Wednesday, May 30, 2018

When rubber meets the road, Regency Centers' Westbard traffic report proven fake

Westbound evening rush hour traffic on
River Road is now regularly backed-up to
the Kenwood Club from the Beltway - or
even further, as it was last night
Montgomery County Council and Planning Board officials so smugly sure that there is enough capacity on River Road to handle the massive urbanization planned at Westbard clearly don't travel the road themselves. Congestion has steadily worsened in recent years, greatly increasing the time it takes residents to reach the Beltway. Yesterday, a westbound trip on River Road between the "Westbard" commercial area (5200 block) and the Beltway at 6:00 PM took a whopping 40 minutes. 40 minutes! But to read developer Regency Centers' traffic study, traffic is flowing smoothly.

Imagine how long it will take to reach the Beltway or downtown Washington once the Westbard sector plan is completely built-out. Regency's traffic study does, and proclaims there will be no problem at all. Full build-out of Regency's development "will not result in any of the study intersections operating in excess of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Policy Area congestion standard thresholds of 1600 [Critical Lane Volume (CLV)," the report declares.

Just one problem - those River Road intersections are already failing. The lights at Ridgefield Road and Little Falls Parkway are two of longest in the County. Adding the 774 new people at Regency Centers' Westbard properties, and a grand total of around 3000 new residents at full sector plan build-out, will create full-blown carmageddon.

The flaws in the report are many. It claims that Regency's full build-out will generate 618 new peak morning hour vehicle trips, and 968 evening peak hour trips. But those numbers don't even accurately represent the new residential traffic from the Regency development, much less even begin to count the auto trips generated by the retail and restaurant on the sites. 

And now, as Paul Harvey used to say, "the rest of the story." The actual number of new vehicles belonging to residents in the 516 total units at the Regency development at full build-out will be 980, using the conservative Great Recession-era U.S. Census number of 1.9 cars per household. As the survey of Westbard area residents conducted a decade ago revealed, 93% of residents travel by automobile. So the total number of trips generated will actually be 911 in both the morning and evening. 

Now, add 911 to the 1032 new vehicle trips that will be generated by other projects in the pipeline (which the report does mention). Then add the 3000 new AM and PM trips to and from the Intelligence Community Campus - Bethesda on Sangamore Road. You now have a whopping 4943 additional vehicles hitting the roads in both the morning and evening. And you haven't even begun to count the people who will be going to Giant, Chipotle, the chain salad shop, and all of the other Regency Centers retail morning and night.

The traffic study report also paints a highly-inaccurate picture of the transit situation at Westbard. While it lists the handful of bus routes that exist, it does not mention their very limited operating schedules and lengthy headways. Such limitations, as well as the two-mile distance from the closest Metro station, are among the reasons less than 7% of Westbard-area residents commute by transit.

No wonder the Maryland State Highway Administration official who attended the Development Review Committee meeting on the project in 2016 was incredulous that no projects to increase capacity on River Road had been proposed. His reaction to the new traffic study would likely be similar. "No off-site road improvements are required," it concludes.

Is that true? As someone who spent 40 minutes just to reach the Beltway on River Road last evening, I can confirm: "Hell, no."

32 comments:

Anonymous said...

"the two-mile distance from the closest Metro station"

Wrong.

Wrong.

Wrong.

Wrong.

Wrong.

Hans Riemer's claim of "one mile", though inaccurate, was closer to the truth than your claim.

Anonymous said...

traffic was bad yesterday. But it was unusually bad. I actually commented to my wife that it was the worst i'd seen...ever. So, ya, not just a typical day

Anonymous said...

I see an orange construction sign on the left side of the roadway in Dyer's photo (unfortunately I can't read it). Could that be the reason for last night's congestion?

Anonymous said...

@6:25 - you are missing the point, there is no convenient Metro station near the Westbard development. Even one mile is too far for most people to walk with groceries, shopping, children.

Anonymous said...

Westbarders taking the Metro with groceries and children.
Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahah

Anonymous said...

@5:25 - even allowing for shortcuts, the walk is at best 1.7 miles so Reimer is way off. And according to federal govt and private studies, a walking distance of much more than .25 mile deters most residents. So again, even if Riemer was anywhere close with his claim, it is still much farther than typical folks will walk. The idea that Friendship Heights Metro is a viable public transit option for the thousands of new people the developers want to cram into Westbard is a joke. And as Robert notes, car trips must include not just the new residents, but the additional traffic they will generate, such as HVAC repairs, package delivery and so on. The developer studies fudge this big time.

Suze said...

@6:30 - Why are people walking from the Metro with groceries when there's a Whole Foods and a Giant Foods in Westbard? I get what you're saying - the first mile/last mile challenge is real - but you're raising a strawman that's not applicable in this case.

I'm more curious why Westbard doesn't have a bigger bike culture. On the Crescent Trail you're an easy 10 minute ride from Bethesda Metro, where you can lock up your bike and get on a train. And before people bring up groceries/shopping/children - panniers/trailers/kids' safety seats.

Anonymous said...

"The lights at Ridgefield Road and Little Falls Parkway are two of longest in the County."

Not even close.

"The traffic study report also paints a highly-inaccurate picture of the transit situation at Westbard. While it lists the handful of bus routes that exist, it does not mention their very limited operating schedules and lengthy headways. Such limitations, as well as the two-mile distance from the closest Metro station, are among the reasons less than 7% of Westbard-area residents commute by transit."

So increase the transit options, then. And add a shuttle bus between one or both of the Metro stations and the shopping center.

Anonymous said...

If Westbard was developed as envisioned, it would be so nice and well equipped that one would never have to leave, so transit is a moot point. I hear they even have a cemetery, so only one trip from the maternity ward at Suburban Hospital is all that is really required in a lifetime. Of course there is that “secret” plan to extend the Purple Line to Westbard for those idiots who wish to leave, but that would just be crazy. Why would they want to leave paradise?

Anonymous said...

Bob the Builder Dyer failed to mention that the 40 minute trip on River Rd yesterday afternoon was solely due to an accident on the Outer Loop in Fairfax that caused a backup to I-95 in Murrland. Consider 40 minutes a gift when it took 3 hours to go from I-95 to I-270. Facts matter Bob, especially in your world of the inside the beltway basement apartment.

Anonymous said...

@8:08 - I commute through the Westbard area every day - Mass, Little Falls and/or River - so while yesterday may have been made worse by an accident on the Beltway, even on a good day these roads are already an ordeal at ruch hour and when Westland is letting out. Adding that many car trips will cause massive congestion, period.

Anonymous said...

8:08am needs to get outside his basement dwelling if he thinks 495 traffic jams are unique events

Anonymous said...

Given the very large amount of turning traffic relative to through traffic at the intersections of River Road with Willard Avenue, Little Falls Parkway, and Ridgefield Road, replacing the traffic signals with roundabouts would improve flow significantly.

Baloney Concrete said...

Extend the Purple Line to Westbard. Problem solved.

Anonymous said...

The new shopping center is going to be just 900 feet from the Moses Memorial Mausoleum (MMM) station.

Bethesda is great, but it can be GREATER! Westbard is crappy, but it can be GREAT!

Anonymous said...

@Suze/7:08AM: The bike culture is used mostly by millennials who don't have kids and prefer not to drive. Most Westbard residents are older, or have children. People who live there like the relative quiet and safety of a non-urban environment. Millenials, at least the ones I know, prefer a more urban pace. I have commuted downtown via bus and Metro for years and, believe me, the buses are never even close to full. People in this neighborhood prefer to drive.

Anonymous said...

MoCo just lost another Fortune 500 headquarters!!!

And Dyer got scooped again!

#MoribundMoCo

#SnoribundDyer

JT said...

I just did a Google Maps from the Westbard Shopping Center to Bethesda, Friendship Heights, and Tenlytown stations, they are all 2.2 or 2.3 miles by car.

JT said...

Walking has it as 1.5, 1.8, and 2.2 miles

JT said...

Yesterday was not a typical traffic day. The beltway created a chaos that is rarely seen.

Go do another (self) study his afternoon and make a proper argument.

Anonymous said...

According to Hans, realtors need to list all Westbard homes as "steps to Metro".
Shows how out of touch he is with Bethesda and why he needed a bus tour of the city. Even with the bus tour, he got the Metro info wrong.

10:23 AM The Beltway has chaos on a daily basis. The Legion crossing and both directions of 495 are dark red Google Maps jammed every night. Get real.

Anonymous said...

"According to Hans, realtors need to list all Westbard homes as 'steps to Metro'."

Except he never said that.

"He needed to take a bus tour of the city"

First, Westbard is not a "city", and second, the Councilmembers were having a working meeting as they viewed the area they were discussing. Seems like a very efficient way to conduct business, to everyone except #UnsignedDyer.

Anonymous said...

1:37pm Bethesda is a city.

Hans said you can walk to 2 Metro stations from Westbard Avenue. False statement.

Anonymous said...

"Hans said you can walk to 2 Metro stations from Westbard Avenue. False statement."

False statement, in that Riemer never said that.

Robert Dyer said...

10:23/8:08: There was no accident on the Beltway inner loop at 6 PM last night. In fact, once I got off River Road to the on-ramp, traffic was moving better on the Beltway and I-270 than on River (and that's not saying much). I could see the bumper-to-bumper River Road traffic continuing eastbound to Seven Locks as I took the ramp onto the Beltway.

While yesterday was worse than usual, the fact is that the backups are all the way to the Kenwood club nearly every evening rush now, and that it takes about twice as long as it used to to reach the Beltway. Multiple light cycles at Goldsboro and Wilson, and literally every intersection is a red light.

We need more capacity on River Road, and the need will only become more extreme when Westbard redevelops.

Anonymous said...

"Traffic" = Everyone Else's Cars

Robert Dyer said...

8:23: "Traffic" = "The County Council failing to make enough highway capacity for Everyone Else's Cars."

Anonymous said...

Why should they make more capacity for your car? You don't pay any taxes.

Robert Dyer said...

9:37: I pay more taxes than you. It's the Council's job to provide roads, idiot.

Oldguysrule said...

Bring back River Bowl, Bowl America, Roy Rogers, Farrels ice cream, and Mario's pizza. The 70's were the best of times in Westbard. Now all we have is much more traffic and crappy huge, ugly storage facilities cause people around here got too much junk! Ridiculous!

Anonymous said...

Dyer claims: "I pay more taxes than you"

Release your tax returns!

Suze said...

@10:12 - You may be right about what Westbard denizens prefer, but to state that bike culture is just a millennial thing is wrong. The addition of bikeshare (and now dockless bikeshare) over the last decade has increased cycling across all age groups, not just millennials. Additionally, many of the people who commute by bike do so out of necessity, because they cannot afford alternate forms of transport. Yes, many other people do so for environmental reasons, or for exercise, or for fun. But to lump every bike commuter into one category - urban childless millennials - ignores everyone else and makes it easy to sweep aside arguments for better regulations, infrastructure, and education.

From Westbard to Bethesda Metro is not a high stress commute. For the majority of the trip you are on a completely separated walking/biking trail. With the bike infrastructure coming to Downtown Bethesda in the next few years, you'll soon have a completely protected route with separated bike lanes.

And frankly, if people in Westbard are "addicted" to their cars, they are also contributing to the traffic they love to complain about.