Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Takoma Langley Transit Center finally opens

Located on the boundary between Prince Georges and Montgomery Counties in one of the communities with the highest hispanic populations in Maryland, Langley Park is a community with many transit users. Where the two arteries of University Boulevard and New Hampshire intersect, parking lots and traffic lanes dominate the landscape forcing pedestrians and transit users to dodge fast moving traffic and narrow sidewalks to get to the various bus stops which are scattered all over the area and serve about 12,000 riders a day and are served by as many as 63 buses per hour. Around 2000 the State Highway Administration sought to improve pedestrian safety through signals, fences and signs. It was clear that concentrating all bus stops into a single transit center would be the real solution preventing bus riders from darting into traffic to catch the connecting bus.
Takoma Langley Transit Center ribbon cutting
(photo: Philipsen)

Plans for a transit center began in earnest in 2005. 11 years are a long time for bringing a project alive, even in the world of transit. It was in the summer of 2005 that my firm ArchPlan was brought on board to be the architect for the transit center that is now officially called the Takoma-Langley Crossroad Transit Center.

Thursday 12/22 the buses will officially begin to roll, Tuesday was the ribbon cutting for this bus transfer hub that connects WMATA, Ride-On and UM Shuttles all in one center with 12 bus bays. The daily 12,000 riders makes it the largest non-Metrorail station transfer point in the Washington region. During the design it became apparent that the planned Purple Line light rail service would also stop here and become an integral part of the layout.

The realization of the $34.86 million center as a landmark in the landscape of non-descript single story shopping and vast parking lots became possible thanks to teamwork between SHA, MTA, WMATA, the two counties, the City of Takoma Park and the regional Washington Council of Governments and federal funding through the economy boosting TIGER grants. Remember "shovel ready? WashCOG had a whole package of shovel ready projects, and "Langley was the crown jewel" in the bunch according to WashCOG Executive Chuck Bean. A large chunk of the money had to go to site acquisition and a large chunk of the time went to adjusting the design to appease the shopping center owner from whom the area of the Taco Bell had to be acquired that provides the tight 1.2 acre space for the facility. At one point a high profile team of peer reviewers including HOK had to confirm that the proposed center was, in fact, the optimal approach.
Bus operation will begin 12-22-16 (photo: Philipsen)

As large as the list of team partners was the parade of speakers: MDOT Assistant Secretary Kevin Reigrut and MTA Administrator and CEO Paul Comfort were joined by Federal Transit Administration Regional Administrator Terry Garcia Crews, Montgomery County Department of Transportation Director Al Roshdieh, Prince George’s County Deputy Chief Administrative Officer Barry Stanton, WMATA General Manager and CEO Paul Wiedefeld and Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments Executive Director Chuck Bean to emphasize the importance of public transportation to the citizens of Maryland. Terry Garcia Crews emphasized transit as an equity tool. He noted that “the Takoma Langley Crossroads Transit Center will ... provide ladders of opportunity to help residents access employment, health care and other vital services throughout the National Capital region.” Chuck Bean said that "the cooperation for the Takoma Langley Crossroads Transit Center and other bus priority projects are models for the rest of our region,"

Two of the MTA Administrators who worked on the project:
Paul Wiedefeld (now WMATA CEO) and Paul Comfort (right)
The signature element of the architecture is the overlapping curved double shell, canopy roof, which provides protection for transit patrons through pixelated laminated glass panels which glows at night. The arched canopy’s main span, with a steel space frame spanning 120’, rises as much as 42 feet above the ground, providing an iconic fixture for the Crossroads area. A 100’x32’ opening in the 13,600 square foot roof allows heat and exhaust to escape, while allowing rainwater to fall on the central, landscaped, stormwater treatment area. 

Stormwater is collected in an underground cistern and is used for irrigation. The roof opening is lined with forty-four 240-watt photo-voltaic panels which  provide 10.5 kilowatts of sustainable power, much of the power needed for the 1,150 square foot transit services building,

The small transit facility building, smaller than most houses, turned into complicated project thanks to an abundance of program requirements such as public restrooms, transaction counters, operator restrooms, a police office, mechanical and storage space and a staff break-room with mini-kitchen. The transfer of the facility from MTA (owner) to WMATA operator presented its own challenges with IT for the real time bus signs and the surveillance cameras coming from the Washington agency. Eagle eyed WMATA inspectors uncovered some accessibility issues in the final round that brought out perfect and expedient remedial teamwork to allow everything to be ready for a grand opening.
The Transit Center as seen from New Hampshire Avenue
(photo: Wilson T. Ballard)

The functional essence of the transit center is the customized loop/island bus bay design which allows 12 bus bays to fit the 63 buses per hour, including 60’ long articulated models. The center will be served by these routes: Metrobus C2, C4, F8, J4, K6 and K9; Montgomery County’s Ride On 15, 16, 17, 18, and 25; and Prince George’s County TheBus No. 18.

Transit Center engineers conducted extensive computer bus turning simulations and full scale bus testing on layouts simulated with traffic cones to verify that the geometry would not only work in the "Autoturn" CADD model but also in real life. Schedules for the 12 bus routes served by the center were synthesized into a single simulation model to determine optimal bus bay assignments and ensure adequate platform capacities for future conditions. 
The bus stops with an X will be concentrated in the Transit Center
(source: WMATA brochure)

The transit center is one of the few projects in the life of an architect that is lauded for its design by the client, the community and the officials and was not robbed of its central design features by cost- cutting exercises but essentially maintained the design and sustainability aspects of the original approach.  The resilience of the design stems in part from careful vetting during various early community meetings, involvement of all funding partners and a rigorous team effort through all phases of the project. 

The project is listed as one of ten finalists in the American Council of Engineering Companies/Maryland (ACEC/MD) Engineering Excellence Awards (EEA) competition

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

Lead engineering firm: Wilson T. Ballard, Mark Lotz
Architect: ArchPlan Inc., Matthew Fitzsimmons, Kari Glassmire, Klaus Philipsen. Sketch-up concept modeling: Jonas Philipsen. MTA Planner, Michael Madden, MTA Engineer: Jim Miller

Washington Post
WMATA brochure

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