Monday, September 8, 2008

what's up the pike: can you hear me now?

Now that Hurricane Hanna's passed and sunny skies are in the forecast - at least for the time being - it's back to business as usual in East County. Here's a look at what's happening this week Up The Pike:

- East County civic advocate Stuart Rochester will be appearing at the Action Committee for Transit's monthly meeting this Tuesday at 7:30pm. He'll be joining the Sierra Club's Pam Lindstrom and planning consultant Phil Perrine for a talk called "Transit-Oriented Development: Hype vs. Reality." A Fairland resident, Rochester has first-hand experience with East County's attempt to build around transit in the 1980's, during which thousands of apartments went up in Briggs Chaney and White Oak in anticipation of a light-rail line up Route 29 that was never built. The meeting will be held downtown at the Silver Spring Center at 8818 Georgia Avenue.

- Cell-phone users in Stonegate might actually get reception now that the Planning Board's approved an antenna tower (warning! PDF file) in Northwest Branch Park, adjacent to the National Capital Trolley Museum on Bonifant Road. For aesthetic purposes, the 140-foot-tall tower will be disguised as a tree, and the photo simulations Verizon's provided of the structure in its new location are nothing short of hilarious. The nearest antenna towers are located in Colesville at Randolph and New Hampshire and in Glenmont at Randolph and Georgia.

- The Maryland Department of Planning is holding six "listening sessions" throughout the state to discuss future growth. Each meeting will cover issues like sustainability, regional development, and growth's effects on transportation and schools. All meetings are open to the public. The "Washington Suburban" listening session will be held at Blake High School on September 18 at 6:30pm.

- FINALLY: JUTP gives its condolences to the family of an unnamed motorist who died during the storm Saturday afternoon, when his SUV veered off the road and hit a tree just before the Powder Mill Road exit on I-95 in Calverton.

ABOVE: How a recently-approved cell phone tower in Northwest Branch Park will look from the neighboring Bonifant Park subdivision. Images courtesy of Park and Planning.

9 comments:

Matt' said...

A redwood in Montgomery County? No. Just a cell tower. I think it's kind of insulting to think that we'll fall for that, don't you?

Here's a real-life example in Cherokee County, Georgia. It's near where I grew up.

http://tracktwentynine.blogspot.com/2008/01/hiding-in-plain-sight.html

Thomas Hardman said...

That's going to be one busy cellphone tower once they get around to building out the Montrose Parkway ("Rockville Facility") all of the way to the proposed interchange just south of Bonifant Road right across from the Trolley Museum, where it will join with the Intercounty Connector.

Sure, by the time they get around to building it, probably technology will have evolved to where we don't use cellphones as such.

By the way, as regards the Planning Board's "listening sessions", I can pretty much guarantee myself a hostile reception if I pop in and give them the condensed version of my latest blog entry.

C. P. Zilliacus said...

> A Fairland resident, Rochester
> has first-hand experience
> with East County's attempt
> to build around transit in
> the 1980's, during which
> thousands of apartments went
> up in Briggs Chaney and White
> Oak in anticipation of
> a light-rail line up Route 29
> that was never built. The
> meeting will be held
> downtown at the Silver
> Spring Center at
> 8818 Georgia Avenue.

You were doing fine until you
got to the light rail part.
The ill-fated 1981 Eastern
Montgomery County Master Plan
and its badly-flawed concept
of transit serviceability
did not envision or encourage a light rail line anywhere, including along U.S. 29.

Dan Reed said...

C.P.:

From the 1981 Master Plan for the Eastern Montgomery County Planning Area, page 169:

"Four alternatives were considered for Route 29 north of New Hampshire Avenue . . . construct a light-rail or other exclusive right-of-way transit system to connect Burtonsville with the Wheaton METRO station. This system would use a widened right-of-way along Route 29, and the Route 29 Spur. It would have stops at major intersections, fring parking lots, major employment centers, and other appropriate locations."

a little further down . . .

"After giving detailed consideration to the light-rail concept, the Planning Board eliminated it. Although projected peak period ridership was in the range considered appropriate for light-rail transit, projected patronage, on a day long basis could not justify the expenditure of capital and operating costs."

Light-rail transit was seriously vetted as a transportation option for the Route 29 corridor, and it would've been viable, too, according to the Planning Board, and probably more so, now. Keep in mind that by 1981, there were already a lot of apartments in Briggs Chaney and White Oak (the development to be serviced by transit) and since then there's been a lot more development along Route 29 that could've generated even more trips.

Thomas Hardman said...

I have to wonder how much influence the MARC rails promoters and users might have had on the decision. After all, isn't it the case that US-1 parallels heavy rail lines pretty much from Union Station into dockside Baltimore?

I seem to recall that in the early 1980s, rail ridership all around was at one of the lowest ebbs in the history of rail. Wasn't the Federal government nationalizing a whole lot of failing rail outfits at the time? See also the wikipedia article on AMTRAK.

I mean, if you ran various schedules of light rail all of the way up to Ellicott City and radially out US-40 to there from Baltimore, this almost makes sense as a sort of "complete the loop" with the US-1 heavy rail lines being the main leg. But do that many people use MARC sufficiently to warrant the massive investment of light-rail? For the time being, wouldn't a dedicated "bus train" line on a dedicated roadbed make sense? That dedicated roadbed could be upgraded to light rail along the whole length or any part of it, one presumes.

David said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
C. P. Zilliacus said...

> Light-rail transit was
> seriously vetted as
> a transportation option for
> the Route 29 corridor, and
> it would've been viable,
> too, according to the
> Planning Board, and
> probably more so, now.

It did not make it into the Approved and Adopted 1981 Plan document, and that's what controlled. Also, SHA looked
at light rail in the
late-1980's U.S. 29 study and
rejected it for reasons of cost
and compatibility difficulties,
especially south of White Oak.

Also, please be careful in the
use of the word corridor.
In the context of Montgomery
County planning-speak, there is
but one corridor, and that's the I-270 Corridor.
I realize that in transport-speak,
U.S. 29 can be called a corridor,
but please be aware of the the
different uses of the word.

> Keep in mind that by 1981,
> there were already a lot
> of apartments in Briggs
> Chaney and White Oak
> (the development to be
> serviced by transit) and
> since then there's been a
> lot more development along
> Route 29 that could've
> generated even more trips.

The 1981 Plan's "concept
of transit servicability" was
not just aimed at
residents of those
garden apartment complexes
along Castle Boulevard and
Stewart Lane and the
high-rise complex at Md. 650
(New Hampshire Avenue) and
Lockwood Drive (and yes, many
were there by the time that
the 1981 Plan was approved by
the County Council and
M-NCP&PC). Transit
servicability was an effort
to force many residents
of the East County to take
transit, regardless of the type
of home they were residing in.

But it failed.

Dan Reed said...

C.P.,

You're right. We can't force people to ride transit, but we can make it more convenient, so it becomes a legitimate choice for people who could do otherwise. I wasn't there in 1981 - or in 1997, for that matter, but I think the forces in East County are such that rapid transit could be built and well-used, though there are probably quite a few people in this community who would fight it tooth and nail, citing what happened way back when/

Thomas Hardman said...

Sometimes it's very easy to fall into the mindset that the powers-that-be want to force everyone onto transit because it gives them even more control over people's lives.

Look at it one way, and the reason people don't want to ride Metro is because that means they have exactly one route to travel. And anytime you have only one way to get from one place to another, someone will attempt to control it.

Whether it amounts to a troll under the bridge demanding ransom from Billygoat Gruff, or creditors patting down debtors for valuables, or criminals picking a chokepoint to lie in wait, being limited to only one route is inherently dangerous.