Last night, area residents got a glimpse of how their feedback was being interpreted by planners and urban designers tasked with drawing up plans for the neighborhoods in the vicinity of the Stations.
Speaking before about two dozen area residents in the first floor meeting room of the , planners laid out a preliminary vision of mixed use neighborhoods linked by an improved network pedestrian trails and bicycle lanes making it easier to access the proposed multi-modal transit hub.
Area residents in attendance were receptive, but stressed that they did not want to see too drastic changes to certain elements of their neighborhoods.
Beverly Silverberg, President of College Heights Estates Association, said she was in favor of the Purple Line, however she harbored fears about the impact of parking and the loss of tree canopy which the new development would bring.
"What you want and what you get are two different things," said Silverberg. "They need to pay attention to the neighborhood that exists, and not destroy what we already have."
Planning Focus: Connectivity
The meeting was led by Bill Washburn, project manager for the . This was the third community meeting held by planners to discuss the West Campus station.
Washburn explained that the study is intended to compliment the engineering design currently being conducted by the Maryland Transit Association. The study has been going on since last summer, and a final report is expected at the end of June.
Based on public comments received at previous meetings, Washburn said that "connectivity" to the Purple Line was the hottest topic on everyone's mind. That spurred ideas for adding kiss and ride locations, bicycle access and pedestrian improvements as well as redesigning the five-way intersection just to the north of the station.
Washburn said people also wanted to see low profile development with ground floor retail and multi-family residential mixed use development.
Preliminary Vision Outlined
The preliminary station access recommendations call for improvements to the labyrinthine intersection of University Boulevard, Adelphi Road and Campus Drive, through which the Purple Line would have to run.
Planners also laid out a vision for shared use bike paths along the roadways in the vicinity of the station, and wider, buffered sidewalks along the larger thoroughfares. One challenge for pedestrian access are the residents who live along Cool Spring Road, across University Boulevard from the campus. With practically no pedestrian facilities at all, and resembling a run down country lane in parts, planners propose adding sidewalks with pedestrian level lighting to improve access.
Unlike many of the other stations on the Purple Line, planners propose the West Campus station also serve as a hub for the area bus routes, adding another means by which commuters can access the Purple Line.
Planners also laid out a vision for the neighborhood surrounding the transit stations. Campus Drive was redrawn as a mixed use strip of 3-5 story tall structures, with new city block structures linking the corridor with College Heights Estates. A new road running East-West along Turtle Creek was rendered as a treelined, brookside boulevard.
Parking concerns were voiced by some residents at the meeting. With no new parking planned for the stations, they feared that light rail demand could cause a crush on local parking.
Paul Silberman, with Sabra, Wang and Associates, said that the Purple Line, designed for pedestrian, local access, would generate a relatively small amount of auto traffic to the stations. Planners did admit that development around the transit station could generate increased traffic load, and suggested that localities implement parking restrictions and encourage developers to discretely add parking garages to their projects to manage demand.
"It will not be our last time going before the community," said Washburn at the meeting. "Once the final report is released in June, then we will be making presentations to the planning board and the district council, as well as visiting the community associations."