Thursday, July 7, 2022

Linking sustainability to transportation and landuse

By Charlie Grymes

In 2022 the Board of County Supervisors (BOCS) appointed eight high-energy, independent-thinking members.  In just its second meeting, the Sustainability Commission sent a resolution to the BOCS calling for it to "immediately adopt a practice of assessing the energy and sustainability impacts of each new land use, housing, and infrastructure (water, transportation, energy) decision requiring board approval."

If the county starts to measure the impacts of new road projects, data centers, and sprawl development... oops.  More of the same development will generate more carbon-rich emissions, and in 2020 PW County joined with other members of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments to do our share of reducing emissions that increase global warming. If we measure impacts, we will document that token chargers for electric vehicles at McCoart Administrative Center will not be enough.  

The only way the BOCS can meet its commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, cutting them to 50% of the 2005 level by 2030, is for the 2040 Comprehensive Plan to transform our approach to transportation and land use.   

Emissions will increase if we continue to expand roads. Oops.  

Perpetual road expansion induces more traffic and increases Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT), increasing emissions.  If PW County measures the energy and sustainability impacts of the new roads proposed in the draft Mobility Chapter, then the BOCS will be forced to choose between saving the planet vs. paving more lane miles.

Emissions will increase if we continue to support sprawl development, rather than focus on planning for new live-work-play communities that offer new housing next to high-capacity transit stations.  Oops. 

There are opportunities for transit-oriented development on both sides of the county, including Innovation and North Woodbridge.  We could invest in expanding the bike/pedestrian infrastructure, especially as e-bikes make short (3-mile) trips easier.  We could plan for affordable housing next to affordable transit.  If PW County measures the energy and sustainability impacts of where new development would be approved in the draft Land Use Chapter, then the BOCS will be forced to choose between smart growth vs. helping land speculators.

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