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Posted at 11:50 AM ET, 05/18/2010

Growth does NOT cause congestion

By washingtonpost.com editors
LOCAL BLOG NETWORK

Last week, Anthony Mauger wrote that "it should be obvious that our horrendous and worsening traffic congestion is a consequence of growth." Apologies to Mr. Mauger, but obvious or not, that claim is wrong wrong wrong.

Congestion is a consequence of overreliance on cars and of road systems designed to funnel traffic onto a small number of arterial streets. It is a consequence of building cities that require everyone to drive all the time for everything, on a very small number of roads. When we build cities that don't follow that model, they don't become congested.

Interestingly, there is a successful example of this right here in the D.C. region. Arlington has added over 20 million square feet of office space and 20,000 new residential units along its Orange Line Metro corridor in recent decades with no discernible increase in traffic congestion. That's as much office space as there is in all of Baltimore, and as many residential units as in the entire city of Rockville. Really. That happened. It happened because Arlington grew in a manner that did not inherently require people to drive. The development is compact enough that so many people walk, bike or take transit for so many of their daily needs, that congestion is not an issue.

Smart growth works. If you want to reduce congestion, that's how to do it. There really is no alternative, anyway. Stopping growth just means it goes somewhere else. If you "solve" your problem by stopping growth, you haven't solved anything, you've just made it somebody else's problem.

Dan Malouff blogs at BeyondDC.com . The Local Blog Network is a group of bloggers from around the D.C. region who have agreed to make regular contributions to All Opinions Are Local.

By washingtonpost.com editors  | May 18, 2010; 11:50 AM ET
Categories:  HotTopic, Local blog network, development, traffic  
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Comments

I agree that growth is not the exclusive cause of congestion, but that certainly does not mean that it is not *a* cause of congestion. Arlington has no doubt done a great job at limiting the impact of substantial growth, but to say that there has been no discernible increase in congestion is a bit laughable. I have only lived in Ballston for six years and there are definitely a lot more cars on the roads now than there were in 2004. Your point about the importance of smart growth, however, is a good one.

Posted by: fstallone | May 19, 2010 10:30 AM | Report abuse

Such a concept requires that you have spare capacity SOMEWHERE. In this case, it was with Metro, but Metro effectively no longer has spare capacity.

Posted by: ajfroggie | May 19, 2010 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Metro has lots and lots of space capacity, just not everywhere in the system. It is running low on capacity between Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom, but some portions are as underused as that portion is full.

Posted by: Dan Malouff | May 19, 2010 6:12 PM | Report abuse

I don't disagree that some portions are well-underused (I live on one). But the core of Metro's capacity problems is on the Orange Line to and THROUGH Arlington. That's why what worked for Arlington over the past 30 years won't work anymore unless and until Metro resolves that capacity problem.

Posted by: ajfroggie | May 20, 2010 7:04 AM | Report abuse

What matters most is that Arlington residents give really high marks to both the trasnportation system and the quality of life here. This is based on a 2009 resident survey conducted by Arlington County Commuter Services. More information is posted on CommuterPageBlog(www.commuterpageblog.com).

Posted by: sonalisoneji | May 20, 2010 10:15 AM | Report abuse

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