Who said… (#3 in a series)

…”It’s an opportunity to wean ourselves off the stranglehold of automobiles”?

Answer: Will Sessoms, the mayor of Virginia Beach. He was talking about how the second largest jurisdiction in Virginia will reduce traffic congestion, by financing transit that will stimulate transit-oriented development (TOD).

Unlike Prince William, the elected officials in that region are implementing integrated transportation/land use plans designed to reduce additional congestion as the population grows.

Sessoms was quoted in a March 13 article in The Virginian-Pilot, after the city purchased the route needed to create a light rail line.  Virginia Beach is thinking beyond simply connecting the ocean resort area to Town Center and Norfolk, where the “Tide” is already under construction.

The city is planning to concentrate its projected growth along that light-rail route.  The alternative (wait for developers to propose rezonings, then scatter growth everywhere) would create more traffic congestion and perpetuate the stranglehold of automobiles… and force higher taxes.

Why would more-of-the-same fragmented development force higher taxes?

Someone has to pay for new lanemiles; widening roads ain’t free.  If future growth is scattered and everyone needs to drive to a transit system- well, hold onto your wallet, transit will cost zillions and do nothing about congestion.

On the other hand, if new housing, offices, and even retail are located within walking distance of the transit stops, then costs for road expansion can be avoided.

Virginia Beach understands the link between “walkable communities” and transportation.  Current traffic congestion (yeah, it’s miserable in Virginia Beach too…) won’t be reduced by concentrating new growth next to Tide light-rail stations.

However, as the population grows over the next 20 years in Virginia Beach, new congestion created by new residents can be minimized.  If transit is so close, if it’s more convenient than cars, then new residents won’t be hopping in the car for everything… the way current residents do, clogging the highways now.

In Prince William County, we could minimize taxes and avoid tthe increases of traffic congestion too – but only if our Board of County Supervisors decides the centers for new growth must be within walking distance of bus/rail transit service.  Otherwise, we’ll talk like Virginia Beach, but we won’t “walk” the talk.

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