Monday, November 3, 2014

Taming King of Prussia

King of Prussia – if you don’t know it – is one of those regional supermall/supersprawl sites, in this case 18 miles from center city Philadelphia.   The good news is that small initial steps are being taken to tame the sprawl and make this mess of an area a bit more transit-accessible, walkable, and mixed-use.
A recent panel discussion in Philadelphia (“Crowning the New King of Prussia”) provided an update on key happenings (press story here):
·      A Draft EIS is moving forward for an extension of the Norristown High-Speed Line rapid transit service to King of Prussia,
·      The local municipality, Upper Merion Township, has rezoned a core area for mixed-used development, with real prospects for new residential development (currently the vast majority of the 50,000 people who work in the area commute by car from neighboring towns), and
·      The local business improvement district has committed to ameliorating the “everything looks like a highway” appearance of the place with some landscaping, road diets, and programmed open spaces.
Unfortunately the transit line – if all goes well! – won’t be in revenue service for another 9 years.  SEPTA, the transit agency, now has a good supply of state money from the recent revenue package, but still needs to compete for very scarce federal New Starts money.  We as a nation just plain spend far too little on new transit.  Even when money is available, it takes an excruciatingly long time to plan, design, and build projects, even when they provide enormous environmental and economic benefits.
The panel discussion included direct comparisons with the Tysons redevelopment plans in northern Virginia.  The Tysons complex is twice as big as King of Prussia and the planned redevelopment and Metro extension are far more extensive.  But at least King of Prussia is making a start!

Congrats to PenTrans (Pennsylvanians for Transportation Solutions), who sponsored the program, one of a long series of events they have held to educate opinion leaders and promote sustainable transportation (PenTrans website here; full disclosure: I serve on the PenTrans board).

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