Tag Archives: environment

Coalition Work, Housing, Land Use, Transportation

Time-lapse Through Activity Centers

To best accommodate future growth, take advantage of our transportation infrastructure, protect our environment, and bolster our economy, metropolitan Washington must concentrate more development in Activity Centers. These are the 141 hubs identified by the Council of Governments where our region needs to grow. In 2013, COG approved a new map of these centers based […]

Climate & Energy, Economy

Leaders Work to Spur Investments in Building Energy Efficiency to Create Jobs & Fight Climate Change

Financing energy retrofits has been a major focus of area leaders on the Council of Governments’ climate and energy committee since retrofit projects create jobs, increase energy efficiency, and fight climate change. Retrofit projects have also been of great interest to former President Bill Clinton, which is why he joined AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka and other […]

Climate & Energy, Environment

Partnerships Bring Cleaner, More Efficient Engines to Local Businesses

Diesel engines, especially older ones, generate a lot of pollutants. That black smoke you see pumping out of trucks, buses, and boats produces major negative effects on human health, the environment, the climate, and exacerbate environmental injustice. To ameliorate these effects, Congress passed the Diesel Emissions Reduction Act (DERA) in 2005. The legislation was reauthorized […]


Maryland Passes Landmark Forest Legislation

Steven Koehn, Director/State Forester at Maryland DNR Forest Service, Co-Chair American Forest Foundation (AFF) Woodlands Operating Committee and member, AFF Board of Trustees Maryland’s General Assembly recently passed the Forest Preservation Act of 2013, which now awaits the Governor’s signature. As a result of former iterations of this bill, the Department of Natural Resources and […]

Climate & Energy

Local, State Innovations Provide Way to Meet Climate Goals

As frustrating as Congress’ unwillingness to take serious action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions may be, additional legislation may not even be necessary to achieve the country’s climate mitigation goals. That was one of the key points stressed during a recent panel discussion with climate experts from the Georgetown Climate Center, Brookings and local elected […]

Climate & Energy

Sustainable DC: A Major Advance in Moving the Region Forward

Laine Cidlowski, AICP, Urban Sustainability Planner, and Tanya Stern, Chief of Staff, DC Office of Planning On February 20, Mayor Vincent C. Gray released what is being lauded as one of the nation’s most ambitious plans to improve quality of life in the Washington Metro region. The Sustainable DC Plan establishes a bold vision to make […]


Survey Finds Number of Local “Complete Streets” Policies in the Region Growing

Less than a year after the Transportation Planning Board adopted its regional policy endorsing “Complete Streets,” most major jurisdictions in the region now have their own such policies in place aimed at providing adequate and safe access for all street users, according to a December 2012 survey of the TPB’s member jurisdictions. The survey found […]

Climate & Energy

Regional Investment in Energy Efficiency: Good for the Economy and the Environment

Nicole Steele, Alliance Commission on National Energy Efficiency Policy & Julia Allman, Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments It’s long been said that the cleanest, cheapest energy is the energy you don’t use. And consuming less energy doesn’t mean sacrificing comfort or holding back economic growth. On the contrary, when we improve our energy productivity we […]


Progress Versus Tiny Pollutants Shows Big Improvement in Region’s Air Quality

In 2005, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said our region was not meeting its fine particle (PM 2.5) pollution standards. This meant pollution levels were too high and that area leaders, through COG’s Metropolitan Washington Air Quality Committee, needed to devise a plan to clean the air. Fast forward to 2013 and after a lot […]


Scaling Up Electric Vehicles in Metropolitan Washington

Metropolitan Washington regularly finds itself at or near the top of a lot of lists. Some of these distinctions are good, such as being the most educated region in the country, and some of them are bad, such as being one of the most expensive places to live. Unfortunately, “most electric vehicles” is not a […]


Alternatives to drive-alone commuting to see higher % increase in number of trips, commute share

Between now and 2040, the share of people in metropolitan Washington who drive alone to and from work each day is expected to fall while the share of people who choose to carpool, bicycle, or walk to work will increase, according to the results of the Transportation Planning Board’s latest travel forecasts. The share of people who take transit is expected to remain roughly the same.

In all, the TPB’s travel models predict more than a million more daily commute trips by 2040 based on anticipated growth between now and then. Projections from the Council of Governments say the region’s population will grow by 24% — to more than 6.4 million people — and that employment will grow by 36% — to almost 4.4 million jobs.

Most of the new commute trips that are expected — about 450,000 — will be made by solo drivers, according to the forecasts. Carpool trips will increase by about 240,000 per day, as will those by transit. Almost 80,000 of the new trips will be made by bicycle or on foot.

Today, 61% of all commute trips in the region are made by solo drivers. By 2040, that number is expected to fall to 57%.

The share of trips by carpool, on the other hand, will increase from 11% to 14%, while the share of trips by bicycle or on foot will increase from 4% to 5%. About 28% of trips to and from work in 2040 will be by transit, the same as today.

These shifts, although they appear to be slight, are an important reflection of emerging trends in how people are likely to choose how to get around the region in the future.

The TPB’s travel forecasting models take into account a wide range of assumptions about the relative availability and attractiveness of various travel options in predicting what modes people will choose.

Among other things, the models take into account trip costs and travel time, which include things like transit fares, fuel prieces, parking costs, and tolls, as well as time spent not only traveling but also parking one’s car, waiting for buses or trains, transferring between lines, or walking to one’s final destination.

Over the next thirty years, the relative availability and attractiveness of different travel modes are expected to change, and those changes are expected to vary throughout the region.

The TPB’s forecasts show that in the regional core, for example, which includes the District of Columbia, Arlington County, and the City of Alexandria, the share of people taking transit to and from work is expected to decrease slightly, from 58% to 56%. Meanwhile, the share of people bicycling or walking to work is forecast to rise from 13% to 15%. More housing planned within walking distance of job centers and improvements to bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure are expected to drive such shifts.

In the region’s inner suburban jurisdictions — Fairfax, Montgomery, and Prince George’s counties — more than 400,000 more commute trips are expected by 2040, compared to today. The share of trips by solo drivers will fall from 63% to 61%, while small increases in the share of trips by transit, bicycling, and walking are expected. The travel models predict that the opening of the Silver Line in Virginia and the Purple Line in Maryland, along with the new mixed-use development they are likely to spur, will contribute to such shifts.

Farther out, in Frederick, Charles, Prince William, and Loudoun counties, new transit options like the Silver Line, increasing highway congestion, and new high-occupancy toll lanes are expected to encourage a greater share of people to commute by transit, carpooling, and bicycling and walking. The share of commute trips made by solo drivers is forecast to fall from 79% to 70% in these areas over the next 30 years, while the share of trips by carpool will increase from 15% to 20% and the share of trips by transit will increase from 5% to 9%.

As the region continues to grow, and as its transportation system continues to evolve, the modes of travel people choose to get to and from work will change based on the relative availability and attractiveness of various options. Planners and decision-makers can encourage further shifts by taking steps to make desired modes more available and more attractive to potential travelers.

The TPB Weekly Report is a regular feature on The Yardstick and is designed to provide brief, timely summaries of recent research, analysis, outreach, and planning by the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB). Follow the TPB on Facebookand Twitter.

Land Use

Activity Centers: Where Metropolitan Washington is Growing

Regional leaders voted today to approve an updated set of Activity Centers for metropolitan Washington.* These 139 Centers include existing urban centers, traditional towns, transit hubs, as well as areas expecting future growth.

Scroll below the text to see an ABC 7 video clip and additional media coverage of the decision.

For example, Georgetown is a vibrant, walkable place already built-out with a strong mix of housing and businesses. Activity Centers also include locations as diverse as NoMa, Clarendon, downtown Frederick, and Silver Spring where major growth is expected to occur over the next several decades and where investments should be prioritized.

While the Centers vary in scale and type, the basic concept behind them is the same: concentrate development in areas that will have the planning and infrastructure in place to support it. By focusing growth in Activity Centers, the region will improve connections between housing and jobs, reduce environmental impact, and make a better use of limited funds.

The Centers will also promote development around area transit such as Silver Line Metro stations in Northern Virginia and Green Line Metro stations in Prince George’s County, Maryland. About two-thirds of Centers are or will be served by the region’s existing or future rail transit network.

The goal for this latest update was to make the Centers more broadly useful. To do so, more targeted and specific criteria were used to designate than in 2007, the last time the Council of Governments approved a set of Activity Centers. The criteria are primarily based on Region Forward, COG’s vision for a more accessible, sustainable, livable, and prosperous metropolitan Washington.

The Council of Governments views Activity Centers as the next generation of metropolitan Washington’s growth and development. The office park model of development, based on low-density sprawl, is obsolete. That is why leaders in the region are working to focus future growth – which is estimated to bring over a million more people to the region in the next few decades – in mixed-use Activity Centers.

The Activity Centers map update is a necessary step in the development of an upcoming Strategic Investment Plan currently underway by COG’s Region Forward Coalition. By pointing out the specific elements (i.e., sidewalks, ground-level retail, fresh food, parks) that each Center is lacking or could improve upon, the Investment Plan will help local governments determine how best to use limited resources.

The Activity Centers Strategic Investment Plan will be released later this year and is a key component of Economy Forward, COG’s plan to prepare metropolitan Washington for a future with reduced federal spending and employment.

*Post updated to reflect the Council’s vote to approve the Activity Centers and to include additional information.

ABC 7: ‘NOMA,’ Clarendon, Silver Spring to see huge growth, study says

DCist: Regional Group Outlines 139 Activity Centers Where Growth is Expected in Future

WTOP: Planners ID neighborhoods for targeted development

WAMU: Planners: Regional Job Growth Should Focus on Activity Centers


Report highlights region’s agriculture and challenges for the future

Known as home to the federal government, major defense contractors, biotech firms, and universities, it may come as a surprise that agriculture also plays a major role in metropolitan Washington’s land use and economy.

About 28% of the region’s land area is dedicated to agriculture and the industry contributes approximately $1 billion to the metropolitan Washington economy every year. Agricultural production is also quite varied, ranging from tomatoes and potatoes to beef and beans.

Despite its size and diversity, however, the region’s agriculture is not meeting local food demands. And with more than a million people expected to move to this already rapidly-growing region in the next few decades, the situation is likely only going to get worse without significant policy changes. That’s the message behind a new Council of Governments report, What Our Region Grows.

The report, still in draft form, highlights the region’s current agricultural production as well as the gaps between current production and what’s needed to meet local demand. We’ll cover the report in more detail once it’s finalized, but the draft version – complete with charts and graphs – makes for interesting reading during the holidays.

New Tools Would Help Visitors Find Alternative Ways to Access National Park Sites in Metro Washington

A new website and smartphone application to help visitors of the federally-owned cultural, historic, and recreational attractions in the Washington region find ways other than by car to get to those sites could become a reality if the Transportation Planning Board and the National Park Service receive a federal grant for which they jointly applied earlier this year.

The $410,000 grant would be funded under the Paul S. Sarbanes Transit in the Parks Program, which the Federal Transit Administration has used since 2006 to support efforts to reduce congestion and crowding in and around national parks and other federal lands. This is the last year that funding will be available under the program since it was not included in the recent Congressional transportation reauthorization known as MAP-21.

In the past, Transit in the Parks has primarily funded planning for or construction of capital projects like shuttle buses, rail connections, and bicycle trails. The TPB proposal aims to promote alternatives and ease crowding by providing more complete and up-to-date information about options that are available in the region, including transit, bicycling, pedestrian, and ridesharing opportunities.

Currently that information is scattered across many different websites and other sources. Partly that’s because the region is home to more National Park Service sites — including the monuments and memorials on the National Mall and the Civil War battlefields in Virginia and Maryland, among others — than any other metropolitan area in the country. It’s also because several different jurisdictions and agencies are responsible for providing the array of transportation options that are available to visitors at those different sites.

The new web-based tools, which would be developed and maintained by Commuter Connections, the TPB program that promotes alternative modes to the region’s commuters, would bring all of that information together into a single, integrated source and include an interactive mapping feature for finding customized routes and available options.

In addition to helping visitors to the region, the new web-based tools would also provide information to low-income residents who do not own a car and who may feel unable to take advantage of nearby cultural, historic, and recreational opportunities. According to the grant applicants, avid cyclists and other users of “active transportation” modes would also benefit from the tools.

Growing numbers of visitors to the region, from around 16 million last year, and an increasing local population will only add more demand and more pressure in the future to sites that are already becoming crowded.

An expanding network of shared-use bicycle and pedestrian trails linking several other parks and sites in the area, as well as new and changing bus routes and opportunities for ridesharing, especially to major events, means that park visitors will have more and more options for reaching their destination.

Recently, the Capital Bikeshare program — a joint venture of the District of Columbia, Arlington County, and the City of Alexandria to provide short-term bicycle rentals within the three jurisdictions — expanded to include docking stations at several of the monuments and memorials on the National Mall. Additional expansion is expected to occur.

If the new web-based tools proposed by the Transportation Planning Board and the National Park Service are developed, it will be easier for visitors to the federally-owned parks and sites in the region to find the most up-to-date information on ways other than by car to access those attractions. This could ease crowding and provide new opportunities for visitors and current residents to take greater advantage of the region’s cultural, historic, and recreational assets.

The TPB Weekly Report is a regular feature on The Yardstick and is designed to provide brief, timely summaries of recent research, analysis, outreach, and planning by the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB). Follow the TPB on Facebook and Twitter.

Lots of potential for electric vehicle growth in metro Washington

Although it currently lags behind early adopters on the West Coast, metro Washington holds great potential for widespread electric vehicle (EV) adoption in the future.

Electric Vehicles in Metropolitan Washington, a new COG report, outlines the region’s present EV readiness and offers recommendations for overcoming some of the major barriers, including limited vehicle availability and underdeveloped charging infrastructure.

But before we go any further, why should we want greater EV usage?

EVs boast stronger environmental credibility than traditional and even hybrid vehicles, with much lower greenhouse gas emissions (yes, that’s even when accounting for emissions generated by power source). The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) views electric vehicles as one of the highest impact strategies for reducing greenhouse gas emissions between now and 2030.

They’re also much cheaper to operate. EVs have fuel economy ratings equivalent from 75 to over 100 miles per gallon of gasoline and cost approximately $0.04 per mile to operate when charged in metropolitan Washington (compared to $0.13 per mile for a traditional vehicle).

Furthermore, EVs are practical for much of the region’s population. Most vehicle trips in metro Washington are short, with an average trip length of less than eight miles. This is well within the range of one charge for all EVs on the market today, eliminating one of the major obstacles to greater EV usage, “range anxiety,” which keeps people from traveling long distances out of fear they won’t have anywhere to recharge their vehicle.

Although metro Washington still has a relatively small electric vehicle market, consumer interest in EVs is growing and more models are becoming available. However, the region’s charging infrastructure and EV policies are not yet sufficient to accommodate more widespread adoption of these vehicles.

When it comes to infrastructure, regions like San Francisco and San Diego are ahead of ours in the number of EV charging stations, though the gap is decreasing due to stimulus funding and private investment.

An April 2012 COG inventory of EV charging stations in the region identified 332 chargers in 133 publicly available charging station locations. D.C. has the most charging stations (36), followed by Fairfax County (18), Arlington County (15), and Charles County (11). D.C. and Arlington County also have the highest number of chargers (85 and 62, respectively).

In addition to infrastructure, the absence of a clear policy framework for EV infrastructure planning exacerbates existing market barriers to wider EV adoption. EV planning involves permitting, citing, zoning, utility policy, and other issues. The report notes that a streamlined regional strategy would help overcome these obstacles and encourage wider EV adoption.