if septa is considering cutting service past paoli, why does malvern need T.O.D.?

malvern train stationI remember years ago as a college student without access to a car when I wanted to go visit friends at West Chester University, if I couldn’t get a ride I had to take a train to Paoli and then get one of those scuzzy cabs to West Chester. And Paoli train station on the side going towards Malvern felt just as creepy and isolated then as it does today.

I was happy when Malvern and beyond opened again on Septa.  And people ride the train.  When I was transitioning out to Chester County for a while I took the train out from the Main Line.  I was going through radiation treatment for breast cancer and a lot of the time towards the end of my treatment I was too tired to drive. This was when Malvern train station was under construction.  It was then I realized there was no handicap access at either Paoli or Malvern – quite frankly during that time I would have welcomed a ramp versus steep stairs – I was just that tired. At Malvern during the heat of that summer I was going through radiation was when you not only had to climb  steep stairs, the train station also had no place for you to sit to wait to be picked up and a car couldn’t get near enough to pick you up.  Instead you had to wind your way through a construction site and around through to the other side via the roads on a sidewalk that was not the best.

So now there is the tunnel and the station is rehabbed (but still isn’t truly handicap accessible) and during the summer Malvern Borough officials were putting on charettes or whatever for T.O.D.  Transit Oriented Development, otherwise known as borough officials see dollar signs and have no brain cells. I wrote about T.O.D. before.

I said then I used to say that TOD stood for Total Of Dumbasses. It is like Groundhog Day for me because I lived through a lot of these Emperor’s New Clothes scenarios when I lived on the Main Line.  It tore apart Lower Merion Township where I used to live and to this day divisiveness truly still exists. And Transit Oriented Development is still a myth of more fiction than fact.

To say that people in suburbs and exurbs and quasi rural areas will give up driving is just ludicrous.  These municipalities and developers should just be honest: they don’t have the ability to put sufficient parking in all this new age urban-like development.  They don’t care so much about the environment and being green, in my humble opinion it is all about the green they can bank in profits. And who suffers? People already living around these infill development targeted sites.

Malvern’s charm is in it’s history and size, much like the village portion of Berwyn and similarly scaled small towns and villages.  I could see making Malvern say sprucing up a little bit more like Narberth which has undeniable charm and popularity, but Narberth does things based on sound planning and well Malvern Borough seems to chase dollars like a hooker looking for money on top of the dresser.

TOD stands to add hundreds of living units. Hundreds as in someone told me in excess of 600.  Malvern is no way capable of handling that many additional living units and cars and people.  That has a trickle down effect to the schools too. And we aren’t talking real estate taxes, we’re talking overcrowding.

TOD in Malvern will also adversely affect their neighbors in East Whiteland.  Much the way Tredyffrin affected Radnor residents downstream along the Gulph Creek when they allowed Church of the Savior and some other things to super-size.  East Whiteland should stay on top of this from a municipal perspective.  No one needs trickle down issues.

So why am I writing this? Because of something that appeared in Malvern Patch that was copied from Plan Philly.

The long and short of it there is a very real chance SEPTA will cut stops off the R5 Paoli/Thorndale Line.  As in NO MORE train service. Stopping at Paoli again.

(See  septa-s-complete-service-realignment-plan-and-letter-to-state-secretary-of-transportation-barry-schoch.original )

eli kahn

So I have to wonder if Septa will even do the makeover planned for Paoli train station?  And if the service is truncated and stops at Paoli, how will Paoli even if their grand plans make it to completion handle the influx?

I put forward that Malvern Borough Council and Borough staff /administration need to be watched.  They want to shove, shove, shove through new development yet they have no substantive planning that I can see. I know what they see- they see ratables.  What is happening (for example) with the Gables Greenhouse property on Warren and Second Ave?  There were a couple of things in Malvern Patch which seem to have disappeared?  The comments indicate on the remaining article that like five houses are being considered for that property?

Malvern Borough has lost it’s way.  They don’t seem to listen to their residents.  They also can’t seem to get much money in the end for development projects.  Remember when people checked out what they were getting in ratables for East King Street/Eastside Flats? See:

During a discussion of the police services and budgeting at the  of Malvern Borough Council, resident Joan Yeager asked a related question:

“Once the King Street project is completed, how much additional money is going to come into the borough? In taxes and all,” she said.

“Something in the neighborhood of $60,000 a year,” council president Woody Van Sciver said, citing a financial feasibility study done before the project was approved.

And oh yeah what exactly in the realm of new businesses is Eli Kahn actually bringing to Malvern? Besides Kimberton Whole Foods?

I feel I must say again that in addition to better planning by municipalities and boroughs throughout Pennsylvania, there also need to be updates made to the Municipalities Planning Code.  After all Zoning blames Planning and Supervisors/Commissioners.  Supervisors/Commissioners blame flaws in Municipalities Planning Code.

Want to see bad planning?  Look no further than Lower Merion Township and take Ardmore as an example.  There is a short film surfacing about development there and the fact that when it occurs a lot of businesses and residents will have ZERO parking for two years and reduced parking after that. Why?  Because Lower Merion is essentially giving away land to a developer. I think you can view the documentary short by following this link: https://vimeo.com/72950877

Getting off the soapbox now.  Just been chewing on this a few days.

another fairy tale for malvern? proceed with caution.

Sorry, jaded skeptic checking in.  I just saw an article about Malvern in Main Line Suburban Life  and “train station redevelopment”.

And yes the loyal friend TOD (transit oriented development.) TOD is not a one-sized fits all band-aid  in ALL areas.

OMG already have the t-shirt on what THIS does to an old-fashioned  main street oriented community.

Malvern Borough residents be watchful and not too gullible.  Once upon a time they told this tale in Lower Merion Township for Ardmore, PA.  Flash forward  about ten years and what do they have? Nothing.

No train station (although Jim Gerlach gave them $6 million towards it)

Ardmore DOES have a confounding zoning overlay that cost a pretty penny but really has not gone anywhere called must (Mixed Use Special Transit often nicknamed More Unfair Special Treatment.)

Ardmore has a redevelopment plan of mythic proportions and a developer to build…only years later the developer’s contract keeps getting extended, this all costs loads of taxpayer monies (although there has never been a very specific accounting), and there is nothing to show for it.  Many file this project which grew out of the defeat of eminent domain for private gain as a failure, government waste and boondoggle.

Malvern has already bit off a rather large project on East King (I have written about Malvern development before including HERE). This is not an economy for full steam ahead, it is proceed with caution.  In this economy you do not necessarily make money to spend money. You need to be careful and realistic.  Saying residents of rural areas and exurbs will suddenly forgo their cars and SUVs to take public transit  out here is inconvenient at best is just silly. Are all people going to take the train or walk to the farmers market being discussed for 2013 in Malvern?

So my thoughts (in part having lived through this garbage where I used to live) is not to throw the baby out with the bath water, but to go SLOWLY.  Finish one project at a time.

New Urbanism Utopia for Malvern is a little too much of a fairy tale for me. And Malvern had better figure out if it can handle the density when the East King Street project is complete versus just layering more on.

Let us be real: Malvern in a small community not too far away from what could be considered rural.  People need their vehicles.  I do not see Paoli local stops on roads like Swedesford and 401 and Pottstown Pike or Phoenixville Pike.

You will never see the  communities out here  turn into ones that don’t use their cars and the trade-off near the already congested town center of Malvern Borough for increased density is not worth it in my humble opinion.  You keep adding people, they aren’t going to live out here without a vehicle.  Where will everyone park?  I don’t see that the redevelopment in progress addresses the need for parking sufficiently.

And learn the lesson of insufficient ratables from the East King project.

Residents of Malvern Borough, now is the time to pay attention.  For some reason your community seems to be easy pickings for new development. I am not saying progress is bad, but you need to remember what kind of town you are and that is not Wayne and not West Chester.  Malvern is small, like Narberth.  Look to a community like Narberth.  Or even Ambler.  Embrace the small town of it all. Don’t let people talk you into what you never successfully will be.

Here is the article:

Train station redevelopment project pitched to Malvern residents

Published: Monday, October 01, 2012

BY Brent Glasgow
bglasgow@journalregister.com

MALVERN – Residents had a chance to provide input on the borough’s future on Tuesday, at an informational workshop on a transit-oriented development plan that could eventually alter the landscape of the community.

Sponsored by Malvern Borough with support from the Delaware Valley Regional Planning Commission, the workshop introduced the concept of redeveloping the area within a half-mile radius of the Malvern train station.

Presenter Jeff Riegner, from the design firm of Whitman, Requardt and Associates, defined transit-oriented development as “compact, mixed-use, walk-friendly development around a train station.”

The project could include retail, residential and office development.

Allowing residents to leave their cars at home is a priority in TOD plans. Riegner said doing so leads to fewer roadway expansion projects, while giving commuters more options and raising air quality and home values.

“It really is a small-town idea and fits really well in a community like Malvern,” Riegner said.

There is no TOD plan currently in place for Malvern.