The Washington Post reported Monday that Prince George’s County is updating its 25-year-old transportation master plan to include an extension of the Metro Green line, the proposed Purple line, and consideration of high-occupancy toll lanes on County highways. According to the article, the County Council would like to see the Green Line extended from Greenbelt to Fort Meade via Beltsville, Laurel, and the massive Konterra development project that is currently under construction. Officials would also like to see the proposed Purple Line extended from New Carrollton to National Harbor by the Potomac River.
It’s telling to compare Prince George’s County’s transit plans and growth with the Washington area’s other more wealthy suburban jurisdictions: Montgomery County, Fairfax County, Arlington, and Alexandria. Like Prince George’s, each of these jurisdictions sports some of the most expensive, highest capacity heavy-rail facilities in the United States. Yet Prince George’s continues to have some of the most stubbornly underutilized stations in the 86-station, and 106.3-mile Metro. The county’s stations exhibit relatively little transit-oriented development and high rates of driving trips versus other modes.
As TheCityFix pointed out in August, Prince George’s County is experiencing a serious problem of exurban sprawl where there is lack of metro access in combination with extensive inner suburban decay. The three other suburban counties in the area are fighting unchecked sprawl in favor of transit-oriented development around metro stations and new residential subdivisions in dense “New Urbanist” communities on the fringe.
Conversely, Prince George’s is losing population in most of the towns closest to the District line, experiencing minimal investment around its metro stations, has the lowest number of households and jobs near its stations, and is actively trying to expand its tax base by pushing for auto-dependent mega-developments like Konterra and National Harbor in undeveloped areas. Transit is an afterthought. Indeed, of the County’s 14 metro stations (many which have been in operation for 15+ years) parking dominates the land around stations and construction of structured parking and low density office parks is far more prominent than construction of transit-oriented, mixed-use projects containing office, residential, or retail space. Some fault Metro, which owns land around its station, or politics in Prince George’s County as having a significant contribution towards the “failure to nurture development” at the stations.
It’s a frustrating situation that seems unsustainable from an environmental and public finance standpoint.
Check out these great Metro maps from Toole Design Group:
Density growth projection:
Passengers walking to the Metro by place of residence:
Mode of access to Metro:
Travel distance to Metro stations: