Category Archives: Infrastructure

Bring Joe’s Electric Bus to Route 1

At a meeting in June of 2007, a group of Route 1 area residents had a chance to talk frankly with SHA Administrator Neil Pederson about transportation issues, congestion, capacity, possible improvements and Route 1. During the meeting, Riverdale Park resident Joe Kelly popped out with a great idea that’s been talked about since with public officials, now we need you to add your voice to the chorus.

Here’s the concept: Joe’s Electric Bus would run regular loops on Route 1 for a nominal fee, just as DC’s Circulator does. It should serve the Route 1 communities, Arts District, Gateway and area Metro/Purple Line stops from Eastern Ave. to the Beltway, perhaps running loops north from 410 and south from 410. Joe thought this would be convenient, environmentally friendly and a perfect opportunity for an innovative business person (or forward-thinking government). Somehow the picture of a purple bus with bright, psychedelic lettering gained currency and this imaginary bus was christened Joe’s Electric Bus.

Meanwhile, Prince George’s County has been working on a draft Transportation Master Plan that strongly recommends the developed tier implement a strong “urban-style” bus system. Although several points highlighted as possible connections in a July presentation fall in the Rt. 1 area, there are very few specifics available online currently. This Thursday, the Planning Board will take up a staff request to print the preliminary plan–it would be great to have Joe’s Electric Bus included.

So click the Email Lady to send a note to Planning Board Chairman Sam Parker and your county council person urging them to include a Route 1 looped bus route in the plan. Then get your friends & neighbors on the bus, OK?

More on the Preliminary Countywide Master Plan of Transportation
Presentations
Open House Comments
Timetable

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Filed under Infrastructure, Planning Board, Public Input, Public Transit, Route 1 Corridor, Transportation

Countywide Visioning Process Launches

Envision Prince George's

Friday brought the second one-day economic outlook forum called “Envision Prince George’s” sponsored by the Prince George’s County Planning Department of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC), along with the Prince George’s County Economic Development Corporation (EDC) and Prince George’s County government. And while the morning was interesting and worthwhile, the afternoon presentations were the real deal.

Dr. Stephen Fuller, Director of the Center for Regional Analysis and professor of public policy at George Mason University gave a frank and unvarnished assessment of the strengths of the county and pulled no punches as he discussed where we were and where we needed to be to compete regionally for jobs. He spoke persuasively about past land use decisions and current opportunities. Richard Florida, professor at the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto and author of The Rise of the Creative Class and Who’s Your City, followed with a fairly general talk. But on the heels of Fuller’s brief, it had a little more impact.

Planning Board Chairman Samuel J. Parker, Jr. stole the show though with his announcement that the Planning Board would launch a visioning process, with an opportunity for significant public input. This process, while long overdue, will allow community input to shape our area’s future development.

Envision Prince George’s has four major goals:

  • Educate a broad cross-section of community stakeholders about the collaborative visioning process and need for their participation.
  • Engage individuals and groups across the county in a facilitated process to solicit their input into the vision for the county’s future.
  • Articulate their desired outcomes as a shared vision for quality of life in the county.
  • Translate that vision into subsequent goals and implementation strategies that help shape agency work programs and guide county policies. (Emphasis added)

The final product will be a community development framework that can inform decision-making, for example, in land use development, planning, and community services that are in alignment with future vision of the county as described by its committed and engaged citizenry.

Many jurisdictions across the country have forward-thinking plans, one of them is just across the Potomac. In 1960, Arlington County, Virginia adopted a comprehensive plan with five basic elements. Politicians have come and gone, but the comprehensive plan has continued to provide a unifying framework for Arlington’s growth. It has been updated, but basic principles remain intact and the county is now the transit-oriented development model for the rest of the nation.

Let’s hope that the same sort of coherent and community-driven plan, along with an updated zoning ordinance, can come out of Prince George’s visioning process. Kudos to Mr. Parker and his colleagues for kicking this off. Visit the project site and sign up now to help shape your county.

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Filed under Community, Events, Infrastructure, Planning, Planning Board, Public Input, Route 1 Corridor

Heads Up on Schools

j0401120-small.jpgA couple time-sensitive items about schools for readers to follow:
On Monday, December 3, tune to WAMU radio (88.5 FM). Dr. John Deasy joins Kojo Nnamdi in the studio live from noon to 1:00 pm. Likely topics include a preview of the planned PreK-8 restructuring of county elementary and middle schools. We may hear his strategy for addressing the looming state budget shortfall for school year 2008-09. Listen here.

On Monday evening, the PGCPS Board of Education will formally accept for “first reading” one of three plans for this PreK-8 restructuring initiative. This meeting is not open to public comment but, rather, an administrative hand off between Superintendent Deasy and school board members. (See item 15 on 12/3 agenda.) The ensuing boundary changes accompanying any of the selected plans will concern many Route 1 communities. The plan will identify possible schools for expansion of the popular language immersion, Montessori and arts education programs. View the plan after the meeting at the PGCPS board agenda website.

Stay on top of school issues in the northern region by joining this listserve. We understand that once the Board accepts a plan for the first reading, public review and comment will begin. And we expect this to be lively. Look for a schedule of meetings, perhaps as early as December, in neighborhoods to review and discuss the boundary changes that will accompany adoption of the PreK-8 initiative.–MbS & CH

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Filed under Growth, Infrastructure, Schools

Infrastructure & Good Neighbors

“Infrastructure,” says Goldhagen, summing it all up, “is where architecture and politics merge.”

So architectural historian Sarah Goldhagen wraps up a recent and provocative interview with the Boston Globe that is essential reading if you care about infrastructure. And, we know you do.

Goldhagen says to think of it as a detective story. A bridge collapses in Minnesota. A steam pipe explodes in New York. Water in some cities is found to contain lead…Schools have boarded-up windows but don’t have books…It’s like an Agatha Christie mystery.

But this is much scarier than anything Christie wrote. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers, our nation’s infrastructure is barely making the grade, and is mediocre at best.

What, exactly, is infrastructure? For Goldhagen, it’s everything we build that is meant to serve the public: highways, streets, bridges, tunnels, sidewalks, transit systems, utilities of all kinds, parks, soccer fields, even public schools and colleges.

She says we need to think of it all as one integrated whole, and then ask who’s taking care of it. No one, it turns out.

That last sentence is why the Route 1 Growth working group came together. Infrastructure is not sexy, it costs a lot and is, if things are working well, invisible. But it is critical to our quality of life.

We are way behind the curve, probably about ten years and that may be a conservative estimate–and that’s before the 7,600 new residential units. Let’s look at schools. The need is identified, put into the funding cycle (or not), then a site needs to be identified and purchased, the plans prepared, and the project bid and constructed. Roads and transit are similar. Continue reading

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Filed under Cities and Towns, Elected Offcials, Infrastructure, Public Transit, Retail, Roads

Ah, Route 1 on the Riviera

france-french-riviera.jpg

We are back from our luxurious sojourn on the Riviera where we never thought a bit about traffic on Route 1, pedestrian safety, transit, TIFs and school seats.

OK, we lied. We have been thinking and meeting incessantly about all of the above and just have not had time to report back. So, a quick round up of the last 45 days in no particular order follows.

Purple Line excitement. At the MTA Purple Line focus group meeting, UMD Athletic Director Debbie Yow came out in favor of the Purple Line in a big way. But she insists it be on Stadium Dr. because of the 60-70 special events each year, rather than on Campus Dr. which is MTA’s preferred alignment. But students need to get to class everyday. This seems to be a point that she and Dan Mote, an alleged supporter of the Purple Line, have yet to grasp. The UMD administrators parroting the party line angered local residents at the meeting.

East Campus community input meetings continue. Continue reading

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Filed under Community, Infrastructure, Public Input, Public Transit, Tax Relief, Traffic

Our Fortunes & the Cafritz Family

fortune-cookie-small-small-wince.jpgThis weekend the Cafritz Property development team will unveil their concept plan for the 35.8 acre site.
Sat., Sept. 15 10-12 am
Tues., Sept. 18 7-9 pm
Riverdale Elementary School, 5006 Riverdale Road, Riverdale Park, MD.

Expect it to be heavy on retail and very dense. This site is just a couple acres smaller than East Campus…where 2000 units of housing and lots of retail are planned. We will be spared another round of “stations.” Instead, the team will make a short presentation followed by a lengthy questions and answer period. We hope for greater detail and substance than past presentations.

Our previous Cafritz posts may provide a starting place as you consider our community’s future. But we need to look beyond the Cafritz Property and to the growth taking place up and down the Route 1 corridor. The number of units, approved and planned, is truly amazing. Rethink College Park did a quick rundown almost a year ago and this does not include the recently approved Landy Property’s 1200 units and EYA’s expansion–or Univ. Town Center.

While the Whole Foods repeatedly mentioned by the team may belong somewhere nearby, it–and other destination retail–does not belong on this site. The site’s location, just north of the failing intersection of Route 1 and 410, makes this type of development unworkable. Access is limited–all vehicular traffic would end up on Route 1 alone. There is no alternate route. Those of you caught in the recent traffic jam that turned Route 1 from 495 to this property into a parking lot, may understand most clearly what our future could look like. A small amount of retail that is attractive to the immediate area may be tolerable, but anything more will simply cannibalize Riverdale Park, Hyattsville and College Park’s efforts to revitalize or redevelop their town centers. Continue reading

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Filed under Cafritz Property, Events, Infrastructure, Planning, Public Input, Route 1 Corridor, Sustainability

School Surcharge 101

calculator.jpgDespite what developers say, in Prince George’s County they do not pay an impact fee–they pay a surcharge. What is the difference? Pretty big. An impact fee assigns funds to the area impacted by the development. The law in Prince George’s County, which I believe originated at the state delegation level, collects a surcharge from developers in Prince George’s County of about $12,000 per unit outside the Beltway and $7,000 per unit inside (to stimulate revitalization). These amounts are linked to a formula and typically increase each year.

What is the case for a surcharge rather than an impact fee? Collecting a surcharge from each unit developed (dorms and senior housing are normally excluded) allows money to pool in the General Fund. Monies can move from the General Fund for allocation throughout the county via the Capital Improvement Program (CIP). The surcharge strategy spreads out the benefit of new development to communities without comparable growth.

What is the downside of the surcharge? The neighborhoods needing school seats, especially to accommodate the new development-based increase in school-age children, may not see any benefit. Continue reading

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Filed under Community, Developers, Infrastructure, Planning, Schools