The county’s Planning Department has released a report that analyzed and made recommendations concerning the level of comfort for pedestrians walking to future Purple Line stations.
“The Pedestrian Master Plan is the county’s first effort to focus on creating a more comfortable, safer, more accessible pedestrian environment,” said Eli Glazier, the plan’s project manager.
The Purple Line report focuses specifically on the comfort level for pedestrians walking within a half-mile of each station.
The staff used an approach that considers the characteristics of each pedestrian pathway and crossings (using such factors as pathway width, speed limit, and crosswalk type) and assigns it a score on a four-point scale, ranging from “very comfortable” to “unacceptable.”
Each station was then assigned a score ranking the level of connectivity from 0% (no connectivity) to 100% (completely connected), based on current and upcoming projects that will affect pedestrian infrastructure before the planned opening of the light rail in mid-2023.
Stations with the lowest connectivity ratings include Woodside, Dale Drive and Piney Branch Road, while the highest ratings are for Lyttonsville, the Transit Center and Silver Spring Library stations.
“One of the big things that we found across the board is that many of the stations are located on streets where the speed limits are 30 to 40 miles an hour,” said Lauren Pepe, one of the co-project managers for the Purple Line report.
She added that there are no buffers on many of those streets’ sidewalks, meaning the sidewalks directly abut the roadway.
One of the report’s short-term (and low-cost) recommendations is reduce the speed limit to 25 miles an hour within a half-mile of most stations, and using speed cameras for enforcement.
Other short-term recommendations include installing high-visibility crosswalks, adding pedestrian refuges and curb extensions to local streets, and converting uncontrolled crossings to crossings that require vehicles to stop.
“The medium- and long-term recommendations tend to be sidewalk widening [and] installing those landscape buffers to further separate pedestrians from cars,” Glazier said. “In some cases, installing separated bike lanes to act as an additional buffer between pedestrians and moving vehicles.
“Many of these stations areas are bicycle-pedestrian priority areas from the Department of Transportation,” Glazier added. “They’re areas where the county expects and encourages intense pedestrian and bicycle activity and fortunately, [the County] Council through the [Capital Improvement Program] process has identified money to improve conditions for people walking and biking in these areas specifically.”
He also pointed out that most stations would not have parking available for vehicles.
“The decision for these to be stations that people access primarily by walking, biking and transit is really a formative one in creating a new understanding of how people will get around come of the communities in Montgomery County,” Glazier said. “And with the emphasis on walking and biking to these stations, left unstated in that is the pedestrian connections need to be safe and comfortable.”
The Planning Board will be briefed on the report at its July 2 meeting. The board will have the opportunity to suggest comments, changes or additional recommendations that would be incorporated into the final document, Glazier said.
The County Council also will review the final report.
In addition, the report has been shared with the State Highway Administration and the county’s Department of Transportation (as well as the Purple Line Corridor Coalition), which would be the entities charged with implementing any recommendations, Glazier said.
“When those recommendations are implemented,” Glazier said, “it would improve comfortable connectivity in those stations that are deficient, and help the Purple Line be successful as it can be by making connections to those stations as comfortable as possible.”
Graphic courtesy Montgomery Planning (M-NCPPC)