Friday, January 24, 2014

this mcmansion is actually four townhouses (or, another way to meet our housing needs)

Some people who live in single-family homes resist anything other than single-family homes being built around them. But as our region grows, there will be a growing demand for townhomes and apartments. What if we just built them in disguise?

The Great House, Carrington Ridge
The "Great House" near Tysons Corner. Photos by the author.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

will montgomery fund new transit, or build more roads?

Maryland's gas tax increase means it now has the most transportation funding in a generation. Will Montgomery County spend its share on transit to support its urban centers, or keep building highways?

Crossing Georgia at Colesville
Walking in downtown Silver Spring. Photo by the author.

Coupled with existing revenues, the new gas tax has made $15 billion available for transportation, a 52% increase from last year and the most transportation funding in a generation. This month, the County Council will send the state a list of their transportation priorities in order to receive some of that money. As in past years, there are a number of road projects on the list.

But the Planning Board, noting the high cost of new highways and efforts to direct future growth to urban centers, urge the council to choose transit instead. Transit isn't "the answer to every transportation problem," they write, but "where roadway widenings to solve perennial traffic congestion would significantly affect existing communities, natural resources and parkland, a more efficient solution is needed."

Friday, January 10, 2014

chevy chase digs in its heels to fight purple line

After almost 30 years, the pieces are finally falling into place to build the Purple Line. But as it decides whether to keep fighting the project, will the Town of Chevy Chase see the writing on the wall?

Purple Line Rally, August 5 2013 (cropped)
Protesters at a Purple Line event in Bethesda in August. Photo by the author.

This week, the Maryland Transit Administration narrowed down the list of private partners to help build and operate the $2.2 billion, 16-mile light rail line between Bethesda and New Carrollton. But on Wednesday night, Chevy Chase held a public hearing about whether to spend $360,000 on legal representation to keep fighting the Purple Line, which passes through it for a half-mile.

During the hearing, residents of the affluent town of less than 3,000 people debated the merits of continuing to fight a project that even opponents admit is basically a done deal. Matilde Farren compared the Town Council to change-resistant aristocrat Lord Grantham on the TV show "Downton Abbey." "Trying to keep our town the way it was in the '20s is not realistic," she said. "Times change and we must too."

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

students, parents criticize MCPS online for opening today

Snowy School Day
These kids are in Indiana, meaning they're probably more accustomed to snow than we are in Maryland. Photo by Phil Dragash on Flickr.

Despite sub-freezing temperatures, Montgomery County Public Schools are open today. But students and parents didn't go without a fight, taking their concerns and their pleas to school officials on Twitter. Here's a Storify of what happened:

Monday, January 6, 2014

new bill could make montgomery's streets better for walking

Montgomery County's urban areas are growing, but their wide, fast streets, designed to prioritize drivers over everyone else, are holding them back. A new bill going before the County Council could level the playing field for pedestrians and cyclists.

Colesville Road Looking South
A pedestrian-unfriendly sidewalk on Colesville Road. Photo by the author.

Last month, Councilmembers Roger Berliner and Hans Riemer introduced several amendments to the county's Road Code, notably to reduce the "target speed," which is usually the speed limit, of new or rebuilt streets. All streets in urban areas would be designed for speeds of 25mph, or between 30 and 40mph on suburban arterials. On smaller residential streets, the target speed would be 20mph.

To achieve those lower speeds, in urban areas like Silver Spring, the bill would allow lanes no wider than 10 feet, tighter curb radii at intersections, and curb bumpouts, which reduce the distance pedestrians have to cross a street. It also lets developers work with the county to put bikeshare stations or car charging outlets in their projects.