Howard County Blog

A Blog on what is going on in Howard County

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Doug Godine Speaks About GGP's Approach to Downtown Planning

Bill Santos has an interesting recap of statements of Doug Godine on General Growth Property's approach to downtown Columbia planning. A lot of what Mr. Godine said is pretty encouraging and two points jumped out to me:

  • Mr. Godine stated he was working with Del. Liz Bobo and has contacted Congressman Cummings with regard to extending the DC Metro green line into Columbia.

  • Mr. Godine stated (and this was the second public meeting I had heard this during the week, so I don’t think this is spilling the beans) that the County was going to commission an extensive traffic study in the near future.
It sounds like the representatives of the developer, the county, the state, and the federal government have all recognized that transit is key to the plan. I think the last traffic study showed that transit was the biggest constraining variable on how much can be built in downtown Columbia. I hope, as extending the Metro is looked at, thought is given to the situation where local road capacity is a significant restraint on our community absorbing the population growth that is coming. Though a drive and park Metro system will not relieve local road congestion, if we design the systen the right way with enough strategically located embedded walk and ride Metro stops we can relieve both highway traffic and the larger problem of local road congestion. Columbia is luckily designed where large sections of the population are walkable to density hubs such as village centers that would allow walk and ride Metro stations. If we want a truly walkable community a properly designed Metro system is key. It will take a lot of money and that is why getting all of these players talk to each other is important, but particularly with the federal government sharing in the funding it is possible. We just must not nickel and dime ourselves into a system that isn't comprehensive enough to solve the underlying problems that are constraining our community from achieving its next evolution where it is able to absorb population growth while maintaining our values of mixed income housing, preservation of greenspace, and planning before we build so that we have an infrastructure that meets the communities needs.

As many long time readers know, I have in the past suggested a Metro system that would address the local road congestion problem by designing a walk and ride system. The Metro system started operating 30 years ago and grew to its current size from an initial 5 stations. We are making a 30 years plan for downtown Columbia and it is likely that Columbia's density in 30 years will be the density Washington is currently. Let us start planning now for a system that relieves local roads.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

The federal government needs to subsidize one of the richest communities in the country's mass transit? That sounds pretty silly, doesn't it?

Instead of artificially painting the best solution to our transportation woes as Metro (did you determine a price for building your Metro layout?), how about not constraining the potential transit solutions to just very, very expensive to build and operate Metro? Avoid pursuing Metro and federal subsidies would not be needed at all.

Personal rapid transportation will save time, money, energy, and climate. Metro won't.

Time's running short.

12:47 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 12:47- Why is it ok for the government to subsidize roads but not mass transit? It is unusual that tax money spent on mass transit is considered a “subsidy” but tax money spent on roads is considered “investment”. Personal rapid transit may or may not save time, but it damn sure won’t save money, energy or climate. I don’t know if I agree that Metro is the answer, but it is a better idea than more roads.

12:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anon 12:17 - I didn't pose it as "it's ok to subsidize roads but not mass transit". But if you're evaluating cost per commuter mile to build new capacity, Metro is tremendously expensive compared to other means.

It's one thing for areas truly congested to receive federal funds for infrastructure to address some of the country's worst traffic congestion. It's quite another for an extremely economically fortunate county to go hat-in-hand to the rest of the country, asking it to fund a system that will cost too much too build, too much to operate, and won't put a dent in solving the region's transit needs because, due to its high costs, won't be built in a dense enough manner to equal the convenience and speed of traveling by car.

When you say "Personal rapid transporation may or may not save time, but it sure won't save money, energy, or climate", it would be nice to hear why you believe any of that.


Personal rapid transportation (PRT) will use:
- offline stations, allowing vehicles to travel non-stop from their the passengers origin to their specific chosen destination, unlike Metro, which requires stopping at intermediate stations to pick up and discharge other passengers,
- PRT vehicles that are waiting at each station so riders can immediately enter a vehicle and depart, unlike Metro, which forces riders to capitulate to its schedule and wait at stations for the next train,
- and PRT, because of denser station densities will be far more accessible to walking to nearby stations that Metro, which will require far more people to drive to a station, park their car, and then walk from the lot to the station.


Personal rapid transportation (PRT) vehicles will be considerably lighter than cars and, due to using offline stations, not have to stop and restart at every intermediate station like Metro (requiring less energy for acceleration and deceleration).

PRT will also be considerably more aerodynamic than cars and, unlike cars and Metro, will not be in contact with any surface due to being levitated above a maglev track (requiring less energy for maintaining speed).


Requring less energy will result in less greenhouse gas emissions to generate that energy, thereby offering a better transit solution relative to climate change than cars or Metro.


PRT will save money because it will cost less than Metro to build and operate.


- less real estate needed since PRT is elevated on a guideway well above the ground allowing it to fit in existing rights-of-way,
- no extremely expensive tunneling required for PRT to reach developed areas,
- drastically lower station costs since stations will either be integrated into larger buildings or just be sections of offline guideway with elevated platforms close enough to walk to along existing roads,
- no parking lot or stations needed,
- and lower vehicle cost.

- automated vehicle guidance allowing centralized staffing instead of drivers for every vehicle,
- lighter weight non-contact vehicles will put much less wear on the track than massive Metro trains do now,
- and less energy to propel the vehicles.

30 year plans deserve 30 year solutions. Let's go.

10:38 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How does the government in Howard County work. Does the county council pass the laws? I get confused I see the State Delegation from Howard County voting on local bills. Please help

11:29 PM  

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