NPR Story on Arlington County’s Successes and Importance of Metro

October 25th, 2013 2 comments

NPR’s Morning Edition yesterday highlighted Arlington County‘s success in tackling commuting challenges, particularly as a result of the decision to bring Metrorail and transit-oriented development to the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.  

When the Metrorail system was initially designed in the early 1960s, the plan proposed running the Orange Line in the median of what would ultimately become Interstate 66. Arlington County officials lobbied hard and put forward county funds to bring the Orange Line to its existing home, under Wilson Boulevard. They foresaw the benefits of high capacity transit IN the neighborhoods, as opposed to adjacent to the neighborhoods. They also set forth zoning, planning, and other policies to ensure that the county would maximize the benefits from that decision. The NPR story talks about the results of those decisions, the shift from a post-World War II auto-dependent suburb to a vibrant, mixed-use community that has become the gold standard for many cities across the world.

Orange Line - Proposed and Actual Alignments

Orange Line – Proposed and Actual Alignments

For more background on the history, growth, and experience with transit-oriented development in the corridor, check out this powerpoint from the Arlington County Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development. Not only does it provide additional information, it has some terrific before and after photos of the different Arlington neighborhoods and how they have changed. Parkington, anyone?

If you’d like to contribute to the NPR series, you can share your commuting experience with Morning Edition – #NPRcommute.

Yesterday’s NPR story was the first in a multi-part series on how communities are tackling commuting challenges.

Survey Confirms: Metro Means Business

August 8th, 2013 Comments off

Recent surveys of leaders of the Washington-area business community show the current and growing importance of Metro to the region’s prosperity and competitiveness.

In March of 2013, an invitation to an online survey was sent to approximately 6,000 leaders of the Washington-area business community, including members of the DC Chamber of Commerce and the Greater Washington Board of Trade.   Respondents were asked a variety of questions to gauge their perceptions of the important of Metro in succeeding in many aspects of business, including the general importance of Metro to businesses in the region.

Respondents were in agreement about the importance of Metro DC metropolitan region businesses today and in the future.

Respondents were in agreement about the importance of Metro D.C. metropolitan region businesses today and in the future.

Read more…

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A World Without Metro, Part 1: I-395 Traffic

February 19th, 2013 Comments off

Metro’s new strategic planning process, Momentum, articulates a vision for the the next generation of Metro.  One way to illustrate Metro’s vital role in the region’s transportation network is to show the impact of not having Metro.  This series will give perspective on the many real benefits that Metro conveys to the region today.

Metrorail’s Yellow Line crosses the Potomac from Virginia into DC parallel to I-395’s 14th Street Bridge.  Both the rail and highway bridges move large numbers of people into the regional core during the morning rush hour.   Between the two inbound spans, the 14th Street Bridge has six  lanes.  The Yellow Line provides the equivalent of three additional lanes.  This math is pretty simple:  one lane of freeway traffic can move about 2,420 people per hour (2,200 vehicles per hour times an average auto occupancy of 1.1 people per car) and the Yellow Line moves around 7,400 passengers from Pentagon to L’Enfant Plaza during the peak AM hour.   Another way to see it is that the Yellow Line removes 6,700 (7,400 pax / 1.1 pax per car) cars from the road.

What would happen to I-395 if some or all of the in-bound Metrorail Yellow Line customers switched to driving in the morning?  

If only 5% of Yellow Line customers drove up the freeway to the 14th Street Bridge during the AM peak hour, I-395 would fill with stop-and-go traffic for ten miles.

Map illustrating regularly recurring three-mile queue and the 10-mile queue that would regularly form if only 5% of the inbound AM commuters on the Yellow Line across the Potomac River switched to driving.

Map illustrating regularly recurring three-mile queue and the 10-mile queue that would regularly form if only 5% of the inbound AM commuters on the Yellow Line across the Potomac River switched to driving.

How is this possible?

Read more…

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Metro Anchors the Region’s Growth

February 14th, 2013 Comments off

Regional Activity Centers in the core jurisdictions served by high-quality Metro service. Click the image for a full regional map.

Of the 120 COG regional activity centers in the Metro Compact Jurisdictions, 81 are now or will soon be served by high quality Metro transit, either Metrorail or the Metrobus Priority Corridor Network (PCN). That means that two-thirds of these activity centers are primed to support transit-oriented developments. The map above illustrates the activity centers in the core jurisdictions and their level of transit service. Click the image  for a full regional map.

Some jurisdictions have placed a greater emphasis on high-quality transit service when deciding upon areas to designate as regional activity centers.  The chart below shows the total number of activity centers per jurisdiction and the percentage served by Metrorail and/or the PCN.  The core jurisdictions (the District, Arlington and Alexandria) each have over 80% of their activity centers served by high-quality Metro transit.  The beltway jurisdictions (Montgomery, Prince George’s and Fairfax counties) have between 48% and 70% of their activity centers served.   Loudoun County, soon to be added to the compact with two activity centers receiving Metrorail service when the Metrorail to Dulles Phase II comes online, has the lowest percentage of activity centers served by Metro.

The relationship between regional activity and high-quality transit is no accident.  Economic activity gravitates towards areas of greater accessibility, including Metrorail station areas and commercial corridors — once streetcar routes — currently served by Metrobus. However, transit service can also be extended to areas of economic activity which developed due to good highway accessibility, such as Tysons Corner.

As the local jurisdictions continue to focus population and employment growth into these areas, Metro and other regional transit operators are working to connect them to the regional core and to one another through high-quality transit.  It is clear from the current levels of highway congestion that Metropolitan Washington needs more high-quality Metro service (bus and rail) in order to support the growth anticipated over the next 25 years.

One goal of Momentum, Metro’s strategic planning process, is increasing regional mobility and connecting communities.

About the COG Activity Centers

The activity centers list, recently updated by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG), describes where the local jurisdictions plan to focus household and job growth in order to support regional goals of transit-friendly development patterns and sustainability. This updated list includes 120 activity centers within the Metro Compact Jurisdictions (including Loudoun County) and additional 19 within the COG planning area not served by Metro, including Charles, Frederick and Prince William Counties, and the cities of Manassas and Manassas Park.

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Regional Patterns in TOD Demand

November 27th, 2012 Comments off

Data source:  InfoUSA

The Washington, D.C. MSA added 275,000 households and 295,000 jobs between 2004 and 2010.  Of that growth, 6.4% of these households and 13.8% of these jobs located within one-half mile of suburban and one quarter-mile of urban Metro station[1].  This is despite the fact that the land area around these Metro stations comprised only 0.5% of the MSA land area, and suggests that TOD locations in the region are capturing 2.76 times their “fair share” of growth when normalizing for land area.

  • Household growth patterns from 2000 to 2010 illustrate that the number of households around almost all of the Metro stations grew, and Metro-proximate households grew at a faster rate than the MSA as a whole. While the Washington D.C. MSA grew by 1.4% from 2000 to 2010, the number of households around Metro stations grew by 4.8% annually.
  • Employment growth patterns show that employment growth in suburban areas of the MSA has been most pronounced around Metro stations, with office-using employment demonstrating a particularly strong inclination to locate near Metro. From 2000-2010, 12% of MSA office employment growth located near transit, and three sectors:Computer systems design and related services; Management, Scientific and Technical Consulting Services; and Other Professional, Scientific and Technical Services represented 41% of office-using employment growth in metro station areas.

This capture rate is a sharp departure from historical growth trends in the region.  Until the 2000s, growth in households and employment had emanated due west from the epicenter of Washington, D.C., and some would argue that outside of growth adjacent to Metro Stations in the historical path of growth – which could arguably include the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor – growth was largely agnostic to transit proximity.

What is driving these shifts?  At least two factors:

  • Regional and national trends indicate that much of the housing growth through 2030 will come from younger, smaller households that are increasingly choosing higher density homes in transit-accessible, infill locations with easy access to employment and entertainment.  Over 67% of the household growth during the 1985-2000 time period had been comprised of one- and two-person households, and the Census projects that upwards of 85% of the future household growth will be comprised of these “smaller” household types.  These households have a built-in demand for walkable, urbane environs that offer multiple opportunities for unplanned human interaction and what Bob Putnam calls “social capital”.  Almost half of all housing consumers express a desire to live in a walkable community, as evidenced by data compiled by the National Association of REALTORS ® in 2004 and again in 2011.
  • Employers seeking competitive advantages in an increasingly-tight market for high-quality labor are returning to urban locations – where their employees want to be – in order to increase retention and attraction prospects.  In addition, research conducted by the Brookings Institution confirms that urbane, walkable communities exhibit calculable and significant value premiums that drive net operating income and asset-level value for developers and investors.


[1] Urban Metro stations include all D.C stations, plus the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor, Alexandria, and Braddock Road and Pentagon City.  All other Metro stations are classified as suburban.

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