A toast to 2010: Top five Smart Growth moments of the year
2010 was a great year for smart growth. It was the year that biking, walking and transit communities really took off. And what a battle for Metro service we had!
Here are our choices at the Coalition for Smarter Growth for the top five smart growth achievements from the last twelve months.
1. Approval of the Tysons Corner plan: After seven years in the making, the plan will transform the infamous "Edge City" into a sustainable urban community. It's a real first for the nation, and people around the country are watching to see how it turns out.
Change doesn't happen in a vacuum, and this is no exception. It took countless phone calls, letters to elected officials and testimony by the residents of Fairfax and others throughout the region. It must have been the astoundingly frustrating traffic that kept everyone motivated to make change happen.
While the plan will take years to implement, development applications are already moving forward and the approval is the catalyst for making Tysons Corner a walkable, bikeable and transit-oriented community with a vibrant mix of homes, jobs, retail, parks and entertainment.2. Passage of the White Flint Sector Plan: If you hang around White Flint or joined us for our walking tour, you know that White Flint, like Tysons Corner, isn't exactly a model of walkability. But with the unanimous passage of this plan (PDF), we can look forward to a vibrant, walkable center for North Bethesda anchored by the White Flint Metro station.
The plans include adding new parks and public spaces, an improved local street network, a boulevard conversion for Rockville Pike, a vibrant mix of uses, more housing choices, and better pedestrian/bicyclist access.3. Pedestrian victories across the District: The Washington Area Bicyclist Association and Greater Greater Washington have led the way in making DC a lot more bike-friendly. But this year saw a lot of progress for pedestrians too. The DC Council passed the Sidewalk Assurance Act, ensuring that DDOT adds or completes sidewalks while they perform scheduled reconstruction of streets that have missing sidewalks. Simple, common sense.
We joined forces with Connecticut Avenue Pedestrian Action to improve walking conditions along a major dangerous roadway in the District. This grassroots-led effort, that started with volunteers in safety vests taking notes along Connecticut Avenue, concluded with the community presenting a professional pedestrian safety audit and research report (PDF) to DDOT.
Progress continued near the Minnesota Avenue Metro station with the launching of the Nannie Helen Burroughs Great Streets project. We also pushed for fixing the narrow sidewalks at the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station as part of the new development project.4. Saving Metro service: It's been an ongoing struggle to sustain Metro service through these tough economic times, and devastating cuts were closer than ever to becoming a reality. A coalition of transit advocacy organizations, including CSG, Sierra Club, Action Committee for Transit, and Greater Greater Washington, led the way to preservation of this region's most vital asset.
Thousands of signatures sent to elected officials and the WMATA board won increased funding from the jurisdictions and avoided massive service cuts. The cuts would have hurt businesses and workers who rely on Metro every day, delivering a blow to our region's economic vitality.
Speaking of Metro, did you send your email to defend the $230 monthly transit benefit?5. Capital Bikeshare: Strength lies in numbers, and we're thrilled with the 1,100 Capital Bikeshare bikes and 114 stations throughout D.C. and Arlington. The day the program launched, we saw tons of people on the shiny red bikes. Ridership hit nearly 37,000 trips in the first month.
Leave your bike and lock at home. Hop on a CaBi, ride to a meeting and deposit the bike at a nearby station. No worries. Combined with all the new bike lanes, it's clear that residents are increasingly choosing cycling as a mode of transportation. Just remember to wear a helmet!Honorable mentions:
- COG reports (both PDFs) called "What Would it Take?" and "Aspirations" (the land use portion of the scenario, NOT the $52 billion in toll roads) confirmed what we've long said: transit-oriented, walkable communities are effective in reducing driving and traffic.
- Adoption of our recommendations in the Envision Prince George's report.
- Passage of the Alexandria Potomac Yard Plan.
- Passage of Arlington's Crystal City Plan.
- Governor O'Malley making transit-oriented development a priority in Maryland.
- Prince George's winning a HUD Challenge Grant for the Green Line, while the District won a large grant for affordable housing.
Stewart Schwartz is Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth.
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- Muriel Bowser predicts DC holds 800,000 people in 20 years. That requires a lot of new housing.