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Posts Tagged ‘sustainable development’

O’Malley’s Light Rail or Ehrlich’s Bus Rapid Transit: Which One is Better for Us?

October 13, 2010 4 comments

O'Malley and Ehrlich Televised Debate 10/11/10

On one hand, you have O’Malley’s plans for light rail.  On the other hand, you have Ehrlich’s bus rapid transit system.  Which one do you think is better for Washington, D.C. metro area commuters? 

As per usual, there are plenty of pros and cons on each side.  Bus rapid transit would involve setting aside bus-only lanes (not sure if this means stealing existing lanes from automobile traffic or not) along portions of existing routes.  The light rail would be built along an existing route and would not create additional traffic

Baltimore Sun’s Michael Dresser says Ehrlich’s bus rapid transit system would be a little cheaper to build — estimates are $1.2 billion — as opposed to $1.68 billion for O’Malley’s light rail project.  However, at an estimated $5.9 billion, the annual operating costs for buses quickly turn that positive on its head — light rail would only cost about half of that — an estimated $3.2 million annually.  

Ehrlich — who is not opposed to not building anything at all — says the money is simply not there to build.  Light rail proponents at Maryland Transit Authority disagree, saying that money could be made available soon through President Obama’s long-term transportation bill.  

Developers, proponents of transit-oriented development, the Prince George’s County council, the Montgomery County council, and a host of area businesses like the idea of light rail because it has a permanency that rapid bus transit does not that would make it ideal for becoming hubs of future business activity, creating much-needed jobs in the area.     

There are more pros and cons of both, but I’ll stop right here.  Personally, I’m for O’Malley’s decision to go with light rail.  It would be a shame to waste almost a decade of planning and the $40 million that MTA has already invested into deciding which way to go, only to implement the more expensive of the two — or even worse — nothing at all. 

Do you have an opinion about this one way or another?  Don’t be shy – I’m very interested in learning your thoughts.

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Governor Martin O’Malley Walks the Talk of Easing Traffic Congestion and Bringing Jobs to Underserved Areas

August 9, 2010 1 comment

 

Transit oriented development in Ballston Commons, Virginia

Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) is what Governor Martin O’Malley is embracing by moving the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD) into Prince George’s County.   Transit oriented development is defined as an area with residential and/or commercial mixed-use buildings that are strategically anchored to a source of public transit, thereby maximizing its access and use. 

In an unprecedented move by O’Malley, hundreds of jobs could potentially now be held by those who live in P.G. County — something that has been long overdue.  This move is the result of O’Malley’s Smart, Green, and Growing initiative, a key component from his 2007 Executive Order to focus development around Maryland’s transit facilities.  O’Malley has invested millions in infrastructure and mass transportation, and this newest development would be the culmination of all these initiatives.

P.G. County is the most wealthy county in the U.S. that has a mostly black population.  Many residents are highly-educated and are skilled at working white collar jobs.  Yet, for decades, this county has been underserved by businesses (small and large) that could supply the kind of high-paying white collar jobs these residents are accustomed to.  P.G. County provides amenities that other surrounding counties can’t: cheaper land and commercial space, proximity to D.C., and acres of underutilized available commercial space.  This ongoing lack of business development has not been because of a lack of demand from P.G. residents.  Many P.G. County residents would absolutely jump at the chance to finally be gainfully employed in the county they live in – a luxury that Northern Virginia and Montgomery County residents have enjoyed for decades. 

This is just the start of what is to come.  Smart growth is the wave of the future, and it is the antidote to urban sprawl.  The benefits for P.G. County residents will be accumulative.  As more agencies and businesses relocate near other transportation hubs in the county, residents will reap shorter commutes, housing closer to their jobs, less pollution from traffic, less wear/tear on their cars, better health, and a better quality of life that comes with more sustainable living.

Leveraging the Power of Connectivity

July 29, 2010 1 comment

Expand this highway from four to six lanes NOW!

Connectivity — it is what viable transportation is all about.  Commuters between the Baltimore and Washington D.C. metro areas aren’t currently able to go back and forth between the two metro areas efficiently and expeditiously, and it is because the two metro areas are not adequately leveraging the power of connectivity. 

We have very few commuter options between the two metropolises: either drive on I-95 or 295 Baltimore-Washington Parkway or take whichever combination of MARC and Metro trains work best for you.  That is it as far as I know (let me know of others) — and that is a darned shame. 

We need more options, people!  But, here is a little ray of light: recently, measures have been taken to allow SmarTrip users to access MTA’s facilities (buses, subway, and light rail) and MTA smart card holders to use Metrorail and Metrobus.  Isn’t that great progress??  We need more, more, more of this kind of collaboration between and amongst transportation entities! 

I’ve been saying this for a long time – lawmakers, politicians, heads of MD and DC municipal-run transportation: provide more solutions to connect Baltimore to Washington D.C NOW!  

  • Expand 295 Baltimore-Washington Parkway from four lanes to six lanes – I can’t say this enough.  This parkway is congested every day of the week at all times of the day.  It is unbearable during rush hour.  We need more capacity!
  • Create another major highway route that connects the two cities and their suburbs – even if we expand the parkway, eventually we will still need additional roads to handle increasing traffic between the two cities.
  • Expand Metro — We need to get real about the fact that the entire suburban area needs this service for more than just commuting into D.C.  Stop being so conservative when making plans to add stops.  Plan to extend at least out to the White Marsh area.  Don’t shortchange any of the surrounding suburbs!
  • Expand MARC capacity to cover all of Baltimore’s and D.C.’s suburbs and add stops that intersect with Metro for even more connectivity.
  • Develop express bus routes that usher commuters between the two cities and their surrounding areas.  

I understand that there are plans in place to address some of this but, in my humble opinion, the plans currently in place don’t go far enough.  There is so much that needs to be done to improve the connectivity between these two areas.  Everyone stands to benefit from two major metropolises that meet the needs of its inhabitants by being well-connected.  We need to get busy!

Relieve Traffic Congestion Through Increased Use of Sustainable Affordable Public Transportation

This chart helps us evaluate which options will work best.

I can admit, I am very attached to the convenience of being able to hop in my car and go wherever I want, whenever I feel like it.  It’s a necessary evil when you live in the Washington, D.C-Baltimore metro area, and I am thankful that my 13-year old Honda can still take a licking and keep on ticking.  

But, by the same token, it would also be great if I could walk out my door and have several convenient affordable and viable transportation options at my disposal.  This could include being able to walk, take a short and cheap bus/light rail/subway ride, or bike to my destination.  If everything were so conveniently located — or at least so easy to get to—maybe I wouldn’t feel the need to always defer to my car.  There are several benefits to this on all sides: improved health from more exercise, lessening my carbon footprint, saving money, etc. 

One other thing that I would really like to see is more sustainable ways to get around — the apex of which would be “green” transportation options.  These options would satisfy the goal of devising and implementing transport that would be bearable, equitable, and viable on the social, environmental, and economic levels. 

Although the upfront costs and initial sacrifices may be significant (i.e. financial resources, worsened traffic congestion), the long-term benefits would definitely be worth it — especially when you consider that the problem will not simply “fix itself.”  Since demand for public transportation solutions has quickly risen in the D.C. metro area, we need to hastily make up our minds about which solutions to use — and then implement them without further delay.

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