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Corridor Cities Controversy

Ideal transit station surroundings, according to the MTA

Supporters of the Corridor Cities Transitway, a proposed BRT or light rail line running north from Shady Grove Metro through Gaithersburg and ending in Clarksburg, say the project enjoys such widespread support that the lack of controversy has kept it out of the sight and mind of Maryland officials, whose time and money is taken up by more contentious projects such as the ICC and Purple Line. State Del. Jean B. Cryor goes so far as to say that she once suggested supporters “hire some people who opposed us to create some controversy”.

You want a Corridor Cities Controversy? BeyondDC has got one for you: Bad planning. Considering the mess that is planning in Clarksburg, we’re surprised locals haven’t thought of this on their own, but the fact of the matter is the Corridor Cities Transitway is such a horribly planned line that it leads one to wonder if those in charge of its planning have slept through all the lessons learned about transit over the past generation.

Even if one accepts that the best place to spend transit dollars is in relatively new suburban areas, some of which can still be called nearly rural, the decision-making behind proposed Transitway station locations is downright obsolete. Every transit planner in the country worth his paycheck knows that the most successful transit systems are those that are focused around urban, pedestrian friendly nodes, of which upper Montgomery County – one of New Urbanism’s hottest beds – has several. Correctly planned, the Transitway would be a string of pearls connecting some of the finest suburban attempts at city-building in America.

But what’s the reality? The planned route bypasses the walkable part of the Washingtonian Center completely, skirts the edge of Crown Farm, bypasses Kentlands and Lakelands, and ends just short of Clarksburg Town Center. The route does, however, make several laboriously slow stops at office campus locations surrounded by nothing but parking lots that no one will ever walk to or from.

What could possibly be the thought process behind this seemingly backwards planning that ignores mixed-use, dense, transit-friendly destinations in order to serve office parks that only a handful of commuters might use and which are easy to drive to anyway?

I’ll let Rick J. Kiegel, a consultant assisting the Maryland Transit Administration in managing the project, explain: “We looked at transit centers that could provide large scale parking”.

Whether they don’t know, have forgotten, or simply don’t care, Transitway decision makers want to build a line that ignores every lesson from the past generation about what makes transit successful. In other words, they want to build a transit system doomed to failure (scroll down, see entry titled “Train in Vain”).

If that’s not controversy, we don’t know what is.

September 27th, 2006 | Permalink | {num}Comments
Tags: government, transportation

  • NikolasM

    Wow, that “Train in Vain” really sucks! I truly hope that MD will not let something like that happen.

  • Cyrus

    It happened in Baltimore with their light rail when they chose to bypass Charles Street and Towson and instead ran the train up the Jones Falls and to suburban locales that have yet to generate any TND. Virtually every suburban station on the line is placed in an office park, park, or a low-density neighborhood.

    I do not believe that the CCT is capable of serving as an analogous extension of the Red Line as it appears MTA is planning. The Germantown extension of the Red Line was in Metro’s original plans long before Germantown and Frederick County became major commuter population centers. The way MTA seems to be trying only to serve regional commuters who drive to the stations. Cutting slow stations in the gridlocked Kentlands and ending at a new interchange in Clarksburg instead of the Town Center seems to serve the interest of Frederick County commuters anxious to speed down to another tedious transfer at Shady Grove for the Red Line. If that is their goal then they should just skip the Crown Farm-Kentlands loop and run it straight up the CSX tracks, where there is an easement for future transit, to Metropolitan Grove. I do not believe long-distance commuters from Frederick and Hagerstown will materialize considering a large portion of them work in central Montgomery where parking is plentiful. If the locals don’t use it because it is inconvenient to get to and the long-distance commuters don’t need it, the CCT will be face a similar fate as the Baltimore light rail.

    Instead of creating a pseudo Red Line extension to serve regional commuters, my planning framework has the CCT primarily designed to interconnect population centers of Urbana, Clarksburg, South Germantown, Montgomery Village, Kentlands, and Crown Farm to Red Line stations at Milestone, Germantown, Lakeforest, and Shady Grove. A slower light rail trolley that winds through the communities with at-grade road crossings and quaint stations surrounded by smaller scale neighborhood-oriented development, not mini-Bethesda. 10-20 parking spaces, at most, should be provided at each station with the focus on pedestrian/bicycle connections to the transit-oriented neighborhoods that the line runs through. Over 200,000 people will live within a couple miles (walking/biking distance) of a CCT station. Considering the lack of jobs Upcounty and the regional gridlock, there is significant ridership potential just for local commuters if the CCT would just serve the population centers around its stations.

    BTW. “skirting the edge of Crown Farm” means that the Crown Farm station is proposed to be relocated closer to Fields Road and Washingtonian than previously planned in a location that would serve the several thousand homes at Crown Farm yet within walking distance (assuming proper pedestrian connections are made) of the retail/entertainment complex.

    If the community does not say something now, the engineers will have their way and build the simplest and cheapest transit line for a handful of commuters to ride each day.

  • Ben Ross

    The Action Committee for Transit noticed these problems and adopted the following position four years ago:

    Action Committee for Transit
    P.O. Box 7074, Silver Spring, MD 20907
    November 17, 2002
    Mr. Steve Silverman
    President, Montgomery County Council
    100 Maryland Ave.
    Rockville, MD 20850

    Subject: Corridor Cities Transitway

    Dear Mr. Silverman:

    The Action Committee for Transit has long advocated extension of rail
    transit north of Shady Grove. We are writing to express concern about the specific
    route that the state has chosen to proceed with. Over a period of several years
    we have repeatedly asked for consideration of additional alternatives. At our
    meeting last month we came to the that the presently favored alignment does not
    provide the access to the Metrorail system that upcounty residents and need.
    Significant modification is required.
    The principal problem is that the Corridor Cities Transitway, as now
    envisioned, will not take people from Germantown and Clarksburg to the Red Line. Residents
    of these areas will still have to take the bus to Shady Grove after the light rail
    is built. The rail line will be too slow because the route detours far to the
    west and the trains will stop at many lights. This has been confirmed in
    correspondence from Henry Kay of the Maryland Transit Adminsitration.
    A second problem is the current plan to build a station across Great Seneca
    Highway from Kentlands and Lakelands. The design of these communities gives them the
    potential to generate heavy transit ridership. Requiring riders to cross Great
    Seneca Highway on foot will discourage use and create a safety hazard.
    These problems can be remedied while still providing planned transit
    service to development along the Corridor right of way. There are several
    possible solutions:
    - A “three-track” light rail with one reversible express track from Metropolitan
    Grove to Shady Grove along the railroad.
    - A U-shaped light rail line that follows the reserved right of way from
    Clarksburg to Metropolitan Grove, then along the CSX or I-270 to Shady Grove,
    and then follows the reserved right of way to Kentlands.
    - Extending the Red Line to connect with light rail at Metropolitan Grove.
    Some of our members have suggested additional alternatives.
    We note that the concerns that motivate our position are shared by the City
    of Gaithersburg. In a July 16, 1998, letter to Michelle Hoffman of MDOT,
    Gaithersburg Senior Planner Glenn Mlaker noted the city’s concern about the poor
    with Kentlands and Lakelands. He stated that the Gaithersburg Master Plan
    reserves a transit right of way the CSX, and “We do not wish to eliminate any
    possibility of heavy rail extending from Shady Grove, or a light-rail/along the
    CSX alignment.” It is our understanding that this position has recently been
    reaffirmed by the city.
    The route of rail north of Shady Grove must be rethought before any
    commitment is made to a specific alignment. Residents of Germantown, Kentlands,
    etc. who are going to the Red Line are an essential source of ridership for
    transit in this corridor. A rail line that does not serve them could become a
    white elephant that discredits future in transit. (The same is true, to an even
    greater degree, of a busway.) We hope the Council will insist on a transit line
    serves the upcounty commuters who are clamoring for better access to Metro.


    Ben Ross

    It’s on the ACT web site at http://www.actfortransit.org/cct.html

  • Walt

    Extending the Red Line metro from Shady Grove to Germantown and beyond is a much better idea than tacking on a a slow rail system. Light rail is not appropriate for this route. They don’t plan on putting a light rail from the Silver Line at Dulles Airport into Loudon County, they are going to extend the efficient capacity giving Silver Line rightly so. Who wants to transfer from Shady Grove, when you can stay on train all the way into D.C. Heavy rail Red Line trains may cost more the efficient, versus the slow moving light rail makes up for it many times. Bogus idea. Stick with extending the Red Line to Germantown.

  • DanM

    The problem is the MTA is thinking of the CCT as something to which commuters will drive. I doubt many will; if people are going to drive anyway they may as well just go to Shady Grove.

    What’s great about the CCT – were it designed properly – is its ability to transform a series of disconnected pods of walkability into a genuine urban corridor. The red line can’t do that because the red line can’t go to Kentlands, Washingtonian, etc. The CCT is a great idea… It’s just being poorly designed.

    As for a red line extension, I would be against it unless development on the Montgomery County Fairgrounds was part of the deal. Without that TOD (Washington Grove is happening anyway) it wouldn’t be worth the cost of Metro, and I’d rather see improved regional MARC access anyway.



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