Yes, Virginians, You Are Driving More

Are Virginia’s roads getting more congested? After several years of respite, it appears that they are.

Several days ago I took note of national data indicating that time taken by the average commute was getting longer. I wondered if, as seemed logical, Virginians were driving more. My quickie data search showed that, in fact, the total number of Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) in the Old Dominion had increased 2% between 2014 and 2015, but I didn’t have time to compile the numbers going back any further so I didn’t know if the upward surge — and 2% in this context is a surge — or a blip.

Carol Bova took the trouble to do just that. Over the 12 years between 2002 and 2015, she found, VMT in Virginia increased 9.8%. Within that overall number, there are a couple of points worth noting.

First, the strongest growth occurred during the real estate boom of the early 2000s. After peaking in 2007 and 2008, VMT declined measurably, plateaued, and then picked up in the last couple of years.

Second, growth has been strongest on Interstates (up 10.7%), followed by primary roads (up 9.4%), and weakest on secondary roads (up only 5.9%).

Third, Interstate traffic in 2015 surpassed the previous peak by more than 2 million miles. Primary road traffic is near its previous peak, but not quite there yet. And secondary road traffic remains well below its previous summit.

(For data junkies, I will post the raw numbers in the comments.)

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57 responses to “Yes, Virginians, You Are Driving More”

  1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    One has to be careful with the numbers, understand and search for nuance.

    For example, 20 miles of driving on primary and secondary roads in the countryside is far different from driving the same roads in Northern Virginia. With the interstates there gridlocked and tolls ever more expensive, intentionally so to force the less affluent onto primary and secondary roads with the result that they too now are typically gridlocked.

    Todays’ region-wide gridlock on all these local roads is quite literally now SHUTTING DOWN the economy of Northern Virginia. And it is SHUTTING DOWN the lifestyle of those who live there, particularly those who are not rich SO INCREASINGLY FEEL OF THE PAIN OF TOLLS AND LOSS OF TIME, WEALTH, AND LIVIHOOD.

    1. Good point. That’s why the strong increase in VMT on interstate highways is particularly worrisome. Interstates double as arterials for local traffic in Virginia’s metros. In my forays into Northern Virginia, my sense is that they are definitely getting more congested there.

      It would be interesting to see a breakdown by VDOT district. I would predict that the traffic increase in NoVa territory is stronger than elsewhere in the state.

      1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd


        Also recall that Northern Virginia’s I-95 and its related interstates in Northern Virginia are linked together into a highly confined matrix of key crossroads and geographic features that, working together, force massive amounts of the nation’s eastern seaboard north south traffic into a great funnel that must run through Northern Virginia.

        And that, at the same time, those roads in Northern Virginia must funnel massive and growing amounts of regional and supra-regional commuter traffic that now increasingly ties the commuter traffic from DC, Baltimore, Northern Virginia and the Virginia Piedmont and tidelands together. Now too increasingly Richmond is being drawn into the daily snarl.

        Hence these gridlock problems are now insoluble absent anything less than massive reorientation of all neighborhoods in the northern Virginia area into newly designed and built traffic eating units that are served by greatly expanded numbers of access points. Only this great reordering of urban patterns of development and road nets will fix the problems in Northern Virginia which have now reached crisis stage. The obvious and critical starting point for this fix is Fairfax County.

        Hence the obsolesce of the great majority of Fairfax single use commercial buildings, and obsolescence of their single use development patterns, both of which are a primary root and driving causes of this traffic Armageddon now present Fairfax with a great opportunity to solve that problem that has been built without remediation over the past 40 years.

        The tools to fix this problem are potentially many. The existential nature of the crisis and the now obvious fact that otherwise irreversible market and economic forces at long last demand a final solution are signs of hope for bold action by strong leaders rather than despair, continued denial and counter productive fixes that benefit few at cost of many.

        1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
          Reed Fawell 3rd

          The new Federal Administrations upcoming Trillion Dollar stimulus bill is a good place to start this effort nationwide with Northern Virginia as a prototype. If successful the benefits will be endless. A game changer as big and long lasting as Ike’s Interstate Road building program.

  2. Presumably the Virginia trends are similar to the national trends. It was announced this week that the I95/395 HOT lanes will be extended up to the DC border. HOT lanes currently go back to regular HOV at Van Dorn on I395 due to Arlington County initial resistance to the HOT lanes, now Gov McAuliffe has brokered a deal with Arlington, which perhaps only he could have successfully accomplished. So we are approaching the day when the grandfathered clean fuel vehicles will lose HOV value on I395 and I66.

    I think NOVA traffic is generally worse right now, due to the DC Metro outages due to the ongoing Metro improvement program. But I am not sure the long term trend as working from home seems much more common.

  3. LarrytheG Avatar

    Well – here’s what the Transportation planning Agency for the Metropolitan Washington Area says:

    About 8 in 10 daily trips in our region are made by private automobile, and that’s a number that isn’t likely to change much between now and 2040.

    The Priorities Plan says that makes it important to find ways to squeeze the most capacity out of our existing road network.

    The CLRP (The 2040 Constrained Long Range Plan) includes nearly 100 major projects aimed at expanding roadway capacity, many targeted in areas with the worst back-ups. Even with these improvements, congestion is expected to get significantly worse through 2040.

    The region will add nearly 1,200 lane-miles of roadway capacity but congestion will still get substantially worse.”

    The Interstate system was never designed to be used as a local/regional road system but primarily “interstate” but it has long since been co-opted for that purpose – to the significant detriment of it’s ability to move interstate traffic with I-95 the poster child … it’s functionally severely damaged around the urban metro areas.

    East Coast travelers trying to get around Washington Metro – GLADLY pay tolls to save them from the “local congestion”.

    re: the trillion dollar infrastructure “plan” – .. believe it when I see it – especially with all the other things we’re told we’re going to also pay for.

    what I suspect is PPTA – i.e. private sector built and operated toll roads.

    see ” Toll roads poised to boom under Trump plan”

    ” The president elect’s idea for rebuilding the nation’s crumbling roads and bridges relies on private companies instead of the federal government to back transportation projects.

    Experts say that means investors will be attracted to projects that can recoup their investment costs using some sort of revenue stream, such as through tolls or user fees.

    “If he moves forward with an infrastructure plan and there are tax incentives to investors, that could bode well for more investments in new toll facilities,” said Patrick Jones, executive director and CEO of the International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association.”

    1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

      What might work is a truck & auto toll road along the 301 corridor from Chamberlayne, VA to the Delaware border with Maryland. Getting through trucks off I-95 and allowing cars to pay a toll (as like the NJ Turnpike) to avoid D.C. and environs would likely be a draw. And using this route would also frustrate all the land speculators in Virginia who have been lobbying for a western bypass to enable them to open their land to development.

      1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        Some merit to this insofar as 301 is one of most underutilized and abused corridors in the DC area, and beyond.

        But I believe that where we have gone off the rails without solution, but only aggravate the problem, is our chronic failure to understand that in Northern Virginia and in far too many other places, the deepest and grandest flaw that drives our traffic Armageddons is horrible land use planning and development. Absent our correcting this fundamental driver of traffic, all the roads, bridges, and tunnels in world will not solve the problem, but only acerbate it.

        This fundamental truth is applicable to most anywhere, but it does its greatest harm the quickest and the meanest in economically desirable places that are naturally constricted places. Such as Northern Virginia as I have told about in detail many times earlier on this website.

        Ironically, the problem and its solution is in front of our noses there in N. VA. The Ballston Courthouse Corridor versus the Dulles Corridor.

        1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

          Rosslyn-Ballston is clearly an example of success. While the length of that corridor is approximately equal to the distance on Rte 123 from the Dulles Toll Road to the intersection with Rte 7 and then adding the distance to the intersection of 7 and the DTR, the two areas are totally different.

          Including roads, Tysons is 2100 acres spread out. R-B is narrow. Go a few blocks and you are into neighborhoods. R-B had an existing grid of streets. Much of R-B was tacky, rundown and even blighted. Tysons is successful, albeit aging. Both Rtes 7 & 123 are major through routes that cannot be slowed. Rail is buried under the R-B.

          SOV is the number one mode of travel to and from Tysons (and through it too) and will continue to be for the foreseeable future.

          Success in Tysons and in other spots of Fairfax County will be much harder to achieve. Vienna, McLean and Falls Church will live in traffic hell for decades even as mixed use development at Tysons becomes successful.

          1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
            Reed Fawell 3rd

            I respect your opinion based on your fine work trying to correct the many intractable mistakes made by earlier generations in Tyson’s. But I have to disagree with any implication (likely unintentional) that Rosslyn-Ballson’s redevelopment success was more naturally prone to happen than was Tyson’s from the start. I say this having been involved in the development of a major office building in each of the locales during the 1980’s. Pertinent comments are found on earlier posts on the website in great detail. Here though I’ll raise a few highlights.

            I consider Rosslyn a failure, even today. That root of today’s failure there lay in awful land use development during the 1960s early 1970, all of it atop what easily could have been cleaned up, the trashy little strips commercial industrial uses there. Instead, what Rosslyn got was trashy high rise cheap buildings that were built on a flawed basic grid that proved impossible to fully retrofit later despite Arlington’s’ best efforts.

            But Arlington to its great credit and lasting benefit learned from its Rosslyn mistakes in spades, made hard decisions, and overcame great obstacles in place to achieve its historic recovery. This included massive commercial redevelopment, highrise buildings as well as mid rise, and low rise redevelopment with an exquisite and dynamic mix of uses in an earlier failed downtown next to single residential occupied by highly educated people. The achievement was a far harder than building on the clean slate from which the first iteration of Tyson’s arose.

            Looking back now, I consider Courthouse to Ballston planning and redevelopment a modern day miracle. It literally reinvented the possible and did so under very difficult conditions, a model of local excellence by local government and citizenry built on past mistakes.

            The result were and are not now perfect but still are astoundingly good because of human action, not fortuitousness circumstances.

            Looking back to Tysons in hindsight, that fact that it was done on that clean slate and open field politically so it could be done so easily accounted for Tyson’s quick early success and its ultimate problems that also became apparent very quickly. Unlike Arlington, however, Fairfax did not or could not learn from its mistakes and impose solutions in the short, medium or even long term. It took decades, until folks like you came along. I suspect the reason is that Fairfax lacked a local government strong and experienced enough to anchor it future development with lessons learned from past mistakes. In my view these were obvious by the mid to late 1980s, not only in Tyson’s but in contrast to what was going on Arlington’s new downtown.

          2. LarrytheG Avatar

            what makes Rosslyn-Ballston a “success” that is lacking in the other areas?

            Can Rosslyn-Ballston be replicated? serve as a model for other development or was Rosslyn-Ballston not so much explicitly planned as happenstance ?

            Is Rosslyn-Ballston a good percentage of govt agencies?

      2. LarrytheG Avatar

        Maryland has been staunchly opposed to both east and west bypasses around DC..

        but truthfully, that’s in effect what happened in Richmond with I-295.

        301 is a mess.. it’s got dozens of stop lights between the Potomac and I-495. I just don’t see that being a solution.. and pretty sure Maryland doesn’t want all that traffic..

        We’re at a point where there are no easy solutions .. imagine trying to route a major new interstate grade road through the Wash Metro region.

        It not only would cost billions that we don’t have and can’t get without higher taxes or tolls – it would be the mother of all NIMBY wars…

        As far as settlement patterns go – there are maybe 25-30 major metro areas in the US.. I’ve been to most of them and they all seem to be similar to each other.. i.e. beltway-type settlement patterns with spokes and spurs.

        You’ve got thousands and thousands of elected officials, planners, transportation engineers who have made these decisions. It well could be they’re all “wrong” .. but if so.. not sure I’ve seen one (a metro region) that is “the right way” or heard any consensus to that effect from even those who espouse the “right kind” of settlement patterns.

  4. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    The locals have not only been failing for 46 years, they have been making matters far worse for 46 years. And they still either have not a clue or lack the courage to act or even speak to the underlying problem, as evidenced plainly by history and now their plan you quote from above. More waste and destruction.

    Trump., on other hand, is INCREDIBLY qualified to solve this problem. Far different from more of same failed nonsense – Here IT’S A REAL ESTATE PLAY OF HISTORIC PROPORTIONS that we are talking about, something you and most all politicians know absolutely nothing about.

  5. djrippert Avatar

    The answer is obvious to me. Follow Singapore’s lead and put VMT tracking devices in every vehicle on the roads. Allocate he cost of driving back to every vehicle based on the distance driven and the cost per mile of the road. No more “some roads are tolled” and some are not. All roads are tolled because the tolls are tracked inside every vehicle. All the money collected is to be used to maintain and expand the roads that generated the VMT taxes. No collecting money in Arlington and spending it in Wise County.

    The government mandates all kinds of equipment in vehicles from air bags and roll bars to license plates and tax decals. Citizens should have no expectation of privacy when driving on public roads. Your car can be photographed, filmed, followed or otherwise tracked today. The addition of a “per mile” tax recording device is inconsequential relative to the level of observation already in place.

    Of course, The Imperial Clown Show in Richmond will have one less scam to use in fleecing the citizens of Virginia. No more special favors for special friends. No more tolls in one region but not in others. No more regional surcharges. Out of state drivers can continue to use EZ Pass or cash on interstates and other major roads. When they drive on secondary roads they get a free ride. Somehow, I can’t imagine people driving places they don’t need to go just because it’s free.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      There is surprising merit to Don’s proposal. I suggest combining it with a new development traffic generating surcharge for all commercial development that generates “external traffic” over a certain level per square foot, and a healthy tax credit to builders bottom line costs for his or her new development that EATs Traffic per formula.

      The result of this combination is to reverse the now chronic and long standing pernicious habits of many developers who intentionally or otherwise make money by foisting off their resultant costs to operate their projects on the public at large.

      1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        This traffic reduction tax credit program should also be applied to new development within designated Traffic Eating Zones.

        This tax credit program also would include traffic eating redevelopment zones, an incentive regime similar to the highly successful historic tax credit program for single buildings and also for building within a designated district. It would also extend to all new planned unit development meeting criteria as a Traffic Eater.

        1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
          Reed Fawell 3rd

          These traffic eating tax credits would also extend to tenants and owners who chose to lease and/or buy space to occupy within such designated zones or stand alone buildings.

        2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
          Reed Fawell 3rd

          What are the necessary constituent parts of these new traffic eating development and redevelopment zones? Here most likely a mix of custom tailored solutions are woven into base fundamentals.

          For example:

          We cracked this traffic eating development nut wide open in the 1970s and 1980. Prototypes for instance include dense urban redevelopment like Arlington’s new downtown – the Courthouse to Ballston corridor – plus an array of near kin – Baltimore Harbor, Boston Faneuil Hall. Plus other genre: Duany’s human scaled new old towns, Columbia, Reston, and their ilk.

          Within these examples there are nearly endless subsets of iterations, moving parts that can be mixed and matched to meet the individual needs of a wide array of site and market circumstances to creatively achieve an array of beneficial results, including those that eat traffic.

          We have during this period of learning and creatively also learned the hard way the many ways to screw up neighborhoods, towns, cities and whole regions.

          Now too of course technology offers us overlays that we can apply to and incorporate within these earlier 2oth century breakthroughs. Don’s comment above, for example.

          Thus Traffic Eating Development today includes the dynamic and synergistic mix and placement of traditional uses amid a similarly synergistic mix of transport modes, PLUS new opportunities to weave new techonolies deep within earlier proven traffic eating fabrics of communities.

          1. TooManyTaxes Avatar

            I’m not sure Fairfax County can ever dig itself out from the traffic disaster it is today. Not only are its major roads clogged, but also, cut through traffic is plaguing many residential neighborhoods. People complain they can barely get out of their neighborhood during the PM rush.

            Tysons traffic seems worse than in 2010 even though there is less office space available today in terms of square feet; many vacant buildings; and residential growth only 20% above the GMU lowest-growth forecast. Even the Police Department is worried whether it can respond to calls in a timely manner.

          2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
            Reed Fawell 3rd

            I have not visited and observed what is happening in Fairfax lately. But before those tolls were imposed, I did try to learn about how those new dynamic toll regimes would work, to figure out what they were designed to do, and as best I could figure out the likely consequences they would impose on the Fairfax County, its people, and others traveling through.

            Based on what I read back then, and wrote at the time here, I am not at all surprised by what you say is happening there in Fairfax County now.

            I strongly suspect that the new and expanded dynamic toll regimes have greatly acerbated gridlock throughout the county and its road net. I also suspect that the new toll regimes are now causing ever heavier traffic (and its resulting gridlock) to spread out more and more throughout the county’s road net, and also that this toll regime and how it operated now deepens that traffic and gridlock into ever more intersections and into ever more neighborhoods served by those intersections and into ever more commercial and public service areas, like schools and fire houses that serve people who live, work, shop and play in those places.

            If I am right about the consequences of these new toll regimes and how they operate, those regimes will continue to do ever more harm, in ever more ways, to ever more people in the county, including the children and elderly now, as these unfortunate consequences are deemed necessary to keep the tolled roads open and congestion free for those drivers willing and able to pay toll prices that are designed to ratchet up tolls ever higher so as to “force the tolled roads open as is needed to insure at all times the quick and convenient travel for those travelers who can afford or must pay the tolls.

            So, as traffic mounts in the county, as surely it will by intentional policies behind these tolls that serve the economic interests of those few in charge of what happens in Fairfax, this mechanism will continue to ratchet up tolls in more and more locales to force ever more cars off the toll roads and onto toll free lanes and from there then onto ever more public primary and secondary and feeder roads including those roads and intersections serving and inside peoples neighborhoods where people and their families live, shop, play.

            I also suspect that there is likely a compounding and cumulative effect that locks down more and more of Fairfax county most every month. One that spreads heavy traffic and its resultant gridlock throughout ever more neighborhoods as longer and denser traffic jams at closer in choke points continue to backup into long lines of traffic in all directions along what otherwise would be open pavement until the tail end of these growing traffic monsters jams up traffic in ever more intersections ever further away from the original point of stoppage. And the these freeze ups will eventually last into the hours before this dissipate. Of course, this destroys jobs, opportunities for all kinds employment, schooling, shopping, and health services, including emergency services.

            Thus long lines of gridlocked intersections will pile up one behind the other across neighborhoods and even open country-sides. Even this is will be further compounded as commuters from farther and farther away try to avoid or anticipate the growing snarled mess by trying ever more short cuts thought communities and and “drive arounds”, started from ever father away out into the countryside.

            The only beneficiary here under this scheme that I can divine are those people able, willing or desperate to pay ever higher tolls, a dwindling groups I suspect, until they are made up mostly by the most affluent people.

            I cannot imagine a more efficient way to choke off and devastate whole groups and neighborhoods. And ultimately a whole region. It will strike hardest the suburban families of all but the wealthy.

            Again, I used to work every day in Fairfax. Now I avoid it like the plague, travel it before dawn or late at night, so can’t say for sure this is happening but I suspect it is based on what I read and I suspect it will only get worse until leaders or other people, seeing a desperate situation unfolding before them, get serious about fixing the problem for everyone in Fairfax instead moving out themselves and otherwise looking out for their own private interests.

            As to desperate situations. I suspect it has already arrived. And people are growing hopeless, so moving out altogether. A few months back a cleaning lady who lives in Woodbridge Va. and who works near the Fairfax Courthouse, told me it takes her 2 to 4 hours to get back and forth to work every day each way using back roads. Otherwise it would cost her $60 a day in tolls to use the toll roads where the prices keep on rising. The lady’s husband is a carpenter. He spends up to six hours a day in a truck trying to get to jobs and back home. The couple have two young children.

            This was what local leader are imposing on their citizens and others who are forced to travel thought Fairfax daily.

            If I am wrong about any of this I would very much like to know.

          3. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
            Reed Fawell 3rd

            To Many Taxes Says: “I’m not sure Fairfax County can ever dig itself out from the traffic disaster it is today.”

            I have no doubt that Fairfax can dig itself out.

            Arlington and its old down town was in far worse shape back in the 1970s. The new development out around the new beltway had largely emptied out Arlington’s commercial and office sector and efforts to revive Arlington had been wiped out twice by terrible real estate recessions in early and late 1970s, fortunes had been wiped out on early revival efforts. These set backs only fired Arlington’s determination to pull out of its tailspin.

            Plus Arlington even then had what Fairfax has now as well. What I call: “Fairfax County’s advantage in location is still unique and timeless, precious and invaluable. But only if it will at last grab this opportunity.” See my comment found at:

            And titled Unplanned Obsolescence: Fairfax County’s Office Parks

            New York City has come roaring back twice in my adult life, each after a leadership change in tough circumstances. Of course “New York City’s advantage in location is also still unique and timeless, precious and invaluable.”

      2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        To Many Taxes above Says: “I’m not sure Fairfax County can ever dig itself out from the traffic disaster it is today.”

        I have no doubt that Fairfax can dig itself out.

        Arlington and its old down town was in far worse shape back in the 1970s. By then the new development out around the new beltway had largely emptied out Arlington’s commercial and office sector and its efforts to revive those areas had been wiped out twice by terrible real estate recessions in early and late 1970s through early 1980s when fortunes had been wiped out on early revival efforts. These set backs only fired Arlington’s determination to pull out of its tailspin.

        Plus Arlington even then had what Fairfax has now as well. What I call: “Fairfax County’s advantage in location is still unique and timeless, precious and invaluable. But only if it will at last grab this opportunity.” See my comment found here and titled Unplanned Obsolescence: Fairfax County’s Office Parks.

        New York City also came roaring back twice in my adult life, each after a leadership change in tough circumstances. Of course “New York City’s advantage in location is also still unique and timeless, precious and invaluable.”

        And so did Baltimore come roaring back in the 1970s and 1980 were Mayor Shaffer and the Rouse’s harbor project which sparked a renaissance still ongoing today.

  6. LarrytheG Avatar

    Shades of Robert Moses!

  7. LarrytheG Avatar

    I think there is no question congestion is worse in the growing areas’s bad down Fredericksburg way. but I’m skeptical several ways.

    I don’t think people are going to like the “tax meter in their car” option any better than tolls ..or for that matter gas taxes. There is no pleasing people on this part – the only argument is over what they hate the worst!

    I don’t think there is much chance of building new roads in the urban areas with the obstacles being fiscal, physical and NIMBY .. The sun and moon are aligned against it.

    I think Trump is blowing smoke .. and/or the wishful thinking don’t really understand that he’s basically supporting PPTA.

    People love their cars and their smartphones.. and they ain’t giving up neither.

    and they seem to blame everyone from local elected, to Richmond, to VDOT.. there ain’t no pleasing them!

    Just ask them – to name a place where they do roads “right”!

    well, I guess I have to admit djrippert DID name his place.

    I just don’t think the average American or NoVa person is going to sign on to the ” taxi meter in my car” option!

  8. LarrytheG Avatar

    Maybe a few points about interstates, HOV, non-HOV lanes, tolls and dynamic tolls.

    1. – The interstates were designed to move long distance traffic through and around intermediate cities rather than be forced into the town itself to navigate city streets to get to the other side of the city.

    2. – despite the engineer’s best intentions, the interstates have been co-opted for local traffic – and to the detriment of those travelers from outside the city trying to get to the other side without getting drawn into the city.

    3. – HOV – was always designed to flow one direction in concert with the peak commuter flow – so that if you were “local” trying to navigate locally -the HOV was likely not for you unless you were trying to go in the same direction HOV was flowing AND you had passengers.

    4. – both HOV and HOT – STILL have non-tolled, non-HOV lanes for people to use that are not tolled, no restricted to HOV and “free” to any/all no matter where they are trying to go – with the proviso that peak hour traffic is going to be congested…

    5. – dynamic tolling – like HOV only goes in one direction. The same lanes are reversed to peak flow AM and PM.. and again – there are “free” lanes and again.. if you are headed in the right direction for am/pm peak flow AND you have passengers.. you too can ride for free.

    6. – A policy question – are Interstate roads, beltways, etc considered an integral and necessary, even critical component of Smart Growth and places like Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor?

    I always thought the interstates and beltways were considered the enemy of places like the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor rather than critical components.

    So if you had a place the size and scope of the Washington/Md/DC area – could it be “better” without the beltway and I-95/395?

    Sometimes I have a hard time really understanding both the complaints and the “what we should have done instead” solutions.

    If you just had a megalopolis with mile after mile of city grid streets without any interstates? Is that what is screwing up Fairfax (and other places with interstates)?

    It sorta sounds like you’re danged in you do and danged if you don’t.

  9. LarrytheG Avatar

    Oh this is RICH! An oldie but goodie from non-other than Bacon’s Rebellion circa 2005:

    “The Interstate Highway System is a primary cause of dysfunctional human settlement patterns-–the scatteration of urban land uses and thus congestion. The pattern of trip origins and destinations facilitated by the Interstate Highway System plagues intraregional access and mobility in all New Urban Regions and Urban Support Regions in the Commonwealth and in the Untied States. Urban area congestion is an unintended consequence of building Interstate Highways, but it is an impact that was predicted 30 years before construction started.
    Now it is clear that the Interstate System also is failing to provide the interregional mobility for which it was created.”

    so how about it ?

    Are the interstates the enemy of “good” settlement patterns?

  10. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    Thank you Larry for bringing to my attention Risse’s 2005 article.

    He and I end up at the same place as to ultimate solutions on how Interstates need to interact with local road nets. Here I refer to his comments that:

    “Citizens must be on the alert not just for grandiose Superhighway Corridors schemes but for sneaky special, priority projects. New highways parading as “congestion relief” are really the first step of a grand scheme. In Virginia … the pressure is building for new finance schemes.

    As the critics of the “solutions” that VDOT is considering for the I-81 corridor document, there are better alternatives than a wider roadway corridor from economic, social and physical perspectives. As noted by the references cited in End Note Four, the “public-private” investment scheme touted to fund this project and others to widen, extend or build new corridors is a trap, not an the answer.

    Citizens need to evolve settlement patterns that require less travel, not infrastructure that facilitates more movement. New transport infrastructure almost always induces settlement patterns that cannot be provided with mobility, regardless of the cost.

    In summary, future sustainability of both democracy and civilization requires that citizens reduce the amount of movement and thus time, energy and facilities required to support a quality life … for now it is enough to understand that less travel demand is better.

    Back to Balanced Communities — In the long term, less demand, not wider paths to move more vehicles longer distances, must be the goal. Reducing future mobility demand starts with settlement patterns that minimize travel demand. This means Balanced Communities inside the Clear Edge around the urbanized portions of New Urban Regions and Urban Support Regions, and Balanced Disaggregated Communities in the Countryside.”

    These comments I believe are spot on. Teir truth become more evident each passing year. I do, however, have a somewhat different take on his comment that you site above, namely that:

    “The Interstate Highway System is a primary cause of dysfunctional human settlement patterns-–the scatteration of urban land uses and thus congestion. The pattern of trip origins and destinations facilitated by the Interstate Highway System plagues intraregional access and mobility in all New Urban Regions and Urban Support Regions in the Commonwealth and in the Untied States. Urban area congestion is an unintended consequence of building Interstate Highways, but it is an impact that was predicted 30 years before construction started. Now it is clear that the Interstate System also is failing to provide the interregional mobility for which it was created.”

    This too I believe to be true. But I suggest that the root problem lies not with Interstates, but with their abuse by human nature, as manifest locally. More particularly that problems near interstates are cause by America’s weak and often corrupted local governments, not by the inherent nature of interstates.

    I also suggest that this in nothing new. We have discussed this matter many times here over the past six years. Indeed the problem has been around since Roman Times. And its got many iterations predating Roman times that live on today.

    Imagine locals sitting around campfires before Homer. “Spears are dangers to kids, lets do away with spears”, says one. “No”, says another, “spears are the safest things imaginable. Without us having and knowing how to use spears, the barbarians will stone, hack, and spear us to death, take away our women and children for slavery or worse.”

    Its not the gun, its the killer.

    Lets apply this to Tyson’s Corner and doing it lets add detail and history to the case discussed in my comment to earlier article here titled Unplanned Obsolescence: Fairfax County’s Office Parks and posted on March 1. The example below that happened alongside the beltway is another iteration of what happened alongside the Dulles Toll Road a couple of years later.

    In 1983 three local movers and shakers built and leased to a very large single user a very large low rise headquarters office building that was nestled alongside the Capital Beltway in Virginia north of Tysons. The site was difficult, wooded and rolling. It also had very poor access, served by older winding under engineered two lane public road. A strong independent local government, given the project’s poor access compared to its density and use should have, in my view now, rejected this project as proposed. But the manta of the day was “the Capital Beltway is Fairfax County’s Main Street.”

    Also, in hindsight now, one can argue that the powers to be back then were intent on milking that opportunity presented by the gift of the Capital Beltway for all it was worth. This is plain, given what had been built before 1982, but especially after 1983. But it is also human nature, acting in a case of first impression, in a county government that had literally been isolated from the Nation’s Capital for hundreds of years before the Beltway appeared suddenly in the early 1960. So all this is understandable abuse of a great asset, the Interstate Highway System.

    Still the locals and Fed should have known this by 1983.

    By 1983 the limited access problem, despite and indeed caused by the Interstate was already choking obvious over development inside Tysons as by then gridlock was growing at a startling pace around all its major intersections, forcing and cluttering the few back road options available.

    I was experiencing this mounting problem daily in the mid 1980, so by car searched daily for better solutions as a commuter. For example going out the back way using International drive and Springhill Road intersection to Dulles Toll Road to get by the back way to the American Legion Bridge.

    Yet despite these obvious limits naturally imposed on Tyson, the huge office boom, and the way they were designed, not only continued but spread outside Tysons to secondary sites the plainly by then could not handle the traffic loads imposed. Despite the obvious, no one could stop building. As if the interstate’s illusory assess was cocaine. As earlier discussed on this website, the bridge spanning Capital Beltway opened Fairfax Country up to a gold rush. Until it had been quite isolated, hard to get to. Sudden now it seemed to be convenient to everywhere. People did not realize how fragile and limited that convenience was. And they then refused to accept those limitations when they became obvious. Making such money is hard to stop, even to think and see clearly. Like in Rome. Roman Roads built empires before they became the avenues that led to Rome’s sacking and destruction.

    That is Fairfax County’s story. It began in 1963. With the first building sprouting out of cornfields close in to the Tyson’s crossroads, plainly visible alongside the just competed Beltway. By the early 1980s, with problem compounding almost daily with the newly opened Dulles toll Road. Red flags were all over the place in and near Tysons.

    The 1983 low rise project nestled along alongside the Beltway north of Tysons (and many others) marked for me the BEGINNING OF THE END. From then on, the north bound interstate and commuter traffic trying to get across the Potomac into Maryland (whether from Tysons or from DC viathe Geo. Washington Parkway) was increasingly gridlocked.

    Although the seeds were planted in the earlier 1960, the Interstate and regional traffic Armageddon around DC began in earnest in 1983, some 34 years ago. That is how long we have refused to address this problem.

  11. LarrytheG Avatar

    interesting discussion………

  12. LarrytheG Avatar

    I cannot imagine the country without the interstate highway system myself.

    But there is no denying that the beltways around the urban areas fundamentally changed the way that urban areas would grow, how land would be developed and WHERE land would be developed and how mobility would evolve in ways very different than if there had been no beltway.

    and a big question which is can we, should we , develop all land that can be developed without maxing out the highway capacity?

    On the other hand – places like New York City have grown far bigger and denser than the roads can support – but that has not harmed them economically – at least – places less dense with more roads have not demonstrated , as a result that they will be “better” than NYC?

    Is Tysons (or others) on a track that will never end up being like NYC? that the development plan for Tysons is fundamentally and fatally flawed and the “plan” for NYC – correct? Keep in mind none other than Robert Moses was involved in NYC planning.

    I don’t think you can blame planners and elected officials per se. It’s not as if they directed by edict the plan…for one city , much less most if not all of them.

  13. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    “I don’t think you can blame planners and elected officials per se.”

    I agree Larry.

    What happened is that a whirlwind suddenly hit Fairfax.

    In the early 1960s, I-495 spanned the Potomac and Dulles International Airport was completed. This abruptly opened up Fairfax County to the Washington Region for the first time in 300 years.

    Until then Fairfax County had been the Washington DC’s areas most isolated outpost. A rural place controlled by Virginia’s landed Virginia gentry who, amid stolid Virginia farmer stock, had run the County’s uninterrupted rural past since the 1600s. Suddenly now the county was open up to the outside world. And nothing would ever be the same in a place that was had changed little changed since the Potomac River fall had until stopped at its fall line in 1608.

    For example, now in the 1960s Simon suddenly arrived from New York City to start his new town he called Reston between the new Dulles Airport and new Capital Beltway. Here he could buy of single hunt country estate of nearly 4000 open rolling acres for his new town. In contrast the Howard County insider James Rouse spent a year assembling hundreds of parcels for his new town of Columbia in Nearby Howard County Md.

    So now, like happened with the governments earlier quick assemblage of nearly 1000 acres for Dulles Airport, the outsider Simon the private developer showed the world that he could build big, quick and easy in Fairfax. This easy building would soon prove a curse, again and again. For also in the 1960s, the Federal Government for the first time allowed its federal agencies move out of Washington DC proper. All these forces suddenly hit rural somnolent Fairfax out of the blue with lightening speed.

    Suddenly for the first time ever in 300 years Fairfax had plentiful, open and beautiful land convenient to most every place in the Washington region.

    Plus, incredibly, Fairfax had another critical ingredient to development. Fairfax County, per citizen, had the worlds densest concentration of world class Lawyers. And a local government by and large, at their beck and call. This system of local governance had worked very well up until then. But now in Fairfax County a land rush of prodigious unexpected proportions was on.

  14. LarrytheG Avatar

    maybe not a totally unique story – maybe one repeated in each urban area that got it’s own beltway?

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd


      As as general phenomena, explosive growth driven by change is common in all eras. 18th Century London through the Industrial Age. Or, as to another variant, the rice wealth driven explosive growth of rural coastal South Carolina around Charleston during first half of 19th century up to Civil War.

      As to the era in question, latter half of 20th century, the expansive suburban growth in USA akin to the Fairfax experience after WW11 – I suggest that Los Angeles, Los Vegas, Phoenix, and Houston, also come readily to mind.

      However, even so, this Fairfax explosion was not the first time Washington DC spilled as if by surprise over its banks to flood its surrounds and stayed there, as if a highly adaptable exotic occupying for good its neighbors.

      And this happened despite history.

      Despite George Washington’s fierce political maneuver that shoved a hunk of Virginia into the Nation’s Capital after the Constitutional Convention, his gerrymandering had failed miserably, and had been reversed, by the middle of the 19th Century.

      Even before the 20th century, however, the electric trolley was beginning to succeed where George had failed. Not only did it carry DC’s city residents in great numbers up the hills behind Georgetown and Dupont Circle and bridge Rock Creek gorge to densely settle NW DC and nearby Maryland, the trolley carried DC city across the river to occupy in overwhelming numbers for good the Arlington heights above the Potomac Gorge.

      Woodrow Wilson’s War to End all Wars next aided the Trolley’s push into Northern Virginia as Wilson laid the foundation for today’s voracious Federal DC Leviathan that not only had pushed deeper into Alexandria County by the war’s end, but that had, with the automobiles help, consumed much of Arlington County to Glebe Road before World War 11. So profound was the change politically, Alexandria City left Alexandria County which by the early 1920’s had changed its name to Arlington County. FDR’s New Deal and World War 11 consolidated earlier gains.

      Then, after War II, America’s well earned war spoils – its huge new wealth making capacity, its new technology and its unparalleled world wide power, unique in all of history, combined with the prodigious energy, competence and confidence of its young and vibrant war conquering heroes that was turbo-charged even more by their returning to the young women they’d left behind. This more than anything else spawned a revolutionary explosion in America. Whole new ways for vast numbers of everyday people to live and work and play and get things done and get themselves around – the new and liberating way they could with ever increasing ease and resources spread out the lives and their ways of living and building families across the countryside. Subdivisions, strip commercial centers, low rise apartments spread, all these spread not over a block but across dozens of acres then miles along the outer edges of older cities much more confined before.

      All the power of all this suddenly released energy, including most importantly perhaps of all was this built in but suddenly unleashed power of war delayed family building. It is no wonder that earlier growth that pushed its way into Arlington County now edged it way more and more west into eastern Fairfax County as if in earnest for the first time.

      To be continued.

  15. LarrytheG Avatar

    Surely – we have to recognize that role that modern interstates (limited-access, four-lane or more – divided) has played in urban settlement patterns as well as our car-centric lifestyle.

    we we built those interstates they, in turn, led to the “growth” – and as well and long articulated by Ed Risse – it was more dispersed and fragmented than dense with a core.

    But we cannot and are not – going back. We have to deal with the reality of the way it is and will likely stay. I just don’t see us tearing down beltways and interstates because they “harm” a settlement pattern concept that is considered by some to be “better” than the one we get with interstates/beltways.

    to a certain extent – we are engaged in a similar transition/evolutionary funk to horses and buggies getting replaced by automobiles.

    Our job now is to find and build settlement patterns that co-exist and are an integrated part of contemporary transportation that caters to the automobile as the predominate mode.

    I think we are actually doing that in places like NYC which has effectively made personal automobile travel such an onerous activity that it’s not the preferred mode for most workers – in the core urban area.

    NYC like other cities like Chicago .. European and Asian cities and more and more US cities are using tolls to further discourage SOV use – single occupant vehicle.. for commuting to /from work.

    On city streets – personal non-work auto use has to take into account the level of congestion present at certain hours – and an acceptance of that reality as the standard as opposed to believing “something” in the way of “infrastructure” can make it better – OR – perhaps re-thinking accepted conventional thinking of urban core as optimal and dispersed development as “bad”.

    I don’t pretend to know what might happen – only that interstates and beltways are not going to be torn down – and existing non-interstate regional and local states are not going to be increased in any major way.

    People are going to be presented with the reality than if you want to travel at certain periods – it’s going to have a “cost” – monetary (tolls) or time (delay) and that is a decision and a choice as it’s not going to be “fixed” .. the “fix” is that we’re probably more done than not with building more roads in the urban areas except for some strategic one-offs… there’s just not going to
    be a major addition of new automobile-based infrastructure.

    that’s my view .. I’d sure like to hear others.

  16. LarrytheG Avatar

    let me go back to an earlier statement/thought :

    ” Citizens need to evolve settlement patterns that require less travel, not infrastructure that facilitates more movement. New transport infrastructure almost always induces settlement patterns that cannot be provided with mobility, regardless of the cost.”

    and then:

    “Back to Balanced Communities — In the long term, less demand, not wider paths to move more vehicles longer distances, must be the goal. Reducing future mobility demand starts with settlement patterns that minimize travel demand. This means Balanced Communities inside the Clear Edge around the urbanized portions of New Urban Regions and Urban Support Regions, and Balanced Disaggregated Communities in the Countryside.”

    so two things:

    the above statements seem to say that “good” settlement patterns are the kind that reduce demand for automobile mobility.

    then in another place – and I cannot find it – the thought that we cannot build all the buildable land without overloading the existing transportation network. In other words – recognize that density as a settlement pattern has consequences in terms of congestion on the existing and probably not-expandable transportation network.

    that thought seems to argue for more dispersed development.. whose density and total numbers will not overload/overwhelm the transportation network.

    I consider the second statement more tenable than Ed Risses view that you make automobile travel less desirable and encourage more non-auto mobility by investing in that kind of infrastructure rather than more automobile-centric infrastructure –

    though I have to admit – that from a reality point of view – once the existing transportation network becomes saturated that – that pretty much caps increased auto use…because the roads are just too congested at certain time to make non-emergency trips – reasonable in terms of time and effort.

    On this aspect, I’m not sure how much the existence or non-existence of a nearby interstate or beltway plays in the congestion. You’d have to do a study of origins and destinations – of general nature of many similar settlement patterns near interstates.. i.e. what percentage of the local trips are going beyond “local” .. onto the interstate and somewhere else?

  17. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    “… We have to deal with the reality of the way it is and will likely stay. I just don’t see us tearing down beltways and interstates because they “harm” a settlement pattern concept that is considered by some to be “better” than the one we get with interstates/beltways … Our job now is to find and build settlement patterns that co-exist and are an integrated part of contemporary transportation that caters to the automobile as the predominate mode.’

    I agree with those two statements.

    I also believe that today we have the tools to “build settlement patterns that co-exist and are an integrated part of contemporary transportation that caters to the automobile as the predominate mode.”

    Indeed I know that we have tools that will work to eat traffic around “Interstates. ” These tools includes our how to rebuild of old traffic generating neighborhoods into “Traffic Eating Communities.”

    We know such communities work because we’ve built them successfully before. Arlington’s new downtown, from Ballston to Courthouse, for example. This a group of adjoining neighborhoods work together today and every day to Eat Traffic. And to do so not only within their group of neighborhoods but also on roads near and far outside its boundaries, indeed throughout the region.

    This is precisely the opposite of how Fairfax County works to spread harm. Today in 2017 there is no more traffic congestion in front of the office complexes along Fairfax Drive in Ballston than there was in 1985 when my newly completed building became the first fully occupied new office building in Ballston.

    Yet today this new downtown in the heart of Arlington has many millions more square feet (office, hotel, apartment, commercial) now than when its revitalization was just getting started in 1985.

    I have more to say on this subject. But first need to finish for prespective the nutshell development history of Fairfax and northern Va. that has been started above.

  18. LarrytheG Avatar

    I probably need to learn more about ” “Traffic Eating Communities.”


    are they a monolithic type development pattern or isolated nodes surrounded by “bad” settlement patterns?

    do they have to be built from scratch or can existing “bad” settlement patterns be “converted”?

  19. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    Courthouse to Ballston (Arlington County’s new downtown) was built on top of, and in replacement of, Arlington’s failed old commercials downtown. It is flanked on both sides by multi-lane limited access highways, and limited access on both ends. Thus it has a very limited number of efficient access points, contrary to popular opinion. Beyond that, it is surrounded by rather dense urban / suburban residential and old style strip commercial. The new downtown also suffers at its north end from a very screwed up early redevelopment of Rosslyn from which Rossyln has never fully recovered.

    A good way to start looking at the new downtown is on Google maps.

  20. LarrytheG Avatar

    Reed – going off to look at Google Maps but a question. Is a place like Courthouse to Ballston “good” because workers live there near their employment and it’s not particularly friendly to workers who would commute from afar to work there?

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      workers living in or nearby is one important part of traffic eating. Another is transport options from near and far as well as local access options, how the work around the clock, combined with integration and interaction for cumulative benefit of other mixed uses that are stirred into the whole fabric of community. Here once planned in schematic form the buildings took place over several decades but starting spinning off benefits from the start.

      1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
        Reed Fawell 3rd

        I went into this in some detail on this website starting around 2012.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      I suggest you Google Rosslyn Ballston Corridor. There you will find maps showing the corridor, its whole and its parts. As well as a great deal of history.

      Going through these maps and history, with Google maps in hand, is a helpful way to start. Particularly so as the Google Maps can be used to zoom into clusters of building, streets and hardscapes, including their uses that are within and outside the Corridor. This is the “modern miracle “I spoke about earlier.

  21. I don’t have the knowledge that the rest of you do about NoVa and the traffic, etc. I would like to make two points, though.

    First, I very much agree that having livings spaces near workplaces makes a great deal of sense for many reasons, especially to reduce commuting.

    The second thing to consider is that California and other areas have found that building more roads just encourages more traffic and new bottlenecks will be created. Consider the developments in transportation that will occur in the next ten years. Electric vehicles will reach price parity with internal combustion engine vehicles. Autonomous vehicles will be widely available to create transportation-as-a-service rather than individual ownership of vehicles, especially among younger people. This would shift the usage of cars from perhaps around 10% of the time to perhaps 60-80% of the time, drastically reducing the number of vehicles needed to move the same number of people.

    Obviously, peak commuting times put a strain on a smaller ride-sharing fleet. But with some good planning and intelligent design, we could use the car fleet for first-mile and last-mile transportation, optimized with software to carry multiple people who live close together to numerous local hubs to transfer passengers to medium sized buses going to specific destinations or to larger hubs for long-distance transport.

    These could be “jitney” type vehicles owned by independent contractors, maybe with a long-term lease and low-cost insurance provided by special aggregators. Ride optimizing software would be the glue that would make the system work and handle the payment transactions (probably phone-app based).

    Well designed hubs near interstate connections would collect passengers from the mid-sized vehicles to larger buses that would go only to a specific destination, no local stops. At the other end, the process would reverse itself. I know this sound like a lot of transfers, but with good design, it would be just a series of quick step-off, step-on activities. No parking required at either end. Ride-sharing vehicles would be available for meetings, errands, etc. during the day.

    With so many fewer vehicles on the road, commuting times would be drastically reduced. During off-peak times ride-sharing vehicles could qualify for lower tolls, etc. when the larger vehicles are not traveling as often.

    I’m sure someone can improve upon this concept. I am only trying to point out that we should quit trying to use the same old solutions that we know don’t work. It is time to innovate and collaborate and discover far better options, that cost less and accomplish more.

  22. LarrytheG Avatar

    you and TMT might like this:

    Los Angeles – When homeowners are given vetoes over development, they prevent it

    After 50 years of campaigns against growth, nearly half the city is zoned for single-family housing

    Growth-wary Angelenos have long been successful at swaying city planners. After decades of rapid development, homeowners campaigned for influence over land use in the 1960s. Given more control over zoning in 1969, they used it to push for curbs on density. The slow-growth movement continued into the 1980s. In 1986 Proposition U moved to limit the construction of high-rise buildings and cut by half the allowable size of most new commercial buildings beyond downtown. Voters supported it, two to one. Writing in the Los Angeles Times in 1987, its backers explained: “We’re tired of the overdevelopment, the excessive traffic and the inadequate planning that are increasingly plaguing the people of Los Angeles.”

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      This comment you found is central to the dilemma we face today.

      Local residential resistance to beneficial change is one of the several key stoppers that have stopped in their tracks the spread of Smart Growth solutions like the building of more Arlington Type New Downtowns. The fact we overcame local residential resistance there is why I consider Arlington’s New Downtown a Modern Day Miracle.

      However, it was a Modern Miracle with a very big caveat.

      Local Arlington residential resistance in places like Cherrydale succeeded in limiting I-66 forever to two lanes. This early NIMBY Success combined with the design and fusion of the Capital Beltway, the outer Beltways 1-66, and Dulles Toll Road into a single straight jacketed Stream of traffic after those streams had, by developer driven land use planning in Fairfax, turned those interstate and regional limited access highways into Fairfax’s MAIN STREET. All OF THESE GREAT MISTAKES Tied the Final Gordian Knot deep in the Fabric of Northern Virginia’s transport system. This Knot like a great tumor is now strangling the entire region. And its put Fairfax County into its current death spiral.

      Now we must dissolve the Tumor before its fatal infection spreads to and kills neighboring jurisdictions. This is daunting task for many reasons.

    2. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      Today it is far too often too hard to maintain our grip on the reality of any particular issue or problem. Today this often results from information overload.

      We have so much information today. Some good, some bad, some too general, some too detailed, some relevant but hidden by the nature of its transmittal, and some total red herrings caused by how we get in, process it, and judge it, but collectively all of this overload now boils around us to hopelessly clutter up our senses while it fools us into false confidence that leads us to wrong thinking that ends in ill advised actions that makes matter far worse as we head off again and again in the wrong direction, claiming small gains the might benefit a few but make all the rest of us who are taxed to pay the bills far worse as time goes on within the dysfunction of a sick system that should be apparent to us but no one seems to see or admit too.

      This way we remain forever lost in the forest, our solutions forever hidden within thickets of snarled, nonsensical and irrelevant, and over cooked information.

      How do we step back and re-orient ourselves to be enlightened by the obvious in the real world that otherwise would be plainly obvious, unavoidable in front of our nose, if we knew how to see it, and connect it with other things whose relatedness we can now too also see? How thus can we keep stepping back, and moving around, collecting and linking up dots that at last are relevant one to the other until finally we have the big picture of what is really going on in the world we live in? For, only then, so armed with the general dynamics of the big picture, can we next zoom in, see and navigate though, and link up insights that take us to solutions to particular problems.

      Then so armed with the inter-related dynamics of the big picture and our new found experience with relevant particulars, having gained a sense of how they move, interact, and generate consequence on small but cumulative scale, we can for the first time generate workable strategic plans for solutions then tactical plans for achieving “real and meaningful results that solve real problems and replacing them with things that what really work for people, instead of pretending to.

    3. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      On way to regain our lost grip on reality is to step back, take a deep breath. Try to clear our heads of all the clutter and fervor of today’s modern world. Free ourselves from the endless stream of today’s words and rhetoric. Its far too often stuffed full of irrelevant numbers, useless equations, and fake assumptions that too often we have built into closed circuits of circular reasoned theories. So over the decades this trash masquerading as skilled expertise builds like plac into our brains and emotions, inducing a kind of dementia that is daily reinforced into so many of today’s “experts, and the professions and political structures they build to guard their prejudice and self interests at the expense of others over which their experts claim special prejudice on the backs of those they mislead. All this over time builds and maintains had habits that harm to caught those others in their web, while it robs these experts who operate the system of the capacity for creative and independent thought necessary for self correction. Instead the experts too often keep marching off lock step again and again in the wrong direction on the same fool’s errand that has for generations now left so much damage in their wake.

      The wreckage left behind is obvious every where. The massively expensive and massively dysfunctional road system in Northern Virginia, for example. Or the human carnage left behind by LBJ’s great society is another.

      The damage is iniquities, strewn about in endless variations.

      For example, take the vascular system of the human leg and foot below the knee. How the veins, arteries, capillaries work together, what pumps the blood through, what occurs in the event of stoppage within an artery. What are the ways to clear the stoppage out? What are the ways to save the limb if one can’t clear the stoppage out? You would think this would have been long ago figured out. He has not. Remarkably all the vascular experts that I have come across seem unable or unwilling to see, much less deploy an obvious answer that to this day remains cluttered up, loss amid the mess of all their specialized detail, the silo-ed and myopic microscopic details, hidden behind impenetrable expert jargon that’s severed off the obvious solution from the broader evidences of real life going on outside vascular Doctors little heads.

    4. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      To elaborate on the threat we face from our elite experts losing touch with the ability to marshal common sense and practical insights from the realities of everyday experience of folk who live in the real world, lets imagine this.

      Many a serious athlete knows that by exercise, say running or cycling intervals properly, he will over time go further faster. Why? He’s got too. Working muscles demand that his body build ever more capacity to perform its task. This includes its ability to circulate blood through working muscles and nearby flesh and, in so doing, to deliver this blood wherever needed in ever greater, cleaner and better volumes, if the athlete is to have the best chance to keep improving his performance to his full potential. The key is pumping in and delivering and disbursing around the new blood wherever it is needed while simultaneously carrying away old blood, and doing it all with ever more efficiency, power, diffusion and effectiveness. This is key.

      Obviously heart, lungs, arteries, and veins play critical rolls. But capillaries have learned special tricks since they’re where the rubber meets the road. In athletes they grow and build expanding networks that are wider and deeper and more refined than usual, all done under pressure. As capillaries lengthen and spread, going ever more places they carry ever better and richer blood to nourish, fuel and repair the body’s working parts and carry off their waste.

      Serious athletes know the sense of this, if not the details.

      Many also know that “pulled muscle and torn tendons” that cannot be worked by normal exercise, can often be healed and repaired by local artificial stimulation. This includes electric TENS stimulation. Here mild electric shock is delivered through patches applied to the skin. This stimulates muscle and flesh that would otherwise lay passive. As those stimulated muscles work, firing and twitching, they demand blood that can be sometimes only be delivered by circuitous and new routes that find ways around other injured parts to deliver that blood to hurt part under the patch. This accelerates healing and keeps the injured part nourished and alive.

      Hence, under pressure from muscles worked by TENS stimulation, capillaries grow and expand to find new and better delivery routes to those working muscle and the places where they work in response to artificial demand for more blood like they would to muscle working by a guy doing interval training.

      Given that many athletes and trainers know all this, why would vascular surgeons working in a highly regarded “limb restoration Centers” or anywhere else for that matter, individually and collectively as an entire profession, fail to prescribe, or even mention the possibility of, or fail to undertake the study of TENS, as an alternative treatment for their patient who has just been told by their vascular surgeon that he has an inoperable stoppage in the veins and artery system within his lower leg, and that there is nothing more that can be done about his condition to prevent its spread that well could in the future demand amputation?

      Like this remarkable reality and the inexplicable failure to deploy an obvious cure by entire groups of alleged experts and interested parties, this reminds me the 34 years of unaddressed traffic gridlock in Northern Virginia. Indeed the problem and the cure of both, and the chronic refusal to address them in each case, have convergences and similarities, and are worthy of great study. Not least, this problems about how the human species most always collectively in groups and nations fail to deal honestly with issues and their real solution. When confronted with most difficult circumstance, we typically work to compound and hide the problem that confronts us so as to gain the personal advantage us the few in control, using false claim and methods to achieve private gain and advantage that make matters worse for must everyone instead of fixing their root causes so as to benefit everyone.

      Like with Ballston, I know we’ve long had solutions to traffic gridlock. I also know Tens works and could save the limbs, lives, and happiness of hundreds of thousand of people in this nation alone, if only the experts would wake up and do their jobs right instead of pretending to do so why pushing their own advantages instead. There are course heroic exception here, but pitiably few.

  23. Reed, this is true of so many situations in the Commonwealth: “… using false claims and methods to achieve private gain and advantage that make matters worse for most everyone instead of fixing their root causes so as to benefit everyone.”

    So what do you see as a way to break up this pattern?

  24. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    Carol – that is a key question you ask.

    There is something wrong deep within the warp and woof of Virginia’s psyche, society and culture that fuels this chronic corruption that so often ties political and private commercial interest together into covert (In Camera) deal making that manipulates public assets and prerogatives to serve private interests to the Public’s disadvantage and expense.

    For example, again and again, I have seen socially responsible developers come into Virginia for the first time and, once there, they quickly learn how to operate in socially irresponsible ways.

    It is as if you pay the right set of expert to act on your behalf you can get for yourself goodies you can get nowhere else. And, too often, the failure to gain private advantage for the payment of cash is too few and far between. Even in those cases of failure, it is too often not for lack of trying or failure to achieve near success. Witness the Disney’s near take over of Bull Run. Or the latest efforts to blow out the west side of Dulles for massive new sprawl, including industrial development, across the historic Virginia Piedmont all the way to the Blue Ridge.

    Frankly, I have long attributed much of this to the dark side of America’s legal culture. The glamor of the gun slinging lawyer who takes such pride in getting murderers acquitted, when in Virginia he morphs into doing the same for clients financially. I suspect this is the driving force behind many large northern Virginia real estate projects, including new cities, that should not have been built the way they were built,and now all of us are reaping the terrible consequences of this failure whose damages will continue to accrue until these “new fringe cities” are reversed engineered. The same applies in my view to the horribly unfair and counter productive dynamic toll regime. These terrible costs also need to be shifted over to tolls beneficiaries instead of its victims. This will require the public in Virginia to rise up and take action to expose what is going on in their Commonwealth with its corrupt and weak leaders, and that in so doing exposed those leaders and private interests all to a public shaming. One that forces them to change their habits and the right thing for all citizens, instead of the local power structures to which they are now beholden. The requires a new found commitment to public involvement from all Virginia. This too will mark a great change in habits of most Virginian who for far to long have shied away from local public affairs. This power structure and its attitudes, and that stand offish attitudes of most Virginians have deep roots going back to the very beginnings of the Commonwealth.

    Are your low tides over there in the Crater as low as ours are now (and have been most recently have been) on the Eastern Shore.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      Re-edited portion.

      … This will require the public in Virginia to rise up and take action to expose what is going on in their Commonwealth with its corrupt and weak leaders. And for them in so doing to expose those leaders and private interests to a public shaming that forces them to change their habits and do the right thing for all citizens, instead of for the local power structures they are now beholden.

      All of this will require a new found commitment to public involvement by all Virginians. This too will mark a great change in the habits of most Virginians who for far too long have shied away from local public affairs. Like Virginia’s power structure and its attitudes, the stand offish attitudes towards public service of most Virginians have deep roots going back to the beginnings of the Commonwealth.

  25. Tides are going to be at their lowest through Sunday at -0.2 at Mobjack Bay and Wolf Trap Light, unless the winds shift.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      -0.07 f on Miles R. at St. Michaels predicted for this evening.

  26. You said, “This will require the public in Virginia to rise up and take action to expose what is going on in their Commonwealth with its corrupt and weak leaders. And for them in so doing to expose those leaders and private interests to a public shaming that forces them to change their habits and do the right thing for all citizens, instead of for the local power structures they are now beholden.”

    Trying to break through the existing walls against citizen input is so frustrating, I can’t blame people for giving up on trying to change the system. Watch for Part IV of the HB 1774 saga. There’s a glimpse of one situation where citizen input to correct errors was rejected in favor of maintaining a storyline to get the next grant.

    1. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
      Reed Fawell 3rd

      Yes, I will.

      I was thinking of you when writing those words you quote, your being such a vivid exception to the passive “not get involved attitude” of so many Virginians that’s been so prevalent for so long.

  27. Reed Fawell 3rd Avatar
    Reed Fawell 3rd

    Here’s one way to understand the dynamics behind what has created today’s traffic congestion in Northern Virginia.

    Suppose the 1960s Northern Virginia had a binding land use plan that mandated that:

    No builder will abuse his building site, its location, the people and community around it, and/or those who pass through it on public roads, or build what will reasonable in the future adversely impact the lives of others.

    Are these platitudes only?

    Or, if enforced, might these simple mandates have altered what was built in Northern Virginia? To include the new cities of Rossyln, Crystal City and Tyson’s Corner. And thus prevent the traffic crisis in Northern Virginia.

    I believe that Rossyln, Crystal City, and Tyson’s Corner should never have been allowed to be built into cities they became: cities designed as regional magnets that attracted dense clusters of large office, hotel, and retail users. And particularly build them in places so key to the entire regions transport that the failure of any of one could spread to shut down the whole region.

    I believe this was N. Virginia’s key first mistake. The one that now has now has grown into the monster the threatens to sent the region off the rails.

    The mix of these cities and their missions were potent.

    These three cities were built to compete one against other for the region’s most lucrative revenue generating real estate tenants. And as such each city grew, it came to form one end of an iron triangle of three cities. Meanwhile each city was also increasingly competing within its own tightly confined group of neighborhoods, while each city competed, one against the other two, in the highly confined limited access region of neighborhoods that wrapped up all three of the cities together in their own growing problems.

    So wrapped ever tighter like squirrels in two bags (one local; one regional), the traffic snarls these cities and their progeny built, jointly and severally, have metastasized into a supra-region wide monster that consumes neighborhoods as far distant as 60 miles up roads in three different directions. This roiling mess the entire region now must confront head on.

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