LETTER: Beyond Wishful Thinking for Commercial Tax Generation – The Case for Streetcars
By DAN MALLER
May 2, 2012
There is broad consensus in the City of Falls Church that realizing greater revenues from the City’s limited commercial property is a key strategic priority. The measurable but limited successes over the past decade have been based largely on allowing special exceptions to include residential development, which is economically required to support the necessary parking. Even supporters of the “mixed use” strategy recognize the limitations of this approach and view mixed use as a step towards creating the critical mass of population density and demand that will help bring additional business investment and tax revenue generation.
Many of us (including many of the candidates in yesterday’s City Council election) have advocated significant public investment in parking to address this more directly, and I believe this has to be on the short list of ideas that go beyond wishful thinking to address the economics of commercial development. However, a far more comprehensive approach, which is well suited to the City’s strip-zoned commercial areas along our major thoroughfares, would be a modern streetcar network allowing far greater foot traffic without a proportional increase in automobile traffic.
A modern streetcar would have stops at no more than half mile intervals, meaning that we would expect at least five stops in the commercial areas, including two in City Center, not to mention an opportunity to integrate an intermodal transit center that would be truly deserving of the name. My own vision would be to link the East and West Falls Church Metro Stations and to consider taking a line from Seven Corners to EFC and then along Washington Street to City Center and then West on Broad to WFC, which would maximize the service to multifamily housing and to our commercial zones, but the purpose of the proposed study is to examine all of these issues, to generate a local and regional feedback, and hopefully consensus, to guide the next steps that would be required.
The discussion of the need and desire for commercial development is another opportunity to refocus our efforts on taking action to help bring about the kind of development that the community will support, without overwhelming our infrastructure such as roads and schools that are essentially at capacity in the near term. There are obvious issues to debate such as the cost, configuration and alignment, alongside the clearly demonstrable benefits, but in my view and given the building regional momentum, this is a wave we need to be prepared to ride.
Dan Maller is a former member of the Falls Church City Council.
By (see byline)
May 2, 2012