Land Use and Transportation Policy for Cool Counties

 Board of Supervisors’ Environmental Agenda and the County’s Comprehensive Plan

Cool CountiesBoth the Board of Supervisors’ Environmental Agenda and the county’s Comprehensive Plan support development in transit-oriented, pedestrian friendly, mixed use centers.

The concentration of new development in relatively high intensity, transit-oriented centers characterized by a mix of residential, employment and retail uses, and the provision of opportunities for non-motorized transportation to, from and within these centers should serve to reduce, in aggregate, the number of motor vehicle trips and vehicle miles traveled, and the associated CO2 emissions, that would otherwise occur through more traditional suburban development patterns in the region.  Numerous Area Plan Amendment and zoning actions have been taken to encourage and implement this approach to development, and the Board of Supervisors has adopted a definition and guidance for transit-oriented development in the Comprehensive Plan

Transportation Programs

Numerous transportation programs reduce vehicle trips and vehicle miles traveled, thereby reducing overall CO2 emissions. These include:

  • Employer Services Program – Promotes transportation demand management strategies and associated outreach efforts to employers in Fairfax County, reducing single occupancy vehicle trips.

  • South County Bus Plan – This program has increased bus ridership significantly on Richmond Highway.

  • Fairfax County Transit Program – This multi-modal transportation program supports Metro and Virginia Railway Express services. Metrorail trains will soon expand to eight-car trains, VRE is replacing existing cars with double deck passenger cars, and CUE bus service will continue to be subsidized.  Ridership on all transit systems (Fairfax Connector, Metro, VRE) serving the county has increased.  To further encourage the use of mass transit, on Code Red and Purple days, transit systems throughout the region, including Fairfax Connector, offer free rides to passengers.

  • Ridesources – This program provides ride-matching services to county employees and residents along with a marketing program to encourage its use.

  • County Telework Program - Currently, more than 1,000 county employees telework. Fairfax County is the first jurisdiction to reach — and then exceed — the regional goal set by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments to have 20 percent of the eligible workforce teleworking by the end of 2005.  The county's outreach efforts on telework and other transportation demand management efforts have broader benefits countywide.

  • Trails - Facilities that support non-motorized transportation also serve to reduce motor vehicle trips and motor vehicle miles traveled. The county has provided substantial funding for the construction of trails in support of non-motorized transportation.

Tree Preservation and Planting

Planting efforts can also reduce CO2 concentrations, as trees sequester carbon by absorbing CO2 during photosynthesis and by storing carbon as biomass.

For every acre of forest that the county is able to preserve and keep healthy, approximately 20 to 30 tons of carbon is stored. Fairfax County’s tree canopy is currently estimated to cover 41 percent (104,000 acres) of the county; therefore, this equates to between roughly two and three million tons of carbon storage.

An earlier study estimated that the biomass of the county’s tree canopy stored over 3.5 million tons of carbon. It has also been estimated that the county’s current tree canopy absorbs and stores an additional 11,700 tons of carbon annually. A single tree is capable of absorbing and storing an additional 600 to 700 pounds of carbon per year. It has therefore been calculated that between 110 and 130 trees can offset the carbon “footprint” (77,400 pounds of carbon dioxide) that is estimated to be produced by each household in Virginia annually. These data underscore the value of the county’s urban forestry programs and other efforts that serve to protect and restore tree cover.

Requirements for the preservation of Resource Protection Areas and commitments during the zoning process to tree preservation efforts, landscaping efforts and the preservation and restoration of Environmental Quality Corridors all serve to enhance overall carbon sequestration, thereby supporting reduced atmospheric CO2 concentrations. The establishment and enforcement of limits of clearing and grading on site plans, subdivision plans and grading plans also support reductions in CO2 concentrations, as do tree planting initiatives and public outreach focusing on land stewardship issues such as tree preservation and planting.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has adopted a tree canopy cover goal for the county of 45 percent coverage by the year 2037 and has approved a tree conservation ordinance to strengthen tree preservation policies and procedures.  In addition, trees were identified as a special area of interest in the FY 2008 Environmental Improvement Program. PDF

The county continues to support legislative efforts to strengthen local government authority to require tree preservation during development.


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