It doesn’t state it explicitly, but the first few pages of a traffic study imply MetroWest will likely be able to achieve the reduction in the number of commuters mandated by Fairfax County’s Comprehensive Plan, say consultants. The study is still in flux, however, and other factors will be considered prior to the release of the final document.
The proposed development, just south of the Vienna/Fairfax Metrostation, will add 2,250 residential units along with approximately 300,000 square feet of office space and 100,000 of retail space.
Last year, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors amended the Comprehensive Plan to allow the development. One of the requirements is that the developer, Pulte Homes, must show that it can reduce the number of car trips from the residential units by 47 percent and reduce the office trips by 25 percent.
The developer funded a study of how those trips might be reduced, but the county administered the study to determine if the trip reduction is possible. If the study found that the targets cannot be met, then the size of the project would have to be reduced.
The reductions are based on the industry standard that predicts the number of trips that a development of the size of MetroWest would be expected to generate. The development is predicted to create 904 peak hour residential trips and 452 peak hour office trips, according to the study by UrbanTrans, the firm conducting the study for Pulte.
Justin Schor, a consultant with UrbanTrans, explained some of the strategies necessary for reducing trips. One major facet is to price parking spots in a way that will discourage residents from having multiple vehicles. For example, a condo unit could be assigned just one parking space, forcing buyers to purchase a second. “How do we make it a little less palatable to have cars?” Schor said.
SCHOR WAS speaking at a land-use seminar sponsored by Supervisor Linda Smyth (D-Providence) on June 21. The information released at the meeting was only a portion of the draft summary. The final, full report is not due to be released until early next month.
Schor’s company also noted that the already planned mixed-use component of the development will reduce trips. For example, having a grocery store as part of the project will reduce the frequency that residents will need to leave the area since they will have the option of doing their shopping without burdening the neighboring road system.
Some fear that this reduction may not be realized. Will Elliott of the citizens’ group FairGrowth pointed out that the recently announced military base closures (sometimes called BRAC for Base Realignment and Closure) are predicted to cause a glut of empty space in Northern Virginia’s office market. Representatives from Clark Development, which is working on the office portion of MetroWest, have stated that they will not build their office building if they can’t fill it.
Therefore, trip reduction calculations based on people living in MetroWest and working in the office component of the development would not materialize. Additionally, a portion of the retail component of the project is slated to go in the first floor of the office building. These trip reductions would also not materialize.
Kevin Luten, another of the UrbanTrans consultants, said that they will include in their calculations the amount of trip reductions that the office component is expected to create, so that the study can easily show the impact of not constructing the building.
OTHER SUGGESTIONS included targeting residents who work along Metro's Orange Line and who would be more likely to use it for commuting, and hiring a full-time employee to manage the program. “Afterwards, make sure that someone is present to make sure it keeps going,” Schor said.
As the development is being constructed, which the developer has said might take up to 10 years, the Comprehensive Plan calls continued study of the area to ensure that the goals are being met. “During construction, we want to make sure the development is on target,” Schor said.
However, once the construction begins, it will likely be too late to reduce the size of the project. After the rezoning has been granted for the project, the density is difficult to reduce. In this situation, the county’s recourse would be to have the developer implement more aggressive measures of trip reduction, which they will include in their final report, said Smyth.
Several residents raised the question brought up several times before: how can the county enforce these mandated trip reduction levels into the future?
Former Chair of the Board of Supervisors Jack Herrity (R) questioned if the county will have the political will to enforce the transportation requirements adequately once people are living in MetroWest. “You are going to have three or four thousand voters there,” Herrity said.
The need to reduce the trips will likely be included in the proffer package, said Smyth. The proffers, which will go along with the rezoning, are currently being negotiated. Proffers are voluntary contributions, such as money to build more classrooms for local schools, made by developers in order to mitigate the impacts of their projects.
Any long-term proffers that the developers agree to, remain with the property indefinitely. If trip requirements are simply included in the bylaws of a homeowners association, the association could change them. Smyth said she hopes to have the requirements included in both the proffers and homeowners’ association documents.
The draft summary is available online. Visit http://www.co.fairfax.va.us/gov/bos/pd/PDFFiles/FairleeTDM_FinalSummary.pdf.