Greater Greater Washington

Sierra Club names best and worst transportation projects

Capital Bikeshare, the Purple Line, and Silver Line are among the best transportation projects in America, according to the Sierra Club's annual list of the 50 best and worst. Virginia also scored 3 "worst" slots with sprawl-inducing, environmentally destructive highway projects around the state.


Photo by dan reed! on Flickr.

Capital Bikeshare: Our system, now in DC, Arlington, and Alexandria and soon in Montgomery County, is still the largest bike sharing program in the United States as long as New York and Chicago are delayed (not that we're rooting for any more delays).

The report says, "Capital Bikeshare resolves the "first and last mile" dilemma for many transit users by providing convenient transportation to and from transit stations. User surveys show that bikeshare eliminated 5 million miles of driving in 2011."

Purple Line: The Sierra Club says, "The Purple Line is estimated to have 68,000 daily commuters when complete, replacing an enormous amount of automobile traffic, enhancing air quality and decreasing greenhouse gas pollution. ... Construction on this project is will begin in 2015 and the line is scheduled to open in 2020."

If, that is, Maryland can come up with money to get it built. Local leaders and stakeholders are meeting tomorrow for a "Regional Transportation Funding Summit" to talk about how the state can find the necessary money for its share of the project; right now, it has no funding from 2014 on to keep going with the project.

Silver Line: The line has already spurred TOD at Tysons Corner and is projected to displace 91,000 car trips with both phases complete. "The project will also help preserve the rural nature of western Loudoun County by absorbing growth in higher density TOD around the two stations in the eastern part of that County," notes Sierra Club. It can do that best if Virginia doesn't also build the Outer Beltway to generate more sprawl.

Meanwhile, Virginia's highway-building spree, which Governor McDonnell accelerated but Governor Kaine laid plenty of groundwork for, is causing significant damage and warranted 3 dishonorable mentions:

Outer Beltway: "The project has been repeatedly rejected because it doesn't relieve traffic on the overly congested Washington D.C. Beltway, I-95, or I-66. It will induce greater traffic demand by encouraging housing developments, strip malls and office parks along its route in the now rural areas of western Prince William and Loudoun Counties."

Look for the McDonnell administration to try to push this through in the final years of his term; he's promised to find a solution for transportation funding, which to him means only road funding.

Coalfields Expressway: "Located in Southwest Virginia, [this] is a proposed project to construct a new four-lane highway through rural areas of the Appalachian Mountains via mountain top removal coal mining methods." It will pollute the environment and do little for mobility in the lightly-populated area.

Route 460 in Hampton Roads: This $1.5-2 billion project would create a new 4-lane, 55-mile road paralleling an existing one, which will create more sprawl and environnmental damage. Sierra Club writes, "The new parallel highway is intended to serve as a truck corridor for the Port of Virginia, detracting from a less oil-intensive freight rail alternative for the port."

Transit cuts: Another "worst" project is the nationwide cuts to transit, pressure to raise fares, or both that systems around the nation are facing as the federal government, states, and municipalities reduce their investments in transit.

"A survey of 117 transit agencies by the American Public Transit Association in 2011 found that "nearly eight in ten transit agencies (79%) have cut service or raised fares or are considering either of those actions. Half of the transit agencies (51%) have already cut service or raised fares," the report says.

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David Alpert is the founder and editor-in-chief of Greater Greater Washington. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He now lives with his wife and daughter in Dupont Circle. 

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A little surprised to see the Silver Line on there. While I still support the project, it's far from a slam-dunk.

Apart from the Silver Line's seemingly-questionable ROI, the Sierra Club should really frown on rail lines that run down highway corridors. They're still very expensive, and it's very difficult to do TOD around them.

I'm similarly concerned that the routing and station in Tyson's will make it very difficult to accommodate transit ridership and urban infill there.

Really, the Silver Line should be a lesson against cutting back big transit projects. It doesn't actually save much money, and you get a vastly inferior product in the end. The original Metro system, by contrast, cut very few corners, which was well worth the expense in hindsight.

by andrew on Dec 11, 2012 12:13 pm • linkreport

Roads get a "dishonorable mention", simply for being thought of.

No surprise here.

by ceefer66 on Dec 11, 2012 12:17 pm • linkreport

Regarding US 460, I'm in an argument (coincidentally a VDOT employee) on another forum as to the expense of this project. My argument being that it became non-viable as a "toll road" when VDOT had to plunk at least $736 million into it...money that could have easily been spread around benefiting many other routes. Namely more targeted local improvements on the existing 460, improving the biggest (non-tunnel) bottleneck on I-64 (near Fort Eustis), a few interchanges on US 58 (a busier route than 460 into Hampton Roads), and further contribution to the Midtown Tunnel project to reduce the toll necessary.

His counter-argument is that it'd take more than the $736 million to bring existing 460 to modern standards. My counter-counter is that A) 460 doesn't need full improvement, and B) spreading that money to multiple routes would benefit far more people.

by Froggie on Dec 11, 2012 12:22 pm • linkreport


In other words: car=bad, slow toy trains to nowhere (aka the Purple Line)=good.

by dcdriver on Dec 11, 2012 12:27 pm • linkreport

How is the purple line a train to nowhere? It connects Bethesda, Silver Spring, College Park and New Carrollton, which are each a ridiculously long Metro ride from each other.

by mike on Dec 11, 2012 12:35 pm • linkreport

@dcdriver
I am sure the people who live in Bethesda, Silver Spring, College Park, or New Carrolton would appreciate being told they don't live anywhere.

Also speaking of slow, East West highway between Silver Spring and Bethesda, that is slow. Even the slowest moving train will go faster than that during rush hour.

by nathaniel on Dec 11, 2012 12:36 pm • linkreport

The Sierra Club rankings is very populist; it does contain any new thinking. It leads to rehashes of the same old hackneyed positions. It does nothing to advance the discussion on the trade-offs between transportation, urban development, and improving the environment.

by goldfish on Dec 11, 2012 12:48 pm • linkreport

It is a bit comical that Sierra concludes that road improvement are mainly bad while transit that doesn't involve road improvements aren't.

by HogWash on Dec 11, 2012 12:52 pm • linkreport

@dcdriver

The contempt drips deep there. If only another 1,000 people would decide to drive East to West on East West Highway in the morning, the region would be a better place!

"Toy Trains"

Sigh.

by Kyle-W on Dec 11, 2012 12:56 pm • linkreport

Given the goals of the Sierra club on oil consumption and other issues (which they make a case for in their document), their choice of projects appears logical. And, BTW, it includes a few road bridges.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 11, 2012 12:59 pm • linkreport

@Andrew

Totally agree. How much better of a silver line would we have for the next 75 years if they had gone under Tysons, and put the stop at Dulles, instead of near Dulles. The 1.5billion "Road to Nowhere" (either 460, or the coalfields express) would have paid for a much improved Silver Line.

by Kyle-W on Dec 11, 2012 12:59 pm • linkreport

Roads get a "dishonorable mention", simply for being thought of

In other words: car=bad, slow toy trains to nowhere (aka the Purple Line)=good.

Would someone care to provide a more thoughtful explanation about why road project should be considered on the Sierra Club's list of best project? If it wasn't clear, the Sierra Club's list is based on environmental impact, their impact on reducing our dependence on oil, and impact on public health. It seems pretty clear that road project aren't going to meet those criteria but if there's an alternative argument, I'd love to hear it.

by Falls Church on Dec 11, 2012 1:13 pm • linkreport

It's not only that. $1.5 billion buys an awful lot of other transit.

That said, they missed one huge DC-area improvement -- Amtrak's surprisingly quiet, rapid, and profitable expansion into Virginia. The Northeast Regional extension to Lynchburg was a runaway success, attracting far more riders than anybody anticipated, and actually turning a small profit.

Just this morning, Amtrak ran its first train to Norfolk since 1977. Only time will tell how successful that service will be, but it should be a lot more reliable than the current (single-track) service to Newport News. The number of trains per day is still pitifully low, but it's a promising start...

Norfolk also recently opened a new Light Rail system. The current (very short) line is exceeding ridership expectations, and promises to bring some much-needed TOD to Norfolk. Last month, voters gave the go-ahead to begin planning an extension to Virginia Beach.

Further out, Northeast Regional extensions from Lynchburg to Roanoke and beyond are already on the books, and should be potentially easy to implement.

by andrew on Dec 11, 2012 1:26 pm • linkreport

@Falls Church: The Sierra Club opposition to the outer beltway is good example. Such a road would cut the distances for thousands of drivers going between Montgomery and Loudoun Counties by around 50%. By adding a new river crossing, it would markedly improve the transportation network and job opportunities for around 2 million people. And these improvements would decrease oil consumption and urban sprawl.

They opposed it.

by goldfish on Dec 11, 2012 1:26 pm • linkreport

How exactly would an outer beltway would reduce urban sprawl?

by andrew on Dec 11, 2012 1:41 pm • linkreport

The Sierra Club opposition to the outer beltway is good example. Such a road would cut the distances for thousands of drivers going between Montgomery and Loudoun Counties by around 50%. By adding a new river crossing, it would markedly improve the transportation network and job opportunities for around 2 million people. And these improvements would decrease oil consumption and urban sprawl.

They opposed it.

Probably because the sentence in bold is not accurate.

by Alex B. on Dec 11, 2012 1:43 pm • linkreport

Ha! I guess I can't do bold and italics in one post anymore.

So, I'll just say they probably opposed it because this sentence is not accurate:

" And these improvements would decrease oil consumption and urban sprawl."

by Alex B. on Dec 11, 2012 1:44 pm • linkreport

Such a road would cut the distances for thousands of drivers going between Montgomery and Loudoun Counties by around 50%.

Or you could improve the flow of the existing bridges by improving transportation access in the areas of the metropolitan that are already heavily populated.

Plus new infrastructure is a zero sum game. A new beltway likely means no new metro lines or similar transit improvements.

by drumz on Dec 11, 2012 1:48 pm • linkreport

Goldfish,
An outer beltway would only increase urban sprawl, hence, they were right in opposing it. We don't need to do anything to make it easier for people to be car-dependent.

by Phil D on Dec 11, 2012 1:50 pm • linkreport

And these improvements would decrease oil consumption and urban sprawl.

Compared to what? The idea that building an outer beltway would decrease sprawl and oil consumption in total is completely counter-factual.

by MLD on Dec 11, 2012 1:52 pm • linkreport

Plus anyone who says that any urban light rail/metro/street car project is a train to nowhere is pretty much admitting that they don't care to know anything about the actual issue.

by drumz on Dec 11, 2012 1:54 pm • linkreport

@Phil D: the sprawl is already there.

by goldfish on Dec 11, 2012 2:02 pm • linkreport

drumz: improve the flow will not decrease driving distances. A new bridge would.

by goldfish on Dec 11, 2012 2:03 pm • linkreport

I guess I'll have to live with being the cruel one and say that if you live in Montgomery county and the only suitable job you can find is in Herndon or Tysons then it behooves you to either move or deal with the longer commute than to spend billions on a new bridge that won't do anything to mitigate or solve the existing traffic issues in the core of the region except maybe making the Legion bridge a little more tolerable.

by drumz on Dec 11, 2012 2:11 pm • linkreport

The Sierra Club opposition to the outer beltway is good example. Such a road would cut the distances for thousands of drivers going between Montgomery and Loudoun Counties by around 50%.

While it would reduce miles for those making the trip, there would be many more people making the trip since it was more convenient. The total number of miles driven would not be reduced due to the increased number of trips.

the sprawl is already there.

The business case for the outer beltway is that it would allow a lot more development in a area that today has little development since there is insufficient infrastructure.

by Falls Church on Dec 11, 2012 2:20 pm • linkreport

Why aren't new roads deemed to be "slow congested highways to nowhere"?

by Phil D on Dec 11, 2012 2:23 pm • linkreport

there would be many more people making the trip since it was more convenient. The total number of miles driven would not be reduced due to the increased number of trips.

Note that need for those (untravelled) trips is unmet.

You can't argue that it is better to have an inefficient road network.

it behooves you to either move or deal with the longer commute

Last I checked it the moving transaction costs are around $50k. That is not a small expense.

Again, the point of a city is the efficient connections between centers commerce and residence. There are populations centers in upper Montgomery county, and employment in Virginia. The long travel times is causing distortions in the housing market.

by goldfish on Dec 11, 2012 2:36 pm • linkreport

goldfish: "Distortions in the housing market" actually seems to be "the market actually working." There are people in upper MoCo who want to get to some jobs in Virginia. Mostly those are around Tysons, where roads already go pretty directly, but it's crowded because a lot of people want to go there.

Therefore, it's "expensive" in time (because we don't price the network properly to incorporate the actual costs). Since it's congested, people are less happy living so far away, and that lowers the value of housing there vis-a-vis places that are closer to the jobs.

This is not a market distortion but a market function. By comparison, as someone pointed out in another thread, the numbers of Maryland crabs have declined, making them more expensive. People therefore eat fewer. That is not distorting the market.

If the government stepped in and set a price ceiling on the crabs to ensure they didn't go up in price, we'd just get a shortage and long lines to buy them. If they made more, well, they can't really, but if they spent billions of dollars to make special tanks to grow more crabs or whatever, we could have more crabs, but it might not be the most worthwhile use of money. Cleaning up the bay, on the other hand, is a good idea but wouldn't stop overfishing.

by David Alpert on Dec 11, 2012 2:42 pm • linkreport

You can't argue that it is better to have an inefficient road network.

Uhh, why not? And the fact that you can't make a certain trip easily doesn't make the entire network "inefficient." Not having that connection means people will have an incentive to co-locate work and home for a shorter trip.

There are populations centers in upper Montgomery county, and employment in Virginia. The long travel times is causing distortions in the housing market.

What does that have to do with your assertion that an outer beltway would decrease oil consumption and urban sprawl?

Connecting those two places does not necessarily have to happen via an outer beltway.

by MLD on Dec 11, 2012 2:43 pm • linkreport

Last I checked it the moving transaction costs are around $50k. That is not a small expense.

So then figure out how to deal with the commute. And I'm sure there are ways to move for cheaper than the cost of an education at a private college.

Again, the point of a city is the efficient connections between centers commerce and residence. There are populations centers in upper Montgomery county, and employment in Virginia. The long travel times is causing distortions in the housing market.

Again, I certainly understand how this would help that group of people. However I think you could benefit them and others by using the money that would go to this towards more incremental improvements in the center.

And lots of things have distorted the housing market and those issues won't be solved by that bridge.

by drumz on Dec 11, 2012 2:48 pm • linkreport

Plus people live in Salisbury. We should look at another bay crossing so people in Salisbury can get to employment centers in Fredericksburg and Dumfries.

by drumz on Dec 11, 2012 2:50 pm • linkreport

@Mr Alpert: How you define "market distortion" is a semantic issue and besides my point.

People change jobs as their skills improve and opportunities become available. To require someone to spend $50k to move every couple of years as they change jobs, hinders the mobility of labor, increases business costs, and makes the job market less efficient. This is antithetical to smart growth.

by goldfish on Dec 11, 2012 2:51 pm • linkreport

People move all the time. If you're in the army you're career is defined by constantly moving.

What's smart growth about building a new highway just to ease the mileage of currently unsustainble commutes?

by drumz on Dec 11, 2012 2:58 pm • linkreport

And where are you getting your 50k figure from? Closings costs/moving truck/what else?

by drumz on Dec 11, 2012 2:59 pm • linkreport

The Sierra Club is bunk.

by Ironchef on Dec 11, 2012 2:59 pm • linkreport

Anyway, regardless of the difficulty of moving, the solution here is to push for jobs to be in places that are central, so they are closer to more people, and near transit.

If you build this new highway then what will happen is that more jobs will move farther out to the new Outer Beltway, and then more people will switch jobs to those companies and find themselves even farther from home and want even more roads to get there.

Adding more roads to more distant places does not end the cycle, it perpetuates it. We need to find ways to grow that minimize the overall average commute distances as the region grows.

by David Alpert on Dec 11, 2012 3:03 pm • linkreport

But people make a deliberate decision to, say, live in Germantown and search for jobs in Chantilly. No one is forcing them to seach for jobs in the Tysons-Dulles corridor. They make a decision to do that. They could just as easily say "I'm going to restrict my job search to Montgomery County." And people do that ALL THE TIME. I don't have a car, so I restrict my job searching to places that can be reach by transit. My father didn't want to commute 90 minutes, he moved closer to work (and a venture he's happier and healthier as a result).

I'm sorry, I just don't get this whole idea that we need to make it easier for people to live far from their places of work--because even with an additional Potomac River crossing and an outer Beltway, Clarksburg isn't exactly close to Dulles--in single occupancy vehicles. If that makes me rigid and anti-car and anti-opportunity and anti-whatever, so be it.

In the interest of full disclosure, my brother commutes from Gaithersburg to Annapolis, and my sister from Frederick to Rockville. I think they're crazy and have zero sympathy for their woe-is-me stories resulting from those choices.

by Birdie on Dec 11, 2012 3:04 pm • linkreport

Last I checked it the moving transaction costs are around $50k.

Boy it's expensive down here. A few years ago, my other half hired a contractor so she could move 150 miles. Cost less than $1000.

Regarding the "Outer Beltway"...that's another argument on my other forum. The fact is, because of development and parkland along the river, there's simply no way anymore that you could build a new bridge between the Beltway and about Leesburg. Even if it had overwhelming local support, the right-of-way costs alone would kill it. Once you get upriver from Leesburg, a bridge is technically feasible but you'd have A) much less beneft to Beltway traffic, and B) entice a lot of suburban development very far out.

You'd be better off widening the American Legion Bridge, though I suspect a few people on this forum (not to mention along River Rd) would be uptight about that.

by Froggie on Dec 11, 2012 3:07 pm • linkreport

+1000000 to Birdie. Exactly.

by CapHill on Dec 11, 2012 3:50 pm • linkreport

Birdie -- your brother could take the train and have a bike at Rockville...

by Richard Layman on Dec 11, 2012 4:07 pm • linkreport

I am reminded how young folks who post here are, or how they are in the phase of "just starting my career" they are, where jobs come and go, one is just as good as another and you have the freedom to just arbitrarily select what portions of your metro area you don't feel like looking for jobs in, and a 35K a year job at LivingSocial is just as easy to find or lose as some other 35K job at "insert entry level job at X employer here". No biggie, you can find a job of similar rigor within a couple blocks of your last office. You don't have the responsibilities of things like mortgages, daycare and feeding mouths other than your own.

In the real world, where people have careers rather than jobs that you change every couple years on a whim, folks don't have that kind of freedom. If you were some 35 year old employee at ICF with a mortgage and a kid, making $130K a year when you got laid off out of the blue, you have far fewer options available to you that lets you find a job of similar pay /stature. Further eliminating those few possibilities by saying you won't consider jobs not within a 5 minute walk of a metro station isn't feasible for most of the working world.

Perhaps you should stop treating everyone with such disdain and ambivalence. This attitude of "well, people should just get a job near their home, or move" is the height of arrogance and doesn't help the cause at all.

by NotBirdie on Dec 11, 2012 4:09 pm • linkreport

This attitude of "well, people should just get a job near their home, or move" is the height of arrogance and doesn't help the cause at all.

Actually, the idea that we can keep doing things exactly as we have been doing them for 50 years and neither the laws of space, nor the health of the environment or people's pocketbooks matter seems to me to be the "height of arrogance."

Roads aren't free. Neither is gas.

Everyone should be able to work anywhere and live anywhere, since cars can go everywhere! And if it takes too long to get there, it's a "market distortion," not "because these things are too far apart."

by MLD on Dec 11, 2012 4:18 pm • linkreport

I'm hardly some fresh out of college kid making $35K a year without responsibilities. Heck, I've even been laid off. And, yes, I still managed to find a job while restricting my search to locations I can reach without a car (even got a pay raise!). But thank you for your judgement.

My disdain comes from people deliberately (in the cases of my siblings) making poor choices that result in long commutes and refusing to consider any alternatives, and then expecting me to say, "there there, that is so horrible about your commute. Yes, why don't they just expand 270/build an outer beltway/continue the ICC all the way to I-97?" Every choice has trade-offs. Choosing not to have a car limits the geographical area of my job search. Choosing to live in Frederick and work in Rockville means my sister is forking over tons of money for before and afetr school care that she hadn't anticipate.

by Birdie on Dec 11, 2012 4:28 pm • linkreport

Actually, the idea that we can keep doing things exactly as we have been doing them for 50 years and neither the laws of space, nor the health of the environment or people's pocketbooks matter seems to me to be the "height of arrogance."

Seems like you missed the whole point. Responding to the argument that it's ill-advised not to realize that there are hoards of people who don't have the same level of "get up and move" flexibility (than that so cavalierly suggested here) with the contrary argument, "we've been doing the same thing for 50 years and THAT is arrogant" doesn't solve anything.

by HogWash on Dec 11, 2012 4:30 pm • linkreport

Perhaps you should stop treating everyone with such disdain and ambivalence. This attitude of "well, people should just get a job near their home, or move" is the height of arrogance and doesn't help the cause at all.

I don't see anyone treated with disdain. I do see a recognition of the basic laws of physics, however.

Really, this is a critique of our collective land use policies and planning. Part of the reason we've got these issues is because we've allowed our jobs to sprawl. Don't personalize the critique: it's a criticism of our planning and land use, a critique of our geography, not a moral judgment on the choices of an individual.

That said, we all make individual choices within this framework of land use and transportation. These choices are about trade-offs, and many people actively choose to have long commutes. I can't feel much sympathy when those same people complain about the traffic.

It's also rather ironic to hear you use describe this critique as the 'height of arrogance', only to arrogantly assume what the lifestyle of the person offering the critique is.

by Alex B. on Dec 11, 2012 4:31 pm • linkreport

@NotBirdie - As someone who spent her childhood following her parent's careers around the country, I can say that people who "can't" move generally just don't "want" to move. You can find new day care, you can find new schools, you can make new friends, you can sell your home and buy a new different one. What you want is to not have to do things, which is fine, but you if don't want to do those things you need to accept that reality that you are probably going to have to pay of that choice in some way.

Anyone who thinks that having a professional career somehow entitles you to never have to move because you change jobs has not been paying attention for the last two decades. I think that's the height of arrogance.

by Kate W. on Dec 11, 2012 4:36 pm • linkreport

clearly there are A. Some VMT that would be avoided due to existing MoCo to Dulles area commuters taking a new Outer Beltway/Potomac Crossing and B Enabling more people to do that would strengthen some agglomeration economies for the Dulles area

OTOH it would likely mean more employment shifting from Tysons and closer in parts of NoVa to Dulles and beyond, with resulting increases in VMT, weakening of the creating of WUPs in closer in NoVa, and reduction in agglomeration economices in those places. It would also mean more residential development in upper MoCo, with associated costs. Plus of course it would be costly in $$. And any conceivable crossing location would be very disruptive, if its possible at all. All in all, pretty clearly a net loss in lots of ways.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 11, 2012 4:44 pm • linkreport

Birdie,

You have some moral authority beef with your siblings, then fine, take it up with them. Telling the rest of the working world that they either have to move or suck it because their job moved is yes, the height of arrogance and simply proves that you haven't spent any time considering the myriad of complications that could stymie such a freewheeling lifestyle.

I am sure that the non-fictional 35 year old with a kid would just love to be able to move from Ashburn (his job was in Reston, his wifes is in Ashburn) to downtown DC to be blocks away from work. Problem is, he can't afford to buy that house in Logan Circle that has a yard and his wife still works in Ashburn, his kids schooling is an issue, I could go on.

We get it, you are single don't have anyone else in your life to structure your living plan around, the jobs you work are a dime a dozen and the world is your oyster. The majority of the working world is not like you, and having come through the biggest recession in a generation where people have been forced to take whatever job, wherever it was, I would think folks would be a little more aware of that.

I guess not.

by NotBirdie on Dec 11, 2012 4:46 pm • linkreport

"The fact is, because of development and parkland along the river, there's simply no way anymore that you could build a new bridge between the Beltway and about Leesburg. Even if it had overwhelming local support, the right-of-way costs alone would kill it. "

Good point. I think what the commonwealth is really interested in is a road in Va only, that would link western PWC to the Dulles area, to enable more low density residential development in PWC. Its not really about Maryland anymore.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 11, 2012 4:47 pm • linkreport

"I am sure that the non-fictional 35 year old with a kid would just love to be able to move from Ashburn (his job was in Reston, his wifes is in Ashburn) to downtown DC to be blocks away from work. Problem is, he can't afford to buy that house in Logan Circle that has a yard and his wife still works in Ashburn, his kids schooling is an issue, I could go on."

How pray tell would a highway connecting Western PWC with the Dulles corridor help him? What does Logan Circle have to do with intersuburb commutes in Virginia?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 11, 2012 4:49 pm • linkreport

@HogWash
Seems like you missed the whole point.

You missed my point, which is that holding the current convenience of the individual above all else (the environment, the pocketbooks of the public who pay for infrastructure) is arrogant.

The policy of the last 50 years was "it must be convenient to drive everywhere above all other concerns." As cities grow in population this becomes more and more impossible due to space constraints (it becomes exponentially more expensive to build more roads). As resources become more scarce driving will become more expensive.

The LONG-TERM solution to the problem of people losing their jobs and needing to change their commutes is to centrally locate jobs as much as possible so that when you do need or want to change jobs, most jobs are close to each other so you have easy access to more jobs.

The only way to centrally locate jobs to this degree is to build transit infrastructure, which allows you to move many more people per foot of right of way than car lanes can.

by MLD on Dec 11, 2012 4:53 pm • linkreport

"well, people should just get a job near their home, or move" is the height of arrogance and doesn't help the cause at all.

Sure, but what's the limit? There has got to be a point where people are on their own as it were. There was a story about someone who commutes from the MD/DE border to Foggy Bottom and while I'm sure she'd love a faster way to get to work its not really in any local gov'ts interest to invest in something like that or even at a quarter of that mileage.

Some people can deal with a 40 mile commute. Others can't. What is the case for spending billions on those who can't when they already have other options?

by drumz on Dec 11, 2012 4:56 pm • linkreport

I am sure that the non-fictional 35 year old with a kid would just love to be able to move from Ashburn (his job was in Reston, his wifes is in Ashburn) to downtown DC to be blocks away from work. Problem is, he can't afford to buy that house in Logan Circle that has a yard and his wife still works in Ashburn, his kids schooling is an issue, I could go on.

Well, that's why there are tradeoffs. And more solutions that building an outer beltway which wouldn't help your theoretical family. If you value a yard then you may have to embrace a longer commute. But you may not be able to convince the state or city to build an express way of getting to work that allows you to not make that trade.

by drumz on Dec 11, 2012 4:59 pm • linkreport

@NotBirdie
This is the logical conclusion of your argument:

"The government should build more roads and get rid of speed limits, or buy me a plane because it takes too long for me to commute every day from Ashburn to Annapolis!"

If your goal is to make it easier for people to not have to alter their lives when they change jobs, then spreading jobs out further (which is what the outer beltway and more road construction does) is NOT the solution.

by MLD on Dec 11, 2012 5:00 pm • linkreport

Totally agree with the Sierra Club's take on the best and worst projects. The Purple Line especially is a critical transit projects. The ring of densely-populated urban areas in side the Beltway in MoCo and PGC are just begging to be connected by rail. The demand has been there for decaes, it's simply a matter of connecting the dots (in this case the Metro/MARC stations).

The Outer Beltway project is totally absurd. I'm glad that it's Maryland on the other side of the river to balance out the typical Southern highway-obsession complex in Virginia and prevent this nonsense from going forward.

Not only would it waste billions that could be used for sensible and sustainable projects, it would hardly provide any benefits. It wouldn't save anytime at all for Marylanders going anywhere in Virginia except Dulles and maybe Tysons (such as Rosslyn, the Pentagon, Alexandria, etc.). Rush hour on I-270 is nothing compred to I-95/I-395 and I-66, and now that the Lexus lanes are open, traffic should fly after crossing the Legion Bridge according to VDOT.

by King Terrapin on Dec 11, 2012 5:07 pm • linkreport

@NotBirdie - Birdie said nothing about his/her siblings being "good" or "bad" people. That would be a moral judgement. Birdie said s/he had no sympathy when they complain about their long horrible commutes.

by Tina on Dec 11, 2012 5:09 pm • linkreport

@NotBirdie

While I agree with some of your points, I have to say that in my experience, people in my age group (I'm 32) and slightly older that are stuck in the "sprawl" are not those who moved out there for work, got laid off, then had to find a job further away. Most, if not all, of them followed the mantra of "drive 'til you qualify" with little regard for how that would affect their commutes or ability to get around without having to use a car. Rather than choosing a smaller, older house with transit access, they opted for the McMansions out in FFX/Loudoun and spend 3 hours a day fighting traffic and hoping that their mortgage eventually won't be under water. So while there are people who have long commutes and who lack transit access due to conditions outside their control, I'd say the vast majority of folks are there by choice...and as long as we keep building relatively cheap housing further and further away from the core, people will be drawn in by the low initial costs of buying a house out there, while remaining blind to all the long-term and secondary costs associated with it.

by MM on Dec 11, 2012 5:13 pm • linkreport

"Roads aren't free. Neither is gas."
--
And those who drive pay for both.

So your point is...?

by ceefer66 on Dec 11, 2012 5:22 pm • linkreport

@ceefer66
A. Roads are paid for by everyone, regardless of whether they drive or not. And the less a road is used (as happens with new roads when you keep building out), the less drivers are contributing and the more everyone else is contributing to the cost of that road.
B. Drivers pay for gas but pollution/environmental effects are not included in that price. So those costs are imposed on society as a whole as well.

The point is that more road building means more sprawl which means more "drive 'til you qualify" which means more costs imposed on society as a whole, because drivers do not pay the entire cost of their trip. And it also means more hidden costs to individuals if you lose your job and then have an even longer commute (since you can't access as many jobs when you are further out).

by MLD on Dec 11, 2012 5:29 pm • linkreport

Would someone care to provide a more thoughtful explanation about why road project should be considered on the Sierra Club's list of best project? If it wasn't clear, the Sierra Club's list is based on environmental impact, their impact on reducing our dependence on oil, and impact on public health. It seems pretty clear that road project aren't going to meet those criteria but if there's an alternative argument, I'd love to hear it.
----

Maybe, just perhaps, it's because we're a region of 5 million people living with a road network designed and built over half a century ago (when the region had less than 2 million people) that has not been significantly expanded in over 50 years.

Maybe it's because the I-95 and Beltway were never designed or intended to serve as the main East Coast highway in addition to serving local needs.

Maybe it's because Metro doesn't meet everyone's needs hasn't actually made highway unnecessary after all.

Maybe it's because we've already tried "alternatives" like bikes/telecommuting/transit/dogsled, etc. and STILL have the nation's worst-congested traffic.

Maybe, just perhaps, it's because vehicles stuck in slow-moving/stalled traffic on an inadequate road network pollute and waste fuel far more than freely-flowing traffic (Duh).

Just a thought.

by ceefer66 on Dec 11, 2012 5:35 pm • linkreport

""Roads aren't free. Neither is gas."
--
And those who drive pay for both.
So your point is...?"

that they need to be cost benefit justified.

A new potomac crossing OR a new western bypass from PWC to Dulles would be paid for by NoVa DRIVERS who live in Arlington, inner Fairfax, who are likely to be harmed economically by a project that strengthens the Dulles Corridor largely at the expense of Tysons (and perhaps to a lesser degree at the expense of Arlington). Why should we support that?

As a DRIVER I'd rather see improvements the Legion bridge.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 11, 2012 5:37 pm • linkreport

Also gripes with the road network (particularly 95) have as much to do with land use as lack of construction.

If 95/495 wasn't meant to serve local needs then what was?

by Drumz on Dec 11, 2012 5:50 pm • linkreport

Ceefer wrote: "Maybe, just perhaps, it's because we're a region of 5 million people living with a road network ...that has not been significantly expanded in over 50 years."

50 years ago is 1962.

In 1962 the Beltway did not exist. Between 1964 and 1977, the Beltway was only 2 lanes in each direction in Virgina. Now it is 6 lanes in each direction. As originally built, the Wilson Bridge was only 3 lanes in each direction, now it has 6 in each direction, along with a higher span. As originally built, the Cabin John Bridge had only 3 lanes in each direction, now 4.

In 1962 Shirley Highway was only 2 lanes in each direction. Now it is 3-4 lanes in each direction plus the 2 reversible HOV lanes.

I-66 did not exist in 1962. It was not completed outside the Beltway until 1980 and was not opened inside the Beltway until 1982. As originally built, it was only 2 lanes in each direction. Now much of the route is 4 lanes in each direction.

The TR Bridge did not exist until 1964.

The 14th Street Bridge had about half the capacity that it does now.

The John Hanson Highway had 2 lanes in each direction in 1962. Now it has 3 in each direction.

In 1962, most arterial roads outside the District, lower Montgomery County, and Arlington County were 2-lane undivided. Georgia Avenue (to Glenmont), Rockville Pike (to Rockville), Arlington Boulevard (to Fairfax) and US 1 had only 2 lanes each way.

"No significant expansion in 50 years", you say?

BS, I say.

by Frank IBC on Dec 11, 2012 7:21 pm • linkreport

A few more items to my list:

The ICC did not exist until last year.

I-270 (then I-70s) was only 2 lanes in each direction in 1962. It was expanded to 3 lanes in each direction in the mid-1970s, then to 6 lanes in the late-1980s.

I-95 did not open between the Beltways until 1972.

The Beltway in Maryland was 3 lanes in each direction when it opened in 1964, then expanded to 4 lanes throughout in various phases over the following two decades.

The Fairfax County Parkway/Springfield Bypass did not exist before 1987.

by Frank IBC on Dec 11, 2012 7:36 pm • linkreport

@drumz: And where are you getting your 50k figure from?

That figure was to move from my own house to another one that is basically the same. The cost included improvements to get the current house ready for sale (around $15k for painting and other minor improvements), closing and financing costs, and the realtor's fee (6%), $2k moving expenses, and $2-3k minor changes to the new house as a part of settling in. $50k, minimum.

Bottom line, moving from one house to another that is identical means your mortgage increases by at least $50k.

by goldfish on Dec 11, 2012 9:00 pm • linkreport

Frank IBC: I like your listing, but that does not refute the original point, that there still are shortcomings in the current road network, that are due to recent population growth patterns.

Montgomery County has about 1M people, and Fairfax and Loudon have around 1.5M people. There is a single road to convey the commerce between all these people, despite the fact that there is a 35 mile border. This causes added extra fuel consumption that contributes to global climate change, which is an inadequacy that the Sierra Club did not consider.

The project they picked as "good" are strictly public transit and bike lanes. No consideration was given to how 99.99% of the commerce is transported. This is a feel-good list for fund-raising, which has nothing to do with genuine reductions in oil consumption.

by goldfish on Dec 11, 2012 9:30 pm • linkreport

The 15k on home repairs (and the commission forthr realtor isn't covered by the sale of the home?

So again if you are offered a job far away and the marginal increase in salary doesn't cover the marginal costs of moving then you should stay. I don't see how that's an argument for a new crossing. Its still billions better used on other projects that would get commuters off the road which would help commerce/freight.

What we need is hard data on how many people commute from md to Tyson's and beyond. It's not apparent from a cursory google search but my money would go to a number that's not high enough that would justify a second bridge and highway.

So yeah then you have to consider what's acceptable. I think when you're pushing 30-40 miles to get to work then you need to seriously consider the costs and benefits of all your options. We'd both agree that if I wanted a job in Philly that I'd have to probably move to somewhere adjacent to Philly. Why is it so different when we're talking about Germantown to Reston?

by Drumz on Dec 11, 2012 10:41 pm • linkreport

This,
http://www6.montgomerycountymd.gov/content/council/mem/berliner_r/full_cog_alb_report.pdf

has 210,000 trips over the legion bridge daily. It estimates that 30 percent are vehicles from out of the region. That leaves about 150k commuting trips across the bridge which is split in half down to 75k.

The orange line carried an average of 590K daily in 2011. Do we really need the billions on a new bridge or could we focus on other projects that would help move a greater number of people?

by drumz on Dec 11, 2012 10:52 pm • linkreport

@drumz: The 15k on home repairs (and the commission forthr realtor isn't covered by the sale of the home?

Let me repeat: If you sell your house and buy another at the same price as your old one, the transaction will cost you at least $50k. That $50k includes superficial improvements to get your old house in salable condition, closing costs, new finance fees, realtor's commission, the moving truck and supplies, and minor changes to the new house. Ask any homeowner: that is what a move costs.

As an example, if you sell your house for $500k, the realtor's commission is $30k. That $30k comes out of your pocket, and you will need to add that to the mortgage of the new house you buy. So if your old mortgage was $300k, your new one $330k. You eat this cost due to the transaction.

So again if you are offered a job far away and the marginal increase in salary doesn't cover the marginal costs of moving then you should stay.

Obviously.

But that means your new job must pay substantially more than the old one. Taken as a whole, this is like a tariff on the labor market, when a worker has to move to get a new job. This increases costs to the employer to get the worker it needs. If on the other hand another million people were available to apply for a job, the employer could fill its positions for a lower cost.

Improving mobility and transportation efficiency improves the local economy. This is how cities work, and why bigger cities are more efficient than smaller ones.

The orange line carried an average of 590K daily in 2011.

The comparison is specious -- the orange line number is for all stops over its entire length, vs. a single 1/2 mile long bridge. Moreover the roads will never carry as many people because roads are more cost effective than heavy rail in lower density areas. etc. This does not refute the need for another upriver crossing.

by goldfish on Dec 11, 2012 11:31 pm • linkreport

It's not specious to look at how many people would be crossing the bridge if built tomorrow. Obviously if the chance opened up that number would grow. It's called induced demand.

So yeah if your house is underwater you're salary is the same and you can only buy at a certain price range then you're kind f screwed. But a new bridge will only solve one problem for a small number of individuals while creating new ones for a great many more. So let's not torture ourselves with specific examples.

So is it worth billions of dollars and negative environmental effects to marginally improve the commutes of a relatively small number of people compared to other investments that can see much greater return?

by Drumz on Dec 12, 2012 12:17 am • linkreport

I think it's perfectly consistent to feel sorry for people with bad commutes who can't necessarily do anything about it while acknowledging that an outer beltway would be a bad transportation investment for both Maryland and Virginia.

by Drumz on Dec 12, 2012 12:20 am • linkreport

So is it worth billions of dollars and negative environmental effects to marginally improve the commutes of a relatively small number of people compared to other investments that can see much greater return?

I think you are discounting the need; have you been on the American Legion Bridge lately? It is maxed out most of the day. Besides just this bridge, a new upstream bridge will reduce traffic on all the feeder roads, such as rt. 7, over quite a wide area. So yes, I believe it will improve the commutes for a far larger number of people than you are willing to acknowledge.

Regarding the environmental impact: an inefficient road network causes more oil consumption and more damage to the local air, water, and land resources than an efficient one. But cutting out many miles from the commute, a new bridge will make the road system more efficient. Judicious improvements to the road network within the metropolitan area city do not really cause sprawl, but instead actually improve the environment by reducing the number of miles driven compared to overall economic output.

Many people here need an update as to how far out the city goes. As the silver line goes way past Dulles, any river crossing in this area is clearly within the metropolitan area. Building a bridge here is not much different from building one in DC. Improving the road network serves to increase the density in a part of town that is already built up. The true outskirts are many miles further out.

by goldfish on Dec 12, 2012 1:27 am • linkreport

@Frank IBC,

Your list consists entirely of improvements to already-existing roads and the construction of already-planned highways including the long-planned and long-overdue ICC.

Not a single newly-conceived highway among the bunch.

As I said, we're living with a road network that was planned and designed over half a century ago. To borrow a phrase from the Sierra Club and other like-minded road opponents, we're stuck in the 1950's.

by ceefer66 on Dec 12, 2012 7:26 am • linkreport

@Frank IBC

,"No significant expansion in 50 years", you say?

BS, I say."
--

Perhaps I should have qualified my statements. However, you haven't rebutted my statement that we're living with a road network that was designed for a significantly smaller population than what we have today. We have the nation's worst traffic congestion as a direct result.

And pretending that transit and bike lanes alone will solve the problem is naive to say the least.

by ceefer66 on Dec 12, 2012 7:35 am • linkreport

The orange line carried an average of 590K daily in 2011.
------
Considering that TOTAL Metro ridership was at a record 798K in 2008 (according to Wikipedia), it's a bit of a stretch to claim and average of nearly 600k daily riders on the Orange line alone three years later.

That would mean the Orange line accounts for over 70% of total Metro ridership. Highly unlikely.

by ceefer66 on Dec 12, 2012 7:53 am • linkreport

Judicious improvements to the road network within the metropolitan area city do not really cause sprawl, but instead actually improve the environment by reducing the number of miles driven compared to overall economic output.

Considering how much you are on this website, I don't see how you can think this. The research has been posted here time and time again; building more lane-miles doesn't reduce miles driven, it increases VMT.

You are considering only the 1000 (? who knows) people whose commutes would be shortened by building this connection, and not factoring in the people who would now have an incentive to move to areas further from their job than they would otherwise live, and therefore would be driving further than they otherwise would.

Improving the road network serves to increase the density in a part of town that is already built up. The true outskirts are many miles further out.

How exactly does building more auto-dependent areas increase density? If these areas are already built up, how are you going to increase density while maintaining auto convenience? It's not possible!

by MLD on Dec 12, 2012 8:54 am • linkreport

Sure the new bridge would help those who are making that trip, and make the legion bridge a nicer ride as well. (before the demand flows in).

Now is that worth the billions required to build it and the lost opportunities for other transportation improvements in the other, higher volume commute corridors?

In a world where governments had unlimited budgets it wouldn't even be top priority. In today's world that should be so much more obvious.

by drumz on Dec 12, 2012 9:19 am • linkreport

1. MLD's comments yesterday at 4:53 were particular succinct and well put.

2. ceefer66 (a.) yes, road plans take multiple decades to realize and were based on projections from long ago. (b.) that being said, where do you conjure up roadway to build more roads?, e.g., like Jim Moran's idiotic musings a few years ago that DC should widen 14th St. to ease commutes for his constituents--the only way to widen DC streets is to tear down buildings.

Anyway, reports on roadway congestion are extremely misleading because by and large, they only study freeways. Freeways are mix of local and through traffic.

Spend a day moving around DC. I can't believe how many hours of the day on so many streets that there is so little motor vehicle traffic. (Yes, inward streets like NY Ave. or I Street are congested a lot, or Georgetown or Adams Morgan on weekend nights, etc.). It proves that the transit system worked and works. And augmented by biking/walking to neighborhood retail, and supplemented by carshare, people's "need" to own a car is significantly reduced.

Maybe we pay more for housing (although depending on what you are willing to accept, it can be cheaper to buy in many parts of DC than it is in Arlington, Alexandria, or Montgomery County, and the property taxes in incorporated cities like Takoma Park are 2x that of DC), but we pay significantly less in transportation costs.

3. But the big thing as MLD said, it's not possible for a transportation _system_ to be built that can optimize individual decision making, because personal optimization and system optimization aren't congruent. IT's impossible to build enough road capacity for everyone to drive a car. DC certainly wouldn't be able to function that way.

Shell map, 1966, with proposed highways for DC marked on the map:
- http://www.flickr.com/photos/rllayman/7827416376/
- http://www.flickr.com/photos/rllayman/7827417530/in/photostream/

by Richard Layman on Dec 12, 2012 9:20 am • linkreport

I like your listing, but that does not refute the original point, that there still are shortcomings in the current road network,

Finding deficiencies in our national infrastructure is like shooting fish in a barrel. Frankly, I totally agree with you that investment in road infrastructure hasn't kept pace with needs because of the general lack of investment in infrastructure in this country.

However, the money to meet all of our infrastructure needs isn't forthcoming. In a best case scenario, we'll have enough money for a small fraction of our needs and will then need to ration it out to only the investments with the greatest potential for returns through economic growth.

In this scenario, transit projects make more sense because of the current trend of increasing customer demand for transit oriented space. That's not to say we won't continue spending the vast majority of transportation money on roads, but at the margin, increasing the ratio that goes toward transit makes economic sense.

So, simply identifying road projects that are worthwhile isn't good enough. We have to identify the absolute highest returning projects to which we can ration our meager transpo dollars.

One implication of this is that we can't afford to build road projects that *don't* increase the number of trips due to increased development. For example, Tysons is spending a few billion dollars building out its road network but the only reason this makes sense is that it will be paid for with increased development.

by Falls Church on Dec 12, 2012 9:29 am • linkreport

@MLD:building more lane-miles doesn't reduce miles driven, it increases VMT.

As a general matter, yes. What this comes from is where most roads are built, in the exurbs, which enables new subdivisions and so the number of driven miles increases. But this does not apply in this specific case: if we build a bridge within the city and improve the road network, the number of miles driven may actually decrease because it enables more direct routes to where people need to go. Example: if you were in San Francisco and needed to go to Oakland, the bridge that connects them saves many miles. This is the same situation between northern VA and Montgomery County.

It is imprudent to oppose every road project based on general results and assumptions.

How exactly does building more auto-dependent areas increase density?

I think a visit out there during rush hour will open your eyes.
1. This area is already built, and because it is lowish density, it will be auto dependent for decades to come.
2. Improving the road network enables further densification that eventually will support public transport. But we can not get there without the incremental improvements.

by goldfish on Dec 12, 2012 9:33 am • linkreport

To do that you'd have to restrict development along the new corridor. Which would be preferable but considering that today you can't build a transportation project without showing how it will bring development I think that is out of the picture.

by drumz on Dec 12, 2012 9:41 am • linkreport

"But this does not apply in this specific case: if we build a bridge within the city and improve the road network, the number of miles driven may actually decrease because it enables more direct routes to where people need to go. Example: if you were in San Francisco and needed to go to Oakland, the bridge that connects them saves many miles. This is the same situation between northern VA and Montgomery County."

You consistently treat Nova as a unit in your comments on this thread. It is not. A new bridge (and where, please, exactly, would you put it?) would NOT save ANY mile for people traveling from MoCo to Tysons - or MoCo to Merrifield. Or MoCo to Springfield. Or MoCo to Ft Belvoir. Or, MoCo to Arlington. Or MoCo to Alexandria.

It would also NOT save miles for people from lower MoCo to Reston, lower MoCo to Herndon, lower MoCo to Dulles/rte 28, or lower MoCo to LoCo.

It would ONLY save miles for people commuting from upper MoCo to the Dulles area - Reston/Herndon/Rte28chantilly, and Loudoun.

It would lead to more residential density in upper MoCo, and more commercial development in the Dulles area.

Would development in upper MoCo be denser than residential development in Frederick Counyt Md? Perhaps, but I suspect not that much. To the extent further growth in upper MoCo drew residents not from Frederick and beyond, but from lower MoCo, it would decrease density.

Further commercial development in the Dulles area almost certainly competes with higher density closer in - most especially Tysons.

In THIS particular case, the bridge will mean on average lower densities, and higher VMTs.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 12, 2012 9:41 am • linkreport

@Falls chruch: In this scenario, transit projects make more sense because of the current trend of increasing customer demand for transit oriented space.

The construction of the silver line put this concern to rest. A new urban spine has been built, extending 35 miles from DC. If people are to use this, they need roads to get there. So actually the Metro is part of the reason for this new bridge.

by goldfish on Dec 12, 2012 9:43 am • linkreport

"The construction of the silver line put this concern to rest. A new urban spine has been built, extending 35 miles from DC. If people are to use this, they need roads to get there. So actually the Metro is part of the reason for this new bridge."

LOL! HQP!!!

People traveling from Ashburn to the Silver line, need local roads in LoCo. People traveling from North Reston to the Silver line need local roads in Reston (and we are told the Silver line is too far for some, they need express buses on Rte 7 instead).

Are you seriously suggesting people are going to drive from upper MoCo to get to Silver Line stations, to take metro to ?? Tysons? Arlington? DC?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 12, 2012 9:49 am • linkreport

Good luck MD commuters parking at the 4 tysons stations.

by drumz on Dec 12, 2012 9:51 am • linkreport

The construction of the silver line put this concern to rest. A new urban spine has been built, extending 35 miles from DC. If people are to use this, they need roads to get there.

And, that's why we're spending billions of dollars on roads in Tysons and on roads leading to Tysons such as expanding Leesburg Pike and the Beltway HOT lanes. That said, the majority of money for Tysons related roads are for roads *in* Tysons as opposed to roads that get you to Tysons. This makes sense because you wouldn't want to build huge arteries that all end in a bottleneck at Tysons.

However, facilitating the commute from MD to Tysons isn't part of the gameplan. It makes more sense to spend the money on making it easier for Virginians to get to Tysons and then get around Tysons once they're there.

by Falls Church on Dec 12, 2012 9:52 am • linkreport

"A new urban spine has been built, extending 35 miles from DC. "

Its hardly a new urban spine. Its a set of stations. beyond Tysons, its Reston (two stations), Herndon, Innovation, Dulles and two stations in LoCo. The station at Dulles will have no TOD, so that leaves 6 islands of potential TOD. The Reston and Herndon stations include land that is built out and low density residential. Other parcels will be densified, but there is considerable dispute about the nature and density of new developments. The amount of new TOD, while a good thing, helping to pay for the Silver line, and to some degree meeting the demand for TOD close to the Dulles corridor jobs, will not likely meet all need for TOD in NoVa, let alone in the entire region.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 12, 2012 9:53 am • linkreport

"However, facilitating the commute from MD to Tysons isn't part of the gameplan. "

Actually it is, AFAICT - which is why FFX is talking to MoCo about improvements on the Legion bridge, which I imagine will take the form of widening for HOT lanes, to connect to the Beltway HOT lanes and the MoCo existing HOV lanes - and to provide for BRT access from MoCo to Tysons. Ultimately an extension of the Purple line across the river, and through McLean to Tysons will be worth considering.

None of which has anything to do with an outer beltway, or a new upriver crossing.

Commentors who live in DC, and who treat "NoVa" as a single unit for transportation, may not get that. I wish they would look at a map.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 12, 2012 9:56 am • linkreport

I think a lot of us have gotten quite entitled in the sense that we want to live where we want to live, work where we want to work, and have an ideal commute. You can probably have 2 out of 3 easily enough but frankly if you expect all three that is pretty unrealistic.

by Alan B on Dec 12, 2012 10:09 am • linkreport

AWITC hit on this earlier this morning, but a major point that goldfish and ceefer either don't realize or care to ignore is that there just isn't anywhere we can put a new bridge anymore downriver from Leesburg. At best, you could MAYBE put a new river crossing near Leesburg, but that sure isn't going to reduce traffic overall. MAYBE a little bit on the Beltway, but that's countered by much worse traffic on Route 7 and the DTR. Would be much more cost-effective to just widen the American Legion Bridge.

by Froggie on Dec 12, 2012 10:36 am • linkreport

Ultimately an extension of the Purple line across the river, and through McLean to Tysons will be worth considering.

I said the same thing on another forum...but a commenter there, who works for MWCOG and occasionally reads this blog, vehemently disagreed. Here's what he said:

I disagree, for the following reasons.

(1) You think there's well-funded NIMBYist opposition to new river crossings? I suggest you consider communities west of Md. 355 (Wisconsin Avenue) and all along Md. 190 (River Road). They are going to oppose any rail transit project that runs near their homes.

(2) The demand for travel is not from Bethesda to Tysons Corner. The Metrobus Route 14 service that was 100% funded by Maryland (thanks to then-Gov. Parris Glendening) had no patronage at all, and was discontinued shortly after he left office for that reason. People wanting to get from Maryland to jobs along the Va. 267 corridor are not coming from downtown Bethesda.

(3) A lot of the heavy traffic on the Beltway between Va. 267 and I-270Y in the afternoons is due to Dulles Airport, which is an afternoon peaking airport because of all of the international traffic first arriving from Europe and then departing a little later in the evenings.

(4) If Montgomery County is going to have any chance of attracting more and new private sector jobs, it needs to upgrade its ground access to Dulles Airport. Managers of private-sector firms that make location decisions are just not that interested in being near rail transit stops, no matter how fervently planners and the elected officials that oversee them would like to believe that. In spite of Montgomery County's claim of being committed to Life Sciences, the American Type Tissue Collection moved from Rockville to Prince William County just outside of Manassas (moving them significantly closer to Dulles), and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (long headquartered in the Chevy Chase area of Montgomery County) did not even consider Montgomery County when they established the Janelia Farm Research Campus in Ashburn, Loudoun County, overlooking the Potomac River (and Montgomery County's Agricultural Preserve) and a short, easy drive to Dulles).

(5) Finally, you are making an assumption that has been going on in the metropolitan Washington area since the 1960's, that rail transit can replace limited access freeway-class roads. I believe that is wishful thinking. The biggest beneficiary of such have been the counties of Northern Virginia, especially Fairfax and Loudoun Counties, but also Arlington County (home to National Airport and the Pentagon) and Prince William County.

by Froggie on Dec 12, 2012 10:49 am • linkreport

@froggie

I am not suggesting a purple line extension as a substitute for widening the Legion bridge. I would view at as something additional - and to be done some time from now, when Tysons is much more fully transformed into an urban place, and Bethesda (and other areas along the Purple line in Md) are more fully developed.

"Managers of private-sector firms that make location decisions are just not that interested in being near rail transit stops"

Intelsat specifically mentioned the Silver Line in their statement about moving to Tysons.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 12, 2012 11:06 am • linkreport

From what Froggie is suggesting it sounds like MoCo would better benefit from building a new international airport than any new crossing.

/I'm being facetious

by drumz on Dec 12, 2012 11:13 am • linkreport

Froggie - interesting points.

1) Of course there will be NIMBY opposition. However, I think a rail project is an easier pill to swallow than brand new highway bridge. Also better public purpose - don't want to build more in the watershed that supplies our drinking water.

2) Of course, bus service is no substitute for direct rail service, as the direct rail service would be faster. Also, you build rail in part to shape future land use, not just serve current demand. Part of the entire problem we face in that area is the result of screwed up land use patterns. A new bridge exacerbates that problem, it doesn't fix it.

3) Interesting point - not sure how that argues against high capacity transit on that corridor, however.

4) The idea that managers are not interested in transit areas is absolutely false. Your source is self-selecting. What he appears to be saying is that office managers that aren't interested in transit areas aren't interested in transit areas. Well, no shit. The rents and demand in transit areas speak for themselves.

5) I don't think your source is correctly diagnosing the assumption.

----

My concept would be this: extend the purple line along the existing ROW, stopping at River Road and at Sumner Place (both TOD opportunities). Tunnel under the river near the Little Falls dam. Light rail emerges near CIA entrance at Route 123. Light Rail proceeds along 123 (perhaps serving McLean via old Chain Bridge Road), hits Tysons with a Silver Line xfer near Capital One. Then continues into the north side of Tysons with a new bridge over the beltway connecting to Jones Branch or Westpark, and eventually another xfer to the Silver Line at the Greensboro station.

If you want to reduce congestion on the Legion Bridge, toll the damn thing. It's a natural choke point. That presents opportunities.

by Alex B. on Dec 12, 2012 11:26 am • linkreport

Regarding Route 460, does the Sierra Club have evidence that rail can meet the the logistics requirements for moving cargo (mainly containers) from the Port of Virginia?

by Fitz on Dec 12, 2012 12:48 pm • linkreport

I find it disgusting that the Sierra Club is endorsing the construction of the Purple Line (a light-rail line) in Montgomery County, Maryland. This costly project will destroy hundreds of mature trees along the Capital Crescent (Georgetown Branch) pedestrian/bike Trail, which the Purple Line will replace. A new trail would be constructed, but this would contain no trees, would be noisy when a train passes, and would attract far fewer users than the existing trail does.

The Purple Line would be an unmitigated environmental disaster. The line's major promoters are developers who wish to see their property values increase, as well as pro-growth members of the Montgomery County Council.

The new development now being planned along the route of the Purple Line will greatly increase automobile use on the already congested arterial routes (including Connecticut Avenue) that travel through Montgomery County to downtown Washington, D.C., while crossing the route of the Purple Line. These arterial routes are far more heavily traveled than are the cross-county routes, such as that of the Purple Line. Most of the people and business that will use and occupy the new developments will drive on the arterial roads, rather than use the cross-county Purple Line.

The Purple Line will therefore lncrease (not decrease) traffic congestion, air pollution, single-occupancy automoble use and sprawl. Many environmentalists and nearby civic associations and residents oppose the project. They point out that a light-rail line or rapid bus transit corridor can easily and cheaply created on East-West Highway, which parallels the route of the Purple LIne and is only a short distance away.

The Capital Crescent (Georgetown Branch) Trail presently utilizes a tunnel to crosses Wisconsin Avenue, a heavily trafficked arterial in Bethesda. Pedestrians and cyclistes use the tunnel to safely cross this hazardous road. This will no longer be possible after construction of the Purple Line which will replace the Trail in the tunnel. Pedestrians and cyclists will need to risk their lives when crossing Wisconsin Avenue after the Purple Line is constructed. This will decrease pedestrian and cycling activities.

The Purple Line will therefore result in a huge loss of mature trees and associated natural environment, will increase sprawl, automobile use and traffic congestion and degrade an existing pedestrian/bicycle route, resulting in less cycling and walking.

Advocacy of environmentally destructive projects such as the Purple Line serve to convince the public that people should refuse to support or join the Sierra Club. It is clear that the Sierra Club's leadership is woefully ignorant of the adverse environmental impacts of some of the projects that the Club supports.

by Conservationist on Dec 12, 2012 1:54 pm • linkreport

@Conservationist,

What research are you basing your assertions on? Could you provide your sources please.

by Fitz on Dec 12, 2012 2:11 pm • linkreport

@Froggie: If Montgomery County is going to have any chance of attracting more and new private sector jobs, it needs to upgrade its ground access to Dulles Airport.

I think the logical place to put a bridge is at the end of Rt. 28, and connect it to the ICC -- this is just my personal opinion. This would provide a direct connection between I-270 and Dulles, and I think would be an instant success for development for Montgomery County.

BUT I agree that opposition will mostly come from the Maryland side. Clearly many people will never agree to this, partly based on keeping the ag presrve. There is also the problem that improving the connection to Dulles would take away business from BWI, and certain players from Baltimore may try to spoil the show for that reason.

...rail transit can replace limited access freeway-class roads. I believe that is wishful thinking.

It is nice to see this from somebody besides me. It gets so tiresome when discussing the merits and demerits of a road project, to fight off the people that say, "well the money is better spent on transit!" -- as if the two were interchangeable.

by goldfish on Dec 12, 2012 2:37 pm • linkreport

to fight off the people that say, "well the money is better spent on transit!" -- as if the two were interchangeable.

Who is saying they are interchangeable? I think you're mistaking that for a disagreement about priorities.

No one is saying 'we agree on the goal, but disagree on the method.' In fact, the pro-road folks have an entirely different goal. When the pro-transit folks propose something, the error is in the pro-road folks thinking only in their road-based terms.

No one is proposing that transit replace limited-access freeways. Instead, they are saying we should direct that funding to transit instead. Those two statements are not the same thing.

The money is mostly fungible, no doubt. You can move money here and there.

by Alex B. on Dec 12, 2012 2:44 pm • linkreport

@Alex B. If you want to reduce congestion on the Legion Bridge, toll the damn thing. It's a natural choke point. That presents opportunities.

Considering what the average taxpaying voter may think about this, I again find myself laughing (just like the proposals to increase the RPP fee to $365, in another thread). I would like to see you sell this idea at a community meeting.

by goldfish on Dec 12, 2012 2:45 pm • linkreport

Response to Fitz:

My sources include many public meetings, newspaper articles and blogs about the Purple Line project and similar transit projects, such as the planning and construction of Metrorail and other urban rail lines and the results of their extensions into suburb areas.

A number of articles and blogs have made one or more of my points, although few, if any,have combined the points in the manner that I did. People do not see this type of synthesis and analysis very often.

Your question is very general. Please inform me of any objections or questions that you may have regarding any specific points that I made. I can probably provide you with examples of situations that support each of the points that I made.

by Conservationist on Dec 12, 2012 2:47 pm • linkreport

Considering what the average taxpaying voter may think about this, I again find myself laughing (just like the proposals to increase the RPP fee to $365, in another thread). I would like to see you sell this idea at a community meeting.

The money's got to come from somewhere. How would you pay for this new bridge you want to build? Planning on financing it with stock options on unicorn tears?

I'm not trying to be popular here, I'm trying to be reasonable.

When you tell people that they want to have their cake and eat it too, the point is to get them to realize how unreasonable their position is - not to get them to double down on that unreasonableness.

Then again, given the current lack of reason in our national politics, I shouldn't be surprised.

by Alex B. on Dec 12, 2012 2:56 pm • linkreport

Alex B: The money is mostly fungible, no doubt. You can move money here and there.

... and that is where you basically say, "the two are interchangeable" even though you dress it up as saying "there are different priorities." Obviously the priority is where the dollars are spent.

by goldfish on Dec 12, 2012 3:01 pm • linkreport

Alex B: How would you pay for this new bridge

Gasoline taxes; reasonable enough?

by goldfish on Dec 12, 2012 3:03 pm • linkreport

I don't think I've made myself clear.

Interchangeable: Do I buy a burrito or a hamburger for lunch?

Different priorities: Do I spend this money on lunch at a restaurant, or do I spend it on a taxi ride?

by Alex B. on Dec 12, 2012 3:05 pm • linkreport

Gasoline taxes; reasonable enough?

Do you know how much you'd have to raise gasoline taxes to pay for such a bridge? I find myself laughing at the suggestion! I'd love to see you sell this idea at a community meeting!

by Alex B. on Dec 12, 2012 3:07 pm • linkreport

@Conservationist

The issue is the overarching point of your argument:
The Purple Line will therefore lncrease (not decrease) traffic congestion, air pollution, single-occupancy automoble use and sprawl.

To this I ask, "compared to what?" If you are only comparing the situation as it exists RIGHT NOW with the situation as it will exist post purple line, then yes, there will be more people drawn to the immediate Purple Line area so there will probably be some more auto use than today and all the effects of that. I disagree that the Purple Line will mean more sprawl, however.

BUT the corret comparison to make is not "today vs purple line future" it's "future WITHOUT purple line vs future WITH purple line" on the scale of the Washington metro area. And in that scenario, the purple line will be the lower-polluting option, because without the purple line those transit-rich, dense areas will not exist. So all the people added to the metro area will be forced out into auto-oriented sprawlville as opposed to a portion of those people being able to locate in the purple line area, where they can use transit, live more densely, and pollute less than they would otherwise.

You seem to assume that people will just locate randomly and have the same behavior regardless of whether there is high-quality transit nearby. This is incorrect. People who want to use transit will move to these rich transit environments. Without that option they will be forced into the alternative of more car use.

I agree that the temporary removal of trees from the Georgetown Branch is less than ideal, but I'm not sure where you get the idea that there will never be trees there again. This is untrue - the planning for the line includes landscaping and is not really comparable to the MBT.

As for the situation with the tunnel, we have rehashed this on this blog several times, if people push for it an at-grade crossing could be done very well.

Read the comments on these posts:
http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/12795/on-street-crescent-trail-may-be-better-for-bikes-and-peds/
http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/12655/tunnel-vision-threatens-the-capital-crescent-trail-in-bethesda/

by MLD on Dec 12, 2012 3:12 pm • linkreport

@Alex B: Do you know how much you'd have to raise gasoline taxes to pay for such a bridge

Now, contrary to your earlier assertion, this sounds unreasonable. I am sure you know that gas taxes pay for nearly all road improvements. This how the Wilson Bridge and Springfield interchange was paid for. I am only suggesting that such a project compete for these funds the same as any other road project.

But if that is not enough, increases in property taxes the development boost in property values along this corridor
could also be used. Just like how streetcars or the silver line have been justified.

by goldfish on Dec 12, 2012 3:13 pm • linkreport

"The money's got to come from somewhere."

The money to expand the legion bridge will likely come from the same source as the money to expand the beltway in Va - from tollpayers on new lanes only. Its not likely to be politically feasible to toll the existing free lanes. Its also unlikely that a major new road capacity addition at a checkpoint like that won't involve any tolls.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 12, 2012 3:22 pm • linkreport

Yes people will move close to the purple line and then immediately start driving on their commutes to DC/Bethesda and Silver Spring. Much like how all those people who moved into built up clarendon drive everywhere while the trains underneath them run empty every day.

by drumz on Dec 12, 2012 3:24 pm • linkreport

Now, contrary to your earlier assertion, this sounds unreasonable. I am sure you know that gas taxes pay for nearly all road improvements. This how the Wilson Bridge and Springfield interchange was paid for. I am only suggesting that such a project compete for these funds the same as any other road project.

And I'm sure you're also aware that gas tax revenues on the federal side do not cover costs, as the gas tax has been steadily declining in purchasing power since it was last raised in 1993.

Maryland is tackling this problem right now - their current revenues can only cover maintenance, and even then just barely. They have to raise the gas tax:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/md-politics/local-officials-call-for-huge-infusion-of-transportation-funding-from-maryland/2012/12/12/10755b0a-447e-11e2-8061-253bccfc7532_story.html

But if that is not enough, increases in property taxes the development boost in property values along this corridor
could also be used. Just like how streetcars or the silver line have been justified.

I look forward to you attending those public meetings about those special assessment districts!

by Alex B. on Dec 12, 2012 3:28 pm • linkreport

"But if that is not enough, increases in property taxes the development boost in property values along this corridor
could also be used. Just like how streetcars or the silver line have been justified."

Given that Loudoun County is already unenthusiastic about such a bridge, AFAIK, due to the disruption to established neighborhoods (I would think that might matter to you, goldfish) from the connecting highway to get to it - adding a special tax on commercial property to pay for it (like what Tysons has) is likely to be very unpopular there. Note the land owners in Tysons got a density bonus in zoning in return - I doubt LoCo will change the zoning in response to t a new bridge.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 12, 2012 3:29 pm • linkreport

Yes, when tolling is explained as a way to pay for transit improvements, it's met with ridicule: "see you at the public meeting, chump!"

But when paying for new road infrastructure, clearly people will welcome new revenue sources (increased gas tax, special property districts, tolling new lanes) with open arms!

by MLD on Dec 12, 2012 3:39 pm • linkreport

Tolling new lanes doesn't belong in that list, I think. There was some resistance to tolling the new lanes on the beltway, but it was overcome. There's been surprisingly little resistance to tolling on I95 south of Springfield. I think the resistance to tolling new lanes in NoVa may have been largely worn down - at least for very expensive projects on interstates. That could change if the new lane fail to perform to expectations.

Leaving aside that eventuality, I can't see much resistance on the NoVa side to tolling new lanes on the Legion bridge. Not nearly as much as there would be to tolling existing lanes, raising the gas tax, or adding new special property tax districts. It may be different in Maryland.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 12, 2012 3:48 pm • linkreport

Note, the issue with the DTR tolls, I think, is that existing drivers, happy (more or less) with the status quo, objected to paying an increase - they either wanted no Silver line (which they were unconvinced would help them) or wanted financed a different way.

With the HOT lanes, the free alternative remains - only the folks using the HOT lanes pay. There may be some folks who wanted new lanes free, but I think most understand that wasn't in the cards.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 12, 2012 3:51 pm • linkreport

wrt the arguments from Conservationist, I get frustrated at times with these kinds of arguments because they exist without referencing the impact (positive) from transit in DC. It's as if we don't have any examples of successful transit in our region. Since we do, it's hard to not dismiss these arguments out of hand.

I won't talk about other jurisdictions, just DC. For the most part, motor vehicle traffic has dropped in most parts of the city as a result of the transit system. As neighborhoods add more population, more amenities become present within neighborhoods, so you don't "need" to go out of the neighborhood to accomplish tasks. As more amenities are available and decent transit, it's more possible to live without owning a car, especially if you take up a car sharing membership, supplemented by the occasional car rental.

So long as the Metrorail system is efficient anyway. Track work issues have made the system much less reliable, especially on the weekends.

But I have to think that I am a pretty avid biker, but understand the positive tradeoffs for a significant improvement to east-west transit, from Bethesda to College Park at a minimum, and from there to New Carrollton. Eliminating a large number of bus trips, speeding the trip, adding to capacity, etc., I have argued for awhile that the Purple Line is most likely to be the most successful single light rail line in the US.

More people will ride transit, and frankly, more people are likely to use the enhanced bike trail, once a transit line is present. Note that I am most concerned about biking as transportation, not recreation, and I see improvements, not declines on this score, from the line. It will also push forward completion of the MBT, which I think is positive as well.

As we were discussing similar stuff on another list, but about Boston, a reference was made to the circle route trams in Paris, which is a good comparison. Tram lines 1 and 3 each carry over 100,000 people daily.

The new trail will be better physically than the current one and while in the short run it always sucks to lose great trees, over time you can grow new ones. (Having started a tree in my backyard in Michigan when I was about 13, from a seedling that was probably a few years old, one I swiped from a neighbor's bush bed, and today the tree towers, almost 40 years later, I know it's possible.)

The positive impact on mobility and intensity of the Purple Line will be tremendous.

Of course 10 years after it's open, people will wonder why anyone was against it, and they'll be clamoring for more service.

by Richard Layman on Dec 12, 2012 4:23 pm • linkreport

Response to MLD:

You appear to support the development of "transit-rich, dense areas". This is a major error that is shared by far too many people.

It is important to recognized that aany people residing and working in 'transit-rich, dense areas" do not use transit, do not cycle, and do not walk to and from their destinations. They drive automobiles, because the places that they travel to and from are not "transit-rich, dense areas". Because they drive automobiles, they vote for politicians that support highway construction and expansion.

You can see the results throughout the Washington Metropolitan Area. As an example, the Arlington County govenment promoted (and still promotes) the development of "transit-rich, dense areas" along the route of the Orange Line between Rosslyn and Ballston. As a result, the parallel I-66 became increasingly congested, inspiring numerous complaints from motorists. Responding to these complaints, the federal government recently paid for several widenings (so-called "spot improvements") of I-66 inside the Beltway, encouraging even more people to drive.

It is important to recognize the construction of "transit-rich, dense areas" increases (not decreases) sprawl in outer suburbs. Each jurisdiction in a metropolitan area, including those in outer suburbs, seeks new development. No surburban jurisdiction encourages its businesses and residents to relocate to "transit-rich, dense areas" in more centrally located jurisdictions.

As development increases in the outer suburbs, many people living and working in "transit-rich, dense areas" drive to and from the new (and less expensive) developments in the suburbs. This increases demand for even more sprawl in the outer suburbs.

It is very important to recognize that many households contain more than one person. One member of the household may live and work in a "transit-rich, dense area". All of the other members of the household may need to drive to and from work, schools, recreation, etc. in are located in areas that are neither transit-rich nor dense.

Therefore, when comparing the "future WITHOUT purple line vs future WITH Purple line on the scale of the Washington metro area, the Purple Line will be the higher-polluting option, not the lower-polluting option. That is because, without the Purple Line, there would be no impetus for the sprawl in the outer suburbs that people residing and working in the new "transit-rich, dense areas" near the Purple Line would inevitably create.

Regarding the impending loss of trees along the Capital Crescent (Georgetown Branch) Trail. There will not enough publicly-owned space left along the route of the Purple Line and the adjacent bike trail to provide room to replace the canopy trees that Purple Line construction will destroy. Any new landscaping will consist of shrubs and low ornamental trees. The canopy trees will be lost forever.

Further, even if some new canopy trees are planted, they will not be able to reach maturity for may years. Before they reach maturity, some or all will die or will be destroyed by other construction or "improvement" projects.

Regarding the loss of the tunnel beneath Wisconsin Avenue, you stated: "if people push for it an at-grade crossing could be done very well." However, there is very little likelihood that this will occur. Cyclists, pedestrians and handicapped people will have little time to cross the avenue, regardless of the configuration of the intersection. There is too much traffic on Wisconsin Avenue to require motorists to wait for a long time at a red signal at the trail crossing.

Some cyclists, pedestrians and motorists will violate the law and will cross the intersection when it is not legal to do so. This will create conflicts, accidents and bad feelings among all concerned.

The Purple Line is a sow's ear. You can't make a purse out of it, no matter how hard you try.

by Conservationist on Dec 12, 2012 4:30 pm • linkreport

You can see the results throughout the Washington Metropolitan Area. As an example, the Arlington County govenment promoted (and still promotes) the development of "transit-rich, dense areas" along the route of the Orange Line between Rosslyn and Ballston. As a result, the parallel I-66 became increasingly congested, inspiring numerous complaints from motorists. Responding to these complaints, the federal government recently paid for several widenings (so-called "spot improvements") of I-66 inside the Beltway, encouraging even more people to drive.

So your argument is actually this as proposed by a commenter?
Let's say there were no Orange line. Where would all those people who are currently on the trains during rush hour be? They would be on 66, right? Increasing congestion even more than it currently is.

That is because, without the Purple Line, there would be no impetus for the sprawl in the outer suburbs that people residing and working in the new "transit-rich, dense areas" near the Purple Line would inevitably create.

So your position is that without the purple line, the population of the Washington metro area will not increase?

That's completely false.

by MLD on Dec 12, 2012 4:41 pm • linkreport

"That is because, without the Purple Line, there would be no impetus for the sprawl in the outer suburbs that people residing and working in the new "transit-rich, dense areas" near the Purple Line would inevitably create"

The impetus for the sprawl would be businesses looking for places to locate, and their employees looking for places to live.

Development in outer suburbs does not depend on higher density in the inner suburbs.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 12, 2012 4:48 pm • linkreport

"Each jurisdiction in a metropolitan area, including those in outer suburbs, seeks new development. No surburban jurisdiction encourages its businesses and residents to relocate to "transit-rich, dense areas" in more centrally located jurisdictions."

actualy a few have development limits - Fauquier by conservation easements in most of the county, Loudoun by zoning in the western half of the county, and MoCo in its agricultural preserve. And of course those that want sprawling development can only get it if they can compete.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 12, 2012 4:51 pm • linkreport

"Conservationist", like many NIMBYs, deliberately confuses the terms "sprawl" and "density".

by Frank IBC on Dec 12, 2012 5:09 pm • linkreport

I know when I moved into dense transit rich Arlington I still chose to do all of my shopping at the trader joes in my old neighborhood in burke because why walk to the store in Clarendon when I can drive 20 miles for a good parking spot?

Seriously, are there people who move into a neighborhood and yet refuse to do anything in it? The express reason I (and many of my neighbors) moved to where we live is so we don't have to drive so much.

by drumz on Dec 12, 2012 5:18 pm • linkreport

Alex B: I look forward to you attending those public meetings about those special assessment districts!

Property owners tend to be pretty savvy about such things. They weigh the added property tax expense with the tremendous increase in business from the new traffic, and voila! the silver line is born. Likewise with the new bridge.

Of course, a new road could be tolled, particularly if is attached to the end of the ICC.

by goldfish on Dec 12, 2012 5:18 pm • linkreport

Re: American Legion Bridge Expansion

It could be financed with tolls on new lanes or it could be financed with higher gas taxes. I don't think the financing per say is the biggest impediment. By far, the biggest reason this will never happen is that Marylanders and Virginians by and large don't like each other's jurisdictions and don't want to spend money building better connections. If commenter King Terrapin was around, he would give a nice laundry list of reasons why any Marylander with the gall to ever step foot in Virginia deserves whatever (traffic) comes to them. And then there are the Virginians who use "Marylander" as a racial slur. These two states are still fighting the civil war.

by Falls Church on Dec 12, 2012 5:18 pm • linkreport

"They weigh the added property tax expense with the tremendous increase in business from the new traffic, and voila! the silver line is born. Likewise with the new bridge."

thats not how the Silver line was born. You missed the part about massive rezoning in Tysons.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 12, 2012 5:24 pm • linkreport

This is kinda funny.

The most obvious way to pay for new infrastructure via a user fee is to charge the fee where the demand is right now. That means tolling the existing infrastructure to pay for new stuff (e.g. the Silver Line).

The ICC has it backwards - you should toll the beltway, and use that to fund the ICC, not the other way around.

by Alex B. on Dec 12, 2012 5:28 pm • linkreport

"The most obvious way to pay for new infrastructure via a user fee is to charge the fee where the demand is right now."

Its not obvious to most non-economists, who do not generally think of an opportunity cost as a cost, or of price as a rationing tool.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 12, 2012 5:36 pm • linkreport

The most obvious way to pay for new infrastructure via a user fee is to charge the fee where the demand is right now.

That is thinking like an economist, not a business owner nor a customer. People driving on the beltway will not pay for a road they are not using, the ICC. Moreover, people are not willing to pay for something before they can use it. The way government and business overcome this is to issue bonds and pay them back based on the revenue from the new road.

by goldfish on Dec 12, 2012 5:40 pm • linkreport

Re: Conservationist

He is correct in stating that any and all infrastructure beyond downtown DC leads to sprawl. Without any infrastructure, everyone would live within walking distance of downtown because there would be no other way to get there. By creating roads, metro, etc. we make it viable to live further than walking distance. By creating infrastructure for new cities like the ones out West, we've sprawled our country's population across the continent. Similarly, by creating edge cities like Bethesda, we've made it possible for people to live further from downtown DC and still have a reasonable commute to a job center.

That said, there is a demand for a variety of different urban environments that is not interchangeable. That is, there's a demand for a place like Bethesda and if we don't create it, all that demand won't simply get transferred to downtown DC. So, creating a place like Bethesda is important for economic growth because it satisfies a need that would otherwise go unfulfilled.

So, if you can agree to the concept of adding jobs to centers outside of downtown DC, the question is how you get people to those jobs centers. At that point, the Purple Line makes a lot more environmental sense than the alternatives.

by Falls Church on Dec 12, 2012 5:52 pm • linkreport

@Falls Church

It's not really even "demand for a place like Bethesda" that needs to be filled vs not filling it and not having growth.

We have already built a bunch of infrastructure (roads) that go from place to place so there are plenty of places on the outskirts that are primed for low-density development if growth needs are not handled in other ways. It costs next to nothing for a developer to build little culs-de-sac and connect them to a through road, the costs are hidden to the people buying in those places and come later when they demand arterial upgrades to deal with traffic.

We can't go back to a time when there weren't roads connecting places. And even back then when roads were crappy and walking dominated, New York City found it in the city's interest to finance and build a subway to move people away from dense slums but still allow them to get to jobs.

by MLD on Dec 12, 2012 6:07 pm • linkreport

Response to AWalkerinTheCity and MLD:

I stated: No surburban jurisdiction encourages its businesses and residents to relocate to "transit-rich, dense areas" in more centrally located jurisdictions."

That is correct. No urban or suburban jurisdiction encourages its business and residents to relocate to any other jurisdiction. Each one offers benefits that encourage development in areas within their own jurisdiction that are already more densely developed than other areas within their own jurisdiction.

Fauquier, Loudoun and Montgomery Counties have policies that presently discourage or prohibit development of their rural areas. However, these jurisdictions have large areas that are outside of these Counties' "preserves". Land costs and taxes are lower in those areas than in other jurisdictions that have "transit-rich, dense areas". Development occurs in those areas, attracting people who travel by automobile between those areas and the "transit-rich, dense areas" in more central jurisdictions.

New development in "transit-rich, dense areas" creates opportunities for people moving into those areas to travel by automobile to new development in the outer suburbs. This increases sprawl. It also increases density in both inner and outer jurisdictions.

Some of the density increases in the more central jurisdictions are not close to adequate transit, because new transit facilities are too expensive to be everywhere. Thus, even the more central jurisdictions experience the increased automobile traffic that results from increased development in "transit-rich, dense areas".

MLD stated: "Let's say there were no Orange line. Where would all those people who are currently on the trains during rush hour be? They would be on 66, right? Increasing congestion even more than it currently is."

Wrong. If there were no Orange Line, jurisdictions near the present route of the line would not rezone property to permit high density development along the route of the non-existent Metro line, because the new automobile traffic would clearly create gridlock. As a result, there would be relatively little development and far fewer people living and working in areas that are now near Orange Line stations. Many people now using I-66 would not be using it, because relatively few people would live or work near the the non-existent stations. I-66 would therefore be less congested than it is now.

It's the same thing with the Purple Line. Don't build it and they won't come.

MLD further stated:

"So your position is that without the purple line, the population of the Washington metro area will not increase?"

No, that is not my position. Without the Purple Line, the population of the Washington metro area would still increase, because of new rezoning near the new Silver Line and near existing Metro stations (especially in Prince Georges County) and because outer jurisdictions offer incentives for development on their presently inexpensive undeveloped land. However, it is my position that, without the Purple Line, the population of the area would not increase as much as it would with the Purple Line.

It is important to recognize that there is really no such thing as "Smart Growth". By definition, all "growth" increases population in affected jurisdictions, regardless of where it may be located.

The increase in population attracts and encourages further growth in the affected jurisdictions and in neighboring ones, accelerated by any transit systems that may exist in any of the jurisdictions. The "growth" destroys the natural environment and increases energy consumption, traffic congestion and air and water pollution in all of the jurisdictions, This is not smart. Ultimately, it is a disaster.

The Purple Line and transit lines of all other colors help contribute to the disaster, just as surely as do new and wider roads and highways.

by Conservationist on Dec 13, 2012 1:31 am • linkreport

I'm not even sure where to start. Your understanding of urban growth is really way off the mark.

Wrong. If there were no Orange Line, jurisdictions near the present route of the line would not rezone property to permit high density development along the route of the non-existent Metro line, because the new automobile traffic would clearly create gridlock. As a result, there would be relatively little development and far fewer people living and working in areas that are now near Orange Line stations. Many people now using I-66 would not be using it, because relatively few people would live or work near the the non-existent stations. I-66 would therefore be less congested than it is now.

Most of the people on the Orange Line a travelling into DC. They are doing that because they have jobs in DC and live outside DC. Without that transit option, those people would still be making that trip, so they would be using the roads between their houses and DC, which would likely mean 66. You seem to think that there is some magic force that would make all employment and housing spread out evenly so that everyone will be travelling in different directions, and that transit concentrates things and creates problems. If this isn't what you think then you need to elaborate more; the situations you are putting forth here go against literally everything that I was taught in my geography studies. Housing and work locations will always cluster in places, because there is value to being located near other people and businesses. That's why the portion of people living in rural areas has been dropping for the last.... 200 years.

It is important to recognize that there is really no such thing as "Smart Growth". By definition, all "growth" increases population in affected jurisdictions, regardless of where it may be located.

Yes, all growth leads to increased population. You can either plan for how you deal with that growth (my view) or you can do nothing to plan for that growth (your view). The only other alternative is no growth at all, which you said is not your position.

Here's a thought exercise you may be able to respond to:
The Washington region is expected to add 1.5 million workers in the next 20 years.
Here are your options:
1. You can build no more transit-oriented spaces, in which case those 1.5 million workers will all be driving to work every day. At an average work trip auto occupancy of 1.1 persons, we have added 1.36 million cars to peak period travel.
2. You can build enough transit-oriented spaces so that a third of those people can use transit to get to work each day (this is ambitious, but not impossible). So now you have added 0.5 million transit riders and 0.91 million cars to the peak period.

Which one of these scenarios means more auto congestion?
Seems to me it's #1.

by MLD on Dec 13, 2012 8:35 am • linkreport

The only other alternative is no growth at all, which you said is not your position.

'Conservationist' might have said that, but the practical impacts of his/her proposed policies leaves little room but to conclude this.

by Alex B. on Dec 13, 2012 9:17 am • linkreport

"Fauquier, Loudoun and Montgomery Counties have policies that presently discourage or prohibit development of their rural areas. However, these jurisdictions have large areas that are outside of these Counties' "preserves". "

That simply is not true for Fauquier. They have very limited areas available for development.

"However, it is my position that, without the Purple Line, the population of the area would not increase as much as it would with the Purple Line."

A. Its not likely that would be a significant effect B. Even if it were that population would go somewhere, mostly like to sprawl in other metro areas.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Dec 13, 2012 9:30 am • linkreport

Conservationist:

Every human being has to live somewhere. If they live on the Purple Line route, they will likely use transit for a significant proportion of their trips. If not, they will probably live further out in the suburbs, and they will almost certainly NOT use transit. So it is much better for the environment if the Purple Line is built and they live on its route.

There are some extreme environmentalists who advocate mass extermination of humans, or else going back to living like cavemen, in order to eliminate our environmental impact. Is that your position? If not, you should support the Purple Line and projects like it, because they allow people to live while making the least possible environmental impact, even if it's non-zero.

by Eric on Dec 13, 2012 9:35 am • linkreport

@conservationist The increase in population attracts and encourages further growth in the affected jurisdictions and in neighboring ones, accelerated by any transit systems that may exist in any of the jurisdictions. The "growth" destroys the natural environment and increases energy consumption, traffic congestion and air and water pollution in all of the jurisdictions, This is not smart. Ultimately, it is a disaster.

I think the first part correctly describe urban growth as the inevitable consequence of population increase, but the second part is where you went astray, which essentially characterizes more people as "a disaster". It is misanthropic. This discounts the intellectual value that comes with more ideas and better use of resources that comes with more people. People are a blessing.

by goldfish on Dec 13, 2012 9:41 am • linkreport

Response to MLD:

You stated: "Most of the people on the Orange Line are travelling into DC.". That is completely irrelevant to my point.

My point is that a large proportion of people on I-66 are traveling to and from areas that have inadequate transit. They don't use the Orange Line because Metro and light rail does not serve and will not serve these areas in the foreseeable future. Many of these people are traveling to and from residences and businesses that would not exist in the absence of the Orange Line, because local jurisdictions usually do not rezone properties to permit high densities in areas that lack access to Metro and/or light rail.

Many (perhaps most) of the people now using I-66 would not be living in the Washington Metropolitan Area if the Orange Line and all of the other Metro lines did not exist. Their jobs would be elsewhere.

Wherever they might be living (either in the Americas or on another continent), they would not be contributing to sprawl and environmental degradation in the Washington Metro area. They would be another area's problem. If they happen to live in China, their government will not permit them to have more than one child. That helps solve the problem, but is not sufficient to completely eliminate it.

Response to MLD:

You stated in regard to the effect of the Purple Line: "Its not likely that would be a significant effect." The significance of the effect is irrelevant.

When you add together many so-called "insignificant" effects (Purple Line, Orange Line, Silver Line, increased permissible development densities for various purposes, etc.), you have a very significant effect. Every little bit (and every big bit) counts. Further, the effect is irreversible.

To Eric:

You stated: "Every human being has to live somewhere. If they live on the Purple Line route, they will likely use transit for a significant proportion of their trips. If not, they will probably live further out in the suburbs, and they will almost certainly NOT use transit. So it is much better for the environment if the Purple Line is built and they live on its route."

Wrong on many counts. Many people who live on the Purple Line route will drive to work, school, and/or shopping in areas that have no nearby transit for a significant number of trips. The number of trips on the Purple Line is irrelevant. The important number of trips is the number that these people will make in their automobiles, even though they live near the Purple Line.

Many people who would live on the Purple Line will probably choose to live in areas near existing transit (such as in downtown areas) if there is no Purple Line. They will almost certainly use the available transit, increasing revenue to existing transit systems.

Others will not reside in the Washington Metropolitan area, because the businesses that support them and the residences that house them will not exist if there is no Purple Line. Most of those that will reside further out in the suburbs will do so because one or more people in their households work in the suburbs.

You stated: "There are some extreme environmentalists who advocate mass extermination of humans, or else going back to living like cavemen, in order to eliminate our environmental impact. Is that your position?"

You have constructed a straw man and have torn it down. Your statment is completely irrelevant.

Nowhere did I advocate any such position. People do not need to live like cavemen any more than they need to live like those who acquire and use as much space and property as their money can buy.

As I stated, there is no such thing as "Smart Growth". A good solution is "No Growth", not mass extermination or mass poverty.

There are many villages and towns in the U.S. and elsewhere that have remained small and prosperous for many years. Their inhabitants enjoy the benefits (clean air, little traffic, etc.) of living in or near large undeveloped and/or natural areas. They don't want or need transit. They benefit from the environmental sacrifices that people in growing metropolitan areas (such as the Washington metropolitan area) are unwittingly making when attracting people who live or work elsewhere.

by Conservationist on Dec 13, 2012 4:45 pm • linkreport

@Conservationist

Many (perhaps most) of the people now using I-66 would not be living in the Washington Metropolitan Area if the Orange Line and all of the other Metro lines did not exist. Their jobs would be elsewhere.

So your position IS that if we didn't construct transit, much of the projected growth would not (or should not) happen.

This is wrong; the growth will happen IN THIS AREA regardless of whether we build transit or not, and that is why your entire argument is wrong.

by MLD on Dec 13, 2012 5:11 pm • linkreport

To MLD:

You stated:

"So your position IS that if we didn't construct transit, much of the projected growth would not (or should not) happen.

This is wrong; the growth will happen IN THIS AREA regardless of whether we build transit or not, and that is why your entire argument is wrong."

Your conclusion is incorrect. It is true that some growth will happen in this area regardless of whether we build transit or not. The most obvious reason for this is that all Metro area jurisdictions try their best to increase growth within their own jurisdictions. Some (if not all)jurisdictions incorrectly identify their policies and practices as "Smart Growth".

If all jurisdictions stopped doing this (which I consider to be highly unlikely), growth will eventually stop in the entire area.

Because of the above, I agree that growth will indeed happen in this area regardless of whether we build transit or not.

However, that is not my point. My point is that there will be less growth (and less environmental degradaton) in the area if we do not build transit than if we do build it.

It is a very simple concept. Unfortunately, many people (especially transit advocates) do not appear to understand it.

by Conservationist on Dec 13, 2012 5:41 pm • linkreport

@ Conservationist

If they happen to live in China, their government will not permit them to have more than one child. That helps solve the problem, but is not sufficient to completely eliminate it.

So without the purple line/orange line, more people will live in China, and then as a result, will only be able to have one child, and that helps solve "the problem." I guess that is helpful to the discussion.

Wrong on many counts. Many people who live on the Purple Line route will drive to work, school, and/or shopping in areas that have no nearby transit for a significant number of trips.

Do you not see how illogical this is? What we are trying to do is getting people to use their cars less. If they get to work without using their cars, they are inherently using their cars less.

The number of trips on the Purple Line is irrelevant.

No, its not. Just because you say so, does not make it so. Trips on the purple line will very often be replacing trips that would have been taken via car.

The important number of trips is the number that these people will make in their automobiles, even though they live near the Purple Line.

This. The point is, 1/3 or whatever of their trips will be taken by purple line, while the other 2/3 will be taken by car. That is 33% less trips by car.

My wife just got back from visiting a friend in Charleston SC. She said she liked the area, but it drove her nuts, because even going to breakfast was a 20 minute drive on the freeway, to a place 15 miles away.

Our friend living on the purple line will also be surrounded by a lot more restaurants and grocerie stores, so their trips in a car will be more like a mile or two, as opposed to our Charleston friend consistent 30 mile round trip drives.

You seem like an intelligent person, based on your writing style etc, but your arguements are just absolutely wrong.

by Kyle-W on Dec 17, 2012 4:01 pm • linkreport

Conservationist is right. I used my car this week therefore the construction of the metro was a mistake.

by drumz on Dec 17, 2012 4:26 pm • linkreport

And we should stop building infrastructure, because then people will stop having babies and that's a good thing.

by MLD on Dec 17, 2012 4:36 pm • linkreport

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