Hyattsville asks for public input on transportation improvement

BY BEN SIMASEK — Hyattsville residents gathered at the municipal building Sept. 20 to share their ideas and priorities for making it easier and safer to move around the city. Several city officials and councilmembers were also in attendance.

The City of Hyattsville is launching a study to develop the Hyattsville Transportation Plan. This plan will help the city improve existing transportation infrastructure, carry out new projects, and determine priorities for the next 20 years. The city’s Departments of Public Works and Zoning and Planning have teamed up and contracted Toole Design Group to carry out a comprehensive study of current transportation options and deficiencies in Hyattsville and to make recommendations, which will be presented in an implementation action plan in the spring.

The data collection phase of the study will last throughout this fall, during which the public can give input in a number of ways: by phone, in person at council meetings, or online. Mauricio Hernandez and Sagar Onta of Toole presented the components of the study, which include safety around school zones, walkability, bikeability, wayfinding and signage, parking, traffic, and connectivity to key destinations and public transit.

Throughout the presentation, residents had an opportunity to have their questions answered and their voices heard by the Toole consultants as well as city officials. A few longtime residents in attendance recalled previous transportation studies that were carried out in Hyattsville, but did not result in action. Hernandez and Onta assured the public that the recommendations from earlier studies would be taken into account for this initiative, along with the new information gathered from multiple sources.

City Administrator Tracey Nicholson acknowledged having heard about the disappointment in the lack of results and insufficient public participation in previous studies. “That is why it is critically important that we get your input this time,” said Nicholson.

Many attendees were hopeful that their input on this study would result in tangible improvements this time.

“Since Candace [Hollingsworth] became mayor, it seems like something will actually get done,” said Linda Hartman, a local who loves the area and expects to age in place. Hartman said she has gained perspective on how transportation issues affect senior citizens through caring for her elderly mother. She wants to ensure that older citizens have an opportunity to share their input and that age-conscious adaptations are included in the transportation plan.

A contingent of bicycle enthusiasts also attended the meeting, including local members of the Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA). For WABA member Steve Padgett, one of Hyattsville’s top priorities in terms of transportation infrastructure should be completing the Rhode Island Trolley Trail, which would link downtown Hyattsville with nearby communities as well as provide a safer connection for pedestrians and cyclists to the Anacostia Tributary Trail System. “I bike everywhere, so I feel it’s important to be an advocate for cyclists in this area,” said Padgett.

Toole Design Group is also assisting the city with next year’s Capital Bikeshare Expansion, so data on existing and desired bicycle routes will be shared between the parallel transportation initiatives.

After the presentation and discussion, attendees were encouraged to rank their priorities by placing stickers next to the transportation issues most important to them as well as identify problem areas or frequently traveled routes by marking a number of maps on display around the room. For those who live, work, or commute in Hyattsville and want to share their input but were not able to attend the meeting, a wikimap has been launched to encourage crowdsourcing. Residents can also call (301) 985-5000 (the city’s main line) to share their ideas by phone.