Congestion solving down south: The case of Arlington County

At SIMS we are focused on improving the quality of life for Staten Islanders. We all want more services, livelier neighborhoods, safer streets, and more opportunities for exercise. But can we get these things without increasing traffic?

More services are usually only possible through growth, and for decades growth has been associated with more cars and the wider roads supposedly needed to handle them. Virtually every traffic study includes an assumption that traffic will always be on the rise, and that nothing can be done about it. No evidence to the contrary seems to be good enough for traffic engineers.

Alexandria

Virginia is home to far more innovative thinkers than just George Washington.

In fact, growth does not have to equal traffic congestion. We only have to go as far as Virginia to see a stellar example of this. In that fair state, there is a suburban county just across the water from a major city that is a leader in Transportation Demand Management (or Mobility Management). Mobility Management is a way to sustain growth without paying the high price for related automobile infrastructure. This is Arlington County, Virginia – an integral part of the Washington, D.C. metro area. This county is comparable in many ways to Richmond County (Staten Island). It has an interstate highway running through it. It offers bus and subway service. It is generally suburban in character. It is similar in terms of land area, population density, and other factors:

Sources: Richmond: Staten Island Attractions, US Census, Staten Island Railroad. Arlington: Arlington County Profile, Dept. of Parks & Recreation FAQ, Fast Facts, US Census.
Richmond County Arlington County
Land Area (sq. mi.) 58.4 26.0
Population (2010) 468,730 207,628
Persons per sq. mi. (2010) 8,030 7,994
Median household income (2006-2010) $71,084 $94,880
Parkland (acres) 12,300 1,296
Mean travel time to work (min.) 42.0 26.5
Rail stations 22 (Staten Island Railroad) 11 (part of MetroRail)

What sets Arlington County apart is a public focus on providing high quality alternatives to the automobile. Arlington County Commuter Services, a county government arm responsible for TDM initiatives (and an inspiration for SIMS) focuses on just that – with great results:

New York City’s population is growing. Despite Superstorm Sandy, Staten Island will continue to grow and change. If we do nothing, much of that growth will be car-oriented, bringing ever-more traffic to streets already inadequate to deal with it. If instead we invest our resources wisely and promote strategies that both lessen the pressure of traffic and improve our quality of life, then we can create a better Staten Island for everyone.

In future posts, we will delve more deeply into Mobility Management strategies – ones you can take advantage of today as well as others that can be created in the future. Stay tuned!

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