Why does the Prince William Conservation Alliance pay close attention to transportation plans proposed by local, regional, and state agencies? Because new transportation projects:
- Determine where new residential and commercial growth is likely to happen,
- Identify where new growth could be accommodated while minimizing traffic congestion, and
- Shape where undeveloped land will be converted into subdivisions and commercial districts, replacing trees and open space with new development.
The Prince William Conservation Alliance supports close alignment of land use planning and transportation planning. Manassas and Manassas Park are now focusing on “smart growth” projects. They are integrating land use and transportation planning so new housing will be close to where bus and rail transit will be expanded. The two cities are tackling the “last mile” challenge, so there are complete pedestrian/bike routes from residential areas to schools, libraries, parks, and commercial districts.
Prince William County talks “mobility” but still over-emphasizes construction of wider roads and new roads. Most proposed projects, requiring most of the funding, are designed to facilitate commuter trips to jobs outside of the county - rather than to attract businesses to locate in Prince William, with upgraded transit options so skilled workers can commute into Prince William from the urban core.
In the land use planning textbooks, decisions to increase housing density should be synchronized with decisions to increase transportation capacity - and the new development should pay the cost for the new roads, transit, etc. Otherwise, traffic jams will get worse or existing residents of Prince William County will have to subsidize the costs of new development.
The upcoming revision of the Comprehensive Plan provides a great opportunity to align county land use plans with transportation plans, including plans of the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA), Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission (PRTC), Virginia Railway Express (VRE), and Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB). If we don't do it, then the commute and the local taxes could both get worse.