Two years ago I wrote about the two Tysons forming, one that is in an active development zone, away from quasi-highways that showed a path to a walkable future, and another that was divided and lagging behind. 25 months have passed and it seems appropriate to return to Walkscore to see whether any progress has been made in the massive urban experiment that is Tysons.
There have been changes over the past two years — ignoring Walkscores change in the relative scale and removal of unsurveyed zones previously labeled as 0 walk score. Let’s look at this on a per quadrant basis.
The south quadrant of Tysons (south of 7 and west of 495) showed essentially no change, which is accurate given that the only construction that has occurred in this area over the past two years was the completion of a CVS on a previously constructed parcel. There have been no new sidewalks and minimal additional retail in this quadrant, largely due to its isolation from the rest of metro served Tysons. Something Fairfax County planners and transportation officials need to figure out is how to reconnect the vestige. Something dramatic is needed. Anecdotal evidence shows how painful both perception and reality is in this quadrant of Tysons; just this week we saw on twitter:
— Kevin M Combes (@slashkevin) June 7, 2016
This is at the corner of Route 7 and the overpass of 123, very close to metro but feeling miles away. Two years after metro, and 6 years after the landmark comprehensive plan was passed, we should not have places this close to metro, and adjacent to hundreds of thousands of square feet of development lacking basic walkable infrastructure. No excuses, we need to get it done now, not later.
The west quadrant — west of Route 7 and north of Route 123 — isn’t much better, acres of car dealership lots have created an entrenched barrier, but a lack of movement in several projects and barriers created by Route 7 itself, has also isolated this portion of Tysons. One area which showed some upward movement was around Westwood Drive near the Tysons West development, a mixed use project which maybe starting phase 2 soon.
East Tysons — east of 495 — looks like it took a dire turn, but these numbers may actually be deceiving. Although the numbers have plummeted, much of that is caused by the massive amount of construction currently underway. Some of that construction is coming to an end, such as the new MITRE Building 4 and the Haden apartments. Some of it will continue for at least another 18 to 24 months, but in the mean time some routes previously blocked off, or covered by suburban offices may become open to pedestrians again. The Walkscore will only take a serious upward movement when the first series of mixed use retail begins at Scotts Run, no word yet on that matter.
North — and Central Tysons — continues to lead the way in walkability, as it did 2 years ago. Completion of Adaire, Tysons 1775, the Tysons Plaza projects, and small projects such as 7900 Westpark Drive, has delivered new retail space, new trails, and new bike and pedestrian paths. There is still a lot to be improved here, including additional cross connections between Tysons Boulevard and Westpark, improvements at several heavily used intersections, etc. but North Central Tysons is a good goal in the short term for other parts of Tysons showing that even minor changes in the short term can create meaningful improvements in getting around.
Overall the above points to things we all know. Tysons hasn’t begun transforming fast enough. There has been a lot of effort to bring events, innovative companies, and new housing options. What needs attention now is micro-improvement, guerrilla planning concepts, and low cost solutions that don’t need to wait for high-rises decades from now to implement.
Over the past 5 plus years we have pointed to locations in Tysons that could do for road diets, and which could accomplish this with limited impact to traffic patterns. We have found the gaps in the network not in locations where it would be a sidewalk to nowhere, but where people live work and play today. We’ve gotta get better, and if that means the County needs volunteers to pour concrete or dig out for new walkways and trails then let’s get a call to arms, because there are people who are ready to see ideas become reality.