Archives June 2015

Want to boost local trade by 40% and lose weight?

walking

Sounds like a cheesy late night infomercial, I know, but who doesn’t want to increase sales and be healthier and skinnier? What is this miracle cure? Quite simply, it’s making a community walkable and bikeable.

Economic benefit:

According to a United Kingdom studywalking and cycling projects return an average of $20 in economic benefit for every $1.50 invested. The boost comes from more trade for local shops, less traffic congestion, and reduced pollution.

A University of California study showed that cities in which residents are physically active have a big advantage over their more sedentary rivals, with better economic productivity, higher property values and improved school performance, as well as a healthier population. The report stated that “in an increasingly globalized, competitive and mobile world, cities have an economic imperative to promote walking, cycling and public transport, as well as increasing the amount of green space and curbing car use.”

Weight loss:

Inactivity is dangerous to one’s health — you’ve no doubt read that a hundred times. University of Cambridge researchers determined that just 20 minutes of walking a day could have significant positive health and weight loss benefits. How to get that 20 minutes? How about walking to work, to metro, or to meet a friend for lunch? The article states, “If more people cycled or walked to work or school, it would make a big difference in raising levels of physical activity.” Another study noted that investment in cycling in the City of Portland could save billions of dollars in better public health.

Hmm. Sounds like the Pike District/White Flint area is right on track to help us improve our economy and our health. Perhaps the Pike District will be our miracle cure.

Are we correctly counting transit users?

Undercounting transit

According to this article, we tend to over-count drivers and under-count people who use transit.  They believe that if we correctly counted all who benefit from transit, including residents, government and business … would more easily see the importance and cost-effectiveness of reliable transit options.

As stated in the City Commentary piece, “by far the most common way to measure transit use is “commute mode share,” or the percentage of workers who use transit to get to their job. For the most part, this is a measure of convenience: it’s the most direct way the Census asks about transportation, which means it’s the easiest way to get consistent data from any city or metropolitan area in the country.

“But it also has a lot of problems. For one, the vast majority of trips – about 84% – aren’t simple home-to-work commutes. And it’s not just that people who work also go to the grocery store, restaurants, or friends’ homes. Lots of people don’t work at all, and those people – largely students, the elderly, or people with disabilities – are disproportionately likely to use transit for all or almost all of their trips. Finally, plenty of people who do work might drive three or four days a week and take transit the other one or two. But since the Census only asks about what they do most of the time, they’ll show up as “drivers.” All of these things will tend to undercount a place’s reliance on public transit.”

Read the full article here.

 

What you missed at last night’s White Flint 2 meeting

White Flint 2
It was standing room only at last night’s White Flint 2 Sector Plan meeting that was held at Luxmanor Elementary. It was great to see so many engaged residents asking questions and studying large drawings of White Flint 2’s transportation, zoning, and public spaces.
For those of you who were unable to be there, here’s a quick summary of what was discussed.
N’kosi Yearwood of M-NCPPC talked us through a short but informative PowerPoint presentation about the White Flint 2 Sector Plan.  Here are some highlights:
  • The White Flint 2 is composed of 455 acres, including Randolph Hills, Loehmann’s Plaza, Montrose Crossing, Montrose Parkway Phase II, and Federal Plaza.
  • It is on the north end of the White Flint 1 Sector, shaped like a horseshoe.  It is adjacent to the Twinbrook Sector Plan and the City of Rockville.
  • The area includes 1,860 dwelling units and about 6.3 million sq feet of non-residential space.
  • A MARC station may be planned for Nicholson Court.
  • They hope to deliver a draft plan in March 2016 for the Planning Board to review. Work sessions would begin Spring 2016 with a review by the County Executive in the Summer 2016 and the County Council during Winter 2016.
  • There will be many future public meetings to obtain public input.
  • You can keep up-to-date with White Flint 2 news at http://www.montgomeryplanning.org/community/whiteflint2/. (We’ll also keep you informed about the White Flint 2 Sector Plan)
Many questions were asked. The most contentious issue concerned schools, including new schools, wrong school capacity projections, and current school capacity.
M-NCPPC promised to put their presentation and various maps on their website some time today.

Board/Community Meeting TONIGHT!

meeting sign

Just in case you’ve missed the dozen of other reminders, tonight is the Friends of White Flint Board/Community Meeting.  It will start at 7:00 pm and be held at The Forum, 11801 Rockville Pike, Rockville, MD 20852.  Come hungry — &pizza is delivering 40 pizzas to the meeting. (Thank you, &pizza at Pike & Rose!)

Below is the agenda:

7:00                 Call to order

7:01 to 7:05    Approval of March Minutes

7:05 to 7:10    Financial Report

7:10 to 7:25    Property Owner Updates

7:25 to 7:40    Pick the Pike District Campaign

7:40 to 8:00    Membership Fee Structure

8:00 to 8:15    Events, including Grill Night and Seniors Forum

8:15 to 8:30    Other Business

Where is all the office space?

Executive Director Amy Ginsburg, here.  I’m often asked why there isn’t more office space being built in the White Flint area.  As one person said to me, “All that’s going up are apartments and restaurants. Don’t get me wrong; I love all those restaurants. But where’s the work in ‘live-work-play’?”

Yesterday, Montgomery County Planning Department released a detailed Office Market Assessment for Montgomery County yesterday that provides some answers. First, some quick office space stats:

  • A total of 71.5 million square feet of office space is currently vacant throughout the Washington, DC region.

  • Montgomery County has nearly 11 million square feet of vacant office space, accounting for 15 percent of regional vacancies. (Fairfax has the largest share at 28% of vacant office space.)

  • The county’s office vacancy rate is just about 15%, and rents have decreased 7.8 percent since 2008.

  •  The Great Recession hit Montgomery County harder than the rest of the DMV, causing our share of regional employment to fall from 15.7 in 2004 to 14.7% to 2013. Washington, DC, Fairfax County, and Arlington County increased their shares of employment in our region.

Looking forward, it seems that numerous trends will make it harder to fill office space in Montgomery County.

  • The Federal government, long a bastion of office-space-renting agencies, continues to cut spending.

  • More jobs are being created in places that don’t require offices — retailers, restaurants, health care facilities — than in professional and technical services.

  • Telecommuting and hoteling lessen the amount of office space that companies need, even if they grow their workforce.

  • The average office size is down to 180 square feet per employee, down from 250 square feet, and some believe it will sink down to 150 square feet per employee. Open office design is replacing the corner office.

But despair not. There’s some great news in this report for the Pike District.  

  • The report said, “The most successful office clusters in Montgomery County are part of mixed-use developments with a strong sense of place and a quality environment. Transit connectivity is increasingly important to office tenants. This trend is consistent with recommended land use strategies in recent County plans for White Flint, Bethesda, White Oak and other communities.”

  • The report also said, “Office style and location are becoming an important factor. Millennials are showing much great affinity for urban, walkable areas that allow them to live, work, play within close proximity without a car. They and others also place increasing value on a sustainable workplace that provides a healthy work setting and that reflects their environmental values.”

So what does all this mean? To sum it all up in one sentence, it’s going to be hard to fill office space, but the office space that is going to get built and leased will be in places just like the Pike District.

One meeting, two articles

First the meeting:

Don’t forget to attend the Friends of White Flint Board and Community Meeting Wednesday, June 24 at 7:00 pm at The Forum.  We’ll have pizza generously donated by &pizza and interesting conversations about developments in the White Flint area, Pick the Pike District Campaign, Membership Dues, and events in the Pike District.

Second, two articles:

An op-ed in The Washington Post in favor of more bike lanes in Montgomery County, as long as it does with intelligence.

Washington Business Journal made note of our burgeoning Pick the Pike District campaign.

Transit Task Force Testimony

Transit Task Force Logo

In case you’re interested, I thought I’d share my recent testimony to the Transit Task Force.  (If you’re not interested, click back on Monday … and every weekday, actually … for another new post on a diverse range of topics relating to the White Flint/Pike District area.)

My name is Amy Ginsburg, and I am the Executive Director of Friends of White Flint, a nonprofit organization with nearly 1,300 supporters, including residents, businesses, homeowners associations, and property owners.  Our only mission is to ensure the full implementation of the White Flint Sector Plan so that the promise of a walkable, transit-oriented, smart-growth community is achieved in the Pike District.

A Rapid Transit System is critical to creating an energetic, prosperous community in the Pike District. RTS is indispensable for improving the quality of life for a growing population and to attracting businesses and retailers to the Pike District.

We need to provide Montgomery County with the ability to efficiently and quickly create the kind of walkable, transit-friendly community so important to our future sustainability. An Independent Transit Authority is certainly a strong option to permit us to design and build out the RTS along Route 355 as quickly as possible.

Moving forward with RTS for Route 355 is vital for the County.  Delays will be highly detrimental to the successful transformation of the Pike District.  I urge the Transit Task Force to make rapid transit on Rockville Pike a top priority. In fact, we believe that a Bus Rapid Transit system on Route 355 should be the first line of the RTS.  A successful Rockville Pike line will demonstrate how RTS can have a positive impact in the community in a highly visible manner.  Fortunately, the White Flint area has the density, businesses and support to be a successful pilot.  Such a pilot program on Route 355 will make it easy to see a Rapid Transit System creating a vibrant, thriving community in the White Flint area.

From all of us at Friends of White Flint, thank you for your continued support of the White Flint Sector Plan.

A fun-filled Grill Night at Wall Park

Check out these happy photos from last night’s very fun, very successful, first-ever Grill Night at Wall Park. More than 75 people enjoyed music, food, and s’mores in our own Wall Park.  You won’t want to miss the next two Wall Park Grill Nights July 21 and August 18. (And a huge thank you to Montgomery Parks, Communities for Transit, and White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee for all their hard work organizing Grill Night.)

It’s S’more Time Tonight!

Grill Night Wall Park

Don’t forget — tonight is Grill Night at Wall Park. We’ll supply grills, the paper goods, snacks, and soft drinks, and most importantly, we’ll supply all the fixings for delish s’mores.  Also enjoy music by The Crimestoppers!

June 16, 6:30 to 8:30. Wall Park is located at 5900 Executive Blvd, right next to the Shriver Aquatic Center.  

Sponsored by Montgomery Parks, Communities for Transit, Downtown Advisory Committee, and of course, Friends of White Flint, Grill Night is going to be s’more fun for you and your friends and family.

Friends of White Flint in the Post

FOWF in the Post

Bill Turque wrote an insightful piece in yesterday’s Washington Post about the perils and potential around cycling in Montgomery County. (And for the record, we think it’s a good piece not just because Friends of White Flint Amy Ginsburg was quoted in it.)

In the article, Montgomery County officials said, “The goal is to connect a system left fragmented by years of ad hoc planning in which riders can sail along for miles on bike lanes or off-road trails only to hit dead ends — or intersections with wide, high-speed roads that are exceedingly difficult to cross.”

Bicycles are an important part of multi-modal travel, especially in the Pike District, so we thank the Post for bringing attention to this important issue and support the County’s efforts to make our area more bike-friendly.