The Arlington way
The Arlington planners of today are building — literally, in some cases — on the choices made by a previous generation that placed Metro stations like “a string of pearls,” to use Cervero’s phrase.
But how do you create an appropriate ensemble around the jewelry? Over the years, Arlington coordinated the physical element, its transit, with policies that concentrated development at transit stations to create a variety of residential, office and entertainment attractions.
Did that come off as the planners intended, and if so, can it be duplicated wherever people want a similar environment? Within Arlington’s boundaries, can the county government and community leaders preserve their successes and take them to another level?
They look to one new planning tool to provide some guidance. It’s a survey of the D.C. region’s households and their travel habits developed by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments and enhanced with further research to deepen the findings within Arlington.
Lori Diggins, an independent consultant whose firm, LDA Consulting, analyzed the data for Arlington, said the survey is an unusually deep look at one jurisdiction. It looks at travel patterns in ways that get beyond the basics of the commute by examining how people get from one place to another throughout the day, and why they’re moving around.
“We need to care about all those other trips,” said Dennis Leach, the county’s transportation director. “We need to capture everything.”
Leach, who’s been in that job for seven years, thinks the county has used the transit and land use strategy developed decades ago to create communities that work pretty well, but “we’re never done.” He foresees at least four decades of retrofitting and refining.
This view treats the Orange Line and the Blue Line as a great start, then adds sidewalks, bus hubs, bike routes and enhanced travel information to the getting-around strategy. It looks at how people move, not just vehicles.
Leach also knows that the county government needs to have the data when its own communities look over new development and transportation plans: “We need to be able to tell the story of how these neighborhoods perform, how do people travel, in addressing people’s concerns about change.”
Often, the transportation and land use plans increase density. Is that going to create a better place, or just add traffic?