Soon, many folks headed to Towson for work or play should not be behind the wheel of a car. They should be behind the handlebars of a bicycle or on the seat of a bus.
It's the job of County Council to see that this happens. The alternative is traffic gridlock.
If that sounds blunt, it's because stakeholders in Towson's future must not tiptoe around the traffic issue. The Towson of three years from now will be a different animal. We'd better start getting ready now.
The scale of new development coming will almost certainly overwhelm Towson's existing infrastructure if no action is taken. York Road, especially the section between the traffic circle and Burke Avenue, is especially vulnerable. It still has the basic dimensions of a two-lane country road, which it once was, and it will be in the middle of a high-rise metropolis.
Fortunately, solutions are already in the pipeline.
The County Council recently adopted legislation mandating bicycle parking at new Towson developments. The new law, introduced by Councilman David Marks, whose district includes Towson, sets a formula to determine the number of bike parking spaces required and calls for design standards for the bike racks.
A bike beltway encircling Towson is also in the works. It is to consist primarily of dedicated painted lanes with signage and should add to the attraction of bicycling as an option.
Bicycles are in Towson's future, so it may be time to consider buying a bike and joining the pedal pack (buy a lock, too — bike thieves have been busy in Towson this summer).
Meanwhile, a circulator bus and/or shuttle bus serving Towson is also in the discussion stage.
Towson had a weekend shuttle bus operating from 1985 to 1990. It's time to rev up plans for a shuttle bus. Even cyclists will want to have the bus alternative on bad weather days.
Towson's impending building boom — including Towson Row, 101 York and Towson Square — will transform the county seat. We don't want a "Bethesda-ization," with its daunting traffic and parking. Better models in Montgomery County might be Rockville and Silver Spring, which have turned some downtown streets into pedestrian malls.
"We're going through an extraordinary period of growth and development in the Towson area, and we need to find ways that we can reduce the single-person-per-car use," said Paul Hartman, president of the Greater Towson Council of Community Associations.
Amen to that.
Experts are saying these big-ticket projects are not speculative pie in the sky. They are going to fill up with people — workers, residents, restaurant patrons, moviegoers, shoppers, etc. And, if they all use cars, Towson will suffocate.
Let's make sure Towson can breathe, and thrive.
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