WASHINGTON, D.C. – Although based in the District, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Board of Directors made many decisions impacting Prince George’s County during their July 28 meeting. The board – with Prince George’s resident Keturah Harley, first vice-chair, presiding – moved forward on development projects at county Metro stations in Capitol Heights, […]
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Although based in the District, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Board of Directors made many decisions impacting Prince George’s County during their July 28 meeting.
The board – with Prince George’s resident Keturah Harley, first vice-chair, presiding – moved forward on development projects at county Metro stations in Capitol Heights, College Park and Greenbelt. They also heard a proposal from General Manager Paul Wiedefeld that would affect not only Prince George’s County, but Metro’s whole service area.
Wiedefeld reported that in the fall, he would be formally seeking board approval to change Metrorail’s operating hours. The new schedule would see train service stop at midnight on weeknights and Saturdays and at 10 p.m. on Sundays, to allow workers more time on the tracks.
Those hours are currently in place during the SafeTrack maintenance surge, and going forward, need to be maintained so the system does not fall behind on maintenance as it has in the past, according to Wiedefeld.
“We cannot go back to where we’ve been. If we don’t have enough track time, in pretty short order we will go back,” he said.
The Federal Transit Administration has also recommended expanding track time for maintenance activities to help prevent safety violations.
“This is not a new issue. This has been around for decades. We’ve been talking about it for decades,” Wiedefeld said.
According to Wiedefeld, ridership on Sundays after 10 p.m. is down 43 percent since 2011, with only about 4,000 riders per hour during those two hours.
The plan would also save Metro money, although Wiedefeld did not know exactly how much. Wiedefeld said the details of the plan were still being worked out, and the process would include public hearings and outreach to find the best ways to ensure adequate track time for maintenance.
“There will be ample time for public input and mitigation as we communicate fully with the region,” he said.
Public input will also be sought regarding another proposal from Metro: the sale of the parking lot at the Capitol Heights station.
The board voted to enter into a joint development agreement (JDA) with Donatelli Development. Donatelli would purchase the parking lot for $3.88 million and construct five-story buildings featuring up to 200 dwelling units, as well as 18,000 square feet of retail space. Four townhouse units would also be constructed on a separate parcel across Davey Street from the station, and a pedestrian plaza will be built on Davey Street between Metro’s bus loop and Kiss & Ride.
David Iannucci, deputy chief administrative officer for economic development in County Executive Rushern Baker III’s office, said the county is on board with the project.
“We’ve been working closely with WMATA,” he said. “I think it’s a great project to bring big development to a county community that hugs the D.C. border.”
Metro plans to replace the eight handicapped parking spaces lost through the sale of the parking lot, but not any of the other 372 spaces. Sherri Ly, media relations manager, said the agency believes adequate parking is available at other stations to cover the loss. Addison Road alone has more than 600 unused spots daily, according to a staff report.
“Metro conducted a survey of people who park at the existing parking lot to determine what action they would take if parking were removed. Many said they would choose to park and ride at nearby Metro stations (for example, Addison Road, Suitland, Cheverly and Deanwood). Others said they would choose not to park at all,” Ly said in an email.
Iannucci said the county has also seen the numbers and it is not worried about the parking situation.
“In the larger picture, we are not concerned,” he said. “The overall project and the density it brings are what we need.”
WMATA is required to hold a public hearing on the issue, including the parking losses that would result. Results of the hearing could convince the agency to add 40 metered spaces on Davey Street or build additional spaces at the Morgan Boulevard station. The date for this hearing has not been set.
Development could be coming to the parking lot at the College Park Metro station as well. The board approved the development of a term sheet, a precursor to a JDA, with Gilbane Development Company. The company would lease the parking lot area, not buy it, and construct 430 residential units and 11,900 square feet of retail space. The plan also calls for unspecified improvements to the stream and the creation of a pedestrian plaza.
The garage already at the station “can accommodate the existing parkers,” Metro says.
Iannucci said the county supports this development opportunity as well.
“We’re excited about the Gilbane project because of the M Square office park,” he said. “I’m excited to see M Square being transformed from (just) an office park to a nice mixed-use development.”
M Square is currently home to big employers such as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Food and Drug Administration and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but Iannucci said job growth at the park has been stalling, partly due to the lack of food and residential options nearby.
“For years people have complained about the lack of amenities around that,” he said.
The Gilbane development could help with that, especially once the Purple Line facilities directly south of the Metro station come in, Iannucci said.
Another Green Line station, Greenbelt, could also see development. The board voted to approve the changes to the facility needed should the FBI headquarters come to the site. These include new bus and Kiss & Ride loops, an eight-story parking garage and new sidewalks. Additionally, WMATA would institute a $14.50 non-rider parking fee on weekdays. That decision was made despite concerns from some members of the community, as voiced at a public hearing in February.
“The non-rider fee is being proposed to discourage non-rider parking (such as employees or hotel guests) and to compensate for loss of revenue if non-rider parking occurs,” Ly said via email. “Metro has instituted a non-rider fee at other stations as well, such as at White Flint and New Carrollton, for comparable reasons.”
If Greenbelt is not selected to house the FBI, these changes would not occur.