Prince George's County planners are setting a vision for transportation, looking toward 2035 – The Washington Post

Planners in Prince George’s County are embarking this year on an effort to envision what transportation might look like by 2035, examining what trends in electrification and ideas about equity might mean for a diverse suburban region.
The process is designed to be collaborative, with planners encouraging residents to come forward with ideas about what they want to see. The planning department is hosting public meetings this month to gather input to update the plan last modified in 2009.
The county includes dense cities and towns tied to the Metro system near the border with the District, but it also contains rural areas to its south.
The Washington Post spoke with Crystal Hancock, a county transportation planner, about trends she expects the new plan to grapple with and how the process of writing it will unfold.
Q: When you look ahead over the next decade, what trends do you anticipate shaping the county’s transportation system?
A: Some of the trends that will shape transportation in the county include discussions regarding equity, mobility and sustainability. All three of them are issues that we’re dealing with, and we plan to incorporate these elements into the needs of our urban, suburban and rural communities. Prince George’s County is very diverse in terms of, within one drive, you can go from urban to suburban to very rural, which is the beauty of our county. So our plan is to integrate the trends so that they can find their way into all areas or aspects of the county and the transportation network.
Some items that we may include, include the popular electric vehicles. We’re going to focus mainly on identifying locations for additional electric charging stations and how those needs will increase as the number of vehicles increases.
Q: Presumably, one day we’re going to have a Purple Line. [The light-rail project has been stalled.]
A: The Purple Line is definitely one of the larger projects that the county will move forward with. We’re definitely looking forward to the completion of the construction and the implementation of the actual rail network.
Q: Do you think broadly that the car is going to remain central to people’s experience of getting around the county?
A: When you look at rural areas, they primarily will have cars. I think when you look more towards the suburban areas, it may be a mix of both vehicles and multimodal transit. And then I think as you move towards more of the urban areas, more emphasis may be placed on those multimodal areas. So I think it’s a combination based on where in the county residents are located or employees are located.
Q: As you’re looking at these trends, as planners, is your job to shape those trends and move them in the directions that you think will be positive for the county? Or do you have to just take what’s out there and figure out how to deal with it?
A: I think planning does play a part in shaping, and shaping the suburbs, in terms of where facilities are located, where homes are located, why this makes sense and why the location of one thing makes sense in one location and doesn’t make sense in the other.
I think before, it was just either you were in the city or the suburbs, or you were rural. But now I feel we have more of a blurred line. In terms of facilities, both transportation and residential, planning has helped guide the development. Now, do we always get it right? Everybody has different opinions about that, but that’s what master plans are for, and sector plans. They are there to be able to guide the development of specific areas.
Q: What is the relationship between planners and the transportation departments that actually build and maintain the infrastructure in the county?
A: Everything comes down to relationships and communication and talking and explaining what our plans indicate we would like to see. What are some of the concerns that either the state or the county have with the ideas that have been developed by planners? For example, for one of the stakeholder events that we’ve held for this project [transportation master plan], it was with agencies to be able to explain to them what it is that the master plan of transportation is, what we’d like to see from them, how they can help. We’ve been trying to coordinate all along.
Q: What are the steps in developing the plan? Why is it important to be deliberative about this and not just kind of hand these things down from on high?
A: I want to make sure that people are involved so that they actually know what we are proposing. Does it make sense? Does it not make sense? What concerns do they have? Do they think it’s a good idea? Do they not think it’s a good idea? Those are some of the items that we want to make sure have been brought out through this entire process.
The process, as it stands now, is that we received initiation from the planning board in July. From July, we then went to the county council in September. We have worked with stakeholders in terms of municipalities and agencies. We are preparing for public meetings. Because of the pandemic, we have to identify different ways to reach out to people. So because of that, we’re holding virtual public meetings to talk to residents, employees and employers about concerns or ideas that they have for the master plan of transportation. From that point, that information will go into our existing conditions report, which will be released in the spring of this year. From there, we go to writing the actual plan based on input that we received. We will then be able to release it for comments.
Q: Is it exciting to be in a position where you’re thinking about these long-term trends and the future of the county?
A: It’s a great opportunity because what it shows is that we as an agency are taking a look at transportation trends currently, how we think that they will project and looking at different examples from around the country. It is extremely exciting. I’m nervous because I want to make sure I get it right, but it’s extremely exciting to be in a position to be able to make sure that we’re leading and guiding with excellence.
We as humans, we learn new things every day. I’ve been in the transportation industry 30 years and I’m still learning. So I definitely want to encourage anyone to please, if they have any questions, if they don’t understand anything, please send an email because there are no dumb questions. My main goal is that I want to make sure people understand the process.
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