a day goes by without someone documenting the
need for improved transportation
infrastructure to serve the economic, social
and physical needs of Virginia's citizens.
At least weekly, someone announces that
more transportation money has been diverted to
other uses, or that a project on VDOT's
current Six Year Plan (sic) must be put off
for the 21st year.
is money the problem?
The prospect for improved access and
mobility in the Commonwealth as it relates to
transportation funding can be summarized by
money available for transportation facility
construction is diminutive and shrinking.
There are far fewer resources available
than there are needs.
if advocates of new transportation facilities
were given all the money they've been lobbying
for, there still would not be enough to fund
the roads and rails called for by adopted
gas taxes, transfer fees, more federal money,
repayment of the "borrowed"
transportation trust funds and other
revenue-enhancing strategies will not generate
enough funds to meet perceived needs.
if every road and every rail on every
adopted transportation plan were built,
congestion in large urban regions still would
one can refute these facts although some try
to mask reality with arm waving, finger
pointing and reorganization plans. I would
even go one step further:
if there were a free, non-polluting
source of energy for private vehicles plus
funds for every road and rail project anyone
could think of, but there is no fundamental
change in human settlement pattern, then
every large region in the United States,
including those in Virginia, would move
inextricably toward gridlock.
axiom is based on the facts presented in our
Bacon's Rebellion columns, "Too
Little, Too Late,"
and Shadows," January 16, 2003, and
is explained by my analysis, "The
Physics of Gridlock.")
changing human settlement patterns, building
more transportation facilities only makes
matters worse. The problem is not lack of
money. The problem is the failure to match
transportation system capacity with land
use-generated travel demand.
do not need to rehash how we got here.
It's sufficient to know that whatever
was done in the past, it has not worked, and
that fundamental change is required.
Our background report "Anatomy
of a Subregional Bottleneck"
provides a concrete example of the process
that now paves the path to gridlock.
is no urban agglomeration of community, sub-regional
or regional scale in
an adopted transportation plan that balances
realistically anticipated transportation
capacity with the travel demand generated by
adopted municipal comprehensive plans.
While the Commonwealth is responsible
for transportation, sub-state entities have
responsibility for land-use patterns and
contingent proceeds on divergent paths.
Role of Municipal Planning in Creating
Dysfunctional Human Settlement Patterns.")
mobility and access will continue to
deteriorate unless there is fundamental change
in human settlement patterns.
That will require change in governance
structure and in the programs, incentives and
controls that deliver transport services.
Existing governance structure provides
incentives for the current players, who
believe their best interests are served by
business as usual, to continue their current
are no incentives to plan transportation
facilities and land uses together for the
purpose of creating a balance between capacity
There are, however, many complex and
powerful disincentives to achieve this balance.
CHANGES THAT WOULD SERVE CITIZENS' INTEREST BY
CREATING MOBILITY AND ACCESS
devolve all VDOT functions to new regional
authorities in the three largest regions of
The initial regional devolutions would
involve the Hampton Roads MSA, Richmond MSA
and the Virginia
portion of the Washington-Baltimore CMSA (aka,
transfer all Commonwealth and federal funding
available to these new agencies but only
new agency has adopted a balanced
land-use/transportation plan and a system
of fairly allocating the true, full cost
of providing mobility, including
weight-distance charges and congestion
new regional authorities should have a
directly elected, at-large governing board.
Any representation by "districts"
would raise problems of one-person, one-vote
physical distribution of land uses necessary
to create functional settlement patterns in
New Urban Regions does not yield an even
dispersal of population.
It would not therefore, lend itself to
create transportable land uses region-wide, at
least 75 percent of the population needs to
occupy 10 percent of the land (the Urbanside)
and not more than 25 percent of the population
can occupy 90 percent of the land (the
distribution is approximately what exists now
but is growing untransportable because the
region is not yet made up of Balanced
Communities, which are necessary for a balance
of transport capacity and land use.
The current distribution of land uses
results in an increasingly untransportable
distribution of trip origins and destinations.
the process of separating issues of regional
impact from those of non-regional impact,
existing sub-state entities that now control
land use must reconstitute themselves.
The objective would be to create a
governance structure that reflects the organic
composition of the Urbanside and Countryside
of which Regions and subregions are composed.
This will require abandoning
jurisdictional borders delineated before the
The result would be a system of
governance that matches the contemporary
economic, social and physical reality of New
proposed realignment of transportation and
land-use planning will provide regional
coordination of mobility and access, which
everyone agrees, is now dysfunctional and
getting worse. Devolution
of the transportation function to the regional
and sub-regional level and articulation of
community and sub-community governance
structure will put decisions closest to the
should be a similar devolution of existing
transportation functions to the Commonwealth's
smaller metropolitan and "micropolitan"
areas represented by reconstituted Planning
District Commissions as soon as the area
outside the three major New Urban Regions are
prepared to take on the responsibilities and
prepare plans that balance land use and
transportation within communities.
agencies now under the Commonwealth's
Secretary of Transportation would be
consolidated to form a single inter-modal
department responsible for interregional and
The vast majority of the current Virginia
transportation activity is devoted to the
development and maintenance of regional, sub-regional,
community, village and neighborhood roads,
streets and other facilities.
Commonwealth-wide interests are buried
under tens of thousands of miles blacktop of
purely local concern.
WILL OPPOSE THE FUNDAMENTAL CHANGES NECESSARY
TO IMPROVE ACCESS AND MOBILITY?
is marching towards gridlock
because key players in the public and private
sectors believe that business as usual is in
their individual, short-term best interest.
Office holders and those who work
for them have a short-term interest in tax
base "beggar thy neighbor"
land-use control strategies.
Role of Municipal Planning in Creating
Dysfunctional Human Settlement Patterns.")
Until voted out of office by irate
citizens, they will continue to overplan
and overzone for employment and service
uses and provide incentives for large-lot,
low-density residential development.
In the current governance context
these strategies serve short-term needs of
However, these strategies also
yield untransportable human settlement
The transport infrastructure industry
makes its money from big projects.
Big project studies as well as big
construction projects are lucrative.
The bigger the project, the greater
the potential for profit.
Only the citizens collectively
benefit from small, innovative projects and
from elegant solutions that result in
positive changes in human settlement
of nonurban land in the Countryside.
Much of the money to support the election of
sub-state and state officials and fund new
transport facility lobbying comes from those
who own land that cannot now be developed
for urban land uses.
This land is almost always beyond the
Clear Edge around Urbansides.
Their speculative investment
properties are unusable for urban uses
without extensive public investment.
Compact, transportable Urbansides
complemented by Countrysides that are
primarily devoted to nonurban land uses
would dry up the market for urban use of
this land. These
speculatively held lands have value for nonurban
land uses such as farming and forestry, but
not for urban uses -- unless the
public extends transport infrastructure to
Those driven by land speculation and
others who profit from developing
subsidized, scattered, low-density urban
land uses largely drive the
business-as-usual process that results in growing
transportation functions to regions and evolving
new sub-state governance structure would provide
mobility and access for Virginia's citizens.
Implementing this fundamental change would
threaten the business-as-usual interests
with loss of political advantage. But these
interests have failed to constructively address
the mobility and access issue, so they have
forfeited their standing to complain.
If they have an idea which will, in fact,
improve access and mobility, they should have
put it on the table in the last century when
less drastic remedies would have sufficed.
GROW DISGRUNTLED AS PROSPERITY, SAFETY, MOBILITY
AND ACCESS SLIDE TOWARD THE ABYSS OF ENTROPY
proposed change in transportation and land-use
strategy may take some time to implement.
However, time is available: There simply
is no money to fund transportation projects in
the traditional manner. And
there is little prospect that money will
become available as long as citizens mistrust
the governance structure to convert money to
addition, within the current context, without
existing balanced transportation/land-use plans
to determine project priority, money spent on
transport facilities would, in all likelihood,
June 30, 2003