The long-term solution to traffic congestion

Across the Potomac River is another surburbanizing county, a jurisdiction that is further along in the process towards reaching “build out” when all parcels have been developed.

The new Montgomery County (Maryland) Growth Strategy notes (on page 6) “Continuing low density suburban growth contributes to higher vehicle miles travelled (vmt) by separating homes, jobs and services and creating longer commutes. This makes traffic worse in county job centers located along transportation corridors.”

Sound familiar?

We could continue business-as-usual in Prince William County, subdividing every possible parcel… and then rezoning again, so we could subdivide some more.  We could keep competing with Rockville and Gaithersburg for worst traffic congestion in the region, exacerbating current problems as we force 140,000 new residents to drive between new houses located in one place and jobs in another place.

Or we could recognize there is a land use solution to the transportation problem.  We could rezone based on “proximity to transit” and “proximity to basic services.”

That’s different from the business-as-usual approach, where county officials passively wait for developers to identify locations for growth.  Congestion already has overwhelmed the road/transit network.  The business-as-usual approach will create new congestion even faster than we can build new roads – assuming taxes are increased to allow VDOT to do more than maintenance, and build anything new.

The business-as-usual approach ignores all the lessons learned in Montgomery, Fairfax, and Arlington counties.   Sadly, all proposed versions of the Land Use and Transportation chapters now being considered for the Comprehensive Plan update will perpetuate the business-as-usual, let-developers-determine-growth-locations approach.

It’s time for a change.

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