Tag: traffic

Arlington is Booming, And Traffic Fantastically Remains at 1970s Levels

Science fiction fans will recognize this plot line. A woman travels into the past, telling her ancestors about her reality in the future, only to be called a lunatic because of the incredible nature of what she is saying.

Anyone who lives and works in 2013 Arlington, Virginia might be met with the same reaction if she were to go back to 1979 and tell someone about the county’s population, employment, and transportation trends.

Arlington’s population and employment have jumped nearly 40 percent over the past three decades. Meanwhile, traffic on major arterials like Wilson and Arlington Boulevards has increased at a much lower rate or even declined.

Nevertheless, according to our latest research (also embedded below), most executives and business managers based in Arlington County think it’s a fantastical notion that the county will meet its goal of capping rush-hour traffic at 2005 levels over the next two decades.

Of course, first these leaders had to learn that Arlington even has this target. Only 11 percent surveyed knew that the county actually intends to keep rush-hour trips and rush-hour vehicle-miles-traveled (VMT) at or below 5 percent growth of their respective 2005 levels by 2030 (PDF; 1 MB). This goal is in place even though Arlington County planners expect that the population will rise by 19 percent and jobs will increase by 42 percent over that same period.

Once business leaders heard about the cap, a majority (61 percent) agreed that keeping traffic near 2005 levels is important to achieve. However, given the growth projections, it’s not surprising that so many in our business community do not think that we can get to our goal. It may be worth reminding them that other jurisdictions have more aggressive targets. San José, California, for one, wants to reduce the VMT within its borders by 40 percent from its 2009 level by 2040.

Arlington County Commuter Services continues to refine the way in which the county government keeps a lid on traffic with the infrastructure already in place. In 2012, ACCS’s outreach work throughout the county shifted 45,000 car trips each work day from a solo-driven car to some other form of transportation. The Silver Line’s opening at the end of the year will give new options for the large numbers of Fairfax County residents who travel into Arlington or through it to Washington D.C.

Yet now is also a time in which many of our region’s transportation visionaries and transit providers are thinking big about the future. The Coalition for Smarter Growth just released a report that catalogues the many existing plans to improve transit across the region in order to get us Thinking Big, Planning Smart, and Metro’s Momentum plan for improvements by 2040 is a expression of what the heart of our region’s transportation success could look like for the next generation.

Clearly, the billions of dollars needed to make these and other investments possible will not appear out of thin air and, as a community, the D.C. region will need to make bold decisions (just as Arlington has by strictly following its transportation vision set out in the 1970s).

Luckily, Arlington’s business community seems to be on board. Seventy-nine percent think that improving the transit system is important. And Arlington’s track record of success and the attitudes found in our survey of business leaders indicate that meeting the county’s traffic goal is realistic after all.

Does your community have an explicit goal to cap traffic? If so, we would like to hear about it, because seeing the state of practice helps us all make the case that taming traffic is, in fact, possible. Just like in science fiction, it only seems crazy because we have not done it yet.

Photo courtesy of Mobility Lab

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Deal is near to shift traffic out of Manassas battlefield park

The National Park Service and Virginia authorities are close to signing a major Civil War battlefield preservation deal that eventually would close two congested roads that slice through the twice-hallowed ground at Manassas.

The agreement, which could be signed by the summer, would provide for routes 234 and 29 to be shut down inside Manassas National Battlefield Park. That would happen once new highways are built along the western and northern edges of the battlefield and serve as bypasses.

“We’re down to the wire here. It looks good,” said Ed Clark, the park superintendent, a key architect of the pact. “It puts the goal of removing all the traffic from the battlefield within sight.”

There are downsides, of course. It could be more than 20 years before both highways, sometimes called the Bi-County Parkway and the Battlefield Bypass, are completed.Local residents and environmental groups said they would destroy the rural character that drew them to western Prince William County. Some accuse the Park Service, which previously has resisted new roads and development, of selling them out.

On the bright side, however, shutting the roads inside the park would be one of the biggest achievements ever to restore the authenticity and improve the visitors’ experience at the premier Civil War battlefield closest to Washington.

The 1861 Battle of Manassas, known in the North as Bull Run, was the war’s first full-scale engagement. It’s the one where Washington’s elite naively took carriages 30 miles to the scene for a picnic, thinking war was a spectator sport.

They were shocked when the Rebels routed the Union troops and sent them scampering back to the capital.

The same ground was the site of a second battle a year later, even bloodier than the first. It marked one of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee’s greatest victories and helped encourage him to invade Maryland, where he was turned back at the historic battle at Antietam.

The Park Service and preservationists have long been unhappy principally with the steadily rising traffic inside the battlefield. On a typical workday, more than 50,000 vehicles pass through the intersection of 234 and 29 in the center of the park.

Congestion is so bad that it’s often impossible to complete the driving tour that traces the highlights of Second Manassas.

“What we’ve been saying for more than a decade is the biggest threat to this park is the commuter and industrial traffic that goes through it every day,” said Jim Campi, spokesman for the Civil War Trust.

Campi’s group hasn’t yet formally endorsed the deal, known as a Section 106 programmatic agreement under federal historic preservation law. His group wants to be sure the final form guarantees that both roads, and not just one, will eventually be closed. That’s important because plans provide for the closures to be in two phases.

In the first phase, when the north-south, Bi-County Parkway is completed west of the park, 234 would be closed inside it. State and local authorities are keen to push that ahead quickly. Local residents who stand to lose property, and other groups, are agitating to block it.

The park would have to give up four acres of land for the Bi-County Parkway and allow a noisy, four-lane highway to be built nearby. Clark, the park superintendent, doesn’t like that but says it would be worth it to eliminate a road that’s also pretty noisy and cuts right through his battlefield.

“We’re giving some on the periphery to get an awful lot in the core, in the center of the park,” Clark said.

In the second phase, possibly as late as 2035, the Battlefield Bypass would be built north of the park. Only then would 29 be closed within it.

Clark said that as part of the deal, he insisted that the Virginia Department of Transportation pledge firmly to close both roads once the new highways are built. His nightmare would be that he agrees to new highways just outside his park, only to see the state renege on its promise to shut the roads within.

“They would have to double-cross us to do that,” Clark said. “We have to operate in good faith here that they’re going to stick to their word.”

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Arlington: Testimony in Support of the East Falls Church Area Plan

The Coalition for Smarter Growth endorses the East Falls Church Plan while making recommendations for enhancement and implementation of the plan. We commend the extensive process that has gone into the development of a sustainable, walkable vision for the future — including a citizen task force that included representatives of neighborhood associations and other stakeholders, as well as additional analysis and refinement by county staff based on feedback from the community.

At $80,000 per Space, Proposed Bethesda Parking Garage Needs a Second Look

In the midst of painful budget cuts and transit fare increases, the Montgomery County Council is on the verge of voting to spend $89 million, or $80,000 per space, for a 1,150 space parking garage in the heart of the walking and biking-oriented Bethesda Row district. The new garage will be adjacent to the Capital Crescent Trail and a block away from the planned South entrance of the Bethesda Metro station. The Council’s transportation committee voted for the garage on Friday, before sending the issue to the full Council.