Tag Archives: urban planning


Workshop Helps Residents Learn About Transportation Decision-Making in Metro Washington

Seven years ago, the Transportation Planning Board hosted its first Community Leadership Institute, or CLI, a workshop-style event designed to help current or emerging citizen leaders from around the Washington region learn about how transportation decisions are made and how to become more involved in the decision-making process. On Saturday, May 4, a group of 22 […]


New Site Provides Access to Regional Traffic, Transit, and Growth Data

For decades the Transportation Planning Board has made the data and information it collects about the region’s transportation system available to the public, including road traffic counts and transit ridership numbers. Now, the TPB is making much of that information available online so that local planners and decision-makers, developers, consultants, and anyone else can access […]


Studies Focus on Making Areas Near Transit Safer, Easier to Use, and More Affordable

In 2012, the Transportation Planning Board funded three planning studies to look at ways to make commercial and residential areas near transit stations in the Washington region safer and easier to use, or to make those areas more affordable places to live. The TPB funded the studies under its Transportation/Land-Use Connections Program, or TLC, which, […]

Land Use

A Plan for Investing in Metropolitan Washington to Improve Walkability and Economic Performance

Washington, now that the sequester is officially here, what does it mean for your community? Will you see the value of your home decrease in a similar way to the housing market crash in 2008? Hopefully not. But to answer this question you might first ask yourself if you live in a walkable urban place? […]


Group Celebrates 20 Years of Citizen Involvement in Transportation Planning in Metro Washington

On a December evening in 1992, a group of Washington area residents gathered for the first meeting of the Transportation Planning Board’s Citizens Advisory Committee. Some members of the group had been attending meetings of the TPB for a while to voice their concerns about a proposal to replace the Capital Beltway’s aging Woodrow Wilson […]


Region’s Transportation Planning Board Urges State Leaders to Increase Transportation Funding

Note: We discussed the TPB’s action supporting increased transportation investment in metropolitan Washington in December – the post below provides a more in-depth analysis of the letter and the proposed solutions. In a December letter to state leaders, the Transportation Planning Board (TPB) urged immediate action to increase funding for transportation in the Washington region, citing […]


Metro Washington Residents Cautiously Receptive to Congestion Pricing, Study Finds

In a recent study of public opinion regarding congestion pricing, the Transportation Planning Board found cautious receptivity to the idea of charging Washington area drivers new fees to use the region’s roads as a way to manage worsening congestion and to pay for much-needed transportation improvements. But the more than 300 people who participated in the […]

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.

Traffic and transit congestion to worsen without changes in funding, policy

As we noted last week, new TPB analysis shows that metro Washington’s already major traffic and transit congestion will continue to worsen without greater investment in transportation infrastructure and changes in land use policy throughout the region. The following post provides greater detail about the findings.

Travelers in metro Washington will face considerably more roadway and transit congestion in coming decades if current planning and funding trajectories are allowed to continue.

That’s the main finding of a recent Transportation Planning Board analysis of how well the projects and programs in the region’s long-range transportation plan will meet the increased demands brought on by anticipated population and job growth over the next three decades.

The plan, formally called the Constrained Long-Range Transportation Plan, or CLRP, includes all of the regionally-significant transportation projects and programs that the states and local jurisdictions in the region expect to build or implement between now and 2040.

Currently the plan includes almost $223 billion in anticipated spending, 70% of it needed for maintaining and operating the existing system of roads, transit, and bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure. Only $67 billion, or 30%, is slated to be spent on expanding the system, whether by building or widening roads, constructing new transit lines, or purchasing railcars and buses to provide additional capacity.

The TPB’s recent CLRP analysis showed that the expansion that is planned will hardly keep pace with forecast demand.

By 2040, the region’s population is expected to increase 24% — an additional 1.3 million people — while the number of jobs is forecast to swell by 37%. The TPB’s travel models predict that such growth will lead to increases in total driving — measured in vehicle-miles of travel, or VMT — of 25%. Vehicle work trips are expected to increase by 27%, while transit work trips are expected to increase by 28%.

Meanwhile, the CLRP only includes a 7% increase in new lane-miles of roadway and specifically points out that Metrorail lacks the funding needed to run all eight-car trains during peak hours, a key to increasing the capacity of the Metrorail system.

Together these pressures will result in a 78% increase in the number of lane-miles of congested roadway during the morning peak hour, according to the analysis. And four of Metrorail’s five lines to and through the regional core will be “congested” or “severely congested” during the morning peak, compared to just one today.

Predictions like these help illustrate the impacts that current planning and funding decisions will have on the transportation system and its ability to meet the region’s needs. The TPB performs such analyses to help planners and decision-makers evaluate the effectiveness of current plans and to gauge the relative impacts of alternative growth or transportation investment scenarios.

One alternative growth scenario that the TPB studied in 2010 assumed that half of housing and job growth in the region between 2015 and 2030 would be located in mixed-use development near transit stations. The TPB’s travel models showed an 11% increase in transit ridership and a 17% increase in trips made by bicycle or on foot compared to the trajectory outlined in the then-current CLRP.

The analysis of that scenario showed that shifting anticipated growth patterns and land-use can have a significant impact on transportation outcomes. Analyses of this and other strategies will help planners and decision-makers identify those approaches that offer the greatest potential to address the transportation challenges the region faces.

The TPB’s recent analysis of the long-range transportation plan for the region paints a bleak picture of the future. And changing that future will not be easy, especially as transportation revenues continue to decline and the expense of maintaining aging infrastructure continues to rise. The analysis tools the TPB uses can assist decision-makers in their efforts to find the transportation and land-use strategies that have the best chance of improving our transportation future.

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.

Program offers citizens a chance to get involved in transportation planning

A group of current or emerging citizen leaders and other interested individuals from around the Washington region gathered recently to learn about how transportation decisions are made in the region and how to become more involved in the decision-making process.

The 19 individuals, each of whom has been recognized as a force of change in his or her respective community, met on Thursday, November 29, and Saturday, December 1, for the Transportation Planning Board’s Community Leadership Institute, or CLI, normally held in the spring and fall each year.

The first CLI took place in 2006 after TPB staff conceived it as a way to help citizen leaders connect the interests of the local communities and organizations they serve with the broader challenges facing the entire metropolitan area.

Since then, the TPB has hosted ten CLIs. At the most recent one, Todd Turner, who attended a 2008 CLI and now serves as the Chair of the TPB, welcomed participants and encouraged them to get more involved in regional decision-making.

A diverse agenda of educational presentations, experiential group learning, and interactive discussions has always been central to the CLI curriculum.

Key presentations provide participants with information about the TPB and its partners, including state and local departments of transportation and elected officials, and help explain the many different processes — at the regional, state, and local levels — for developing and advancing individual transportation projects.

Presentations also describe some of the key transportation challenges facing the region, especially worsening roadway congestion, inefficient land-use and development patterns, and severe funding shortfalls.

One of the main interactive group activities at the most recent session emphasized the crucial link between transportation and land-use and highlighted the challenge of accommodating future growth in the region.

In the first part of the exercise, groups each proposed on a map where to concentrate the growth of nearly 700,000 new households and more than 1.3 million new jobs that is forecast to occur through 2040 and what transportation improvements need to be made to accommodate the new growth.

Groups also had to confront the region’s funding challenges in the second part of the activity by adding up the costs of their proposed improvements and identifying sources of new funding to pay for them.

One of the other main activities in the curriculum called on participants to assume the roles of different neighborhood-level interest groups in tackling a fictitious local transportation issue. The activity underscored the obstacles and opportunities that exist in trying to build consensus among people who have differing opinions and perspectives.

Peter Shapiro, who served on the Prince George’s County Council from 1998 to 2004 and as Chair of the TPB in 2003, facilitated the workshop.

On Wednesday, Dec. 19, during its next regularly-scheduled meeting, the TPB will hold a brief ceremony to honor the 19 “graduates” of this fall’s CLI session.

The date of the next Community Leadership Institute has yet to be set, but once it is, the TPB and its staff will begin to recruit individuals who are interested in attending and invite them to submit a formal application.

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.

Congestion to worsen further without investment in transportation network and changes in land use

Metro Washington’s already notorious traffic congestion is set to get even worse in the coming decades according to new analysis by the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB).

The analysis indicates that the region will continue to experience worsening congestion for both highways and transit in the region without additional funding for transportation and changes to land use patterns.

Several media outlets reported on the analysis, including:

NewsTalk with Bruce DePuyt: Ron Kirby, COG’s Transportation Planning Director, and Todd Turner, Transportation Planning Board Chair, discuss the findings of the new analysis:

WAMU: “D.C. Area’s Transportation Future: Crowding, Crowding And More Crowding Council of governments releases 30-year transportation forecast”

The Washington Examiner: “Traffic woes likely to persist for decades, officials say”

WTOP: “More people and limited commuting options mean greater congestion”

ABC 7: “Washington metro area traffic to worsen in next 30 years, study says” (video below)

To view/download a presentation providing an overview of the analysis, click here.

Integrating Transportation & Land Use at the Local Level

Nine studies aimed at promoting the integration of transportation and land-use planning at the local level will kick off around the Washington region in the coming weeks.

The projects will be funded under the Transportation/Land-Use Connections Program, which was created by the Transportation Planning Board in 2006 to help local jurisdictions identify key improvements to help make the transportation system and development patterns support one another more effectively.

All nine projects funded under the program, often referred to as TLC, will be completed by June 2013, which is the end of the TPB’s fiscal year.

Of the nine projects funded this year, six will take place in Maryland, in part because the Maryland Department of Transportation commits extra funding each year to support additional TLC projects in Maryland jurisdictions.

Transportation/Land Use Connections Program

In the City of College Park, a consultant team selected by the TPB will complete a market analysis for potential mixed-use, transit-oriented development on an 18.2-acre site immediately adjacent to the College Park Metrorail station, the College Park MARC commuter rail station, and a planned Purple Line light rail stop.

Also in Prince George’s County, another consultant team will assist the City of Greenbelt in carrying out safety and accessibility evaluations of its 136 bus stops and drafting a multi-year strategic plan for making it easier and safer for local residents to access bus transit.

In Montgomery County, consultants will assist county planners in determining the extent to which it’s possible to ease minimum parking requirements for developers in areas served by bikesharing systems. The team will use the experiences of other metropolitan areas to determine how much parking demand is reduced by having access to such alternatives.

In the City of Rockville, planners will receive help in evaluating development-related traffic impacts that cross jurisdictional boundaries and in identifying appropriate capacity improvements or transportation alternatives to mitigate such impacts.

And in the City of Takoma Park, consultants will assess the feasibility of transforming New Hampshire Avenue from a six-lane suburban arterial into a multi-way boulevard, with center travel lanes for faster-moving auto and bus traffic separated by tree-lined medians from side lanes designated for slower-moving traffic, on-street parking, and bicycle facilities. The study will complement a TLC project completed last year that developed streetscape standards for the corridor.

The sixth project in Maryland falls under TLC’s new Design Pilot Program, which for the first time makes funds available to help jurisdictions complete conceptual design and preliminary engineering for a key project with the goal of moving it closer to full implementation.

The City of Frederick will receive assistance under the Design Pilot Program to design a new trail — including bike lanes, sidewalk upgrades, and a shared-use path — linking the existing MARC commuter rail station with a newly-installed bike lane that connects residential areas and major job centers in the City.

Across the Potomac River, in Virginia, two TLC projects will soon kick off, too.

One will be in the City of Falls Church, where planners want to increase the use of alternative modes of transportation along the Washington Street corridor, which connects the East Falls Church Metrorail station with the city’s southern gateway. The study will develop recommendations to promote transit-oriented design principles outside the quarter-mile radius of transit stations or stops that is the traditional focus of planners.

In the Town of Middleburg, in Loudoun County, a consultant team will help develop plans — including cost estimates and an implementation timeline — for carrying out a streetscape improvement project on Washington Street, the town’s historic main street. The study will focus especially on how to preserve the street’s historic character, address aging street lights, and develop a succession plan for overgrown trees.

Finally, the ninth project to be funded under the TLC Program this year will take place in the District of Columbia. Consultants will help planners there carry out an extensive survey of residents and managers of residential properties to try to quantify the benefits of being able to access jobs via walking, bicycling, bus, or rail, rather than by car.

In all, twelve county or municipal governments applied for funding for 16 projects under the program this year. In June, a panel of transportation and land-use experts assembled by the TPB chose nine of the projects to receive funding.

Now in its seventh year, the TPB’s TLC program has funded more than 50 technical assistance projects to help local jurisdictions better integrate transportation and land-use planning, and to identify key improvements to help make the transportation system and development patterns support one another more effectively.

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.

Kicking off the annual update to the region’s transportation plan with a “call for projects”

It’s time again for transportation agencies in metro Washington to identify new projects or programs to include in the region’s constrained long-range transportation plan (CLRP), which goes out to the year 2040, or in the six-year transportation improvement program, known as the TIP.

The “call for projects” for the CLRP and TIP — which kicks off an annual update process — was approved by the TPB at its October 17 meeting. Now the individual counties, municipalities, and state, regional, and federal agencies that fund transportation improvements in the region have until December 14 to submit their proposed additions, or to propose changing or removing projects or programs that are already in either document.

Under federal law, transportation projects or programs must be included in the CLRP, and eventually in the TIP, before they can be built or implemented. New projects and programs, or changes to existing ones, must be approved by the metropolitan planning organization, or MPO, for a metropolitan area, which in metro Washington is the TPB.

Agencies are limited under federal law to submitting for inclusion in the CLRP only those projects or programs for which funding is “reasonably expected to be available” and that fit within federal and regional policy frameworks, which prioritize things like protecting environmental quality, minimizing adverse impacts on vulnerable populations, and ensuring adequate public participation in the transportation planning process.

Together, these requirements mean that the CLRP is the most realistic prediction of what the transportation system will look like by the year 2040 because it is based on current planning and funding trajectories.

Planners at the TPB use the CLRP both to evaluate how well the planned transportation system will meet the growing and changing transportation needs of the region through 2040 — by predicting future levels of congestion or access to jobs from different parts of the region, for example — and to determine what effect future travel patterns will have on the region’s environment, especially its air quality.

The annual process for adding new projects or programs to the CLRP or TIP, or making changes to existing projects or programs, begins every October when the TPB issues the “call for projects.” The process ends the following July when the TPB votes to adopt final updates.

During that nine-month period, agencies’ submissions are reviewed by the TPB’s Technical Committee, which includes transportation planners, engineers, and other technical staff from each of the transportation agencies in the region.

The TPB also performs an air quality conformity analysis of all the projects and programs in the CLRP and TIP, including the proposed additions and changes, in order to demonstrate that future emissions of vehicle-related pollutants will not exceed targets approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The emissions forecasts — which are required by the federal Clean Air Act — are usually prepared in March and April.

One other essential part of the process is two public comment periods that provide opportunities for individuals and advocacy organizations to comment on proposed additions or changes. One occurs soon after the December deadline for agencies to submit their initial proposals. The other occurs in June after a draft list of all the proposed additions and changes, as well as the results of the air quality analysis, are released by the TPB.

On October 17, the TPB invited transportation agencies in the region to propose new additions or changes to the constrained long-range plan and six-year transportation improvement program, kicking off the annual update process of both documents. The CLRP and the TIP are cornerstones of the TPB’s work in metro Washington, bringing together planners, policymakers, and decision-makers from around the region to discuss and make decisions about the future of the transportation system.

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.

RF Round-up: Sprawl Out, Urbanism In / Pedestrian Safety / BRT in Metro DC / Economic Growth / Reducing Child Poverty

The Yardstick has covered a very diverse range of topics over the past few weeks, from bringing BRT to metro Washington to reducing child poverty to making the region’s economy more competitive and resilient. In case you’ve missed any of them, here’s your chance to get caught up:

The next gener
ation of metro Washington’s growth and development: The office park model of development, based on low-density sprawl, is obsolete. That’s why leaders in the region are working to focus future growth – which is estimated to bring 1.6 million more people to the region in the next few decades – in urban, mixed-use Activity Centers. The evolution of Crystal City from a primarily industrial landscape in the 1960s into a major commercial center today is an illustrative example of the process of building successful urban centers.

Making the region’s roadways and walkways safe for all users: While motorist fatalities in the region declined by nearly 30 percent from 2006-2010, pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities remained essentially flat. The result is that pedestrians and bicyclists now account for 30 percent of the region’s traffic fatalities. That’s unacceptable, especially as the region aims to increase its share of walking and biking. Jeff Dunckel, Pedestrian Safety Coordinator for Montgomery County and George Branyan, Pedestrian Program Coordinator for D.C. site down for a video chat to discuss pedestrian safety issues.

Bringing Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) to metro Washington:
The region’s first BRT line could be operating in Northern Virginia by early 2014 thanks in part to a federal TIGER grant received by the TPB two years ago. The line will run approximately five miles along the Route 1 corridor between the Pentagon City and Braddock Road Metro stations, connecting growing housing and job centers to the existing transit system. Several bus routes serve the corridor already, but local planners say significant high-density development that is either underway or expected in the next few years will increase the demand for new and better service.

Moving the region’s Economy Forward:
The idea that metro Washington should diversify its economy is not new, though the urgency behind the notion is at an all time high. Nearly half a million jobs are threatened by sequestration, while a combination of the country’s “fiscal cliff” and ongoing political gridlock jeopardize future growth. Metro Washington ranked 13th out of 15 major metro areas last year in terms of job growth.

And even if Congress does manage to prevent sequestration, the current economic and political environment means that federal spending and employment is not likely to reach its recent levels in the near future. That’s why COG decided to make improving regional economic growth and competitiveness its key focus for 2012. Economy Forward, COG’s plan to prepare for reduced federal spending will develop sustainable transportation funding solutions, prioritize growth in Activity Centers, re-brand the region, improve workforce development, and establish a regional liaison with the White House.

Even in wealthy metro Washington, child poverty is on the rise and it’s an obstacle to progress:
This region is one of the most affluent communities in the world, yet, families and children are living in poverty as profound as in some developing countries. And despite the best efforts of many people over the years, things aren’t getting better, they are getting worse. A new report, Capital Kids: Shared Responsibility, Shared Future, paints a statistical portrait of our children and youth – including how their opportunities differ by where they live. There is a large and growing gap in this region between those who have the opportunities and resources to live a productive life and those who don’t.

Telework continues to gain popularity in metro Washington as technology advances and employers grant more flexibility:
More than 600,000 people in the region telework “at least occasionally” and another 500,000 say they “could and would” work remotely if given the opportunity, according to the results of a TPB survey of commuters’ travel patterns. That’s nearly half of the region’s 2010 workforce of around 2.4 million people.