Monday, October 03, 2005


This morning's Washington Post has an editorial blasting Loudoun County's pro-growth government for trying to slip in some comprehensive plan amendments that could produce rezonings near Dulles Intl Airport to allow up to 28,000 more residential units. That's about seven times what's currently there, says the Post.

And down in Hampton Roads, the Virginian-Pilot has a nice series of stories on housing. "When the Workforce Can't Live Here" is one headline on a story, which talks with a young family that moved to Elizabeth City, N.C. to find a single-family home they could afford. They got a house for under $130,000 but face a 100-mile roundtrip commute. Says the story:

'Friends and co-workers used to question why they traded a Chesapeake apartment and a shorter commute for a house so far away.

“I was like, 'Well, I have a house. You have a condo,’” Mercedes [Koedinger] said. “I have no regrets. Not at all.”'

Look at the photo with the Pilot story. There's no need to point out the higher fuel costs this couple will pay, or lecture them on lost-family-time quality-of-life issues, etc. They wanted a house.


At 7:59 AM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

Hopefully that guy will telecommute part of the time, but the real story is - they wanted a house, not a cubicle. Also they live in Elizabeth city, which despite its seedier areas is a lovely little town.

At 8:53 AM, Blogger Toomanytaxes said...

What is amazing about the Post's editorials on Loudoun County is the complete inconsistency with their editorials on Fairfax County. While there certainly should be scrutiny of a proposal to add 28,000 new homes in Loudoun County, shouldn't there be even more scrutiny of a proposal to add more than 125,000 new residents to Fairfax County? But, of course, all of them will ride Metrorail, so there's no problem in Fairfax County.

Part of the difference can be explained by the difference in party control over the Fairfax and Loudoun County boards. The Post is, well, the Post. It complains bitterly about congressional interference in the District of Columbia's affairs, but cheers federal bills that would regulate oil exploration in Alaska.

At 10:41 AM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

For the last thirty years Portland thought they could make do with transit. Today the difference between free flow travel times and rush hour travel times is higher in Portland than any other city. This number declined somewhat in the last two years surveyed, but the decline was closely correlated to a decline in economic activity for that period. Both figures now appear to be reversing.

"The area's freeway traffic has doubled in the past 20 years, four times faster than the pavement underneath it. ... Average rush-hour travel time across the whole network has remained about the same over the past 20 years, and some measures show improvement. People are driving less and commuting shorter distances, which eases the impact of congestion on travel time. In other words, the freeways are more congested in the Portland area, but people don't travel on them as far." Oregon Times.

In other words, if you are willing to spend the same amount of time traveling less distance, which translates to less opportunity, and if you are willing to accept lower economic activity, then you can reduce VMT.

I recently spent a week in Portland, and it has a lot to admire: I particularly liked the bike racks on the front of each bus. On the other hand they used 40 passenger busses and I never saw one more than 40% full. the streetcars were similarly vacant, except during rush hour. The city does has an active street life, and also a high percentage of panhandlers.

In NC, meanwhile, the proposed cost of commuter rail there has climbed from $100B to $750B, with no end yet in sight.

Sound familiar?

At 12:20 PM, Blogger Jim Bacon said...

The Post editorial provides few details on the Loudoun residential project, but 28,000 residential units is a lot of housing. But the issue isn't the magnitude of the project, it's the mix of housing, jobs and amenities it creates. Judging by the omission of any mention of commercial or retail, the County does not appear to be planning for a balance. Residents will be driving miles and miles to run the simplest of errands. Sounds like a recipe for disaster.

At 4:03 PM, Blogger Ray Hyde said...

Not only that, but I wonder how long before 28,000 residents are clamoring for closing or altering flight patterns at Dulles on account of the noise.

One good thing about having to travel a long way for the simplest errand is that you tend not to go until you have enough errands to make the trip worthwhile. For myself, you just about have to drag me out, unless I have gotten so far down the project list that I can't proceed further without supplies. It's one way I reduce my VMT.

I had an error in my previous post the cost of proposed commuter rail in NC has gone from $100M to $750M, not B.


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