The City of Falls Church wants to capitalize on its proximity to Metro by attracting more residential and commercial development along Washington Street, one of the city's two main commercial corridors. But much of the thoroughfare lies beyond the quarter-mile radius from transit that planners traditionally consider optimal for encouraging transit-oriented development.
In 2012, the city undertook a study of potential transportation demand management (TDM) strategies to encourage more residents and workers in the corridor to use modes other than driving alone. Such strategies can lower the cost of new development by reducing the need for expensive new parking structures, which can help attract developers. They can also help make places more attractive to residents and businesses seeking access to a range of transportation options, creating greater market demand.
City planners discussed the findings of the study in a recent webinar hosted by the Transportation Planning Board, which funded the study through its Transportation/Land-Use Connections (TLC) Program.
One of the study's key recommendations was that the city develop a formal TDM for Site Plans policy asking developers and new commercial tenants to identify and implement TDM strategies as part of their plans for development. Such policies are designed to help mitigate adverse traffic impacts before they occur.
The study points to key strategies like financial incentives, physical infrastructure improvements, and enhanced marketing efforts to encourage greater use of alternatives to driving alone. Better pedestrian and bicycle amenities, more information about available transit options, and real-time bus and train arrival information are some specific examples of ways identified in the study to make alternative transportation modes more inviting and practical.
The study also suggested targets for the share of trips to be made by non-auto modes. Based upon these recommendations, the city set a target of 50% for the share of its residents getting to work by modes other than driving alone by 2030. Today, about 37% do. By 2030, it would like to see 40% of workers commuting to jobs in Falls Church to arrive by modes other than car, compared to 26% today.
The recent webinar also featured a presentation from the team that manages a mature and successful program linking TDM and site planning for new development in Arlington County. The presentation showcased how the county has helped achieve reductions in driving and parking demand. According to data collected by the county, the number of drive-alone trips generated by residential buildings in Metro corridors is about 40-50% below what traffic forecasting models typically predict. The data also showed that parking garages in residential buildings in Metro corridors are never more than about 80% full.
Since the 2013 TLC study for Falls Church was completed, the city has begun implementing some of the study's key recommendations. It has taken steps to formalize its TDM for Site Plans policy and it has embarked on a study of current parking conditions in the city to inform potential changes to parking requirements for new development.
The study's complete findings are available online at www.mwcog.org/tlc. The recent webinar, part of the TLC Program's Regional Peer Exchange Network, is one way the TPB is reaching out to share the findings of TLC studies with policymakers, practitioners, researchers, and other interested individuals. On July 16, the TPB is scheduled to approve a new round of TLC studies to carry out in the coming year.