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Sunday, July 20, 2008

Imagine West Silver Spring

By this point, I think I've made it clear that I'm a fan of Silver Spring. Transit-oriented works there. You've got your Metro, MARC, Metrobus, Ride-On, bike paths, and access to the Beltway. There's a night life, jobs, lots of culture, a fantastic community college, and a very eclectic mix of people, arts, and knowledge. But that doesn't mean I don't think it's under-utilized.

It blows my mind that there are large swaths of land between downtown Silver Spring and downtown Bethesda abutting Rock Creek Park that are veritable industrial dross-scapes. Wasted land along Brookeville Road, secluded by poor road connectivity, in what could be a very high end mixed use heartbeat connecting two of suburban Maryland's most important urban cores. Greater Greater Washington did a nice post on TOD zoning in Montgomery County, and I couldn't resist after I read that.

So I wanted to disrupt the low density feel of those neighborhoods in West Silver Spring; Lyttonsville, Seminary, and Woodside. Create more of an urban gateway between the two central business districts, bringing density down towards the city away from the hinterlands. I imagined West Silver Spring, and this is what I saw:

Made with Google Maps.

Pink- road network
Red- residential redevelopment
Blue- commercial redevelopment
Orange- transit stations
Purple- deck over rail

For starters, let me talk transit. I envisioned an extension of the Yellow Line that splits from the Green Line at the Petworth station running under Georgia Avenue to Silver Spring, then following the MARC/CSX right-of-way towards Rockville. This led to a station in the Seminary and Woodside neighborhoods as well as the planned Paul Sarbanes Transit Center at Silver Spring Metro. For the Purple Line I assumed the high investment light rail alternative with stations at Lyttonsville, Woodside, and of course the Silver Spring transit center.

These three new stations would be the epicenters of transit-oriented funcsionality with minimum direct impact on the low-density residential infrastructure in existing neighborhoods. Four stations that one could easily walk between, but are far enough apart that are far enough apart to efficiently serve the community. Served by only one line, Lyttonsville and Seminary would not be as dense as Woodside (served by two) or Silver Spring (in my transit vision, served by four lines of Metro plus MARC). Those overwhelmed by the growing density of downtown Silver Spring would have the alternative of moving to a dense-but-not-too-dense TOD not to far away.

And though I'm sure wholesale redevelopment of the Brookville Road corridor and the Walter Reed Annex would garner a great deal of NIMBYism, they are areas that are not exactly pleasant in their current state. The north view from the apartments on Lyttonsville place is a car salvage yard.

Major changes to the road network are mostly in Woodside. I strongly believe that the Summit Hills development at the corner of 16th and East-West Highway ought to be razed and redeveloped from the ground up. Here, I've changed the intersection of Spring and 16th streets so that 16th ends on Spring on a deck over the trains. Spring Street then connects to Porter Road, which runs to Lyttonsville. The northern end of 16th Street could be redesignated Columbia Boulevard. Summit Hills and Rosemary Hills complexes would be redeveloped to compliment the new grid street network, with row houses in the residential areas and condos over retail in the commercial areas. Perhaps the steep grade of this neighborhood might accommodate residential over retail in this manner.

Perhaps my least popular more here: I connected Jones Bridge Road across Rock Creek Park so that Jones Bridge Road, Brookeville Road, and Grubb Road all come together, perhaps in a traffic circle just west of the Lyttonsville station. Though this would mean more traffic through the park, and through those Chevy Chase neighborhoods, the stronger street grid would have a very positive impact on traffic and probably encourage more walking and bike use. I have very little sympathy for Chevy Chase residents, anyway. That town is just going to have to deal with the fact that southern Montgomery County is only going to get denser and denser.

As for the Seminary neighborhood, I imagine the closure of the Walter Reed Annex would lead to some medium-density development on that property. It would compliment the apartments that are now up for rent at National Park Seminary. So here we have a neighborhood with a very eclectic charm in a densely wooded area where existing development is/would be utilized, minimizing the impact on the wealth of mature trees. What a cool place for a transit-based community!

I once again caveat that I am not an urban planner (though I hope to be one day), nor am I an engineer. Please point out any obvious design flaws you might spot. And please, if you have any suggestions for West Silver Spring, I'd love to hear them. I'm not saying this is feasible, but I believe that West Silver Spring could benefit the region heavily if it were developed in such a manner.


amschloss said...

That's certainly a neat idea to have the Yellow Line come up GA Ave from Petworth and continue to Rockville. While it would create another commuting option for central MoCo and possibly relieve some congestion on the Red Line, though, I wonder how much it would be worth using that particular mode as opposed to extending the proposed GA Ave streetcar along a similar alignment, or simply improving MARC service along that line.

Dave Murphy said...


Transit lanes are taken from a master plan that I have (but so far have been unable to illustrate readably). This plan pretty much does away with most of the MARC stations, replacing much of it with Metro. I'm aware that this isn't economical, but money issues aside I believe it would be best for transit.

Personally, I think the Georgia Street Car line would be better suited running up Georgia Avenue to Olney, but yours is a good idea.

amschloss said...

Well, if money's no object, why not extend the streetcar along both alignments?