Howard County Transportation Leader: Connectivity Overlooked
John Powell, new administrator for the Office of Transportation, spoke of the need to prioritize transit during a meeting with Howard County nonprofits.
When Wegmans opens in Columbia next month, the nearest bus stop will be on Stanford Boulevard at Magaw Road—which is not close enough, according to John Powell Jr., administrator of Howard County's newly created Office of Transportation.
“Right now the bus stop for Wegmans is not at Wegmans," Powell said at the May 16 meeting of the Association of Community Services.
"There wasn't somebody like an administrator from an Office of Transportation that was at the table during the planning process,” said Powell. "Transportation needs to be at the table."
The Wegmans bus stop was symptomatic of a larger issue, namely lack of consideration given to transportation in Howard County, said Powell, who started his position April 23.
Moving forward, Powell said he plans to integrate transit systems into development plans. Just as water and sewer access must be accounted for prior to construction, he said public transportation needs to be considered.
"When I say transportation, I mean the big 'T'," said Powell. "It's walking, it's bicycling, it's all modes."
It also extends beyond the Howard County lines.
"People travel regionally in this area," said Powell. "Approximately 70 percent of people who live in Howard County leave and go somewhere else for work, and about 70 percent of people that work in Howard County are coming in from somewere else."
As a result, "there needs to be a regional approach to how we handle transportation," said Powell, whose previous job was leading Central Maryland Regional Transit (CMRT).
CMRT coordinates transportation services in Howard, Prince George's and Anne Arundel counties. It manages Howard Transit, which handles bus service in Howard County.
Here are some initiatives Powell said he is working on at the moment:
- Communicating with Howard County citizens. The Office of Transportation will reach out to citizens to get a sense of their needs in a series of forums throughout the county this fall.
- Reducing the amount of time people spend in cars. Said Powell: "That means sidewalks, and that means bike paths and that means bus stops."
- Staying at 30,000 feet. Before the Office of Transportation came into being, details made it difficult for the Department of Planning and Zoning to oversee transportation for the county, for which it was previously responsible, said Powell. His office will look at the big picture.