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Transforming Tysons Corner: Recommendations

Recommendations submitted in July of 2009 for the Transforming Tysons Corner Plan (current draft plan is called the "Straw Man"). See

Chap 2, Vision

Please consider adopting a more aggressive, quantified Guiding Planning Principle (page 7), such as a) "compared to 2009, reduce daily per-capita VMT by 40% for Tysons workers and residents." In a world of climate change, a more quantified instantiation of the "sustainable" vision statement (page 6) is required. Further consider adopting additional Guiding Planning Principles such as b) "provide a compelling, car-free experience for area workers, residents and visitors" and such as c) "provide a compelling alternative for 2-car families to convert to owning only 1 car, with no lifestyle sacrifice."

Land Use Section:

Page 35 workforce housing. Please consider going beyond 12% inclusionary zoning. To that end, please consider:

A) SPUR's (The San Francisco Planning and Urban Research Institute) Affordable by Design report explains one strategy to develop a higher percentage of affordable housing - without public subsidy. SPUR's vision is for 5-story, 65' tall, wood-frame construction over podium parking. For San Francisco, the ambitious plan is to split the DUs (dwelling units) as follows: 60% market rate, 40% moderate affordable at 133% or 150% of area median income (AMI). This is a re-definition of "moderate" to a pricier level than the traditional 120% AMI moderate definition, but it is also more realistic. The vision is for 800 square foot (sf) two-bedroom for-sale condos as workforce housing, priced at $450,000. Vigorous residential car trip reduction is a key part of making the economics work - less parking really matters. 5-story wood-frame construction requires fire code modification, as undertaken by San Diego and Seattle. SPUR also argues that maximum density zoning should be modified to encourage more, smaller DUs.

B) In San Francisco, tiny new 250 square foot condos selling for $279,000 have 100% affordable DUs.

Please consider adding the following new section on housing to page 36:

Carbon Reducing Housing Preference

For new apartments and condos, Carbon Reducing Housing Preference (CRHP) selects residents with fewer cars who will drive less. CRHP is the most cost-effective residential auto trip reduction policy and results in the largest commute mode shift change away from solo commuting. Palo Alto pioneered CRHP for the nation, via first application at Stanford West Apartments. Commute driving at Stanford West is a tiny fraction of the average Palo Alto resident. CRHP saves 3 tons of CO2 per home per year. Redwood City has recently pioneered this policy for the 800-condo market rate Peninsula Park project. Peninsula Park has four preference tiers:

  • Households that have no adult members who commute.
  • Incoming households where all employed adults agree to commute to work via commute alternatives 80% of the time.
  • Incoming households where one employed adult agrees to commute to work via commute alternatives 80% of the time.
  • Incoming households with one adult member with a 4.0 mile or shorter commute.
Such climate protecting discrimination is legal under the Fair Housing Act. Details:


Transportation Section

Page 45

PRT (personal rapid transit) is an electric, 200-mpg-equivalent, elevated transit system with many four-person vehicles. First deployment is scheduled for London Heathrow Airport in Spring 2010, to serve Heathrow's new Terminal 5. Working as circulator transit for office parks, airports, universities, and other major activity centers, PRT is faster than a car. In these applications, PRT makes carpooling, Metro, and bus more effective, by solving the "last mile problem." PRT also enables longer bike commutes and shopping trips. A three-minute youtube video of ULTra can be viewed here: Peer-reviewed market research for two San Francisco Bay Area transit-served major job centers, Palo Alto's Stanford Research Park (SRP) and Pleasanton's Hacienda Business Park, forecasts a PRT-induced commuting mode reduction from more than 80% single occupancy vehicle (SOV) down to 45% SOV. In these two studies, carpooling increased to more than 30% and commuter rail transit increased beyond 15%. Such commuting shift shifts acres of parking for higher use.

The Virginia Legislature's January 2009 "Viability of PRT for Virginia" report concludes: "Interest and development of PRT appears to be growing around the world. With the inevitable construction of at least two systems and the testing underway of several others (although in most cases not at full scale), it can be argued that PRT is proving to be a feasible technology." In California, three cities are pursuing PRT systems: San Jose, Santa Cruz, and Alameda.

For Tysons PRT details, including a system sketch concept, please see:

Page 59 & 60. Please consider adding more teeth to parking and TDM by requiring parking charges. $6 per day office parking charges will reduce commute VMT by 23%. A much more palatable scheme of small parking charges combined with incentives (parking cashout) can provide the same VMT reduction without causing a commuter revolt:

Urban Design

PRT will have a large impact on architectural design, urban design, landscaping, land use intensities, etc. Please consider conducting an integrated "PRT transformation study" that goes beyond a siloed circulator study. PRT provides new synergies that Tysons should benefit from.