Wednesday, September 16, 2020

flash, maryland’s first bus rapid transit line, is almost finished

Maryland’s first Bus Rapid Transit line will open in Montgomery County later this year. Let’s take a look at one of the stations under construction.

Rear of April Lane Flash BRT platform
The April Lane station on Flash, Maryland's first bus rapid transit line. Click here for a slideshow. All photos by the author.

Under construction since 2018, Flash BRT is an 14-mile line that will run along Route 29 (Colesville Road and Columbia Pike) from the Silver Spring Metro station to Burtonsville, making 11 stops along the way.

It’s the first of three lines Montgomery County is working on - the other two are on Veirs Mill Road between Wheaton and Rockville, and along Route 355 between Bethesda and Clarksburg. Route 29 is one of the busiest bus corridors in the region, and Flash buses will come every 7.5 minutes during rush hour and run from 5am to midnight.

One of the stations will be April Lane, located on Lockwood Drive in White Oak where buses will briefly detour to serve a large cluster of apartment complexes. When I stopped by in August, the station (or stations, since there are platforms on both sides of the street) was almost finished, save for a few signs that hadn’t been installed and some construction debris.

Monday, September 14, 2020

ellsworth drive is one of silver spring's most successful public spaces. should it stay in private hands?

Despite its name, Ellsworth Drive has become one of the region’s most successful pedestrian retail streets. As plans for a facelift move forward, community members are worried that what makes this place special and enticing could be lost.

Ellsworth Drive last summer. Montgomery County owns the street, but leases it to a developer who runs and maintains it. Photo by the author.

Twenty years ago, this street was a back alley, lined with loading docks and parking lots. Today, Ellsworth is arguably the most important street in Silver Spring, if not Montgomery County. On a Friday night in the summer, Ellsworth is the place to see and be seen for a big swath of suburban Maryland.

Little kids play in the fountain. Teen boys skateboard and try to one-up each other, weaving around couples on dates. There are usually a handful of buskers, some with amps, alongside panhandlers. Proselytizers march with sandwich boards past Hare Krishnas waving tambourines. At the corner of Ellsworth Drive and Fenton Street, a man pushes a cart selling roasted nuts, who was recruited here from New York by former MoCo planning official Rollin Stanley.

Ellsworth also hosts a number of major events, from the Montgomery County Thanksgiving Parade, to the annual Silver Spring Jazz Festival and Blues Festival, the Zombie Walk, a weekly farmers’ market, and this summer, several Black Lives Matter protests. No surprise that the big-D Downtown Silver Spring complex (not to be confused with the wider downtown Silver Spring area) that lines Ellsworth Drive was first marketed as a “good old fashioned sensory overload.”

And until March, it was completely car-free, making Ellsworth one of the few exceptions to a long history of failed pedestrian malls. Developer Peterson Companies, which manages the street, wants to keep it that way, and has big renovation plans in mind. In order to make them happen, This fall, the Montgomery County Council will decide whether to give Peterson more control over Ellsworth Drive.

soon, you'll be able to drink in montgomery county parks

Starting Thursday, you might be able to legally enjoy a drink in a Montgomery County park. A new directive from Montgomery Parks will allow alcohol, including beer, wine, and spirits, in a designated area in nine county parks. It’s a trial, and would only take effect through next May.

A juicebox in Sligo Avenue Park, which is not one of the parks where you'll be able to drink harder things. Photo by the author.

The proposed rules are part of “Picnic in the Park,” a new effort by Montgomery Parks to promote its parks and support local restaurants. Visitors to nine parks in Silver Spring, Takoma Park, Bethesda, North Bethesda, Wheaton, and Germantown can order takeout from a nearby restaurant and have it delivered to the park.

Under the new directive, people would now be able to enjoy a drink in designated areas within one of the nine parks. The county began allowing restaurants to sell alcohol to-go when everything shut down in March due to Covid-19, but has kept the rule in place even as restaurants were allowed to have indoor dining. Of course, you’ll have to be 21 to drink in the park, and people are encouraged to drink responsibly.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

14 years!

As longtime readers know, I started this blog 14 years ago last Friday, June 26, at the age of 18. I was passionate about this place, but it was a lonely effort. Most of my friends had other things to worry about, and they were tired of me ranting in class or at parties or at shows about the Purple Line.

I wish 18-year-old me could see how much things have changed!

BLM protest at Walter Johnson High School
A socially-distanced protest at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda, organized by two recent graduates. Photo by the author.
This spring, I've had the chance to meet a number of young people in Montgomery County who are leading the fight for equity and justice in our community, from the MCPS school boundary analysis to over two dozen Black Lives Matter protests that have happened here since May. They live in all parts of the county. They come from a variety of different backgrounds. What unites them is their energy, their persistence, and their willingness to say what needs to be said.

Zoe Tishaev, a graduate of Clarksburg High School, organized a two-hour discussion on exclusionary zoning in Montgomery County called A Legacy of Segregation, where I spoke along with Jane Lyons from the Coalition for Smarter Growth and Planning Board member Partap Verma. You can watch it here:

Last weekend, I had the honor of speaking at a BLM protest at Walter Johnson High School in Bethesda organized by Matt Garfinkel and Nat Tilahun, two MCPS grads who understood the power of making yourself heard right here at home.

These are just two examples, but I'm constantly inspired by the hard work of our student activists - and challenged to push harder for what's right. As grown-ups (am I a grown-up yet?) we would do well to listen to them.

Anyway, here's the text of my speech on Saturday. Here's to 14 years of Just Up The Pike, and here's to 14 more years: