Tuesday, June 9, 2009

more grumbling about the Dorsey station

It feels like too long since I last grumbled about the Dorsey MARC station and Rt. 100. Apparently the engineering firm that designed the Dorsey station won an award and some honorable mentions for the project. Good for them that I wasn't on the committees handing out awards--I'm not sure they would have fared as well. I suppose it depends on your criteria. The station is designed well as a fortress. It is hemmed in on two sides by steep grades that make overland access virtually impossible. Opposite these, there is an office park and a rather roundabout route, with no real entrance to the station. Fortunately, there is a paved cut-through for foot and bike access (must have been an oversight), but coming from the north you still have to traverse a circuitous path that adds significantly to the travel time involved.

Apparently it's more important that cars have the most direct access possible. I'm not sure why, since they're the fastest-moving option, and extra distance has less effect for them; but there it is. The best access to this modern-day Masada is an air-drop from the elevated highway that reinforces beyond all reason its north-facing impregnability. An elevated highway, I might add, that like most controlled access routes is off-limits to bikes and pedestrians. So, I have to climb over it, then skirt around the other side of the station.

For the most part, this is well-worn ground. The reason for my new rant is that I thought I had discovered an alternate route--shorter distance, and more back roads--but it was not to be. Google Maps thought so, but I was skeptical. For some reason, the address it pulls up for the station puts it on the other side of the tracks. A more suitable phrase cannot be found--apparently that's the way the barbarian hordes will come. I've looked down before on that road, from the lofty perch of the northbound platform. As I suspected, there is no access between the two, designed or incidental. Nor is there anywhere suitable to leave a bike at the bottom of the hill, if one were inclined to bushwhack an assault. So for all the apparent usefulness of that route, you're still left having to travel past the station and double back, to come in the very same way that I already do now.

Now, I'll admit that the engineers and architects may have done the best they could. I doubt that they had anything to do with the height of Rt. 100, and presumably the tracks were already higher than the adjacent road before the station was put in. But surely something could have been done to make it more broadly accessible. The grading isn't as steep elsewhere--perhaps a better location, or more of an effort to create a walkable hill. Failing that, what about putting in a stairway and a bike rack at the bottom? Apparently the completion of Rt. 100 included the station in its design--why couldn't they push the access road all the way through into the industrial park on the north side, so at-grade access from the north would be possible without a car?

The real problem is how the station was envisioned, as a car-accessible enclave, with no real connection to anything beyond Rt. 100. It is surrounded by other roads, but they may as well not exist. They're already talking about mixed-use development around the Savage station; how long before the same thing comes to Dorsey, and with it presumably (hopefully) a complete redesign of the station, at least as it relates to its environment? Wouldn't it have been better to make the place accessible from the beginning?

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