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Common Sense Writ Large
February 29, 2008
by Jack Lynch
While the public is often told that the future is dim and that the politicians can’t accomplish real visions for managing issues – there were some amazing recent statements about growth oriented to transit that should have both developers and the public applauding. New guidelines for development around Metro stations offer unique opportunities to allow growth and solve regional traffic and commuting issues.
Maryland Governor O’Malley said that, "Over the next 20 years, population in Maryland is expected to grow by 1.1 million people. In theory, with effective [transit-oriented development], that growth could be accommodated within a [half-mile] radius of the state's 111 existing transit stations."
If you want a real reality check, that’s the fact that should blow you away.
Maryland Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari said in an interview after the meeting that the changes could enable the region to better leverage its multibillion-dollar investment in the Metrorail system to promote sustainable development.
“This is common sense writ large," Porcari said. "In Prince George's County, we have 2,530 acres of undeveloped or underdeveloped land at or near Metro stations. That's crazy. These guidelines are an important framework for working with local governments and provide consistency and predictability for private-sector partners who are considering multi-million dollar investments."
Concentrating growth around Metro stations could increase ridership by 7.9 percent and decrease severe highway congestion by 4.6 percent, Porcari said, citing projections by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments.
Having quoted a great deal of the article and those speakers, I’m going to make a couple modest suggestions for further improving the Metro transit oriented development process.
Give priority to public private partnerships that build projects which then contribute an annual 10% of gross to Metro operations and transit-roadway improvements. That cost will be more than saved by the residents and businesses in auto and fuel costs by the proximity and convenience of transit. Allow workers in those businesses and residents in those projects to receive discounted monthly transit passes.
The long term infrastructure costs and the impacts will be public in one form or another, make it a win-win situation for everyone by building some costs up-front in the projects and their management to fund transit availability. Let the desirability and profit centers created by transit orientation pay to maintain their advantages.
With that contribution zone in effect, say over a two mile radius, inclusive of both new partnered projects and a fee upon existing properties, it will balance the increases in property values against the amenity of Metro, which brings those advantages.
A second public good could then be made to combat sprawl. Once growth was focused and contained towards transit, compensatory land preservation could be funded at the edges of the existing sprawl, so that a beltway of green would be created that would improve the quality of life for the region for the next century and beyond.
Call it the Green Beltway project!
Imagine the preservation areas of counties, and the state’s Rural Legacy program, combined and in concert to piece together an encircling greenbelt around the entire Baltimore -Washington region. It would not be perfect. But any effort in that regards would be productive and establish a very long range sustainability and support belt for growth within the region. It could conceivably serve again as a local farm products source for the in-lying areas.
Check Out a lively and progressive Frederick political blog : Air It Out with George. I've recently begun posting blogs there