An upcoming zoning change could both cut through some development red tape and make funding for transportation projects more accessible after years of noncompliance from developers.
The city is looking at reshaping Transportation Management Plans (TMP), one of the core pieces of any new development that’s remained basically unchanged since 1987. The goal of a TMP is to ensure new development promotes public transportation, walking, biking or rideshares rather than driving to work alone.
“TMPs often outline specific transportation requirements a development must carry out, such as offering an incentive program or shuttle bus to Metrorail,” a report on the proposed change said. “Developments fund their individual TMPs through an annual contribution into an account they manage and oversee.”
Most times, these plans involve dedicating funding transportation projects aimed at boosting public transit and other types of transportation. It’s a deal not unlike the way the city trades bonus density for affordable housing. There are currently 106 active TMPs around the city.
In the past, that funding has been divided up by individual projects and managed by individual developers with mixed results. The report noted that compliance is low because penalties are nominal. Development from before 2014 — which accounts for about 63 of the 106 total TMPs — only receive a $50 fine for not following their TMP.
“Administration of TMPs typically falls on property management, who often lack tools, expertise, and time to implement and oversee an effective TMP,” the report said. “Too many TMPs are doing different things with varying degrees of success, and many are not compliant with the requirements spending and reporting.”
To make matters worse, the report said the success of each TMP is difficult to measure and funding often sits unused in accounts.
“It is difficult to measure the success of TMPs since the surveys used to evaluate travel behaviors are administered by each TMP, and the data is unreliable due to low response rates,” the report said. “TMPs often accrue funds faster than they can be spent. It is administratively time-consuming for staff to coordinate with over 100 different TMP Coordinators that are frequently changing and have different levels of expertise.”
The new change would bring nearly all of the funding from TMPs into a single pot for coordinated use on city transportation projects.
“[The policy change requires] all but the largest developments to pay into a GO Alex Fund, which is managed by the City, rather than managing individual funds themselves,” the report said. “Developments over a certain size can still manage their own program with City oversight, but without paying into a City fund. The GO Alex Fund will be used to make transportation investments Citywide.”
The report said the city-managed fund would advance strategies in the Alexandria Multimodal Plan and other city transportation goals.
“The benefit of this change is that the single fund achieves economies of scale that individual TMP funds cannot,” the report said. “There are currently 106 separate funds, each of which have different programs to administer with different levels of available funding. By combining funding into one City-managed fund, the funding can be used more effectively.”
The new policy would also provide incentives for paying the obligation upfront, building transportation improvements on site, and locating development in an enhanced transit area — a place accessible to Metro or one of the city’s new high-intensity bus routes.
The change is scheduled for review at Planning Commission meeting the Tuesday, Dec. 6.
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