Wednesday, July 6, 2011

our loss is gaithersburg's gain . . .

Commenter adelphi_sky made a really good point in this post about the East County Science Center:

"For the life of me I don't understand why people block development that would make their lives easier. traffic is the main concern, but NIMBYs are willing to sacrifice increased property values, jobs, tax revenues, and a sense of place for the opportunity to hop into their cars and hit the beltway to shop and eat on the west side of the county."

If only the issue were framed this way. All too often, the discussion over development boils down to talk about crime or traffic congestion. Rarely do opponents mention the amenities a new project might bring, and when they do, they're also portrayed as undesirable or "inauthentic".

But does a new development really promise these things? It might mean you get a Whole Foods or a community park or something else nice. Yet we'll never know if we keep pushing investment away. East County's community leaders are slowly (very slowly) coming around to this idea, and I'm glad they have.


C. P. Zilliacus said...

Dan, for many years the Montgomery County approval process, as implemented at M-NCP&PC has treated employment centers stupidly (in my opinion).

Traffic attracted by employment is (again, in my opinion) good traffic, and should, over time, lead to shortened trip lengths, and lessen the East County's status as a bedroom community for the I-270 Corridor, Bethesda, D.C. and yes, even Northern Virginia. Trip length is a vastly under-used metric in Montgomery County. Instead, we obsess over P.M. peak hours, transit modal shares and (in relative terms) tiny amounts of bicycle use.

So by all means we should have more employment in the East County, and especially employment that takes advantage of having the Food and Drug Administration (literally) in our backyard, close to the University of Maryland, thanks to the ICC (yes, I have supported that since the 1980's), easy access to the life sciences cluster along Shady Grove Road and the new town of Konterra.

Dan Reed said...

I agree that the debate often gets bogged down in "numbers," but I definitely think it's short-sighted to ignore modal shares for transit, bikes and walking (for the uninitiated: what proportion of people use those forms of transportation versus driving). After all, you can only fit so many cars on a road, and you can only widen or build roads so much. After a certain point, you have to give people alternatives.

The argument goes that not everyone can use transit or bikes, 'cause what if they have a big package to carry, or kids? Well, what if they don't? What if you're just going by yourself from your house in East County to your job in the East County Science Center? Insisting that all of those people should drive, when a trip that short could be done just as well on foot/bike/transit, seems kind of silly (and causes congestion to all of those who actually do need to drive to their destination, such as jobs farther afield.)