RELEASE: Newly-released booster group poll is subjective, simplistic, and of little value to transportation planning in the Washington DC region



April 18, 2016

Stewart Schwartz, Coalition for Smarter Growth, (703) 599-6437
Caroline Taylor, Montgomery Countryside Alliance, (301) 461-9831
Ronit Dancis, Action Committee for Transit, (240) 432-9917
Jim Durham, Alexandria Bicycle & Pedestrian Advisory Committee, (703) 508-0762
Chris Miller, Piedmont Environmental Council, (703) 507-5790

WASHINGTON, DC — A poll released today by the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance (NVTAlliance) and Suburban Maryland Transportation Alliance (SMTAlliance) is subjective, simplistic and of little value for transportation planning in the DC region, according to several transportation groups around the DC region.

“This new poll completely ignores the number one factor affecting traffic and congestion:  land use.  Furthermore, it presumes that by expanding capacity, we can reduce congestion even though a wide array of transportation studies have shown that induced traffic fills up new capacity in as little as five years in metropolitan areas,” said Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth.

“By not providing information to the respondents about the role of land use, the problem of induced traffic, and the potential financial and community costs versus benefits of various projects it’s not surprising that the NVTAlliance/SMTAlliance world is like ‘Lake Wobegon’ where all transportation projects end up rating ‘above average’,” concurred Caroline Taylor, Executive Director of the Montgomery Countryside Alliance.

Transportation and land use planners have learned that how we lay out our communities has a profound effect on transportation. The farther out we live and the more separated homes are from jobs, schools, retail and services, the more we drive. Expanding I-270 and I-66 in the absence of better land use would likely inspire more growth in rural areas and more long-distance commuting.

In contrast, compact mixed-use communities in DC, Arlington, Alexandria, and at Metro stations in Montgomery, Fairfax, and Prince George’s have much lower rates of driving and very high transit, walk and bike use. Every person who lives or works in a transit-oriented center is a person who drives much less, and has a longer lasting positive impact than road expansion.

“This poll is permeated with the presumption that ‘congestion reduction’ can be achieved and that we just need to spend more on everything to do so. This is the worldview that the NVTAlliance and SMTAlliance have long pushed. Both remain primarily highway booster groups, but have had to adjust their campaigns and brands in acknowledgement of the strong support for transit and transit-oriented development in the DC region – so they now package both roads and transit together,” said Schwartz.

“The problem is, we can’t afford to do everything on the NVTAlliance/SMTAlliance wish lists. We need to make choices, and linking land use with transit is the most effective thing we can do. It’s also in very high demand in the real estate market, including for Marriott Corporation, whose CEO has stated that they will be moving to a Metro station from their suburban office park,” said Ronit Dancis, President of Action Committee for Transit.

Jim Durham, Chair of Alexandria Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, added, “For jurisdictions like the City of Alexandria, adding more lane miles of roadway is not an option, and when surrounding jurisdictions take that approach, it just increases congestion via induced demand. Land use and transportation alternatives are the only real long-term alternatives.”

“So, in the end,” concluded Schwartz, “we have a poll that says transportation is a top issue, which isn’t surprising in our successful metropolitan region, and that people would like to see less congestion.  But it’s not honest about how unlikely it is we will be able to reduce congestion over the long term through capacity expansion. By not discussing land use, induced traffic, or tradeoffs, costs and alternatives, the poll is more about boosting spending and getting mega-projects built, than about providing an effective, long-term approach to our transportation and land use challenges.”

The Coalition for Smarter Growth is the leading organization in the Washington DC 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 and investments needed to make those communities flourish. Learn more at

The Montgomery Countryside Alliance promotes sound economic, land-use and transportation policies and programs that preserve the natural environment, open spaces, and rural lands in Montgomery County’s Agricultural Reserve for the benefit of all Washington Metropolitan area residents. Learn more at

Action Committee for Transit has a vision of a Montgomery County where it is easier to travel and more pleasant to live — a county built for people and not for automobiles. We believe fundamental changes are needed in transportation and land use policies to give the people of Montgomery County and Maryland the quality of life we deserve. Learn more at

Alexandria Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee is a volunteer led organization that promotes walking and biking in Alexandria. Learn more at

Since 1972, The Piedmont Environmental Council has proudly promoted and protected the natural resources, rural economy, history and beauty of the Virginia Piedmont. Learn more about the Piedmont Environmental Council at