One of the region's most persistent urban legends is that Dulles Rail will magically transform sprawling Tysons Corner into a walkable downtown where people can live, work and play without a car.
This myth been repeated so often that some Fairfax County residents regard it as incontrovertible fact. It is also part and parcel of the "Smart Growth" conventional wisdom among urban planners.
However, it's much more likely that after spending billions of tax dollars redeveloping Northern Virginia's top employment center, Tysons Corner will remain more suburban office park than pedestrian paradise.
The very concept of a walkable Tysons Corner is a conceit used by planners and politicians to sell the public on higher densities. But it is not a realistic outcome -- no matter how much proponents of Transit Oriented Development wish it to be so. . . .Actually, the effectiveness of "smart growth" in within a half-mile of transit stations in which residential and non-residential populations have been balanced--called "Transit-Oriented Development" or TOD--has proven effective in reducing traffic and environmental impact while improving quality of life where it is in place. And people do walk more when the conditions are appropriate, including robust local retail, open space, and other amenities. On the other hand, few would call the plan for Tysons real TOD planning either within the half-mile circle or beyond. All it really does is constrain (if that word can be used here) office growth to 100% over the next 20 years--41MM to 81MM GSF with a 14% vacancy rate--at a time when the region's growth is likely to be less than half that.
Moreover, the failure in Tysons planning to include phasing and implementation considerations (such as transportation) as an integral part of the planning process, including costing needed infrastructure improvement, adds to the certainty that Tysons will be less smart and more office park than it could have been. Now it has become a post hoc exercise in trying to figure out how to retrofit the fantasy plan to reality.