After a lot of thought about the local lanes that the Planning Commission has proposed for the Rockville Pike master plan, I have decided to support including the lanes in the plan. Here’s my thinking.
In a nutshell, the Pike cross-section proposed by the Planning Commission would keep vehicle capacity where it is, which I think is appropriate. Over time, we’re going to use our cars less, but there are going to be more of us living here, so it balances out. The proposed plan makes room for bus rapid transit, which I think is great. It creates a pleasant space for bicyclists and pedestrians to actually use the Pike, and not just hop from place to place in their cars. And the local lanes make the driving, the biking, and the walking safer, which is absolutely key for me.
The proposed 252-foot cross-section is a reduction from the current 1989 plan’s 270 feet. Between the BRT, the bike lanes, the green spaces, and the wide sidewalks, it provides about as much space for cars as we do now. But many other uses are provided for as well.
The Planning Commission has worked on this for five years. They have no financial stake in where this goes; they’re just trying to do what’s best for the City. The City’s planning staff has also been working on this for five years. (Click here for the staff’s summary of the options before the Mayor and Council). They also have no financial stake in where this goes. Neither does your Mayor and Council. Our only goal is a safe and prosperous Rockville in the future.
Those who do have a financial stake in the success of the parcels they own would like to see the local lanes removed so they have more room to build their projects and can make more money. There’s nothing wrong with that, and I’d argue that these developers also have a pretty good interest in seeing Rockville be safe and prosperous over the long haul. But they have not launched this battle over the future of the City. If the local lanes didn’t hurt the developers’ bottom line, I sincerely doubt they would have spent as much time and money as they have done to try to get them stripped out.
I kept an open mind on this for a long time. I’ve talked to everyone who wanted to talk to me, I’ve weighed all the information, I’ve used my judgment, and I have decided that the local lanes should be included in the Rockville Pike Master Plan as the Planning Commission has recommended. No one would ever accuse me of blindly accepting whatever our Planning Commission says, but on this issue I think they have gotten it right.