Subdivision Staging Policy
The Action Committee for Transit strongly supports the transportation test revisions recommended by the planning staff for the Subdivision Staging Policy.
The tests proposed by the planning staff measure how long it takes to get where you’re going. They would replace tests, such as “level of service” and “critical lane volume,” that measure how fast cars move. The difference is crucial, because the current tests promote sprawling development patterns where destinations are farther apart. The result is more driving, more traffic congestion, and slower trips.
A few simple examples show why the current tests make no sense:
- If it takes 10 minutes to drive to a supermarket half a mile away, the roadway has LOS F. When the nearest supermarket is 15 miles away and can be reached in 15 minutes, the LOS is A.
- Traffic backs up in a left turn lane because the critical lane volume is exceeded. A no-left-turn sign “cures” the problem, even if drivers now take a 5-minute trip around the block instead of waiting 2 minutes to make the turn.
The staff draft ends the use of these misleading measurement methods in the places where they do the most damage. We strongly endorse, in particular, the elimination of LATR intersection traffic tests in "core" downtowns and the replacement of the current PATR test with a measure of transit accessibility.
We also endorse the proposal to substitute a cash payment for automatic construction of turn lanes when intersections in walkable areas fail the traffic test. Turn lanes are a two-edged sword. They move more traffic during rush hour, but wider roads mean slower lights, which delays non-rush-hour auto traffic and makes pedestrian travel more difficult at all hours. It's much better for the county to have funds available for whatever transport mode needs it the most.
One point in the staff report requires clarification. Currently, the LATR test applied at any given intersection depends on where the intersection is, not where the new building is. This makes no sense because it allows buildings that aren't transit-accessible to impose extra delays on car traffic near Metro stations and use up extra development capacity that is supposed to be transit-accessible. The traffic test applied at an intersection should depend on where the new building is, not where the intersection is. This is especially important for the proposed core-area exemption from the intersection test.
The discredited and destructive concepts of “level of service” and “critical lane volume” have no place in transportation planning. The staff proposals put Montgomery County on the road toward better planning and less time lost in travel.