Film Spotlights Arlington County, Virginia’s Ability to Grow Without Traffic Congestion

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Paul is communications director for Mobility Lab. He specializes in storytelling and editing, as well as environmental and pop-culture issues related to transportation.
June 12, 2012

Arlington County, Virginia has been a powerful example of the many places around the U.S. that have been able to protect from overwhelming auto traffic in the face of massive population growth.

Anyone looking for an interesting glimpse into how Arlington County managed this complicated task should watch Arlington’s Smart Growth Journey. The 11-minute short is here below, and the longer 52-minute version is here.

Bob Brosnan (pictured above), director of the county’s Department of Community Planning, Housing, and Development, guides viewers through the history. He is most happy that his children and their friends are graduating from college and realizing Arlington County is the place they want to live. But beyond the anecdotal, here are some other interesting nuggets from the film:

  • Arlington County grew in population from 160,000 people in 1960 to to 208,000 in 2011, yet traffic of individual vehicles shrank from about 20,000 daily trips in 1980 to fewer than 19,000 in 2000.
  • Nineteen percent of residents in the bustling Rosslyn-Ballston corridor do not own a car. Thirty-nine percent in the corridor take some form of transit to work.
  • The county’s vision 40 years ago was to focus on 10 percent of the land as two high-density, mixed-use, Metro-accessible corridors (Rosslyn-Ballston and Alexandria) and the other 90 percent as residential, with Brosnan explaining that there has been very little in the way of blurring that 10/90 line, largely thanks to the political will of county officials.

Have you been to Arlington County? Live in Arlington? What are your thoughts, impressions, and experiences? Do you think it’s a “smart grower?”


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