Thursday, September 15, 2005

An Answer in the House

An interesting 'what if' study was outlined in an afternoon session of the Virginia Sustainable Future summit yesterday in Richmond. The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments is studying what the region would be like in 2030 under a few different scenarios:

1) Increasing household growth by 200,000, built in regional 'activity centers' (that looked to be along major transportation corridors.)

2a) moving household units (84,000) to the inner suburbs to put people closer to their jobs.

2b) shifting job growth (82,000 jobs) to the outer suburbs to be closer to residential growth.

3) put new jobs and households around transit stations.

The results so far: moving the forecast growth around the region had a very small effect on daily travel, said Robert Griffiths of MWCOG's Department of Transportation Planning. But adding 200,000 residential units had a "dramatic effect." It would increase transit use by 12 percent and cut VMT per capita by nine percent. Walk and bike commuting would increase 18 percent. "This was one of the few studies that actually showed that we could make a reduction in VMT," Griffiths said.


At 12:56 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

I won't pretend to understand any of this, but I wonder if the regional activity centers include job centers, and how that differs from moving existing jobs to the suburbs.

If the activity centers are not also job centers and the activity centers are situated on major radial roadways and Metro ines, then it would be natural for such a plan to increase transit use. However, such plans are widely criticized for failing to meet the needs of a polycentric urban area.

If they are also job centers then why is that result different from moving existing jobs, other than adding more jobs?

I'm not sure how adding 200,000 new residences reduces per capita VMT unless, by then, the situation is so bad that people simply no longer have adequate access to highways. One might ask the question what happened to all the reasons for those trips, and the associated revenue? If they are able to get all their needs met closer to home, then that is wonderful.

On the other hand, I shudder to think what the Orange Line will look like with 12% more people jammed in there every morning, what the escalator traffic will be like, etc.

Bike and walking is only about three percent of transit, so if you increase it 18%, then that is good, but it is still not much, and we have to wonder how much we will spend on bike paths.

How are these scenarios modeled?

If this is right, it shows how little we really know, including me.

At 2:32 PM, Blogger Bob Burke said...

The way Griffiths characterized it was that the Metro Washington region was able to grow its economy in part because it could import workers from outside the region. I think the idea is just supply and demand - if people don't HAVE to drive long distances between affordable housing and their jobs, many won't.

I think the activity centers are also job centers; they're job centers without enough housing.

I'll make my pitch here again for connecting the land-use & transportation issue to tax policy and the local cost of building schools - part of the reason that localities, after a certain period, shut the door to residential growth is because they don't want to raise real estate taxes to pay for more schools. Of course by the time they reach that 'decision' the horse is usually out of the barn, i.e. vested residential projects.

Griffiths managed to make this point without, to my recollection, ever using the word 'density.'

Also: not everyone who rides a bike to work uses bike paths.

At 2:33 PM, Blogger Bob Burke said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 4:31 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

OK, that makes sense to me, if the activity centers are already job centers, why not add the housing where the jobs are. That is a lot different than totally re-planning the whole society.

I'd like to read more of this. It seems confusing to me that moving stuff around doesn't change traffic, but adding new stuff in the correct location reduces traffic: sounds a little like pixie dust. I guess some people go to work and go home and don't do much else.

It seems to me we will need some connectivity between activity centers: it's too bad the tri county connector was killed. After all, it only took thirty years to come to an agreement.

When I watch the local arguments over providing more schools, all I can think is that this is just a precursor: when these kids graduate, they are going to want a place to live.......

I used to be a big biker myself. I think riding in residential areas or business areas is OK, but there are some arteries you wouldn't want to get caught dead on lest you be caught dead. Columbia Pike jumps to mind as an for example.

Near my home there are many recrational bikers on weekends, that frequently travel in large and small groups. The roads are narrow, twisted, and hilly. I have visions of someone in a ton truck racing over a blind hill and wiping out a dozen of them.

These roads are barely bigger than the bike trails in Fairfax as it is. When you add trucks, farm vehicles, soccer moms, bicycles, and high speed ninja motorcycles, then you really have a toxic mix on Sunday afternoon.

Now if I want to ride I either take a mountain bike around the farm, or throw the bike in the truck and drive to where there is a trail where I can ride safely.....

A good mix of trails is essential to keep different kinds of traffic apart, and Fairfax has done well at this, we just can't go crazy with the idea.

At 9:23 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The deaths of a bicyclist and motorcyclist last week bring to four the number of fatalities from collisions between two-wheeled and four-wheeled vehicles in the last month, turning renewed attention to the issue of safely sharing the roadways.

Loudoun Times


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