One University: Transportation Study for Affordable Housing in Fairfax County - Wells + Associates

Nicholas Kosar

One University is a development in Fairfax County, Virginia adjacent to George Mason University. Formerly the location of parking lots, an office building, and residential dwellings, the property now includes 46 affordable townhomes (Robinson Square). 

Wells + Associates performed a transportation study related to this affordable housing development, including analyses of parking, access, and trip generation and distribution. Notably, our analysis took into consideration the implementation of Transportation Demand Management (TDM) strategies along with anticipated heavy reliance on multimodal transportation by the now approved affordable housing and student housing land uses. In addition to analyzing complex transportation challenges for this development, Wells + Associates negotiated a significant and sometimes contentious community engagement process. 

Student housing at the site was developed by RISE, an industry leader in multi-family and student housing development, management, and financing. Affordable housing was developed by SCG Development, a national affordable housing developer.  

Background of One University Redevelopment

In 2018, the One University redevelopment was proposed, with the subject site located on the north side of University Drive between Chancery Park Drive to the west and Ox Road (VA 123) to the east. At the time, the property was occupied by an office building, residential dwelling units, and surface parking lots.  

As Fairfax County describes this project 

The redevelopment of One University is a critical component for expanding the county’s affordable housing portfolio and will quintuple the number of affordable homes on the site – to include both multifamily and senior housing opportunities. All affordable units will serve individuals and families earning up to 60 percent of the Area Median Income (or roughly $77,400 for a family of four based on fiscal year 2021 figures). 

Transportation and Parking Studies for Affordable Housing

graphic showing Figure 1 site location and study intersections for One University in Fairfax County, VA

Our analysis of the site included both surface and structured parking areas that would serve the site. Access was also a focus of concern, with access to be provided via two of the existing driveways, thus resulting in the closure of three driveways along University Drive. In addition, our studies included capacity and queueing as well as recommendations for improvements to University Drive/Ox Road.  

The parameters of the transportation study were scoped with the Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), with the scope of work signed by both agencies. The transportation study included 11 nearby intersections both within Fairfax County and the City of Fairfax as well as site driveways that would be potentially impacted by the proposal. 

As agreed to during scoping, analyses of the number of weekday AM and PM peak hour trips that would be generated by the development were calculated based on standard rates and equations published by ITE in the Trip Generation Manual, 9th Edition.  

Unique Trip Generation Aspects of Multifamily and Student Housing

At the request of FCDOT and VDOT staff, standard multi-family apartment trip generation rates were utilized for all three buildings on the property. But there were unique aspects to the study that should be noted, including:  

  • The usage of this trip generation methodology produced a conservative result given that actual uses exhibit different travel characteristics than those of multi-family apartment housing, resulting in less peak hour and overall trips.  
  • The approved site uses (affordable housing and student housing) heavily rely on multimodal transportation modes.  
  • The trips were assigned to the local road network using distribution percentages that were agreed to with FCDOT and VDOT, and were based on existing traffic patterns, VDOT traffic models, and engineering judgement. 

graphic showing Figure 2 a map for roadway improvement recommendations for One University in Fairfax County, VA

Transportation Study Conclusions

As we can now see, the approved One University development was conceptualized to deliver a vibrant residential project offering many housing options at the University Drive/Ox Road intersection by George Mason University. The recommended improvements in the study along with the implementation of the Transportation Demand Management (TDM) program were proposed to mitigate potential transportation impacts of the proposed development. 

Image Sources: Images courtesy DCS Design