TDR decision the right one

The decision by the Sammamish City Council to approve an agreement with King County for transfer of development rights (TDR) from two small areas adjacent the city to the Town Center is a correct one.

An article reporting the agreement, with a map, may be found here.

The vote was 6-1 with Nancy Whitten against. Whitten has been fighting any additional residential units to the Town Center because of traffic implications. While Whitten properly raises questions, she unfortunately has diminished her credibility because virtually every objection revolves around her inability to exit her driveway on 229th Ave. across from Discovery School during rush hour.

Whitten asserts that there is no plan to mitigate traffic, and in this she is correct–but this is only part of the story. Here’s why:

  1. The Town Center Environmental Impact Statement assumed traffic generation up to 3,000 residential units and up to 675,000 sf of commercial space. Up to this point, traffic impacts are already accounted for.
  2. Any development applications have to undergo traffic analysis and traffic concurrency testing. If the development doesn’t meet these tests, it cannot go forward.

Thus, these are the two safeguards. These assume, of course, that the City periodically does new traffic counts to have the latest data available for the analysis and testing; that recognized and scientifically valid methods are used; and that the traffic analysis modeling is reasonably accurate.

These are all important elements to accurate traffic testing and analysis.

Whitten is right to be concerned about trip generation from the Town Center but rather than picking on TDRs that already fall within the EIS analysis, she should be more concerned about the effort last year by Mayor Don Gerend to do away with the nationally-accepted Trip Generation Manual used by cities and counties and states nationwide.

As we previously wrote, Gerend–who wants to pave over the Town Center with uneconomically sustainable commercial development and too many residential units–can only do so by ignoring transportation requirements and analysis provided by the Trip Generation Manual and the City’s own Level of Service and Traffic Concurrency standards. These are the issues Whitten should be concerned about.

The City can jam all the development it wants anywhere it wants if it disregards the Trip Generation Manual, lowers the Level of Service and alters traffic concurrency standards. The TDRs proposed by the City-County deal number 75 and this equates to 450 more trips (for multi-family residential units) in a 24 hour period–10% of which fall into rush hour, in both directions, on any given road segment. Rush hour is defined as a two hour period. So this is 45 more trips, bi-directionally, in two hours, dispersed in every direction from the Town Center.

Whitten’s concern is, of course, a little bit of more develop here and there and pretty soon you’re talking about a lot more trips. And this is a fair point. But the Town Center EIS is capped, and after this number is reached a supplemental EIS will be required for any more development.

The greater danger is:

  • lowering the Level of Service. This is measured by Levels A, B, C, D and F with “A” being very light traffic and “F” failing. Sammamish LOS is C and D, which by suburban standards in King County is pretty good. The City Council, in an entirely political decision, could adopt LOS F in which failure is an option. This means gridlock is possible on the affected intersections;
  • Scrapping the Trip Generation Manual, as Gerend proposed during deliberations of Town Center regulations; this would have the effect of ignoring nationally recognized standards of how many trips any development generates; or
  • Altering traffic concurrency standards, which regulates the volume of traffic on any given road segment.

These are the issues Whitten should more properly be concerned about during the balance of her tenure on the City Council, which is the remainder of this year.

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