Imagine the consequences of unexpectedly getting your bicycle wheel stuck in a new streetcar track. Or try to picture just how much water runs off into nearby streams after a heavy rain on an urban street with almost no natural landscaping in sight. And what happens when industrial land uses aren't near transportation infrastructure that can carry high-volume freight shipments?
These planning challenges were the subject of three studies funded in 2011 by the Transportation Planning Board under the Transportation/ Land-Use Connections (TLC) Program. Since it began in 2007, the TLC Program has funded 56 such planning studies throughout the Washington region to identify small-scale transportation and land-use improvements that help local jurisdictions coordinate transportation and land-use planning activities. Projects have focused on topics like transit station accessibility, mixed-use and transit-oriented development opportunities, pedestrian and bicycle planning, and streetscape design and corridor planning.
In 2011, the TLC program funded eight projects in seven local jurisdictions in the region. One study, in Arlington County, Virginia, sought to identify best practices for safely accommodating bicyclists in two corridors where new streetcars were planned: Columbia Pike, and Crystal City/Potomac Yards. Because of the way streetcar tracks are built into the pavement of existing roadways, and typically in the same direction as the regular flow of traffic, bicyclists are at an increased risk of accidents because their bicycle wheels can easily get stuck in the tracks.
The 2011 TLC study included an extensive review of strategies for safely accommodating bicyclists and streetcars that have proven effective elsewhere in the United States and overseas. The study outlined some basic recommendations for ensuring adequate separation of bicycle lanes from streetcar tracks, appropriately orienting and marking bicycle facilities, and safely channeling bicyclists around streetcar passenger platforms.
Another study in 2011 was carried out in the area around the Van Ness-UDC Metrorail station in Northwest Washington. The purpose of the study was to identify streetscape improvements along Connecticut Avenue in the vicinity of the station that would improve the flow and safety of pedestrians and bicyclists, and also help to manage the amount of water running off into nearby streams following heavy rains. The final report provided several recommendations, including the removal of sidewalk segments between existing street trees, and adding more trees, low shrubs, and groundcover to help intercept runoff currently flowing unchecked into the gutter and drainage system. In some areas, the report recommended construction of sunken tree pits to capture even more water.
A third TLC project completed in 2011 took place in Frederick County, where consultants looked for opportunities to maximize the utility of freight rail and truck corridors in the county. The consultant team analyzed traffic, land use, and economic data, and identified numerous strategies to improve coordination of freight-oriented land-use and transportation investments. The final report recommended a number of low-cost actions, including promotion of identified industrial corridors and exploration of funding opportunities to improve industrial properties near rail facilities. The report also suggested better integrating parking for freight trucks, developing industrial land buffer zones, and clustering industrial land uses around major transportation facilities.
Over the last six years, the TPB's Transportation/Land-Use Connections Program has supported dozens of local planning studies to identify strategies for better coordinating land-use and transportation planning. On July 18, the TPB is scheduled to approve a new round of projects for FY 2013, adding both to the diversity of issues addressed by the program and to the diversity of solutions and recommendations that result from the studies it supports.