Monday, June 22, 2015

Don't move train station from Main Street

A request to move the Laurel MARC train station to the races a mile or so to the north would be counter to previously stated policies of supporting small towns, main streets and historic town cores.

The vice president and general manager of the Maryland Jockey Club, Sal Sinatra, suggested moving Preakness from Baltimore's Pimlico Race Course to Laurel Park last month. (Capital Gazette)
Laurels historic train station at the foot of its Main Street, place of an impressive annual Fourth of July parade, is key to Laurel's identity as an incorporated small town, the only one in Prince George's County that has its own zoning authority. A station makes a town a real place, maybe more so than even city hall. 

The station was also key to several recent TOD initiatives of MDOT that includes new apartments near the station and a restoration of the station building itself. 
HANOVER, MD (December 3, 2009) - Transportation Secretary Beverley K. Swaim-Staley today announced the award of exclusive negotiating rights to Patriot Realty of Rockville to develop a transit-oriented development at the Laurel MARC Station.  This award moves this planned Smart Growth development one more step forward in creating a mixed-use project that will provide retail, office and residential space around one of the busiest transit stations along the MARC Camden line."By creating development and density around established transit stations, we can improve the adjacent communities, increase transit use and create a better environment by reducing the number of cars on the road," said Secretary Swaim-Staley.  "Governor O'Malley has made Transit-Oriented Development projects a top priority because they link land use and transportation in a way that benefits both residents and the environment." (MDOT press release)
The idea of moving the station has come up before, for decades actually, originally revolving around the lack of parking at the Main Street station. The Laurel Race Track station already exists as a on demand stop and the 2020 MARC masterplan indicates expanded parking there but not moving the downtown Laurel station.
The Laurel Trains station before renovation work

Laurel Train Station, a designated historic structure

It had just seemed that a new understanding of urban design that sees a station as a center of activity and not a center of a parking lot prevailed for good. 

But there is always an opportunity of reverting from smart growth back to dumb growth. Let's hope, though, this isn't the case in Laurel a town struggling to hold its own in a sea of sprawl. 

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

Capital Gazette article:

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