Sometimes it’s hard to sell “smart growth” and New Urbanism. People are used to their cars, and they just flat out don’t believe that urban density can reduce traffic congestion. It’s the legacy of 50 years of suburban, car-oriented thinking.
But there is an example of how a nearby community can shake free the steel and glass shackles of auto culture and replace it with the tree-lined small-town feel of New Urbanism: Arlington County. Arlington County made a conscious effort over the last three decades to remake itself from car-country to modern community, centered on the Metro stations it brought in.
And it worked. Arlington quadrupled its density near the Metro stations, using FARs (a measure of development density) as high as 10.0. The highest FAR in the White Flint Plan is 4.0 at the Metro station. Yet traffic congestion there is as low as in the 1990’s, because those extra people are using Metro. And the local neighborhoods, with single-family homes, are protected from further development and congestion.
But it’s more than just congestion. It’s also an economic boost. The high-density area around Metro in Arlington County is only 11% of the available land in the county, but it produces 1/2 the county’s tax revenues. Arlington has the lowest tax rates in the area.
Yesterday, the New York Times illustrated another side of the prosperity: government agencies and companies WANT to move there. You can find the New York Times story at: http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/07/realestate/commercial/07ballston.html?ref=realestate
Compare that with Montgomery County, which, the Gazette reported yesterday, is looking to hire lobbyists to draw more agencies here: http://www.gazette.net/stories/10072009/montnew185453_32524.shtml.
How about trying to make Montgomery more appealing, say, through smart growth, or maybe even . . . the White Flint Sector Plan, rather than hiring lobbyists?