Awkward

Dear Readers,

Get off your high horse! That’s essentially what the Ritchie Citizen’s Association has to say to the councilmembers and citizens who last week saddled up to oppose county-proposed rush hour traffic restrictions on Ritchie Avenue and in neighboring Sligo Park Hills.

At the March 15 council meeting association president Richard Payne acidly posed a question to critics, including councilmembers, who the previous week cited “modern” theories of keeping “the road grid open.”

“WHAT grid?” asked Payne.

The only other east-west road between East-West Highway and Ritchie Avenue is Grant Avenue, he pointed out. Grant Avenue in Ward 1 is physically closed off to prevent cut-through traffic. The continuation of Grant Avenue in Ward 3 has a one-way section.
Grant Avenue happens to be where Ward 3 council representative Dan Robinson, who strongly objected to the Ritchie Ave. restrictions, lives.

Awkward.

Payne cited other streets with restrictions in Takoma Park, implying those who charge Ritchie and Sligo Park Hills residents with selfish motives and lack of community spirit are hypocritical.

The decision whether to restrict traffic or not is best made by the county, said Payne. Councilmembers reflecting the negative views of their constituents would not be objective, he said.

He promised that the residents of Ritchie and Sligo Park Hills will continue to campaign for restrictions even stronger than those the county proposes – they want “no-entry” signs. You know, sort of like Grant Avenue, ahem.

Councilmembers mentioned alternatives to restrictions, he said. He challenged the council to be specific, and demonstrate that the alternatives would work. The deadline for the county’s decision is approaching (April 9), he noted. What did the city council plan to do?
Mayor Bruce Williams responded that the city is compiling citizen comments to submit to the county, and has been considering a council response. The council will briefly discuss the matter at the next (March 22) meeting, he said.

Councilmember Robinson, eyeing the giant red arrow bobbing over his head, observed that some of Payne’s remarks seemed “directed at me.” He responded by saying that Grant Avenue is only one-way for one block. He said reason for the restriction was that it is “not possible to turn left” onto Carroll from Grant. That traffic restriction is more of a burden than a boon to residents of the street, he claimed.

He pointed out that a previous discussion that evening between Ward 2 residents and the council had shown that current restrictions on Jackson Avenue were not working as intended, and it would be “better to take down the sign” there to open up the grid. He cited other examples in the Pinecrest area where restrictions signs were removed due to ineffective or unexpected results.

Robinson said he could understand why Payne would prefer the county’s procedures, However, the councilmember said he was piqued by the “precious little communication” from the county. He also continues to find fault with what he called the county’s “narrow report” on wider traffic restriction repercussions.

Payne’s point about existing traffic restrictions was underscored by two other citizens. One, suggested that “maybe you forgot,” all the other restricted streets throughout the city. He said he had requested a list of them all from the city clerk. Your Gilbert has requested a copy.

This leaves us, Dear Readers, wondering if indeed those who champion the open grid theory would apply it evenhandedly. Would they unblock Grant Avenue? How about Manor Circle? Would they make Park Avenue two-way? Would they reopen the Philadelphia spur at Memorial Park, and Anne Street where it used to open onto Carroll Ave.?

Very awkward.

Again?

Yes, Dear Readers, once again the county is trying to grab our precious ladder truck out of the city’s loving grasp. Under the cost-cutting county executive’s proposed budget Ladder Truck #2 would be moved to another station. The budget also skimps on support equipment.
Ironically, the new fire station, built to accommodate large vehicles such as the ladder truck, is scheduled to open Jun. 1 of this year.
Mayor Williams is preparing to plead the city’s case to keep the truck April 6th. There is the oft-used argument that the city has several older, multistory apartment buildings where a top-floor fire would require rapid response from a ladder truck capable of dousing a high location. Also, said Wiliams, as the Montgomery County executive may not know, Prince George’s County is cutting back services near the city border, so the previous level of overlapping services cannot be expected from them any more.

– Gilbert

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About the Author

Gilbert
Gilbert is the pseudonym of a hard-bitten, hard-drinking, long-time Takoma Park resident who maintains the granolapark blog. Gilbert and William L. Brown — Granola Park's mild-mannered chief of staff, researcher, and drink pourer — have never been seen in the same place at the same time.

8 Comments on "Awkward"

  1. Seth Grimes | March 19, 2010 at 4:01 pm |

    Dan Robinson does not live on the section of Grant that is closed and its closure predates his joining the council. Further, it runs immediately between the community center and Piney Branch Elementary School and is used by school buses and police and other city vehicles and would be far less able to handle through traffic than Ritchie is. It is completely inapt and unfair to point any arrows at Dan.
    But any argument should NOT be with the Ritchie Citizens Association. It should be for the county to reject the whole package of proposed traffic restrictions including the proposed Sligo Park Hills restrictions that prompted the Ritchie restrictions. The restrictions considers as a whole are misconceived.
    Lastly I fear that unless the council obtains the full set of comments from the county, they will not see many of the Takoma Park comments including my own and those of others who sent their comments, as was proper, directly to the county.

  2. Dan Robinson | March 19, 2010 at 4:48 pm |

    Gilbert – yes, there was lots of drama, and you picked up on it.
    Grant is completely open from the Junction going down to Maple – no restrictions. The last block was closed going uphill to Carroll more than 30 years ago because of the Junction light, which, by the way, is maintained by the County. There is a lot of traffic on Grant, much of it cut-through. We have speed bumps, and lots of kids, and things work out okay.
    While it is true that we don’t live in an urban square grid, people are quite good at finding the easiest through path when traffic backs up, as it already does on 410. There are a number of roads – Ritchie, Parkside, Hillside, Sunnyside, Park Valley, Mississippi, Sligo, and Devon which offer access through. Most are in unincorporated Montgomery County. The Ritchie Citizen’s Association is playing ‘go along’ with these pioneers in poor community manners.
    Closing all these roads during rush hour for a mile from Sligo Creek Parkway to 410 would make traffic much worse at the Junction, at 410/Piney Branch, and other intersections. That the County doesn’t look at this is ludicrous.
    Closed grid describes wide arterials and dead-end cul-de-sacs in the dysfunctional, auto-centric suburbs. While the Sligo Park Hills folks and Ritchie folks may wish they lived in an upcounty sylvan wonderland like Clarksburg, it just ain’t so. What we do have, and what the County doesn’t have, is true community.
    I am hopeful that the County can respect that sense of community and look to effects beyond the Sligo Park Hills enclave. There are other ways to deal with speeding cars and narrow streets with no sidewalks. If it was us, we’d look at the issues carefully. The County just writes a report and looks to closing streets off. If they close Sligo Park Hills, there will be a lot of pressure on Ritchie, and an opportunity for creative thinking about traffic and safety will have been lost.

  3. Unfair or not, intended or not, Robinson felt singled out, but to his credit did a good job of defending himself. As you can see above, he made clear his chief objection is how the county has gone about this.
    There is some credibility to the observation that those who support an open grid on these streets where restrictions are proposed are not advocating the same for roads that are already restricted. One cannot blame the residents of Ritchie and Sligo Creek Hills if they detect a whiff of hypocrisy.
    – Gilbert

  4. Whether the restriction is 30 yrs old is irrelevant! Even a one-way restriction on Grant to Carroll seriously cuts the traffic on that street. In addition, Grant is closed on the other side, thus eliminating all possibility of by-passing the Junction, Philadelphia on your way to Piney Branch. These restrictions are 24/7/365 a far cry from the AM and PM restrictions that are proposed for Ritchie and Sligo Park hills.
    And by the way did the restrictions on Grant affect his sense of community? It seems to me that, in this case, Dan Robinson would have done well to remember that “people who live in glass houses should not throw stones”!

  5. Steve Davies | March 19, 2010 at 9:37 pm |

    As someone who drives down Grant M-F to pick up his kid at Piney Branch ES, let me say that some of the comments do not seem to reflect reality. Alain, I don’t know what you’re saying (no surprise there) when you say, “Grant is closed on the other side, thus eliminating all possibility of by-passing the Junction, Philadelphia on your way to Piney Branch.” What’s the “other side”? Do you mean the part of the street that dead-ends at the community center (where’s there’s a Do Not Enter sign)? It’s two-way all the way down from Carroll to Maple. If you want to bypass the Junction and go twds Piney Branch, wouldn’t you be going the other way? But perhaps I’ve gotten twisted around in this spicy Takoma rhubarb.
    I don’t like the fact that when I return from PBES up Grant, I have to turn left on Hancock and right on Carroll, wait for an eternity for a green light and hope I can go left and get down to Circle Woods, where I live. But I kinda understand why you can’t go from Hancock to Carroll — because it would be dangerous for cars to poke out Grant in between the gas station and TJ’s and try to turn left or even right when traffic is coming from old Carroll.
    Not to pile on Dan Robinson, because I think he makes good points here and is absolutely right to object to the proposals on the table, but there is a tiny bit of inconsistency here. When speed bumps and a raised intersection were stuck on Fourth Avenue in the Pinecrest neighborhood a while back, a handful of us in nearby Circle Woods objected, but the city mostly ignored our comments and went ahead with the humps and the intersection. (They also removed a ridiculous no-right-turn restriction at Poplar and Fourth–thank you for that).
    However, and here’s the problem I see in Takoma Park, back when this proposal was considered by council, the staff said (http://www.takomaparkmd.gov/clerk/agenda/items/2009/021709-2.pdf), “To discourage through traffic from using local streets, the City of Takoma Park seeks to reduce operating speeds by installing speed humps, ovals, all way stop signs and other impediments.
    Gee. And I thought “safety” was why we’re spending all this money to build speed humps (no two are the same!). No, it’s really to keep “through traffic” from using the streets of our sleepy little town. Problem is, guys–some of the people who live here have to deal with these impediments too.
    If we plan on putting speed humps on every street in Takoma Park, let’s just do it and stop wasting time with individual petitions. Get the crews out and build speed humps on every block, and four-way stops everywhere. Dammit, let’s keep people out of our city! Screw the businesses, screw anyone who doesn’t live in your neighborhood. Just put in more “impediments.”
    I’m shovel-ready and eager to help.

  6. Steve Davies | March 19, 2010 at 9:59 pm |

    Before Alain nails me, I made a mistake in saying Grant is two-way from Carroll to Maple. It’s one way from Carroll to Hancock, then two-way to Maple.
    My point was you can get to Piney Branch from Carroll by taking Grant to Maple, taking a left, then a right on Philly to PB — or a right on maple, left on Ritchie (or on Sligo Creek).

  7. There is a saying that all paths lead to Rome. In its eagerness for a gratuitous ad-hominem attack, Steve Davies (correct spelling this time?) makes the case that you can always go from Carroll to Piney Branch by using all kinds of circuitous routes! Talk about “crashing through open doors” or stating the obvious! The point of the restrictions is not so much to prevent the TP neighbors from going through (as they obviously know the streets) but to prevent non-residents from using fairly easy shortcuts: in that way, the restrictions on Grant (to Carroll and toward Piney Branch at the CC) serve exactly that purpose. A purpose that Dan Robinson (living on Grant) is quite willing to deny to the residents of Ritchie and Sligo Hills.

  8. Steve Davies | March 23, 2010 at 9:32 pm |

    Hey Alain —
    No ad hominem attack intended. I honestly did not understand what you meant; since that’s often the case, I said it wasn’t a surprise. Gratuitous? Yes. Ad hominem? No.
    Getting to Piney Branch from Grant does not require such a circuitous route, though it’s always less efficient to have to turn and turn again to get where you want to go. The restrictions on Grant Avenue, however, cannot really be compared to those proposed on Ritchie. The Ritchie restrictions would apply during certain times; Grant, however, is one-way for a block 24-7 (for what I think are probably justifiable reasons) and blocked off from through traffic at the community center, which also makes sense, since the street would run between the community center and the school. There’s a barrier there now, as I’m sure you’re aware.
    We actually kind of agree, Alain. I’m glad Dan is fuming about these proposed restrictions, which are aimed not just at non-residents but anyone — including, I guess, people who live on those streets(!)(?). (I think the proposal is nuts.)
    My point, however, was that Dan supported additional speed humps on Fourth Avenue and “bump-outs” on Poplar Avenue, which the city staff said were not just for safety reasons, but to create “impediments” that would, supposedly, frustrate through traffickers. So I think there’s some inconsistency there.
    Of the very few who responded to an online survey about the Fourth Avenue/Poplar project, a goodly percentage objected to the proposal, but our opposition was never recognized. I’m not sure the creation of impediments to keep out non-residents is a good strategy, especially when we claim to care so much about our local businesses (wouldn’t we want to make it easy for people to get to downtown Takoma?). It’s also inconsistent with our policy of making our parks and rec centers available to non-residents, often for the same price.
    I’m of the opinion that “cut-through traffic” is usually a misnomer. Many people who “cut through” are doing so either to drop kids off at schools (John Nevins Andrews, for example) or are just trying to get to work in the quickest way possible. Forcing them onto the main roads is insanity, if all they will do there is idle and spew exhaust. I really don’t begrudge non-neighborhood drivers the use of Poplar Avenue (my street) when I see them drive by. Yes, many are yakking on the phone, which I really wish they wouldn’t do, but I also believe many are frequent travelers on this stretch who are aware of the many kids and other human beings who live here.
    I am, however, scared of what might happen whenever a police car trying to get to a crime scene speeds by at 60 mph. There’s very little time to react in that case.
    As Seth said, the one-way restriction on Grant was there long before Dan moved in. However, I know for a fact he helped get speed humps on that street, and speed humps don’t benefit the community at large, no matter what people might think of their effectiveness.
    And yes, Alain, the spelling was correct. I thank you for that and wish you nothing but the best.
    Steve

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