Reston Spring

Reston Spring
Reston Spring

Monday, January 31, 2011

Photo of the Day: Birds Seeking Shelter from Last Week's Snow

Male & Female Northern Cardinals, Carolina Wren, After Heavy Snow Storm, Reston, VA

RE-SCHEDULED: Reston 2020 Committee Meeting, Feb. 3, 7:30PM, RCC-Lake Anne

The meeting of the Reston 2020 Committee previously scheduled for last Thursday, but canceled due to weather conditions, has been re-scheduled for this Thursday, February 3, at 7:30PM at the RCC-Lake Anne.

The meeting agenda remains the same.

Everyone is welcome to come and participate.  

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Reston Getting Smaller?, Reston Connection, January 25, 2011, Alex McVeigh

Survey suggests population has gone down in past five years.

Most groups planning for the future of Reston are concerned with making sure there are enough schools, roads and other infrastructure for what is projected to be a growing population. But according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development, Reston might have gotten smaller in the past decade.

The American Community Survey, a five-year population estimate for Reston for the years 2005-2009, estimated a population of 53,759, which is almost 3,000 fewer people than the 2000 census data, which was 56,407. . . .
Read the rest of this article here.  

Although I'm quoted in this article, the quotes do not reflect fully my skepticism about the accuracy of the survey numbers compared with the 2000 census quoted above.  The Bureau of Labor Statistics began surveying communities Reston's size on a three-year basis in 2005 as part of its annual American Community Survey.  It produced several overlapping 3-year surveys and, most recently, the 5-year.  Here are the tallies for Reston's population since the 2000 census.

ACS5YrACS 3 Yr Surveys------------  Census

  2005-9       2007-9     2006-8  2005-7    2000
Households  23,831  24,39324,096   23,348  23,320
Population  53,468  55,80153,304   50,690  56,407
Pers/HH    2.24   2.29  2.21     2.17    2.42 

The key point from this brief table is that it the 2005-7 ACS survey--the first for Reston--shows a 6,000 person drop in Reston's population from the 2000 census.  I do not believe this is anywhere near accurate.

Each of the two subsequent 3-year ACS surveys show significant gains in Reston's population from that first survey.  The 5-year survey appears to be roughly an average of the three 3-year surveys--and doesn't reflect any new data.   I strongly suspect that the 5,000 person gain reflected over the 3-year surveys in the last five years are close to correct and ought to be added to the 2000 census levels for the last five years.  I would suspect the first half of the decade showed similar 1,000 persons/year gains.

In short, I suspect Reston's population is now in the mid-60,000s.  I certainly don't believe we're shrinking.  We'll see when the full census results are available!

Terry Maynard
Reston 2020 Committee

Friday, January 28, 2011

Reston 2020 Is Now on Facebook

For those of you who are Facebook users--or want a reason to become one--RCA Reston 2020 has created a Facebook page to help you keep up to date on the activities of Reston 2020 as well as give you an even better opportunity for contributing your ideas.

Log on or sign up for Facebook and check out our Facebook page at RCA Reston 2020 Committee

500 Reston 2020 Blog Posts and Counting...

The Reston 2020 blog post yesterday afternoon notifying readers of the postponement of last night's Reston 2020 meeting was the 500th post in the fourteen months this blog has been in operation.  As reflected in the "Topical Index" in the right-hand column, the 500 posts have covered just about every conceivable topic related to planning in Reston.

Here are some other statistics about this blog based on automatically collected data:
  • The blog has had more than 13,000 visitors since we started counting one year ago almost to the day--that's about 1,100 visits per month.
    • This includes more than 2,500 visitors who have visited the blog multiple times.  
    • The vast majority of those visits are from the Reston area, but include US visitors from as far away as San Franciso and international visits from more than a dozen countries.
  • We have "embedded" (enclosed PDF versions of) more than 200 documents in blog posts. 
    • These embedded documents (which are stored in the digital library) have been read more than 30,000 times, some 24,000 of those reads have been "click throughs" from the blog.
    • Some 2,600 of those reads have been within the last month.
    • Reston 2020 documents stored on with more than 400 reads each include various TOD committee reports, several documents on parks, and several of Reston 2020's working group reports
    • And people are taking these reads seriously.  The average time spent reading each document is more than five and a half minutes--including those people who may have made a mistake and moved on quickly. 
The blog has clearly become an important source of information and research for Restonians and others on the course of planning for the community.  We welcome your readership and contributions to the blog and to the committee effort. 

Stay informed, stay involved--Read the blog and participate in the RCA Reston 2020 Committee.

Thursday, January 27, 2011


Due to the slippery conditions on Reston's roads, bound be worse as the night progresses, we are postponing tonight's meeting of the Reston 2020 Committee.  We expect to re-schedule it next week.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may create. 

Terry Maynard,
RCA Reston 2020 Committee

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Notes from the RTF Steering Committee Meeting, January 25, 2011, Dick Rogers

Summary: The well attended mtg focused on reviewing the "vision" for each station. In general the push was to emphasize the predominance of Reston Town Center vs the outlying stations. However, changes were modest.
    Attendance.  All present except Penniman and Riegel. Van Foster there only briefly. Surprise: John Schlichting came for JBG; said Andy Van Horn has been re-assigned to Arlington; noted he has a lot of catching up to do. Several other TF members present including John Bowman as well as Goldi Harrison from Cathy Hudgins' office.
    In public comments at the meeting's outset, the head of the Reston Chorale spoke up in favor of a performance center. Got a non-committal response.
    Planning Principles: I asked if the omission of housing from the introductory section of the PP was deliberate; was told no. I suggested the PP be remanded to the VC. Was told that DPZ staff is still working on them. John Carter said his Vision com was busy finishing its overall report but noted the VC had unanimously voted for the PP.
    Herndon-Monroe: Patti Nicoson, RTF & SC chair, noted last week's meeting of the Herndon planners and developers and thought it noteworthy that the consensus was to cut back the area for re-development.  Soto voce she noted that the view seemed to be that anyone who wanted to drive to Metro should go to the Reston side; she said "obviously this will need more discussion."  Nick Bauer said he hoped that the HM sub com will meet again to discuss the situation.
    Task Force (remember that group?): Heidi M noted that the purpose of the checklist had been revised to specifically note the SC will return to the full Task Fore with proposals for votes on "the sub-committees' recommendations."  She said this was not well stated originally (See the FC website for the checklist). Kohnan Williams, who made several adroit observations on process, suggested that a note be sent to TF members explaining what the SC is about.
    Review of station "visions": About an hour was spent on this.  In the checklist the DPZ staff had presented a condensed version of visions based as much on its own conception as what the sub coms had done. In general the discussion involved clarifying that the TC is predominant in terms on density  and that the other stations will be less dense. Wiehle was described as a "urban transit neighborhood" vice "urban village" but generally left unscarred.
    Re HM the staff was subtly pushing for more a greater residential emphasis (the HM sub com summary stressed offices).
    Robert Goudie pushed for more residential at HM but did not press his 2/1 idea re Wiehle aggressively.
    Paul Thomas noted the difficulty of dealing with the large and diverse TC area in the few sentences provided by the TC sub-com and the staff. He suggested breaking out the North Town Center as a fourth area.
    Mark Looney pushed for more office development in all areas.
    Comment: The staff effort was not particularly strong: things relevant to all stations were singled out for only one or another (grids of streets, protecting established neighborhoods). The staff vision did not pick up some of the important points laid out by the Wiehle SC in particular. The large TC area is treated very briefly. How the staff vision will be combined with those of the sub coms was left unclear. As usual, reading the actual text will be needed.
    Impatience: Some comments indicated impatience with the pace of the effort. Otteni urged a schedule be put forth and asked how the SC effort will relate to the TF. Goudie urged a vote at next mtg on the planning principles and station visions.
    Schedule: Some discussion about morning meetings although some members noted they have to work.  The next meeting will be Tuesday 8 Feb, presumably at Lake Anne.  The "form, general location, and connectivity" sections of the checklist will be discussed then.
    The next meeting of the RMPTF was set for 25 February to hear the Vision Com report.

Photo of the Day: Yes, There Is a Summer in Reston, Reston 2020 Photostream, Flickr

Looking Toward Reston Town Center Fountain
 from New Dominion Parkway

As the snow, rain, sleet, and freezing rain continues to fall on Reston and the Washington area, I thought it might be useful--and refreshing--to remind Restonians that summer does come to Reston.  This Independence Day photo taken by Reston 2020's intrepid photographer looks toward the Town Center fountain from New Dominion Parkway.

Herndon Officials Refine Metrorail Station Area Plan, Reston Patch, January 26, 2011

The plan will now go back to the consultants for further study before coming back to the town

To view the interactive map that goes with this story, click here
After some revisions by the Town Council and Planning Commission, Herndon’s Metrorail area station plan will be going back to Vanasse Hangen Brustlin’s consultants for more in-depth study.
On Friday, Jan. 21, the Council and Planning Commission met with landowners and property managers in the study area. Afterward they worked to merge Area Plans 1 and 2, which the town and residents have been discussing, to come up with the next version of the plan.

Kay Robertson, senior planner for the town, said the major thing that happened during the discussion was reducing the size of the study area. . . .

A map of the changes to the Herndon Metrorail Station Area Plan study. To view the interactive map see the link in the story.  Credit Leslie Perales
For the rest of this Herndon Patch article, read it here

RE-SCHEDULED!--Agenda: Reston 2020 Meeting, February 3, 2011

UPDATE 2:  The Reston 2020 meeting has been re-scheduled for February 3, 2011.  

UPDATETonight's meeting of the Reston 2020 Committee has been postponed until next week due to poor road conditions.  We will update this post with the details of time and place.  Thank you all for your patience.  Terry Maynard, Co-Chair, Reston 2020 Committee.

Reston 2020 Committee Meeting
7:30PM-9:30PM, February 3, 2011
Reston Community Center—Lake Anne

1.  Implementing the Comprehensive Plan (Dick Stillson—20 minutes)
Other than one briefing from a County staffer, the RTF has not begun to address the numerous implementation issues that go with creating a new Comprehensive Plan for Reston, especially financing and transportation. 

Action:  Reston 2020 seeks to create an Implementation Working Group to address the topic.  It will ultimately provide a report that discusses the issue and provides recommendations for Reston 2020 to endorse and forward to the Task Force.

For further background, see the following items:

2.  The RTF Steering Committee (Terry Maynard—20 minutes)
The RTF has created a steering committee (SC) that is supposed to coordinate the vision and several TOD area reports and format them in Comprehensive Plan language.  The SC has been extremely aggressive so far in editing the Vision Committee’s report in ways that may not suit Restonians’ interests.  It is not clear that the SC was given this mandate by the RTF.

Action:  Reston 2020 needs to decide how to respond to the work of the SC to help ensure that the resulting draft Plan properly reflects the needs of Restonians.

For further background, see the following items on the Reston 2020 blog:

3.  Town of Herndon Planning for Herndon-Monroe Station Area (Paul Damory—20 minutes)
The Town of Herndon is planning to develop a large area office complex north of the Herndon-Monroe station, shifting much of the burden for supporting that complex to the Reston side of the Dulles Corridor and ignoring basic principles for transit-oriented development. 

Action:  R2020 seeks to create a Working Group to address the this emerging situation and propose actions for Reston 2020 in dealing with Herndon and the RTF. 

For further background, see the following items on the Reston 2020 blog:

4.  Reston 2020 Planning and Work for RTF’s Phase II—Village Centers & Residential Areas (Tammi Petrine—20 minutes)
Reston 2020 is beginning the process for planning for Phase II of the RTF effort although the RTF has taken little action so far.   An update on current and planned activities.

Action:  What more should Reston 2020 be doing at this time?

5.  Fairway Apartments Redux (Tammi Petrine—10 minutes)
Preliminary information indicates JBG will be presenting a new proposal for re-developing Fairway Apartments at next month’s Reston P&Z meeting.  You may recall that JBG’s last proposal was all but rejected outright by the County planning staff as out of character for the neighborhood. 

Action:  This is an information discussion. 


Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Notes on the Town of Herndon Meeting with Developers on Herndon-Monroe, January 21, 2011, John Lovaas

This morning's meeting of the Herndon Town planning group focused on redevelopment of the Herndon area abutting the Dulles Toll Road, with the Reston West (formerly Herndon-Monroe) station area at the center.  The meeting was set up as a dialogue of Herndon planning staff and redevelopment study consultants with property owners and mostly (or all?) commercial developers and property owners.
Observers, including Herndon Mayor and Town Council members and press were sent to the back of the room--no kidding. There were no observers from the Herndon-Monroe Committee of the Reston Task Force, but there was one developer named Mike ____ who has been frequent participant in H-M meetings.  (Mike participated actively, seemed to have a land interest near the station on the Herndon side and clearly that's where his heart was.)  Patty Nicoson sat in the way back and, like other observers, did not speak. 

 The discussion focused on:
    Summary of preliminary plan----basically two alternatives: Plan 1 calling for F.A.R.s of 2.5 in the main TOD area (rectangle in shape radiating around 1/4 mile out station area, continuing at slightly less beyond that (no number below 2.5 was specified); and,
Plan 2 calling for F.A.R. of 4.5 in TOD core, 2.5-3 in transition area beyond it.
Staff said they were thinking of building heights up to 15 stories--in addition to garage levels--nearest the station entrance area.  Beyond the transition area, there is to be a buffer area with 0.7 F.A.R., buildings not in excess of 4 stories, preference for residential abutting existing single family residential areas north and NW or TOD core.
Staff announced that public comment period on the preliminary plan had been extended to January 28th (from original mid-December date).
    Major Transportation Issues (as defined by Town transportation planner Chris___)--Two main "portals" to the study area are "already congested intersections" at Herndon Pkwy/Spring Street/Fairfax County Pkwy on NE of study area and Herndon Pkwy/Van Buren on NW of study area.  Formidable problems, esp on NE, unlikely to be resolved at above a failed level of service without additional portals on north side---or, the unthinkable, redevelopment intensity at less than 4.5--in order to restrain overall volume in absence of additional access points to study area.
   -One developer suggested that (since lower F.A.R.s not doable!) solution he would opt for  coming from east of Herndon would be to take Fairfax County Parkway to Sunrise Valley, drive west to Monroe and over the bridge to enter Herndon study area from the west!
[It would be OK if more traffic goes thru Reston side--this was only the beginning of this theme!].
    F.A.R.s, density alternatives and adequacy of incentive for landowners to redevelop:
Jim ___ of Lerner led the charge.  2.5 was a joke, certainly insufficient.  4.5 was closer to what was needed, but would be "bare minimum" esp. for parcels in the TOD central area.  One developer said, in fact, some sites might not be able to achieve quite the 4.5, but 2.5 clearly inadequate.  
    Staffer (Kay ___) leading the meeting asked developers what they thought about F.A.R.s in terms of being sufficient incentive for them to redevelop.  Imagine the responses....which came, as did nearly all comments during the 2 and 1/2 hours I was present, from 7 developers, or about 1/3 of those sitting in seats reserved for developers.  Jim ___ of Lerner led the charge.  2.5 was a joke, certainly insufficient.  4.5 was closer to what was needed, but would be "bare minimum" esp. for parcels in the TOD central area.  One developer said, in fact, some sites might not be able to achieve quite the 4.5, but 2.5 clearly inadequate. 

    Access to the station and what area should look like-  While nothing other than a possible plaza is shown near the entrance to station area on north (Herndon) side of the DTR, Staffer Kay noted that the existing town comp plan in fact allows for a "Kiss and Ride" at the entrance.  She said that negotiations are ongoing with WMATA for [unspecified] improvements.  WMATA designs and is responsible for station operations, the staff is currently thinking of a kiss and ride for cars to drop off passengers for rail and a "bus pull-over area".   She allowed that while there were some who wanted Herndon to provide absolutely nothing to facilitate station access, she thought they were in a minority.  Some might like an area to park, but that was definitely not going to happen, but there seemed to be good support for a kiss and ride, she said.
This caused the uproar of the morning--largely among the same 6 or 7, with property nearest station. Mike _____, who is active in Herndon-Monroe Committee of Reston Task Force, kicked it off. He said Kiss and Rides become "bus staging areas, a bus depot".  "I'm alarmed!"  This will change our area for the worse. Kay assured the now upset developer band that the kiss and ride will only be for buses to stop and pick up, let off passengers. She said, " any feeder buses will go to the south side." [via Sunrise Valley Drive].  The Lerner rep and a couple of other developers chimed in:  "You said 'accomodate' buses, not 'encourage'.  That is very different." In a back and forth with Mike and a couple of others, acceptable Kiss and Ride bus activity was defined as buses which come no more often that like every 10-15 minutes and DO NOT WAIT.
Then, one fellow in developer area piped up that there were tradeoffs here--noting that given earlier references to failing intersections and TOD objectives of reducing number of cars, weren't buses something to be encouraged!?  The only voice from the staff/planning side was a muted comment in support from one of the consultants. Jim of Lerner responded, "they've got a big multi-modal transportation facility on the south side, let them use that." Kay tried to calm the angry little group, reminding them that the town will commission a complete transportation study as in fact required by the Commonwealth (528?) to look at all transportation-related questions.
There was a brief discussion of Kay's earlier reference to Herndon's use of "form-based planning" vs. planning based on preferred uses.  Developers seemed mystified by it.  Here we had some common ground!
A break was announced (after 2 and 1/2 hours!).  After hearing that the staff was going to give the group one more opportunity to comment on the overall plan after the break, I decided I had heard all I needed to hear.  I noticed that the Mayor and at least a few of the developers seemed to be leaving as well.
On the way out, I chatted very briefly with Mayor Steve DeBenedittis, asked him how he felt about the last part of the discussion--on facilitating access to the station.  He said something like, "With all the capacity they are going to have on the south side, I don't think we need much if anything on this side."  For me, this was some worrisome stuff. 
I wish that there had been representation from the RTF  Herndon-Monroe Committee.  In my view, there should be continuing contact by those directly interested on the Reston side--that means the H-M Committee, others if they continue to show no interest. 

I was glad to see Richard Lambert from Fairfax County DPZ in attendance, although I did not get a chance to talk with him.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

"Bleak outlook forecast for 2nd phase of Silver Line," Fairfax Times, January 19, 2011

Projected toll rates for the Dulles Toll Road that were used to back bonds might not present the full picture, according to Fairfax County auditors.

In April 2010, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority commissioned a tolling study that projected toll rate increases that would be needed to support the $1.3 billion in bonds the airports authority issued in 2009 and 2010. The study also projected the amount of decreased traffic that would result from the tolling increases.

The toll-backed bonds are a primary funding source for the Dulles Metrorail extension, now under construction.

However, that study does not depict any decrease in the number of toll road users after the first segment of the new Silver Line opens at the end of 2013, according to a draft report from the county's Office of Financial and Program Audit. Fewer users could decrease the revenue projections. . . .
Please read the rest of this story here.  

RTF Vision Committee Report and Massive Edits by RTF Steering Committee

Embedded below is the final report of the Reston Task Force (RTF) Vision Committee, a committee comprising Restonians and other stakeholders in Reston.  It is a visionary statement about what Reston values and what Reston is and intends to become. 

Reston Task Force Vision Committee Report                                                              

Despite the months of effort put into  this report, the Steering Committee of the RTF--which has created its own mandate without RTF oversight--is in the process of gutting it of some of its most important features, either deleting or seriously weakening important language in the report.  You can see the scope of the proposed changes in the edited report below:

Reston Vision Principless with Chairman and DPZ Edits                                                              

The Reston 2020 Committee will have more to say on this later.

Friday, January 14, 2011

RCA Honors 'Pillar of Community': Dave Edwards, by Carolyn Lawson Low, Reston Patch, January 14, 2011

Edwards is a part of Reston's growth and unique culture.

The Reston Citizen’s Association, a long-standing civic association committed to protecting and promoting Reston’s founding principles, honored one of the “pillars of the Reston community” on Thursday night.

RCA’s 2010 Community Service "Citizen of the Year" Award was presented to Dave Edwards for his impressive role in shaping and nurturing the growth of Reston, from the early years through today.

The crowded room at the Reston Community Center gathered for the opportunity to congratulate Edwards. . . .

For the rest of this article, please click here.

UPDATE:  Here is the biographical statement accompanying the nomination of Dave Edwards as Reston's "Citizen of the Year" for 2010:

RCA Citizen of the Year 2010
Nomination Narrative for David Edwards

The year after receiving his Master’s Degree in City and Regional Planning from the University of North Carolina, Dave Edwards moved to Reston.  That was 1967.  He involved himself in his community and making it a better place from the beginning.  

In addition to the degree in Planning, Dave did undergraduate work in architecture at Miami of Ohio.  We shouldn’t be surprised that he focused his considerable talents on Reston community planning and design-related matters.  The years following his arrival were Reston’s formative years.  Dave Edwards played in key role in that shaping and is back playing an important role again as Reston enters a period of urban expansion.

Dave made his living working for Fairfax County, first as a county planner where his work included developing the county’s first comprehensive plan for the Upper Potomac Planning District, including Reston.  Subsequently, he worked as Deputy Director, then Executive Director of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority.  His work included bringing to Reston dozens of businesses that have made this their home.

Meanwhile, he helped to organize and energize the new Reston Citizens Association founded in 1967 to protect the Robert Simon’s founding vision following his firing by Gulf Corporation.  Mr. Edwards served on the RCA Board from 1968 to 1972, including serving as Chair of RCA and Reston’s Planning and Zoning Committee.  In this capacity, he worked to develop the agreements with Fairfax County establishing the P & Z as the recognized voice of the community in reviewing proposals for new development in Reston.  Previously, development proposals went directly to the county staff and elected officials with community input limited to individuals appearing at county hearings.  P & Z established itself as a highly professional group that the developer took seriously and whose recommendations were usually accepted by the County.  It is hard to overstate the importance of this function and its impact on our community over the last 40-plus years.  Dave Edwards was a principal architect of this key institution.

In the early 1970s, Dave joined the Ad Hoc Committee to plan and design the Reston Community Center.  This Committee later became the new Center’s first Board of Governors.  As a member of the Ad Hoc Committee, it was Dave Edwards who conceived the financing mechanism for the Center, the creation of the Small Tax District 5.  This year (2010) the Community Center celebrates the 25th anniversary of its founding.  It has expanded to Lake Anne and serves thousands of Reston citizens of all income levels with a wide array of cultural, recreational and educational programs.   We can, and should, thank Dave Edwards for his crucial role in shaping this special part of Reston.

Over the years, Dave has played scores of other roles serving Reston with no thought of personal reward.  As a volunteer for Reston Association, he provided input into the planning for South Lakes High School; served on the Reston Metro Access Group (RMAG); served on the RA Election Committee, 2004-2010; and, served as member and Vice Chair of the Transportation Committee.  Most recently, Dave has been an active participant in preparing a new Master Plan for Reston, a plan to guide development for a generation and to convert Reston from a suburban to urban community.  He has been a dynamic force within the citizens Reston 2020 group providing skilled, experienced input focused on assuring that Reston’s future development is up to his high standards for excellence in design and quality of life.  

Photo of the Day: Backyard Wildlife--A Young Red Fox

Juvenile Red Fox at Daylight | December 2010

Too bad this was not videotaped. This fox was trailing closely to another larger fox. At first it appeared they were fighting, but it became clear that the parent was gently but firmly trying to nudge the juvenile away. The juvenile continued to trail close behind the parent, but it repeatedly shooed it away. It eventually came back, looking up at our birdfeeder, trying to figure out how to get to the birds or the feeder. It seemed he/she finally gave up and sat on our patio for a bit, then eventually moved on....

Notes from the RTF Steering Committee Meeting, January 11, Dick Stillson

The meeting was chaired by Patty Nicoson, Task Force chairman, and helped by DPZ staffers Heidi Merkel and Faheem Darab.  The Task Force members and alternates there were John Carter, Kohan Williams, Bill Penniman, Mark Looney, Robert Goudie, Greg Riegle, and Nick Bauer.  If I missed anyone, I apologize.  Several documents were passed out and Richard Lambert e-mailed me to say that they have been put on the web so I don’t have to scan them to pass them on to you all.  They are at:
   As a kind of an introduction, Patty announced that the Phase I Metrorail construction was about 29 percent completed, and that the MWAA Board was considering alternatives to the underground station at the airport.  Bill Penniman also sent around his power point presentation on Wiehle Committee's vision and comments about an alternative put forward by Robert Goudie.  

            The first discussion was about the mission statement for the sub-committee, which includes a rather benign statement concerning implementation (the last bullet, of course). Even this was considered too much, especially the statement that “the Steering Committee would highlight mechanisms to implement these recommendations for Task Force considerations.”  Clearly, both Patty and Heidi thought this was important and wanted something about implementation in the Task Force report, and maybe in the revised Plan.  Several of the sub-committee members (at least Greg Riegle and Mark Looney) objected saying that this was too much for the Steering Committee. Heidi kind of compromised and mentioned the idea of a special implementation group from the Task Force.   I pressed her on that and she didn’t say what form an implementation group would take or when, but she definitely stated that this would be part of the Task Force work and the public (meaning us, I suppose) would be involved.  [Good for her—and Patty seemed to agree.]  Ultimately they voted and passed the mission statement with a revised paragraph on implementation.

            Then there was a discussion on the “vision statement” and the planning principles.  Yes, they still haven’t agreed on the principles.  Most of the discussion was wordsmithing and several members wanted to combine several of the points because they said similar things, for example, combining points discussing concentrating development at the transit stations and the principles of TOD.  They still didn’t agree and yet another draft will be written—by DPZ staff. 

            Bill Penniman, co-chair of the Wiehle Committee, gave a slide show presentation that was essentially a rebuttal to Robert Goudie’s views, apparently given in the previous meeting, that Wiehle Ave. should concentrate almost entirely on residential development and leave the commercial and public sector development to the Town Center.  Bill’s argument was that this would violate TOD principles which emphasized mixed use development in each station.  He argued that conceiving of Wiehle and Reston West as bedroom communities to feed Town Center would increase traffic in Reston and provide a very unbalanced development in the corridor.  His vision was more like a linear city along the metro line.   Robert argued back that he did not mean to imply only residential development at Wiehle—for example, he agreed with educational institutions at Wiehle—but that the Town Center should be the primary “downtown” of Reston.  John Carter suggested doing away with the phrase “downtown” for the Town Center.  [My view is that the Town Center should the primary focus for commercial and high-rise residential, but that there should be mixed development at all the stations—both of the extreme positions make little sense.]

            Finally there was a short discussion of the “Steering Sub-Committee Review Checklist,” a list of points the sub-committee should look at in reviewing each of the station sub-committees’ reports.  The idea is to establish a procedure with which the Steering Sub-Committee can reconcile and synthesize the various other sub-committees’ reports.  They didn’t get into any detail concerning the checklist, but agreed that it was important and would be a focus of the sub-committee’s work.

Dick Stillson

Monday, January 10, 2011

Commentary: Less Parking, But More What? Terry Maynard

The Washington Post reported Sunday that Fairfax County is considering putting in place parking constraints in the vicinity of Metrorail stations to promote transit-oriented development (TOD).  Apparently, the new policy would largely mirror that put in place for Tysons Corner as part of its revamped Comprehensive Plan approved by the Board of Supervisors last spring. 

In general, if the new policy follows the Tysons model,  for the first time in County history, parking for employees, residents, and visitors would be constrained within a half-mile of a Metrorail station—the TOD radius.  The most severe constraints would be within the first tenth of a mile and become less restrictive near the perimeter.   The idea behind this approach is to force people in TOD areas to walk, bike, or use public transit to accomplish much of what they need and want to do, thereby easing (or, more realistically, slowing the growth of) congestion on nearby streets. 

As reflected in its Transportation Working Group report, Reston 2020—and I personally—believe this is a good approach to an already bad traffic situation.  We simply can’t double or triple traffic as we double or triple density in the areas immediately around Metrorail stations.  We can neither afford the cost of road expansion nor the additional congestion of not expanding roadways.
But important implications of restricting people’s driving by limiting their parking have not yet been addressed.

First, there must be robust alternative means of transportation beyond Metrorail—and that means a vigorous bus transit program serving the TOD areas.  In fact, a restrictive parking policy without an equally expansive bus transit program would mean greater congestion and less growth for TOD areas.  And yet, there is no evidence that County transportation officials are developing a bus transit program that meets the needs of the newly urbanizing environment to complement the proposed parking restrictions—although the County is in the final phase of a ten-year bus transit planning process.   Maybe those plans need to be re-examined in the context of the new parking policies under consideration.

A vigorous bus transit program will include both circulator bus systems within and between nearby TOD areas (such as Reston’s three and Tysons four Metrorail stops) as well as regular bus service from outlying areas to serve Metrorail and the businesses around them.   These buses will have to be much more frequent than the service that is currently offered, especially during peak periods, to help assure that people leave their autos behind.  An important element of this may be County subsidies for employers who provide incentives for transit ridership—rail or bus—as recommended by Reston 2020.   Reston 2020 has also proposed that parking garages be built at the outskirts of Reston so longer-distance commuters may park and take express buses to Reston’s Metrorail stations.   In short, the County must provide frequent, reliable, clean, and safe bus transit as reasonable fares to offset the parking restrictions it is proposing.

Second, the County must improve the pedestrian and bicycle infrastructure in the TOD areas and links to them to encourage walking and biking with easy and safe access to Metrorail and all the other facilities in the TOD area.  This means building grade-separated crossings across busy major streets so (a) pedestrians and bicyclists can move safely and expeditiously and (b) traffic does not become more congested because it needs to wait for them.   In Reston, beyond grade-separated crossings traversing its very busy nearby streets, bridges need to be built across the W&OD trail so people can walk to/from Metrorail and the Town Center core.   In addition, new pedestrian and bike trails as well as bicycle lanes on some streets accessing the TOD areas as well as bicycle storage facilities must be built to promote a shift from driving. 

Strangely, these relatively inexpensive, yet effective, transportation improvements have been generally ignored by County officials.  In Reston, the state narrowed Lawyers Road for several miles to add a bicycle lane on the edges, but the east-west road is neither near nor will it serve Reston’s TOD areas.   Moreover, neither the County nor the state have made any of the inexpensive pedestrian or bicycling improvements proposed in the Reston Metrorail Advisory Group (RMAG) report and accepted by the County a decade ago. 

And there are a number of other transportation needs that must be addressed as well as opportunities to exploit if the County’s proposed restricted parking policy is to result in anything positive.

But the third, and most important, need to make the new parking policy a success is not explicitly a transportation need; it is a need for balanced development in TOD areas.   If people do not have cars in TOD areas, they must be able to walk to places that meet their basic needs. 

At one level, this means the number of people—and really “working people”—living in a TOD area must roughly equal the number of working in the area.   In theory, many of those who live in a TOD area should be able to walk to work, thereby avoiding the use of any vehicles.  Those who must commute from the TOD area would be roughly equal to the number commuting to the TOD area, thereby optimizing (maybe even maximizing) the number of Metrorail riders and limiting peak period traffic growth. 

It also means that people who live or work in a TOD area must have access to all the types of resources they currently would access by driving somewhere else. 
  •  A robust retail sector is an absolute necessity so that residents and workers have access to all their essential shopping needs. 
  • A healthy cultural capability is also essential to sustain the area’s quality of life.  This is especially true in Reston, a planned community that intends to serve all the needs of its residents at a high level. 
  • Expansive open space—parks, recreation, playgrounds, and more—is essential to sustaining the health of residents and workers in TOD areas.  Again, Reston prides itself on the open space, including natural areas, available to its citizens, and this vital quality must be sustained and grown.  

Regrettably, the County so far has not seen fit to adopt such a policy, preferring in the Tysons case at least, to adopt a policy that would see twice as many employees as residents in TOD areas, and thus assuring greater congestion and road improvements and maintenance costs.   Even Reston Task Force TOD sub-committees are proposing this kind of employee-resident ratio over the objections of Reston 2020.   

Part of the reason for this TOD development approach is that property owners, finding commercial development more profitable than residential development, have pressed their case effectively with County officials.   Moreover, it appears that the County anticipates more tax revenues from commercial development than from residential development.  Money speaks volumes in Fairfax County development policies and practices—just look at the plans the County approved for Comstock’s development of the Wiehle station area over the objections of all three of Reston’s three civic groups—even if residents suffer.

In short, while a policy that limits parking in TOD areas can be good, it carries with it a burden of offering alternative capabilities that offset the loss of residential and employee personal mobility.  Until the County puts all the pieces of this complex puzzle together, it is unlikely that the adoption of a restrictive parking policy in TOD areas alone will achieve much, if anything, in reducing congestion.  In fact, continuing deficiencies in providing alternative public transportation capabilities as well as correcting imbalances in TOD area development will only feed the congestion problem.   County officials need to appreciate these complexities and act on them concurrently with any new restrictions on parking.  If they do, all our TOD areas will be better served.  The alternative is not acceptable.  

Terry Maynard
Reston 2020

Sunday, January 9, 2011

New Year's Wishes for Reston, John Lovaas, Reston Patch, January 9, 2011

Here's what I hope for in 2011.
Happy New Year 2011, Reston!

This is a pretty special place we've got here, thanks to a marvelous founding vision by Mr. Robert E. Simon, and to the efforts of a lot of extraordinary and diverse people who have settled here since construction first began at Lake Anne.

This year will,  in some respects,  be a watershed year for Reston as we set a course for the arrival of rail right through our heart and a more urban future to follow.

Many uncertainties surround this planning for the future, a process that is likely to conclude in the new year.  This is an election year for Reston, and we will have to decide if long-time political incumbents can deliver new community needs (for example, essential major transportation improvements and the hundreds of millions of bucks to effect those improvements) and the leadership required for the future Reston.

Otherwise, 2011 will be a year like many others where a little luck is needed so we can get by and maybe do just a little better.

As I look to this particular New Year, here are a few wishes reflecting my hopes for a bright Reston future:

1.  That the mom and pop merchants of my beloved Lake Anne flourish anew in 2011, and that a caring developer come forth with plans to reinvigorate the neighborhood with additional, diverse small businesses and varied residential units consistent with the character of Reston's historic birthplace.

2.  That the Reston Master Plan Task Force Phase I (rail corridor only)  submit to the County, and the Supervisors approve, a new plan that   ref lects Reston character, excellence in design, adequate and creative  open space and, critically, transportation and civic infrastructure built  simultaneously with and sufficient to fully support the new growth.

3. That the new comprehensive plan for the corridor include the beautiful  park complete with Lake Robert E. Simon in north Town Center as proposed by Reston landscape architect Guy Rando.

4.  That the Reston Master Plan Task Force Phase 2 (village center areas)    submit and the county approve a new plan calling for village center renewal, i.e., higher density mixed-use building including more varied  community-serving retail and diverse residential offerings consistent with original village center concept, protecting all existing residential  neighborhoods and open space.   Infrastructure to come with buildings!

5. That 2011 will see the Reston 2020 citizens group experience even more robust citizen participation to assure wishes 2-4 are realized.

6. That all Reston residents, mostly progressives by nature, seriously assess candidates for election as State Senator, Delegate, and Supervisor in particular, and get out and vote for those who will provide the leadership new Reston needs, including delivering funds to adequately support the growth that is coming.

7. Last and least likely—but remember this is a wish list—that as Reston residents look to a more urban future they stop and consider that maybe, just maybe, it is time to take control of our destiny, time to be self-governing.  Time to return to Simon's original concept—The Town of Reston.
To provide your own wishes and other comments on Reston in 2011, click on Reston Patch.  

"Fairfax transportation officials study parking limits," Washington Post, January 9, 2011

Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 8, 2011; 7:30 PM 

Fairfax County residents will have a harder time finding a free parking space in some neighborhoods, if transportation planners get their way.

Working to ease traffic jams in the steadily urbanizing suburb, the county's Transportation Department is drafting proposed rules that would limit parking in new developments near Metro lines. Such parking limits have already been adopted by the Board of Supervisors as part of the plan governing Tysons Corner's transformation into an urban hub.

But imposing maximums in other parts of Fairfax where transit-oriented development exists would represent a significant departure in a suburb where generations of planners drew up plans around the automobile. . . .
For the rest of this article on likely tighter parking constraints in Fairfax TOD areas, please click here.

In general, imposing these standards on TOD areas already largely developed along the Blue and Yellow Metrorail lines in southern Fairfax County will be much more difficult than along the new Silver Line where TOD development has yet to begin.  Reston 2020 advocated TOD area parking limits like those approved for Tysons Corner in its transportation report last June.

UPDATE:  See the Fairfax Advocates for Better Biking (FABB) commentary on the article.

Reston Vision, Goals, and Principles as Prepared by the RTF Vision Committee, January 2011

Reston Vision, Goals and Principles to DPZ--Vision Committee                                                                   

Friday, January 7, 2011

Notes from the RTF Steering Committee Meeting, January 4, 2011, Dick Rogers

Summary and Comment: The meeting clarified the role of the Steering Com (ST Com).  It will be the driving force to reconcile the various subcommittee positions, including the vision and density of each of the TOD areas.  It is to resolve big picture disagreements.  There was limited substantive discussion. The next meeting, on Tuesday evening, 11 January, promises to be more substantive, focusing on vision and "form " for each TOD area.

 Attendance was spotty.  Only 7 of the 12 ST com members (John Carter,Chair PattyNicosen, Peter Otteni, Mark Looney, Robert Goudie, Bill Penniman, and Paul Thomas).  Three members of the FC DPZ staff also attended.

Public attendance was equally sparse.  Notably, Goldie Harrison, from Supervisor Hudgins’ staff, was there.
ST Com Mission:  Heidi acknowledged that the mission of the ST Com had not been clearly addressed at its first two meetings.  She handed out a "mission statement" as well as a "check list" to clarify (both along with the agenda will be on the county website).

The mission statement made clear that the ST com will review the work of the station sub-coms "to see if they are consistent with" county TOD policy and to assess how they address key elements.
The key elements (also reflected in the "checklist") will include vision for each station, "form", location and mix of uses, intensity (presumably meaning density), transportation, and connectivity.

"The work of the ST com is to aid the TF in reviewing sub com recommendations and make decision about them."

The checklist envisions extracting key points from each of the sub-com reports to compare them.

Discussion: Basically, there was no dissent from this mission. There was discussion about which key elements to address first.  (John Carter suggested transportation but this was put down for later). It was decided that each sub-com will send to the DPZ staff their views on how their reports address the "key elements".  The staff will make up a comparative list for the next meeting, which will focus on individual station visions and "form" (the latter being how buildings relate to other buildings, open space, massing and height).

In addition, the ST com will review the overall Reston vision statement that has come out of the Vision sub-com.  (This statement is an annex to the 20 Dec ST Com agenda on the web site. It is vision statement # 1.) Goudie praised it and said that aside from "some edits" it will be fine; others thought there will be more disagreement.

Implementation: Patti Nicosen had attached a brief statement to the mission saying the ST com "will identify mechanisms to implement" recommendations. The consensus in the discussion was that this was too big an agenda for the ST Com and at best it could identify some issues. PN would like to get some sort of implementation statement in the final report.

Comment: Although there was not a lot of substantive discussion, the key issue alluded to under the surface was clearly the nature of density at the individual stations (see Goudie proposal to make Wiehle primarily residential). In addition, inconsistencies between the reports will come up.
There was discussion about how long all this will take.  Four more meetings were mentioned but members thought more would be needed.

There was some concern voiced that all this would not take us closer to specific plan language.  Heidi Merkel, DPZ, did mention in passing that the DPZ staff is working on "an outline" of a final plan report.

Future of the Vision Com.  I asked about this at the beginning, before John Carter had arrived.  Heidi was somewhat ambiguous, saying that the Vision Committee, which Carter chairs, still needs to look at the broader vision for the entire corridor. But she said the ST com was a better group to look at the visions for the individual stations.

Next meeting; Tuesday, 11 January, at 7 PM. Location TBD, but RA building seems likely.  Focus will be on the vision for each station and their "form."  In addition, overall Reston planning principles will be reviewed.

UPDATE:  Here is the charter for the Steering Committee as written and approved January 4, 2011.

Co-Chairs’ Steering Sub-Committee Mission Statement

DRAFT – 01/04/2011

The Steering Sub-Committee’s primary function shall be to review work products prepared by Task Force’s Station Area sub-committees to-date to see if they are consistent with the County’s adopted Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) Policy and if and how they address the following key elements.  See accompanying checklist (not available) for further information about the elements below. 

* Articulate a Vision for each Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) area (defined by the TOD Policy as that area within ½ mile of the station platform) including addressing elements that assist in placemaking;

* Describe the desired form for the TOD area;

* Establish the preferred general location of uses within the TOD area;

* Identify the desired mix of uses to include housinig for a variety of incomes, life styles and age groups;

* Describe the relative intensity envisioned for the TOD area, as compared to the other TOD areas;

* Highlight opportunities and concerns related to improving the transportation network and transportation services to support the TOD areas; and

* Identify ways to improve connectivity, particularly for pedestrians and bicycles, along the rail corridor and between the rail corridor and the adjoining areas . 

Tthe Steering Committee may identify additional issues that need to be addressed including input that should be sought and prepare draft recommendations to bring back to the Task Force regarding additional input about these elements.  

The work of the Steering Committee is to aid the Task Force in reviewing Committee recommendations and make decisions about them.

In addition, the Steering Committee will identify mechanisms to implement these recommendations for Task Force consideration.