Tyson’s Corner is an area of Fairfax, County Virginia famous for its excellent mall but also for the fact that it’s become a major center of employment, turning the Greater Washington era into a kind of binary downtown system. But whereas the Washington, DC central business district is a walkable urban area served by a decent subway system, Tyson’s is a hard-core subarbanist “edge city.” But plans are under way to build a Metro extension that will run from the city out to Dulles Airport (good idea) and the route will also include four stops in Tyson’s Corner (good idea) and planners want to change land-use rules in Tyson’s to promote sounder development strategies, with the planned stations as foci:
The Tysons Task Force wants to allow a FAR of six, rising as high as 7.8 for residential space if a developer meets green-building and affordable-housing thresholds.
That upper limit worries Ted Alexander, chairman of the Greater Tysons Citizens Coalition, an umbrella group of community officials and activists.
“We support development and growth, but the thing that we don’t want to happen is see the growth grow faster than the infrastructure,” he said.
And there you have it. Fairfax, as it currently exists, doesn’t contain any walkable urban areas because it’s actually illegal to build any communities that are dense enough to really provide for walkable urbanism. There are plans under way to let people build denser in one corner of the county, but still not all that densely, and those plans are facing regulatory opposition from people who want to ensure that the tender fabric of car-dependent suburbanism stays in place. If you did something crazy like let people build however densely the market will support, then you’d see a lot more walking, biking, taking the bus, etc. but driving would become unpleasant. That would be annoying to people who love driving, nice for people who like walking, and better for the environment and public health along with being substantially more economically efficient — boosting overall productivity and incomes.