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Three-Beltways boosters perpetuate myths about growth

When the "2030 Group" recently launched to push for "good sustainable growth," some charged that it's just a stalking horse for the freeway lobby and the roads they've been pushing unsuccessfully for decades.

The 3-Beltway vision. Image from CSG.

That charge stemmed largely from the involvement of cofounder John Tilghman "Til" Hazel, a longtime freeway proponent. Jonathan O'Connell recently interviewed Hazel, who largely confirmed the fears by giving essentially one complaint about Fairfax County: that leaders had turned away from his endless freeway-building vision.

Hazel doesn't just want one Outer Beltway, he wants two, in addition to the existing Fairfax County Parkway, for a total of four circumferential Fairfax freeways. O'Connell, to his credit, posed most of the counterarguments to endless freeway-building. Can't Metro also relieve congestion? Isn't Fairfax trying to grow at Tysons, around Metro stations? Isn't the worst traffic east-west in Fairfax, along the current corridors, rather than north-south in the directions that any beltway would travel? Didn't the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor grow without increasing traffic? Are you the "king of sprawl"?

Hazel, who was unapologetic about being the "king of sprawl," responded with answers that come right out of the 1950s, which was when Hazel was in his 30s and perhaps developing his worldview. Unfortunately, he doesn't seem to have learned much since.

Hazel's comments perpetuate several longstanding myths.

Myth: Traffic congestion can be "solved."

Hazel said, if Virginia had three Beltways, "We'd have minimal traffic congestion, we wouldn't have people fighting to get north-south, we wouldn't have the Beltway jammed up." Nope.

The only places without traffic congestion are places where few people drive. The dominant planning paradigm of the mid-20th century was to build more roads when roads filled up. Then planners discovered "induced demand," where road development simply triggered even more exurban housing growth leading to even more traffic.

New highways in metropolitan areas fill up in as little as five years. Neither Atlanta nor Houston's multiple Beltways have erased congestion, and studies of the Outer Beltway here have shown that it has little to no effect on reducing Beltway traffic.

Yes, traffic in Northern Virginia is a problem. But it's not really a problem that's going to go away. At best, it can be managed, and directing growth in ways that generate little traffic, such as putting housing near jobs and both near Metro, as Arlington did, is the best way to manage it.

Myth: Traffic just moves somewhere else if you don't widen roads.

Hazel is really angry that I-66 isn't twice as wide as it is.

[Fairfax] took all the highways off the map in the '70s and they refused to build them. And we had the big shootout over [Interstate] 66, which is now inadequate because the Arlington crowd said, "Who wants to ever go to Fairfax? We don't want all that traffic," not realizing that it would be on Lee Highway and Arlington Boulevard if it wasn't for 66. They defeated a decent 66. It should have been eight lanes instead of four.
Outright false. More people would be driving to work instead of taking Metro if there had been a wider 66. More people would be living west of Manassas and working in downtown DC. A few people might drive on Lee Highway and Arlington Boulevard instead, but relatively few. A wider 66 would have induced its own demand.

Myth: We need more freeways because transit can't serve everyone.

Hazel feels that the Silver Line will be inadequate because it only goes east-west:

[Y]ou ride it from Reston to Tysons or you ride it to Tysons from the District. But look at where the people come from. They come from the south, the north, they come from the west, they come in a car.

When you look at where people come from to Tysons, they come from all points of the compass, and Metro's not going to do that. If Metro was a big solution, why isn't 66 in better shape than it is today?

Hazel is right that the Silver Line isn't enough for a growing Tysons. That's why it's also important to plan light rail and buses north-south. But when Hazel says "they come in a car," he's perpetuating a common argument against transit: some people have to drive.

Yes, some people have to drive. Many people don't live near transit or can't use it for various reasons. Some also want to drive. That's fine. But today, those people already drive, and we don't have these Beltways Hazel wants. Right now, the transportation infrastructure serves (not always perfectly) the people who commute now.

New infrastructure is not really for them. It's for the new people. If we build Beltways and Potomac River crossings, the new people who work at Tysons will live in Frederick. If we build transit, they'll live in Falls Church, Vienna, Reston and the District.

The biggest planning fallacy is assuming that new people will live in the same places, do the same jobs, and travel the same ways as the existing people. New roads aren't for you, they're for them. Where do we want them to live and work?

Slightly more odd is how Hazel says the Silver Line won't relieve congestion along I-66 because people come from the north and south. Last I checked, I-66 didn't go to the north or south.

Myth: Because some people want suburban houses, we need lots of new suburban houses.

Tysons is a political cop-out for where people are going to go. The best they say Tysons can handle is 100,000 residents all in high-rises. Young people all think living on the 10th floor of a high-rise is great, but as soon as you get a couple of kids, you want to live in a place with a back yard. Where do the other million people who are coming into the region live?
How about all the houses that are already there? The ones on the market? And especially the ones which have lost considerable value and are going into foreclosure or are available on short sales?

National data show that by 2025, only 28% of households will be families with children. Yes, many families are having kids, and while some want to stay in the city, many want to live in suburban houses. But at the same time, there are many empty nesters living in suburban houses who want to go to the city. The solution is simple: Have the people who want the suburban houses buy the ones that are for sale.

Housing prices have stayed higher in urban than suburban areas, suggesting that more people want to go to the city than go away from it. The question is not how many people are going to want to live in houses, it's how many more people will want to in future decades than do today. For our region, which is growing, that number is probably positive, but how much?

It's not so high that Northern Virginia has to double or triple its sprawl. And since the urban housing is even more desirable, Virginia should be developing more housing in walkable areas than housing in sprawl areas. Hazel's transportation vision would put all the infrastructure in the sprawl areas, which makes sense to him since he's a sprawl developer, but shouldn't to anyone else.

Myth: Metro didn't relieve congestion.

This isn't so much a myth as a bizarrely ridiculous assertion from Hazel:

If Metro was a big solution, why isn't 66 in better shape than it is today?
Metro enabled massive growth without widening I-66. It's that induced demand again. Transit induces its own demand as well. Build a new transportation facility, and new people will fill it. Just as new roads only make existing ones less crowded in Hazel's imaginary world, so do rail lines not make existing roads less crowded either.

Instead, both spur growth. The only question is whether we want mostly transit-oriented growth or mostly sprawl growth. At least Hazel isn't shy about admitting he wants sprawl growth. His vision for Northern Virginia is to fill all the farmland for 50 miles with housing subdivisions. It's not anti-growth to argue that this isn't the right future.

Myth or reality: The 2030 Group is serious about its desire for "good sustainable growth"?

I have always had a fundamental commitment to growth, prosperity and people, and the antis are against all three. I don't make any apologies, I don't defend it, if you don't like it, don't listen to me.
The reason Hazel is so frustrated is that most residents and leaders of the region realized, starting around the time Fairfax took those highways off the map in the '70s, that growth, prosperity and people didn't have to mean sprawl development, and that's not what people wanted.

So, we don't have to listen to him. But he's behind a new group that claims to be for "good sustainable growth." The site sounds good. But the question for the staff and other leaders of the 2030 group is: Are you seriously interested in sustainable growth, which Hazel is not? Or are you just a front group for the freeway lobby?

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


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Can we get another river crossing at the very least? And another highway to parallel 95? I was stuck in bumper to bumper traffic from south of Fredricksburg all the way to to DC yesterday. I tried 1, same problem.

I'm opposed to ever increasing highway spending, but the highways we have do not support the amount of traffic on htem on a Sunday afternoon (you should have seen southbound 95). We need relief NOW.

by Redline SOS on May 24, 2010 3:56 pm • linkreport

Hoo-boy. Yet. Another. Dinosaur.

How seriously is this dinosaur being taken by Northern Virginia elected officials?

Maybe I should start prognosticating about international diplomacy and lobbying the State Department. I've never studied it or done it but I have gut ideas and can make stuff up just as well as Mr. Hazel can.

by Cavan on May 24, 2010 4:03 pm • linkreport

That 3-beltway image reminds me of the super-slo-mo videos of nuclear bomb testing.

by Alex B. on May 24, 2010 4:07 pm • linkreport

If "sustainable growth" means continuing the developer gravy-train and bottom-line led by none other than Hazel and is cronies at the expense of actual "sustainable growth" from an environmental standpoint, then yes.

by Andrew on May 24, 2010 4:24 pm • linkreport

@redline SOS
Better and faster Rail service in the northeast and to Richmond/Hampton Roads would also get a lot of people off the road and be better than widening 95. Thats why Va. HSR is so important, in addition to the NE corridor. My parents live outside of richmond and during the spring and summer I pretty much end up taking US 1 the whole way. Same when I got to the chesapeake bay to visit my grandparents river house.

by Canaan on May 24, 2010 4:44 pm • linkreport

Til Hazel is an old man whose time is passing. His outdated thinking is based on suburban models that are no longer relevant, all the more so regarding the DC region, which is rapidly urbanizing.

There was one comment, however, that I tend to agree with:

"Look, they've [Metro] got the second-highest train ridership in the country. They've gone bankrupt cause they're not running it right ..."


by Metro User on May 24, 2010 4:46 pm • linkreport

Hazel means "sustainable growth" in the same way that the "Club for Growth" means "prosperity": an extremely narrowly focused definition of growth and prosperity continuing for Hazel and other developers at the expense of pretty much everyone else.

by J.D. Hammond on May 24, 2010 4:58 pm • linkreport

Roads and transit do not induce growth. Any new infrastructure (be it roads, rail, bus, bridges, airports whatever) enables growth. Infrastructure is the backbone of the economy. Without infrastructure we'd all be stuck in a massive swamp here.

by Jasper on May 24, 2010 5:15 pm • linkreport

It will be hard for people to understand but we need both highways and rail.

Rail and Bus do not go alot of places in the area and there needs to be something done about that.

Anyone who says differ I will give you a list of places inside and outside the beltway and you try to get to them by bus or rail and see how you do.

Silver line going west to east is a problem and it is a problem with the rest of the system also.

You would think after 30 years of mistakes someone would have thought about that.

All of the lines in system go west/east, west/east/south or north, north/south, north/south/west or east. Who the f**k came up with that design

They should have just shortened the line to create a north or south spur to serve an area that will have no type of rail service instead of take the rail straight down a highway.

by kk on May 24, 2010 5:25 pm • linkreport

kk: We need roads and rail, yes. We have roads to all areas. The Hazel question is whether we need to build big freeways on top of the ones we have.

by David Alpert on May 24, 2010 5:31 pm • linkreport

We've spent the last 50 years building roads and roads and roads. We could spend the next 50 building nothing but rails and still probably have more roads. The "we need both" argument is an apologists cry for more of the same.

As for this: "They've gone bankrupt cause they're not running it right"

Uh, no. They've gone bankrupt because they have no funding. And by the way, every state highway department in the country is also bankrupt, but does he mention that? Nope.

by BeyondDC on May 24, 2010 5:44 pm • linkreport

>Roads and transit do not induce growth. Infrastructure enables growth.

In a generic sense infrastructure enables growth. In a specific sense, what type of infrastructure you build induces growth that is dependent on that type of infrastructure.

by BeyondDC on May 24, 2010 5:46 pm • linkreport

"The "we need both" argument is an apologists cry for more of the same."

No, believe it or not, there are people who think we need both on this issue. Just b/c we've skewed to one direction in the past doesn't mean that we should make the same mistake going forward in the future, but in the opposite direction. It doesn't mean that it has to be either/or.

by Vik on May 24, 2010 6:34 pm • linkreport

@ David

In Maryland and Virginia outside of the beltway roads are needed or roads need to be widened

Inside of the beltway we need more and better transit that covers all areas.

With the bus and rail lines there are many problems

lack of integration between bus and rail compared to other systems and areas.

This includes all transit systems in the area excluding commuter buses and rails which is another problem.

With rail the main problem is that

All lines go inside of DC when some people are not going to these places, many people are going suburb to suburb

Taking rail is going out of the way when all the lines go to DC when you are going from one suburb to another

Need lines that go from county to county excluding DC

Need lines that cross the Potomac outside of DC

With buses

travel in circles
take the longest route possible between locations
many buses travel on one street but none on nearby streets
rush hour only buses

by kk on May 24, 2010 6:52 pm • linkreport

Re: BeyondDC

"As for this: 'They've gone bankrupt cause they're not running it right'

Uh, no. They've gone bankrupt because they have no funding."

Uh, no. The principal reason WMATA's going bust is because expenses are far outstripping revenue and government funding. That's what's known as mismanagement.

WMATA's cost projections clearly showed major problems arising in the near future; unfortunately they arrived a bit early due to the recession. But management continues to live in fairy dreamland, that somewhere, somehow a white knight will fly in with millions in cash to save the day.

Why doesn't WMATA do something as basic as raise the minimum retirement age to 60? That itself will save millions and millions! If anyone thinks government funding increases will be the save all, think again. That's exactly the kind of thinking that got WMATA into the dire situation it now faces. If cost reform is not soon forthcoming, the only solution will be to beg the Feds to assume control.

by Metro User on May 24, 2010 8:47 pm • linkreport

I'm opposed to ever increasing highway spending, but the highways we have do not support the amount of traffic on htem on a Sunday afternoon (you should have seen southbound 95). We need relief NOW.

Plus, I wish the moon were brighter. Brighter moon NOW!

by oboe on May 24, 2010 9:36 pm • linkreport


But what about the induced demand caused by your brighter moon? Would we have all kinds of new nocturnal species, crowding out the night sky?

Plus Big Candle would never go for it.

by TimK on May 24, 2010 10:40 pm • linkreport

I usually jump on Dave for his spin on Post articles, but this was one of the few where the interview was even worse than his spin. My only note is perhaps the reporter was trying to make Hazel look even more evil and stupid than he is - see the attached picture.

But he makes a few good points:

1) Metro to Dulles is a waste
2) Metro to Tysons won't work because it doesn't capture the flow of commuters. Sure, maybe a purple line to Bethesda and a streetcar down Rt. 7, but that is not going to happen for 20 years. What do we do in the meantime? Silver line has high potential for being a white elephant.
3) Do we need another N-S route in Fairfax? My sense is yes. Perhaps it can be done via rail at some point in the future, but I don't see that.

I think what Fairfax needs is not a ban on highways, but a way to get real town centers and shopping that is close by.

by charlie on May 24, 2010 10:41 pm • linkreport

As the residents of any other metropolitan area on the planet will tell you, the argument that the roads outside of the beltway are too narrow is absurd. Northern Virginia has more 3-lane arterials than it knows what to do with.

by andrew on May 24, 2010 10:42 pm • linkreport

Since the invention of the birth-control pill and the legalization of abortion, there is no excuse whatsoever for anyone to continue to subscribe to the Colonization Model of urban planning, which is driven by endless population growth.

Look, there's an essential disconnect between the Urban Planning community, no matter to which school of thought it may subscribe.

First, Urban Planners almost universally are people with training and careers in architecture, civil engineering, and/or/all local governance. They want to Build Things. In the USA/Canada and much of Latin America, this is because of the fact that in 1527, Spanish Conquistadores brought smallpox and comparable ailments to the Western Hemisphere, killing more than 99 percent of the population within a century.

Such economy as was seen in the New World after that time was one of Colonization. What resources were available were effectively uncontrolled by the living, wildlife populations used to managed harvesting by a large indigenous population exploded once the management was removed -- leading to a temporary massive surplus which was mis-perceived as unlimited bounty -- and in any case the mineral wealth had never been exploited here. The ideal of Limitless Expansion and Acquisition became so pervasive as to become unconscious and subliminal.

Yet even the most empty of lands becomes filled. We see the symptoms all around us. The land is full. Our technology is allowing us to escape the limits described by Thomas Malthus but we have entered the phase goverened by the Law of Diminishing Returns. We're full. That's all.

The "New Urbanism" and the "Smarter Growth versus Unlimited Sprawlsters" is a debate becoming moot. No more growth is necessary; we have birth control. We could enforce our immigration laws here in the States. All of this debate could go away.

Rather than perpetuating endless arguments between proponents of Endless Sprawl and proponents of Giant Beehives of Humanity, all we need to do is to realize that we can go to the modern European model. Germany, for example, looks a lot like parts of Maryland: A central, if diffuse core to urban areas, surrounded by edge cities, all surrounded by really older townships that were there before the urban cores and suburbias. A half hour drive in most of Germany will take you from ancient small township through farmlands and suburbia, other small townships, an urban core or two, it's all a gestalt of varying densities and context vies with history to produce the present state, a mix of history and modernity. The future is fit into place where there is both room and need.

Let's stop this endless expansion, but let's also stop this population-growth-driven intention to preserve the countryside and limit congestion by increasing density at the core. Given exclusive end, either and only either Sprawl or Towering City, let's abandon Sprawl. But there's a middle path: preserve what we have, achieve Zero Population Growth, and refine what exists by extending mass transit and also localization-of-services to the extant Sprawl. Let the cities remain what they are, but improve what is there. I think that this should be the proper dialog, and there's plenty of money to be made, and principles to be observed, within this mode, to keep the Urban Planner and Civil Engineering/Governance communities gainfully employed.


by Thomas Hardman on May 24, 2010 11:24 pm • linkreport

Thomas, even if we achieved zero population growth, the current model of urbanization is unsustainable. Do you think there will be oil forever? I mean, seriously.

by J.D. Hammond on May 24, 2010 11:29 pm • linkreport

Given exclusive end, either and only either Sprawl or Towering City, let's abandon Sprawl.

I kind of lost the thread at the beginning there, so I jumped to the conclusion. Unfortunately, I landed on this sentence.

I'm going to bed.

by oboe on May 24, 2010 11:48 pm • linkreport

Yah, it was kinda tl;dr, wasn't it.

by J.D. Hammond on May 24, 2010 11:55 pm • linkreport

The worldview of Hazel is in concordance with his understanding of his surroundings. Just as ours is and probably will continue to be, late into our latter years of life.

The main difference is, the expansive population booms that were happening half a century ago were mitigated to some extent. There can never be enough roads built (and enough money to properly maintain them all) to alleviate our massive growth. Honestly, I fault the thinking of those in the 40's and 50's for thinking that there needed to be a huge growth in population while neglecting to properly recognize what would happen to later generations (Loosely connected thinking, but what was the REAL rationale behind why such a cataclysmic population overgrowth started? Fears of being overrun? If so, how narrow-minded and easily convinceable a society it was back then.).

We have to speak logically against such deleterious projects. Imagine King George County connected to Calvert County via some super beltway. Unnecessary. Rural areas need to be preserved. And the fact that urban areas are no longer suffering from divestment, but rather are the main areas being re-invested (you kidding me? Nationals Park at the mouth of the Anacostia? btw, good game between the O
s & Nats on Friday :) through gentrification and other means, but it is allowing the proper growth to take place: concentrically THEN radially, and not just radially alone.

Speaking of concentric transit growth, just got back from the Purple Line meeting at College Park. I brought up an idea which seems to be pretty well circulated already: extension to National Harbor. The PM, Mike Madden, said that an extension to the New Carrollton station would allow for continued growth, specifically in the southerly direction towards the Harbor, and (thank goodness) there is supposedly serious consideration for the Purple Line to cross the Wilson Bridge to either Huntington or Eisenhower Ave Stations.

Please share any comments (although I know this isn't the best place, mods please let me know what would be a better place) because I truly think that we need to ensure properly sustainable growth.

by C. R. on May 24, 2010 11:58 pm • linkreport

I have 2 words for John Hazel: Los Angeles. There are plenty of freeways there, and even more congestion. Does he really live in this universe? He needs to work on thinking before he talks.

by DAK4Blizzard on May 25, 2010 12:33 am • linkreport

DAK4Blizzard said: I have 2 words for John Hazel: Los Angeles. There are plenty of freeways there, and even more congestion. Does he really live in this universe? He needs to work on thinking before he talks.

re: I guess you ain't ever traveled to Atlanta and Houston.......

by tim on May 25, 2010 3:22 am • linkreport

BDC wrote: And by the way, every state highway department in the country is also bankrupt, but does he mention that? Nope.

They're not bankrupt. Unlike the Feds, they actually have to adhere to a balanced budget...

Broke? Some are. Bankrupt? Nope.

by Froggie on May 25, 2010 7:00 am • linkreport

WMATA is also therefore not bankrupt, according to that definition.

by David Alpert on May 25, 2010 7:37 am • linkreport

This idea is a non starter. I think this guy's been living in a cave, or else he's an automobile lobbyist. Every bit of the undeveloped land out there that can be developed, will be developed. Good luck local ecology.

by Thayer-D on May 25, 2010 7:39 am • linkreport

Peak Oil is real. Time to limit the growth of roads.

by David Jackson on May 25, 2010 11:22 am • linkreport

@ David Jackson

So what about Peak Coal when that times comes ?

Dont think anyone in DC or the surrounding counties use power that comes from Solar, Nuclear, Water ?

Peak Oil has nothing to do with this; if it does that add every other fossil fuel.

by kk on May 25, 2010 3:50 pm • linkreport

Maybe we have the technology to stop population growth, as Thomas Hardman suggests, but even if so that it certainly not something we can control at the local level. It is therefore moot to this discussion.

by BeyondDC on May 25, 2010 4:37 pm • linkreport

J.D. Hammond wrote, in two different responses:

Thomas, even if we achieved zero population growth, the current model of urbanization is unsustainable. Do you think there will be oil forever? I mean, seriously.

[ ... ]

Yah, it was kinda tl;dr, wasn't it.

And thankfully C. R. immediately followed up my own tl:dr with an even longer post, which is always the appropriate response to anyone giving tl:dr. PS Mr Hammond, I here u liek mudkips.

That being said: No. I don't think that there will be oil forever. About two years ago, running in MoCo's special Elecoitn following the untimely death of the late lamented Mariyln Praisner, Dan Reed interviewed me at the peak of the Oil Speculation Bubble. We were at Dunkin' Donuts in Wheaton MD. Urbanization and transit-centric mixed-use was definitely discussed and I mentioned oil prices, pointed at all of the SUVs with one occupant driving by with tanks full of $4.35/gallon gasoline, and said "You know, that can't last. It's going to end." I barely mentioned Peak Oil; I don't think I needed to more than mention it to Mr Reed who is quite astute about lots of things.

Zero Population Growth, on-average of non-immigrant US populations, was achieved in about 1996 to 1998, depending which sources you cite. Since that time, all population growth in the USA has been due to either immigration -- legal or otherwise -- or the reproductive patterns of the first-generation American children of immigrant parents. Go to the Census and then to the US Department of Vital Statistics and look at mortality and birth rates. White population is aging and declining on average, black populations continue to grow but less quickly than they once did, and their starting percentage of the population is diluted by the white population decline to give an average overall of replacement-rate fertility for all US-born Americans. The reproductive rate of both native-americans/pacific-islanders in aggregate gives negative population growth and the same has been true for asian-americans. Zero Population Growth is easily attainable. Negative population growth would be occurring already, though not markedly so, if there was no immigration.

I also ran in the last MoCo special election, and the questions came up about Gaithersburg West and White Flint and comparable high-density mixed-use transit-centric development. Leaving the issue of supplying them out of the question -- I was speaking with other candidates at a forum before the Audubon Society -- I pointed out that Global Climate Change was moving the mid-Atlantic region into a drying trend. Hang the question of energy supply or transportation modes. We might not even be able to supply water for such large-scale urbanizations.

Keep in mind at all times: population change (or constancy) cannot be ignored as the factor underlying pretty much all other considerations.

by Thomas Hardman on May 25, 2010 6:17 pm • linkreport

David said

But at the same time, there are many empty nesters living in suburban houses who want to go to the city.

But plenty of suburban empty nesters want to remain in the suburbs. I can't tell you how many 60+ year olds I meet (and are related to) who when I ask why they still need the 2,000+ sq ft house tell me they just cannot imagine living somewhere smaller. Or want the space for when their grandchildren (and children) visit. Or any other number of reasons. They also grow attached to the community.

Also, I think many of us in the single and dual income no kids category desire a house or townhouse. Some like to garden. Some have dogs/cats. Some people collect things. And so on. This is possible to do but difficult in a 700 sq ft condo (actually gardening is basically impossible -- I do potted plants but it's not the same as a garden.)

A lot of people say they got the suburban home for the kids. For many people the kids were just one of many factors.

by lark on May 25, 2010 8:28 pm • linkreport

I don't commute, other than occasional shopping trips. I work from home out here in Aspen Hill.

We have a 1220 ft^2 home on roughly 1/4 acre. I'll be 52 this year. I grew up here, since first grade. I've been out and about the country and have lived elsewhere, but my elderly mother is aging-in-place. My elder sisters have their own homes, and they are both retired. One lives in a close-in DC suburb and one lives in a Texas exurb.

When we moved here, there were some trees in the yard, most of them not all that large. Now, we have those trees in a very well maintained grove with ash, gum, poplar, beech, and white-oak. These trees and I have been friends and comrades since 1963 and every bush and plant on the property is something that was placed there by someone in the family, me or my mother, likely as not.

This isn't merely where we live (although it is that); it is our Home, and you will pry us out of our home and make us live in a high-rise box where the condo association allows two windowboxes of approved cultivars of selected species, when you pry the US Constitution out of our hearts with red-hot commie forceps. Unlike a lot of folks who seem to have been bred by and for deep city, we are descended of frontier settlers and deep woods hunters and very rural farm folks. We love the land and if we have to travel to work in the modern world at a modern job, we'll do that. But live in a tiny box in a towering beehive? Sorry. We're flatly not interested. Just because you may have grown up in a tiny box in a towering beehive, and are quite comfortable with that as you have known nothing else, don't expect those who have had a decent standard of living to abandon even a tiny plot of land to go live in a tower block like we were welfare kids or traveling salesmen.

Now, rather than complain about how we can't have people endlessly commuting to distant jobs from their gas-guzzling suburbias, maybe think about how to bring jobs to us. Stop concentrating jobs in cities and start enabling business centers in suburbia, very diversified business centers that support everything from light-industrial uses to professional dental-medical uses to compact office uses. Being the jobs to us, instead of bitching about how we should move to where the jobs are rather than commuting from the homes we love to the jobs we wish were closer to us.

I'm lucky, I develop intellectual property in information technology, etc. I can work from home. Why can't more people work from home here? Oh, then you wouldn't have any arguments behind a rhetorical thrust to rebuild the cities, if the jobs were in the homes and automobile use was therefor minimized.

As for those of you who are fresh out of grad school, we who speak from late middle age have to admire your drive and earnestness... but don't think that you'll be planning us out of our homes that we love, and forcing us to live in cells that we will hate.


by Thomas Hardman on May 25, 2010 8:50 pm • linkreport

They need to consder extending a new metro rail line down from DC towards Federicksburg VA with a few feeder streetcar lines going east to west from it. Federicksburg needs to have a heavy metro rail link to the rest of the system.

by Ocean Railroader on May 25, 2010 10:13 pm • linkreport

Not to rain on everyones parade, but Hazel is right. In my humble opinion, a lot of the folks advocating public transit and against widening the highways are the upper-middle class of the inner suburbs and cities sticking it to the middle and lower middle class of the outer suburbs. A large number of the folks in the inner suburbs and the city itself are childless, so they indeed are more likely to pick the excitement and culture of the city over the quiet and space of the suburbs. But what they are doing is trying to roadblock people who have a perfectly legitimate desire to live in an environment that is more appropriate for their families needs. Inner-suburbanite and city dweller can either afford to buy a house large enough for themselves or chooses freely to live in a smaller apartment or condo. Outer suburbanites are priced out of houses large enough for their family close in and so are forced to live farther out to secure the space they desire. Instead of accepting that the preference of the middle and lower middle class for space and quiet is a legitimate one however, the upper middle class in the city and inner suburbs are trying to coerce the outer suburbanites into adopting a new set of preferences, by blocking any measures that might ameliorate chronic traffic jams. The reasoning is that if the inner-suburbs can make life miserable enough for those in the outer suburbs, they will fall in line with the worldview that smart growth, smaller living space, closer quarters and reliance on public transportation are the future. A more productive measure might be for the inner-suburbanites and urban dwellers to accept that those in the outer suburbs have valid preferences which can be fulfiled through compromise and cooperation rather then continous laments about induced demand and how much more pleasant and good a connector bus is then riding in your own car.

by B on May 27, 2010 12:33 pm • linkreport

The transit-oriented development in Arlington obviously is a good concept and has merit, although the current group-think narrative regarding the Rosslyn-Ballston ignores the fact that a lot of the development is cheap, bland, terrible architecture that will not stand the test of time. All of that said, the anti-road crowd on blogs like this ignores reality -- yes, building and widening roads attracts development, but there is some minimum level of roads required for an urban existence. Having 66 be a two-lane highway into a major city is crazy. It is understandable that single folks living in Gallery Place might decry the building of any road anywhere, but for those of us who actually live and work in the community, the current 66 in Arlington doesn't work. We should try to fix it and at least bring it up to a minimum standard. There is not a compelling, rational case for having a two-lane highway be a major artery into the city. You don't have to pave over everything, but at the same time, our road system should at least be rational.

by Arlington on May 27, 2010 12:41 pm • linkreport


Been to Takoma Park lately, where 1/3 of the residents who rent apartments do not make enough money to afford a car, and the average educational age-grade of residents is 9/4th grade? Last I checked, Takoma Park is well inside the Beltway, which could qualify as "inner-suburbs". Not to mention each household in Takoma Park has an average of 1.3 children (the fact that that average is over 1 does not bode well for your generalization).

Smart Growth is an approach of BALANCE. Hazel still thinks that there is a massive population boom going on and that the children of the baby boomer generation are populating at the same rate, which, through such narrow thinking, would lead him to believe that there are more people available who would want more suburban single family houses. The fact is nothing is further from the truth.

If you think about it, if widening or adding highways alleviated traffic problems instead of balancing the location of residents and creating a mix of both transit-oriented development and suburban cul-de-sacs, then why hasn't this problem been solved by adding more roads yet?

The 1950's was a general anomaly. Not to say that I discount what took place then, but I am saying that after 1945, there was no more reason for expansion, which took place well into the mid-1950's. Hazel's worldview was more than likely developed around that time, so if all he saw was expansion into suburban areas and disregard and general disinvestment in inner urban areas, he more than likely believed that would ALWAYS happen; up until the last 2 - 3 decades he was right.

Times change, though. And as times change, so do ideas about how our interactions with the world around us affect it and one another. This isn't to say completely abandon roads and transportation projects, but rather balance the monies used for transportation between mixed-use TOD and highway projects. The main premise is that with fewer unnecessary cars on roads, there will be less induced demand for only one type of expansion: roads.

No one can know if this is the perfect approach, but if we don't even give it a chance, how will we ever know?

by C. R. on May 27, 2010 12:58 pm • linkreport


I would suggest that Takoma Park might be similar to other inner suburbs that fall outside the generalization I was making about those who are in the upper middle class and actually have a large say in how transportation money is prioritized. If we were to take that tack, we might point to the the large number of folks with children in Anacostia or Naylor Gardens, and say that their poverty and large number of children says something about the upper middle class of the inner suburbs. The point I was making was not that there is an unbroken ring of upper middle class people surrounding the urban core and pushing out middle and lower middle class families. There are obviously many islands and even swathes of land which are deprived and run down in the inner suburbs. What I am suggesting is that in those parts of the inner suburbs where there are large numbers of upper middle class folks living, they have an assumption that the lives of those farther out will be improved if they accept the preferences of those living in smarth growth areas as their own.
As to your point about the population differences from the 1950s, I am unclear what your point is. There is population growth going on in this area, some of it from natural growth of people already in area, some from people new to the region moving in. The moderate growth within the population already in place and the large influx of newcomers are not all single urban professionals seeking smarth growth and willing to accept small living quarters to have public transportation and be nearer to the center. What you are proposing is a freeze on any infrastructure improvements not serving these sorts of customers, essentially trying to shoehorn the growth of the area into they type of growth that you desire, rather then growth to serve the type of growth that is actually happening.

The main thing that really rubs me about your argument is the notion that cars are "unnecessary". The notion that the population who's taxes pay for these projects, and actually uses these projects should use their cars less even if they dont have a preference to stop using them simply because grand urban planners have decided things could be better is wrong. Things should only be "given a chance" if the people who it is supposed to serve actually want it. That meant giving smart growth and the metro to the people in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, and by the same token, means widening I-66 and the beltway for those living in Herndon, Reston and the rest.

by B on May 27, 2010 1:56 pm • linkreport


You do realize that widening 66 just shifts the onus for traffic control elsewhere, right? In this case, to already-clogged streets in the District that can't be widened. This is problematic when the crux of your argument here is about services for those who pay taxes in those areas, since most of the result of your policies will be far afield from the services they need.

Also, I don't see how the architecture in Orangington, while bland, is actually worse than the architecture anywhere in Loudoun County, with the possible exception of that cube near the intersection of 28 and 267.

by J.D. Hammond on May 27, 2010 4:53 pm • linkreport

@B: But what they are doing is trying to roadblock people who have a perfectly legitimate desire to live in an environment that is more appropriate for their families needs..

I am not sure that many people, including the people who live in the outer suburbs, would identify an environment that includes four-hour commutes and hours a day in the car providing taxi service to their children as an environment that is appropriate for their families. They may find it more appropriate than the available alternatives, of course -- indeed, that's why my family and I live in the outer suburbs. But do you really think it's what most people would choose, if they had a full range of real choices?

I guess you could argue that what many outer-suburb people want is an environment where they can drive everywhere and never encounter congestion, and you'd probably be right.

Meanwhile, what I want is to play in the NBA.

One is about as possible as the other.

So the question is, how much more money should we spend to prove that building more roads only leads to more congestion?

by Miriam on May 27, 2010 5:15 pm • linkreport

No more freeways! Connected networks of boulevards would be more effective and more pleasant. Traffic needs to be distributed, rather than consolidated.

Also, an emphasis on 7-day/week rail service could start to help alleviate congestion on I-95. Virginia Rail Express could offer weekend service to Richmond, Virginia Beach. Likewise, more freight rail could reduce truck traffic.

by humanedesign on Jun 2, 2010 10:00 am • linkreport


Having a completely free flowing and never congested highway system leading to the outer suburbs is not an attainable goal. But to say that we can't have the "perfect world" of no congestion and therefore should not improve roads at all is the wrong idea. To try and force the population into a lifestyle "we" think will be good for them is not a solution.

I do agree with @Humandesign though that fast VRE trains into the city through the major job centers of the suburbs would alleviate a great deal of the road traffic for the outer suburbs into DC. Though changing from car to VRE to likely metro to get to work might add 15 mins in transition, it is the most likely way to get people into DC proper for work if they live outside the Beltway range.

by B on Jun 9, 2010 4:02 pm • linkreport


So you want to build new roads into DC, into my neighborhood where I live, so you can live out in the suburbs and get to your job in the core. But what about the impact of those roads on my neighborhood here in DC? It will bring more cars, more congestion, and degrade the quality of my neighborhood. Why do you think you have the right to build infrastructure where you don't live that will impact people that do live there? What if people wanted to build a giant road through your neighborhood? If you want to come into my neighborhood/city to work but live out in the suburbs then commuting and congestion is the price you'll have to pay.

by meegles on Jun 10, 2011 11:37 am • linkreport

@Thomas Hardman:

I somehow missed this one the first time, but I wanted to pluck it out, because it's a pretty good illustration of a strain of American culture I'd call, for lack of a better term, "resentful laisez-faire entitlement":

This isn't merely where we live (although it is that); it is our Home, and you will pry us out of our home and make us live in a high-rise box where the condo association allows two windowboxes of approved cultivars of selected species, when you pry the US Constitution out of our hearts with red-hot commie forceps.

So stay. Best of luck!

Now, rather than complain about how we can't have people endlessly commuting to distant jobs from their gas-guzzling suburbias, maybe think about how to bring jobs to us.

Nah, we'll pass.

I think where folks like Thomas lose the thread is that they mistake "no longer heavily subsidizing a particular unsustainable lifestyle" for forcing people to live in

I just find the "you'll pry my suburban cul-de-sac from my cold dead fingers" ethic coupled with the petulant demand that we serve up convenient jobs on a silver platter to be puzzling in the extreme. No one here wants to take away your God-given 3BR/2BA in the untrammeled natural splendor that is Wheaton Woods. We're talking about expanding the choices out there for folks who want something more urban. As far as "thinking about how to bring jobs to us", it's not possible. Sorry. In fact, that's why many of us choose to live in an urban environment.

[Note: You and I must've grown up as neighbors.]

by oboe on Jun 10, 2011 12:42 pm • linkreport


Just to amplify what @meegles said, auto-centric infrastructure "improvements" will probably continue in the exurbs. For the urban core, they're pretty much DOA. There's no political will for them among DC voters.

The only road "improvements" that are likely to happen in the city itself are traffic-calming and reducing the share alloted to the private automobile. Sorry to disappoint.

by oboe on Jun 10, 2011 12:50 pm • linkreport

@ oboe, who wrote in-part:

I just find the "you'll pry my suburban cul-de-sac from my cold dead fingers" ethic coupled with the petulant demand that we serve up convenient jobs on a silver platter to be puzzling in the extreme. No one here wants to take away your God-given 3BR/2BA in the untrammeled natural splendor that is Wheaton Woods. We're talking about expanding the choices out there for folks who want something more urban. As far as "thinking about how to bring jobs to us", it's not possible. Sorry. In fact, that's why many of us choose to live in an urban environment.

Oh dear $DEITY. Remember Vitro labs? At one time Montgomery County's largest suburban employer? Nicely-sited dead center of Aspen Hill? Well, now the remnant of that once-lordly Top Secret Defense Contractor facility is now a Home Depot, which probably provides have as many jobs in one building as once were there, retail producing a lot less salary-per-square-foot than engineering firms; and, a third of a million square feet of vacant office space.

Let's also not forget the vast and empty office campuses out along US-29 from Silver Spring out to Columbia, MD. Not all that many of them are empty, but that's massive floor area going to waste.

In any case, I have just noticed a subtext in your message that might be unconscious to you. This is increasingly an argument less about curtailing Sprawl, which is a good thing to curtail, but increasingly an argument about preventing the formation of legitimate Edge Cities. By concentrating all of the businesses downtown, the tax receipts can also be concentrated downtown, eh? And it's easier to corral the politicians in a city when it's the only one trying to get a place at the dinner table of urban-development handouts coming from the State and Federal governments?

by Thomas Hardman on Jun 10, 2011 7:51 pm • linkreport


"The only road "improvements" that are likely to happen in the city itself are traffic-calming and reducing the share alloted to the private automobile. Sorry to disappoint."

So the 11th Street Bridge project - the largest in the city's history - is actually a figment of the imagination.

Thanks for clearing that up.

by ceefer66 on Jun 13, 2011 12:27 pm • linkreport

highways should be congestion relief of last resort; the original system of highways for dc would have displaced 200,000 residents in the 1960's. Metro has given the region a guideline of how to incorporate highway building but to subsidize those lanes with daytime rapid transit i.e. I-66.

by john t on Sep 26, 2011 4:21 pm • linkreport

Sustainable growth is an oxymoron. We are past the limits to exponential growth on a round, finite planet.

We have passed Peak Oil and Peak Traffic (VMT) but Peak Denial is probably far in the future.

by Mark on Dec 25, 2011 5:11 pm • linkreport

That 2030 map really shows the insanity of not building the shorter more direct B&O-PEPCO I-95 route through Washington D.C.

by Douglas Willinger on Feb 10, 2012 2:17 am • linkreport

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