>Tuesday’s Stakeholders Meeting for Rockville’s Pike: Envision a Great Place felt productive because it involved officially griping about Rockville Pike with the hope that it can be improved. Each table was given a topic and a large map of the study area. We were asked to put red stickers by three “bad” things about Rockville Pike and green stickers by three “good” things about Rockville Pike and then discuss why we chose each location. I happened to be at the table to discuss “driving and parking”, favorite subjects.
We liked north-south arterial streets, such as East Jefferson which is street-scaped with on-street parking. We also liked Wooten Parkway as it travels well. The two shopping centers with plenty of easy parking were Congressional and Wintergreen, but no one wanted to park at Federal Plaza. Our greatest problem with Rockville Pike was all the convoluted intersections, particularly the ones where you cannot turn left which creates choke points. A few of us admitted to going straight then turning around or cutting through other shopping centers in order to go north on the Pike. “You can get in Congressional Plaza, but you can’t get out.”
Our ideas to improve driving and parking were:
- More left turns to go north on the Pike
- Designated lanes on the Pike for through traffic, perhaps even charging a toll (!)
- Alternative streets with trees (but not too many trees) with short term on-street parking
- Better display of address numbers so that cars don’t need to drive slowly to find them
- Extending Jefferson Street through the Woodmont Country Club
Another table also dealt with the “parking” issue. Its recommendation was to get rid of the parking in front of shopping centers and build it underground or above ground. The problem with the large parking lots, especially those with buildings blocking the storefronts such as at Ritchie Center, is that you don’t even know about the “mom and pop” businesses hidden behind.
A group tasked to discuss “walking” did not want to award any green stickers but then reluctantly stuck a few on their board. They provided an apt description of the Twinbrook Metro Station. You arrive by train, must walk across a large parking lot, then cross Rockville Pike at one of the most dangerous intersections in order to get to the stores or residences. No wonder we don’t walk! A “buffer” between the people driving and the people walking was suggested.
One table spokesperson said that the Ritchie and Wintergreen centers were just the worst. Someone else at the table quickly interjected “They are the locations where mixed-use development would be most promising.” Everyone chuckled at the more positive description.
One group stated that there was no point in developing public transportation as the Pike is currently designed. If people are going to continue to use the Pike for shopping, is it realistic to think they will use a bus or trolley service to lug all their purchases around? Personally, I don’t want the Pike to lose its variety of shopping options because I don’t want to have to drive to Gaithersburg or Germantown to do my shopping, and I usually fill the trunk with what I buy.
To provide an idea of who is participating in this process, at my table there were two developers, a lawyer for one of the developers, a neighborhood association leader, a recent candidate for city council, and a former mayor. By show of hands at the end of the meeting, it appeared that more than one third of the room did not live in Rockville. I’d like to encourage everyone to pay attention to these zoning issues, both for ROZOR and Rockville Pike. You will have to live with these decisions for a long time to come. As they said in the literature for this meeting, “You are a Stakeholder.”
Also I’d like to echo the question at the last ROZOR public hearing as to whether we should even be having this process for Rockville Pike while the zoning ordinances for the entire City are being decided. Does it make any sense? How will the two fit together?