Howard County Blog

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Saturday, June 10, 2006

Traffic Study Causing an Accident?

The long-awaited traffic study on the proposed Master Plan for downtown Columbia seems to be in and that screeching sound you hear is GGP and the rest of the development community, along with DPZ and their elected bosses, slamming on the brakes! According to Laura Greenback in the (gag) Examiner on Jun 8:

In 25 years, you might be missing the days when inching along Little Patuxent Parkway after work was merely annoying. If growth explodes in Columbia’s Town Center, existing roads would not support the traffic, according to the initial data from an ongoing traffic study by Glatting Jackson, a land planning firm based in Orlando, Fla. The firm "better have some smaller scenarios. We should look at something that doesn’t have so much office area," said Walter Kulash, traffic engineer for Glatting Jackson.

The plan, which calls for up to 5,500 residential units, 5.2 million square feet of office space. and 1.3 million square feet of retail will be spread throughout 493 acres of Town Center in buildings up to 20 stories tall, according to the report. The large amount of proposed office space would be especially burdensome, Kulash said.

To reach ideal traffic, in which a driver stops for about one minute per traffic light, buildings in the urban center of Columbia should be between five to six stories tall, he said.


Interestingly, although DPZ continuously refers to the Master Plan as representing what came out of the Charrette in October 2005, almost no one at the Charrette mentioned tall buildings as something they found desirable. In fact, it appears to be just the opposite. Apparently, residents had the collective intuition that not only are tall buildings out of keeping with Columbia, the resulting traffic tie-ups would be unacceptable, as well.

It's time for what residents really said at the Charrette to come to the fore...stay tuned!

11 Comments:

Blogger Hayduke said...

Interestingly, although DPZ continuously refers to the Master Plan as representing what came out of the Charrette in October 2005, almost no one at the Charrette mentioned tall buildings as something they found desirable.

Care to back this up with a link?

For instance, compare slides four and five in this slide show. More than "almost no one" considered up to 20-story buildings acceptable in three of four districts (add up all the votes "C or B"). In fact, a majority consider 20 stories acceptable in two of the four and a plurality thought so in a third.

I'm not trying to defend 20-story buildings or say the traffic study is wrong. But to say that we've all been duped into accepting 20-story buildings is simply false.

9:13 PM  
Blogger Geren said...

Well, I was there....

That said, the "20-story tall buildings" is limited to a single structure in the planned area. And, it's only accepted because its construction has already been approved. Many Columbians were not too happy with that approval.

In the information I've seen, the tallest buildings otherwise planned for the town center development are about 8-stories tall at maximum.

8:23 AM  
Blogger Geren said...

BTW, if you're really, really interested in seeing what DPZ has identified as "the plan of the moment," and you live in Howard County, contact me directly. I can probably arrange for the wrap-up presentation to be aired off-schedule on GTV. Or, for $10, you can request a nicely authored DVD. (the $10 covers the cost for GTV to burn, label, and package the disc).

8:27 AM  
Blogger Hayduke said...

Geren, the slides I point to are from the charrette week. 20-story buildings were not only discussed by participants, they were voted on by participants (see the link in my above comment).

If DPZ is guilty of historical revision, so too are those who would say 20-story buildings were not discussed at all. In addition to voting on them -- as part of various scenerios -- such heights were discussed during the first day at at least one table. However, since I didn't visit other tables I can't say for sure what was discussed at them.

Meanwhile, from the article:

If growth explodes in Columbia’s Town Center, existing roads would not support the traffic, according to the initial data from an ongoing traffic study by Glatting Jackson, a land planning firm based in Orlando, Fla.

Hmm. It has always been my understanding that road improvements would be part of the development. If that's the case, then shouldn't Glatting Jackson look at how traffic will be with the new development and new road system?

We rightly hold developer traffic studies to an extremely high standard of analysis and intellectual honesty. The same should be done for DPZ-commissioned studies as well.

10:50 AM  
Blogger JD Smith said...

I have seen a DVD (obtainable from DPZ) of the Saturday charette "presentations" from each of the 36 tables. I have also reviewed the easel sheets summarizing the table discussions. Only one time did I see or hear "high rise." The presenter from one of the tables reported that some participants at her table were divided on building heights, with some wanting height limits and others wanting "high rises."

I did hear and read "mid-rise" and "no more than 10-12 stories," and "human scale" a few times.

6:07 PM  
Blogger Geren said...

JD: I shot the video on that DVD from day one. I was also present in various capacities at some of the other meetings. Finally, I produced the "wrap-up" video which I mentioned earlier. It is a "studio" version of the final presentations from the Charrette.

Yes, the presentations from EVERY table at the day one meeting may be seen by contacting the Howard County Department of Planning and Zoning (no, I don't have the contact info handy -- look on the County web site).

Hayduke: Traffic patterns throughout Columbia in general, and the downtown area in particular were a very large part of the studies performed by the consulting firms, and by General Growth Properties -- both current patterns and usage, and projected patterns and usage after the proposed changes -- in fact, Glatting-Jackson played a large part in the street layout proposal.

ALL: Unfortunately, it seems that a lot (not necessarily all) of the information bantered about here is based on articles printed in the Columbia Flier, Howard County Times and the Baltimore Sun. Unfortunately, their actual coverage of the meetings was dismal. In fact, their reporters did not attend all of the presentation meetings, and I saw at least one reporter leave a meeting early. You get my point.

As I mentioned, I'm going to try to get the wrap up presentation program into the schedule on GTV this week some time. It is about a 90-minute program, so, it will have to air late at night to avoid conflict with the regular evening show line-up. I'm guessing that I can get it on air about three times in the 11PM time slot. I will speak with the station manager tomorrow afternoon, and advise the schedule.

8:27 PM  
Blogger Hayduke said...

JD: Is there any way to quantitatively determine the actual opinions of charrette participants. I was there, and at my table building heights weren't discussed at all. We, as I suspect other tables were too, were far more concerned about acutal land uses -- residential, commercial, cultural, retail, etc.

The slides I linked to above quantitatively assess the opinions of participants at the Tuesday session of the charrette week.

Again, I'm not for or against 20-story buildings. I'm for only getting things right and making sure that the master plan looks like what we wanted it to look like. The slides are, thus far, the best thing I have found to determine citizen's preferences without relying on memory or qualitative analyses.

9:34 PM  
Blogger Geren said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

12:30 PM  
Blogger Geren said...

The "final" presentation from the Charette will air on Friday, Saturday and Sunday evening (June 16-18) at 11PM on GTV. GTV is channel 70 for Comcast customers.

12:32 PM  
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12:30 AM  

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