Naylor Road Metro. Photo by thisisbossi on Flickr.

Prince George’s County has 15 Metro stations, the highest in a single jurisdiction outside the District. However, the county only averages approximately 230 businesses within a ½ mile of stations, while the
region as a whole can support close to 1,000.

These were some of the statistics Shyam Kannan of RCLCO presented at a community forum last week organized by the Coalition for Smarter Growth and Envision Prince George’s. Mr. Kannan detailed the market potential of transit-oriented development (TOD) in the county.

Several community members also questioned why current discussions of TOD differed from earlier plans for the county and why years of talk about developing Metro stations hasn’t turned into action. County Councilmember Mel Franklin promised a new direction for Prince George’s.

The District leads in numbers of businesses near Metro stations. Montgomery County is next highest, supporting roughly 800, Fairfax and Arlington roughly 550 and Prince George’s last at 230. While the numbers are skewed because of the density within the District, the difference is stark nonetheless.

Furthermore, the land around Prince George’s Metro stations accounts for 1/3 of the developable land in the county. With a significant amount of land that is currently underused, Prince George’s is ripe for successful transit oriented development.

Mr. Kannan called the last 50 years of suburban development an experiment that is not sustainable. The initial costs for TOD are higher than traditional suburban development, but the value of TOD investment grows rapidly after the initial decade.

At the same time, traditional suburban development declines in value. Utility infrastructure costs are also significantly higher per unit of suburban development than per unit of TOD, while also generating less tax revenue.

Mr. Kannan urged Prince George’s to take advantage of TOD opportunities. He said the county was in position to add hundreds of thousands of new jobs and residents. He pointed to the Silver Line extension in Arlington as proof that other jurisdictions are already moving ahead with new development.

Several community members in attendance questioned the county’s commitment to TOD. Some stated that they had attended similar meetings in the past without seeing any action. Others expressed a concern that development would not bring enough quality high-paying jobs.

Councilmember Mel Franklin of District 9, who was a featured guest, acknowledged that the county had failed to take action in the past. He pointed to the county’s new executive, Rushern Baker III, as a strong advocate for smart growth.

Franklin also admitted the county had been too quick to give tax breaks to developers in far flung areas of the county. He promised to introduce legislation to encourage smart growth and “put the economics behind the plans.”

Jamie Scott is a resident of Ward 3 in DC and a regular Metrobus commuter. He believes in good government, livable communities and quality public transit. Jamie holds a B.A. in Government from Georgetown University and is currently pursuing a Masters in Public Policy at Georgetown.