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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Notes on the RTF Steering Committee Meeting, March 29, 2011, Dick Rogers

UPDATE:   See end of this meeting report for information on the final 10 minutes of this meeting.

                                       30 March 2011
                                       R. Rogers

     Summary:  Perhaps because committee attendance was so poor, not a lot was accomplished and many issues discussed were just rehash.  The DPZ handouts on “TOD planning objectives” and the Wiehle station area were noteworthy because they highlighted some important issues.

     Attendance: The poorest attendance of any SC I have been to (Nicoson, Penniman, Goudie, Riegle, Van Foster, Looney). Usual three DPZ staffers plus Fred Selden and Goldie Harrison continues to show importance DPZ extends to this group.

     Admin: Patti Nicoson noted some of the various meetings she has been to.  She also noted that FC BOS has endorsed station names (see this post). She added that a judge has ruled that MWAA is not subject to Virginia FOIA laws!

     TOD “Planning Objectives

     Heidi Merkel, DPZ staff, passed out a set of TOD planning objectives to the committee (hopefully will be on the FC website soon).  (NOTE: We will update this post when they are available.  The two presentations used by the Steering Committee, both very informational, are posted at the following links:
 They are noteworthy because they emphasize some important objectives lost in the TOD sub-committee (subcom) reports and suggest approaches that may be needed to achieve them.     Some of the 8 “objectives” and approaches:
  • Highest FARs for mixed use redevelopment rather than just in-fill development
  • High quality access to station platforms. Links higher office development to good access portals (presumably this has in mind South side Wiehle and south TC stations.  I also asked if she had North side of Herndon in mind.)
  • Specific “location” for civic and cultural facilities incented by higher FARs.
  • “Designated” open space areas
  • Link increased development potential to contributions to improve area wide transportation network.
Comment: These “objectives” to a large degree complement the “Planning Principles” approved at the 15 March TF meeting. They get close to thinking about how proffers and FARs can be linked to implementation.  There was little discussion of this handout by committee members.
Wiehle Station

     The bulk of the meeting was focused on Heidi’s handouts on the Wiehle station area.  They included charts with Wiehle subcom proposed developments and jobs and housing balance. They also featured several slides and maps that emphasized key Wiehle issues:  
  • More office development close to station, mixed use elsewhere, except predominantly residential in Issac Newton Sq.
  • Property owner contributions to Reston Station Blvd (north side of immediate station area), the grid and W&OD overpass.
  • The need for a Soapstone extension sooner (suggesting land and financial contributions from developers).
  • The urgent need for south side Wiehle bus and kiss and ride access from South Reston (in Vornado land).
Some discussion was old hat.  Were the TOD circles based on the platform location or the touch downs on each side (answer: the former). Some chiding that TOD circles do not match up with land bays.

     The time horizon of 20 years for projected development was questioned.  Basically, developers see only part of this development potential being achieved in the 20-year period.  The question is do we want to increase the level of development over 20 years projected by an “X” factor to encourage development within the timeframe.  No decision taken.

     Transportation: Heidi noted that analysis already shows considerable congestion at the current development level. How will a 50-60% increase impact this?

     She also expressed concern that planning and the desire to get needed proffers for Soapstone and other things not provide incentives for too much office development outside the core station area.

     Mark Looney, as he has done before, noted that there will be a need for substantially increased office development in the Dulles transit corridor if projected GMU FC job growth is to be accommodated. Fred Selden, head of DPZ, downplayed this, saying there now is considerable development potential in other FC areas as well as in the corridor.

     Fred Selden also raised the rarely discussed issue of projecting substantial high-rise residential development.  He noted this ignored the fact that there is a limited market (youngsters and oldsters) for such housing. He noted that many assume residential needs can be met by pushing up density through high rises, but that this creates a limited market. He was concerned that too much of this type of housing cannot be absorbed.

     Robert Goudie briefly raised the issue of more residential development at Wiehle but this was not pursued. Greg Riegel expressed frustration at the slow pace of progress.

     (At this point--9:10PM--I had to leave and I missed the conclusion of the meeting.)


Two attendees have passed on word of what happened in the last ten minutes of the SC mtg on 29 March after I left.
    More discussion but no great points made.
    Mark Looney and Greg Riegle offered to come up with revised material apparently relating to Wiehle station. This was accepted.    During the discussion they had been very concerned that the figures tabled by DPZ and the Wiehle committee did not provide enough excess (presumably FARs and people) to encourage developers to re-develop existing properties.  They spoke of the need for a "X" factor to be built into the plan.
    If this is what their contribution will be, it bears watching.  The idea of a "plan" with "excess" built in does not make a lot of sense to me (one of the justifications of the Town Center com for their 5 FARs is the need for "excess" to encourage development).

RCA Board Endorses McLean Citizens Association Proposal for 75-25 Infrastructure Cost Split at Tysons

At its regular meeting on March 28, the RCA Board of Directors resolved to endorse a proposal by the McLean Citizens Association to split the multi-billion dollar infrastructure development costs projected under the new Tysons Corner Comprehensive Plan calling for a 75%-25% share split of the costs between Tysons landowners and other funding sources.  In contrast, a Fairfax County Board of Supervisors committee last June proposed that a 33%-67% split between local landowners and other sources. 

Below are RCA's endorsement resolution and the December 1, 2010, MCA resolution.

RCA Board Resolution re Tysons Financing

MCA Resolution on Tysons Financing 120110 FINAL

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Reston Gets Billing on Three Silver Line Metro Stations; Herndon Likely To Be Annoyed By Choices, Restonian, March 29, 2011

Restonite always says it so much better than those stuffy official statements.    So here it is, complete with that sharp-stick-in-your-eye spin from the Restonian blog.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has formally recommended the names for the upcoming Silver Line Metro stations. They'll likely please Restonians and annoy Herndonians.
The stations will be named:

Tysons I & II
Tysons Central
Tysons-Spring Hill Rd
Reston-Wiehle Ave
Reston Town Center
Herndon-Reston West
Herndon-Dulles East

The Board of Supervisors pointed out that each proposed station name connotes a community: Tysons, Reston, Herndon, or McLean. Some include street names while others include the name of shopping malls and a town center.
This will likely rile the folks in our tolerant neighbor to the west, who didn't want to befoul their town's good name by having to share a station name with the other Reston. . . .
 Check out the rest of his post here.  

Notes from the RTF Steering Committee Meeting, March 23, 2011, Terry Maynard

Reston TF Steering Committee Meeting Notes--032311

Dulles Greenway: "Illustrating How Infrastructure Deals Result in High Fees and Diminished Service," Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism

Yves Smith, who publishes the Naked Capitalism blog, is a leading blog commentator on finance.  Her blog has been recognized in both the blogosphere and by Wall Street for its insights into diverse financial matters and she regularly appears on TV & radio financial news broadcasts.

In this post, Ms. Smith comments on the profit-driven goals of Macqaurie Group, the Australian firm that owns and operates the Dulles Greenway, and its impact on fees and service.  Her commentary raises a number of important questions about the privatization of public infrastructure and the use of public-private partnerships that extend well beyond roadways.  
It isn’t hard to understand why infrastructure deals (the sale of government owned assets to private investors) are inherently a ripoff.  We’ve had such a vogue for private contracting that a lot of services that are almost certainly more cheaply run by the government (e.g., logistical support for the military as proven by Iraq profiteering by Blackwater) that it’s a pretty safe assumption that most assets now held by government bodies are the the sort of thing that it makes sense for the government to own: high cost to build, long lived, not terribly complex to maintain assets. 
Infrastructure investors like to see returns in the mid to upper teens. The deals are complicated to put together, so the fees are high. The deal needs to generate enough to pay the fees and generate the required returns. Since it is pretty much impossible to run something like a parking meters “smarter”, the usual course of action is a combination of increasing charges to the users (taxpayers who in the past used it for free or much less) and cut maintenance costs. . . .
. . . Now the Macquarie investors were required to make some front loaded investments in the road as a condition of the transaction. But the aggressive fee increases have resulted in a serious reduction in service quality via the toll road being underutlized (and perceived as a ripoff even by those who do use it), which leads to the redistribution of traffic onto other roads, imposing costs on drivers making trips that wouldn’t have the toll road as a logical option (ie, the tolls impose costs on drivers who didn’t use that route in the normal course of affairs pre the toll rise). . . .
Click here to read the rest of this blog post.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Access to new Metro stations still a big question, Washington Post, March 27, 2011

For Tysons Corner area residents, construction of a new Metrorail line is more visible than ever. They see concrete piers and bridges looming above the Capital Beltway, and they wonder: how will we get to the Metro stations?

When the four stations open in 2013, none will have parking and only the Tysons East and Tysons West stations will have kiss-and-ride drop-offs. Some of the 100,000 people who work in Tysons will ride Metro there, and developers are seeking to add bridges, new doors and plazas connecting stations to their businesses. . . .
. . . Fairfax County’s challenge lies in identifying how McLean, Vienna and Falls Church residents will access these stations on foot, by bicycle and via transit. The goal is “as many options as possible that are alternatives to driving,” said Leonard Wolfenstein, a Fairfax transportation planner.
The county is asking the public to take an online survey about proposals such as neighborhood bus routes and crosswalks. Fairfax held four public meetings in the past week. . . .

 Click here for much more in this WaPo article.  

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Stuff Gettin' Smashed: Vacant Part of Reston International Center Meets the Wrecking Ball, Restonian, March 24, 2011

"Did you notice that the vacant commercial wing behind the black-cube monolith known as the Reston International Center is being torn down? Probably not, since it's behind the Reston International Center and has been vacant for some time, and can't be seen from the road, which may explain why it was vacant in the first place. And before the wrecking crews went in, the building was used for "practice" by Fairfax County fire officials last Friday. Apparently there was a strong smell of smoke in the air during the drills, but maybe Chili's was just making some really well done steaks. . . ."

For more of Restonian's insightful post, check it out here.    

Dulles Toll Road: Comprehensive Traffic & Revenue Study, July 2009, Wilbur Smith Associates

This excellent study prepared by Wilbur Smith Associates for the MWAA Board of Directors assesses the need for increases in Dulles Toll Road (DTR) fares to meet projected debt servicing obligations for the DTR.  It also addresses their impact on DTR traffic and looks at alternative scenarios (sensitivity testing) and their impact on traffic and revenues--and much more. 

The 2009 study is based on earlier cost estimates for Phase II of the Silver Line requiring $489 million in debt service payments in 2047.  In October 2010, MWAA updated its projected DTR revenue needs to reflect the new cost estimate for Phase II--$3.8 billion vs. $2.5 billion earlier.   According to MWAA's financial presentation, that would mean MWAA would have to collect more than $800 million in 2047, requiring fares to jump substantially from the $11.25 projected in this report.  (At three percent inflation for the next 37 years, that $11.25 toll in 2047 is roughly equal to a $3.70 toll in 2010 dollars--about 85% more than DTR users are currently paying.)  At the moment, MWAA is looking at alternative sites for the Dulles International Airport station location that could shave from $300-$600 million of the current $3.8 billion estimate for Phase II construction. 

This Wilbur Smith study had been posted at the MWAA website, but has been deleted, probably because the revenue targets are no longer valid given the increased estimated cost of Phase II.  Still, it is a good place to start in understanding the role DTR tolls may play in paying for the Silver Line.   According to the compact among the various parties to the Silver Line construction agreement, MWAA--primarily through DTR tolls--will pay 57% of the total cost of the effort.  

Note:  I am working on a revised estimate for fares and DTR traffic in 2047 that I will publish soon.  If the additional funding needs are met exclusively by fares, it will lead to a major increase in fares above the baseline $11.25 and see a substantial reduction in traffic, despite population growth in both Loudoun and Fairfax County that might use the DTR. 

Wilbur Smith traffic_study_2009

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Dulles Rail opening delayed by a year, Washington Examiner, March 16, 2011

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority originally projected that the so-called Silver Line would begin carrying passengers to the airport by 2016.  But the authority's latest plans for the completion of the 23-mile Dulles Rail project show that construction won't be complete until as late as the summer of 2017.
A committee of board members was supposed to make a recommendation for building the station either above or below ground, but deferred that decision after a debate about costs. While an underground station would be 600 feet closer to the airport terminal, it would cost between $240 million and $350 million more than an aboveground station.

Either way, the completion dates were moved back by as much as a year by the airports authority Wednesday. . . ."

Comment:   As the Virginia House Transportation Committee rightly noted in its hearing last week, there are way too many scheduling and cost unknowns on Phase II this late in the planning game.  The continuing delays in deciding where to put the Dulles Metro station, the prospect of higher costs and unwillingness of local governments to pay for them, and the extended process of competitive bidding will almost certainly see this schedule delayed further--and costs for any specific Dulles station location decision may go up as well.   My guess is the line will be completed in 2018 if we're lucky, which means at least five years of commuters trying to park and board Metro at Wiehle--a true traffic nightmare. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

Transportation secretary: Cut costs of Metro station, Loudoun Times, March 15, 2011

". . . Virginia Secretary of Transportation Sean Connaughton wrote a letter March 15 addressed to Charles Snelling, chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, imploring the chairman to change Dulles airport’s proposed underground Metrorail station to an aerial station.

Connaughton’s main reason behind beseeching the change is that it will save $640 million in taxpayer money. . . ."
 And our own Board Chairman, Sharon Bulava, has also made it clear that Fairfax County doesn't want to see Metrorail costs continue to rise:

Fairfax Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova scribed a letter to Snelling last month. In it, she states that Phase two cost estimates do not sit well with the Fairfax board.
“When coupled with the recent information about actual costs exceeding budget for station finishes on [phase one], the county is further concerned about the accuracy of the cost estimate for [phase two],” she writes.

“If the Airports Authority Board favors an alignment that is more costly than the aerial alignment, then the Airports Authority should fund the differential without impacting Fairfax County or tolls on the Dulles Toll Road,” she said.
For the rest of this article on the burgeoning costs of the Silver Line, click here.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Loudoun Supervisors Press MWAA on Rail Costs, Loudoun Today, March 18, 2011

Although the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Board of Directors is continuing its evaluation of an underground rail station at Dulles Airport, county supervisors last night made it starkly clear to the MWAA staff that they are unwilling to pay for it. . . .

. . . Overall, Loudoun is on the hook to pay for 4.8 percent of the overall project costs, under a financing deal inked more than a decade ago. The federal government, at one time slated to cover 50 percent of the project, has capped its contributions at $900 million, all for Phase I construction.

Loudoun's obligation doesn't kick in until Phase II and, technically, the Board of Supervisors still has an opportunity to opt out entirely. That is a conversation for which some supervisors have pushed and could be held next month when the MWAA team returns to Leesburg to provide a more detailed cost breakdown on the Phase II work, which extends the line west from the Whiele Avenue station and includes stations at Rt. 28, Dulles Airport, Rt. 606 and Rt. 772 in Ashburn.  . . . .

Click here to read the rest of this Loudoun Today article.

Virginia County May Withdraw Funding From Dulles Metrorail, Transportation Nation, March 18, 2011

(Washington, DC – David Schultz, WAMU) Cost estimates continue to rise for the second phase of the Dulles Metrorail project — from Herndon to Dulles Airport and beyond. And now Loudoun County may withdraw its share of the funding for the project.

Loudoun County Supervisor Stevens Miller says a majority of his colleagues on the board think the cost of the so-called Silver Line is no longer worth it.

“Loudoun County’s contribution to that project would be on the order of $300 million,” Miller says. “But as of yet we haven’t committed to fund that part. If we don’t, then Phase II would be in complete jeopardy.”

Board chairman Scott York says Miller is incorrect and that Loudoun will pay its share of the project — just as long as its designers choose an above-ground aerial station at the airport. . . .
 For the rest of this worrisome article, click here.  

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Notes on the Virginia House Transportation Hearing re MWAA, March 17, 2011

Notes on Virginia House Transportation Committee Hearing re MWAA--031711

Decision on Above or Below Ground Dulles Metro Station Delayed, (NBC), March 16, 2011

"Dulles Metro plans have been delayed again. 

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Committee was supposed to decide Wednesday if the new station should be above or below ground.

The committee decided to postpone the vote until April.

An underground station at the main terminal is much more expensive than an above ground station near the parking garage."

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Notes from the Reston Task Force Meeting, March 15, 2011, Dick Rogers

                                      R. ROGERS
                                      16 March 2011


Summary: The Task Force approved the Vision and Planning Principles statement!  But only after considerable debate on the sections on the environment and re-development around the Village Centers.

Admin Items:

Summary Approval:  The Task Force (TF) approved the summary of its February 22, 2011, meeting without discussion.

Letter to MWAA re Air Rights:  A draft follow-up TF letter to MWAA on air rights is on hold because of developer concern that the $34 million involved is too expensive and could hold up Phase 2 of Metro.  On the other hand, the same developer argued that the $64 million cost for delaying a decision would be a drop in the bucket compared with the billion dollar development that would be involved.  A member of the TF noted that the TF needed to highlight the importance of air rights to MWAA in Reston’s TOD effort.  Another noted that the TF would probably “only get one shot at this” and urged it be sent forward. Patti Nicoson said she would review the draft. 

           Visitability has been raised with the TF.  Heidi Merkel, County DPZ staff, will look into county policies on this accessibility issue.

           Chairman Patti Nicoson noted that Terry Maynard at Reston 2020 had asked that his analysis of various levels of proposed density be put on the county website.  However, since some assumptions are not clear, Heidi will go back and work with Terry to get more clarity before putting it on the web.

Public comments:

Affordable Housing:  Tom Loftus, Equitable Housing Institute of Northern Virginia, urged the TF to promote a good balance between residential and office in the TOD areas. His organization advocates 1 housing unit for each 1.5 jobs. He also noted that a good economic balance was needed in the type of housing offered. He said his organization had sent a letter on this to the TF on this topic.

RA Letter on Environment:  Freya de la Cola, a spokesperson for RA’s Environmental Advisory Committee, noted that the EAC has prepared and the RA Board had approved a letter sent to the TF calling for the strengthening of the Vision & Planning Principles statement on protecting Reston’s natural resources. 

Vision Committee (VC) Report

John Carter presented an overview on the VC report (available on county website). Reaction was notably mute with the exception of endorsements for a memorial garden and additional crossings of the DTR.  (The full VC report is available here on the Reston 2020 blog.)

Vision & Planning Principles Statement

           A one hour and 20 minute discussion was held (the agenda had allowed 15 minutes!). Two issues dominated—environment and village centers/protection of residential neighborhoods. Robert Goudie’s amendments were the centerpiece of this discussion (his was the only alternative language graphically presented to the group).

           On Planning Principle #2 concerning the environment, the discussion went two ways. Goudie and developers proposed softening the statement that natural areas will be “protected and restored.”  RA, whose spokesperson Freya de la Cola spoke earlier, proposed additional wording that added the word “remedied” to adverse impact on the environment and protected Reston’s tree canopy as of environmental significance.  The Task Force split the difference by adopting both proposals!

             On the neighborhoods section of Planning Principle #4, Goudie proposed wording protecting existing residential areas “outside the Town Center, rail corridor, and Village Centers, inferentially including these areas--especially the Village Centers—as potentially “targeted” for additional development and density. Concern was expressed about how this would affect existing neighborhoods in the VCs. Heidi Merkel added to this by noting that the boundaries of the VCs sometimes included residential areas beyond the existing shopping areas, even including single family houses. It was noted that some areas around the village centers include garden apartments which provide affordable housing. Initially the TF was going to defer on all this but later Goudie suggested deleting his language that “target” the village centers for redevelopment.  This leaves somewhat ambiguous what will happen around the VCs. This was approved by a vote that was not clear.

            Other points inserted by Goudie were added but some of his excessive verbiage dropped.  An attempt to remove the label “highest priority” from additional DTR crossings was successful but his attempt to delete “abundant” open space was replaced by “high quality publicly accessible open space”.

The overall principles were approved, apparently by a 17 to 2 vote.

            Comment: The procedures used during these votes were highly unorthodox, if not misleading.  No roll was taken at the beginning of the meeting, no effort made to establish the credentials particularly of alternates (some sat out the vote even though only about ¾ of the regular TF members were present). The wording being voted on was not always apparent to the members.  Discussion was truncated and disorganized.  Opposing votes were not counted, and voting results were left unclear.

Steering Committee Update

            In the last 15 minutes Heidi presented an overview of the work of the Steering Committee in determining station “character,” including brief summaries the SC developed for the “character” of each station.  There was no time for discussion — and no one was interested in discussion as the clock approached 10 PM. Heidi noted she may propose these character statements for a vote at the next TF meeting.

Next meetings

  • Steering Committee. The SC will meet next Wednesday, March 23, at 8AM, at the North County Govt Center. It will look at “massing” of buildings and continue discussion on mix of uses.
  • Next TF meeting: April 5, 7 PM, place to be determined.


Va. officials push for aboveground Metro station at Dulles,, March 15, 2011

By: Kytja Weir and Leah Fabel

"The state of Virginia and Loudoun and Fairfax counties are pushing for the new Metrorail station at Washington Dulles International Airport to be an aboveground station near a parking garage instead of a much pricier underground station at the main terminal.
Their urgings come as a Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority board committee is expected to decide on Wednesday where to place the station as part of the 23-mile Dulles Rail project, the largest expansion of the Metro system since its original design. The authority makes the final decision where to put the station, and the full board is expected to vote in April.
The difference hinges on a 600-foot longer walk from the north garage to the main terminal at Dulles or potentially hundreds of millions of dollars more in construction costs to build a closer, underground station. . . ."
Comment:  The "600-foot longer walk" really covers a total distance of 1,150 feet as seen in this cross-sectional diagram of the two Metro station alternative locations:  Underground near the terminal and above ground at the parking garage.  There is a 450' moving walkway to make up the difference.  Just a little disingenuous-ness from MWAA.

Click on the diagram above for much large picture. 

A rendering depicts the aboveground concept for the Metro station at Dulles Airport. Estimates indicate that building the station above ground could save $640 million. - Courtesy

Read more at the Washington Examiner:

Enthusiastic Supervisors Approve Dulles World, Leesburg Today, March 16, 2011

By Erika Jacobson Moore

"It what could be seen as the first implementation of the new plan for the Rt. 28 corridor, seven members of the Board of Supervisors lent their support to the Dulles World project, which is designed as a high-density, mixed-use development along Rt. 28 near the Dulles Toll Road and the Fairfax County border. The project, and its developer, received high praise from supervisors for the amenities it had agreed to and its willingness to work with the county staff over the past year and a half. . . .

"With Dulles World originally proposed as a mixed-use development that would include up to 1,495 multi-family units, slightly more than 3.9 million square feet of office, commercial and retail uses and up to 130,245 square feet of civic uses, the developer agreed to reduce the number of multi-family units to 1,265, while leaving 12 percent of them as units that would meet the county's needs-those units for residents living with incomes up to 70 percent of the Area Median Income.

Dulles World will have a 1.48 floor-area ratio when both the residential and the non-residential development are considered, which is .48 above the current density allowance, but still below what supervisors approved for the area Monday night under new policies contained in the Rt. 28 Comprehensive Plan amendment. Supervisors have said that the property's proximity to the planned rail line makes it the best area for the higher density development design. . . ."

And the "money quote":  {Supervisor Stevens Miller (D-Dulles)} said. "I hear people talk about Reston Town Center as a comparison a lot. This isn't Reston Town Center. It's better than Reston Town Center. This is the place that people are going to want to be like in the future."

For the rest of this article, click here.  

Parc Reston Owners Have Yet Another Plan for Tower Construction, Reston Patch, March 16, 2011

"Athena still wants to build large housing complex across from Reston Town Center.

Representatives of the owners of Parc Reston showed a new design plan to Reston Association's Design Review Board (DRB) on Monday, at least the third concept that has been proposed for that spot since 2005.

Athena Renaissance Reston, which owns Parc Reston, a garden complex that was converted primarily to condos in the early 2000s, wants to build two, 14-story residential towers on the part of property that is still rental units owned by Athena.

The 360-unit buildings would replace three existing buildings (82 units) at Reston Parkway and Temporary Road, said Mark Looney, attorney at Reston law firm Cooley LLP, the firm representing Athena. . . ."

Athena Renaissance Reston's latest concept design for the Parc Reston property.
 For the rest of this Patch article, click here

Moving Beyond the Automobile, A 10-Part Video Series (still in the making)

This 10-part video series, produced by and published on, provides a look at the ways cities are making their cities more livable by "Moving Beyond the Automobile."  Here is the preamble to the series:
"Moving Beyond the Automobile is a ten part video series which explores solutions to the problem of automobile dependency.  It's a visual handbook that will help guide policy makers, advocacy organizations, teachers, students, and others into a world that values pedestrian plazas over parking lots and train tracks over highways.  Cars were then, and this is now.  Welcome to the future."
This is the trailer for the series. 

And here are the videos--running from three to five minutes each--about ways to move beyond autos:
This post will be updated as the coming videos are released.  

Monday, March 14, 2011

The RTF Vision Committee Report, March 12, 2011

Reston Vision Committee Report March-12-2011                                                                                                   

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Reston Task Force Meeting Agenda, March 15, 2011

March 15, 2011
Task Force Meeting

South Lakes High School, 11400 South Lakes Drive, Reston


7:00 p.m. Public Comment Period

7:15 p.m. Administrative Items – Patty Nicoson, Task Force Chair

7:25 p.m. Vision Committee Final Report Presentation
  • John Anderson Carter and Kohann Williams, Co‐chairs
8:00 p.m. Task Force Vote re: Reston community‐wide Vision statement and Planning Principles
  • Patty Nicoson, Task Force Chair
8:15 p.m. Update re: Steering Sub‐committee
  • Heidi Merkel, DPZ Staff
9:15 p.m. Upcoming full Task Force meeting
  • Next meeting: Tuesday April 5 (3 weeks)
  • Location: TBD
9:25 p.m. Adjourn – Patty Nicoson

Notes on the Vision Committee Meeting, March 9, 2011, Terry Maynard

Notes on the
RTF Vision Committee Meeting
March 9, 2011

Present:  Kohann Williams and John Carter, Co-chairs; Fred Costello, John Bowman, Judith Pew, Sandi Smith (DPZ Staff), Patty Nicoson, Art Murphy.  There were two community observers.

The purpose of the meeting was to make final changes to the Environment and Transportation chapters of the Vision Committee’s report to Task Force.  The process the VC uses for reviewing chapters is to go around the room and give each person an opportunity to identify proposed changes.  Changes of substance are agreed to by a consensus.   Given that this was a final review and the draft chapters were excellently prepared, virtually all of the changes proposed were of an editorial nature.  The VC will present its report to the Task Force at its next meeting on March 15, 2011.


The only substantial change proposed and adopted was in the “Forest & Trees” sub-section.  It was amended to highlight the importance of trees an essential element of the Reston experience.  In the course of the conversation on this topic, which targets a 45% tree canopy goal for Reston, it was noted that Reston’s current tree canopy is only 38% which is well below the County average. 


Several substantive changes were adopted, including:
  •  While encouraging the use of “grid of streets,” the language was amended to add “…where beneficial” since it is not clear that a grid would always be advantageous.
  • Under the “Provide Transit Options” sub-section, the sentence regarding expanding the bus system was specified to include access to the Metro stations and within the Reston-Herndon area.
  • In the “Expand the Network of Streets” sub-section, the language concerning a crossing of the Dulles Access Road at the Reston Town Center was strengthened from “examine the potential for” to “construct.”
  • Under the same sub-section, a bullet was added calling for construction of an additional trans-corridor roadway from South Lakes Drive, although there was some concern about the practicality of this proposal. 
  • Under the “Improve Operational Characteristics” sub-section, a sentence was added to build satellite parking garages at Reston’s outskirts (like the South Metro Kiss n’ Ride) with express bus service to the nearest Metro station.
  • Under the “Expand Evaluation Techniques” sub-section, the paragraph instructing Fairfax County to enter into a contract for state-of-the-art transportation analysis was dropped as too prescriptive and detailed for the vision report.
(Comment:  As Chair for Reston 2020’s Transportation Working Group, I was impressed that the VC report captured so many of the TWG’s recommendations.)

Terry Maynard

RA Board Letter to the Reston Task Force Calls for Stronger Environmental and Natural Resource Protection, March 11, 2011

RA Ltr to RTF Re Environmental & Natural Resource Protection/Remedies--031111                                                                                                   

Friday, March 11, 2011

Notes on the Steering Committee Meeting, March 8, 2011, Terry Maynard

Notes on the
RTF Steering Committee Meeting
March 8, 2011

Present:  Patty Nicoson (Chair), Heidi Merkel (DPZ Staff), Fred Selden (Chief, DPZ Staff), Bill Penniman, Kohann Williams, Greg Riegle, Robert Goudie, Peter Otteni, Paul Thomas, and John Carter.  About 10 observers were present, including Task Force members Mike Corrigan and Judith Pew and a representative from the Town of Herndon Planning Staff.

Public Comment: 
·         Terry Maynard noted that, at the direction of Reston 2020, he had prepared a graphic analysis of the totality of what had been proposed by the committees and a comparison with other work, including GMU forecasts, DPZ’s Scenario A, and the Tysons plan for 2030 that he would be forwarding to the Task Force the following day.  Two committee co-chairs highlighted that their plans addressed longer timeframe and one argued incorrectly that the Reston 2020 values were looking at absorption.  (They present the committee guidance values.)
·         Doug Pew highlighted that the “grid of streets” as presented by some sub-committees did not fully meet the definition of that concept (parallel and perpendicular intersecting routes) and, therefore, would not likely achieve the desired shift to non-vehicular transportation.  Robert Goudie highlighted that, in Metro South, for example, they tried to achieve a reasonable grid, but respect other goals (large open space) and minimal use of developable land.

Draft Air Rights Memorandum:  Chairman Nicoson opened the evening by sharing a draft memorandum to the MWAA Chairman of the Board urging MWAA to approve the construction of foundations in the Dulles corridor for future air rights development, a task the RTF directed at its last meeting.   There was more discussion than had been anticipated.  Peter Otteni questioned why the RTF should be pushing for air rights now noting (1) it is highly likely that this would slow down the construction of Phase II, and (2) less importantly, the difference between the estimated $34 million to build the foundations now and the $64 million estimate for later construction was inconsequential in the multi-billion dollar scheme of the effort.  Bill Penniman countered if it weren’t less likely that a future effort would be rejected and Paul Thomas thought a later effort would at least be even more delayed.   Patty Nicoson will present the draft to the full task force at its meeting on March 15, possibly with some changes.

(Comment:   Besides the reasons Otteni noted for not pushing this matter now, it is noteworthy that his employer, Boston Properties, owns the property just north of the Reston Town Center Metro station along the corridor.  The acquisition and development of air rights adjoining or over the Metro station there would almost certainly diminish the value of Boston Properties’ land.)

Station “Character” Discussion:   The SC spent the bulk of its time fine tuning the wording about “character” of the three station areas using its “checklist,” Version 6 (p. 3) in this case.  The most extensive discussion concerned how much (& even whether) there should be residential space in the Reston West (Herndon-Monroe) TOD area.  Greg Riegle, co-chair of the H-M sub-committee, noted that some committee members didn’t think the area north of Sunrise Valley Drive was suitable for residential use.   The conversation took a more general tone about the TOD areas having a 1:1 balance in office and residential space with Robert Goudie noting that RTC as a “regional center” has a different paradigm than the other two stations.  It ended when Kohann Williams noted that it was not the SC’s job to over-ride the recommendations of the several sub-committees.   In the end, the phrase “supporting multi-family residential and retail” was replaced by “mixed-use.”

Throughout this discussion and a briefer ensuing discussion on the RTC station area, there was tremendous concern expressed about the degree of flexibility developers should have in achieving the desired residential-office mix.   Greg Riegle said it would be almost impossible to make every property meet the mix, in part because some are very small.  Bill Penniman noted the Wiehle committee’s approach to have meeting mix goals on a “land bay” level, and not necessarily contiguous properties.  This allowed flexibility while enabling a coherent land bay purpose.  Some of the discussion focused on the issue of “trading of mixes” between developers to achieve land bay or area goals and both the problems and opportunities that presented.  The issue was not resolved, but it is clear that the SC appreciates the problem of achieving mix goals on a reasonable basis.

Noise Standards Issue:   A committee member raised the question of how noise standards reduce the flexibility of putting residential units next to the Dulles corridor since noise level requirements are more stringent for residential than office development.   Fred Selden noted that there are both ordinances and policies in place that proscribed residential construction next to highway noise.

Presentation:  Heidi Merkel noted that she will be presenting the results of the SC’s deliberations on station “character” at next Tuesday’s Task Force meeting.  (Comment:  Given the difficulty of tracking changes that were proposed and approved in the course of the meeting discussion, it is not clear to this note taker exactly what will be presented.)

(Comment:  The SC’s work, using their “review checklist” is very incremental and difficult to follow in the course of a committee meeting, much less between meetings; yet the few words that are included in these updated checklists will have a powerful influence on the Task Force report and ultimately the new Plan.  It is important that Reston 2020 and others keep close track of what is written and what is changed to ensure it meets community needs.)

Next Meeting:  8 AM, March 23, 2011; place TBD.

Terry Maynard