Current projections are for the City of Rockville to have over 90,000 residents by 2040 and to top 100,000 soon after. How do we add 30,000 people with so little available space in a way that maintains a high quality of life and allows new residents to fully join the Rockville community? Our responses must be urgent and bold, and on the City Council I will;
Developing walking, biking and mass transit infrastructure
Preserving and expanding neighborhood physical resources to support community life
Changing city government to meet increased demands
I will aggressively push for infrastructure to make Rockville bikeable and walkable throughout the city before 2040. Improving a combined biking, walking and mass transit infrastructure – one that is actually used and not just ‘available’ – is a top priority. This requires not thinking of biking and walking as leisure activities but as an equal alternative to a car-centered lifestyle. The benefits of an environment that support and encourage biking and walking are vast; better for mental health, physical health, community cohesion, the environment, cheaper for families and good for business.
To realize these benefits takes real investment in infrastructure. Simply painting a line and stencil of a bike on the road does not create an adequate bike lane. ‘Build it and they will come’ is not a sufficient philosophy - infrastructure must be attractive to users and properly maintained. Proper walking paths include pedestrian amenities like trees for shade, traffic calming to reduce the speed of passing cars and crosswalks set up to meet the needs of pedestrians, not just to mimic car traffic patterns. Bicyclists should have distinct, physically separate, bike lanes. A bikeable city is not one where cyclists should have to include a calculation about the likelihood of catastrophic injury before any trip.
Strong neighborhoods require gathering points and resources for community life. Rockville must identify and preserve parks, green spaces and community centers which allow residents to form connections with their city and their neighbors and access needed resources close to home. This includes making sure that city-funded programs and community-building efforts are spread across the city. Current development efforts, especially along Rockville Pike, are self-contained and isolated buildings that do not integrate their residents into city life. Private developers are increasingly incorporating green spaces into development designs but the scale is to support their own tenants’ needs, not city and neighborhood life. I propose modifying Land Banking systems to strategically acquire land for public use to fill in the gaps of existing city lands and privately maintained spaces.
For the City of Rockville, challenge of responding to a massive increase in the number of homes, cars, and residents is heaped upon current challenges like dealing with a much larger elderly population and a youth populations that leave our schools bursting at the seams. City government needs to change the way it works and is organized in order to continue meeting the needs of residents. To start, a larger council of 6, with 4 members responsible to specific districts of the city. Rockville must seek out and embrace new technologies to augment two-way communications with community members, and embrace data-informed work systems and decision making as keys to efficiency.