On July 22, Reston Association and Supervisor Hudgins co-sponsored a forum on urban design and creating walkable communities. In case you missed it, an overview prepared by RCA Board member Tammi Petrine and Restonian Doug Pew is below.
Introduction of symposium and opening
walkability in Reston. About 60 thousand
people live in Reston of which 30 thousand (½ ) live, work and play in
community. CH is not concerned with
worries about congestion and thinks that there are ways to deal with it. She thinks that now is opportunity to explore
ideas. She thinks change is
Director Cate Fulkerson:
walkability and smart growth. He
lectures on this around the country and lives currently in Washington, D.C. He is currently a huge fan of Coalition for
Smarter Growth, a local organization.
Speck’s presentation has been placed on the County’s Reston Master Planning
website. It is available through this link. It is a large PDF
who, through writing, lectures and built work, advocates internationally for
smart growth and sustainable design.”
(from blurb on symposium program.
Suburban Nation: the Rise of Sprawl and the
Decline of the American Dream
The Smart Growth
Walkable City: How Downtown Can Save America,
One Step at a Time
- As he speaks once
per week around nation, walkability is what people are looking
- Demographically of
the 100 million households that will be formed in the next 25 years only 12% of
families will have children and will look for a big house, a big yard and
schools. The biggest market will be young people pre-children and baby boomers
that are looking for a retirement lifestyle.
- New Urbanism: is
defined by pedestrian culture.
- He works with both
existing communities such as South Beach in Florida and new communities such as
Kentlands in Gaithersburg, MD. In doing
this work, he looks back in history to see which old regional communities
closely match current client; Kentlands was modeled after Georgetown in Wash,
- In addition to his
client work, in his function as Director of Design at the National Endowment for
the Arts from 2003 through 2007, he oversaw the Mayor’s Institute on City
Design. In this effort, every 2 months
he gathered 8 mayors and 8 design professionals who worked together for 2 ½ days
to solve urban design problems. One
Mayor stated that people wouldn’t remember him for balancing the budget but
would remember him for adding a park. The mayors wanted to see more people out
walking. They concluded that a sustainable city is a walkable city. The
resulting solutions are included in his books.
according to his comments.
- “Walkable City”
deals with how to get people to walk.
- Costs of owning a
car: 80% is owning the car; 20% is driving the car. So owning a car means once you own one,
driving it more, costs less/mile. But
the costs of driving are unequally shared by taxes for roads paid by drivers and
- Back in the 19th century people lived
adjacent to factories that emitted a tremendous amount of fumes causing health
problems among the populace. Some people
suggested separating the homes from the factories immediately drastically
improving the life span of the people. These people became known as the first
planners and were regarded as heroes. This was the start of Euclidean zoning and
resulted in separation of large areas of land into single uses such as housing,
retail and office. Despite all you hear
about mixed use and smart growth when Jeff goes into a community to plan a new
development, he finds that there have been many years of single use development
to deal with.
- There are only 2 tested ways to build
neighborhoods, traditional and suburban sprawl.
Traditional is defined as compact, diverse and walkable, Suburban sprawl
.is characterized by super sizing and results in large public facilities such as
schools and parks located beyond walking distance of
to Walk2. Safety:
Real and Perceived3. Comfort
Interesting Walk is Imperative.
- Must have a balance
- Must have diverse
- Prefer traditional
neighborhood model vs. urban sprawl model
- This includes live,
work and play in same neighborhood.
- Comfortable grid of
streets helps shorten journeys.
- Mass transit is
needed for a walkable city or region.
- Walking is much
healthier than driving.
- Pedestrian must feel safe and not worry about
getting hit by vehicles. Crime is not as big a threat to safety as
- Block size is super important; Portland has great
size @ 200’ long vs. Salt Lake City @ 600’.
The longer the block, the wider the street which makes crossings more
dangerous. In California 24 different
cities were categorized by block size. As block size doubles the non-highway
fatal crashes almost quadruples. Reston Town Center is so good because its block
size is smaller. This is a walkable model. Just south of Reston Town Center
(between the W&OD Trail and the Dulles Toll Road) you have large blocks
making it the driving model.
- Congestion is a problem caused by planners who
build more lanes in anticipation of more traffic. With increased capacity, comes more traffic
as people are then able to live further and further away from jobs which leads
to sprawl. This is known as induced demand. Free roads exacerbate this problem.
Reducing lanes reduces the accident rate while often maintaining the same
- People drive faster on wider streets. 12’ lanes are too wide; 10’ are 30 mph
- Bikes being separated from cars by reducing lanes
provide dedicated bike lanes. Proper
street design allows the same amount of traffic to be accommodated despite
reduction of lanes. Also known as ‘road diets.”
- A road diet reduces a road from 4 lanes to 3 lanes
with the center lane used for turns. Before a road diet, the 4 lane road is very
dangerous because the center lanes, the fast traffic lanes, also become the left
turn lanes. When this occurs, center
lane visibility may be blocked by vehicles in the center lane on the other side
of the intersection. It is better to skip the center lane and add bike lanes or
parking. Road diets are generally found to handle the same vehicle capacity as
the 4-lane version with a greatly reduced accident rate.
- Biking is a huge revolution currently in this
country. If bike lanes are built, people
will use them. IF bike lanes can be
separated from vehicle lanes, women and children will increase bike ridership
even more. Portland dramatically increased the number of bicyclists from just
the same to 15 times the rest of the country by spending 2 million per year on
- Parallel parking makes pedestrians feel safer; puts
a line of steel between pedestrians and traffic.
- Bike lanes located beside curb protected by lane of
parallel parking provides absolute best safety for all users; walkers, bikers
- Trees along streets are essential to making
pedestrians feel safer. Trees along roadways also make drivers slow down making
- The tighter the corner radius, the safer the street
will be; a wide radius encourages cars to travel faster.
- Tunnels under intersections also encourage faster
traffic as well as separate neighborhoods.
Bridging sunken highways with wide bridges that provide space for
buildings as well as traffic (air rights?) helps to link neighborhoods together
and provide wider walkable ranges.
- All details matter: This includes even the height of curbs. Super tall curbs impede
Comfort When Walking
- Human requirements
for feeling comfortable haven’t changed in thousands of
- The prospect for
what a person is walking toward must be obvious.
- Refuge from danger
must be available.
- Walkers want to feel
contained. Therefore a ratio of 1:1 of
vertical to horizontal space is ideal. A
ratio of 1:6 is too big.
- Current zoning codes
are a problem as they are mute as to what is good vs. what exists
Interesting Walk is Imperative
- Walkers want to know
that other humans are around.
- Walkers do not want
to be bored.
- Therefore, hide
parking. 5 levels of parking can be
hidden by a 3 story building if garage screened properly.
- Also garages with
ground level retail and other uses provide interest for
- Hiding the surface
parking in the middle of the block will help to keep the walk more
- Walkers require
interesting facades. Speck encourages city planners to vary architectural styles
to do this and eschews blank walls and minimalistic themes.
- Walkers want
architecture that rewards them as they get closer.
specifically on Reston problems, but that he realized several Reston features
that would figure into how to make village and town center areas more
- Reston is way ahead of most other communities
because it was master planned.
- However some sections are definitely suburban
(attractive and desirable with curvilinear streets and yards that people want)
and would never be termed “walkable” in terms of allowing cars to be
- Pathway system throughout community does promote
walking and biking.
- Town Center and village centers do provide areas
that are walkable to some degree.
- Proximity to transit is a problem/opportunity for
walkability but contains problems of how to segue transit to existing
development around Metro station areas.
- Town Center is separated from transit by a section
of non-walkable development south of TC including large blocks, wide streets and
fast traffic. In order to correct this,
redevelopment of this area is necessary into grid of narrower streets and
- Wiehle is completely unsatisfactory as no
residential exists close to station areas and pedestrian/biker access to station
is terrible. Grid of streets is missing
and existing streets are too wide/fast.
Walkers are not safe.
- Most of Reston won’t change and can’t change. Many
people will opt for the automotive environment. But there is this opportunity to
create a walkable environment between stations that should not be
Participants: Greg Trimmer of JBG;
David Whyte, TOD and street design expert, and Heidi Merkel, Fairfax Co. staff
lead for Reston master planning special
- He favors walkable,
mixed use development that promotes biking
- JBG invests only in
TOD development It has invested in property
in proximity to all three Reston Metro station areas.
- There is a very
highly educated workforce in Reston that favors mixed use development.
- In the Reston
Heights project, JBG has attempted to facilitate easy access to Town Center
Metro Station, but current VDOT rules have thwarted every solution
proposed. Luckily Supervisor Hudgins
interceded on JBG’s behalf and provided a “slip sheet” which is a special waiver
to allow plans to proceed without hold-up until VDOT allows solution. JBG is willing to pay for solution at future
- There are a few
pockets around the village centers that may undergo change but most of the area
will remain unchanged.
- Streets in Reston
need to regulate usage.
- Through traffic by
out-of-area commuters has to be curtailed.
- This can be done be
- Reston is undergoing an evolution in form
around metro stations.
- The ½ mile radius for increased allowable density
around the metro stations will not extend south of Sunrise Valley
- Goals around the stations are diversity of housing,
environmental stewardship, and making sure green natural areas are integrated
into the area.
- This includes planning parks, plazas and meeting
- VDOT has had an epiphany regarding street design
and has designated Fairfax County as the prototype area to experiment with new
- Urban Design Standards are very, very specific
about what is required around each transit station area.
- Zoning will be tool to get it
- Goal is to “live, work and play” without getting
into a car.
- Village centers in Reston already have a strong
With single narrow traffic lanes how do you handle double parked delivery trucks
that block traffic?
- A. This is
a management problem primarily. Parking
delivery zones need to be established in each block. Also delivery time periods
may be established.
- Q. Lives
within 3 blocks of grocery store but does not choose to walk to store in bad
A. Can’t control the weather. Some people may choose to walk in bad
weather but driving 3 blocks is not likely to cause traffic
- Q. Notice
that building construction near Reston Parkway comes first. Traffic mitigation
comes second. What are plans to change
this? (audience applause)
A. Hoping to provide more housing in this area.
Also, people who take the Metro may stop driving to work.
A2. Most of the
traffic is not going to the new building. Adding a lane will simply move the congestion
further away. Also, shouldn’t have to
subsidize through traffic.
Question on bicycle planning.
A. There are a lot of different markets for
bicyclists. In general, they are trying to separate bicycles from pedestrians.
In the case of Reston Parkway over the Toll Road it is unsafe for bicycles to
ride through an interchange. The bicycle lanes will be placed off the roadway
for their safety.
- Q. In
Europe people walk their dogs in the streets and inside and outside of
buildings. What provisions are being made for dogs?
A. There are plans to add
dog parks in the transit areas. The point was made that there are more American
households with dogs than with children.
Considering sameness, how do you think this will work with the Design Review
A. Rather than rules, the answer is to have a multitude of
- Q. Will
the zoning code be changed to incorporate form-based development?
plan to do this. There is more concern about usage rather than
- Q. How do
you plan to handle traffic trying to reach the 3700 car parking garage for Metro
(2,300 public, 1,400 for center employees)?
A. Improving pedestrian and
bicycling facilities. Hope to get some relief from Reston Station Boulevard.
Phase 2 will help in 10 years. Roads will not be narrowed near Wiehle station.
There will be problems that can’t be solved for several
Reston is among the most successful planned
communities in the country. Businesses compete to come here, and there will be
growth with the addition of metro. That leaves us with a challenge. Look at
Arlington and notice that they left traditional family housing intact while
doing a phenomenal job of transit oriented development. How we take advantage of
this opportunity, through good planning, will make change work for us.