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DC mulls new affordable housing rules in public land deals

When the District government bids out city-owned property for development, it asks for affordable housing to be part of the deal, but how much is enough? Councilmember Kenyan McDuffie is proposing that 20-30% of the housing in any such deal be affordable for low-income households.

Photo by Daniel Lobo on Flickr.

On properties that DC has offered for development, like Parcel 42 in Shaw or the Hine School on Capitol Hill, the city has a great opportunity to not only create and enrich walkable neighborhoods, but receive additional benefits for residents as part of the deal between the city and the developer.

One of the greatest needs we have right now is to increase the supply of affordable housing. But how do we best maximize affordable housing in public land deals and do so in a way that's the best deal for the city and residents?

One in five DC households spends more than half of their income on housing, a severe housing burden, according to the DC Fiscal Policy Institute. Nearly all renters with this severe housing cost burden earn less than half of the area median income (AMI), or less than $48,300 a year for a family of three.

The purpose of McDuffie's bill is to ensure that DC fully leverages the deals involving city-owned land to address the continuing challenge of housing affordability for low- and moderate-income households. Under the bill, when DC sells or leases public land for private multifamily residential development, at least 30% of the units would be affordable if the project is close to a Metro station or major transit line. Developments elsewhere in the city must include 20% affordable units.

Affordable rental units would be available to households earning between 30% and 50% of AMI, or just under $30,000 and $50,000 per year for a family of 3. Owner-occupied affordable units would be priced for households earning between 50% and 80% AMI, or just under $50,000 and $78,000 per year for a family of 3.

McDuffie's bill would allow the city to subsidize the cost of the affordable units by selling or leasing the land at a discount, allowing the developer to pass on the savings to buyers or renters. If the land value is not sufficient to subsidize the required units, the bill provides for the District's Chief Financial Officer to certify that the alternative proposal nonetheless maximizes affordability, taking into account all available subsidies.

The Coalition for Smarter Growth highlighted the unpredictability of the city's commitment to affordable housing in public land deals last year in a report called Public Land for Public Good: Making the Most of City Land to Meet Affordable Housing Needs. It's encouraging that DC leaders are using another tool to create affordable housing, ensuring that households of all means can have a place in the city as it grows.


Events roundup: Shutdown edition

The federal government may be closed, but this week you can still talk about the future of Franklin Park, celebrate walkable urbanism with the Coalition for Smarter Growth and author Jeff Speck, and explore Bus Rapid Transit on Rockville Pike at events across the region.

Photo by Cambridge Brewing Co. on Flickr.

Join us for happy hour: Tonight, join GGW contributors and readers for the latest installment of our regular happy hour series in Arlington. From 6 to 9pm, we'll be at Fire Works Pizza at 2350 Clarendon Boulevard, just two blocks from the Court House Metro station. As our commenters duly noted, they're running happy hour specials until 6:30pm.

Party with CSG: Tomorrow night, the Coalition for Smarter Growth hosts Jeff Speck, author of Walkable City, at its annual social and fundraiser. The event will feature refreshments and runs from 6:30 to 8:30pm at Eastern Market. Tickets are only $25 and proceeds will help CSG continue their work to strengthen walkable and inclusive communities in our region. To learn more or RSVP, visit their website.

Franklin Park's new future: [Note: Due to the shutdown, this event has been postponed until further notice.] Also tomorrow, the DC Office of Planning and its Franklin Park partners will hold a kick-off public presentation and open house about how to turn Franklin Park into one of the country's premier urban parks. Come share your ideas for how to improve and enhance the visitor experience of the park. Attendees will hear a project overview and an initial site analysis and conditions report. The project team also will hold a visioning and programming workshop to gain a deeper understanding of desired park uses and current issues.

The meeting will be from 6 to 8pm at the Four Points by Sheraton at 1201 K Street NW. You can RSVP at the project's website.

Talk about BRT on 355: Do you live, work, or travel along Route 355, also known as Wisconsin Avenue and Rockville Pike? Join CSG, Communities for Transit, and other local organizations hosting an educational event for residents and business owners along 355 between Friendship Heights and Clarksburg. Speakers will include Montgomery County Planning Board member Casey Anderson, county planner Larry Cole, and Chuck Lattuca, BRT system manager at the Montgomery County Department of Transportation.

With 44,000 projected riders by 2040, a BRT line along 355 is likely to move forward early on in the development of Montgomery's rapid transit network. The event will take place on Thursday, October 3 from 6 to 9pm in the cafeteria of the Executive Office Building at 101 Monroe Street in Rockville. Click here to RSVP or for more information.

Update on the Purple Line: Next week, the Action Committee for Transit hosts Mike Madden of the Maryland Transit Administration for the latest news on the Purple Line at its monthly meeting. Governor Martin O'Malley recently announced that the state will seek a public-private partnership to build and operate the line, which could start construction as early as 2015 if it gets federal approval this fall.

The meeting will be at 7:30pm on Tuesday, October 8 at the Silver Spring Civic Building, located at the corner of Ellsworth Drive and Fenton Street, just a few blocks from the Silver Spring Metro. For more info, visit ACT's website.


Events roundup: Better buses and touring Tenleytown

This week, speak out on bus improvements in Montgomery County, learn about bus improvements in DC and Prince George's County, and take a tour of Tenleytown, and more at events around the region.

Photo by dan reed! on Flickr.

Time to support BRT: On Thursday, Montgomery County holds its second public hearing on its proposed 82-mile proposed Bus Rapid Transit system. The hearing will be at 7:30 at the Council Hearing Room at 100 Maryland Avenue in Rockville.

Join the Coalition for Smarter Growth and other transit advocates to show your support for the plan by attending the hearing. For more details, visit the CSG website.

More Metrobus improvements: WMATA is holding an open house in Hyattsville about their study to improve bus service on Route 1 in Northeast DC and Prince George's County, including the 80-series buses and routes G8 and T18. You can come at any time and tell WMATA how you think bus service can be made faster and more reliable. The meeting runs from 6 to 7:30pm at Hyattsville City Hall, 4310 Gallatin Street.

Walking from the Top: Come join the Coalition for Smarter Growth and Ward3Vision on a walking tour this Saturday of Tenleytown's commercial district to learn about its past, present, and future. The walking tour will include a discussion of the growth of Tenleytown and visits to sites where development has occurred as well as areas that are prime for future development. The discussion will also focus on your ideas on how to improve the streetscape and walkability in the coming years.

The tour kicks off at the eastern entrance of the Tenleytown Metro station at 10am on Saturday. To RSVP, click this link.

Exciting events next week: Visit our calendar to see all of the exciting events coming up next week, including the kickoff for designing Franklin Park, the Smart Growth Social, an educational event about Rapid Transit on Rockville Pike, and many more!

As always, if you have any events for future roundups, email us at!


Montgomery BRT supporters unveil coalition at hearing

Last night, a coalition of 32 civic, business, activist, and environmental organizations announced their support for Montgomery County's proposed Bus Rapid Transit network at the first of two public hearings on the issue at the County Council in Rockville.

Transit supporters wave signs at last night's hearing. Photo by betterDCregion on Flickr.

After 5 years of study, this fall the Council will consider a plan to build an 82-mile rapid transit network on several major roads, including Rockville Pike, Georgia Avenue, Veirs Mill Road, and Columbia Pike. Planners say that BRT will allow us to move more people on existing roads as the county grows from 1 million residents today to 1.2 million in 2040.

David Moon of advocacy group Communities for Transit and the Coalition for Smarter Growth unveiled their list of "strange bedfellows" who support the plan, ranging from the Sierra Club to ULI Washington and CASA de Maryland. Before the hearing, they held a press conference to call for a BRT network that has dedicated lanes, frequent and reliable service, bike and pedestrian improvements along transit corridors, and "Metro-like features," which include widely spaced stops, stations with safe, comfortable waiting areas, and fare collection at the station.

BRT supporters gather before the hearing. Photo by betterDCregion on Flickr.

The Montgomery County Young Democrats have also lent their support. "We hosted a forum this summer about what young people need in order to settle down in Montgomery County," said Katie Mullen, a Young Dems member who lives in Burtonsville. "Of the almost 100 people in attendance, the #1 priority wasn't more night life, affordable housing, or new industry. The #1 priority was to greatly expand public transit across the county, in particular a comprehensive Bus Rapid Transit network with dedicated lanes."

Opponents of the BRT plan who spoke at the meeting came primarily from two neighborhoods: Chevy Chase West, which is adjacent to a proposed route along Wisconsin Avenue, and the Four Corners area of Silver Spring, near proposed routes along Route 29 and University Boulevard. They cited concerns about the cost of building BRT, the inconvenience to drivers if the county repurposes existing lanes for buses, and claimed that the public hadn't gotten enough opportunities to give feedback.

Councilmember Marc Elrich, who first proposed a BRT network, contested claims that the county was preparing to condemn 3,000 properties for a system that hasn't been fully designed, or that it was a "sellout" to real estate developers.

"I'm probably the last person on earth, or at least in this room, that would do something on behalf of developers," he said. "It happens that [development] serves the rest of county residents in the ability to grow our tax base and deal with county traffic. There is no way to not see the development that is coming in the plans."

I live-tweeted the hearing along with Kelly Blynn from the Coalition for Smarter Growth and Ted Van Houten from the Action Committee for Transit. Here's a Storify of the night's highlights:


Explore Tenleytown's successes, failures, and futures

Ward 3 has seen a lot of changes in the last few years and faces exciting opportunities for urbanization, particularly DC's highest neighborhood. Next Saturday, learn about Tenleytown's future with Ward3Vision and the Coalition for Smarter Growth.

Photo by stevesunusual on Flickr.

At the beginning of 2003, Tenleytown's retail strip was in its twentieth year of decline, with stores closing and vitality crippled by decades of persistent opposition to development. Despite sitting directly atop of a Metro station, the former Sears at the center of Tenleytown could not attract a tenant.

That year, several major retailers had moved into a subdivided Sears building, now sporting an arcing gray crown of 208 condominiums. Today, the area around the Tenleytown metro station has seen revived buildings, new restaurants, and bustling sidewalks. However, the neighborhood still has more potential than results. Public involvement is needed to carefully integrate new density into the existing neighborhoods without sacrificing either.

Next Saturday, join Ward3Vision and the Coalition for Smarter Growth for a stroll around Tenleytown. Open to all, the walking tour will visit key sites in the area, looking at current projects like the AU Law School as well as recent ones. Which projects are successful, and why? How have other projects failed at creating livable, walkable spaces?

The event will meet at the eastern entrance to the Tenleytown-AU metro station at 10am. It will run two hours and involve lots of walking. Help Ward 3 Vision by registering now and wearing comfortable footwear on the 28th. We hope to see you there!


Video shows what BRT means for Montgomery

What would Bus Rapid Transit mean for Montgomery County? I talk about the benefits of BRT alongside residents and community leaders in a new video produced by the Coalition for Smarter Growth.

The video also features interviews with a variety of local residents and community leaders, including Planning Board member Casey Anderson, Friends of White Flint executive director Lindsay Hoffman, college student Jonathan Jayes-Green, local Sierra Club chair David Hauck, and activist Elaine Binder. Transportation planner Larry Cole, who led the BRT planning process, also talks about how traffic continues to increase in Montgomery County.

For almost 5 years, Montgomery County has been working on a plan for a countywide BRT network, including routes on major corridors like Rockville Pike, Route 29, Georgia Avenue, and Veirs Mill Road. The plan, which the Planning Board approved last month, has significant issues, but it's still a huge step forward for the county as it seeks to accommodate new residents and workers while helping everyone get around more quickly and affordably.

We don't have room on our streets today to accommodate everyone in a car today, let alone in the future. If done properly, and if given its own dedicated lanes, BRT can give people a new transportation choice that's faster than driving will ever be in many of the county's congested corridors. We simply cannot afford not to make a significant investment in new transit that can support future growth, economic development, and environmental stewardship.

The plan goes before the County Council this fall, but first, they will hold two public hearings on September 24 and 26 to hear from the community. If you'd like to show your support for BRT, you can visit CSG's Next Generation of Transit website to learn more or visit the council's website to sign up to testify or send written comments.

Public Spaces

Community stories show the shift to a walkable lifestyle

38 percent. That's the growing percentage of District households that are car-free. Countless others are car-lite, relying mostly on transit, walking, and biking.

Too often we lose sight of this fact in local debates on issues like parking, transit improvements, redevelopment, and so on.

 Asdrubal - Mt. Pleasant Julia & Marcus - Columbia Heights Wanda - Hillbrook
Rebecca & Alistair - Petworth Dan - Dupont Circle Emilia - Woodley Park Dennis - Downtown Ward 7
Mouse over or click an image to read an individual story.

Basic lifestyle and mobility decisions are fundamentally changing for large segments of DC's population. Nonetheless, a significant number of District policies and discussions still assume that most residents will own a car and use it for many, if not all, of their daily needs.

The consequences of this misunderstanding impact all of us, ranging from higher housing costs, increased traffic thanks to unintentional subsidy of car ownership, and diverting resources from improving other transportation options.

In the end, what all of that means is a less walkable, less inclusive District.

To raise awareness of this misunderstanding, the Coalition for Smarter Growth has collected first-hand accounts from neighbors across DC, examining the various modes of transportation they use in their everyday lives.

Click for interactive map.

We hope this project will help policy makers and skeptical (but open-minded) residents understand that the District won't face parking and driving Armageddon if we respond to changing lifestyle choices by getting rid of unnecessary parking mandates for new buildings, or by giving buses more priority on roads to make transit more reliable and convenient.

The District won't face that Armageddon because so many existing residents and new residents simply don't drive very much. Tastes and lifestyle choices are in the midst of a dramatic change, and despite what some hyperbolic opponents of transportation have said, a majority of our new residents are very likely to be car-free or car-lite and looking to stay that way.

The Mosley Family - Mt. Pleasant Neha - Capitol View Mo - Columbia Heights The Hampton Family - Columbia Heights
Jeffrey - Chevy Chase Abigail - Glover Park Gavin - Adams Morgan Zach - Ft. Totten
Mouse over or click an image to read an individual story.

Abstract statistics and shouting matches about who is right aren't what walkable living is all about. Instead, it's just regular people throughout the city who are leading this quiet but growing sea-change, that's making much of our 20th century transportation formulas less relevant to how we get around today:

  • Longtime resident Wanda in Hillbrook notes how many of her neighbors walk to the stores along Minnesota Avenue, and pleads for more investment in pedestrian and bike infrastructure in her neighborhood.
  • Rebecca in Petworth happily relies on Metro to drop her toddler off at daycare in L'Enfant Plaza, and walks to the grocery store to do her family's shopping.
  • In Mt. Vernon Square, Keith says that on the rare occasions when he can't walk to where he's going, Car2Go, Bikeshare, or transit is there to fill the gap.
If you have time, please use our story collection form on the Walkable Living Stories campaign webpage to share your own story, and consider tweeting or sharing your favorite story on Facebook.

If you have other ideas to help explain this changing lifestyle preference to policy makers, neighbors, or the press, leave them for us in the comments section, or share them with the Coalition for Smarter Growth directly at


Walking tour explores Fort Totten's present and future

Development at Fort Totten has been slow despite access to 3 Metro lines, its close proximity to both downtown DC and Silver Spring, its access to the Metropolitan Branch Trail, its green space and its affordability. But as demand increases for housing in the District, this previously-overlooked neighborhood could become a hot spot.

Photo by tracktwentynine on Flickr.

Last Saturday, the Coalition for Smarter Growth concluded their spring walking tour series with "Fort Totten: More than a Transfer Point," a look at future residential, retail and commercial development near the Fort Totten Metro station. Residents and visitors joined representatives from WMATA, DDOT and the Office of Planning on a tour of the area bounded by South Dakota Avenue, Riggs Road, and First Place NE.

Today, vacant properties and industrial sites surround the station and form a barrier between it and the surrounding area. Redeveloping them could improve connections to the Metro and make Fort Totten a more vibrant community.

There is a significant amount of new residential, retail and commercial development planned within walking distance of the Metro station. But Saturday's tour began with the only completed project, The Aventine at Fort Totten. Built by Clark Realty Group in 2007, the 3-building, garden-style apartment complex consists of over 300 rental units as well as ground-floor retail space.

The Aventine at Fort Totten, the newest apartment complex in Fort Totten. All photos by the author unless otherwise noted.

Visitors were ambivalent about the success of the Aventine due to its small amount of retail space and lack of connectivity to surrounding neighborhoods. While residents noted that it created more options to live close to Metro, representatives of the Lamond Riggs and North Michigan Park civic associations agreed the development differed from the original vision for the project.

They called it an example of the need to continually engage real estate developers and local government agencies to ensure that new development is of a high quality and responsive to the local context. Throughout the tour, residents said that future development proposals should adhere to DC's urban design guidelines, improve pedestrian access and have a plan to mitigate parking concerns.

Between South Dakota Avenue and the Metro station, the Cafritz Foundation will redevelop the old Riggs Plaza apartments to build ArtPlace at Fort Totten. When finished, the 16-acre project will contain 305,000 square feet of retail, 929 apartments, and 217,000 square feet of cultural and art spaces, including a children's museum. Deborah Crain, neighborhood planning coordinator for Ward 5, noted that ArtPlace will include rental units set aside for seniors and displaced Riggs Plaza residents.

An ad for ArtPlace at Fort Totten at its future home.

As one of the largest landowners near the Fort Totten Station, WMATA has a huge stake in future development around the station. They own approximately 3 acres of land immediately west of the station along First Place NE that is currently used as surface parking lot for commuters. Stan Wall, Director of Real Estate at WMATA, discussed the great potential for development on the current parking lot mentioned that the agency will solicit proposals for development of the area in the near future.

Parking lot at Fort Totten station.

Anna Chamberlain, a DDOT transportation planner, talked about how streetscape improvements could calm traffic, making streets around the Metro station more pedestrian- and bike-friendly. DDOT is also working to improve connections to the Metro, as some areas lack clearly defined walking paths. The agency will begin designing a path connecting the Metro to the Metropolitan Branch Trail within the next few months.

New sidewalks and street trees on Riggs Road.

The final stop on the tour was Fort Totten Square, a joint effort by the JBG Companies and Lowe Enterprises to build 350 apartments above a Walmart and structured parking at South Dakota Avenue and Riggs Road. DDOT has completely rebuilt the adjacent intersection to make it safer for pedestrians and more suitable for an urban environment, replacing freeway-style ramps with sidewalks, benches, crosswalks and improved lighting.

Jaimie Weinbaum, development manager at JBG, says they're committed to working with the city and residents to make Fort Totten Square an asset to the community. They've promised to place Capital Bikeshare stations there and would like to have dedicated space for Car2go as well.

With help from the private sector and public agencies like DDOT and WMATA, Fort Totten could become a model for transit-oriented development, but much of the new construction won't happen for a long time. Until then, residents eagerly await the changes and continue to work with other stakeholders toward creating a vision that will benefit everyone.


Events roundup: School's out (almost)

Thanks to everyone who came to our resurrected happy hour Wednesday night! Still hungry for more conversation? Over the next 2 weeks, you can learn about pedestrian safety in Montgomery County and DC, talk about the future of Prince George's and Tysons Corner, and hear about the intersection of food and smart growth.

Photo by Dan Reed on Flickr.

Take it outside in MoCo: Tomorrow, join the Action Committee for Transit and the Coalition for Smarter Growth for an al fresco discussion of pedestrian safety and transit at Fenton Street Market. We'll promote ACT's new website,, let kids draw their favorite ways to get to school, and chat about ways to improve county transit, like the Purple Line and BRT. Join us from 10 am to 12:30 pm at the market, located at the corner of Ellsworth Drive and Fenton Street in Silver Spring.

After the jump: events in Bloomingdale, Tysons, Montgomery Village, College Park, Anacostia, and Trinidad.

Mobile design workshop in Mid-City East: If you spend time in Bloomingdale, Eckington, LeDroit Park, or Truxton Circle, DDOT and the Office of Planning want to hear from you. They've rented a ZipVan and will move around the area hosting "design on the fly" sessions all day on Saturday and Wednesday as part of a study on ways to improve pedestrian and bicycle access.

You'll find the workshop at a variety of locations, including the Bloomingdale Farmers' Market, along the Metropolitan Branch Trail, and outside Dunbar and McKinley high schools. For more details and times, visit the Mid-City East study website.

Evolving transportation in Fairfax: Learn about how the county's transportation network has changed over time at an event hosted by Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova, the Fairfax County Chamber of Commerce, and the Fairfax County Federation of Citizens Associations.

It's this Wednesday, June 12 from 7:30-9:30 pm at the (very swanky) Angelika Film Center at 2911 District Avenue in Merrifield, not far from the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro station. For more information or to RSVP, visit the chairman's website.

The return of M-83: No, the French electronic band isn't playing here, but Montgomery County has restarted work on Midcounty Highway Extended, also known as M-83, a proposed highway between Montgomery Village and Clarksburg. The Department of Transportation and Montgomery Village Foundation are hosting a public meeting on the controversial highway next Thursday, June 13 from 7:30 to 9:00 pm at the North Creek Community Center, located at 20125 Arrowhead Road in Montgomery Village.

Get schooled on Prince George's future: Planners in Prince George's County want to encourage more walkable neighborhoods and transit-oriented development, and they'd like to talk to you about it. They're holding a town meeting next Saturday, June 15 at the University of Maryland from 9 am to 1 pm and will serve free breakfast. You can register here or visit their website for more information.


This month, contributor John Muller will give 2 tours of Old Anacostia with a focus on the life of Frederick Douglass, who made his home there. The tours are this Saturday, June 8 and Saturday, June 22 from 11am-12:30pm, and tickets are $25. For more info visit the event's website.

Planners and developers in Tysons Corner will give an update on ongoing development and transportation projects at an open house this Tuesday, June 11 from 7-9 pm at Westbriar Elementary School, 1741 Pine Valley Drive in Tysons Corner.

The Historic Anacostia Block Association will hear presentations from the Office of Planning on future development in that area, including St. Elizabeth's East Campus and the Big K site, this Thursday, June 13 at 7pm at the UPO, 1649 Good Hope Road SE.

DDOT's studying ways to improve pedestrian and bike safety along Florida Avenue NE. They're hosting their first public meeting Wednesday, June 19 from 7 to 9 pm in Chapel Hall at Gallaudet University, 800 Florida Avenue NE.

Join food critics and restaurateurs for "Food in the City," a panel discussion hosted by Smart Growth America on the intersection of smart growth and DC's growing food community. The event's on Thursday, June 20 from 6-8 pm at Union Market, 1309 5th Street NE. For more information, visit their website.


What's our vision for a next generation of transit?

Fifty years ago, visionary leaders conceived, planned, and built Metro, radically reshaping the Washington DC region. Today Metrorail is a national example of how a well-planned transit system can help fuel economic growth by revitalizing communities and helping hundreds of thousands of people get where they're going each day. But where's the plan for the next generation?

Regional transit map by John Peck and Aimee Custis for CSG. Click for full version (PDF).

Today, with a new report, Thinking Big, Planning Smart: A Primer for Greater Washing­ton's Next Generation of Transit, the Coalition for Smarter Growth wants to engage residents in a campaign to win a new transit vision and the funding to implement it.

Regional leaders have expressed strong support for transit-oriented development in their Region Forward vision and in recent state of the county addresses, but our regional transportation plans are dominated by a never-ending list of new highways and road expansion projects, with a few disconnected transit projects.

Just two weeks ago, the Virginia Department of Transporation (VDOT) added a number of new road projects to the regional plan, but not a single transit project. While the road projects march forward, transit projects are forced to beg for funding.

So, our report is both a call to action and a baseline resource. It offers the first compilation of the region's many transit and transportation plans, briefly summarizes the many benefits of transit to the DC region, and features and compares the metrics for six major transit projects or systems that are under construction or reasonably far along in planning, including the Silver Line, Purple Line, DC Streetcar, Arlington Streetcar, Alexandria Bus Rapid Transit and Montgomery Rapid Transit System.

A CSG volunteer, John Peck, worked to create a base map of all of the current rail transit lines and the six systems featured in the report. We gained a respect for the GIS professionals!

Transit projects comparison. Click to enlarge (PDF).

While we are encouraged by the new transit systems being proposed, we are very concerned that the region has no plan to interconnect the systems nor to ensure operational coordination including common fare card use and real time information, not to mention who should operate each system. We also found that the studies for these systems don't share a common set of performance measurements. So we owe it to University of California engineering student Haleemah Qureshi for creating the first comprehensive, comparative table of metrics derived from the technical reports for each of the featured transit systems.

How do we get there?

"Make no little plans. They have no magic to stir men's blood and probably will not themselves be realized." Daniel Burnham's quote is perhaps overused, but nevertheless, we need a regional commitment to a new transit plan, the funding to support it, and a hardnosed commitment to implementing it.

We are recommending extensive public involvement and modern crowdsourcing. We believe that a joint committee of elected officials who serve on the WMATA and Council of Governments boards, should oversee the process and complete a plan within two years. WMATA staff, who have been leading the PlanIt Metro analyses and the development of the Momentum program, should provide the lead technical support, and be assisted by COG staff and local transportation and land use planners. Your thoughts on the process?

Finally, our report includes a recommended set of principles to justify and guide the development of a new transit vision. Do you agree? What might be missing?

Principles to guide a next generation of transit

High-capacity public transportation is the most important investment for supporting a sustainable region of livable, walkable centers, and neighborhoods.

Several factors make public transportation investments critical:

  • High energy prices and the high cost of auto transportation
  • Climate change
  • Air and water pollution
  • Failure of road expansion to effectively manage traffic, due to induced demand and related inefficient patterns of auto-dependent development
  • The significant number of residents who cannot drive, cannot afford a car or do not own a car. This includes lower-income residents, the disabled, the young and elderly, and the growing sector of our population seeking to live in communities where they do not have to be dependent on a car.
  • The benefit public transportation provides in supporting compact, efficient development, lowering per capita infrastructure costs and saving land.
Rehabilitating and improving our Metrorail system must be our first priority.

Major public transportation investments must be tied to good land use: well-designed, compact, mixed-use, mixed-income, walking and biking-friendly neighborhoods with interconnected local street networks - both transit-oriented development and traditional neighborhood development.

Supporting build-out at our existing Metro stations should be a priority, and together with mixed-use development at all stations, will ensure that our Metro trains have high ridership in both directions all day.

New high-capacity public transportation corridors must include the region's commercial/retail corridors. Given the strong commitment to preserving the character of existing suburban neighborhoods, these commercial corridors offer the best opportunity to absorb regional growth while protecting suburban neighborhoods.

We should be flexible and not locked into one public transportation mode as the answer. We should ensure we match the public transportation mode, design and service plan to the land use densities and levels of service we are trying to achieve.

Public transportation planners should ensure that each public transportation study considers all modes and the necessary mixed-use, walkable, and transit-oriented urban design essential to maximizing ridership and the value of the public transportation investment. Safe and robust access to public transportation by promoting walking and bicycling and supportive local street networks must be a part of any public transportation and funding plan.

Continuing to debate the mode after a final vote by an elected board or council isn't constructive. It delays and even harms the advancement of much needed public transportation investments.

We can be proud of our region's success with transit and transit-oriented development. But without the commitment of the public and our elected officials, we'll fail to make the investments in the next generation of transit that are necessary to support the demand for transit-oriented communities, to offer an alternative to sitting in traffic, and to fight climate change.

With this report and the engagement of CSG members and GGW readers, we aim to spark a new transit plan for the region. In the coming weeks, we'll be speaking to local elected officials, the WMATA board, the Council of Governments, the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, transportation and land use planners, and the public. Stay tuned.

UPDATE 3/5/13: CSG has launched a Next Generation of Transit feedback catalog, where we'll be cataloging feedback, comments, ideas and suggestions. Keep the conversation going in the comments below, but we also encourage you to check out and contribute to the catalog.

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