Monday, April 27, 2015

Bus Transit Center in Langley Park Taking Shape

This important bus transit project goes into its tenth year this year, unusually long even for large transportation projects, in part due to lengthy site acquisition.

It adds excitement for the architect and designers when the project finally comes out of the ground, best of all, designed largely as originally conceived.

The MTA project is remarkable in many ways, most of all that it happens at all. A grand sweeping design gesture for bus users isn't an everyday occurrence, even though  one can find now a good number of attractive bus transit centers across the nation. The center it is a remarkable collaboration between the State (MTA), Prince George's County, Montgomery County and the City of Takoma Park. Remarkably MTA planned, pays and builds the facility without having any of their own buses operating in the area. For this reason WMATA will operate the station.
The need for a transit center instead of scattered standard bus stops at the intersection of New Hampshire and University came from the high transit ridership in the area and the extremely high traffic volumes on the two arteries, a often deadly mix.

Pedestrian crashes came from the fact that bus riders shad to reach the scattered bus stops through crossings the busy arterials University Boulevard and New Hampshire Avenue sometimes several times, especially if  riders transfereed from one bus to another.

The main operator of the Transit Center will be WMATA with Montgomery and Prince Georges County buses using the facility also as a layover. Ride on Buses waiting for their next route on Lebanon Street was described  as a nuisance by residents living on that street. The project is coordinated with the future Purple Line to the extent that the planned Purple Line Station on University Boulevard will sit alongside the bus transit center with direct at grade pedestrian crosswalk connections.

The transit center will serve 11 bus routes that provide transit service to 12,000 passengers daily at the Takoma / Langley Crossroads.  This area is the largest non-Metrorail station transfer point in the Washington region.  The project will provide a secure, attractive, comfortable ADA accessible off-street facility with lighting, building with bathroom facilities, shelters and a large canopy where transit users can connect with various bus routes without risking pedestrian / vehicular accidents.  The transit center accommodates 11 buses, one layover and will provide a convenient transfer point to the future Purple Line station in the median of MD193 near the MD 650.
The site will incorporate bus loading and unloading areas, bus shelters, lighting, bicycle racks, landscaping, storm water management facilities, a large canopy, bathroom facilities and a service building.  The project includes two bioretention facilities and uses rain water harvesting from the canopy for irrigation. MDE has reviewed and approved the SWM concept, with comments.  The project avoids any environmental and historic impacts.  This project received NEPA approval in January, 2010. [An earlier construction cost estimate for the project was about $11,000,000.00, not including the actual site acquisition cost]. 
The below pictures were taken this week (all photos copyright ArchPlan Inc.).

The steel structure will be covered with pixelated glass. There will also be solar panels. The facility building includes a ticket sales office, a police station and bathroom facilities for bus operators and the public.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

ArchPlan is the architect of record. The lead engineering firm is Wilson T. Ballard (Civil, structural) in collaboration with Century Engineering, URS (HVAC, plumbing, electrical), Sabra-Wang (Traffic, Signage) and AB Consultants (Landscaping). 
The project is funded by Montgomery and Prince Georges County, the State of Maryland and federal TIGER grants.

All photos copyright ArchPlan Inc.
ArchPlan visualization of the completed project including the Purple Line Station. This 
representation may not be accurate for specifics of the Purple Line station location, design and University Blvd roadway design and simply shows the general relationship. 
Rendered site plan showing how buses move through the center and
service it from the curbs of New Hampshire Blvd. and University Ave.
Dark grey are exclusive bus areas.

From an early project description:

·         The Takoma/Langley Park area is situated northeast of Washington, D.C., inside the Capital Beltway, centered around the intersection of MD 650 (New Hampshire Avenue) and MD 193 (University Boulevard), an area also known as Crossroads.  A transit center to serve the Takoma/Langley Park area has been discussed for many years.
·         Some of the Washington region's heaviest bus passenger volumes travel through the Takoma/Langley Park Crossroads.  The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), Montgomery County Ride-On and Prince George's County The Bus provide transit services in the Crossroads area.  A total of 11 bus routes currently operate through the Crossroads area with over 12,000 daily passengers using bus stops in the area.  Approximately 61 buses per hour traverse the Crossroads area in the evening rush hour period.
·         In the Crossroads area, there is a history of many serious pedestrian accidents and fatalities.  As a result of pedestrian safety concerns for the area, the Maryland State Highway Administration (SHA) has completed design of a project to provide safety improvements to MD 650 and MD 193 that include traffic calming enhancements, streetscaping, crosswalk and intersection improvements, roadway resurfacing, and fencing to channel pedestrian flows.  Proposed SHA improvements in the area of the transit center are to be constructed along with the transit center as one overall project for the Crossroads area.
·         The Maryland Transit Administration (MTA), working closely with SHA, Montgomery County, Prince George's County and the City of Takoma Park studied four sites for a potential location for a transit center at Takoma/Langley Park.  The site selected for the proposed transit center is located in Prince George's County in the far southern portion of the Langley Park Shopping Center in the northwest quadrant of the MD 650/ MD 193 intersection.  The transit center site, which is currently occupied by a Taco Bell restaurant leasing the property from the shopping center, is centralized in the area making it highly accessible.
·         Objectives and design principles of the Takoma/Langley Park Transit Center project include:  providing a safe, attractive, pleasant, comfortable and efficient facility for passengers and bus transfer activities; improving pedestrian safety, accessibility and connections to bus services; minimizing pedestrian conflicts with auto and bus traffic; maximizing the number of bus bays and accommodating the Bi-County Transitway; and minimizing impacts for the shopping center owner.
Numerous conceptual design options for the transit center were examined during the initial site development stage.  The selected option consists of multiple, parallel, straight bus bays

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