More walkable urbanism is good for everyone
Lydia DePillis asks whether the transformation of Tysons Corner into a real city will be good or bad for DC. Will it?
Definitely. First off, there's plenty of demand for walkable urbanism to go around. The high prices for more desirable, walkable DC neighborhoods shows that there are plenty of people wanting to live in such areas.
Christopher Leinberger "likens [walkable centers in the region] to infielders on a baseball team, with D.C. as the pitcher, Silver Spring on first base, and Tysons as the short stop," DePillis writes. "They all have a role to play, they all have a different skill set," he told the City Paper. "There's overlap, and they might be competition to get that ball. But generally speaking, they will go after discrete market segments that aren't being served."
A little bit of the unmet demand does push less desirable rowhouse neighborhoods to gentrify, but much of the demand ends up pushing people to suburban, car-dependent areas where they don't want to be. People who want to live in traditional suburban houses should be free to do so, but I hear from many folks who live in a place like Germantown that really wish they could live in Bethesda.
There are lots of jobs in Northern Virginia, and that's not going to change. The Tysons plan will create more jobs right next to Metro stations, allowing DC residents to get to Northern Virginia jobs without creating traffic in DC. It'll also improve the financial stability of Metro by increasing reverse commuting. Suburban transit-oriented jobs is one of Metro's greatest advantages.
Furthermore, there is a long-term political value to more walkable urbanism. The more urbanism we have, the more voters will experience it on a daily basis and appreciate its advantages. That will reduce the tendency of elected officials and journalists to assume that "everybody" drives everywhere and thus the best policy is to focus all spending on auto infrastructure and zoning on building auto-dependent places.
When I criticized "freeway bus" plans a while back for bypassing commercial corridors, an inner jurisdiction official told me that even though he preferred buses along those corridors, the freeway plans could win over substantial numbers of otherwise car-using Fairfax residents to support transit. Walkable urbanism, too, develops more of a built-in supporter base the more of it there is. That's good for everyone.
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