Category Archives: Traffic

Listen Up

anm8e2d3838157781f9.gifThe standing room only Route 1 Development Forum hosted by Council Members Campos, Dernoga and Olson began a conversation that is long overdue in our area, gathering our elected representatives with planners, school and state highway officials in one room to talk with their constituents about growth. Unsurprisingly, schools and traffic surfaced as the community’s main concerns.

M-NCPPC Planner Coordinator Chad Williams quickly ran down the numbers for the 7-miles of the Route 1 corridor: 61,630 well-educated people in 20,790 dwelling units spread across stable neighborhoods. While unemployment is lower than the county average, the poverty level is above average. According to M-NCPPC, due to the University of Maryland, the area’s demographic skews younger and in some cases, poorer, than the county average.

Filed and in the development pipeline, 7,600 more units, with perhaps a total of 15,000 dwelling units including residential or mixed use projects still in the early planning stages (Cafritz, East Campus, etc.). Over 7 million square feet of retail and office space is built, under construction or planned.

While some student housing will be excluded from the school surcharge meant to fund new schools, PGCPS uses this student yield formula: multiply .44 by the number of residential units. Using the conservative number of 7,600 units, we get a yield of 3,344 new students in an already overcrowded region.

During the presentation and audience Q & A, the State Highway Administration SHA) and Prince George’s County Public Schools representatives indicated what a huge disconnect there is between our planners’ priorities and the community’s. The SHA rep suggested that traffic might be best alleviated by support for the I-95/UMD Connector, a remark that went over like a lead balloon. County and state traffic planners acknowledged that with upgrades proposed for Route 1 between Eastern Avenue and the Beltway take place, no new capacity will be gained for the corridor.

The planned improvements do not include the entire Route 1 corridor or where major new developments are under consideration, e.g., between Riverdale Park/Hyattsville and College Park. Failed intersections such as Route 1 and 410 also will not be addressed. Continue reading

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Filed under Community, Elected Offcials, Events, Growth, Public Input, Schools, Traffic

Ah, Route 1 on the Riviera

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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

East Campus: Our Local Economy & Independent Merchants

The East Campus Steering Committee will meet Thursday to discuss uses (residential, retail, hotel & office) and market feasibility. Agendas and materials for this and past meetings are also available, just click on the topic. You may find the market study, though somewhat flawed, and lessons learned from Silver Spring worth browsing. The preliminary plan indicates lots of chains and that’s worth careful examination in terms of character and contributions to our community. This pertinent article is reprinted with kind permission from The Hometown Advantage Bulletin, a free email newsletter published by the Institute for Local Self-Reliance. To read back issues or join the mailing list, visit here.

While many parts of the country are overrun with chain stores, San Francisco remains a stronghold for locally owned businesses, according to a new study, which also found that those local stores generate sizable benefits for the city’s economy.

The San Francisco Locally Owned Merchants Association (SFLOMA), one of the sponsors of the study, hopes it will spur residents to choose locally owned businesses more often and encourage cities in the region to re-examine policies that favor chains.

So far, “the response to the study and its publicity has been very encouraging,” said Rick Karp, owner of Cole Hardware and a co-founder of SFLOMA. In an editorial about the study, the San Francisco Chronicle concluded, “The message is clear: It’s time to shop local.”

The study, titled “The San Francisco Retail Diversity Study,” was conducted by Civic Economics, the firm that produced two ground-breaking and frequently cited studies—one in Austin and another in Chicago—that measured the economic impact of locally owned businesses versus chain stores.

The San Francisco analysis builds on this earlier research. It examines retail spending in a region that includes the city of San Francisco and three adjacent suburbs: Daly City, Colma, and South San Francisco.

It begins by calculating the market share of independents and chains in several categories: bookstores, sporting goods stores, toy stores, and casual dining restaurants.

In all four categories, the study found that independents capture a much larger share of consumer spending in the region than they do nationwide. Locally owned bookstores in the San Francisco area, for example, capture about 55 percent of book sales. Internet retailers account for 19 percent of the market and chain bookstores, including Borders and Barnes & Noble, have about 15 percent. Nationally, independent bookstores account for just 10 percent of book sales.

Independent sporting goods stores in the San Francisco area likewise capture 56 percent of sales in that category, while independent restaurants have almost two-thirds of the casual dining market. Locally owned toy stores account for 44 percent of toy sales, while specialty toy chains, general merchants like Target, and internet retailers capture the rest.

In all four categories, the study found that independent retailers were much stronger in the city itself than in the three adjacent suburbs. Local bookstores accounted for less than 12 percent of book sales in the suburbs. Independent toy stores fared even worse with just 3 percent of the suburban market.

The second part of the study analyzes the impact on the city’s economy of shopping at locally owned businesses versus chains. It finds that $1 million spent at independent bookstores creates $321,000 in additional economic activity in the region, including $119,000 in wages and salaries paid to local employees. That same $1 million spent at chain bookstores generates only $188,000 in local economic activity, including $71,000 in local wages and salaries.

Independent toy stores, sporting goods stores, and restaurants likewise create substantially more local economic activity for every $1 million in sales than their chain counterparts, according to the study.

Much of the difference in economic impact is due to two factors. One is that the chains have some of their management, marketing, and other functions carried out at corporate headquarters and therefore employ fewer people locally per unit of sales. In the toy category, for example, for every $1 million in sales, independent stores create 2.22 local jobs, while chains create just 1.31.

The other factor is that the local retailers spend more of their revenue buying goods and services at local businesses such as print shops, accounting firms, web design companies, banks, and so forth. Chains have little need for these local goods and services; many of the dollars that flow into their outlets instead leave the region.

The final part of the study looks at the effect on the city’s economy if residents were to shift the balance of their spending between chains and local businesses by just 10 percent. Continue reading

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Filed under Community, Developers, East Campus, Local Economy, Public Input, Retail, Traffic

East Campus: Getting to Green

leaf.jpgThe University, its development team and East Campus Steering Committee meet Tuesday, September 4 at 7:30 pm in 0100 Marie Mount to discuss environmental issues for the project. (Committee contact info here.) The University has been a leader in this area and should continue by integrating its environmental objectives with this project’s goals. This should be straightforward as the University has already made environmental stewardship a key component of its Master Plan. President Mote also recently signed the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment. Taken together, these set the stage for East Campus to demonstrate environmental and architectural innovation, creating a mixed use development with a carbon neutral footprint.

The East Campus Request for Proposal (RFP), however, is squishy at best on what measures might be employed: “The University’s Environmental Stewardship Guidelines which are incorporated into the Master Plan should be taken into consideration in the development of a concept, and if selected, a project.” Similarly, the objectives for the East Campus plan merely call upon the developer to “exhibit sensitivity to the environment.” While the development team included some green practices in its initial conceptual plan, Committee members have no solid information thus far. Hopefully, specifics will be forthcoming and posted in advance of the Sept. 4 meeting to allow the public and community representatives to provide informed comments. Make the jump for great resources Continue reading

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Filed under East Campus, Environment, Public Input, Public Transit, Sustainability, Traffic, Transportation

East Campus Community Input Begins

mall.jpgTonight the first meeting of the East Campus Community Review Steering Committee will take place. Perhaps the University’s ambivalence about this process is reflected in the schizoid nature of the committee’s name: is this a community review group or a steering committee? The University has studiously avoided calling the group an advisory body and no notice of these meetings appears on the East Campus website, yet Pres. Mote’s letter of invitation anticipates “a lively dialogue and a collegial exploration of ideas,” while stating that committee members will learn a great deal about the project and be able “to provide input and to build broad support for it.” Uh, guys–maybe this would be more likely if adequate public notice was provided?

The University of Maryland, like UConn, Hendrix College and other campuses, has decided that a top university needs a great college town. Those of us who attended other land grant universities would not disagree. Apparently, downtown College Park, although improving in some ways, does not fit with the University’s vision. However, College Park’s lack of fine restaurants, retail options and other amenities is attributable, in part, to the same dilemma that has made for a less than vibrant campus culture: its proximity to Washington, DC. Continue reading

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Filed under Community, Developers, East Campus, Infrastructure, Public Input, Route 1 Corridor, Traffic

Landy: Not Ready for Prime Time

television-small.jpgAs you very likely know, the Landy Property would be a luxury development in a fenced, gated community with security on 34 acres off of Belcrest Rd. between Northwestern High School and Toledo Terrace. Originally approved in 2001, the plan has undergone a number of revisions. The revamped plans required a lot of work and are moving in the right direction, that is worthy of note. However, our area has grown significantly in the last 6 years and the Landy project’s improvements have not kept pace with an evolving community and its needs or concerns.

The latest iteration is hard to nail down as 3-bedroom units come and go (see below) and the unit number wavers between 1216 and 1262. What is clear is that the project is not consistent with the transit oriented development that our area needs. In addition, the Landy’s massive scale would cast a long shadow, metaphorically and literally. Shadow-wise, the M-NCPPC planning file has not been updated since the original 2001 plan. But even that less bulky building would have thrown a substantial shadow. The current proposal’s two buildings with 7-story base and 16-story towers would shadow Northwestern High School all of the year and the University Hills neighborhood a good bit of the year.

Construction would be done in phases and could take 8 years depending on market conditions. The M-NCPPC staff report recommends approval with conditions. Issues and impacts of concern to immediate neighbors and area residents include: Continue reading

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Filed under Developers, Events, Hyattsville, Landy Property, Planning Board, Riverdale Park, Route 1 Corridor, Traffic, University Park

Traffic & Whole Foods

whole-foods-logo-100w.jpgLet’s examine the possibility of the Cafritz Property development including a Whole Foods. Many area residents might enjoy having a Whole Foods nearby—especially for rushed weeknight dinners. But are we ready for all the additional traffic?

If we give Whole Foods the benefit of the doubt and assume that their store will be at the small end of the scale, only 40,000 square feet, let’s think about how many trips might be generated each day as people drive to this new destination. (We’ve heard it will be 42,000 square feet, but we are generous folk.)

Supermarkets do about 102 car trips per 1,000 square feet. So, if this is a 40,000 SF Whole Foods, you are looking at 4,000 car trips a day, and about 500/hour during the peak afternoon rush. The source for these two figures is the traffic impact bible for planners and engineers: Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE), Trip Generation , 7th Ed., 2003.

However, Whole Foods real estate criteria and existing store data make us believe that they pull from a larger geographic area and have customers that are willing to drive a greater distance, thus would generate more trips, than say, Giant. In Austin, Texas, Whole Foods has a smallish store, only 30,000 square feet. There, over 3,800 trips are made daily.

Route 1 is already overloaded. The State Highway Administration has determined that Route 1 is pretty much at capacity and its intersections are operating at a level of service that would receive a classroom grade of an E or F. This is permissible only because the state and county hope to push Metro use.

However, Whole Foods real estate criteria make it clear that they prefer stand alone stores with parking dedicated to their customers. Route 1 and 410 are both heavily traveled roads that meet at a failing intersection–that is about to become worse with the addition of Wachovia’s drive through lanes. The Cafritz site’s proximity to the intersection should be a real source of concern.

To make this project work–if a zoning change is granted–will require something more than the transit adjacent development style that’s been deemed acceptable thus far in the Route 1 corridor. The Cafritz team will need to address the number of trips generated by future residents and a Whole Foods (or other retail). Transit oriented development should limit parking and push users (commercial or resident) towards Metro.

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Filed under Cafritz Property, College Park, Developers, Hyattsville, Riverdale Park, Traffic, University Park