Thursday, September 17, 2009

New version of Tysons plan language released

Fairfax County planning staff have released the second version of proposed plan language [large PDF file] for redevelopment of Tysons. Development densities in the new version are much lower than those proposed by the Tysons Land Use Task Force.

The main reason given for the lower density is the inability of the transportation network to support increased traffic. From the Post article Tysons Redevelopment Plans Don't Square With Tysons Vision:
Before developers can build high-rises, even near the Metrorail stations, planners say, the area's already clogged road network will need to expand to accommodate the extra development because many of the new residents and office workers will drive [emphasis added: Why is the county assuming new residents and office works will drive? If Tysons is planned as a true mixed-use community, many people will be able to walk and bike and take transit to get around]. That would require three new interchanges on the Dulles Toll Road; another lane on the Beltway between Interstate 66 and Route 7, in addition to the high-occupancy toll lanes now under construction; and wider lanes on other local roads.
However, similar development occurred in the Ballston Corridor without increased traffic congestion; many more people now take transit or bike and walk.

A major change from the first version is the removal of bike lanes from the removal of bike lanes from the Boulevard cross section text. Version 1: "5 foot on-road dedicated bike lane per direction, where applicable." A complete bicycle transportation network is not possible without a provision for bicyclists to reach destinations along Routes 7, 123, and International Drive.

We are also concerned about statements contained in the Bicycle Network section on p. 62: "The expanded street network and the associated street types will improve connectivity and provide a safer environment for bikes by providing sidewalks and dedicated bike lanes." The last place for bicyclists in an urban area like Tysons is on the sidewalk. There is also no mention in this section of shower and changing facilities for employees.

These recommendations will be refined by a contractor-led bicycle plan for the greater Tysons area. The county is developing guidelines for a plan that will build on the bicycle plan that we presented to the Planning Commission Tysons Committee in February.

We will continue to monitor the plan language as it develops over the next several months.



Who should we write to about this?
I suggest contacting your Planning Commissioner. Those who are on the Tysons Committee are Walter Alcorn (At-Large, Chair), Frank de la Fe (Hunter Mill), Jay Donahue (Dranesville), Ken Lawrence (Providence), and Rodney Lusk (Lee). Individual email addresses are not listed on the county website, so you can use to contact one or all.

I would also contact your representative on the Board of Supervisors.
Hmm, I got a response:

The September 15 Washington Post article was not a good source since it was written prior to release of the revised Plan. The revised Plan, known as Straw Man II, was presented to the Planning Commission's Tysons Committee on September 16.

You can learn about the Plan's treatment of intensity, transportation modes other than auto, and bike lanes by downloading it from

I haven't had a chance to read it yet - just passing it along.
The original post above was based on the revised plan (Strawman II) that was released on Sept. 15. On page 55 there is no mention of bike facilities along Boulevards (Routes 7 & 123 and International Drive). In the first version (Strawman I), on page 50 there was a line stating "5 foot on-road dedicated bike lane per direction, where applicable." It was removed in Stawman II and we think there should be bike access along those roads. We'll be submitting comments to that effect.

Bike lanes are indicated on Avenues and Collector streets and our comments will support them. We'll post info about the public hearings when they are scheduled, but this is a good time to contact Planning Commissioners and Supervisors about the need for bike facilities on Boulevards.
Yeah, I realized that after I started to look at it in detail. I guess they assumed that I was reacting to the WaPo article.

I suppose some of it was my fault too - in part, my comments were in response to the WaPo article, which made it sound like they were backing away from TOD by focusing on more roads and less density.

Regarding the change in densities, is that in the strawman document anywhere, or is that something that the WaPo was getting from elsewhere? The media is notorious for getting things wrong.

The dropping of the bike lanes in boulevards is the only concrete thing that I could find in the actual document that was problematic.
It's funny because Straw Man II seems to have more robust language about complete streets. But the Boulevards seem even more "incomplete" than in the Straw Man I cross-sections. Fairfax and Wilson Drives in Arlington near the Metro stations function very well for all users with on-street parking, bike lanes and generally four travel lanes. Those are boulevards. These look more like car sewers. Bike lanes would help, but the streets would still be extremely difficult to cross.
The densities proposed by the Task Force ranged from 6.0 FAR around the stations to 1.75 1/2 mile away from the stations (page 39 of the Task Force Report). Staff is recommending a maximum density of 4.75 FAR around the stations and 2.0 1/2 mile from the stations (page 27 in the Strawman II document.

These will both allow very dense development; the question is, will 4.75 FAR be enough of an incentive to allow developers to contribute enough to the grid of streets, parks, and other contributions needed to transform Tysons?

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