Study links transportation, economic growth in Washington metro area
Despite efforts to consolidate growth around transit centers, and to develop new transit centers, the Washington metropolitan area will remain very auto-dependent, according to a new report by the George Mason University Center for Regional Analysis.
The report, prepared by John McClain for the 2030 Group, links transportation and economic growth.
“We’re supporting economic growth in the center of our region by transit, but we still have a lot of growth outside the center that needs to be supported by roads,” McLain said, presenting an overview of his report at a Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance event last week.
The Washington region is expected to gain more than 1.3 million jobs during the next 30 years, according to the report. Tysons Corner is forecast to become the second largest activity center in the region by 2040, after downtown D.C. The Dulles corridor also is forecast to see significant growth as an employment center.
However, McLain said, “we may not realize that economic growth if we do not invest in our transportation infrastructure.”
The report emphasized the importance of road infrastructure to support economic growth.
During the last two decades, the percentage of people commuting by car has declined about 3 percent, according to the report, and McLain doesn’t expect that will change that much. His analysis predicts only a 1 percent bump in the share of commuters using transit during the next 40 years.
However, the Coalition for Smarter Growth, which advocates for the type of transit-centered mixed use development that Fairfax County is planning for Tysons Corner, said McLain’s analysis is flawed. They note that most of the members of the 2030 Group, which funded the study, are developers who may have a vested interest in growing the outer suburbs.
“While dressed up with an acknowledgment of transit, the report is focused on justifying a wasteful expansion of highways which would fuel more spread-out development and yet more traffic,” said Stewart Schwartz, executive director for CSG.
CSG believes that new trends in the real estate market and the lifestyle and transportation benefits will drive more growth to mixed use centers, rather than continuing the sprawling suburban development that defined the last few decades in the region.