Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

Is Arlington County's transit consensus and regional exceptionalism dying?

At a presentation a couple years ago, I remarked to Chris Zimmerman, Arlington County's elected official (currently chairman of the Arlington County Board), that in many communities "transit oriented development," densification at transit stations, or even creating transit systems (witness the letters to the editor in the Gazette which call the Purple Line a boondoggle, a gift to developers) is usually vociferously and routinely opposed, but that somehow, Arlington County was exceptional in that it had a consensus that transit and transportation demand management generally was a good thing.

As anti-government sentiments rise nationally, Arlington's "exceptionalism" in terms of a pro-transit consensus may be breaking down. See "Opposition to Columbia Pike trolley grows" from the Examiner.

I have written about this particular topic over the past few weeks in terms of how, despite claims to the contrary, Arlington County wasn't hiding anything about the streetcar succeeding bus rapid transit and utilizing transitways in the Potomac Yard development as it is all disclosed in the Arlington County Master Transportation Plan. (I can't be the only person to have read this document.)

But the way people are getting worked up about this, after the many years (I wasn't able to go, but was invited by Geoffrey Farrell to attend the first public charrettes for the Columbia Pike plan back in 2002 I think) of planning and public meetings that have been invested in this, I find really disturbing.

The planning for the streetcar in Arlington County began exactly at the same time as occurred in DC, with public meetings starting in 2003. Arlington in fact is further ahead of DC in terms of planning, except that former ANC6A Chair Joe Fengler encouraged the city to include streetcar rails in the streetscape reconstruction program for H Street NE, which accelerated DC's program somewhat.

-- Columbia Pike Transit Initiative and the Multimodal Project

I am not one to criticize "the media" for "being critical" but I wonder how much of this is abetted by the Examiner.

Of course it doesn't help that most of Northern Virginia's major property interests are road- rather than transit-centric. See "Transportation Alliance Wants Arlington Punished for Obstructionism" from the Arlington Sun-Gazette.

There's no question that the Examiner is fully committed to a road-centric transportation agenda, based on the tone of its coverage of transit, evidenced by the coverage of the Silver Line subway extension, the Purple Line, and the Arlington County streetcar.

anti-transit headline, "What's the Point of the Purple Line," Washington Examiner, 7/24/2011
Washington Examiner, 7/24/2011.

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