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Responses to the ACT Questionnaire for Candidates for Planning Board Chair

Question 1

Do you support the Locally Preferred Alternative selected by Gov. O'Malley for the Purple Line, including an at-grade light rail line with a trail alongside it on the Georgetown Branch right of way between Bethesda and Silver Spring?

Francoise Carrier - Choosing the alignment for the Purple Line is the purview of the County Council and the Governor, not the Planning Board. If I am appointed Planning Board Chair, I will support the Locally Preferred Alternative from Bethesda to New Carrollton, as selected by the Council and the Governor. If appointed, I will work to implement the chosen alignment expeditiously, striving to maximize transit effectiveness while minimizing adverse environmental and community impacts.

Peter Fosselman - Yes

Tedi Osias - Yes. It used to be a transportation corridor and I support its continuation as a transit line on the Locally Preferred Alternative.

John Robinson - Yes.

Question 2

Would you support further study of alternatives to the Locally Preferred Alternative, such as heavy rail or single-tracking, which might delay the building of the Purple Line?

Francoise Carrier - The County Council and the Governor have selected an alignment, so I seen no reason for further study of alternatives. I am, however, always open to new solutions and technologies that could improve implementation.

Peter Fosselman - No. Initially I supported studying alternatives due to concerns related to tree preservation and proximty to homes; and not knowing which mode (BRT vs. light rail) was best. With the alternative studies exhausted and Governor O'Malley having made his decision, I support the current Purple Line plan. I would not support any major changes that would delay the plan.

Tedi Osias - Alternatives have been looked at over the past 20 years, and it is now time to move forward. We need this light rail facility and we need it as soon as it can be funded and built. We needed it when the price of gas went to $4 per gallon and we'll need it the next time gas prices go that high.

John Robinson - No.

Question 3

Do you support the current growth policy which ties development to the movement of motor vehicles, or would you replace the "PAMR" and "LATR" tests with a growth policy that gives transit, pedestrian, and bicycle travel equal weight with automobiles?

Francoise Carrier - As Planning Board Chair, I would support and implement the growth policy adopted by the County Council, and make recommendations for a revised growth policy in accordance with the normal bi-annual schedule. The growth policy needs to take into account the impact of proposed development on our entire transportation system, including roadways used by motor vehicles, transit facilities and travelways used by bicycles and pedestrians.

Peter Fosselman - As a professional urban planner, I do not find PAMR and LATR the best practices. They are complicated and do not always arrive at the satisifactory transportation solutions. I would encourage replacing the tests with all transit - pedestrian and bicycle traffic included - as priorities. It is my understanding Executive Leggett has completed a draft for new traffic measures. Without studying a proposed test, I cannot commit to "equal" weight. However, I can pledge much higher priorities placed on non-auto mobility modes to reflect current patterns of development in areas of infill.

On a micro level, my own business practices reflect recognition of the declining reliance on the automobile that the planning practices of the future must reflect. I own a small fitness center and restaurant in Kensington. One of first actions we undertook at the fitness establishment was to install bike racks; at the café we accommodate bikers by allowing them to bring their vehicles into the courtyard for safe storage. As a town mayor, I established a relationship with a rental car company (borrow for a day) for those who don't own autos, but have a need for one from time to time. Kensington's new sector plan places a greater emphasis on bicycle traffic with new routes and defined areas for travel. In addition, a new parking lot is about to begin construction in Kensington. In its design, auto spaces were eliminated from the plan to provide for bicycle storage lockers and better pedestrian access.

Tedi Osias - Especially in urban and urbanizing areas, we need a methodology that gives more explicit recognition to the importance of non-automobile travel modes such as transit, rail, pedestrians and bicycles.

John Robinson - I am sympathetic to this question, but would approach is somewhat differently. First, it is ironical that PAMR attempts to measure the relative efficiency of the auto and other modes, but is widely considered to be inadequate in this regard. Some believe that it understates prospective auto use and others that it overstates that use. I am inclined to the latter position and believe that PAMR overstates the long term share of the auto mode given the effectiveness of transit in many of the urban transportation markets in the area, including Silver Spring, Bethesda, and Ballston. LATR is simply not an accurate means of measuring transportation efficiency in these more urbanized areas and is inadequate in measuring and allocating transportation costs, which tends to penalize the transit mode. Both should be modified and replaced in due course. I would move in the direction of modal split analysis which should more accurately measure and predict the effectiveness of transit, pedestrian, and bicycles as ways of moving people. The recent amendments to the annual growth policy were a step in that direction by providing incentives to concentrate development closer to areas that are transit served and providing for mitigation payments to flow more directly to the transit mode. In short yes, but recognizing the practical problems in getting there.

Question 4

Are minimum parking requirements, which make transit riders, pedestrians, and bicyclists pay for parking they don't use and thereby subsidize drivers, wise policy in places with good transit service?

Francoise Carrier - The appropriate use of minimum parking requirements is one of the issues to be considered in the ongoing Zoning Ordinance re-write. If am appointed Planning Board Chair, I will ensure that parking policies adopted in connection with the rewrite encourage pedestrian activity, bicycling and the use of transit. I prefer not to prejudge at this point the question of whether minimum parking requirements are appropriate in all parts of the County, given that this question will be before the Planning Board in the next year or two in the context of the Zoning Ordinance re-write.

Peter Fosselman - I do not think users of non-auto transportation should be penalized. There must be a parking minimum/maximum set and spaces for handicap drivers and other necessary auto users. The new CR zone is headed in the correct direction by incentivising other forms of transit and lowering the minimum parking requirements. The new zoning ordinance should march in the same direction.

Tedi Osias - In areas with existing or planned transit and other non-automobile alternatives, we need to have minimum parking requirements but they should be much lower than current standards. We also need to explore setting maximum parking standards in these areas.

John Robinson - This is a simple yes. Minimum parking requirements assume a greater auto share for many facilities in urbanizing areas that is likely to occur and unnecessarily drives up develop costs in areas that are transit served. This reduces incentives for development in the very areas where growth can occur with less incremental traffic per unit of development, whether residential or commercial. The Planning Department is moving to review this issue, albeit perhaps slowly, and will probably encounter significant resistance from some other transportation agencies.

Question 5

The Parks Department's current policy is to clear snow only from roadways used by motor vehicles and not from roadways used exclusively by bicycles and pedestrians, even when the roadway used by bicycles and pedestrians carries far more people. Will you reverse this policy?

Francoise Carrier - This is an important question that deserves review. If I am appointed Chair I will be glad to consider this issue, and to make sure the Planning Board receives input from ACT and other parties who may be knowledgeable about pedestrian and bicycle transportation patterns, as well as from the Parks Department.

Peter Fosselman - I believe principal bicycle and pedestrian routes should be treated equally during the snow removal process. I cannot promise to reverse the entire policy, but can agree to changes that will make these routes more accessible during inclement weather. Obviously the current fiscal crisis will have an impact on such decisions.

Tedi Osias - Once budget circumstances improve, I would certainly be willing to examine this policy and to consider modifications. Given all the cuts that the Parks Department is facing I cannot advocate for this change at this time.

John Robinson - I am not familiar with this issue, which I suspect applies mostly to the Capital Crescent Trail. I will raise it with the Staff, including the requisite budget issues.

Question 6

Will you end the Planning Department's use of biased language that treats only automobile travel as the norm, such as referring to an intersection widening that worsens pedestrian travel conditions as an "improvement" and describing non-automobile travel as "alternative" transportation?

Francoise Carrier - I believe that language choices matter, and that public servants should make every effort to use language that reflects a fair, open-minded approach. If I am appointed Chair, I will endeavor to sensitize agency employees to ramifications of their word choices that they may not have recognized, such as those your question identifies.

Peter Fosselman - Yes. I will commit to curbing the use of what may be perceived as biased language and places priority on automobile use. Education will also play a key role in correcting this issue.

Tedi Osias - Language is important, and this question is valuable in sensitizing me to the use of this particular construction. Underlying the question, it seems to me, is the need for more facilities that benefit transit users, pedestrians and bicyclists. I support the need for expanded non-automobile facilities to make it more attractive for travelers to leave their cars at home or not have a car at all.

John Robinson - As with question three, I would approach this issue somewhat differently because I do not believe it wholly acknowledges some important changes that are occurring within the Department. First, the term "alternative" can have two meanings. As the question implies, one is that the automobiles are the dominant mode of transportation (which historically they have been), and that this dominance is appropriate and should be encouraged. As was discussed during the debates on the White Flint Master Plan, automobile dominance is no longer the case in a number of Montgomery County job markets as well as the DC downtown job market. This reflects the basic fact that transit works most effectively in corridors with consistent and high demand. One might say that in matters of consumer choice transit works where it competes effectively in terms of service and price; where these conditions do not apply it does and will not.

It is this sense of an effective consumer choice that transit may reasonably be viewed as an effective "alternative" to the traditional preference for the flexibility provided by automobiles, but without encouraging the latter's dominance. This more neutral analytical approach is increasingly how transit is and should viewed in the Department. I would encourage this attitude, which places emphasis on developing the transit and pedestrian modes where these have decent prospects for success. This is reflected in my strong and consistent support for the Purple Line where a dedicated right of way is a material advantage. Such transit use must be encouraged, including more systemic capital budgeting for the transit mode.

Finally, on the issue of intersection widening, under Chairman Hanson's leadership Department policy has moved strongly against this approach as a means of dealing with congestion in urbanizing areas. This shift occurred as part of the revisions to the road code designed to place less emphasis on moving automobiles through areas like Bethesda and Silver Spring and facilitating the pedestrian mode. The opposite philosophy is more likely to be found elsewhere than in the Department.