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Thursday, July 10, 2008

Traffic Gutters to TOD

I've been thinking about the Arlington model for TOD. Where else could we do that around DC? Should we do it? I say yes, but I think the capital investment required will keep such fantasies in my optimistic imagination.

As I have stated before, I believe the combination of transit access and a useful street grid is what makes Arlington's Orange Line stretch what it is today. I think, with a little elbow grease, there are a few other corridors we could likely transform to stave off urban sprawl and bring the development back into the city.

Obviously we'd need transit. It looks like better transit may be coming in the form of busses soon. Still, TOD works better where there is fixed rail. I think improved fixed rail access can benefit the region if we place it along the right corridors. Here are my top ten:

1. Route 1 from College Park to Laurel
Beyond DC stated to me (above link, in the comments) that Metro expansion would be far more expensive than upgrading MARC to Metro-like service capability. This is true, but I don't see evidence where MARC has promoted TOD. If someone believes otherwise I'd love to get a little more informed on this. Anyway, with a string-of-pearls of small cities flanked by two freeways, this corridor is halfway there with the TOD. Considering the Base Relocation And Closure (BRAC) bringing thousands of jobs to Fort Meade, Beltsville and Laurel will only become more attractive places to live. I hope we can do it right and provide connectivity between the jobs and the houses, and throw in a few walkable commercial districts while we're at it. In the mean time, at least Route 1 has an initiative. (warning: pdf)

2. Columbia Pike in Arlington.
This road is a gateway to the heart of the District. It's an attractive place to live and a reasonable place from which one could commute into the city. Fortunately, there is a streetcar on the books for this corridor. I hope once if/when it is built, it will carry passengers all the way to L'Enfant, to jobs and four lines of the Metro.

3. Columbia Pike from Silver Spring to Columbia
Also known as US29. This stretch is in the process of being turned into a limited access freeway from New Hampshire Avenue on up. But the highway design allows for light rail to be placed in the median. This could benefit some of the higher density developments in Briggs Chaney that are far from jobs. Light rail would be tricky, however, unless it went underground south of White Oak to Silver Spring, as 29 turns into another suburban traffic gutter south of there. A while back, Just Up The Pike produced this route, which would likely do the trick.

4. MD 355 from White Flint Mall to Germantown
Rockville Pike, Hungerford Drive, or Frederick Avenue... whatever you call MD355, it is a traffic gutter. I don't see why this has to be, considering that there is a freeway (I-270) running parallel a mile or so west. Many of the train stations are there thanks to the Red Line and the proposed Corridor Cities Transitway, but the corridor lacks a street grid supporting it. This vital technology corridor has been developed as urban sprawl so much that it now is seen as a major threat to Montgomery County farmland. Bringing that development inward can help reduce the negative effect on the farms and improve the corridor's positive impact on the regional economy.

5. Kenilworth Avenue from Cheverly to Konterra
Currently, Kenilworth Avenue ends in Beltsville, but construction should begin soon to extend the road to the Konterra site. The southern section passes though the abject blight of Prince George's County. Bladensburg, once a thriving seaport, has fallen into unsightly disrepair uncharacteristic of the charming town that 50 years ago was Chevy Chase with a waterfront. Edmonston, Riverdale, Berwyn Heights, and Greenbelt are also served by this road, which at parts looks more like a freeway. There is an effort to revitalized this stretch, though. The northern portion of this corridor could easily compliment the Route 1 corridor mentioned above. It would require more than the two existing Green Line Metro stations currently existing between the two corridors, but it is very doable and could create a far more suitable gateway between DC and Baltimore.

6. Alabama Avenue in Southeast
I wonder if a light rail along this road would promote some connectivity on the other side of the river. It certainly wouldn't have the economic impact that the other corridors boast, or even the potential for other corridors in Anacostia, but I believe it might improve the quality of life for Anacostia residents and make it a more attractive place to live or run a business. I'm sure this will never be a high priority, but it ought to get some attention as the central corridor of Southeast.

7. Georgia Avenue from Silver Spring to Olney
This is one of the first roads I picture when I think of a traffic gutter. It passes through so many great neighborhoods, commercial areas, and built up areas. It has four Red Line Stations. But the road has no charm or character. It's only there to shuttle people up and down the county. Residents would agree that there's absolutely no reason for this in Silver Spring, which is widely used by pedestrians that don't benefit from a six lane traffic gutter (or two! see #3) bisecting the town. Same at Seminary Lane. Same in Wheaton. And Glenmont. And Aspen Hill. And Rossmoor. And Olney. There's no reason Georgia Avenue can't be a real "avenue", or Main Street MoCo.

8. VA236/US50 from Alexandria to South Riding
This is a very long stretch, but again we have a road that's long and straight, passes through several town centers, and does little more for those towns than serve as a traffic gutter. There is currently no fixed guideway transit on this corridor except the King Street Metro station. That's nothing in Lincolnia, Bailey's Crossroads, Fairfax, Fair Oaks, Centerville, or South Riding. Wouldn't some transit on this stretch make it a more viable stretch to live or operate a business? Live here, walk around to do your errands, and commute to Alexandria.

9. University Boulevard from Kensington to College Park/Viers Mill Rd from Wheaton to Rockville
Yes, I'm calling out both of these entire roads. Kensington has no transit save for a MARC station, which is a shame because it's a wonderfully charming town where the walkability is swallowed up in 8 lanes of traffic. It is six lanes through Wheaton, Kemp Mill, and Four Corners. Langley Park is downright strangled by all the traffic lanes, making this "boulevard" a traffic gutter that is too clogged to effectively bring folks to its eponymous University of Maryland. As for Viers Mill Road, it connects this corridor to Rockville. driving it is painful even if it is the peth of least resistance to Rockville. It's time to admit that Viers Mill is no longer suburban, it is indeed very much urban. More transit, more TOD on these roads please!

10. New York and Rhode Island Avenues in Northeast
Could we use that MARC/CSX right of way for some local transit? I envision a line running from Union Station to Hyattsville along there. I support the District's attempts to make New York Avenue more like a city street, and what would help more than some TOD along the route? This could benefit Trinidad, Brentwood, Fort Lincoln, Ivy City, and in PG Mount Rainier, Cottage City Hyattsville, and Riverdale. These areas are so close to everything, and yet they're somewhat blighted. It would be of great benefit to the region to improve these areas.

Anyone else have some ideas about what corridors might be able to emulate the Orange Line part of Arlington?


Michael said...

Lee Highway from Rosslyn to East Falls Church

Look at all that prime re-developable real estate next to the station locations I've selected.

Anonymous said...

Dave - I'd like to add your blog to the Action Committee for Transit's distribution list for press releases. Can you sign up with your email address at


Ben Ross

Douglas A. Willinger said...

What about Virginia Route 1 south of Alexandria?