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CEOs want faster commutes and walkable places

The Federal City Council, an association of business leaders, wants DC to ease driving in and out of the city. At the same time, it wants walkable, livable neighborhoods. But what about when these two conflict?


Photo by Rob Mac on Flickr.

The group took a survey of its members, mostly business CEOs and presidents and the like. 68% say that traffic congestion is a "significant" problem facing DC businesses (though, actually, I'm surprised 32% don't think it's a problem!) and 71% say car-driving commuters are "very important" in making decisions about where to locate businesses.

99% want a more modern signal system "to ease the flow of traffic," which usually means timing signals for commuters, though 89% also want to see "active neighborhoods that provide a variety of amenities and services for all residents within a 20 minute walk."

This is, essentially, the decision planners are wrestling with in the MoveDC citywide plan: should transportation policy favor driving in and out of the city, or work to make neighborhoods more livable? The problem is that, in many situations, the two forces are in diametric opposition.

On arterial roadways through DC, like Wisconsin, Connecticut, Georgia, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Pennsylvania Avenues, immediate residents want a road with slower-moving traffic, shorter crossing distances, longer light cycles on cross streets, and maybe medians. Commuters want the exact opposite.

Which kind of places will Tysons, Bethesda, Silver Spring be?

It's easier to think about this in places that are on the tipping point between walkable urban place and suburban office park, like Bethesda and downtown Silver Spring, or Tysons Corner as Fairfax County envisions it. There's a strong consensus behind these being places where you can live and/or work; arrive by car, transit, bike, or foot; and while there, walk to enjoyable restaurants and shops, buy groceries, and so on.

But there's an obstacle to Silver Spring being even more of a walkable place where people both live and work: Colesville and Georgia. Both are very wide "traffic sewers" that take a long time to cross on foot, creating a barrier. Wisconsin and Old Georgetown do this, though a little less fiercely, in Bethesda.

Routes 123 and 7 will form massive barriers at Tysons, especially since the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is widening the already-huge Route 7 even more, and the signal timings will force people to cross in two separate phases. All of this is because their priority is to move cars most efficiently.

And traffic is bad in these places even today. As they grow, officials can focus on walkability and livability and not worry so much about worsening traffic, or they can keep commuters happy and sacrifice the goal of creating the next Dupont Circle or Columbia Heights or Clarendon. Traffic in Columbia Heights can be really frustrating, and it's a great place.

Congestion pricing, anyone?

There is, indeed, a solution to this conflict of congestion vs. walkability: congestion pricing. Keeping the roadways free of choking traffic only requires wider and wider roadways if you hold constant the assumption that everyone can use that road, anytime they want, completely free.

DC could charge each driver heading into downtown, and dedicate that revenue to expanding bus and rail options that give people an alternative to driving. Traffic could be lighter for people who do need to drive, and people who have an option not to drive will find their choices more appealing.

The biggest obstacle to this has always been that people perceive it as unfair. It's good for the business leaders who could easily pay the tolls, and even good for people like contractors for whom time is money. It's good for the poorer residents who don't have cars anyway, and who struggle with sub-par bus options.

But there are a lot of people in between who drive, don't want to pay any more for it, and would rather just deal with congestion (or lobby for wider roads or mythical magic timed signals). In the District, not only would the DC Council have to get past the politics, but Congress would likely interfere unless Maryland and Virginia representatives were supportive.

Barring that, DC, and Silver Spring, and Bethesda, and Tysons, and every other walkable or potentially walkable place will have to wrestle with whether to put placemaking first or high-speed driving. It's not a surprise that the CEOs of the Federal City Council want both, but until and unless they can help make congestion pricing happen, the survey still does not really help prioritize between the two.

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. 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 loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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99% want a more modern signal system "to ease the flow of traffic"
I'm pretty sure that's because most people see this as a magic bullet. Since, yeah, the only thing holding traffic back from being completely free-flowing would be the horribly mis-timed lights...

Most people don't stop to think that lights can't be timed to keep traffic free-flowing in both directions at once. And almost none of them think about the fact that even if the lights were timed to move more cars through, drivers would respond by taking that route more, and traffic would return to that level once again.

But I'm not sure that there's any conflict here. Most say that they want walkable communities, and almost all would take what they see as free money we're leaving on the table right now--in the form of the traffic signal system. Perhaps we just need to be honest about how this isn't actually a magic solution.

Slightly relatedly, a good first step for CEOs might be to stop moving their offices to the suburbs to make their own commutes easier. This happens far too often.

by Gray on Jun 20, 2013 11:00 am • linkreport

Tysons will likely remain split into separate communities because of Routes 7 and 123. They are major arteries that carry both high traffic volumes and high percentages of through traffic. They are both in the national highway system and, as such, are regulated by both VDOT and the federal government. This is not going to change. Tysons has to adapt to this reality. Fairfax County and the landowners are doing so.

The separate sides of Tysons will become much more walkable internally, and the Metrorail elevated walkways will be accessible while the Silver Line is operational. Tysons will also have internal circulator buses, as well as the rail line itself.

Table 7 to the Tysons Comp Plan includes: 1) the widening of Rte 7 from the Dulles Toll Road to Rt. 123; 2) the widening of Route 7 from Rt. 123 to I-495; 3) widening of Rte 123 to 8 lanes from Rt. 7 to I-495; 4) widening Rte 123 from 4 to 6 lanes between Rt. 7 and Old Courthouse Road; 5) widening Route 7 from 4 to 6 lanes between I-495 and the City of Falls Church; and (of course), widening Rt. 7 from the Dulles Toll Road to Reston Avenue. Needless to say, these are not the only road projects, just the ones for Routes 7 & 123.

I know Tysons Engineer and others won't like this, but not liking it doesn't change reality. Without these and other road projects, Tysons cannot develop as proposed in the Comp Plan. The landowners are not going to support any proposal that stops them from redeveloping. Similarly, other community group stakeholders will not accept large-scale development without the full implementation of Table 7.

The best approach, IMO, is to accept the car-centric nature of Tysons and work to implement the Comp Plan that will alter Tysons into an urban center with viable, walkable and bikeable neighborhoods.

by tmt on Jun 20, 2013 11:10 am • linkreport

I want to eat my cake and have it too.

There are more modern signals. Lights that go from a full left green arrow to turn on green, to flashing red left turn while green to flashing red left turn while flashing yellow. They can be modulated to actual traffic or timed.
I agree though, people seem to think that some sort of magic is at play and if it was just turned to their benefit then everything would be perfect for everyone.

by Richard Bourne on Jun 20, 2013 11:12 am • linkreport

Too many people haven't figured out that cars are congestion. Thousands of cars trying to use the same route will always be congested, even if you make the route 12 lanes wide and have magic light timing.

The only way to move increasing numbers of people without exponentially increasing congestion is transit.

by Mike on Jun 20, 2013 11:16 am • linkreport

Most importantly, we want someone else to pay for it.

And it would be nice if this all took place one night when we were asleep.

by Crickey7 on Jun 20, 2013 11:18 am • linkreport

"The best approach, IMO, is to accept the car-centric nature of Tysons and work to implement the Comp Plan that will alter Tysons into an urban center with viable, walkable and bikeable neighborhoods."

I tend to agree. Let Tysons proceed and deal with 123 and 7 later. I am sure FHWA and USDOT with their concerns for liveability will not be an obstacle - it will take some time to change the priorities at VDOT - but Tysons is a long term project. Who is to say that in 2030, say, VDOT may not be quite amenable to a new approach?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 20, 2013 11:25 am • linkreport

I mean we can't realistically expect business leaders to do our planning work. They basically said they want all the good things, but unless it is presented as real world trade off scenarios it's not going to produce a lot of meaninful data. There is basically always going to be conflict. For me, the real decision making is in how we balance it: are we providing enough road capacity, transit capacity, bike/ped capacity, freight capacity etc to optimize the average trip. Until we honestly put it out there that it is to some extent a zero sum game in already built out environments were are being slightly disingenuous to talk about improvements.

Also they are asking business execs what they think here. I'm not sure their experiences are completely translatable to the workforce at large. While their opinions are certainly important given their decision making power, but without more real world examples you're just going to get their personal ideal situations which is everyone easily arriving where they need to go in their preferred mode of transportation.

by Alan B. on Jun 20, 2013 11:26 am • linkreport

I'm always slightly confused when people claim signal prioritization will help ease congestion. The people who want this are drivers, no? Surely they are familiar with the many intersections in DC where two heavily congested roads intersect, such as 17th and Constitution NW, because people are not all going the same place out of DC. What is their proposed solution in that case? Which road should have the priority?

Or where one congested road is dumping traffic onto an already congested road? The intersection of South Capitol and M is frequently a mess because South Cap is already overburdened, and now traffic from M street is trying to turn onto South Cap. Should South Capitol have the priority, and say "sorry, suckers!" to the folks on M Street? (never mind all the pedestrians that cross this intersection--those cross walk signals are a hot mess) And then there's the issue of even more congestion and increased problems on ballgame nights.

"A more modern signal system 'to ease the flow of traffic'" sounds all nice and dandy in theory, but the reality of it is about as likely as me winning a million dollars.

by Birdie on Jun 20, 2013 11:28 am • linkreport

I think the only hope for Tysons is an inordinate number of foot bridges to completely cover 7 and 123. If I was a developer, I would make my sidewalk curb on either road 10 feet high, with a foot bridge to the metro and a slow sloping decline towards other streets.

by Richard Bourne on Jun 20, 2013 11:43 am • linkreport

There are significant barriers to instituting a toll for entering the District or some other kind of commuter tax.

With Virginia, there are a limited number of bridges, but the Maryland side contains numerous streets, highways, etc. it wold be very expensive to set up an effective set of toll-booths or whatever apparatus you'd need to collect that toll.

Also - you'd need to have every entryway covered. Or else commenters will quickly ID non-taxed entryways, and utilise those routes (even if they were two-lane suburban anvenues). And you'd be amazed how out of their way some people will go to avoid a fifty cent or whatever toll.

You'd also need Congress to sign off on this (and the GOP, almost all of which live in NOVA when not in their home districts/states, would be loath to support a tax they'd have to be paying to come to work).

Instead of a toll that would logistically and politically hard tommplement, all our political capital should go towards the increasing of transit options (light rail, biking, busing). When given the option of reliable and affordable transit service, people will gravitate towards it, and necessity of driven will be replaced with the OPTION of driving. THAT is what will resolved our oppressive congestion problem.

by Adam on Jun 20, 2013 12:21 pm • linkreport

I am a huge proponent of a congestion charge for DC. it's not unprecedented either. London has been pretty successful in implementing their congestion charge. You don't need to set up toll booths or anything of the sort either.

From wikipedia:
"The standard charge is £10[2] for each day, for each non-exempt vehicle that travels within the zone with a penalty of between £60 and £187 levied for non-payment. Enforcement is primarily based on automatic number plate recognition (ANPR)."

by Dirk on Jun 20, 2013 12:28 pm • linkreport

A key factor the successful development of Tysons and a reduction in the need to cross Routes 7 & 123 is the availability of retail in the neighborhoods. If it is available, the need to cross 7 or 123 to make routine purchases will diminish. A lack of retail in the Commons (LCOR) proposal was one of the reasons the McLean Citizens Association did not fully support the plan -- that and the late delivery of a rectangular field. (Fairfax County requires 50,000 sq ft of retail per every 5000 residents. The LCOR proposal will ultimately add 5000 residents.) Other rezoning applications met the retail needs and were supported fully.

The Commons redevelopment borders the relatively new Safeway store outside the redevelopment area. Buildings facing the route from the McLean Metro Station to the Safeway should have considerable retail on the ground floor.

Fairfax County is also pushing for pop-up retail near the four rail stations until those sites are developed. A good move, IMO.

by tmt on Jun 20, 2013 12:59 pm • linkreport

I don't think the MD problem is too bad---if you just draw a boundary around the L'Enfant city, besides the Potomac & Anacostia & Rock Creek Bridges, you only have the streets coming down the fall line around Columbia Heights, North Capitol, Rhode Island, New York, and Bladensburg. Fewer than 20 checkpoints in total.

Sure, there may be one or two others, but I think you could either turn those one-way during rush hour or let the people who want to avoid the charge plug them up.

Also, 10 pounds may be too much---as we saw from the grocery bag fee, even a tiny amount has a huge impact.

by xmal on Jun 20, 2013 1:03 pm • linkreport

The comments are all directed at modernizing traffic signals when in actuality there is a paradigm shift in the makeup of the working population that necessitiates a different way of thinking.

Younger, educated professionals want to live in urban areas, with amenities within walking distance.

If you can make living closer to work and closer to business centers more desirable, it amerliorates a lot of the problem with suburban commuters.

More people commuting without cars = More transit revenue = more infrastructure improvements = more people wanting to live in the district = more business wanting to be in the district.

Big metropolitan areas aren't meant to have hundreds of thousands of cars coming in and out every day.

by Jaybee on Jun 20, 2013 1:04 pm • linkreport

I wonder how many of these business leaders actually live in or close to the city?

by thump on Jun 20, 2013 1:05 pm • linkreport

"A key factor the successful development of Tysons and a reduction in the need to cross Routes 7 & 123 is the availability of retail in the neighborhoods. If it is available, the need to cross 7 or 123 to make routine purchases will diminish. "

Its conceivable that each quadrant of Tysons will succeed to some degree as an urban village. However the experience of other urban areas, AFAICT, is that greater (ped) connectivity is a driver of desirability in the market. Tysons is already handicapped in being an island of walkability. If its four islands, thats a greater handicap - though of course 4 islands, each with a supermarket, is better than 4 islands in which some do not have supermarkets.

Its ironic that we are building Tysons as 4 islands - yet when a large number of new Tysons residents own cars, and even more than one car per household in the case of couples, I predict we will be told that this was a failure of the "ideological urbanist vision".

Fortunately the tide of opinion is slowly changing. Today we operate in a political environment in which few can envision a successful urbanist center in the suburbs (though thats changing as more Fairfaxians experience Mosaic) - as more experience Mosaic, and the first fruits of Tysons redevelopment, and see the competition grown with White Flint - and as more of the county's voters are themselves residents of such places - and as more people intergrate active transportation into their commutes - the political balance is likely to change.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 20, 2013 1:08 pm • linkreport

It strikes me that while there are existential objections to congestion pricing from our neighbors in MD & VA, part of their objection is their constituent's money going to DC. Perhaps DC could propose a congestion charge where the proceeds (after overhead) are returned to the driver's state of origin as defined by the license plate. Then the recipient state could choose what to do with the money, weather simply to return it to toll payers, invest in other transpo stuff, etc. DC would still benefit even if it collected zero revenue, the price signal alone would have a salutory effect. Waive it for carpools of course, or even pay carpools with some sort of redistributive system.

Anyway, it all works so well in the hypothetical, but implementing any of this is a nightmare, made worse by the political objections.

by Will on Jun 20, 2013 1:24 pm • linkreport

Everyone wants to live and work in the new Tysons for this very conflicting reason - they want to walk everywhere, but also take their car everywhere. The ultimate in choice. To some extent Tysons does the best job of making this happen because it's right on the DTR and the Beltway, and does have the two major traffic sewers. Intelsat recently was in the market for a new HQ site, and looked closely at a new office building in Bethesda, and ended up choosing Tysons, because it had better Beltway access and more amenities to offer. Just not sure how integrated and walkable Tysons will become because of the road access. It may just turn out to be a sea of highrise buildings with some ability to walk between them, but not among them. I think the problem is certainly less severe in SS and Bethesda. The State does a descent job of limiting the number of cars that can enter into the CBDs at a time on each of the major commuter routes, so to not overwhelm traffic in the downtown areas. Even at the height of rush hour, there are often descent breaks in traffic along Georgia Ave and Colesville Rd in SS, but a 1 mile backup of traffic trying to get into town further north.

by Gull on Jun 20, 2013 1:40 pm • linkreport

Solution: pedestrian bridges!

You don't see this a lot in the US, but it's quite common in Latin America.

by Cory on Jun 20, 2013 1:59 pm • linkreport

There is a solution to the problem, one which only Guanajuato, Mexico has been able to implement. -Send the cars underground. All of them.

by JJJ on Jun 20, 2013 2:07 pm • linkreport

With Virginia, there are a limited number of bridges, but the Maryland side contains numerous streets, highways, etc. it wold be very expensive to set up an effective set of toll-booths or whatever apparatus you'd need to collect that toll.

Not really. London and Stockholm have effective, barrier-free cordons that use license plate readers. No toll booths. The collection is automatic. The technology is affordable and not much different from our existing automatic traffic enforcement.

Also - you'd need to have every entryway covered. Or else commenters will quickly ID non-taxed entryways, and utilise those routes (even if they were two-lane suburban anvenues). And you'd be amazed how out of their way some people will go to avoid a fifty cent or whatever toll.

Again, this isn't much of a problem. London runs their cordon through a far more complicated maze of streets than we would have to deal with.

And yes, people will work hard to avoid the charge. That's the point! To reduce congestion.

That said, it's not hard to close loopholes to avoid the charge in the car. You want them to shift modes, not shift routes.

You'd also need Congress to sign off on this (and the GOP, almost all of which live in NOVA when not in their home districts/states, would be loath to support a tax they'd have to be paying to come to work).

Yes, but this should be seen as an opportunity.

Imagine a system where on-street areas have a congestion charge cordon zone as part of a regional system - places like Old Town Alexandria, coupled with a cordon around Downtown DC and perhaps some portions of Arlington.

You also have tolling on major area highways/parkways: 66, GW Parkway, Suitland Parkway, etc. You charge the tolls where the congestion is: in the congested surface streets and on area highway corridors. It's a regional problem, so you set up a regional solution that avoids the 'commuter tax' implications.

Instead of a toll that would logistically and politically hard tommplement, all our political capital should go towards the increasing of transit options (light rail, biking, busing). When given the option of reliable and affordable transit service, people will gravitate towards it, and necessity of driven will be replaced with the OPTION of driving. THAT is what will resolved our oppressive congestion problem.

Saying we should have an affordable and reliable transit system is the easy part. Funding it is the hard part. So, take the revenues from this regional congestion charge and funnel it into transit - problem solved.

Also, it's not like transit alone will solve congestion issues. New York has great transit. It also has problems with congestion. The transit helps bypass the problem, but it doesn't make congestion go away. If you want to get rid of congestion, you have to manage it directly. And that likely means pricing the use of roads.

by Alex B. on Jun 20, 2013 2:09 pm • linkreport

"CEOs want faster commutes and walkable places"

And I want a unicorn that poops glitter!

Snark aside, I live in Silver Spring and I want our main roads to be treated as urban boulevards rather than highways. The future, both economically and environmentally, is in our walkable urban places. The market has already told us that it's not in car-dependent subdivisions or office parks. That's why Fairfax County is so eager to redevelop Tysons. Its current car-dependent form has hit an economic wall.

Leave single family car land as is. Just stop giving them transportation priority over those of us who live in walking/transit land.

1) Put 16th Street on a road diet AND complete the sidewalk on the west side of the street down to the District line.
2) Eliminate reversible lanes on Colesville (and also on Georgia between the beltway and 16th Street). Replace them with a median like the one on Connecticut Avenue between Farragut Square and Dupont Circle.
3) Get rid of the right turn signal on Georgia northbound at Colesville. It makes it unsafe to cross Colesville there because motorists just look at the signal and don't look at pedestrians.
4) Get rid of the left turn lanes/signals at East-West and Colesville. Also install pedestrian refuge medians on East-West there.
5) Fix the nonsensical and unsafe intersection at 16th/Colesville/Eastern/North Portal. It's pedestrian polo.
6) Put the Colesville/2nd Avenue (Wayne) intersection on a road diet. Eliminate all the left turn lanes and make the box smaller so it's not as long to cross Colesville. It's currently designed as one would design an intersection between two suburban arterials when it's in a downtown area at the entrance to a very popular Metro station.

by Cavan on Jun 20, 2013 2:18 pm • linkreport

I think the only hope for Tysons is an inordinate number of foot bridges to completely cover 7 and 123.

Skybridges or skywalks have been discredited as a design because people don't like to use them and they take away foot traffic from ground floor retail. It seems like a good idea, and thus was tried in several places (Rosslyn is a good example) but the experiment did not work.

The best approach, IMO, is to accept the car-centric nature of Tysons and work to implement the Comp Plan that will alter Tysons into an urban center with viable, walkable and bikeable neighborhoods

I don't think crossing 7/123 will be as big of a impediment to walking/biking as the experience of walking/biking along those roads. It's important that Tysons implements the street grid plan so there are calm parallel streets that you can use to avoid walking along 7/123.

by Falls Church on Jun 20, 2013 2:33 pm • linkreport

Let's put Tysons into some perspective. The distance between Route 123 and the DTR around the corner at Route 7 and following Route 7 to the DTR is about the same as the distance from Rosslyn to Ballston (or so I've been told by Fairfax County employees). No one regularly walks from Rosslyn to Ballston or from one Orange Line station to another, even though there is considerable walking around station areas. We should see something similar in Tysons, except the walking areas might be split in two by the applicable artery (7 or 123). I don't see this as failure. Nor would Fairfax County or the Tysons landowners.

Tysons was never going to be anything but auto-centric from a macro perspective. It has opportunities to take advantage of the Silver Line, added bus service (including on-time express bus service traveling on the Express Lanes), three internal bus circulator routes, much better bike facilities, sidewalk expansions and high-quality mixed use development. These will all help reduce the number of auto trips that would otherwise come with the same level of development, especially with a strong TDM program. TDM is getting a boost with the merger of Tytran into the Tysons Partnership and the support of Fairfax County and VDOT for the landowners' desire to handle their individual TDM obligations largely through a more robust Tytran.

But the traffic studies have always shown that a bigger Tysons will result in much more automobile traffic. Table 7 of the Comp Plan was supported by extremely detailed traffic studies and is in the process of being supplemented by the results of some of the most comprehensive traffic studies in history. The increased traffic was the key motivator for the intense citizen involvement in the Tysons re-planning process. Involvement Sharon Bulova has stated greatly improved the final product.

Also, I think it's important to state Fairfax County will continue to be a suburban county. Tysons will be an urban center and areas near rail stations (Mosaic at Merrifield) will offer increased density, and there will be more multi-family housing at business centers such as Baileys and Seven Corners. But the BoS has openly promised to protect the suburban and, in some areas, semi-rural character of the county's neighborhoods. It is extremely unlikely that, in the lifetimes of anyone breathing today, the County will change into a largely urban one.

by tmt on Jun 20, 2013 2:34 pm • linkreport

"I don't think crossing 7/123 will be as big of a impediment to walking/biking as the experience of walking/biking along those roads. It's important that Tysons implements the street grid plan so there are calm parallel streets that you can use to avoid walking along 7/123."

Well stated. The grid of streets is critical to Tysons' success.

by tmt on Jun 20, 2013 2:36 pm • linkreport

"Let's put Tysons into some perspective. The distance between Route 123 and the DTR around the corner at Route 7 and following Route 7 to the DTR is about the same as the distance from Rosslyn to Ballston (or so I've been told by Fairfax County employees). No one regularly walks from Rosslyn to Ballston or from one Orange Line station to another, even though there is considerable walking around station areas."

My impression is that residents do walk and bike from the area of one metro station to another - do people who live just west of Virginia Square really take the metro to get to Clarendon? Especially on weekends? And from the ped perspective and even more the bike perspective Rosslyn is not the eastern end of the corridor - as anyone spending any time on the Key Bridge can tell you - Rosslyn is walkably connected to Georgetown in DC. And while there are currently limits on walkability within the corridor, new development is filling gaps, and the county is working to improve walking and biking to make movement within the corridor (and to the Key bridge) easier.

One can site the total distance from 123 to DTR - the NE of the 4 quadrants may well have critical mass - but the other quadrants are smaller. And the southern end of the NE quadrant, in particular, will be handicapped by difficulty crossing 123. Its not like the density will be focused at the centers of the quadrants, but at the metro stations, which are at the edges of the quadrants - its the density centers at the metro stations that will be directly impacted by the 123 and 7 barriers.

" We should see something similar in Tysons, except the walking areas might be split in two by the applicable artery (7 or 123). I don't see this as failure. Nor would Fairfax County or the Tysons landowners. "

If it results in much higher auto mode share, that will certainly be a failure. From what I understand Fairfax County does not agree with VDOT on the future of these routes.

"Tysons was never going to be anything but auto-centric from a macro perspective."

because of how we are building tysons, we may never know.

"But the traffic studies have always shown that a bigger Tysons will result in much more automobile traffic."

Did those traffic studies take into account the impact of 123 or 7 on the development of tysons as a WUP? From all I understand, they did not reflect the different mode shares charecteristic of mixed use development. The entire world of traffic forecasting is evolving based on new approaches.

" Table 7 of the Comp Plan was supported by extremely detailed traffic studies and is in the process of being supplemented by the results of some of the most comprehensive traffic studies in history."

Table 7 as we have discussed, includes improvements that were needed anyway. And its not how detailed the traffic study is thats at issue, but the assumptions used.

" The increased traffic was the key motivator for the intense citizen involvement in the Tysons re-planning process. Involvement Sharon Bulova has stated greatly improved the final product."

I can't imagine Sharon Bulova saying "The project now sucks. Citizen involvement is bad" even if she thought that were true.

"Also, I think it's important to state Fairfax County will continue to be a suburban county."

Im not sure why its important to state that. Thats not at issue. How we build tysons is at issue.

" Tysons will be an urban center and areas near rail stations (Mosaic at Merrifield) will offer increased density, and there will be more multi-family housing at business centers such as Baileys and Seven Corners. But the BoS has openly promised to protect the suburban and, in some areas, semi-rural character of the county's neighborhoods. It is extremely unlikely that, in the lifetimes of anyone breathing today, the County will change into a largely urban one."

1. One needs to distinguish how many acres will be urban, from how many PEOPLE will live an urban lifestyle. Given that urban areas are much denser, the latter will always be higher. Look at ArlCo - today most of the county is still suburban, yet IIUC a majority of the population lives in high density areas. The goal for Tysons by 2050 is 100k residents which his close to 10% of the current population of Fairfax County. If the areas you mention also urbanize (and lets add the Rte 1 corridor, and downtown Annandale, and RTC, and parts of Herndon) we may well begin to approach 50& of the POPULATION of FFX county in relatively urban settings.

In any case, theres no strong reason to think that living in a suburban area means opposing the "urbanist" position on Tysons. Many people who live in such areas who work in Tysons will access it by transit or carpool, and some who live in such areas (especially closer by) will access it by bike, and they will have an interest in a less auto focused tysons. And of course for the many folks who live in the southern half of the county and do NOT work in Tysons, the most important aspect of Tysons is the tax revenues it delivers to the County coffers - and to extent urbanization of it (and other north county centers) helps with that, they may well support it.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 20, 2013 2:58 pm • linkreport

"But the traffic studies have always shown that a bigger Tysons will result in much more automobile traffic"

The plan for tysons is to go from 100k jobs and 17 k residents today, to 200k jobs and 100k residents. If you assume every resident is an employee who works in Tysons, and that there is no increase in transit or carpool access, thats an increae of 17k SOV commuters to tysons from outside.

Granted some residents will be children, stay at home parents, etc. And some will commute to jobs outside Tysons. But offsetting that is a new metro, other new transit, a likely increase in carpooling, and even some increase in biking in from outside.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 20, 2013 3:03 pm • linkreport

So these FCC folks are major employers right? They actually have quite a bit of influence on how much commuter traffic there is in the city. What are THEY doing to incentivize more walk, bike and transit use versus commuting by single occupancy vehicle?

The federal government has long allowed businesses to
offer their employees the opportunity to save hundreds
of dollars a year in transit costs by using pre-tax dollars to pay for subway, bus or commuter rail commutes. However,
beginning in 2009, the City of San Francisco went
a step further and mandated that businesses in the city
with 20 or more employees offer their workers tax-free
commuter benefits, which are currently capped at $245
a month.
San Francisco’s law has greatly increased the number
of people taking advantage of the federal tax-free transportation program, a development that benefits both employees and employers and has no meaningful cost to the
city. Individual workers can greatly reduce their monthly
expenses, while businesses save in payroll taxes because
employees are deducting income on a pre-tax basis. By offering the benefit, employers also become more attractive
to potential employees. Even the San Francisco Chamber
of Commerce supported the measure, saying: “While the
Chamber generally opposes mandates on business, the
City’s requirement that businesses with 20 or more employees
working in San Francisco establish a program to
promote the use of public transit can be an economic benefit. In addition to helping to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by getting people out of their cars and onto transit, the law can be a money-saver for business.”
The City of San Francisco now requires businesses in the
city with 20 or more employees to provide employees
with tax-free commuter benefits. (from a recent report by the Center for an Urban Future, at NYU Wagner School of Public Policy)

by AubreyO on Jun 20, 2013 3:22 pm • linkreport

The $245 commuter benefit also applies to parking just FYI. Which my company provides for us under the building downtown tax free grace a the IRS.

by anonposter on Jun 20, 2013 3:26 pm • linkreport

DC should require employers to offer tax-free transit benefits. The amount of work involved in doing so is staggeringly small.

by MLD on Jun 20, 2013 4:06 pm • linkreport

The conclusion from the CEO survey isn't congestion pricing. In fact, if that question was posed I wonder just how much support it would get.

NYT's had a nice story today about Amsterdam's use of bicycles. Does that city have congestion pricing?

by kob on Jun 21, 2013 9:08 am • linkreport

IIUC Amsterdam does not have congestion pricing, but the cost of owning and operating a vehicle (due to auto purchase taxes and gas taxes that are far far in excess of the cost of building roads there, and that help finance the general budget) is extremely high.

A congestion charge would accomplish the same thing as the high taxes on driving in the NL, but without charging people who drive in uncongested places. Which seems fairer and more efficient.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 21, 2013 9:14 am • linkreport

"owning and operating a motor vehicle"

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 21, 2013 9:25 am • linkreport

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