Past and Current Tysons
Tysons Corner today is centered on its two malls and its fleet of office buildings, along with hotels and additional retail. It is considered part of the technology business corridor that stretches west to Reston, as Tysons is home to many large tech companies – some of whom where around since they witnessed the rise of the Internet Age. The economic core of Fairfax County, Tysons Corner is a huge business district drawing in over 100,000 workers on a typical weekday.
The immense Tysons Corner Center mall opened in 1968, and the more upscale Tysons Galleria mall (commonly called Tysons 2) opened nearby twenty years later. Tysons 2 is not attached to Tysons Corner Center mall; though it is possible to walk between the two malls, it’s not recommended because there are few sidewalks or crosswalks. The crosswalks that exist are by no means consistent – right now you can’t make the walk without having to scamper across at least a couple of lanes while watching for car traffic. There are many curved turn lanes leading to mall entrances that prevent cars from needing to slow down much, while exposing people on foot to more risk when crossing. In the original iteration of Tysons Corner, pedestrian access has typically been an oversight.
Being a very popular shopping destination, the Tysons Corner Center mall experiences a mind-numbing amount of traffic during the holiday season. I currently work in the area, and many of my coworkers’ commutes take them twice as long in December – and 30 minutes to an hour of that is just sitting in traffic leaving the mall. Metrobuses trying to get into and out of the mall area also take significantly longer, stretching the usual 15 minute ride to the West Falls Church Metro to an hour or longer.
And despite the immense draw of Tysons Corner for business and shopping, it lacks residents. There are very few people living here, very few amenities to attract more to stay past closing time, and very few ways to get around without a car in the evenings.
Tysons Corner in the 1950s was originally planned with accessibility by private automobile in mind, and is only now shifting to more transit-oriented development. Right now, the best way to reach Tysons Corner by public transit is using bus lines that run through the area from the West Falls Church Metro station. The 28A, 28X, and 28T all make a stop at the mall and run on a frequent schedule during rush hour. However, the future Metro Silver Line will bridge this connection, making parts of Tysons Corner reachable without the need to transfer to a bus.
The current plan for the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project (dubbed the “Silver Line”) will construct Metrorail stations in two phases along the Dulles Corridor in Loudoun, Fairfax, and Arlington counties. Phase 1, currently under construction, is set to connect the currently existing West Falls Church Metro station to the future stations in Tysons Corner and at Wiehle Avenue in Reston – total of five new stations. These should open in 2013 if construction stays on schedule. Phase 2 will later add six additional stations, connecting Reston to Herndon, the Dulles Airport (IAD), and Ashburn.
For Tysons Corner, Metrorail access will be a huge boon. Mass transit will allow more people to come without a car and will spur the growth of new types of businesses around these stations. Adding Metrorail connections also helps accommodate the heavy seasonal traffic to Tysons without further congesting the nearby area.
The Comprehensive Plan
So, there’s a need to build stronger transit links, design the area to be more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly, add residential and retail development to attract people to live in Tysons, and make it a place of activity around the clock. The Comprehensive Plan approved in 2010 aims to just that. It envisions 100,000 residents living in Tysons Corner and 200,000 jobs by the year 2050. Malcolm Kenton of Greater Greater Washington summarizes the Tysons master plan:
The new Tysons, in addition to very dense evenly mixed-use development near the three Metro stations, will feature an urban circulator, which could take the form of a streetcar or a rapid bus line. An expanded network of on-road bike lanes and off-road bicycle & pedestrian paths, as well as bike parking minimums, will help increase non-auto modes’ share of daily commuters from just three percent today to 36 percent in 2030.
Not including the construction of Silver Line and HOT lanes, this will cost $1.698 billion over 20 years. This will eventually decrease total automobile traffic to the area as other modes of transportation become more convenient. A liveable and walkable place would be a vast improvement on what is currently Tysons Corner. I’m eager to see these plans play out over the coming years, aligning the ‘new’ Tysons Corner with the ideals of transit-oriented development.
For further reading, see…
Transforming Tysons Corner: A High-Stakes Suburban Retrofit on DC Streetsblog
Tysons highlighted as global example for smart growth on Greater Greater Washington
Refocus the Transportation Network on Fairfax County’s website
Internet Alley: High Technology in Tysons Corner, 1945-2005 by Paul Ceruzzi