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Bi-County Parkway sprawl would enrich key boosters

On the surface, the Bi-County Parkway/Outer Beltway controversy is about transportation. But it's not. It's about growth: where should it be in Virginia? The farms of Loudoun, Prince William, and Fauquier? Or along future Silver Line stations, and closer to the core? Some people stand to benefit from more outward growth, but not most residents of our region.


Photo by Dan Reed on Flickr.

The Washington Post's Jonathan O'Connell confirms what many suspected, even though it sounded a bit like a conspiracy theory: People with large land holdings along the Bi-County Parkway route, who stand to benefit personally from building more houses there, are pouring substantial cash into lobbying efforts and campaign donations for the road.

O'Connell pulls back the curtain on the 2030 Group, an organization that appeared in 2010 with the stated goal of encouraging "regional cooperation." Cooperation is great, but 2030's version seems to mean getting all officials to cooperate on a certain, predetermined agenda of speeding up outward growth as well as infill.

The group's founder, Bob Buchanan, started the group largely because he owned 400 acres in Loudoun County but people didn't want to build there. O'Connell writes:

The family trade was home building when Buchanan returned from the Navy as a young man. He became a master of site development, the business of acquiring large tracts of land, securing the necessary zoning and transportation improvements, and readying lots for other developers to turn into subdivisions, office parks or shopping centers. ...

One of his largest deals, made a decade ago, was a 400-acre property at the intersection of Route 50, Route 606 and the Loudoun County Parkway. At that time, Loudoun housing market was seeing double-digit annual price increases. It was one of the most profitable places in the country to build new houses.

Buchanan Partners planned to turn the grassy, partially wooded site into Arcola Center, with 2 million square feet of commercial space, more than 1,000 homes and 800,000 square feet of retail around a main street anchored by a Target and other big chains.

After the housing bust, construction of exurban subdivisions froze, and the prospects for projects like Arcola dimmed. Land values and housing prices in Loudoun collapsed.

Buchanan also tells O'Connell that he's changing with the times, being more concerned about the environment, and building multi-family housing and mixed-use instead of just houses. And Arcola is mixed-use, with townhouses, offices, retail, hotels, and more.

If you're going to build in a greenfield site at the edge of the region, there is better design and worse design. But even the best greenfield town center without transit will generate more car trips compared to the same growth in the core or near Metro.

As the real estate maxim goes, "location, location, location." If the demand to live southwest of Dulles Airport is weak while prices around Metro are rising higher and higher, that tells you something.

For a developer who doesn't already own 400 acres southwest of Dulles, it tells you to try to build more housing at Metro stations and in the core. Buchanan, instead, concluded he should lobby the state to spend a billion or so to entice people to live around his 400 acres.

With development stagnant, Buchanan looked to local public officials for solutions but saw none forthcoming, he said. Frustrated, he enlisted like-minded partners to form the 2030 Group. ... In a three-year period, according to the group's tax forms, the 2030 Group spent more than $520,000 to finance research at George Mason University and the University of Maryland.
2030 hired PR firm Dewey Square Partners to promote its activities and fairly soon after released a list of transportation priorities. Longtime Virginia Outer Beltway advocate Bob Chase and Maryland outer highway advocate Rich Parsons interviewed a group of secret, unnamed "experts" to create a list that ironically matched Chase's and Parsons' existing preferences.
Buchanan said critics who worry about 2030's influence should be more concerned about how the region will handle expected growth, given its political divisions. Not building new roads, he argues, is not going to stop people from wanting to live and work in the Washington area; it will just add to the already acute traffic congestion.
"The development is coming because people are moving here and they want to live here," he said.
People are moving here. And while some want to live in all parts of the region and all housing types, the greatest demand is for new and existing walkable neighborhoods near transit.

If Buchanan really wants the region to invest where people are moving and where they want to live, he wouldn't push for an Outer Beltway segment that goes past his 400 acres; he and 2030 would push for, say, a light rail line from Tysons to Merrifield to Annandale to Alexandria, through many places already near transit, already with many roads, and where there's ample demand for new housing.

People want transit-oriented development. The region needs to build more. There isn't enough now. To have TOD, you need transit. Therefore, to build what people want, we need regional transportation dollars to go into that transit, not the Bi-County Parkway.

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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There's a bad link - you link to the 2010 post article twice, and don't link to O'Connell's piece:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/developer-bob-buchanan-and-2030-group-quietly-drive-support-for-bi-county-parkway/2013/07/21/7b6a6e02-d1d5-11e2-a73e-826d299ff459_story.html

by Alex B. on Jul 24, 2013 2:15 pm • linkreport

Oops, fixed. Thanks.

by David Alpert on Jul 24, 2013 2:21 pm • linkreport

It's much easier to believe the conspiracy once you realize that's how many transportation projects have happened. (This happened with railroads as well).

But yes, the only way to reduce congestion is to toll what we have and to provide transit as well.

by drumz on Jul 24, 2013 2:36 pm • linkreport

Unfortunately this isn't really a surprise. There are always wealthy, well connected people trying to make the easiest buck by getting the state to build a new public service that disproportionately benefits them out in the furthest edges of the metro area.

by Richard B on Jul 24, 2013 2:37 pm • linkreport

Even streetcars which most of us are fans of here I imagine where often used as a mechanism to profit off of otherwise useless property on the periphery of cities. The same could be true of the Silver Line to an extent, but arguably the greater benefits outway the cost there (hopefully).

by Alan B. on Jul 24, 2013 3:06 pm • linkreport

It is important to remember that it's ok to think of transit as an investment tool. But then once you acknowledge that its important to look at the costs and benefits, especially since its public money and there is only so much of that as well.

A bi-county money would mean no chance for some sort of of expanded metro or new light rail service in Nova.

by drumz on Jul 24, 2013 3:12 pm • linkreport

"People with large land holdings along the Bi-County Parkway route, who stand to benefit personally from building more houses there, are pouring substantial cash into lobbying efforts and campaign donations for the road."

You could substitute "bi-County Parkway Route", with "silverline route" and get the exact same thing, so I am not sure why the suprise.

Commercial land holders in Tysons are realizing a multi-billion dollar land benefit from the silverline, and sank considerable money into lobbying and campaign donations to make sure the alignment was to their liking.

Why is one more ethical than the other?

by Silverline on Jul 24, 2013 3:12 pm • linkreport

Probably a good idea to reserve some of that airport land they want to develop for a Park and Ride lot or two.

by Alan B. on Jul 24, 2013 3:14 pm • linkreport

"Even streetcars which most of us are fans of here I imagine where often used as a mechanism to profit off of otherwise useless property on the periphery of cities."

I'd have to disagree with that. Old-time interurbans (still common in parts of Europe, actually) definitely were meant to allow people to live in the middle of nowhere, but modern streetcars are essentially only in the urban areas. If you'd said commuter trains, I'd be more in agreement. Most of the Fredericksburg, Brunswick, and Manassas lines, don't really go anywhere with major populations once outside of Alexandria (for VRE) or Rockville (for MARC).

"The same could be true of the Silver Line to an extent"
It's definitely making it easier to live farther from the core, that's for certain. But it's not making useless plots of land desirable (except for the two Loudoun stations), it's just improving already built-up areas (Tysons and Reston), as well as obviously connecting to Dulles. Plus it's being built down an already-existing right-of-way, so nobody's making money by selling their property for track ROW.

by ImThat1Guy on Jul 24, 2013 3:17 pm • linkreport

People want transit-oriented development.

In general I don't think this applies to the majority of families who live outside the Beltway, more so in Virginia. I realize that this is anecdotal but I've never met anyone who's lived outside the Beltway who's clamoring to take transit everyday. Maybe greater exposure to Metro will change some minds but I'm skeptical.

by Fitz on Jul 24, 2013 3:18 pm • linkreport

@Silverline- One is more ethical b/c the ROI for the public's investment is far higher and can be sustained over multiple life-cycles.

by thump on Jul 24, 2013 3:19 pm • linkreport

Why is one more ethical than the other?

Costs - more than just dollars but in being able to get more density into tysons while mitigating the traffic/environmental impact of more cars. Plus, landowners around the silver line in tysons are also financing many of the changes as well through higher property taxes.

Benefits - You're moving a lot of people through an already dense area and taking cars off the road. By encouraging transit you're also helping the environment and safety on the ground.

Disclosure - People have been very upfont about the project as a development tool, same with streetcars. You can be upfront about it for roads as well (many people are). I'm not saying anything done has been illegal or unethical but it helps to just be upfront about these things.

You can challenge individual parts of my response, that's fine I'm not being strict but the projects aren't equivalent and the article is seeking to make this more clear.

by drumz on Jul 24, 2013 3:19 pm • linkreport

Can't a developer make just as much money through infill, renovation, multi-use, TOD, etc. projects as they can through building more sprawl on greenfields? As streets are rebuilt to meet urbanist-friendly goals, even the road builders can make money, too. It would help to sell to developers, road builders, politicians, etc. the idea that endless urban sprawl is not the best or only way to make money.

by DaveG on Jul 24, 2013 3:22 pm • linkreport

its not unethical per se for someone to lobby for something that benefits them, nor does it per se make the project a bad idea.

But transparency is good. Certainly everyone knew the SilverLine was going to encourage development in Tysons - that was a large part of its selling points.

However the claim has been made that the bi county parkway will NOT encourage much more development, but will instead improve cargo flows to the airport, and relieve traffic congestion. given that, the likelihood that it WILL increase development in the areas it passes through, is worth noting.

also that the 2030 group positioned itself as a broadbased alliance supporting regional integration, turns out to be spefically not just the spokesorg for landowners, but for landowners focused on one particular highway, is worth noting.

Imagine if the Coalition for Smart Growth and the Piedmont Environmental council turned out to be mostly funded by one particular Tysons landowners. I dont think we would hear the end of it.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 24, 2013 3:23 pm • linkreport

I've never met anyone who's lived outside the Beltway who's clamoring to take transit everyday

I wouldn't be so sure. I'm sure many just want their commute to be easier. You could do that via transit or highways. I think transit is the better way to do it but far more people ride metro just because it's the easiest way to work rather than an ideological commitment like a lot of us here. If you make transit the easiest thing then people will take it anyway, you'll begin seeing the market accomodate for it and BAM! TOD all over the place.

by drumz on Jul 24, 2013 3:23 pm • linkreport

"I realize that this is anecdotal but I've never met anyone who's lived outside the Beltway who's clamoring to take transit everyday."

but many are clamoring for their NEIGHBORS to take transit every day, to reduce the traffic they face. A few are aware enough to want TOD, to avoid more development in the low density places they value.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 24, 2013 3:25 pm • linkreport

I'd say it's more than on a per capita basis that transit is more efficient for dense areas than highways with single occupant vehicles. Also transit is somewhat more scalable. It's going to be hard to add much additional highway capacity in the core or even inner Fairfax while we can get a lot of efficiency out of Metro and commuter rail with potential to expand subway service in the core still. So I guess it seems doubtful that the social ROI for an outer loop connecting Loudoun and Prince William would make as much sense as improving capacity in and out of the core.

by Alan B. on Jul 24, 2013 3:26 pm • linkreport

"Can't a developer make just as much money through infill, renovation, multi-use, TOD, etc. projects as they can through building more sprawl on greenfields? "

1. some developers have already invested in specific properties.
2. AFAICT there are specific skills involved in doing high density multi use - some developers specialize in it, some never do it, and some try to be good at both TOD and greenfield development.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 24, 2013 3:27 pm • linkreport

Plus, you have a lot more regulatory barriers with in-fill. A developer unpracticed in it may look at that and say "no thanks". This is changing somewhat of course but that's why its important to make sure that zoning, historical preservation and all that is dealt with.

by drumz on Jul 24, 2013 3:30 pm • linkreport

Can't a developer make just as much money through infill, renovation, multi-use, TOD, etc. projects as they can through building more sprawl on greenfields? As streets are rebuilt to meet urbanist-friendly goals, even the road builders can make money, too. It would help to sell to developers, road builders, politicians, etc. the idea that endless urban sprawl is not the best or only way to make money.

It's a zoning thing. It is easy to get 400 acres of agricultural land, get it rezoned to put 1200 houses on it and then build them and reap your reward because there were only 10 people there to begin with and the land borders another 300 people. Those 310 people have a very small voice in politics.
On the other hand if you want to build an infill development right next to a metro station, you have to buy up the land of 300 people and that land has 9,000 neighbors considerably more political power.

by Richard B on Jul 24, 2013 3:37 pm • linkreport

I've never met anyone who's lived outside the Beltway who's clamoring to take transit everyday

Whether that's true isn't what's most relevant. What matters to decisions pertaining new infrastructure is where new demand is materializing. New demand (from new home purchases) is most definitely for TOD based on the increasing price of TOD relative to non-TOD housing. Put simply, you build infrastructure/housing based on incremental demand, not historical demand.

Also, your anecdotal data doesn't seem to be representative. Here's some survey data from the National Association of Realtors:

Yet when asked to choose between a neighborhood of large-lot single-family homes which require driving everywhere, and one with smaller homes but amenities within walking distance, 56% chose the latter. 58% said they'd pick a walkable neighborhood over one where driving was a necessity, and 59% said they'd take a small house and a shorter commute over a big house with a longer commute.

by Falls Church on Jul 24, 2013 3:40 pm • linkreport

drumz,
I wouldn't be so sure. I'm sure many just want their commute to be easier. You could do that via transit or highways. I think transit is the better way to do it but far more people ride metro just because it's the easiest way to work rather than an ideological commitment like a lot of us here.

I'm sure all of them want an easier commute. Extending Metro service outside the Beltway will probably help alleviate that, but to what extent I haven't seen the research. Of course extending Metro service seems to be a political difficulty.

I do wonder if it would be cost effective on an individual commuter basis. Metro fares are very high now. My wife and I live within walking distance of Metro and it's quite a bit cheaper, and even quicker, to drive together to work than it is for us to take Metro, government transit subsidies included.

by Fitz on Jul 24, 2013 3:41 pm • linkreport

People want transit-oriented development.
In general I don't think this applies to the majority of families who live outside the Beltway, more so in Virginia. I realize that this is anecdotal but I've never met anyone who's lived outside the Beltway who's clamoring to take transit everyday. Maybe greater exposure to Metro will change some minds but I'm skeptical.

Even people outside the beltway want TOD, even if they aren't taking the metro every day. TOD Property gains and holds value faster than non TOD and it opens up a lot of possibilities for occasional trips during working hours, evenings and weekends. DC is partly unique in that it's Subway has absolutely terrible weekend availability but normally that is the case.

by Richard B on Jul 24, 2013 3:48 pm • linkreport

Everyone's situation is different and it's hard to project onto specific projects.

However, I think it's on a bell curve. On one end you have people that just hate public transportation. On the other you have well, us. Most are in the middle though. Without getting to specific the plan should be to make public transit the easier option so most people naturally choose it. This may be an extension, it may be lower prices, whatever works. That's what I'm talking about, it's about convenience, not ideology for most people. You don't have to convince people visitng DC and NYC that metro/subway is the best way of getting around town (for all the problems they have).

by drumz on Jul 24, 2013 3:50 pm • linkreport

I've never met anyone who's lived outside the Beltway who's clamoring to take transit everyday

I'd also point out that people who clamor to take transit everyday, live near transit and take transit. They don't live outside the beltway. Similarly, if you were to survey people who live within walking distance of a metro station, you might conclude that people aren't clamoring to drive everyday.

by Falls Church on Jul 24, 2013 3:54 pm • linkreport

Falls Church,

Whether that's true isn't what's most relevant. What matters to decisions pertaining new infrastructure is where new demand is materializing. New demand (from new home purchases) is most definitely for TOD based on the increasing price of TOD relative to non-TOD housing.

That's true but I can't help but wonder how much of that is a function of immediate access/short walking distance to a Metro station.

Yet when asked to choose between a neighborhood of large-lot single-family homes which require driving everywhere, and one with smaller homes but amenities within walking distance, 56% chose the latter. 58% said they'd pick a walkable neighborhood over one where driving was a necessity, and 59% said they'd take a small house and a shorter commute over a big house with a longer commute.

That survey also assumes that all costs (i.e. housing prices) are equal, so I don't think it can be applied here because those sets of choices aren't face by local consumers.

Individuals and families who work near the core of the city but live outside the Beltway usually do so because they want a larger or newer home but chose their location based, among other aspects, on housing prices. I'm sure most of them would rather live closer to their jobs but prices are probably out of reach giving their housing preferences.

by Fitz on Jul 24, 2013 3:54 pm • linkreport

Falls Church,

I'd also point out that people who clamor to take transit everyday, live near transit and take transit. They don't live outside the beltway.

My comment was in response to Alpert's sentence in the final paragraph stating, "People want transit-oriented development." I assumed this article was in regards to development outside the Beltway.

by Fitz on Jul 24, 2013 3:58 pm • linkreport

to get back on topic the issue isnt really if people want TOD in general. Its that the silver line proponents were up front that the silver line would mean more development at Tysons. The bi county parkway have NOT jumped up to defend sprawl - they have, IIUC, gone out of their way to suggest that the BCP has benefits totally unrelated to new development in the rural crescent are of PWC at least, and I think in the transitional zone in LoCo. Most citizens of Fairfax want more development in Tysons, to pay taxes to support the county. Those who did not (mainly folks from adjoining neighborhoods) negotiated a deal, which included some improvements they long wanted - and which has been much discussed here. LoCo appears to be more conflicted - they certainly want job growth, but many do not want more residential growth in the transitional zone. And AFAICT almost no one in PWC wants more growth in the area called the rural crescent.

If everyone in PWC wanted such growth, why wouldnt the BCP proponents be more upfront about it? If people in fairfax opposed TOD at Tysons, why would the county crow about it every chance they can?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 24, 2013 4:01 pm • linkreport

@Fitz
I do wonder if it would be cost effective on an individual commuter basis. Metro fares are very high now. My wife and I live within walking distance of Metro and it's quite a bit cheaper, and even quicker, to drive together to work than it is for us to take Metro, government transit subsidies included.

Everyone has a unique commute, so for some people it might be so but most of the time when you factor in gas, auto depreciation, auto maintenance, and parking you end up paying more to take your car.

My round trip metro trip is $7.10
Driving; Gas would be 1.2 gallons or $4.39 in my compact car.
But auto depreciation and maintenance would add another $4.00 easily.
And then parking is $12 a day at best.
So $20 a day to drive. If I could find 2 people to carpool with, it would be worth it.

by Richard B on Jul 24, 2013 4:01 pm • linkreport

Fitz,

At least judging by the bigger development projects in outside the beltway communties I'd say that Alpert's point holds. There is what's happening at Vienna, and Dunn-Loring.

Further out you've got a project like One Loudoun, which advertises itself as compact and mixed-use. You're seeing a lot more New Urbanist design elements and places that will make it easier to provide transit even if that's not explicitly the plan at the moment.

by drumz on Jul 24, 2013 4:02 pm • linkreport

Fitz,

That's true but I can't help but wonder how much of that is a function of immediate access/short walking distance to a Metro station.

What I was saying is that the ratio of home prices near metro to home prices not near metro is rising. For example, 20 years ago, housing per square foot was more expensive in Great Falls than in Dupont. Now, the reverse is true. So, yes, the reason that Dupont prices have increased faster than Great Falls is the proximity to transit in Dupont. Doesn't that show that incremental demand is for TOD?

That survey also assumes that all costs (i.e. housing prices) are equal, so I don't think it can be applied here because those sets of choices aren't face by local consumers.

The survey specifically asked if one was willing to live in a smaller home that was more walkable, vs. a bigger house that was not. The implication is that the smaller walkable home is the same cost as the bigger non-walkable home. That reflects reality as you can purchase (for example) a smaller home in Dupont vs. a bigger home in Great Falls for about the same price.

by Falls Church on Jul 24, 2013 4:03 pm • linkreport

AWITC,

Well at least the "developers are out to destroy the neighborhood" meme is consistent throughout rural, suburban, and dense areas.

by drumz on Jul 24, 2013 4:05 pm • linkreport

If Mr. Alpert were absolute dictator, I fear everyone that simply *imagined* driving a car would be sent to the guillotine.

"People want transit-oriented development. The region needs to build more. There isn't enough now. To have TOD, you need transit. Therefore, to build what people want, we need regional transportation dollars to go into that transit, not the Bi-County Parkway."

Yes, ideally people like the idea of TOD. But that doesn't explain why, at my office here in DC, dozens of the cars have DC tags. So many Metro stops in the inner-core are still simply commuter lots. Until those are turned into truly "TOD" areas, how can you justify building more transit that no one is asking for?

And the comparisons with the Silver Line extension are driving me crazy. That is being financed in large part by drivers on the Dulles Toll Road - many of whom will never see any "ROI," and most of whom will never use the Metro to commute.

by Rich on Jul 24, 2013 4:14 pm • linkreport

drumz,

At least judging by the bigger development projects in outside the beltway communties I'd say that Alpert's point holds. There is what's happening at Vienna, and Dunn-Loring.

We can all agree that those are good, well planned developments. They're also immediately next to Metro stations. Those are the type of developments that you want to put along the Silver Line too. But then what? I don't see a bus-dependent location (e.g. Shirlington) being a draw. I could be wrong.

by Fitz on Jul 24, 2013 4:18 pm • linkreport

If Mr. Alpert were absolute dictator, I fear everyone that simply *imagined* driving a car would be sent to the guillotine.

Well yeah, that's reasonable to conclude.

Yes, ideally people like the idea of TOD. But that doesn't explain why, at my office here in DC, dozens of the cars have DC tags.

Not everywhere in DC would qualify as "TOD" nor can you get too specific about people's circumstances (lest you accidentally send them to the guillotine.

So many Metro stops in the inner-core are still simply commuter lots.

Which ones? Inner core has a specific definition by metro. There may be one or two but it's unlikely. Meanwhile parking lots are being actively replaced all over the system.

Until those are turned into truly "TOD" areas, how can you justify building more transit that no one is asking for?

A: that's trying to prove a negative,
B: lots of people are asking for transit, failing that, they're asking for easier ways to get to work. Transit can accomplish that. Better than a road far from DC sponsored by people who think its best not to disclose they own lots of land along the corridor.

And the comparisons with the Silver Line extension are driving me crazy. That is being financed in large part by drivers on the Dulles Toll Road - many of whom will never see any "ROI," and most of whom will never use the Metro to commute.

A: It's MWAA's road and construction project. They felt it best to finance it this way, the Va. gov't thought this wise and it is what it is.
B: they'll see return by seeing less traffic on the road and by using it themselves. That's pretty good if you ask me. Besides, the tolls didn't go up that much considering that we're literally getting a brand new metro line for less than the cost of a sandwich per week.

by drumz on Jul 24, 2013 4:22 pm • linkreport

"Yes, ideally people like the idea of TOD. But that doesn't explain why, at my office here in DC, dozens of the cars have DC tags. So many Metro stops in the inner-core are still simply commuter lots. Until those are turned into truly "TOD" areas, how can you justify building more transit that no one is asking for?"

there are many transit projects in NoVa that lots of people are asking for. We dont have enough $$ for all of them. Do you want us to list some? And no, people in NoVa want the benefits of TOD - TOD in DC doesnt clean up route 1, add vibrancy to Annandale, or create affordable WUP housing close to NoVa employment centers.

"And the comparisons with the Silver Line extension are driving me crazy. That is being financed in large part by drivers on the Dulles Toll Road - many of whom will never see any "ROI," and most of whom will never use the Metro to commute." its being financed by fed, state, county and developer $$ as well. And the line will relieve traffic on the DTR, and increase property values in places in proximity to the DTR.

by Rich on Jul 24, 2013 4:14 pm • link • report
drumz,
At least judging by the bigger development projects in outside the beltway communties I'd say that Alpert's point holds. There is what's happening at Vienna, and Dunn-Loring.

We can all agree that those are good, well planned developments. They're also immediately next to Metro stations. Those are the type of developments that you want to put along the Silver Line too. But then what? I don't see a bus-dependent location (e.g. Shirlington) being a draw. I could be wrong.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 24, 2013 4:23 pm • linkreport

"But then what? I don't see a bus-dependent location (e.g. Shirlington) being a draw. I could be wrong."

walked around shirlington lately? priced the units there? compared to less transit focused locations in NoVa? Logan Circle it ain't, but its still commands some premium.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 24, 2013 4:25 pm • linkreport

AWITC,

as for "then what" I'd say keep adding transit. But I was more countering the fact that we somehow don't have evidence of TOD being built somewhere. Those are all the biggest projects going right now.

Failing adding transit, at least get the walkability/bikeability right and you can cut down on car trips that way. Shirlington may not be as desireable as something closer to the orange line but at least you can live there and walk to a lot of stuff.

by drumz on Jul 24, 2013 4:28 pm • linkreport

Oh wait, I missed something. Those weren't AWITC's words. My bad.

by drumz on Jul 24, 2013 4:29 pm • linkreport

Falls Church,

Doesn't that show that incremental demand is for TOD?

It certainly shows demand for Metro, but I thought TOD was a broader category. Am I wrong there?

The survey specifically asked if one was willing to live in a smaller home that was more walkable, vs. a bigger house that was not. The implication is that the smaller walkable home is the same cost as the bigger non-walkable home. That reflects reality as you can purchase (for example) a smaller home in Dupont vs. a bigger home in Great Falls for about the same price.

I understand all of that but I think your example underscores that these aren't the choices for the large majority of house hunters in the area. From our experience looking for a new home to buy this year the closer you are to walkable neighborhood the older a home will be with older fixtures and with awkward, less desirable layouts. Or they're going to cost a lot to renovate or repair. I don't dispute the survey at all, I just don't think the premises they ask to choose between exists, at least for the DC area.

by Fitz on Jul 24, 2013 4:39 pm • linkreport

In a DC context, "T" usually means metro. That may be changing somewhat but you're also seeing projects come up along Columbia Pike for the eventual streetcar.

The survey is about preferences. Things change once you actually have to make the decision within constraints but people's preferences remain the same.

by drumz on Jul 24, 2013 4:42 pm • linkreport

David,
I hope you cover this new growth plan for San Francisco where they just approved a growth plan that would blow this sprawl highway out of the water, should they be so bold.

http://www.planetizen.com/node/64269

A quick sysopsis:
•No sprawl for 30 years—100% of new growth will be within existing urban boundaries
•Nearly 80% of new homes and over 60% of new jobs will be near public transit
Yawza!

by Thayer-D on Jul 24, 2013 4:56 pm • linkreport

It certainly shows demand for Metro, but I thought TOD was a broader category. Am I wrong there?

You're correct, there are other forms of transit other than heavy rail. You can see the demand for streetcars based on the property value increases on H ST and Columbia Pike. While buses are also transit, I'd generally agree that the demand for them isn't anything like the demand for heavy/light rail. From a demand/development perspective, it's all about rail.

The other thing that's very hot is walkability. But, I'd agree that you don't need rail nearby to have walkability. Shirlington is a good example of that.

I understand all of that but I think your example underscores that these aren't the choices for the large majority of house hunters in the area. From our experience looking for a new home to buy this year the closer you are to walkable neighborhood the older a home will be with older fixtures and with awkward, less desirable layouts...I don't dispute the survey at all, I just don't think the premises they ask to choose between exists, at least for the DC area.

Didn't you just show that the choice exists based on your house hunting experience? In your case, you were looking at walkable homes that were smaller and more dated vs. a larger more updated home that's less walkable. I'm sure you could have also chosen between an even smaller townhouse or condo that was more updated vs. a larger home further away.

What the survey was saying is that a majority of folks are willing to accept a less desirable house for a better, more walkable location. That said, 44% of folks would agree with the choice you made (nicer house, not as walkable), so there's no shortage of people who think like you.

A lot more than 44% of the housing stock is like the home you just purchased, hence the prices of those kinds of houses is falling relative to the prices of the awkward, dated, closer in houses you passed over.

by Falls Church on Jul 24, 2013 5:00 pm • linkreport

AWITC,

walked around shirlington lately?

Quite a bit. A nice place for lunch, dead after 7 PM.

priced the units there? compared to less transit focused locations in NoVa?

Yes, it costs about the same as the non-TOD apartment building next to my office.

by Fitz on Jul 24, 2013 5:00 pm • linkreport

I've been there on weekend evenings, and its very lively. Loads of people walking around, to the restaurants,to the theater and movies, etc. On weekend days, its also usually got lots of people.

Maybe I've been there in better weather, or maybe its just much quieter on weeknights.

I do not where your non-TOD office building is. AFAICT shirlington commands a premium over less transit oriented, less walkable places nearby, like Park Center. If your office is closer to the techway (Tysons - Reston - Herndon - Eastern Loudoun) you have to factor in that the "favored quarter" commands a premium.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 24, 2013 5:06 pm • linkreport

So many Metro stops in the inner-core are still simply commuter lots. Until those are turned into truly "TOD" areas, how can you justify building more transit that no one is asking for?

In Virginia, there are only maybe three stations that are still primarily commuter lots.

People are absolutely asking for more transit-accessible housing. That's why most of the new development in the area is transit-accessible. That's also why the prices of transit-accessible housing is rising in relation to non-transit housing. PriceWaterhouse recently put out a study where they interviewed top developers throughout the country and they consistently said that demand for housing near rail is very hot in virtually every metro area.

Are you aware of any place in the DC area where the pricing/demand for highway-oriented housing is exceeding the pricing/demand for comparable transit-oriented housing?

by Falls Church on Jul 24, 2013 5:09 pm • linkreport

An inflexible anti-road stance to shift more dollars to transit is bound to fail.

For one, road building is a state responsibility. There are now more than 700,000 people in Loudoun and Prince William combined, and with that heft comes substantial political power in the statehouse. If officials in the two counties want a road, they'll have the ear of legislators and VDOT. That in itself is hard to beat.

It makes very little sense to make an appeal for transit versus roads when there are no major transit proposals or studies underway, other than Arlington's local streetcar projects. Mention was made in the artlcle of light rail from Tysons to Merrifield and beyond. But this is just a pie-in-the-sky dream. Unless there is a specific proposal, followed by a in-depth studies, it will remain nothing but a dream. How can an appeal be made to legislators to shift priorities and money to something that isn't even a proposal? Yes, TOD was mentioned as well, but that's a local--zoning, etc.--not a state issue.

So, first off, before being anti-this and -that, isn't it better to get something going that you can be for. There are several possible ideas that deserve further attention. For example, extending the Purple Line across the Potomac into Tysons, and then beyond. Isn't it better to push this idea (and others) forward, to get studies going, etc., than be a nay-sayer to a road 30 miles from the core that in all likelihood because of population growth will be built anyway.

by Sage on Jul 24, 2013 5:16 pm • linkreport

Even people outside the beltway want TOD, even if they aren't taking the metro every day. TOD Property gains and holds value faster than non TOD and it opens up a lot of possibilities for occasional trips during working hours, evenings and weekends.

Not everyone understands the benefits of TOD; so just because TOD has benefits does not mean that people are clamoring for it.

I think if lots of people were clamoring for TOD outside the Beltway then more people would simply live in TODs. Maybe, as someone said, they only really want other people to live in TODs.

by Scoot on Jul 24, 2013 5:16 pm • linkreport

The growing acceptance of TOD is extremely positive, but limited. There remains a very large segment of the population who prefer to live a suburban lifestyle, with a large house, yard and car.

TOD, unfortunately, does not work well with single family houses on quarter-acre lots. But people still desire that type of residence and are snatching them up. Ergo, the continuing sprawl in Loudoun and elsewhere as the region's population continues to grow. Developers wouldn't be building if the demand wasn't there, but it is there, and will be for the foreseeable future.

To be sure, TOD is prospering, too, but it's main adherents are young singles and empty nesters. Most families with children, however, still seem to strongly prefer the single-family house no matter how far out.

by Sage on Jul 24, 2013 5:49 pm • linkreport

Part of the problem with being a-theoretical is that you don't recognize trends. Growth Machine and Urban Regime theories are essential to understanding transportation and land use decision making.

I didn't know about R. Buchanan before the O'Connell piece (I probably did, just didn't pay that much attention to the composition of the 2030 Group, but it is a "Growth Coalition" element nonetheless), but when I saw the story, I just said, "Oh, he's the 21st century Til Hazel" cf. Carr Family, Milt Peterson, the Lerners, Doug Jemal, etc. They all have their spatial areas of interest and primary influence.

The only thing that's surprising is the surprise.

FWIW, local media are part of the Growth Coalition too. It's not like the Post ever editorializes against roadway expansion (e.g., ICC and the position of the Post vs. the position of the Baltimore Sun, which recognized that creating the ICC would have serious economic consequences on the funding of other transpo projects elsewhere in Maryland).

by Richard Layman on Jul 24, 2013 5:59 pm • linkreport

"An inflexible anti-road stance to shift more dollars to transit is bound to fail. "

there are lots of currently proposed road projects in NoVa.

AFAICT none is stirring the level of opposition this one is.

" There are now more than 700,000 people in Loudoun and Prince William combined, and with that heft comes substantial political power in the statehouse. If officials in the two counties want a road, they'll have the ear of legislators and VDOT. That in itself is hard to beat."

many elected officials from those counties OPPOSE the project. including Republicans, btw. Notably Congressman Frank Wolf, and Delegate Tim Hugo. Neither has been accused of being an urbanist, of being anti road, or of being reflexifely pro transit, AFAIK.

Rep Wolf represents most of LoCo, and I believe Del Hugo is from PWC.

Now some local elected officials support the road, of course. But its not a case of the local elected officials all lining up and pressuring Richmond. Its more of an alliance between Richmond (specifically the gov and his sec of transportation) developers like the one mentioned, and SOME local elected officials, against other local elected officials and some citizen groups.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 24, 2013 6:00 pm • linkreport

FWIW, a 1962 Fairfax County planning dept. report, _Vanishing Land_, cautioned about hopscotch development and the need for better land use controls and focus. It's not like planners didn't warn them.

by Richard Layman on Jul 24, 2013 6:01 pm • linkreport

Re: DaveG's point: Can't a developer make just as much money through infill, renovation, multi-use, TOD, etc. projects as they can through building more sprawl on greenfields?

Sure, if they own that particular land. But not if they don't. And they usually don't.

I've argued that the scaling up of production construction for residential and commercial development "produced" sprawl because the only comparatively larger tracts of land suitable for developing on larger scale (in the 1800s and early 1900s think Wardman in Columbia Heights or Newlands in Chevy Chase) were outside the core. The process continues apace.

by Richard Layman on Jul 24, 2013 6:05 pm • linkreport

"Isn't it better to push this idea (and others) forward, to get studies going, etc., than be a nay-sayer to a road 30 miles from the core that in all likelihood because of population growth will be built anyway."

this blog is called greater GREATER washington. there are those of us who live outside the core, who are concerned about these issues. Many people who live in Loudoun who may not be much concerned with the purple line or the DC height limit do not want THIS road. They want other improvements to accommodate LoCos growing population - interchanges on rte 7, for example - but not a north south road (most traffic is east west) which will speed development in an area where they want it slowed - and will involve disruption to some local communities.

Those opponents are largely folks who live in SFHs and have children. Not everything is about abstract debates about lifestyles, or about transit vs roads in general. This is about a particular controversial road.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 24, 2013 6:07 pm • linkreport

Clearly the folks in VA neither desire nor deserve this road. Of course the opposition is well-founded. What is difficult to imagine is that this boondoggle gift to large property holders was seriously proposed at all.

by goldfish on Jul 24, 2013 6:10 pm • linkreport

"It makes very little sense to make an appeal for transit versus roads when there are no major transit proposals or studies underway, other than Arlington's local streetcar projects."

there is currently a study of the I66 corridor to Centreville and beyond, in which orange line extension, LRT, and BRT are all under consideration, as well as VRE expansion. There is a study going on of how best to provide transit to SE FAirfax/Ft belvoir, including options to lengthen either the blue or yellow lines, or to build LRT. There is a proposal for a transitway (probably buses at first) from Tysons to Falls Church to Alexandria - there is a study now underway. There is also a study of Rte 7 west of Tysons, with a possible transit/HOV lane. And there are discussions between FFX and MoCo of reviving express bus service across the Legion bridge.

There is a LOT of transit under study in NoVa, quite apart from several projects in Arlington and Alexandria.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 24, 2013 6:12 pm • linkreport

@AWitC: "There is a LOT of transit under study..."

That's nice. Good thing it none of it will run on the roads.

by goldfish on Jul 24, 2013 6:21 pm • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity

Good points. Indeed, there is considerable opposition to the Bi-County Parkway, some local. But with continuing population growth in Loudoun and Prince William, it is all but inevitable this road, or something similar, will be built.

So far this year, Loudoun has issued building permits for 2,731 units, of which 911 were for single-family detached homes, and 1,048, single-family attached. The Ashburn and Dulles subareas account for 77.1% of all permits issued.

Last year, permits for 3,872 units were issued. Of this, single-family detached and single-family attached totaled 2,948.

Thousands of people are moving to Loudoun. More roads will be needed.

Links:

http://www.loudoun.gov/documents/43/10332/10345/10379/11442/2012%20Annual%20Residential%20Building%20Permits%20Summary_201304301156292290.pdf

http://www.loudoun.gov/documents/43/10332/10345/10383/11237/06_2013%20(June)%20Permit%20Update_201307241337146414.pdf

by Sage on Jul 24, 2013 6:22 pm • linkreport

Goldfish,

A lot of those would run along existing roads where we already have develoent and capacity would be added (via transit) to existing roads. A significant difference.

AWITC,
Don't forget the crystal city streetcar.

by drumz on Jul 24, 2013 6:27 pm • linkreport

@Sage:"Thousands of people are moving to Loudoun County"

This is horrifying, just the worst thing ever. It must be stopped at all costs! Suggest a moratorium on all construction and cancellation of all road projects.

by goldfish on Jul 24, 2013 6:34 pm • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity

Again, excellent points. I am aware that there had been "talk" about extending the Orange and Blue lines, but not that studies have been undertaken. Good to hear that.

Again, though, these are mostly at the rudimentary or "dream" stage. It may be years before anything concrete emerges, particularly anything involving Metro or light rail.

by Sage on Jul 24, 2013 6:35 pm • linkreport

Most of the Fredericksburg, Brunswick, and Manassas lines, don't really go anywhere with major populations once outside of Alexandria (for VRE) or Rockville (for MARC).

Except for Fredericksburg, Gaithersburg, Frederick, Manassas and the counties behind them. with hundreds of thousands of people. Call it nothing.

You are DC-centric. More people live outside of DC than in DC. The world does not end at the Beltway.

by Jasper on Jul 24, 2013 9:05 pm • linkreport

@Sage

Your statistics show that more people are actually moving to Loudoun County to live in townhouses (single family attached) than detached homes on 1/4 acre lots.

In fact, the total housing stock for the county is 53% single family detached and 47% townhouses/condos/apartments, trending toward the latter.

I've been driving through the county a lot of late. If you spend any time there you realize that much of the housing is townhouses or condos or single family on small lots.

Which leads me to think that people aren't opposed to density or TOD. I guess that's why even a completely Republican board of supervisors voted to support the silver line.

by jd on Jul 24, 2013 9:35 pm • linkreport

Well documented and well written article. After 7 months of research and FOIA documents, I see some very simple truths: this road is being ramrodded by Mr. Buchanan and other developers for their personal gain; this road was never designed to help commuters, but to enrich political- contributing members of development-related interests and to enrich the coffers of the State; this road is for economic development and is in direct violation of the recently passed constitutional amendment limiting the use of eminent domain; the cost of building this road will be astronomical but does not help our current east/west congestion. After all is researched, said and done, the plainest of truths is "follow the money."

by Page Snyder on Jul 24, 2013 10:29 pm • linkreport

As I said in the previous article on this road, I don't understand how the road supposed to be "an easier connection to Dulles". The road ends abruptly 10-12 miles before the terminal, dumping you onto a series of existing roads.

I'm also surprised that the road, as shown on the Post's map, is not proposed to connect to the existing Loudoun County Parkway, just a mile or two away.

by Frank IBC on Jul 25, 2013 8:21 am • linkreport

More people are moving to Loudon and PW to live in condos and townhouses not so much because they like high density, but that even with the inflated salaries of the DC metro area, SFHs (at least new construction) are out of reach financially unless you have two well-earning members in the household. You also have a high amount of single people moving to the area and for their first home they like the idea of a maintenance-free lifestyle.

I spent about 4 years working in Fairfax and living in Haymarket (yes, one of "those people"). Despite living in a high density townhouse development and needing my car for everything, I would've taken transit to work every day if I could. I actually did ride VRE for about 6 months when I was forced to take a temporary job in DC. There was no way I was driving it and overall I really enjoyed VRE.

I think a lot of people living in the NoVA outskirts actually would take transit to work if offered the opportunity, the demographics are ripe for the support of such. The problem is VA overall is still very road-friendly and lowering the gas tax isn't really forcing anyone off the road either. People like their cars and unless you can show some significant cost or time savings, they want let go of them.

Getting to the Bi-County Parkway, anyone who's followed it closely would know it's being shoved down taxpayer's throats at the expense of the business and real estate interests that seek to profit from it. Is there a need for at least some north-south relief in the area? Absolutely. But we have both Rt. 28 and Rt. 15 that are parking lots during rush hour and could use help. For Rt. 28, I think re-doing the interchange with I-66 and offering some form of transit on the stretch from Manassas to Dulles would be huge. Rt. 15 may not be as transit-friendly so finishing the widening to at least Rt. 50 heading north, and widening it from Rt. 29 to I-66 would be a significant help.

I've been a huge proponent of VRE coming to Gainesville/Haymarket for years but it seems all they're getting afforded are meager sums for studies for the time being. I think a lot of people living in Bristow/Gainesville/Haymarket would take VRE if they didn't have to drive over to Broad Run and fight for spots. I even knew of people who lived in Warrenton and Culpeper who would drive in to Broad Run to hope on the train.

by Joe on Jul 25, 2013 8:25 am • linkreport

@ Joe:I think a lot of people living in the NoVA outskirts actually would take transit to work if offered the opportunity, the demographics are ripe for the support of such.

Off course it is. But DC-centric people ignore the fact that there are literally millions living outside the Beltway.

Metro, VRE and MARC were designed to get people in and out of DC. Not to get them from Woodbridge to Burke. Or from Potomac to Reston. Or from Haymarket to Lorton.

There are only roads out there. They are full of traffic. There is no hope of getting transit there, so people ask for more roads. The logic is pretty solid.

Now, with a little rezoning, the Fairfax County Parkway could be easily be made ready for an extension of the Blue Line. And the PW Parkway could easily be an extension of the Yellow Line. The Orange Line can go to Warrenton, and US-50 desperately needs some form of rail from the Mall to Middleburg.

by Jasper on Jul 25, 2013 9:24 am • linkreport

its not about DC centrism, its about the ridership levels necessary to justify the high cost of a rail line. Folks from europe where the citizens are fine with high taxes to fund rail, may not be willing to accept the constraints in the USA where the pool of funds for new transit starts is quite limited.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 25, 2013 9:32 am • linkreport

Falls Church,

Didn't you just show that the choice exists based on your house hunting experience? In your case, you were looking at walkable homes that were smaller and more dated vs. a larger more updated home that's less walkable.

I don't think that's what survey respondents were thinking.

What the survey was saying is that a majority of folks are willing to accept a less desirable house for a better, more walkable location.

That survey question made no such distinction.

That said, 44% of folks would agree with the choice you made (nicer house, not as walkable), so there's no shortage of people who think like you. A lot more than 44% of the housing stock is like the home you just purchased, hence the prices of those kinds of houses is falling relative to the prices of the awkward, dated, closer in houses you passed over.

No, I prefer walkable, which is why we bought a place near TOD.

by Fitz on Jul 25, 2013 10:00 am • linkreport

I hope Fairfax and Arlington are going to fight it, they are the golden geese in VA.

by m2fc on Jul 25, 2013 10:11 am • linkreport

AWITC,

I do not where your non-TOD office building is. AFAICT shirlington commands a premium over less transit oriented, less walkable places nearby, like Park Center.

I work next to Park Center, prices are pretty much the same for the two apartment buildings next to us as they are in Shirlington. This is according to a friend of mine who just moved here. I did the same three years ago. I have no idea why people would pay to live here at those prices. Doesn't make sense.

by Fitz on Jul 25, 2013 10:17 am • linkreport

Good analysis!

by Connie Moser on Jul 25, 2013 11:51 am • linkreport

@Fitz
I live at Park Center; rental prices are assuredly lower than in Shirlington. Parking is free too. :-)

@Drumz
I was considering the MWCOG concept of the inner-core: DC, Arlington, Alexandria. I'm ecstatic to see redevelopment of the parking lots at Vienna and Merrifield. But there are still commuter lots at Anacostia, Falls Church, Van Dorn, Huntington (might as well be Alexandria).

I don't understand why that's trying to prove a negative. I'm stoked to see the Columbia Pike street car installed, and even more excited to see the BRT my city is building. But even those have a chorus of naysayers; the call for a light rail from Tysons to Merrifield - while not a bad idea - is news to me. Have any studies been started? Meanwhile, the "western bypass" has been a concept for decades.

If transit can connect communities in Loudoun with Prince William, let's start talking about that. Rail down Sulley Road, perhaps? But all I hear about from TOD folks is extending Metro's organge line down I-66; any new/improved roads are the work of the devil.

Regarding the Silver Line: it's only MWAA's project because the Commonwealth shrugged its responsibility. And I'll bet real money that drivers won't see less traffic on the DTR. And you claim the tolls didn't go up that much? I don't know where you buy your sandwiches, but the tolls at the main plaza go up to $2.50 January 1st, after already increasing by 75¢; I'll bet real money (again) that they go up (a lot), each year.

by Rich on Jul 25, 2013 1:11 pm • linkreport

Metro's "core" is different though. That's what I was going for but I see what you mean.

That said, you can find TOD at most of those stations, it's just on land that wasn't owned by metro (or maybe it was in certain instances).

Huntington,

http://midtown-alexandria.com/

Springfield mall is being demolished and re-developed as a mixed use development as well.

The state and arlington county recently agreed to sell air rights above 66/EFC station to be developed as mixed use.

AWITC, outline various projects that are being studied as well. I'd wholeheartedly agree that more should be conducted (and a lot of existing ones approved and planned for construction).

Tolls are around $2.25 right now, that said, I think tolling is an excellent way to manage demand as well and would probably have a bigger impact on DTR traffic than the silver line. I'd also toll all of 495 (not just the 4 new lanes they got) for similar reasons.

by drumz on Jul 25, 2013 1:41 pm • linkreport

btw and fyi, page 17 of this pdf shows what the "core" stations are.

http://www.wmata.com/pdfs/planning/Final%20Report_Station%20Access%20&%20Capacity%20Study%202008%20Apr.pdf

by drumz on Jul 25, 2013 1:42 pm • linkreport

"I work next to Park Center, prices are pretty much the same for the two apartment buildings next to us as they are in Shirlington. This is according to a friend of mine who just moved here. I did the same three years ago. I have no idea why people would pay to live here at those prices. Doesn't make sense."

Ive looked online, and it appears to me that holding constant for square footage, etc Shirlington is more expensive.

If you are asking why people pay as much at Park Center, I have to ask, compared to what? also the different buildings there are of different ages and hence rents. Perhaps that is the confusion - are you comparing the newest building at Park Center (I think built after 2000) to the oldest at Shirlington, from the 1980s I think?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 25, 2013 1:45 pm • linkreport

"Good points. Indeed, there is considerable opposition to the Bi-County Parkway, some local. But with continuing population growth in Loudoun and Prince William, it is all but inevitable this road, or something similar, will be built."

I dont see why. Most people who live in LoCo work in LoCo or in fairfax. Not in PWC. And most of the folks in PWC, work in PWC, in FFX, or in the core. Some commute from PWC to LoCo, but not that many, and if the rural crescent is kept rural, maybe not that many more - and expanding rte 28 will improve north south access as well.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 25, 2013 1:50 pm • linkreport

"But there are still commuter lots at Anacostia, Falls Church, Van Dorn, Huntington (might as well be Alexandria)."

there are already plans afoot for development at Huntington, I believe, and there definitely are at Falls Church. Van Dorn lot is in fact rather small. Note Huntingon and several other stops will still need parking - neither Fairfax nor WMATA is ready to eliminate park and ride as a concept.

As for the stations in Anacostia, its not clear to me why the jurisdictions in Northern Virginia would want development to go there, nor how well they would accommodate people working in NoVa, even in core parts of NoVa.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 25, 2013 1:54 pm • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCity

"' ... it is all but inevitable this road, or something similar, will be built.'"

"I dont see why. Most people who live in LoCo work in LoCo or in fairfax. Not in PWC. And most of the folks in PWC, work in PWC, in FFX, or in the core. Some commute from PWC to LoCo, but not that many, and if the rural crescent is kept rural, maybe not that many more - and expanding rte 28 will improve north south access as well."

It's a basic matter of mobility, and not just for commuters.

At this time, travel south from Loudoun is generally limited to Rt. 15 and Rt. 28. That's problematic for a county of 312,000, soon to cross 400,000. There's already talk and action to expand Rt. 28 to four lanes between Rt. 50 and the Dulles Toll Road. Route 15, unfortunately, terminates at Rt. 29. For many in Loudoun, the way to I-95 involves taking Rt. 28 south, swinging west on I-66, and then heading south on State Road 234.

With the proposed Bi-County Parkway connecting into State Road 234, already a partially limited-access highway, travel south will be eased. Pressure on Rt. 28 should alleviate as well. As Rt. 15 serves as an rural arterial with many intersections and turnoffs, both controlled and not, upgrading to an limited-access expressway is almost a non-starter. It can be done, of course, but, at a very high cost, and a lot of screaming. But, problematically, as already mentioned, it terminates at Rt. 29.

One way to look at the Bi-County Parkway is as Loudoun's equivalent to the Fairfax County Parkway.

As for preserving the rural crescent, I believe Loudoun is taking steps in this regard. Broaching the crescent will be a really big issue, and it's unlikely to occur, but you never know what may happen 20-30 years from now. It will be a watershed moment if development jumps Rt. 15 in the southern part of the county near Aldie. I don't see that happening in the foreseeable future, and would be distressed if it did, but already a lot of development is occurring in and around Rt. 15 in Prince William County -- Haymarket, etc. Proposals to expand I-66 to four lanes each direction from State Road 234 to Rt. 15 are moving forward.

Solely because of continuing population growth, I see a major N-S road being built, and in the not too distant future. It's all but inevitable, as I said earlier. Is it a win-win for Loudoun? Not particularly. Will it benefit Dulles? Perhaps. Will it enhance mobility? Probably. Is it truly necessary? Depends who you ask. Is it controversial? Yes. Will it be built? Yes.

Loudoun County is rapidly changing. It wasn't all that long ago that Braddock Road adjacent to the South Riding development was a gravel road. I know because I drove on it, and this was in the mid-1990s. Another Loudoun arterial, Sycolin Road, was only completely paved in 2009! Drove on that one, too, thinking it was a short-cut to Leesburg, only to plod mile after mile on gravel. The county can no longer be considered rural, except in the far western and northern reaches.

Since the 1990s, Loudoun's population has grown by 8,000 to 15,000 each year. Building permits for more than 5,000 units will likely be issued this year.

Until there is a sea change of thinking regarding sprawl, roads will continue to be built. The current tilt toward transit use and TOD will ultimately win out. But in the meantime, for ex-urb counties like Loudoun, Prince William, and Stafford, the push (and need) for more roads will only continue.

by Sage on Jul 25, 2013 7:20 pm • linkreport

Sage:

I do agree with your conclusion that it's a controversial road, the potential benefits aren't rock-solid and it probably will still be built. Just a few things I had to nitpick:

"There's already talk and action to expand Rt. 28 to four lanes between Rt. 50 and the Dulles Toll Road."

It's actually an expansion from 6 to 8 lanes southbound from the Toll Road to Rt. 50, and northbound from McLearen Rd. to the Toll Road. It is moving forward as I believe the NVTA just approved the funds to do it the other day. No idea on timetable though.

"Route 15, unfortunately, terminates at Rt. 29."

Rt. 15 just starts sharing the road with Rt. 29 at Gainesville. Rt. 15 in its entirety actually runs from SC to NY.

"One way to look at the Bi-County Parkway is as Loudoun's equivalent to the Fairfax County Parkway."

Fairfax County Parkway isn't necessarily a parkway though. I don't know if it was originally meant to be, but development and lights are pretty widespread along the route and only now has there been a concerted effort to make it more limited access. I think the opponents of the Bi-County Parkway are fearing just that. When you have deep-pocketed developers who own land along its proposed route and throwing money into getting it built it makes you wonder how truly "limited access" it will be.

"Proposals to expand I-66 to four lanes each direction from State Road 234 to Rt. 15 are moving forward."

Technically the upcoming widening of I-66 is from Rt. 29 to Rt. 15, the last widening that finished in 2006 was from Rt. 234 Business to Prince William Parkway (Rt. 234). I believe VDOT released an intent to award to the contractor and it's set to start in the Spring. This is definitely needed though as well as the future I-66/Rt. 15 interchange redesign. The queuing at Exit 40 in the afternoons is flat-out dangerous.

by Joe on Jul 26, 2013 7:56 am • linkreport

@Joe

Excellent points! Thank you for the clarifications and specifics. Very much appreciated!

by Sage on Jul 26, 2013 9:54 am • linkreport

Bi-County Parkway sprawl would enrich key boosters
--------

And the Silver Line is enriching its key boosters - landowners in Tysons and the Dulles Corridor.

So, the point of the argument against the Bi-County Parkway (besides the simple fact that its a proposed road) is...?

by ceefer66 on Jul 26, 2013 1:18 pm • linkreport

I pointed this out earlier. My response then,

Costs - more than just dollars but in being able to get more density into tysons while mitigating the traffic/environmental impact of more cars. Plus, landowners around the silver line in tysons are also financing many of the changes as well through higher property taxes. MWAA is also shouldering the cost of the Silver Line (through its tolls on the DTR) otherwise it wouldn't have been built. Not by VDOT at least.

Benefits - You're moving a lot of people through an already dense area and taking cars off the road. By encouraging transit you're also helping the environment and safety on the ground.

Disclosure - People have been very upfont about the project as a development tool, same with streetcars. You can be upfront about it for roads as well (many people are). I'm not saying anything done has been illegal or unethical but it helps to just be upfront about these things.

You can challenge individual parts of my response, that's fine I'm not being strict but the projects aren't equivalent and the article is seeking to make this more clear.

BTW Ceefer, you and I actually agreed on something! We both want to knock down RFK and replace it with a neighborhood.

by drumz on Jul 26, 2013 1:44 pm • linkreport

When I read these articles and the comments that follow I can't help but feel there's a great deal of hate for people that live in the exurbs. I'm sorry but not everyone can afford to live in a nice close in area with good schools. So there's a plan to create a North/South freeway that doesn't reduce the need or function of the Silver Line which moves East/West and it will improve the economy of the exurbs. You know that not all economic development has to happen in a few locations right? What exactly is so wrong in improving the economy where regular income people live? I don't know if you've noticed but while home prices have continued to move up in NW DC with 8-10 bids per home, the folks in the exurbs are seeing demand fall and prices likely to drift lower because even though prices are only back to 65% of peak out here (as opposed to your 110% of peak), it's still too expensive for regular people. Opening up additional tracts of land will increase housing supply and give more opportunity for families making 50-60k a year to buy. So what if it benefits some landowners? Everything that's done benefits someone.

Want to reduce traffic on 66 by building out the orange line all the to Manassas? Great, I'd be the first person to ride it. For now the only option is car and since I don't work in DC, the worst of my traffic is on 66 which is much worse than 495 so once I hit the beltway there's really no reason to not drive the rest of the way. Sure I could park at Vienna and take Metro from there but I would have to change lines and take it all the way into DC then back out on the Red line which takes a good hour. Meanwhile I can do the drive on 495 in half that time and have my car available to leave at a moments notice if I feel like it. Now if the orange line went to Manassas I'd take it because I could avoid all of 66 and even with the transfer it would either save me time or only cost a little bit more but it would also reduce my driving stress from 66.

by Manassas Resident on Jul 27, 2014 12:48 pm • linkreport

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