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Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tysons Should Look North

Montgomery County Maryland has no limited access freeways that lead into DC. There is the Clara Barton Parkway, a limited access 4-lane parkway at the extreme western edge that ferries traffic to Georgetown with few at-grade intersections, but that's it. Nearly one million people live in Montgomery County, but none of them are hopping on a freeway to get to work Downtown in the morning.

I'm not sure if this is a chicken-and-egg issue, but I'm quite sure that this is related to the fact that the Metro's Red Line, which terminates both ends in Montgomery County, has the highest capacity and ridership of any single line. It shares no track with any other lines. Silver Spring and Bethesda have approximately 70,000 residents in each of their downtowns, and yet not a single freeway runs through them. And in each of those downtowns, there is only one Metro station.

Why then, shouldn't Tyson's Corner be able to thrive without freeway widening once it gets its FOUR Silver Line stations? Fairfax County is planning on scaling back its redevelopment because of potential stress on the freeways 40 years from now.

Their rationale is simple: many people will still drive. Well, sure. Especially if you widen the freeways. And especially if the Silver Line is shoehorned through a huge choke point at Rosslyn, where three lines will be sharing one track.

Perhaps Fairfax County should be considering the enhancement of Metro capacity instead of the worrying about freeways. Montgomery County has an assortment of redeveloped edge cities that don't have any freeways connecting their downtowns with DC. If the Beltway is the worry, why not seek to invest in a transit connection between Fairfax and Montgomery Counties?

People drive primarily because driving has been subsidized into being the best option. If Tyson's Corner is looking to progressively remodel the region, perhaps they should think outside the box and reimagine their transit options.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day Quick Links

August and September are very busy months for me, so it's difficult to keep up with writing original articles regularly. But please, take a look at some of the links to the right, they are all interesting blogs. Here is a sampling.

DCMUD - More, better housing near a Metro station in a rapidly improving part of the city: Deanwood

GreaterGreaterWashington - Track Twenty-Nine's Matt Johnson has written three spectacular series on freight and passenger rail in DC, station motifs on Metro, and the naming conventions for streets in the District of Columbia

And Now, Anacostia - How soon before Anacostia has streetcars?

Southeast Socialite - Never mincing words, she comments on a critique of Marion Barry, and concern about Eleanor Holmes Norton's lack of responsiveness to public queries.

Bloomingdale (For Now) - Clarifies the location of a section of 7th Street being renamed in honor of the father of go-go

Fairfax Suburbanista - Fairfax City is suburbanizing its Old Town with suburban townhouses. I wonder why they don't just try a traditional plot of townhouses?

WalkLaurel - It's a new website that explains forthcoming pedestrian and traffic improvements in the city of Laurel

Just Up The Pike - Photographs of the ICC construction through an area where several people lost their homes for the sake of the project.

Baltimore Inner Space - Discusses the "low hanging fruit" plan for the Red Line

The Overhead Wire - Discusses the George W. Bush Presidential Library and its ironic proximity to transit

Extraordinary Observations - Are Whole Foods' high prices worth a boycott? Rob argues NO.

DC Sports Bog - While admitting to being on the wrong side of history, Dan Steinberg attempts to douse some of the fire over the Redskins ticket scandal.

Hope you check a few of these articles out. Hope everyone enjoys Labor Day in the seat of the free world.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Baltimore Yellow Line Boondoggle

GGW's breakfast links yesterday had a troubling article at the bottom. The Central Maryland Transit Alliance wants to prioritize extending Baltimore's Yellow Line light rail to Columbia over extending the Green Line subway to White Marsh. I can't even begin to express how dumb of an idea this is.

The Green Line extension will hit developed areas in a large city with a burgeoning centralized train system in place. This is smart. The Yellow Line extension will connect Columbia to downtown Baltimore on a very long, very circuitous route that by-passes Fort Meade, the largest employment center in the state of Maryland.

Baltimore City needs transit connections. It needs an expanded system. It needs a centralized system. A Yellow Line extension would bolster businesses in Columbia and Towson. These are decentralized locations. A Green Line extension would bolster more centralized business districts like the Belair Road and Harford Road corridors. These are centralized areas. Baltimore has been decentralizing for fifty years, and it's not working.

From Columbia, the Yellow Line would take 42 minutes to get to BWI Airport, and then another 27 to get to downtown Baltimore. An hour and nine minutes to get from Columbia to Baltimore. The northern section of the Yellow Line is actually a good idea, connecting several colleges along a main thoroughfare through the city proper. But the southern portion is as circuitous and useless as the current plan for the CCT in Gaithersburg.

CMTA, if you want light rail connecting Columbia to the city, why not push for the US-29 light rail project that was once promised to run from Silver Spring to Columbia? A direct route to the city, not a circuitous one, that hits several established communities along the way is what Central Maryland Transit Alliance ought to be seeking. I don't know how long Dan Reed's alignment (linked above) would take to get from Columbia to downtown DC, but I bet it's faster than 69 minutes.

And if Maryland does decide to run light rail further away from Baltimore, can you at least make some effort to hit the 50,000+ job center at Fort Meade before it is completely choking the region with traffic? I bet you a rail right-of-way that a lot of those employees live in Columbia.