experts to find creative, forward-thinking solutions.

Friends of White Flint Shares in Award

The collaborative way the White Flint Sector Plan was developed and is being implemented is not common practice.  We’re proud of the level of stakeholder involvement and the impact it has had in creating a future for the place where we live, work and play.  Friends of White Flint was at the forefront in ensuring that the community had a place at the table, and we continue to do so.

Recently, the National Association of Counties recognized the White Flint Implementation and Collaboration program with a 2013 Achievement Award.  This award recognizes innovative county government programs and those that offer “best practices.”  Friends of White Flint is proud to have been recognized as part of this award!

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Along with the County Executive’s office, Friends of White Flint shares this award with the White Flint Partnership, White Flint Implementation Committee and the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee.  We promise to continue representing our broad base of stakeholders via  advocacy and engagement to ensure that the White Flint Sector Plan is implemented to remain true to the vision developed by our community!