Increasing development around rail stations in Prince George’s and Anne Arundel counties could add thousands of transit-friendly jobs and homes while generating tens of millions of dollars in new tax revenue, according to a study released Wednesday by the Greater Washington Partnership.
The group of chief executives between Richmond and Baltimore said it focused on the two Maryland jurisdictions because development around their rail stations has lagged behind other parts of the region, such as the District, Montgomery County and Northern Virginia. Attracting transit-friendly housing and jobs, they say, is key to the region’s economic vitality and the ability of Washington-area companies to recruit workers who do not want to drive or cannot afford to.
Joe McAndrew, who oversees transportation issues for the partnership, said the group wanted to provide a “next steps road map” for how the state, counties, transit agencies and developers could work together.
“We have an opportunity to help catalyze growth near these stations,” McAndrew said.
For example, the study found, government officials could provide financial incentives for developers to invest around the rail stations, where land tends to be more expensive. Governments also could save developers time and money on transit-oriented projects by streamlining the permitting process.
Amtrak and CSX Corp. would have to be “at the table,” the report found, while banks, employers and philanthropic groups could help provide public housing or amenities such as trails and public art.
The state will need to play a bigger role, the study found, such as by publishing “clear goals” for transit-oriented development and identifying where smaller parcels around stations could be consolidated for larger developments.
All of the approaches, the report said, should focus on “equitable outcomes,” such as preserving affordable housing and retaining small businesses as areas change.
The study included input from local officials and aligns with both counties’ previous efforts to encourage more transit-oriented development, McAndrew said.
“We’re trying to accelerate a process that’s underway but doesn’t have the momentum it should,” said JB Holston, the partnership’s CEO.
While planners say transit-oriented growth is generally the most sustainable, individual projects that often include high-rise residential and office buildings can spark opposition from surrounding communities concerned about crowded schools, additional traffic and a lack of parking.
The study focused on the following rail stations in Anne Arundel: Odenton, Glen Burnie and Laurel Race Track. In Prince George’s, it centered on New Carrollton, Greenbelt, Morgan Boulevard and Southern Avenue.
Holston said those seven stations are “seen as more ready to rock-and-roll” in terms of having robust transit service and available land surrounding the stations. They also did well in an analysis of where residents in those areas work and how they travel.
For example, McAndrew said, the New Carrollton station has Amtrak service, as well as Metro, MARC commuter rail, bus service and eventually the light-rail Purple Line, which is under construction.
Some new building is underway around the station, and other developers are “lined up and waiting to go,” McAndrew said. However, the area needs a formal body — akin to the District’s business improvement districts — to advocate for it.
Developers “are looking at each other without a clear path of how they can act together,” he said.
Although experts say they cannot predict how quickly — or how often — people will return to riding public transportation following the pandemic, McAndrew said developers are continuing to scope out areas for long-term investments.
Even if some people continue to work from home more than they did before the pandemic, Holston said transit will remain a priority for people who can’t afford a car or might prefer not to drive to restaurants and other “lifestyle” destinations.
The study grew out of the partnership’s 2018 “Blueprint for Regional Mobility,” which suggested ways to improve the region’s economic competitiveness and quality of life by reducing traffic congestion, improving transit and addressing problems in the region’s transportation system.
The partnership is considered influential because it includes leaders of some of the region’s largest companies, including Amazon, developer JBG Smith, Under Armour and T. Rowe Price.