Thursday, January 30, 2014

Bike Routes and Bike Infrastructure

Yesterday I talked about the new bike signs on Colesville Road and University Boulevard.  Today I'll talk more about the broader cycling situation in Four Corners.

Four Corners actually has a few signed Bike Routes.  I say "actually" because many people are unaware they exist.  They run along various roads in the area, such as Dennis Avenue, Southwood Avenue, Franklin Avenue, and Brunett Avenue.  I did some research on the bike routes, and I discovered that there's not much information on them.  The most helpful thing I found was this map which shows bike routes and trails across the county.  Everyone knows about the trails, such as Sligo Creek, Rock Creek, and the Capital Crescent/Georgetown Branch.  All of these trails are well publicized, and there's lots of information online about them.  However, the bike routes that connect to these trails are barely mentioned anywhere.

Bike Route sign at Eastwood Avenue and Southwood Avenue.  Photo by the author.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Bikes May Use Full Lane... and good luck

Sign at Colesville Road and Crestmoor Drive.  Photo by the author.

Many people have noticed this sign on University Boulevard and Colesville Road, as well as other roads around the county.  Many of the signs are on roads that have no bike infrastructure whatsoever, and they are posted in places that are inhospitable to cyclists.  These factor have caused some people to question "who would ever try this?"  I had a reader bring this up in a comment a couple weeks ago, and I figured I should talk a little more about the new signs as well as other cycling related issues in Four Corners.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

The Read-Clements House

This house at 507 Dennis Avenue is one of the oldest homes in Four Corners.  It is located a block off University Boulevard West in the Northwood neighborhood.  I have always been fascinated by this house, as it clearly pre-dates the rest of the neighborhood.  I also knew it was owned by the family of a kid I went to grade school with named Charles Clements.  Other than that, I didn't know much about it.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

An act of kindness can go a long way

Acts of kindness occur too rarely in our community.  It's understandable, as we all get caught up in our busy lives and we all have things to do.  But we often overlook those who perform the valuable services which make it possible to live in a nice place like Four Corners.  People such as garbage collectors, construction workers, and other maintenance personnel make our lives easier everyday, even if we don't realize it.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

How we could improve existing Ride On service

Happy Snow Day!  Keep warm and stay indoors... and if your looking for something to do, read this blog post

There are many ways transportation in Four Corners could improve without BRT.  Bus Rapid Transit is designed to move people across Montgomery County at Metro-like service levels.  Local bus service is designed to transport residents to close by activity centers and Metro stations.  While Bus Rapid Transit could serve as an important transit connection for Four Corners, it is not a substitute for local bus service, and it should not be viewed as such.

Ride On service to the area could be greatly improved without many infrastructure alterations or an exorbitant price tag.  MetroBus service could also be improved, but it will never provide the neighborhood level service that Ride On does, because MetroBus is a more of a regional system whereas Ride On is more of a local system.  MetroBus routes rarely deviate from major roads except to serve high density apartment complexes, as opposed to Ride On routes, which tend to serve less dense residential areas on local roads.  If we want to improve existing bus service in Four Corners, we should start with Ride On.

A Wheaton bound #8 Ride On bus on Forest Glen Road.  Photo by author. 

Friday, January 17, 2014

BRT & Four Corners: Common concerns and other options

As expected, I've caught some flak over my support of BRT.  I've had comments from people saying I'm "unwilling to consider anyone's reservations about the BRT" and that I "don't take a balanced view of the community's needs".  While I did not want to seem dismissive, I probably let my frustration get the best of me, and I could have addressed some people's concerns more appropriately.  So I figured I'd make some posts addressing some common concerns that local residents have about BRT, as well as explaining how I've come to my own opinions.  I'm not mindlessly pushing a pro-transit agenda.  Studies and data have lead me to believe that BRT will be a good thing for Four Corners if done right.  I'd like to help my neighbors come to a similar understanding.  

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Righttime Medical Care coming to Woodmoor Shopping Center

A medical clinic will be moving in to the space previously occupied by Tuesday Morning.  Righttime Medical Care, which has locations across central Maryland, plans to open the clinic by the end of this Spring.  This space is is one of the larger ones in the shopping center, only second in size to CVS.  This will be the first walk-in medical clinic in Four Corers.  There are several doctors offices around the intersection, but none provide urgent care like this facility will.  I contacted Righttime about their new clinic and got this prompt response:

Sunday, January 12, 2014

BRT & Four Corners: Losing travel lanes does not spell disaster

I figured I would make my first BRT post about the most common complaint towards BRT: the loss of general purpose travel lanes for the creation of bus lanes.  The Countywide Bus Rapid Transit Study recommends at least one dedicated BRT lane on both University Blvd and Colesville Road in Four Corners, with a short stretch of BRT in mixed traffic on University Blvd in the immediate vicinity of the intersection.  (see map).  The creation of dedicated lanes for BRT in Four Corners does not necessarily mean travel lanes will be lost, but converting existing travel lanes to BRT lanes is actually the best way to implement the system (as counter-intuitive as that seems).  For this post, I will talk about the most cost effective and least intrusive (no road widening or loss of medians) way of creating bus only lanes: converting existing left lanes to BRT lanes.  This is the method that was favored by County Planners in their recommendations a year ago.

View Larger Map Red lines denote at least one dedicated lane. Blue lines denote BRT in mixed traffic. Map courtesy of Dan Reed.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The Pinecrest Recreation Center is Historic

The Maryland-National Capital Park & Planning Commission has added plans to add the Pinecrest Recreation Building to the Montgomery County Master Plan for Historic Preservation.  This report says that the Pinecrest building is representative of "Maturing Park Infrastructure".  The Hillandale  Recreation Center  is also an example of park buildings from the era, but it was not eligible for historic preservation due to significant renovations done to the building in the 1980s.  The Pinecrest building was constructed sometime between July 1944 (when the property for Pinecrest Park was acquired) and April of 1946.

Pinecrest Recreation Center today.  Image from M-NCPPC.
"With increased wartime restrictions, particularly on gasoline, M-NCPPC recognized that local citizens, by necessity, would seek recreation close to home and that existing recreation facilities would be used for a variety of pursuits – physical fitness programs for schools, adult excursions, and children’s programming geared at inspiring young boys and girls to become more active. Understanding that the population growth in Montgomery County was directly correlated to the war effort centered in Washington, D.C., it was proposed that the Lanham Act be utilized to construct new recreation facilities in already acquired, but undeveloped areas, such as Woodmoore [sic]. As such, these facilities were to accommodate the growing suburbs beyond the original stream valley parks."
Pinecrest Recreation Building in 1955.  Photo from M-NCPPC
The report goes on to say that Pinecrest and Hillandale served as examples for future recreation built across the county.  The first recorded event held at the new building was in April of 1946.  It was a presentation about education by E. Merritt Douglas, who was then principal of Montgomery Blair High School.  The building was proposed for replacement in the late 1970's, but neighbors in Woodmoor objected as it was still in good condition.  It was renovated in 1987, with the addition of vinyl siding and an upgrade of the kitchen facilities and insulation.  This building has served as the de facto community center of Woodmoor for the past 70 years.  It hosts camps in the summer and community events throughout the year, such as the Oktoberfest, 4th of July festivities, and WPCA meetings.  More elaborate details about the building can be found in this Maryland Inventory of  Historic Properties Form.

The Pinecrest building in M-NCPPC's 1962 "Guide to Recreation Centers"
I've always liked the Pinecrest Rec Center because it reminds me of summer.  My family would rent it out on July 4th for our extended family gatherings.  Good times.  If anyone has additional information, memories or stories about the Rec Center or the park in general, feel free to share.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

BRT & Four Corners: Intro

As I've mentioned before, the ongoing BRT debate is one of the main reasons I created this blog.  I wanted to reduce the amount of misinformation that was being spread about the proposals, and learn more about BRT myself.  I have read through the Countywide Bus Rapid Transit Study (PDF), which goes into great detail on all aspects of BRT and what it means for different parts of the county.  The findings of this study were adopted into the Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan, which was approved by the Montgomery County Council on November 25th, 2013.  Short answer: BRT is probably going to happen.

There's a lot I want to say about this topic, and there's no way it will all fit into one blog post.  So this post will be the first of many about BRT.  Through my extensive research and careful reading of the Countywide Bus Rapid Transit Study, I have come to the opinion that BRT will be a good thing for Four Corners if it is implemented appropriately.  What do I mean by appropriately?  I will explain that over the next several posts on this topic.  So before jumping to conclusions and ranting about how bad this will be for our community, please hear me out.

The BRT network as proposed by M-NCPPC

No one likes traffic.  Four Corners has a lot of it, and its not going anywhere anytime soon.  With new development planned for White Oak and other surrounding areas, some other form of moving people is going to be necessary.  The roads are already over-capacity at peak hours, so more cars would just be a disaster.  There's no room to build more roads or significantly widen the existing ones without destroying homes and businesses.  A Metro line would be nice, but that would be prohibitively expensive, and the money is simply not there.  BRT is the only viable solution from a cost standpoint.  What is the cost of building it?  For an optimal countywide BRT system, it is between $2.3 and $2.5 billion dollars.  What is the cost of not building it?  More wasted time and energy, more emissions, and more Four Corners kids with asthma.  I can't put a price tag on that.  

This is a very controversial issue.  Please be respectful of other peoples opinions and viewpoints.  If you disagree with someone, state why you do so in the comments section in civil terms.  I will publish my next BRT related post in a couple days.

Monday, January 6, 2014

There's a 1939 World's Fair Home in North Four Corners

It's no secret that Four Corners has some nice old houses.  Many of the homes closer to the intersection are over 75 years old.  Each neighborhood has its share of pre-war 1930's homes.  The Polychrome Historic District in South Four Corners comes to mind as a notable example of 1930's era architecture.  The 5 Art Deco houses were built in 1934-1935 by John Joesph Early, who used brightly colored pre-cast concrete panels to build the futuristic looking homes.  I always knew these houses were unique, and I assumed they were the only houses in Four Corners to have such an interesting history.  I was wrong.

This house on Sutherland Drive was featured at the 1939-1940 World's Fair in New York City.  Image from Google StreetView.
More after the jump...

Friday, January 3, 2014

Snow Day!

The rolling hills of Four Corners are covered in a blanket of white today.  The snow accumulated to 3-4 inches in most places, providing more than enough for sledding at popular spots like Pinecrest Park and Sligo Middle School.  Unfortunately, the snow was too powdery to build a snowman or have a snowball fight (though I did see some people try).  As of 12 PM most of the residential streets are passable.  Some have been plowed multiple times, while others seem to have only gotten sand.  Some streets are completely clear with dry pavement.  The major roads like Colesville and University are mostly just wet, but the sidewalks along them haven't been touched, and I doubt they will be.  This snowfall is nothing like Snowmaggedon, but it is the most significant snowfall of this winter to date.  Happy New Year!