Howard County Blog

A Blog on what is going on in Howard County

Monday, February 20, 2006

Downtown Driving Experience

What will the driving experience in downtown Columbia be like if the proposed street system is approved?

According to the Department of Planning and Zoning here is the proposed number of lanes for each of the downtown streets:

Here are the Department of Planning and Zoning’s street diagrams of the proposed streets:

The first thing that jumps out at me is that most of the streets will be one lane each way streets with parallel parking. Having driven in many cities with streets with one lane each way and parallel parking I know that such roads jam up as people pull in and out of spots and they can not handle very much volume. Generally these types of streets only work when they are alternated in a grid of four lane of more roads that are used to move traffic, while the one lane each way streets with parallel parking are used for parking and not as traffic through streets.

OK, let’s look at the planned through streets in the plan:

The only added two lane each way street is the Hickory Ridge Road extension through the Crescent. In fact, the six lane Little Patuxent Parkway is cut down to a two lane each way street with parallel parking.

As I mentioned before even if people wanted to use the new one lane each way with parallel parking streets as alternates to the reduced capacity Little Patuxent Parkway as through streets they couldn’t. The new one lane each way streets (with the exception of Corporate Boulevard) aren’t through streets. In order, to cut through downtown on them you have to zigzag through town. Who would take these streets and how long would it take? Are we creating a recipe for gridlock downtown? This is not a grid that would achieve the theory of traffic dispersion that the traffic consultant presented at the charrette.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Not just a recipe for gridlock, more like a seven-course meal including gridlock, air pollution, noise pollution, light pollution, more crime, encroachment on stream buffers/wetlands/parkland, and more demand for taxpayer-funded services. Bon appetit.

This plan for covering Columbia's still somewhat aesthetic and uncity-like heart with a grid of red-light intense streets and commercial sprawl will be a shame. Why obliterate the much more natural vibrancy Columbians have enjoyed for decades?

Has this street plan been put through an actual road system simulator? If not, it should if it is supposed to be a 30-year plan. If so, I'd love to see the results animated online for how these roads will work now, in 5 years, and in 30 years.

And this cannot truly be considered a complete 30-year transportation plan for Columbia's downtown without a clear definition of where a mass transit line will enter Columbia and where the station(s) will be. One map from the Charette proposed a subway station right next to the Rouse Building with the track then being right next to the Little Patuxent River and slowly crossing the river to then parallel Route 29 and run south. Shame shame since we do have laws at several levels that say rivers, wetlands, stream buffers should not be disturbed unless absolutely necessary. Any mass transit link should instead cross these areas perpendicularly, not parallel them. To me, a more appropriate route for this mass transit link would be using the medians of 95-32-29-Brokenland Pkwy to a station at (or under) the Mall.

I expect many of us will be using such mass transit much more in the future. Take your pick as to why - rising gas prices, global warming, aging of our population.

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