Should we measure moving people or cars?
In a letter to Casey Anderson, Chair of the Montgomery County Planning Board, Councilmember Roger Berliner decried the county’s focus on how quickly vehicles get through an intersection leads only to wider roads and larger intersections, instead of what he described as more progressive options for decreasing commute times and getting people living closer to where they work.
Next year the County Council will take up the County’s subdivision staging policy, a policy, which among other things, focuses on the transportation tests that must be met in order for specific development projects, consistent with master plans, to move forward.
Among the suggested options for testing for traffic other than by testing levels of service and critical lane volumes. were:
- Reducing Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT)
- Testing Person Hours of Travel (PHT), so transportation policy goals could focus on reducing commute times for all people, regardless of the mode of travel
- Accessibility, testing how much employment or how many residential units are a set travel time (by car, transit, bike, or foot) away from a new development to reward properties that are mixed-use and make jobs and housing more accessible
As the Pike District/White Flint area strives to become a walkable, transit-friendly community, we support this quest for alternative testing methods that would better support policy goals to move people rather than cars. “The bottom line appears to be that if we measure the right things, we will move towards true multimodal solutions that give residents and businesses the traffic relief they need and a quality of life that we aspire to,” Councilmember Berliner wrote.
I don’t believe the goals have been articulated well to determine what should be measured and the best form(s) of measurement. The tone I hear from reading about White Flint Development, it sounds like the goal is availability of “multimodal solutions”, but not necessarily using them because the language reads “striving to become a walkable… to move people rather than cars”. Granted, generally, they need to be built in order to be used, but I feel like the next step of getting people to actually use the different modes and becoming detached from their cars is not really a focus and instead is a hope or expectation. I believe that is why the traffic test was a stipulation in the development plan. However, it does seem to be a catch 22 because I think it will be hard to get people to use the different modes of transportation when a full range of development isn’t yet completed. I totally agree with the last option you mention “Accessibility” and I believe that needs to be the heavier weighted measure in the beginning of the development and the traffic count be weighted heavier as we approach the end of White Flint’s Development plan.