Reston Town Center Christmas Tree Lighting & Sing-Along with Reston Chorale

Reston Town Center Christmas Tree Lighting & Sing-Along with Reston Chorale
Photo by Modern Reston

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Commentary: The View From Over Here: RCA Community Forum Brings Back No-Birds, John Lovaas, Reston Patch, March 31, 2013

(Part 1 of 2)

Last Wednesday evening, the Reston Citizens Association (RCA) hosted another in a series of open forums on the Reston Community Center’s (RCC) proposed partnership with Fairfax County Park Authority to bring an indoor recreation facility to Baron Cameron Park on land recently transferred to the Authority by Fairfax County.  This same land, previously owned by Fairfax County Public Schools, was once slated to be the site of Reston’s second high school. 
However, the dream of a second Reston high school allowing all Reston kids to attend secondary school in our community was never realized.  According to a forum participant, Browns Chapel area residents raised such a hue and cry against having a high school in their neighborhood that the County shelved the proposal.  Thus, Herndon High became the future school for pupils from North Point.
That was the first of several victories for what became Reston’s leading NIMBY corps. . . .
Click here for the rest of this article. 

We appreciate that there was neighborhood opposition to the siting of the proposed recreation center at Baron Cameron Park, but several good community reasons were offered by those with no links to the neighborhood for not locating the recreation center there.  Very briefly, these include:
  • There are several activities/facilities that would be supplanted by the recreation center if it is located at Baron Cameron.   These include soccer and baseball fields as well as a well-used dog park.  
  • The site is a long way--well beyond walking distance--from the planned locus of Reston population and employment along the Dulles Corridor.  This would create additional traffic at an already crowded intersection at Baron Cameron and Wiehle avenues.
  • Other sites are available where both of the preceding are mitigated.  These include FCPA land in the southwest corner of Lake Fairfax Park and undeveloped parkland in Town Center North (behind Reston Urgent Care).  They also include more expensive options of locating the center at the struggling Tall Oaks village center or in Isaac Newton Square.  
This community discussion has a long way to go before decisions about siting, pricing, facilities, etc., are made.  RCA's Reston 2020 Committee is working on this issue even as this is being written.

If you have thoughts on the proposed RCC Reston Recreation Center, please feel free to share them here.  

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Sequester’s Impact in Fairfax County? TBD, Reston Connection, March 21, 2013

Local leaders say “uncertainty” biggest fallout of sequester so far.

By Victoria Ross
Fairfax County businesses have been feeling the chilling effect of the $87 billion across-the-board spending cuts triggered March 1st for several months.
In anticipation of the original “fiscal cliff” deadline at the end of 2012, apprehensive business owners had begun taking preemptive measures, such as tightening budgets, and implementing hiring and pay freezes.
“Small and large companies are taking more conservative approaches to hiring, and government contractors, a large segment of the Fairfax County economy, could see their contracts reduced or terminated,” said Sharon Bulova (D-at-large), chairman of the Board of Supervisors.
But what has rattled Fairfax County businesses is not specific cuts in the sequester, but the uncertainty of what the cuts will be and when they will take effect. . .
. . . “The Washington Area economy has grown tremendously thanks to Federal Government spending. In 2010, total federal spending accounted for nearly 40 percent of the region’s GDP,” said economist Stephen S. Fuller of George Mason University’s Center for Regional Analysis.
The region’s strength is also its “Achilles heel,” Fuller said and warned the area “faces a sea change” as federal spending decreases.
According to economic forecasters, the outlook is grim and grimmer. Most of the fiscal apocalypse, they say, is related to government-worker furloughs, which could begin as early as next week. In addition to eroding consumer confidence, the furloughs could trigger a domino effect that impacts everyone.
“If the feds are furloughed two days a week, no more housing purchases, no more dinners out, everyone hunkers downs, consumer housing starts to slow down and things come to a grinding halt and everyone is affected,” (Fairfax County Economic Development Authority President Jerry) Gordon said. . . . .
 Click here for the rest of this story.  

Revised County Count and Forecast for Reston Jobs and Households

Below is a table reflecting DPZ's latest count of Reston jobs and households by area:  The suburban center (the Phase I study area) and the rest of the Planned Residential Community (PRC) area, including the total.  The 2010 count is based on latest MWCOG traffic analysis zones (TAZs), some of them prorated since the TAZ and PRC boundaries do not precisely coincide. 

The two 2030 forecasts use the same TAZ approach, but are based on alternative futures:  the forecast as presented under the County's current Comprehensive Plan, and the forecast as proposed under the RTF "Scenario G"--the current task force proposal for Reston development.  As can be seen, the jobs and household numbers both increase under Scenario G, especially in the "suburban center."

We have used the DPZ data to look at the population in Reston, both now an in 2030.  We extrapolated from the DPZ data by using the assumed 2 persons per household in the suburban center and the balance at the Census 2010 number of 2.28 persons per household for the entirety of Reston.  As a result, the forecast Reston population may be a little low although the size of households is expected to shrink in the decades ahead.

The most important ramifications of this new data are it (a) corrects DPZ's earlier estimate that the jobs:housing ratio community-wide was 3.5 (versus 2.5) and (b) that a community-wide J:HH ratio "target" of 3.0:1 was appropriate.  At this week's RTF meeting, DPZ said it would revise the target ratio "to around 2.5:1."

Note:  If any readers are interested in the full EXCEL workbook DPZ used to generate its forecast (a breakout by TAZ), please contact me by e-mail at terrmayn@yahoo.com.  I would be glad to share it. 

The DPZ data below is in light blue.  The R2020 population data is in salmon.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Reston 2020 Summary of the RTF Meeting, March 26, 2013



                                                       R. Rogers

                     28 March 2013





Reston Master Planning Task Force Meeting –26 March 2013





Summary: The Wiehle station access issue bubbled up in the prelimi-naries. County DOT discussed its approach to traffic mitigation.  Considerable time was spent by Heidi Merkel responding to comments on the draft DPZ planning text. The most significant issues raised were DPZ modification of the jobs-housing balance and developers pushing for more office density.  Next up on Monday 8 April is the DOT traffic analysis on Scenario G.



Wiehle Station



The introductory session was dominated by issues related to the station.  After briefly summarizing progress on the Silver Line (90% complete) and noting the possible complication of the delay in the Falls Church rail yard, Patty Nicoson reviewed her 15 March letter to Supervisor Hudgins “on behalf of the” RTF.  Patty noted that Hudgins had raised the station issue (Vornado access?) at a recent BOS meeting.  Andy Sigle, RA rep, said the issue was so pressing that the TF should devote 5 minutes at the beginning of every meeting to what progress is being made on access issues.  Basil Rathbone of FC DOT said some access projects are being held up by VDOT and the TF should have Chris Wells, FC pedestrian access person, in to talk.  (Comment:  All this was a good illustration of the impact of the RCA Wiehle access paper.) Patty noted the county Soapstone design consulting team, which has put 6 routing options on the table, may be coming up with two options at the end of April. 

                                                                       


Tiered Approach to Traffic Management

                                                                       

Dan Rathbone, FC Department of Transportation Senior Planner, spoke about how a tiered approach can mitigate traffic problems.  This involves in priority order:

--Low cost options to smooth traffic (signals, restriping, “impedance changes” to restrict speed).

--Medium cost actions, such as turn lanes and additional street grids

--Additional mitigation steps away from the specific intersection (road and bridge construction).

(Comment: Little attention was given to TDM measures. The presentation is not yet on the website, but should be shortly.)



Rathbone noted that DOT will follow up with action after the plan is adopted.  This will involve a refined analysis of the street grid, developers doing a Traffic Impact analysis (TIA), and as part of the zoning process asked to adopt the “tiered approach” to traffic management.



In response to a question re what will happen to the Wiehle station area after the Silver Line is completed to Dulles, Rathbone said this was “a good question” and that there may be a need now for temporary measures.



He noted that the TF needs to determine what is the acceptable level of congestion within the ½-mile range.



John Carter opined that you cannot just increase the flow of traffic in the station areas, but you need to accept slower traffic.  He said shared parking between uses would help and that urban standards requiring bus or pedestrian access should be employed.



Rathbone noted difficulties with VDOT on an urban approach to traffic management and noted that FC DOT has made presentations to the Board about adopting more urban standards.

                                                                       

It was stressed that the 8 April RMPTF meeting will involve DOT presenting their analysis of the traffic implications of Scenario G.



Review of DPZ Draft Plan Text



Heidi Merkel, Department of Planning and Zoning, noted that DPZ responses to various points raisedearlier were incorporated in the draft on the website.  The DPZ responses in the draft drew little comment. She focused her attention on TF member comments received subsequently to that.



One of the more significant developments was correction of the figures relating to existing job/housing balance.  In response to RCA questions, review of data indicates to DPZ that the balance now is 2.6 jobs to one household.  Perhaps the goal, Heidi said, should be 2.4 to 1.



A number of the comments reflected the view that there should be more office development in the ¼- ½ mile range from the station.  For example, it was questioned why p 14 talks of 75% residential in these areas. There was also concern that proposal for office development in these areas would use up the allocation for office in a broader area. (Comment:  The tone of many of the questions submitted was pro office development.)  In this context, the point was made that office space per worker, which the RTF has assumed should be 300 GSF, is now at 200 GSF and trending lower as companies cut costs and telework and other technologies make office space less needed.



The need for an entity for urban design review was noted. (Comment: The draft makes no mention of the role of RA in the TOD areas.)



Many of the question reflected narrow concerns:

--Under recreation include “tot lots.”

--We need more plazas (Bob Simon)

--Long discussion about whether higher education references should be to public, private or for profit colleges and universities

--Show Reston Station Blvd extending to Plaza America

--Don’t call the Reston TC station a “downtown station;” call it an “urban center station.”

--Robert Goudie again raised the issue of placing more residential at Wiehle and HM so the proportion of residential and commercial could stay the same, but TC could be more office.

(Comment: No clear decision was apparent in response to most of this. Presumably the staff will review the comments in the context of a new draft.)

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Fairfax County only now trying to meet key Phase 2 Silver Line commitment

In the summer of 2011, nearly two years ago, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood finally got the Silver Line "funding partners"--MWAA, Loudoun County, Fairfax County, and the unheard Dulles Toll Road users--to agree to take upon themselves the construction of ancillary Silver Line facilities.  For Fairfax County, that meant the construction of two parking garages--one each at the Herndon-Monroe and Rt. 28/CIT stations. 

You'd have thought the County would have started to work on that reasonably promptly given the importance it attaches to the completion of the Silver Line.  Well, you'd be wrong!

Just two days ago, the County issued an updated request for statements of qualification for an architect "to provide conceptual planning and professional design services for two, separate multi-level parking structures to be located along the Rail to Dulles, Silver Line- Phase II."  That is the very first of many steps that must be completed before these structures are constructed and operational. 

Indeed, given the record of greatly delayed Fairfax County follow up on the RMAG report for transportation improvements needed prior to the arrival of Metrorail at Wiehle Station (virtually none of which will be accomplished, including the vital Soapstone Connector), it is quite possible that these garages will not be in place when Phase 2 becomes operational in 2018. 

For more on the updated request for qualifications (RFQs), please see this Washington Business Journal article.  

The kicker:  If Fairfax County can't find a suitable private sector partner for these garages, the costs of building them reverts to the Metrorail project costs--and Dulles Toll Road users will end up picking up three-quarters of the cost.

Was there ever any doubt we need more workforce housing?

D.C. named least affordable market in country

Wei Wei
Two recent surveys show that Washington-area residents face one of the country's biggest gaps between wages and housing prices, which analysts warn could blunt the city’s attractiveness to talented workers.
An analysis by ZipRealty Inc., an online residential real estate brokerage, found that the Washington region is the most expensive housing market among 30 major metropolitan areas.
ZipRealty reported that the Washington area's median housing price from November through Feb. 10 was $1.03 million, 16.78 times the median income. Washington was followed by New York's Brooklyn borough and the San Francisco Bay area on the list, which was released March 18. . . .
Click here for the rest of this Washington Business Journal article.

Wow!  It wasn't even close!  More expensive than Brooklyn and the Bay area! 

Another reason why open space--and lots of it--is important

Easing Brain Fatigue With a Walk in the Park

By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS
Brick House Pictures/Getty Images
Scientists have known for some time that the human brain’s ability to stay calm and focused is limited and can be overwhelmed by the constant noise and hectic, jangling demands of city living, sometimes resulting in a condition informally known as brain fatigue.
With brain fatigue, you are easily distracted, forgetful and mentally flighty — or, in other words, me.
But an innovative new study from Scotland suggests that you can ease brain fatigue simply by strolling through a leafy park. . . .

Citizens Speak Out on Rec Center Proposal, Reston Patch, March 28, 2013

Last night, RCA held its latest community forum, concerning Reston Community Center’s proposed new rec center at Baron Cameron Park.  Over 50 people turned out for an exchange that was spirited and open, but respectful and informative.  I think we all came away with a clear understanding of where the proposal stands, what we agree on, and which issues concern the community. For those of you who couldn’t make it, here’s a summary of what we discussed.

Leila Gordon, Executive Director of RCC, started off by providing a summary of the project to date.  She explained that RCC’s current facilities, especially the pool, are overbooked and limited.  Therefore, the RCC Board has made the expansion of aquatics offerings a priority in its Strategic Plan.  Program data and community surveys confirm that there is demand for more swimming options, and the need will only increase as Reston grows.

Leila stated that RCC is committed to building the facility cost-effectively.  This is why RCC is exploring a partnership with the Fairfax County Park Authority: building at Baron Cameron, which the Park Authority owns, would save on land costs and would provide a County contribution to the project.  Leila also said that starting the project now would be smart financially, since financing and construction costs are at or near historic lows.  She noted that the RCC Board would be open to receiving proffer money from future development to reduce the cost to Restonians.

Leila also mentioned that RCC will include citizen input in the planning process.  She noted that beauty and environmental concerns are important, and that the new rec center should be an asset to surrounding neighborhoods.  She said that if the facility is built at Baron Cameron, RCC has no intention of destroying or eliminating the existing features (the fields, the dog park, the community garden, and the trees).  Reston’s citizens will ultimately have the final say on the project, as they would need to vote for a bond referendum to allow the rec center to be built.

After Leila finished her presentation, the community had its say.  I was glad to see the citizens so engaged on this issue; it’s obviously something that we’ll be talking about for a long time to come.

Most citizens who spoke were in favor of, or at least open to, a new rec center.  Almost everyone acknowledges the need for more indoor pool space.  A representative of the Masters Swim Team pointed out that not only is RCC’s existing pool small, but it’s got a temperature problem.  Swimmers like the water to be cool, but the pool is also used for aquatic therapy, and those users need the water warm.  RCC compromises by setting the temperature somewhere in the middle, which pleases no one.  More aquatic space is needed, and the community seems to be on board with that.
While they generally supported the idea of a facility, most citizens who spoke also expressed concerns about the proposal.  By far, the biggest concern was the proposed location.  Many of those who commented live near Baron Cameron Park, and they were concerned or outright opposed to building the rec center there.

The speakers noted that the park is very well-used already: the soccer and baseball fields are fully subscribed, the dog park is extremely popular, and the park is also a nice spot to take a walk.  They pointed out that outdoor recreation space is just as scarce in Reston as indoor recreation space, and warned about supplanting one shortage with another.  They expressed concern about losing one of Reston’s few remaining open spaces.  They noted that the park is home to wildlife, and they worried that the rec center would drive the animals away.  Several people argued that the rec center would bring additional traffic, light, and noise to the surrounding area.  In short, many people thought it was the right facility in the wrong location.

Several speakers suggested alternate locations.  The most popular suggestions included the North Town Center area (near the library, where the Park Authority owns some land), the Tall Oaks Village Center, and the southwest corner of Lake Fairfax Park (closest to the new Wiehle Metro station).  These sites would all be closer to the Toll Road corridor, where new growth is most likely to happen in the coming years.

Leila replied that alternative sites, including the ones mentioned, are being considered.  She did point out, however, that several of the suggested sites had similar issues to Baron Cameron.  For instance, building at Lake Fairfax would also involve losing open space and disrupting wildlife, while the North Town Center and Tall Oaks sites would also present traffic challenges.  She also pointed out that building on a non-County-owned site would add to the project cost.

The other major concern expressed was how the project would be financed.  Several speakers pointed out that Reston does not have a County-built rec center, and asked why Restonians shouldn’t ask for their fair share of County funds.  They urged RCC to seek out developer proffers to help pay for the project.  They noted that the cost of living in Reston is high, and that additional taxes and fees would price more people out of living here.

In response to the call for a County-funded facility, Leila said that we could get one, but that Reston would be added to the lengthy list of County funding request, and it could be years or even decades before the County built a facility here.  She also noted that local funding brings with it local control, assuring that the new facility could be programmed to meet the community’s needs.  She said that partnering with the Park Authority represented the best of both worlds: a County contribution to the project, but built on Reston’s schedule and kept under Reston’s control.

One of the things that pleased me about the forum was that several of my fellow community leaders came to listen to the community.  In addition to several of my RCA Board colleagues, multiple RA Board members (including President Ken Knueven) showed up, as did George Kain of the ARCH Board, a number of cluster board members, and Bob Simon himself.  I’m glad that we were able to provide a forum where the citizens were able to speak and the community’s leaders were there to hear it.

There’s a long way to go on this project before the referendum, and Leila noted that both RCC and the Park Authority will offer many more opportunities for public comment.  So if you weren’t able to join us last night, you still have a chance to be heard.  I’m glad, though, that RCA was once again able to help keep Restonians informed on an issue that matters to our community’s future.  I hope to see you at the next forum!

Have the Reston-Pentagon Buses Been Saved?

Ari Ashe, WTOP, reports that the commute line has been saved and that will be announced on Monday.

Popular bus routes saved for Pentagon commuters

Thursday - 3/28/2013, 6:28am  ET
FairfaxConnector.JPG
 (WTOP/Ari Ashe)

Ari Ashe, wtop.com
RESTON, Va. - Two popular express bus routes connecting Reston to the Pentagon and Crystal City have been saved from the chopping block.
The Fairfax County Department of Transportation will unveil the revised plan for the Fairfax Connector on Monday, according to two Fairfax supervisors briefed on the plan.
"I am so excited that the buses will remain," says Sarah Stein of Herndon, who commutes from Reston North Park and Ride to the Pentagon.
It's wonderful that they listened because I know there must have been hundreds of letters and phone calls to Fairfax County officials. It's nice to know they care."
The Fairfax Connector 595 and 597 are popular commuting options for Pentagon employees living in Fairfax and Loudoun counties. . . .
Click here for the rest of this article.  

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Changing Office Trends Hold Major Implications for Future Office Demand, CoStar Group, March 13, 2013

Pioneered by Tech Firms in California, Communal Workspace Model Becoming More Mainstream Among Big Office Firms

March 13, 2013
 Perhaps just as the inevitable disappearance of music, video and books stores should have been foreseen at the onset of a digitized connected world, so too should the commercial real estate industry start taking a hard look at changes occurring in the office market.

Tenants are downsizing their offices, particularly larger public firms, as they increasingly adopt policies for sharing non-dedicated offices and implement technology to support their employees' ability to work anywhere and anytime, according to Norm G. Miller, PhD, a professor at the University of San Diego, Burnham-Moores, Center for Real Estate, in a webinar he presented to CoStar subscribers last week.

Miller said he put together the webinar to examine what would happen if office tenants used 20% less of the nation’s current office space, which has a total valuation of $1.25 trillion. That decrease in demand would represent $250 billion in excess office capacity. Although the current situation is not that dire, Miller said the trend is real, and he presented how it is currently playing out and the long-term implications for office building owners and investors.

Following the webinar, CoStar News interviewed Dr. Miller for a more in-depth discussion of the topic and surveyed a wide sample of webinar participants to share their firsthand account of the ongoing trend and its implications.

According to Miller, four major trends are impacting the office market:
* Move to more standardized work space.
* Non-dedicated office space (sharing), along with more on-site amenities.
* Growing acceptance, even encouragement of telecommuting and working in third places, and
* More collaborative work spaces and functional project teams. . . .
Click here for the rest of this article.  

Dr. Norm Miller, the commercial real estate professor mentioned in this article, has published a balanced and in-depth report on trends in space per office worker called "Changing Trends in Office Space Requirements: Implications for Future Office Demand" this month.  The paper's concluding paragraph says:
Based on reduced space usage, the demise of the office market has certainly been exaggerated, and we will likely see a continuation of space demand far in excess of the targets espoused by a few large public corporations and space planners.  Moving forward, we will see some firms achieve square feet per worker of less than 100 square feet, but given the cultural impediments and the challenges of predicting growth rates, we are more likely to see figures average 150 to 185 square feet per worker phasing slowly towards even lower figures at the end of the decade.  (Emphasis added)  This is a significant reduction is space per worker, but it parallels a need to retrofit much of the existing space to provide more collaborative team space and healthier more productive environments.  At the end of the day landlords are not selling space but rather productivity.  More productive environments with better natural light, temperature and air controls, cleaner air and controllable noise are more productive and will command rental premiums.

Office Vacancies And Efficient Space Use, Standard & Poors, September 27,2012

This S&P report notes the decline in current and planned space per office worker.  Currently, this is being driven by the fact that companies are re-hiring personnel laid off in the recession to fill existing space, but the trend through later in the decade foresees a continuing decline as companies become more efficient in their use of office space.  Most notably, the S&P report highlights the potentially adverse credit consequences of this continuing decline in office space per worker.

Here is the lead:
More efficient use of office space has the potential to keep office vacancies elevated over the long term, which in our view would be a credit negative for commercial mortgage-backed securities (CMBS). A 10% drop in the current space used per worker would raise the office vacancy rate to near 18% by 2017 from 16% currently, according to our estimates, using second-quarter 2012 CBRE Econometric Advisors' (CBRE-EA) forecasts of additions to stock and employment growth. And although we believe it unlikely, if office use per person drops 10% below the long-term average, the vacancy rate could rise as high as 24%, holding all else equal. In addition, higher vacancy rates would likely lead to lower rent growth, which in turn would lower property level net operating income (NOI) and loan debt service coverage ratios (DSCRs). . .



And conclusion:
While a clear, widespread trend toward more efficient use of space has not yet emerged, we believe such a change could be a moderate hazard for CMBS credit. Overall office exposure in conduit CMBS is about 32%, though the 2012 vintage contains only 27% year-to-date. More efficient usage of space could keep the office vacancy rate elevated, which in turn would likely lower rents. Combined, these effects could be detrimental to property-level NOI and DSCR.


Click here for the full S&P report. 
















Office Space Per Worker Will Drop to 100 Square Feet or Below for Many Companies Within Five Years, According to New Research From CoreNet Global, February 28, 2012

This is important for those interested in the Reston planning process (and, for that matter, the Tysons process) because the County is currently planning for 300 gross square feet (GSF) per office worker. 

In Reston, office space currently 85% of all non-residential space and it is the intent of the Task Force to increase that substantially around the Metrorail stations.  However, while we may want to target a certain high level of office workers for Reston's station areas, we do not want to offer two- or three-times the space those workers may attract.  In this Dillon Rule state, any space allocation given in the planning and zoning process becomes a "by right" landowner development opportunity.  We need to avoid allowing too much office space development in Reston because of its impact on the jobs:housing (J:HH) ratio which, in turn, creates added congestion, environmental damage, increased transportation infrastructure costs, and more. 

RCA has taken the position that the office space per worker should not exceed 200 GSF/employee.  This is a generous allocation given the trends reported by CoreNet Global.  On the other hand, we anticipate developers and their attorneys on the Reston Task Force will be deeply upset if Comprehensive Plan language reduces their development opportunities by one-third. 
ATLANTA, Feb. 28, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- New data released today from CoreNet Global show for the first time that for many companies, the average allocation of office space per person in North America will fall to 100 square feet or below within the next five years.
By 2017, at least 40% of the companies responding indicated they will reach this all-time low benchmark of individual space utilization, which has been the case in Europe for the past several years but is now heading for the Americas.
The average for all companies for square feet per worker in 2017 will be 151 square feet, compared to 176 square feet today, and 225 square feet in 2010.
"The main reason for the declines," said Richard Kadzis , CoreNet Global's Vice President of Strategic Communications, "is the huge increase in collaborative and team-oriented space inside a growing number of companies that are stressing 'smaller but smarter' workplaces against the backdrop of continuing economic uncertainty and cost containment."
CoreNet Global, which conducted the survey, is the worldwide association for corporate real estate and workplace professionals.
Today, just 24 percent of the respondents reported that the average space per office worker is 100 square feet or less; however, 40 percent reported that within five years, the average space per office worker would be 100 square feet or less.
It is clear that the amount of space dedicated solely to specific employees is steadily shrinking. A majority of the respondents, 55 percent, reported that square feet per worker has already decreased between 5 and 25 percent over the last five years. . . .
Click here for the rest of this press release.  The full survey results study is available to CoreNet Global members; membership is expensive.

According to the press release, "CoreNet Global is the world's leading association for corporate real estate (CRE) and workplace professionals, service providers, and economic developers. Our more than 7,000 members, who include 70% of the top 100 U.S. companies and nearly half of the Global 2000, meet locally, globally and virtually to develop networks, share knowledge, learn and thrive professionally."

How a D.C. Suburb Avoided the Capital’s Traffic Nightmare, TransportationNation, March 26, 2013

Unfortunately, the suburb is not Reston nor even Fairfax County.  It is Arlington County and Martin DiCaro, WAMU reporter, gives an excellent overview of the efforts the county pursued to succeed in reducing traffic congestion.

Arlington's Wilson Boulevard and North Lynn Street at night. (Photo CC by Flickr user Mrs. Gernstone)
(Washington, D.C. — WAMU) While the District of Columbia grapples with proposed changes to its parking and zoning policies, last updated in 1958, nearby Arlington County, Virginia seems to have triumphed in its effort to minimize traffic congestion. Commuters are shifting from cars to transit and bikes.
What’s more, traffic volume has decreased on several major arterial roads in the county over the last two decades despite significant job and population growth, according to data compiled by researchers at Mobility Lab, a project of Arlington County Commuter Services.
 Multifaceted effort to curb car-dependence
Researchers and transportation officials credit three initiatives for making the county less car-dependent: offering multiple alternatives to the automobile in the form of rail, bus, bicycling, and walking; following smart land use policies that encourage densely built, mixed-use development; and relentlessly marketing those transportation alternatives through programs that include five ‘commuter stores’ throughout the county where transit tickets, bus maps, and other information are available. . . .
Click here for the rest of this article.  

Letter: Airport Authority Gets Into Business, The Connection, March 26, 2013

The following are the opening paragraphs of a letter to the editor by David Webster, a Herndon attorney, on MWAA's effort to commercially develop its Dulles Airport property--some of it around a Loudoun Silver Line station--for non-aviation purposes.
To the Editor:
Since its creation in 1986, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (“MWAA”) has been forbidden by federal law from building for-profit commercial developments on the 3,000 acres of property at Dulles Airport that it leases from the U.S. Government. It has been limited to using the Dulles property for airport purposes, e.g. runways and hangers. That all changed on Feb. 14, 2012. On that day, President Obama signed into law the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012 (“2012 FAA Act”). Hidden in the middle of this 150 page omnibus act dealing with all manner of subjects was a one sentence revision to the 1986 federal act that created MWAA. Henceforth, MWAA would be allowed to commercially develop Dulles Airport.
Here is why we as Fairfax County taxpayers should be concerned about MWAA’s venture into private commercial development and what we can do about it.
MWAA is tax-exempt under both Virginia and federal law and thus can unfairly compete with private landowners. MWAA does not pay state or federal income taxes, county business license taxes, or county real estate taxes. Any businesses that locate on the Dulles Airport property won’t be part of a special Phase II tax district and won’t pay a dime toward defraying the cost of building the Metro Silver Line. As if that isn’t enough, MWAA is not subject to county zoning laws and has no incentive to offer “proffers” which are voluntary agreements by a landowner to go above and beyond what zoning laws require, e.g. planting additional trees in a development. What private landowner can hope to compete with this type of unfair advantage? . . .
Click here to read the rest of this letter.

For those who do not know, MWAA's total contribution to the cost of  building of the Silver Line is actually less than it will cost to build the line and the station at Dulles airport.  On the other hand, Dulles Toll Road users will be paying for more than half of the total line's $6 billion cost.  Yet MWAA is adamantly opposed to sharing any of the proceeds from its non-aviation commercial development in reducing the costs to DTR users or its other "partners"--Loudoun and Fairfax Counties.  

Subways, Strikes, and Slowdowns: The Impacts of Public Transit on Traffic Congestion, NBER Working Paper, February 2013

Below is the abstract from a NBER Working Paper by Michael L. Anderson on the impacts of the cessation of public transit programs--typically by worker strikes and slowdowns.  Looking through this other end of the spyglass, the report highlights the disproportionate effect public transit has on reducing congestion--and the adverse consequences when it is not available.  

Here is Paul Krugman's short summary of the paper:  "(T)he author argues that mass transit has a significant impact in reducing traffic congestion, even when it carries only a small fraction of commuters. Why? Because commuters who take mass transit are, very disproportionately, people who would otherwise be driving on the most congested routes. So even the small number of people taken off the roads has a surprisingly large effect in reducing travel delays."

The paper is available from NBER for $5.00 to members (free) if you want to read the full text.  You can reach the webpage for the paper by clicking on the paper's title below.    

 Subways, Strikes, and Slowdowns: The Impacts of Public Transit on Traffic Congestion

Michael L. Anderson

NBER Working Paper No. 18757
Issued in February 2013
NBER Program(s):   EEE   PE

Public transit accounts for only 1% of U.S. passenger miles traveled but nevertheless attracts strong public support. Using a simple choice model, we predict that transit riders are likely to be individuals who commute along routes with the most severe roadway delays. These individuals’ choices thus have very high marginal impacts on congestion. We test this prediction with data from a sudden strike in 2003 by Los Angeles transit workers. Estimating a regression discontinuity design, we find that average highway delay increases 47% when transit service ceases. This effect is consistent with our model’s predictions and many times larger than earlier estimates, which have generally concluded that public transit provides minimal congestion relief. We find that the net benefits of transit systems appear to be much larger than previously believed.  (Emphasis added)

Monday, March 25, 2013

Fairfax County Could Sell Air Rights to Fight Tolls, Reston Patch, March 25, 2013

With tolls projected to increase, officials are looking into air rights sales.

Fairfax County is exploring how selling air rights could help reduce tolls on the Dulles Toll Road that are expected to shoot up with Phase II Silver Line construction.
Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield) asked staff last week to look into the cost of a study determining how much money the county could charge developers for the right to build over the Toll Road and new Silver Line Metro stations. . . .
  Click here for the rest of this important article.

RCA has taken the position in responding to the draft areawide Comprehensive Plan language presented to the Reston Task Force by County Staff last month that "The County must aggressively pursue air rights over the Dulles Corridor for TOD development and the grid of streets to work effectively."

The County staff's response: "The subject of pursuing air rights is very complex.  If the opportunity to develp the air rights over the Toll Road comes to fruition, updates to the Comprehensive Plan will be needed."

Talk about a "That's not my job" response!

Air rights are vital for both a complete grid of streets to support transit-oriented development in the station areas and to help ease the burden of tolls on Restonians and the thousands of others who use the toll road.  

 



County Executive Ed Long on Sequestration: 'Prepare for the Worst', Burke Patch, March 25, 2013

What will it mean for the local economy?

. . . The unknowns surrounding sequestration make budgeting difficult, said Long.
"It's impossible to deal with in many ways, but you have to make certain assumptions," he said. "We set aside $8 million at year end to deal with some of the sequestration cuts, so we're in the process now of setting up a structure to tell the board that we will review all these cuts that come down and tell them what they are.". . .
Just how bad could things get? 
Long: "If we were to go back into a recession it would be serious, and certainly there would not be the will to increase the tax rate necessary to keep programs at the level that they are.
"We would then be at a situation where we would be eliminating programs. . ."
Click here for the rest of this article.  At the end of the article is a series of links to other Patch articles on the potential effects of sequestration on Fairfax County.  

Delayed rail yard could push back Silver Line opening, Washington Examiner, March 24, 2013

by Liz Essley
A rail yard critical to the Silver Line is behind schedule, and project officials are disputing the cause of the delay and have yet to agree on a faster timeline.
Metro officials warned more than three months ago that a delay for the rail yard could mean a late opening for the first phase of the Silver Line, from East Falls Church to Reston, scheduled for late this year. . .
Airports authority officials said its contractor and subcontractors still have not given acceptable reasons for the delay or come up with a way to fix it. . .
Metro officials said they expect the airports authority to pay for any delays.
"It may be possible to take extraordinary steps for a short period to offset the shop not being ready," Metro spokeswoman Caroline Lukas said in an email. "Any cost associated with the yard not being ready on Day 1 would be borne by MWAA."
The last sentence is especially worrisome because, as we all know by now, MWAA will be paying little of the added cost.  DTR users will be paying three-quarters of any increase.  The county "funding partners" will pay the balance with MWAA chipping in a measly 4.8% of any added costs.  

Combined with earlier Examiner reporting about tunnel settling and test cars hitting equipment on the tunnel walls, we are beginning to see the types of problems that may delay the opening of the Silver Line--and WMATA hasn't begun to test the rail system for acceptance.  So far, those delays look like weeks, not months or longer.

At least the Silver Line is not structurally unsound like the newly built Rockville Transit Center--so far!

One last note:  Restonians will deeply miss the kind of thorough coverage of MWAA and Silver Line issues that Liz Essley and her colleagues at the Examiner have provided in recent years when the Examiner shuts down its local coverage.  We wish you all the best in the next steps in your careers.