Monday, April 28, 2014

County DOT Reaches Out to Bethesda Neighborhoods on Pedestrian Safety

The following is text of a letter sent to Bethesda neighborhood leaders.

As part of County Executive Ike Leggett’s Pedestrian Safety Initiative, the Montgomery County Department of Transportation (MCDOT) has been focusing on “High Incidence Areas” (HIAs) for pedestrian collisions. With the significant level of pedestrian traffic in Downtown Bethesda, it is probably no surprise to you that your community is one of these HIAs – areas of the County with the highest rates of pedestrian crashes. Over the last year and half, MCDOT has been working with a group of fabulous volunteers in the Wheaton area, who have helped us spread the word to the community about how to be a safe pedestrian, and how drivers can keep pedestrians safe. We began to form a similar group in Bethesda last fall. We are now looking forward to expanding this group of volunteers, and in working with the local community to spread the word about how to keep pedestrians safe. 

The County’s Pedestrian Safety Initiative uses a three-pronged approach that coordinates Engineering, Education, and Enforcement with the intention of influencing pedestrian and driver behavior. We have already begun working with a group of students and Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School through the Walk Your Way grant program, and are looking forward to efforts there. We also partner with Montgomery County Police, and you may have noticed that officers are in the community ticketing drivers and pedestrians who do not follow the law.

We would love to partner with you to spread our important message to your community, and we hope that you are interested in working with us. Here are some ways we can work together on this effort:

  • We are developing and will soon be sending along a social media toolkit, which will include pedestrian safety themed Facebook posts, Tweets, and e-mail messages that can be sent out to your community.
  • If you have well-attended resident meetings, we are happy to come out and speak to your group about pedestrian safety.
  • If you have children in the local schools, we would love to get connected with your PTA and/or school administrators to identify opportunities to educate kids and parents about important safety tips.
  • Please consider volunteering with us! We will be at several local special events this Spring, including Strut Your Mutt and Imagination Bethesda, and would love to have community volunteers help with these efforts. We also offer SSL hours for middle and high school students who participate in our programs.
  • You can learn more about our program by visiting our website: www.montgomerycountymd.gov/walk. We will be in touch in the very near future, but in the meantime please feel free to contact us directly with questions, to sign up for volunteering, or with suggestions for how we might reach your community.

We look forward to working with you!

Jeff Dunckel

Montgomery County Pedestrian Safety Coordinator

Jeff.Dunckel (at) montgomerycountymd.gov

Joana Conklin

Montgomery County Pedestrian Safety Education Specialist

Joana.Conklin (at) montgomerycountymd.gov

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Western Montgomery County CAB Testimony on FY-15 Operating Budget

The following testimony is from the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board to the County Council concerning the 2015 fiscal year operating budget. This testimony was given on April 9th, 2014:


Council President Rice and Councilmembers, my name is Jad Donohoe.  I am the chair of the Western Montgomery County Citizens Advisory Board. 
Thank you for this opportunity to present our views on the 2015 fiscal year operating budget. 
The Board recognizes that the County is emerging from a difficult time in which you have had to close a series of budget gaps caused by the troubled economic landscape. As we restore budgets and programs, we urge caution and careful deliberation.
With this in mind, we encourage you to look for opportunities for existing programs to operate more efficiently and to find savings through shared investments and coordination across multiple agencies.  Specifically, we suggest a multi-agency task force be convened to identify such opportunities. 
We also wanted to call your attention to funding for programs which our Board hears about most often from our west county neighborhoods: specifically, improved funding for Public Libraries, Regional Services Centers (RSCs), School Resource Officers (SROs), Pedestrian and Bicycle Safety, Bikeshare, Ride-On and Master Plans.
Public Libraries
We support the County Executive’s recommended increase in funding for Public Libraries.
·        The circulation of traditional books has not diminished and the demand for e-books has skyrocketed. 
·        We regularly hear requests for additional evening and weekend library hours.  Particularly in our more urbanized areas, evening library hours can play a significant role in the “Nighttime Economy.”
·        With this increased use comes a need for adequate funds for cleaning and maintenance.
Regional Services Centers (RSCs)
We urge you to add additional funds above the County Executive’s recommended budget for Regional Services Centers in order to restore full-time administrative support in each RSC.  We applaud the recent relocation of some part-time administrative support, but a full-time admin is needed at each RSC.
·        For many County residents and community organizations, the RSCs are their connection to County government and the proof that government is available and responsive to their concerns.  
·        Without adequate administrative support on site at the RSCs, time that RSC directors spend engaging with the community is spent on administrative tasks like scheduling and building management issues.  
·        Running the RSCs on a skeleton crew fails to leverage the significant capital and operating investment we have made in the RSCs, and it limits the work that RSCs can do - a problem recently highlighted by the 2014 Committee Evaluation and Review Board recommendations.
School Resource Officers (SROs)
We enthusiastically support the County Executive’s recommendation for two additional School Resource Officers.  We are very supportive of this program, and welcome this additional funding.
Pedestrian Safety
The Board applauds the County’s emphasis on pedestrian safety.  We encourage you to continue the high level of support for pedestrian awareness education – including enforcement against drivers who ignore marked crosswalks.
Bikeshare and Bikelanes
We thank you for the recent roll out of Capital Bikeshare in the County.
·        We encourage you to consider additional funds to connect up the system in Bethesda with that in Rockville by adding multiple new bikeshare stations in the growing areas of Twinbrook and White Flint.
·        We also urge additional bikelanes and bike trails, and maintenance of the existing network. Like all networks, our network of bikelanes and bikeshare stations become more useful and usable as they increase in size.
Ride-On
We support the continued investment in Ride-On and ask that the County consider ways to make transit smarter, including:
·        Real-time tracking and mapping of bus routes
·        Free service within 1/2 mile of urban metro stations (to reduce traffic and aid the nighttime economy)
·        New or expanded routes that more directly connect our urban areas to one another including Friendship Heights/Bethesda, Bethesda/White Flint, and White Flint/Twinbrook.
Master Plans
We applaud the ongoing review of the Downtown Bethesda Master Plan. We urge you to fund the review of the Westbard Sector Plan (our County’s oldest Sector Plan), and the White Flint II Plan, which will guide development in the area between the emerging urban centers of White Flint and Twinbrook.
We appreciate your consideration of these points as you review the FY2015 budget. Thank you.
Jad Donohoe, WMCCAB Chair 

White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee Testimony on FY15 Operating Budget

The following testimony is from the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee to the County Council concerning the 2015 fiscal year operating budget. This testimony was given on April 9th, 2014:


Good afternoon, President Rice and Councilmembers.  My name is Francine Waters and I am presenting this testimony as Chair of the White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee.

The White Flint Downtown Advisory Committee (WFDAC) was established by the County Council to:


•        Advise County departments on public services in the White Flint Sector Plan area,
•        Coordinate activities that promote and advance business interests and a sense of sense of community within the area,
•        Advise the County Executive and County Council on the eventual establishment of an Urban District.
The Committee is focused on accomplishing the tasks before us and greatly appreciates the support provided by the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center.  With their help, we have completed several initial tasks, including:
•        Developed a retail/restaurant directory
•        Created a map of development projects (which has been viewed more than 18,000 times in the past year.)
•        Drafted a history of the White Flint area.
Other short range projects, which will enhance & improve the White Flint Business district, while leading towards our long range goal of the establishing an urban district, are in progress:
•        A beautification pilot in which property owners will improve the appearance of Rockville Pike.  This builds on the existing weekend maintenance crew - managed by BCC Regional Services Center and the Department of Corrections - which has done an outstanding job in “cleaning up” White Flint. 
•        Establishing a single destination portal for the “business district” which contains retail, housing, events, and development activity information.
•        A review of management and funding options for a future Urban Services District.
We greatly appreciate the $20,000 in funds you provided in the FY14 budget which makes these projects possible.
We believe that much can be accomplished with a modest investment of public funds. 
In this spirit, we are requesting a modest increase ($75,000) in the FY15 budget for the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center for the following needs that will improve the appearance and sense of community in White Flint:
•        Development of White Flint streetscape guidelines, perhaps through an Urban Land Institute Technical Assistance Panel ($20,000).  Urban streetscape standards have yet to be developed.  This funding will help create standards for lanterns, benches, and sidewalks in the “in between” blocks that connect anticipated development.
•        Additional contract support for promotional activities and coordination of maintenance activities. ($35,000)  These funds will help improve the engagement of local business and residents, promote existing activities and events, and enhanced maintenance needs.
•        Spot improvements to the appearance of the Public Right-of-Way. ($20,000) 
The members of the WFDAC are happy to serve the County by representing the views and concerns of the communities of White Flint.  We look forward to continuing to advise the County Executive and County Council in FY15.
Thank you for considering our testimony.