Author: Andrew Brown

Bi-County Parkway in Virginia will add congestion, groups argue

A coalition of groups critical of the proposed Bi-County Parkway has released a report it says bolsters its case that the roadway could worsen traffic congestion in Loudoun and Prince William counties.

Norman L. Marshall, president of Smart Mobility, which conducted the analysis using data from the Virginia Department of Transportation, said the north-south roadway would create new bottlenecks.

“Building the [Bi-County Parkway] would generate more overall traffic — and more north-south travel — in the study area than would be the case if the [Bi-County Parkway] is not built,” the report said.

The study, released last week, is the latest in the back-and-forth battle over the proposed parkway, which would provide a north-south connection between Loudoun and Prince William counties. Supporters of the roadway say it is needed to accommodate future population growth and promote economic development.

“We’re not just talking about the present, we’re talking about the future,” said Bob Chase, head of the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, which backs the road. “The best way to ensure that more people in this region have shorter commutes is to provide more jobs closer to where people live and have a grid that gives them a chance to move north, south, east and west.”

But opponents argue that state officials need to focus on improving existing roadways — particularly east-west connections, such as Interstate 66 — before investing in new roads.

“We believe that their case just doesn’t hold up, from speculative cargo claims, to congestion, to impact on the historic resource and Rural Crescent, to their failure to invest in the many critical projects residents and commuters need today,’’ said Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, one of the groups that commissioned the $12,000 study.

In a conference call with reporters, leaders of those groups said Marshall’s analysis found that a package of alternative roadway improvements they have proposed would do more to relieve congestion and preserve the historic Manassas Civil War battlefield than the Bi-County Parkway.

The coalition’s plan “addresses a broader set of goals and better protects a historic resource,” Schwartz said.

The Piedmont Environmental Council, the Southern Environmental Law Center, the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the National Parks Conservation Association also sponsored the study.

Earlier this year, VDOT conducted its own analysis of the proposed parkway and the list of projects proposed by the coalition. That study showed that if the parkway is built, traffic at many key points along the north-south route would improve.

VDOT’s “thorough” analysis indicates that the Bi-County Parkway is needed, said Tom Fahrney, the department’s project director for the parkway. The study recognizes that traditional commuting patterns have changed in Northern Virginia, he said.

“The jobs are starting to be located outside of the Beltway, and there’s a need for facilities like the Bi-County Parkway to get folks from Prince William to Loudoun,” Fahrney said. “If this road is not implemented, rural roads that are not safe will carry much more traffic than they are today, and we’ll have congestion and safety problems.”

Virginia transportation officials said the coalition’s study assumed that less development would take place in the area — a major difference between the two reports.

VDOT’s study also looked at the project alternatives proposed by the advocacy groups. Transportation officials said those proposals, which include improvements to the Route 28 and I-66 interchange, building interchanges on the Route 234 Bypass south of I-66 and extending Metrorail service from Vienna to Centreville, would cost more than $6 billion and take decades to complete. Coalition groups argue that VDOT’s analysis is misleading because their approach is far more comprehensive.

The coalition’s report comes at a time when some senior elected officials, including Del. Tim Hugo (R-Centreville) and Rep. Frank Wolf (D-Va.), say additional study is needed before the project moves forward.

In June, the Commonwealth Transportation Board, a state body, voted to advance plans tobuild the parkway. But an additional agreement in principle to build the road must be signed by VDOT, the Federal Highway Administration, the state Historic Resources Department and the National Park Service before the project can more forward. State transportation officials hope that will be completed by this fall.

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New bus rapid transit plan won’t require more property along Md. 355

West Chevy Chase residents no longer have to worry about a “Green Mile” marred by bus lanes down its middle, which would have meant widening the road, and possibly acquiring land through eminent domain.

That idea has been removed from the latest draft of the Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan, which the Montgomery County Planning Board approved on Thursday.

In April, when the planning board OK’d dedicated bus lanes on Md. 355, stretching from Friendship Heights up to the Rockville Metro, some residents of West Chevy Chase protested loudly.

The planning board listened and the new plan represents that, said Larry Cole, the Montgomery County Planning Department’s lead planner.

The proposed rapid transit bus lanes are part of the comprehensive Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan that is meant to improve transportation options, be more environmentally friendly, and support local businesses, according to county planners.

The plan to use median bus lanes has been moved from Phase Two into the appendix. The County Council, if and when it adopts the plan, will not be adopting the appendix, Cole said. It is there for background and guidance for future decisions.

There will still be dedicated bus lanes on Md. 355, but they will run along curbed lanes. The county can create a curb lane without having to acquire anyone’s property.

Another change is the lanes on Md. 355 will now run as dedicated bus lanes from the Friendship Heights Metro up to Shakespeare Boulevard in Germantown, and then as mixed-traffic lanes up to Redgrave Place in Clarksburg. Most of what had been in Phase Two has been moved into the appendix, Cole said. Exceptions were made for corridors and jurisdictions with their own planning authorities.

Alex Posorske, the managing director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, called the plan “groundbreaking.”

“No other suburban region in the D.C. area is putting out something like this,” Posorske said.

The county is expected to add more than 200,000 residents in the coming decade and traffic will only get worse, Posorske said.

He called rapid transit bus lanes one leg in a three-legged stool. The other two legs, he said, were the Purple Line and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

“The trend is clear, people are driving less and less,” Posorske said. “There’s a real sea change in how people look at this.”

An interim copy of the plan should be available online by the end of the week, and the County Council is scheduled to take it up sometime in September.

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BRT Supporters Have Different Views As Plan Heads To Council


Bus Rapid Transit supporters are split on the Master Plan the county’s Planning Department will likely send to the County Council next week on the new transportation system.

Some are still worried language inserted into the plan that would require “a thorough traffic analysis” before any BRT system is implemented severely waters down the plan and contradicts the basic point of making roads move more people instead of more cars.

Meanwhile, the Coalition For Smarter Growth, which is lobbying for a BRT network that would include a controversial transitway on Rockville Pike/MD 355, praised the Planning Board for taking “a major step forward.”

“This plan is one of the most extensive and progressive transportation plans of any suburban community in our region, and is in keeping with Montgomery County’s record of innovation in land use transportation and housing policy,” CSG Executive Director Stewart Schwartz said in a statement.

The Action Committee for Transit wrote a letter to the Planning Board before a worksession on the plan last Thursday urging it to reconsider the “thorough traffic analysis” language.

ACT is concerned a traffic study from county transportation planners at time of facility planning would make it more difficult to dedicate existing lanes to the buses in the BRT network, thus reducing the amount of all-traffic lanes.

At the Thursday worksession, the Planning Board amended the language by saying the thorough traffic analysis “should be performed” instead of “must be performed,” and only “where lane repurposing is recommended.”

Planning Board Chair Francoise Carrier advocated a plan that would ease concerns from drivers worried about how fewer lanes would affect their commutes. On Thursday, Carrier said the Board should consider how the repurposing lanes debate would play out before the County Council, which is expected to take up Bus Rapid Transit in September.

“There is a tension between sending up a plan that’s easier to adopt or sending up the plan thats bolder,” Carrier said.

Planning Commissioner Casey Anderson made it clear throughout the process he’s in favor of a bolder option that would include repurposed lanes where needed. Planning staff has said a lane each way on MD 355 would need to be repurposed through downtown Bethesda and Chevy Chase because there is no room to build an additional lane.

There has already been much opposition to the idea of repurposing lanes from neighborhood groups in Silver Spring and Chevy Chase and residents in Bethesda.

“It’s almost like you’re a dog that’s been beat too much and you’re afraid you’re going to get hit again when you start talking about, ‘Oh, don’t worry. We’re not going to do [lane repurposing] everywhere,’ before you even get started,” Anderson said.

Kelly Blynn, an organizer for the Coalition for Smarter Growth, said while the plan is a break from thinking that often shortchanged transit in favor of single-occupancy vehicles, the group is still concerned about new language from the State Highway Administration.

“However, Blynn expressed concern that other new language in the plan, pressed by the State Highway Administration, would place too high of a standard on moving cars through without considering a more proper standard of what approach would move the most people,” read the group’s press release.

Photo courtesy of Montgomery County Planning Department.

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D.C. planners drop proposal to end minimum parking rule for developers

Bowing to vocal opposition, District planners have backed off a controversial proposal to eliminate long-standing requirements that developers in some areas include parking spaces in their projects.

The decision not to wholly abandon “parking minimums” in outlying neighborhoods served by Metrorail and high-frequency bus lines comes as planners prepare to submit a wholesale rewrite of the city’s zoning code for approval by the Zoning Commission and shortly after opponents repeated their concerns at a council hearing.

The elimination of parking requirements in “transit zones” had been promoted zealously by Harriet Tregoning, director of the Office of Planning, and her deputies as a necessary response to a city growing more populous and less car-dependent. But residents in some neighborhoods viewed the proposal skeptically, claiming it was based on unfounded assumptions and would only worsen the scarcity of curbside parking.

Tregoning disclosed the change during an interview Friday on WAMU-FM, where she acknowledged she had got “a lot of feedback” about the parking changes. “It’s certainly in response to what we’ve heard from a lot of people,” she said.

In a subsequent interview, Tregoning said the planning office still intended to pursue elimination of parking minimums downtown and in fast-growing, close-in neighborhoods such as the Southwest Waterfront and NoMa. But in other areas eyed for the change, she said, the minimums would be “substantially” reduced rather than eliminated entirely.

“A lot of people were very, very concerned with the concept of no parking minimums,” she said. “I wanted to take that out of the discussion so we could focus on what is reasonable.”

Opponents “seemed to be really hung up by what they perceived as an ideological position,” she added. “I’m not an ideologue. I’m very practical. The practical effect is not very different.”

For a multi-unit residential building under the new proposal, Tregoning said, developers would have to create one parking space for every three units in most areas. They could also apply to the Board of Zoning Adjustment for a “special exception” to the minimum. Under current rules, the minimums vary but often require one space for every two units.

The zoning rewrite is nearing the end of a five-year process that has included discussions about liberalizing rules for “accessory” apartments and corner stores in residential neighborhoods. But the parking debate emerged over the past several months as by far the most contentious point of discussion, generating push-back from several neighborhood groups and AAA Mid-Atlantic.

The decision to back off the elimination of parking minimums vexed a group of activists who view it as a cornerstone of efforts to make the city denser and more transit-oriented.

Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, which had rallied support for the measure, said Sunday it was “disappointing” to see Tregoning ease off a measure that could have helped make housing more affordable by lowering development costs.

“I think it would have been much simpler and effective” to eliminate the minimums and allow the market to dictate how much parking developers provide, he said, adding that “we’ll still call for the cleaner, market-based approach” at the Zoning Commission.

Some leading skeptics of the original proposal said it was too soon to tell if the revised parking-minimum measures would prove acceptable.

“It’s fine, but I’m not sure it goes far enough,” said Alma Gates, who has monitored the zoning rewrite for the Committee of 100 on the Federal City, a group of civic activists with a special interest in planning matters. “I’m waiting to see it in writing. . . . We’re talking about a big issue here. It affects everyone who has a car or [is] thinking about a car or coming to Washington.”

Juliet Six, a Tenleytown resident who has been vocal in opposing the parking measures, voiced extremely cautious optimism about Tregoning’s comments. She suggested that the announcement was calibrated to create an illusion of consensus as the debate moves to the Zoning Commission. “This is one way to take the heat off,” she said.

Tregoning acknowledged the change would “make it easier” for the zoning revision to gain the commission’s approval. The planning office is expected to submit the rewritten zoning code, totaling more than 700 pages, to the commission July 29. It is unclear when the body will hold hearings and give its final approval.

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Statement on DC Office of Planning Decision on Parking Minimums

JULY 12, 2013

CONTACT: Alex Posorske, (202) 675-0016 ext. 126

Statement on DC Office of Planning Decision on Parking Minimums

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today on the Kojo Nnamdi show on WAMU, the Director of the DC Office of Planning, Harriet Tregoning, announced that DCOP was scrapping its proposal to eliminate parking minimums in transit zones.  The decision was also reported in the City Paper.

“We are disappointed that the opposition to progressive reforms has caused the city to back down on the important reform of removing minimum parking requirements.  Parking minimums have driven up the cost of housing in a city that needs more affordable housing. The costs of too much parking are being passed on to all residents even if they want to save money by living car free,” said Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth.  “Parking mandates are a legacy of a different era and have hurt America’s cities as Matt Yglesias so clearly laid out Slate this week.”

Greater Greater Washington has covered the issue extensively including a response today.

“We are waiting to review the new proposal from DCOP and we hope that it will still move our city in a more affordable and sustainable direction.  We understand that there will be no minimums throughout our expanded downtown from the West End to NOMA and to our two revitalizing riverfronts,” said Schwartz.  “Moreover, parking requirements will still be lowered in the city’s transit zones. That’s as it should be.  With the expanded transit, walking, biking, and carsharing options that DC now offers, we shouldn’t be mandating more parking than we need or than people will use.”

The Coalition for Smarter Growth will be continuing its campaign for a progressive update to the city’s outdated zoning code including rollback of parking minimums, easier requirements for accessory dwelling units, corner stores in rowhouse neighborhoods, and other components that will make the code easier to understand and more appropriate for a modern, transit-oriented city.


About the Coalition for Smarter Growth

The Coalition for Smarter Growth is the leading organization in the Washington D.C. region dedicated to making the case for smart growth. Our mission is to promote walkable, inclusive, and transit-oriented communities, and the land use and transportation policies needed to make those communities flourish. To learn more, visit the Coalition’s website at



Montgomery Rapid Transit System Takes Major Step Forward with Planning Board Approval

JULY 12, 2013

CONTACT: Alex Posorske, (202) 675-0016 ext. 126

Montgomery Rapid Transit System Takes Major Step Forward with Planning Board Approval

A new county-wide rapid transit system in Montgomery County took a major step forward yesterday when the Montgomery County Planning Board unanimously approved a master plan for the system.

Transit advocates hailed the Planning Board’s decision, noting that with Montgomery projected to add more than 200,000 people in the coming decades, it is critical to invest in new transit infrastructure now.

“This plan is one of the most extensive and progressive transportation plans of any suburban community in our region, and is in keeping with Montgomery County’s record of innovation in land use transportation and housing policy,” said Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth.

“Rapid Transit represents Montgomery’s best, most affordable option for providing needed traffic relief to residents,” Schwartz said. “The old model of building ever more and wider roads for cars has not worked; we have to figure out how to move more people, more sustainably, with the infrastructure we have and Rapid Transit will do that.”

The plan lays the groundwork for a high quality transit network, based on successful bus rapid transit systems around the country, which would connect the County’s key economic and commercial centers, many of which are not currently served by Metro. The service would operate like Metrorail on county roadways, including features like dedicated lanes, comfortable stations, off-board fare payment, and frequent, speedier service to provide commuters relief from some of the longest commute times in the nation.

After reviewing hundreds of public comments, the Board spent many hours making edits and additions to this long range plan. One key change was the inclusion of a “performance standard” that would help ensure the County commits to a high level of transit service.

Kelly Blynn, Montgomery County Transit Organizer for the Coalition for Smarter Growth, highlighted that piece, noting that it was a break from the thinking of the past that often unfairly shortchanged transit.

“In order for this plan to be successful, we must be willing to place transit on equal footing with cars, and dedicate car lanes to transit where it can move more people than individual vehicles can,” Blynn said.

However, Blynn expressed concern that other new language in the plan, pressed by the State Highway Administration, would place too high of a standard on moving cars through without considering a more proper standard of what approach would move the most people. “It’s something we will be monitoring,” said Blynn.

In addition, the Board increased the size of the network, adding a critical connection on the map to Clarksburg, a planned community in need of transit options. Upcounty activists cheered the move.

“The Upcounty is the fastest growing region of Montgomery County,” said Upcounty Citizens Advisory Board member Beth Daly. “The extension of Rapid Transit north on 355 is a step in the right direction to for Clarksburg residents, offering them an express transit option to get to Shady Grove Metro and work centers quickly.”

The Board will now send its recommendations, officially known as the Countywide Transit Corridors Functional Master Plan to the County Council, who will review the plan starting in September. The plan will most likely first be reviewed by the Transportation, Infrastructure, Energy and Environment Committee, and then move to the full Council.


About the Coalition for Smarter Growth

The Coalition for Smarter Growth is the leading organization in the Washington D.C. region dedicated to making the case for smart growth. Its mission is to promote walkable, inclusive, and transit-oriented communities, and the land use and transportation policies needed to make those communities flourish. To learn more, visit the Coalition’s website at


Zoning Rewrite Will Keep Parking Minimums Intact Throughout Much of D.C., But Not Downtown

zrr2Harriet Tregoning, the director of D.C.’s Office of Planning, just made some big news as far as the city’s developers, smart-growth advocates, and car owners are concerned. The long-overdue update to D.C.’s 55-year-old zoning code, which the office is currently working on, will preserve mandatory parking minimums in transit zones for new residential and commercial developments.

Tregoning made the announcement during a segment on WAMU’s The Politics Hour. While D.C. has quite a large car-free population—38.5 percent of households, according to the U.S. Census Bureau—car owners have worried that the end of parking minimums at new developments would tighten the availability of on-street parking.

Developers that construct new buildings in transit zones—within a half-mile of a Metro station or quarter-mile of a busy bus stop—are required to outfit those projects with a certain number of parking spaces. Critics of the policy say the requirements drive up costs of new housing units by an average of 12.5 percent, WAMU reported earlier this month.

Instead of allowing developers to install as many or as few parking spots as they like, Tregoning said the minimums will be reduced. The Office of Planning will submit its code overhaul to the city’s Zoning Commission later this month.

UPDATE, 5 p.m.: Tregoning adds that the elimination of parking minimums will still apply to downtown D.C., the definition of which is being expanded according to a map she sent to DCist. The area colored in orange is what current zoning laws consider to be “downtown,” but when Tregoning’s office submits its report to the zoning commission, downtown will be expanded outward to include the entire shaded area, which stretches from Dupont Circle to NoMa. The map also includes a southern swath of the city encompassing Southwest Waterfront and Navy Yard.


Even though the areas the Office of Planning include many of D.C.’s construction sites, Tregoning told Housing Complex she expects some backlash from the smart-growth advocates who would have preferred the entire city to lose its parking requirements. And sure enough, the backlash came quickly in the form of the Coalition for Smart Growth.

“We are disappointed that the opposition to progressive reforms has caused the city to back down on the important reform of removing minimum parking requirements,” Stewart Schwartz, the group’s executive director said in a statement. “The costs of too much parking are being passed on to all residents even if they want to save money by living car free. Moreover, parking requirements will still be lowered in the city’s transit zones. That’s as it should be. With the expanded transit, walking, biking, and carsharing options that DC now offers, we shouldn’t be mandating more parking than we need or than people will use.”

Photo Courtesy of Kerrin Nishimura, DCist.

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In Arlington, state wants to develop and build over I-66 in Rosslyn, East Falls Church Metro


The proposed area in Rosslyn where Virginia is asking for possible development suggestions. The area in pink is the main area, the areas in light green are secondary possibilities.

Air rights are rapidly becoming a hot topic in Northern Virginia. Some heavy-hitters in Fairfax are pushing for development over the Silver Line stations on the Dulles Toll Road. And on Wednesday, Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) announced that the state is seeking ideas from private developers about building over Interstate 66 in Rosslyn, and over the tracks leading to the East Falls Church Metro station, both in Arlington County.

The “Request for Information” by the state suggests the area of I-66 immediately adjacent to Arlington Gateway Park, or the “Rosslyn tunnel” as the radio traffic reporters call it, might be a good place to develop, and that the stretches of I-66 to the east of that area, and to the west of the park/tunnel, would also be possibilities. This would appear to be about three blocks from the Rosslyn Metro station, which the Request calls “the northern and eastern edges of the Rosslyn metro area.” In East Falls Church, which Arlington did an extensive plan for in 2011, the Request suggests building directly over the tracks on the east side of the Metro station, and then also in the south parking lot immediately adjacent.

“By leasing airspace above certain transportation facilities owned by the Commonwealth,” McDonnell said in a press release, “we can better utilize our existing infrastructure to generate additional revenues to fund future transportation improvements, while at the same time attracting new jobs and economic development.”

In addition to devising a comprehensive plan for East Falls Church, Arlington has also begun working on a plan for Rosslyn. County Board Chairman Walter Tejada said in the governor’s press release that “We will ensure that any potential transit-orientated development using these air rights in Arlington County is consistent with our community’s vision and is consistent with the county’s land use and transportation plans.”


The proposed redevelopment area for the East Falls Church Metro station, with the prime area in pink, and the secondary proposed area in light blue.

Fairfax Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield), one of the big supporters of air rights along the Metro stations being built in Fairfax, applauded the move by the state’s Office of Transportation Public-Private Partnerships, in conjunction with the state Department of Transportation and Metro.

“Governor McDonnell, Secretary of Transportation Connaughton, and the partners responsible for this RFI,” Herrity said, “obviously see the value in air rights with their statement today, and see their feasibility in Northern Virginia. We should be exploring similar options along the Dulles Toll Road corridor.”

One problem that has been raised with sale of air rights, and likely becomes relevant again, is that there is no shortage of existing office space in Northern Virginia, and the cost of building over an existing Metro station or busy highway is, well, high.

Stewart Schwartz of the Coalition for Smarter Growth raised the question for Rosslyn about “whether they are getting close enough to buildout that air rights development might not have the effect of undermining existing plans and development being proposed.” At East Falls Church, he wondered how air rights would fit with Arlington’s new plan for the area, and whether it would again raise the issue of widening I-66, which Arlington has fought fiercely, and successfully, for many years.

There’s also the question of what this potential opportunity might do to the market for Tysons Corner. Developers are being recruited there on the premise they’ll be near Metro stations. Might this give those developers another option, without the tax burden imposed on businesses around the Silver Line, and hurt Tysons’ future growth? The future is wide open.

Bob Brosnan, Arlington’s director of community planning, housing and development, said that the state has promised to work with Arlington and abide by the plans the county has established for Rosslyn and East Falls Church. “Rosslyn does have a lot of development potential,” he said, but added, “we had never thought of doing development over the highway. Who knows what might develop?” Similarly, at East Falls Church, “the idea of going over 66 is nothing we had talked about before. If developers think there is a market, then we would be willing to entertain whatever proposals they have.” He thought development around either station could lead to better connections with the surrounding neighborhoods.

Sean Connaughton, the secretary of transportation, told me, “these two sites came up as maybe perfect projects for us in pursuing air rights. And if we’re successful here, we would for other places not only in Northern Virginia but throughout the Commonwealth, use air rights to spark development and use the money to defray the cost of transportation.” He did not think the development possibilities would take away from Tysons because they are different types of areas, Tysons already having two large existing shopping malls (and no parking around the new stations), Arlington being more commercial at Rosslyn and residential at East Falls Church.

Photos courtesy of the Office of Transportation Public Private Partnerships.

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D.C. Defends Proposal to Change Mandatory Parking Minimums

After six years of work, the first major rewrite of Washington, D.C.’s zoning code since 1958 is inching closer to approval. But it’s facing fierce opposition from some residents who worry it will shrink parking.

A parking garage in D.C.

On Tuesday, the District’s top planning official defended her office’s ideas at a D.C. Council hearing, part of the ongoing Zoning Regulations Review that has involved nearly 50 public hearings and meetings since 2008. The Office of Planning is expected to hand its voluminous proposals to the Zoning Commission by the end of the month, triggering another lengthy public process.

Under the new proposal, developers would no longer be required to construct a minimum number of parking spaces in new apartment housing, office, and retail space in downtown D.C., near Metro rail stations, and in busy bus corridors. Office of Planning Director Harriet Tregoning told council members that the current rules are outdated, prescribing a one-size-fits-all approach that does not reflect driving and parking demand in individual neighborhoods.

“The current code can’t look at the household rate of car ownership in a neighborhood. It can’t look at the type of people who are being marketed to for a particular building,” said Tregoning. “It is one-size-fits-all now, so the proposed changes are to make it possible for the parking in a given building to more closely resemble the anticipated demand in that place, in that building, in that neighborhood.”

Eliminating mandatory parking minimums would not mean developers would cease building any parking spaces at all, Tregoning said.

“Should the Zoning Commission approve changes to parking requirements the projects are likely to deliver more than what is minimally required and explicitly be sensitive to market demand,” she said.

Tregoning pointed to Census data that show 38.5 percent of D.C. households are car-free, and roughly half of all trips are taken with transit, on foot, or by bicycle. In her view, mandatory parking minimums often lead to the construction of excessive, unused spaces. The Coalition for Smarter Growth, a group that supports the changes, contends that the construction of parking spaces drives up housing costs an average 12.5 percent per unit.

Data under dispute

Opponents testified that the elimination of parking minimums would force drivers to circle their neighborhoods looking for spaces. Despite efforts to reduce car dependency, the number of vehicles in the District is increasing, they said.

“There were 267,000 vehicles in D.C. in 2009. 285,000 registered in 2012. So we have a very significant question. What is D.C.’s comprehensive approach to parking? Is this our plan?” said Judy Chesser, one of several residents who testified against the parking proposals. “[The Office of Planning] has demonstrated their lack of data by insisting for many months that car ownership was being reduced in D.C. while it was increasing.”

Lobbyists for AAA Mid-Atlantic, whose officials have accused Washington of waging war on cars, told council members the proposed overhaul of parking rules threatens the District’s future because visitors will choose to stay away if they can’t find parking.

“This situation will worsen if new apartment buildings, stores and offices are built without garages or parking spaces,” said AAA’s Lon Anderson. “The Office of Planning’s logic is that if parking is scarce and driving difficult we will attract fewer cars. But that also means we will attract fewer people.”

Developers near transit stations and in downtown D.C. may favor a change in current policy because of the enormous cost of constructing underground parking, estimated at $40,000 to $70,000 per space, according to Tregoning’s office.

Learning lessons from out west

In Portland, Oregon, officials in April reversed changes to the city’s parking rules after eliminating mandatory minimums, a development frequently cited during the hearing by Tregoning’s critics. Portland reinstated minimums for apartment dwellings with more than 30 units, although developers may reduce by half the parking requirement by providing more bicycle parking and spaces for bike- and car-sharing services.

In 2012 Portland commissioned a study that found “that 64 percent of residents are getting to work via a non-single-occupant vehicle. Almost a third (28 percent) of those surveyed belonged to car-free households; however, cars are still the preferred mode of travel for many of the survey respondents.”

About two-thirds of the vehicle owners surveyed in Portland’s inner neighborhoods “park on the street without a permit and have to walk less than two minutes to reach their place of residence, and they spend only five minutes or less searching for a parking spot,” the study found.

The Office of Planning is targeting July 29 to hand its proposed zoning changes to the Zoning Commission.

Photo courtesy of AlbinoFlea on flickr.

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Testimony before the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority Re: NVTA 2014 and 6-Year Plan Draft Project Lists

Following up on my verbal testimony from your hearing on June 20, the Coalition for Smarter Growth submits the following written comments. As you recall, we strongly disagree with the approach being pressed by Delegate LeMunyon and Bob Chase of the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance, and Delegate Minchew.