Friday, December 21, 2012

merry christmas/taking submissions for "in and out" 2013 edition

Looking SE (Georgia at Ripley)
It's not going to be a white Christmas, but it's always nice to hope.


The chances are high that you're not even reading blogs right now but, rather, out shopping, or traveling to see family and friends, or perhaps in your panic room patiently waiting for the end of the world. I am too (the first two things, not the third thing), so let's agree to reconvene here next week after the presents are unwrapped and/or the world is over. As always, you can find JUTP updates on our Facebook and Twitter pages.

Until then, start thinking of contributions for In and Out for MoCo, Just Up The Pike's year in review/homage to the Washington Post's annual In/Out List. Basically, you name a thing that went "out" in 2012 and another thing that will be "in" in 2013.

JUTP did our last list in 2009, and I thought it was time to bring it back. (Unsure if I will bring back the once-yearly tradition of posting "It's Christmas Eve in Washington".)

You can leave your suggestions in the comments or email them to justupthepike at gmail dot com. Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 17, 2012

where do MoCo residents walk, bike & take transit to work?

Crossing Georgia at Colesville
Nearly 60% of downtown Silver Spring residents get to work without a car. 

For decades, Montgomery County has promoted transit-oriented development as a way to provide alternatives to driving, but some say it hasn't worked, claiming most people "will drive no matter what." However, a detailed look at commuting habits in specific neighborhoods clearly shows that people will leave their cars at home if there are other options.

I looked at data from the Census Bureau's 2006-2010 American Community Survey to see how Montgomery County's 502,000 employed residents get to work. Countywide, two-thirds of commuters drive to work alone. 15% take public transit, 11% carpool, and 5% work at home. Just 2 percent walk or bike to work. While those numbers may seem impressive for a suburban area, they may seem underwhelming for anyone who envisions a more urban future for the county.

Break it down by neighborhood and commuting habits vary dramatically. In places with reliable, frequent transit service, or jobs within close proximity, or were designed to encourage walking, biking and transit use over driving, commuters take advantage of the options they're given. Not only does this data suggest that the county's policies have been successful, but it provides some guidance for how to encourage more walking, biking and transit use in the future. (For a closer look at the data, you can see my spreadsheet and consult this map of the county's census tracts.)

Taking transit to work

Here's a map of the county broken down by census tract, showing the areas where transit use is above the countywide average of 15 percent:

Commuting to Work in MoCo: Transit (with rankings)
Census tracts with the highest percentage of transit commutes. Click here to see this image without the ranking labels.

Not surprisingly, people use transit more in areas where there's lots of transit, like around each of the county's 13 Metro stations. (I'm counting Takoma and Friendship Heights, which are both in the District, since they're within walking distance of Montgomery County.)

Over 40% of commuters take transit to work in Friendship, downtown Bethesda, downtown Silver Spring and South Silver Spring, where for decades the county has sought to concentrate jobs, housing and other amenities. Census Tract 7012.14, a concentration of apartments and condominiums just east of the Grosvenor-Strathmore Metro station in North Bethesda, wasn't far behind.

Commuters will choose the bus as well if the service is good. Transit use was high along corridors with frequent bus routes that run all day, seven days a week, like Veirs Mill Road, University Boulevard, Georgia Avenue, New Hampshire Avenue and Columbia Pike. Metrobus lines serving these roads, like the C, K, Q, Y and Z, are among the most-used routes in Maryland.

In tract 7023.01, which covers part of the Long Branch neighborhood of Silver Spring, there's no Metro station, but there are over a dozen Ride On and Metrobus routes. As a result, nearly 36% of commuters there use transit.

While the areas with above-average transit ridership were almost entirely in the Downcounty and East County, there were also a few Upcounty neighborhoods, like around the Germantown and Lakeforest transit centers, both of which are major Ride On hubs. This is impressive considering that these areas were built after World War II, when it was assumed that everyone would drive everywhere.

Walking and biking to work

Here's a map showing census tracts where the percentage of walkers and bicyclists is above the countywide average of 2.49 percent:

Commuting to Work in MoCo: By Foot or Bike (with rankings)
Census tracts with the highest percentage of foot and bike commutes. Click here to see this image without the ranking labels.

This map bears some similarities to a "bicycling heat map" created by Montgomery County planners last year to determine what areas of the county would have the highest demand for bicycling infrastructure. As it predicted, walking and biking rates are higher in the county's downtowns, like Silver Spring, Bethesda and Rockville, where homes and jobs are within walking distance of one another.

However, there also appeared to be a connection between above-average walking and biking and proximity to a major educational, research or medical institution. There's a high instance of walkers and bikers around the National Institutes of Health and Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda. About a quarter of commuters walk or bike to work in tracts 7050, which includes both facilities, and 7048.06 next door in downtown Bethesda. Meanwhile, almost 19% of commuters walk or bike to work in tract 7017.02 in Takoma Park, which includes Washington Adventist Hospital and Washington Adventist University.

And one out of ten commuters walk or bike in the recently-built Fallsgrove neighborhood of Rockville. Located miles from a Metro station and lacking good bus service, Fallsgrove has lower-than-average transit use.

However, it has interconnected streets and a mix of homes, shops and offices, making it easy to get around on foot or bike. It's also across the street from the Shady Grove Life Sciences Center, home to major employers like Johns Hopkins University and Shady Grove Adventist Hospital.

There were also above-average instances of walking and biking in rural communities, like Burtonsville, Potomac and Damascus. I'm not sure why this happens, but it bears further investigation.

Conclusions

View From 14th Floor Balcony, Gallery at White Flint
The data suggests ways we can increase walking, biking and transit use in places like White Flint.

While this wasn't an exhaustive look at commuting habits, one pattern is clear: people will choose not to drive when real alternatives are available. If you provide fast, frequent transit service that's as convenient if not more so than driving, commuters will use it. And if people live close enough to their jobs, they'll consider walking or biking to work.

The best way to encourage these behaviors is by building up around our transit network. More people living in places like Bethesda, Silver Spring or White Flint means more people who can reach their jobs by foot, bike or transit.

But that's not all. We need to create a pleasant walking experience in these areas, which can encourage people to walk farther. We need to provide adequate bicycling infrastructure to attract a wider range of bicyclists.

And we should acknowledge that even people who live in transit-rich areas like downtown Silver Spring and take transit to work might still drive three blocks to the grocery store. There will be cars in Montgomery County for a long time to come, even if they have to share space with pedestrians, bicyclists and transit.

Friday, December 14, 2012

bikeshare needs more bike lanes to work in MoCo

Second Avenue Bike Lane
What bike lanes could look like on Second Avenue. (Here's some more renderings of potential bike lanes in Silver Spring.)

Capital Bikeshare will expand into Montgomery County next year, but bicycling advocates say the infrastructure isn't ready for it. If the county's serious about making bikeshare work, they need to make bicycling safe and comfortable before the first bikes are out.

This week, the Washington Area Bicyclist Association and MoBike recommended that almost 20 miles of bike paths should be built inside the Beltway before bikeshare opens.

Bicycling has become more popular as a form of transportation in Montgomery County in recent years, but there are very few bike lanes, and the county's wide, busy roads deter all except the most fearless cyclists. As a result, bikeshare users might be tempted to ride on the sidewalk, which could be dangerous for pedestrians.


View proposed bike lanes in a larger map


In this report, the two groups suggest a network of bike lanes in Silver Spring, Takoma Park, Bethesda and Friendship Heights. They proposed having dedicated bike lanes on major roads like Georgia Avenue in Silver Spring and business district streets like Arlington Road in Bethesda.

Streets that were too narrow or too congested for bike lanes, like Elm Street in Bethesda, would get sharrows, which help drivers and cyclists share the road. They also recommended the completion of major regional trails, like the Metropolitan Branch Trail, which currently stops half a mile short of its proposed terminal at the Silver Spring Metro station.

The proposed lanes make a lot of sense, focusing on compact downcounty neighborhoods where everything's already within biking distance. I've written before that more on-street bike routes can make bicycling more practical as a form of transportation by bringing riders to shops, jobs and other activities. And bikes take up a lot less space than cars, meaning we can fit more bicyclists on a congested street than we can drivers.

Some of the proposed routes, like Georgia Avenue and Colesville Road, may face resistance from the Montgomery County Department of Transportation and the State Highway Administration, which have been reluctant to take away space from cars. But WABA and MoBike weren't the first to propose bike lanes for them: earlier this year, County Councilmember Nancy Floreen asked that the state paint lanes on several major roads that they're scheduled to repave anyway next year.

Creating a countywide bicycling network will take a lot of time and planning, but there are things we can do to improve the biking experience sooner rather than later. As more people take up bicycling, they may find that they don't have safe places to ride. As a result, Capital Bikeshare could help build a constituency for bike lanes that doesn't exist now.

Capital Bikeshare is ready to expand into Montgomery County. The question is whether our streets will be ready for Capital Bikeshare.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

rockville pike, not the one in columbia (redux)

View From 14th Floor Balcony, Gallery at White Flint
In White Flint, strip malls are giving way to high-rises.
Three years ago, I joked about moving to Rockville Pike. I haven't moved yet, nor do I plan to. But starting this month, I am writing about it as a part-time contributor to the Friends of White Flint blog, started by the community group of the same name.

Over the past few years, White Flint has begun to transform from a strip-mall corridor into a new downtown, earning it and the county national attention. While the goal is to remake White Flint as an urban hub like downtown Silver Spring, it'll take a long time to recreate the walkable, transit-friendly environment that Silver Spring already had as a legacy of being built over a century ago. 

I'm looking forward to following the evolution of White Flint and getting to know the people, neighborhoods and culture of another part of Montgomery County. Not only that, but the job will help support me nine months into my search for a full-time position. Special thanks go to friend of JUTP/White Flint community activist/Montgomery's first Chief Innovation Officer Dan Hoffman, who reached out to me about working with FoWF.

Blogging on JUTP will continue as usual, though I apologize if I accidentally swap "White Oak" for "White Flint." And if your company or organization is looking for someone with a design and planning background who can communicate complex design and planning ideas to the public, please don't hesitate to contact me!

Monday, December 10, 2012

see downtown silver spring change over past 7 years

Even More Like A Big City, 2005
Downtown Silver Spring, December 11, 2005.

It's hard to notice change occurring on a daily basis. But looking at photos of downtown Silver Spring over the past 7 years, it's clear how dramatic the transformation has been.

At the end of my first semester of college at the University of Maryland seven years ago, I took the Metro back to Silver Spring to hang out with a friend from high school. We walked around downtown, visiting the record store, having coffee at Mayorga, and taking funny pictures of the "Silver SprUng" signs that were everywhere at the time.

We eventually ended up walking on Burlington Avenue, a one-block-long street that climbs over the Red Line tracks.

Even though it's part of a busy state highway, I'd never really noticed this street before. In a car going 35 miles an hour, there isn't much time to notice it. As a result, for the first time in my entire life, I was presented with a sweeping view of downtown Silver Spring: garages and graffiti; office towers and cranes.

"Wow, it almost looks like a city," I joked.

"It IS a city," she replied.

Have you ever had an idea that didn't seem to make sense until someone else said it? That's how I felt then. Even if Silver Spring was on the wrong side of the city line, people who didn't spend all of their time thinking about planning stuff like I did still perceived it as a city, which meant I could too and not feel crazy.

(This line of thinking also informs my acceptance of the theory that Silver Spring takes up like half of Montgomery County, which is controversial but was generally accepted by everyone I grew up with.)

My friend and I eventually fell out of touch, but I kept coming back to the Burlington Avenue bridge. Much of the view is the same: the fences, the line of body shops along Auto Row, the bright red "SMASH INHIBITIONS" tag along the train tracks that persists alongside layers of new graffiti. But downtown Silver Spring has grown up around it, and there's at least one new building every time I come back.

Even More Like A Big City, 2007
Downtown Silver Spring, December 21, 2007.


More Like A City, Sep. 2009
Downtown Silver Spring, September 5, 2009.


Even More Like A Big City, 2012
Downtown Silver Spring, December 1, 2012.

Of course, we're not talking about a transformation on the scale of Dubai, where the city seems as if it sprouted overnight. But if I compared photos from my parents' cul-de-sac a few miles away in 2005 and in 2012, they'd probably look the same, which makes the transformation of downtown Silver Spring even more amazing.

Change may be hard to stop, but it's also spiky, occurring in fits and starts and in some places more than others. That's definitely a blessing to those people who'd prefer not to live in a place like downtown Silver Spring, and it's great that change and stability can coexist so close together.

I look forward to watching the continued growth and evolution of downtown Silver Spring. Each time I come back to Burlington Avenue, Silver Spring looks more and more like a city, and I've never been prouder to call it my hometown.

Friday, December 7, 2012

I talk about zoning, silver spring on montgomery plans TV show

Me on Montgomery Plans
That's me, talking about zoning.

This month, you can see me on Montgomery Plans, the Montgomery County Planning Department's cable show that covers local land use and planning issues. Host Valerie Berton and I talk about how the county's ongoing zoning rewrite project can improve neighborhoods like South Silver Spring, which has lots of new residents but very little retail.

I'm about 6 minutes in, but you should definitely watch the rest of the segment. Planning Board Chair Francoise Carrier discusses how the new zoning code can help protect well-loved neighborhoods like Woodside in Silver Spring.

Meanwhile, board member Casey Anderson shows how it will reduce the amount of parking required in commercial areas, allowing currently empty parking lots to be used for other things. Also, architect and Takoma Park resident Carl Elefante talks about how the new zoning code will encourage different kinds of housing, so people in all stages of life can find a place in the county.



Zoning is one of the least sexy parts of the planning process, filled with legal jargon and data tables that can make even the most passionate planner's eyes glaze over. However, it's also one of the most important tools we have to shape our communities.

While doing research for the Flower Theatre Project, I found out the current zoning code makes it hard, if not impossible to reopen the Flower Theatre simply because it requires more parking spaces than there are on the property today. Parking certainly isn't the only reason the theatre is closed, but it's a major impediment to revitalizing Long Branch and other commercial districts across the county.

Montgomery's zoning rewrite aims to make the current code simpler and easier to use. It seeks to preserve the things people like about the county while encouraging more of the things that people want, including a greater variety of housing choices, more places to eat, shop and hang out, and more ways to get around.

If that's not enough to convince you, fast forward to about 7 minutes in and you can hear me say "bidnesses." That wasn't intentional, but I talk fast when I get excited. And I'm about as excited as one can get about the zoning rewrite and the potential it has to make the county's neighborhoods better.

The Planning Board encourages residents to offer their thoughts on the zoning rewrite at a series of public hearings which began earlier this fall and will run through next week. If you'd like to learn more about the zoning rewrite, you can visit their website. You can also watch Montgomery Plans on County Cable Montgomery or on the show's website.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

discover long branch! brings diners, trike riders to el golfo

Giant Tricycle Outsde El Golfo
El Golfo Restaurant, home to the first Discover Long Branch! event.
As I wrote last week, the Flower Theatre Project has been working with the Long Branch Business League, a group of local business owners, in the hopes that a more robust neighborhood economy will make the area more attractive to the kind of investment we need to bring the Flower back to life. Yesterday, the Business League hosted their first-ever Discover Long Branch! event at El Golfo Restaurant on Flower Avenue to raise awareness of a great local business. The Montgomery Housing Partnership helped with logistics and programming, and the county's Department of Housing and Community Affairs provided financial support.

Over quesadillas and El Golfo's famous chocolate mousse, I got to spend a great evening with folks from Long Branch and beyond who are excited about the future of the Flower Theatre. I also passed out our new spiffy flyer, summarizing our efforts over the past four months. Almost every table was full, and the mood was buoyant.

Santa Claus Visits Discover Long Branch
From left to right: resident Dave Lemen, business owner & president of the Long Branch Business League Carlos Perozo, Father Christmas (played by James Wilt, senior manager of the Community Thrift Store and a Business League member), and transit activist Tina Slater.

Even Santa Claus showed up with gifts for everyone.

My Dream For Long Branch
The board reads "My dream for Long Branch is/Mi sueƱo para Long Branch es."

In the lobby, there was a chalkboard where people could write out their dream for Long Branch in both English and Spanish. The board was built by Jeff Gipson, an architecture graduate student at the University of Maryland and intern at the Montgomery Housing Partnership. The responses ranged from pragmatic ("More money into schools") to intangible ("well-being") to literal ("Flowers on Flower Avenue"). I was excited to see quite a few mentions of the Flower Theatre and the Purple Line.

Howard Connelly's Tricycle
Connelly rides his giant trike up Flower Avenue.

Outside, there was a giant tricycle built by artist Howard Connelly of Colesville, who offered us all rides. The tricycle was first commissioned for Takoma Park's Independence Day Parade and later participated in the Baltimore Kinetic Sculpture Race, though readers might recognize it from its normal perch outside Connelly's house on New Hampshire Avenue.

"Just Up The Trike." Photo by Dave Lemen.


Connelly built the tricycle himself using recycled pieces including steel and wood. Though it weighs about 250 pounds, it can go pretty fast and make some sharp turns. I was a little nervous at first, but it quickly passed and I felt like a little kid going down the big slide at Wheaton Regional Park again.

The best part was watching people react as they walked past. Kids and adults alike asked to ride it, and Connelly gladly obliged. One gentleman who was clearly drunk stumbled down Flower Avenue cursing at the top of his lungs until he passed the tricycle. It was enough to make him stop and stare for a second before he resumed walking and yelling.

While the Flower Theatre Project began as a way to bring an old theatre back to life, it's given me a chance to get to know the Long Branch community as well. Over the past four months, I've met neighbors, community leaders and business owners who are genuinely excited about their neighborhood and its potential, and it's infectious.

'You're Gonna Get Some Hop-Ons'
Reminds me of Arrested Development: "You're gonna get some hop-ons."

Thanks to everybody who came out last night! The Long Branch Business League hasn't announced their next Discover Long Branch! event, but judging by the success of this one, I hope they will soon.

what's up the pike: flash mobs and apartment meetings


- In case you missed it: State Senator Jamie Raskin recently held a fundraiser in downtown Silver Spring and preceded it with a "flash mob" on Ellsworth Drive. Over 150 people, including a mix of volunteers, students at the Maryland Youth Ballet, and Raskin himself, danced to the Contours' "Do You Love Me" on Ellsworth Drive. And awesome photographer/friend of JUTP Chip Py was there to capture the scene.

- In less fun news, if you're interested about new developments in downtown Silver Spring, there are three public meetings this month about new apartment buildings proposed along Fenton Street. They're a great chance to learn about what's going on and offer your suggestions as well. (Thanks to reader Jag for the heads-up.)

Karen Burditt of East Silver Spring has been circulating the meeting announcements on downtown-area listservs with the following message:

If you want to have a say in the future of Fenton Village then come out for about an hour and see what the developers have proposed.

This is a public process and will be part of the development record on these projects. The Developers have to record your comments - you can speak to the height, massing, appearance, parking, density, use, etc. You can also see three different developments and compare the different approaches of the different development teams. You can hear your neighbor's opinions and concerns as well. If you believe that Fenton Village needs to be developed in a manner supported by the local community - then please come out and be part of the process.

The meetings:

- This Thursday, December 6 will be a presentation about the Adele, a proposed apartment building at the corner of Fenton and Thayer where there's an abandoned auto repair shop today. The project was originally approved in 2008 for an 8-story building with 96 apartments, but the property went into foreclosure, so now it's got a new developer, a new architect and possibly a new program as well. The meeting's at 7:30pm at the First Baptist Church of Silver Spring, located at the corner of Fenton Street and Wayne Avenue.

studio plaza render
Rendering of Studio Plaza courtesy of WDG Architects.

- Next Thursday, December 13 will be a meeting about Studio Plaza, a major development in the block bounded by Georgia, Thayer, and Silver Spring avenues and Fenton Street that could contain apartments, shops, offices and even a hotel. Though I was really excited about the original proposal 3 years ago, the latest design presented this summer leaves a lot to be desired, and it's important that residents make their concerns known. That meeting will be at 7pm at the Silver Spring Civic Building.

Silver Spring Library - Night Perspective, Fenton and Bonifant
2009 rendering of proposed apartment building next to the future Silver Spring Library. 

- Finally, on Monday, December 17, Montgomery County will present their plans for an apartment building for low-income seniors next to the future Silver Spring Library at Fenton and Bonifant. The 8-story building would have 110 apartments and ground-floor retail space. This is an especially important project due to the rising cost of housing in downtown Silver Spring.

One of the reasons why housing is so expensive in the area is because there's a lot of demand to live in places like downtown Silver Spring but not a lot of supply, even with four new apartment buildings going up as we speak. It certainly doesn't help that a small group of neighbors keeps fighting proposed housing developments in and around downtown.

While there are lots of questions to be answered about these three new projects, we have to remember that downtown Silver Spring is a major hub for jobs, shopping and transportation. More people living here means more customers for local businesses, fewer cars pouring in on Georgia Avenue and Colesville Road, and more preserved open space in the county as a whole. Hopefully, residents will keep that in mind as they attend these meetings this month.

Monday, December 3, 2012

montgomery county has changed. has doug duncan?

Cheverly Day Parade: Doug Duncan
Doug Duncan in 2006. Photo by Tancread on Flickr.

Montgomery County's feeling nostalgic for former county executive Doug Duncan, who announced earlier this week that he'll run for a fourth term in 2014. While he presided over 12 years of prosperity and growth, it's worth asking whether he's prepared to guide a county that looks quite different than it did just a few years ago.

Duncan's long list of accomplishments has made him popular among many residents, who proposed naming the Silver Spring Civic Building for him. Yet political commentators, like Josh Kurtz of Center Maryland and David Moon of Maryland Juice, note that Duncan hasn't won a competitive race since he first took office in 1994 and hasn't been politically active since his aborted run for governor in 2006.

More importantly is the possibility that Duncan is no longer in tune with what Montgomery voters want. Since 1994, the county has become more diverse, more urban and now faces greater social and economic issues. As a result, the traditional growth-vs-no growth debate that's driven Montgomery County politics is falling apart, presenting new challenges to Duncan or any of the other contenders for county executive.

When Duncan took office, the county was still predominantly white and still had a reputation for being what former Councilmember Rose Crenca called the "perfect suburbia," save for the occasional scandal.

During his tenure, the county's population grew larger and more affluent. Meanwhile, the county's budget nearly doubled as Duncan racked up a long list of accomplishments, including the revitalization of downtown Silver Spring. The main political rift in the county was between the business community, who naturally wanted more development and backed Duncan, and civic organizations like the Montgomery County Civic Federation, which sought less or no growth.

Veterans' Plaza At Night
Duncan spearheaded the revitalization of downtown Silver Spring.

Today, whites are a minority, with substantial immigrant enclaves in places like Germantown that were farmland a generation ago. The county is largely built out and quickly urbanizing. Rockville Pike is now known as much for authentic Chinese food and skyscrapers as it is for big-box stores.

As this shift occurs, the old guard of anti-growth civic leaders are gradually being replaced by a new, diverse group of young adults and families, minorities and immigrants, that somewhat resembles the "coalition of the ascendant" that reelected President Obama. These groups are generally open to growth, especially if it provides much-needed jobs, affordable housing or other amenities.

That's because despite being one of the nation's wealthiest counties, Montgomery County is beginning to struggle. It has created no net jobs in 10 years even as Greater Washington has added jobs, putting the county at risk of falling behind Fairfax County and a newly ascendant D.C. The county faces growing poverty and social issues, while dwindling tax revenues during the recession have resulted in an ongoing budget crisis.

Ike Leggett Speaks
Ike Leggett speaks at a Purple Line rally in 2009.

As a result, the pro-growth and no-growth coalitions are becoming more dynamic. In 1994, Duncan earned the support of Montgomery's business community by supporting the InterCounty Connector, which would support development on the fringes of the county, while opposing the Purple Line between Bethesda and Silver Spring, which he called "spending millions to go nowhere." He continued to fight the Purple Line as an administrator at the University of Maryland.

But today, it enjoys strong support from nearly all of the county's elected officials and a cross-section of business, environmental and civic groups, who all agree that the project can support a new generation of infill development, reduce traffic and pollution, and revitalize older neighborhoods.

Perhaps the biggest sign of how things have changed in recent years has been the tenure of County Executive Ike Leggett, who succeeded Duncan in 2006 and may run for a third term. Though Leggett ran on a slow-growth platform, he has tentatively embraced a more urban future for the county.

Over the past 6 years, Leggett's administration has pushed an ambitious, if flawed plan for the redevelopment of downtown Wheaton, while his Smart Growth Initiative will relocate county facilities to make room for a new neighborhood at the Shady Grove Metro station. In an interview with Rockville Patch, he stressed the need for development that can grow the county's tax base.

Looking Back Towards Ellsworth
As MoCo becomes more diverse and more urban, there are new challenges and opportunities for elected officials.

At the same time, Leggett's administration has often held the county back, suggesting that an old-school Montgomery politician can only bend so far. He tried to strip funding for the Purple Line from this year's budget and spent most of 2011 promoting an controversial and ineffective youth curfew. Though he supports a countywide bus rapid transit network proposed by Councilmember Marc Elrich, Leggett and his Department of Transportation have been reluctant to do anything that would take road space away from drivers.

Shortly after Duncan was first elected, the Post gushed that "Montgomery County finally has a chief executive who looks as prosperous as Montgomery County." While the county may be ready to prosper again, Duncan's past record doesn't really fit where the county's going. It remains to be seen whether he, or any of the other candidates for county executive, will be able to transcend the old debates over growth and move the county forward.