Demand Side Strategies Are Secret to Arlington’s Success

Cross posted at on July 7, 2014

Two recent headlines really sum it up nicely for Arlington County, Virginia.

As Arlington Booms, Traffic Drops was written by Canaan Merchant in Greater Greater Washington and The Suburb of the Future is Here – How one city avoided the worst of suburbanization and revealed the path toward sustainable urban development was by Henry Grabar in Salon.

They highlight Arlington’s ability to remake itself – in little more than a generation – from an aging suburban bedroom community into a thriving urban place that has grown by tens of thousands of residents and workers. All the while, auto-traffic and congestion have been kept at bay because people have adopted transit, walking, and biking as a way of life.

Both stories discuss how Arlington’s well-documented smart-growth planning strategies – that have provided for mixed-use (jobs and residents) densification along its transit corridors and an ongoing investment in transit-walk-bike infrastructure – have resulted in growth, prosperity, and less traffic.

The lesser-known part of this good story is the TDM (transportation demand management) strategies that my bureau, Arlington County Commuter Services, has provided over the last 20 years. These have helped ensure that people use the place the way the planners intended. And the ACCS programs that have truly done the work include:

Research shows Arlington gets greater utility out of its transportation system because of this collective TDM effort. ACCS programs remove more than 40,000 single-occupant vehicle trips per day from the D.C. region’s roads by shifting them to other modes. For a comparison of scale, consider that I-395 and I-66 carry a combined total of 37,000 passenger vehicles in eight inbound lanes during the three-hour morning rush period.

Arlington has committed to TDM on a scale that is almost un-matched in North America. And this commitment leverages the investment in planning and infrastructure by creating greater efficiency in that system.

It’s the smart-growth/land-use planning, the investment in transportation infrastructure,and the TDM strategies of ACCS that altogether create the transportation success propelling Arlington, Virginia’s story of transformation into such a great and prosperous community.

Photo by M.V. Jantzen

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