Archives August 2015

Help CSG support transit in Montgomery County

The Coalition for Smarter Growth (CSG) asked for our help getting the word out about their Transit Day of Action on September 9th, and we’re happy to do so.

Montgomery County’s proposed Rapid Transit System and other great new transit investment ideas can really improve transportation and make our community more sustainable.  CSG believes too many regular bus and Metrorail riders in Montgomery County aren’t aware of what’s in the works. That’s why they’ll be fanning out on September 9 to spread the word and gather petition signatures urging the Montgomery County Council to build the BRT system.

They want to make sure that the voices of transit riders are heard as we enter a critical phase of debate. But your help is going to be important – they can’t talk to all the transit riders in these three stations all by themselves.  CSG is looking for volunteers to help out for an hour or two on September 9 during either the morning, midday, or evening rush hour at the Rockville, Shady Grove, and Silver Spring metro stations

Sign up here to volunteer for the CSG Transit Day of Action.

White Flint 2 Scope of Work

The White Flint 2 Scope of Work is going to the Planning Board on September 3. Here is a link to the agenda.

More importantly, here is the document that discusses the Scope of Work.  Don’t have time to read all 16 pages?  We’re happy to provide this summary:

The WF2 Sector Plan will amend the 1992 North Bethesda/Garrett Park Sector Plan and the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan. An important goal for the WF2 Plan will be exploring ways to connect the North Bethesda centers — WF2, White Flint, Twinbrook, and Rockville — to one another seamlessly and cohesively.

The 455-acre White Flint 2 Sector Plan (WF2 Plan) includes a short segment of Rockville Pike north of Montrose Parkway and south of Rollins Avenue, and encompasses areas to the west, north, and east of the 2010 White Flint Sector Plan. Residential neighborhoods adjacent to the proposed Sector Plan area include Randolph Hills on the east and Luxmanor on the west. The following are located within the proposed WF2 Sector Plan area: Montrose Crossing, Wilgus, Tri-Rock, Loehmann’s Plaza, and the light industrially zoned properties east of the railroad tracks along Parklawn Drive. The Nicholson Court area is being included in the WF2 Plan to facilitate planning for a potential MARC station in that area.

WF2 includes areas that have not been covered by other recent plan updates, including a critical portion of Rockville Pike between the City of Rockville and the White Flint Sector Plan, as well at the industrial uses east of the CSX tracks. WF2 also includes Executive Boulevard, an office park that is experiencing high office vacancy rates.

Map of White Flint 2 from M-NCPPC

Map of White Flint 2 from M-NCPPC

Staff will evaluate different levels of residential and nonresidential development, and prepare scenarios to be tested by traffic modeling. Staff will explore the changing circumstances with the office market, whether industrial areas should be retained, and what locations are appropriate to encourage mixed-use development. Planners will also analyze the segment of Rockville Pike within the WF2 area and how it can be transformed into an urban boulevard, consistent with the goals of the White Flint Sector Plan and the City of Rockville’s Pike Plan. Urban design guidelines will be prepared, which will likely have similar elements to the White Flint Sector Plan guidelines.

WF2 will also address transportation and mobility issues by considering potential infrastructure improvements, modifications to existing transportation policies, or expansion of the White Flint special tax district. The Plan will seek to improve vehicular transportation and bikeway networks from White Flint to Rockville, including BRT options; and potentially link both sides of the CSX tracks at the proposed location for a new MARC station near Nicholson Court.  The future construction of Montrose Parkway East and the BRT routes for Rockville Pike (MD 355 South), the North Bethesda Transitway, and Randolph Road are additional transportation infrastructure elements to be considered in the Plan area. The Plan will explore how to improve walkability for residents in neighborhoods on the east side of the tracks.

Another issue to be considered in the WF2 Plan is school capacity in the Walter Johnson School Cluster in North Bethesda. Proposed residential densities in the White Flint Sector Plan generate the need for a new elementary school within the Walter Johnson Cluster.

The need for additional park and open spaces will also be analyzed as a component of this Plan.

The Plan will promote environmental sustainability, including environmental site design techniques and increased tree canopy coverage. Opportunities to improve air quality, reduce emissions, and provide alternatives to single-occupant vehicles will also be explored.

Outreach efforts for this Plan will include an open house, a series of workshops, and small group meetings to engage residents, surrounding neighborhood associations, business owners, community organizations, the existing White Flint Sector Plan Implementation Advisory Committee, and the County Executive’s coordinator for implementation of the White Flint Sector Plan. New social media, electronic newsletters, and other communication tools will be utilized. The City of Rockville will play an important role in the Plan’s outreach efforts since the area north of Montrose Road and Randolph Road is within the City’s maximum expansion limits. In fall 2015, staff will launch a series of workshops to solicit ideas from the community and begin developing preliminary plan concepts.

Planning Department staff began working on this Plan in May 2015. The Planning Board is scheduled to review the Working Draft Plan in spring 2016 and transmit the Planning Board Draft Plan to the County Executive and County Council by August 2016. The County Council review of the Plan is scheduled to begin in October 2016. Upon the completion of the Council’s review and action, a Sectional Map Amendment (SMA) will be initiated to implement the Plan’s zoning recommendations. It is anticipated that the SMA will be completed by summer 2017.

Timetable for WF2 Planning Process from M-NCPPC

Timetable for WF2 Planning Process from M-NCPPC

 

 

Pike & Rose Slider Smackdown

What a fun Slider Smackdown it was — and congrats to  the official winner of the 2015 Slider Smackdown, Del Friscos Grill! The esteemed guest judges were Jai Williams, editor of Girl Meets Food, Michael Woestehoff of The Washington Lobbyist and County Councilmember Sidney Katz.

The Pike & Rose Slider Smackdown and Block Party brought together Pike & Rose’s collection of renowned restaurants and retailers for a day, featuring a slider competitions and food tastings, including &pizza, City Perch, Del Frisco’s Grill, Roti, Summer House, Stella Barra and Friends of White Flint members La Madeline and ShopHouse. Guests voted on their favorites while enjoying live music from AMP by Strathmore and fabulous sidewalk sales.

How to add bike lanes and not lose car capacity

How road diets work

As cities across the US build bike lanes, their decisions are often seen as a move to give space to bikes at the expense of cars. But data tells us this isn’t always true: In New York City, for instance, bike lanes have actually shortened cars’ travel times on several streets, while simultaneously encouraging people to bike and making it safer due to road diests. (Vox.) This article continues to say road diets can take several forms, but the basic idea is that by removing traffic lanes, cities can free up space for bike lanes and reduce the frequency of crashes. Narrowing lanes from 12 feet to 10, meanwhile, makes drivers less likely to speed, and in doing so has also been shown to cut down on crashes that involve drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians.

Watch this quick, informative two-minute video to learn more.

Some good news and not–so-good news on the Rapid Transit System

A revised cost estimate decreases the cost to $1.6 billion for these four Rapid Transit System corridors: – MD 355 North, MD 355 South, US 29, and Veirs Mill Road. That’s about $230 million less than an estimate made two years ago. As always, though, the devil is in the details. The report prepared for the Montgomery County Transit Authority and titled “Review of Transit Finance – Revised 2015 RTS Cost Estimate” describes the reasons behind the cost reduction. The report lists these changes:

 One-lane median guideway on MD 355 North

 Combination of one-lane median guideway and curb lanes on MD 355 South, from I-495 to Bethesda Metro Station

 Mixture of two-lane median guideway and mixed traffic operation on portions of Veirs Mill Road

 MD 355 South corridor ends at Bethesda Metro instead of Friendship Heights

 Total number of buses was reduced from 153 to 88, reflecting initial service frequency

An essential question to answer: Will one-lane guideways and mixed traffic operations provide the fast, dependable service needed to make Rapid Transit a success? Rapid Transit that is neither rapid nor reliable will not work. Another essential question: How much less frequency will there be? If one significantly diminishes frequency, at some point you have an expensive system few will use.

The report also recommends that the Route 355 South corridor will be the second to last of these corridors to be built, not going into operation until FY24 — and that assumes all goes according to plan. The reports suggests the following order for funding and building: The CCT in Gaithersburg, Viers Mill, Route 29, MD 355 South, and finally, Route 355 North. Friends of White Flint has to ask, “How the heck is the most vital part of Montgomery County, the largest transformation of any area of the County, fourth in line?”

According to Bethesda Beat, among the seven potential revenue sources discussed by the task force’s Finance Working Group were a countywide real property tax surcharge, a property tax specific to areas that would benefit from the system and a county gas tax.

In an email to members earlier this month, task force Chairman Mark Winston suggested focusing on four scenarios to fund construction of the system:

 A countywide real property tax of 4 cents from 2017 to 2019 and 6.5 cents in 2020 and thereafter. The funds collected by the tax would be held in a special fund.

 A sales tax, gas tax or other type of excise tax.

 Creating special taxing districts in corridors that have bus rapid transit to impose a real property tax to properties within either a half-mile or quarter-mile of the system.

 A combination of a .5 percent sales tax, a countywide real property tax of 3 cents and a countywide excise tax

Stay tuned for more about the Rapid Transit System and updates from the Transit Task Force.

 

The news we’ve read lately about White Flint Mall

We’re sure you’ve seen an article  or two about the decision in the Lord & Taylor/owners of White Flint Mall trial. We thought it might be helpful to list the articles here.

Community Sees White Flint Mall Case as Turning Point in Area’s Transformation.After Friday’s decision by a federal jury, people who live and work in the area are to see promised redevelopment begin. (Bethesda Magazine)

Jury awards $31 million to Lord & Taylor in White Flint dispute (Washington Post Capital Business)

What the jury’s verdict means for the future of the White Flint redevelopment (Washington Business Journal)

Jury awards $31 million to Lord & Taylor over demolition. The owners of a soon-to-be-demolished shopping mall in Rockville, Maryland, have been ordered to pay $31 million in damages after a jury ruled that they breached their contract with department store Lord & Taylor. (Washington Post Local)

And don’t forget — tonight from 6:30 to 8:30 is Grill Night at Wall Park. We’ve got grills, live music, snacks, soft drinks, and all the fixings for s’mores.  You just need to bring something to grill, so join your neighbors at the last Grill Night of the summer.  See you tonight at Grill Night!

grill night invitation

Last Grill Night of the Summer is Tomorrow!

Ready for s’more summer fun? Then don’t miss tomorrow’s Grill Night at Wall Park, 6:30 to 8:30 pm. We’ll supply the grills; you supply something yummy to cook. We’ll also have live music, snacks, and soft drinks, and best of all, everything you need to make s’mores at the fire pit.

Please join your friends and neighbors at Grill Night on August 18th.