November 30, 2010

Bike Crash VMS

I'm woefully behind....between meetings and a mini-vacation for Thanksgiving, it's been a busy month.

But today, I found this of note:

It's a Variable Message Sign that was recently placed on Belle Haven Rd, just east of Fort Hunt Rd, looking for any witnesses to the November 14 bicycle crash that killed Christopher Benton. Witnesses are asked to call the number on the VMS...the number happened to be flashing when I took the photo.

November 02, 2010

Meetings galore...

Not one but two transportation-related meetings for me last night. With two more later in the week.

First up was a quick in-and-out at the Alexandria Pedestrian and Bicycle Citizens Group meeting (out quickly because I had to leave early for meeting #2), where I learned a few interesting tidbits:

- A planning study for the Holmes Run Trail tunnels near I-395 has begun.

- The Royal Netherlands Embassy will be hosting a 2-day bike workshop, titled the ThinkBike Workshops, on November 15-16. The workshop, in partnership with DDOT and MWCOG, will discuss all sorts of issues related to bicycle travel, discuss Dutch bicycle infrastructure and "best practices", and will include recommendations for improving bicycling in the DC area. The public is invited to the "closing session" on the evening of the 16th at Union Station. For more info, click on the links.

- MWCOG has shared some info from the Census American Community Survey, namely a comparison of bike commuting share for member jurisdictions from 1994 to 2007/08. Of note is Alexandria's bike commuting share during those 14 years, which skyrocketed from 0.7% in 1994 to 2.7% in 2007/08. While DC's share is larger overall (3.5% in 2007/08), Alexandria by far had the biggest percentage increase during the timeframe in question. Surprisingly, Arlington only posted a 0.3% increase, to 1.4% in 2007/08...though this might be explained in part due to development patterns. Much of Arlington's growth over the past 15 years has been along the Rosslyn-Ballson corridor, and it's reasonable to assume that those residents are commuting via Metro instead of by bike. Not surprisingly, Prince William County remained percent. Most other area jurisdictions had modest increases.

- Thought the region didn't win the TIGER 2 grant to expand Capitol Bikeshare, the city of Alexandria is looking at a smaller grant application (through MWCOG) that would allow for a limited expansion of CaBi into the city....enough to put a few stations in the Potomac Yards area (where the city would concentrate first).

After that, it was a quick trip to the transportation committee meeting for the Mount Vernon Council of Citizen's Associations. Recently, I became the alternate member on the committee for the Huntington Community Assocation, my neighborhood civic association. This represents my first real foray into the Fairfax County side of the house. While I'm officially a county resident, I've been attending the various Alexandria transportation-related meetings since I transferred here...something which I intend to continue.

This meeting started off with a recap by the committee chair of a forum she recently attended. On October 14, there apparently was a "Transportation and Traffic Solutions Forum" in DC, with guest speaker Ian Lockwood, a nationally known expert on traffic calming whose resume includes traffic calming projects on Route 50 in western Loudoun County and a stint as head of the West Palm Beach, FL Transportation Planning Division. The chair was quite impressed with some of the topics discussed at the forum by Mr. Lockwood, namely that widening of arterials may result in death of a business district (as apparently happened in West Palm Beach). Other items of interest included walkability and a roadway grid network.

This sparked a good bit of discussion at the meeting. Meeting attendees were mostly receptive to the walkability aspects, with several complaints about how Route 1/Richmond Hwy *ISN'T* pedestrian friendly. Discussion got less consensual when it came to the other aspects like road narrowing or a parallel grid. Many of the meeting attendees have been supporting (if not outright fighting for) a long-promised widening of Route 1 to 6 lanes, especially recently in light of BRAC changes at Ft. Belvoir and the expected congestion that will result from all the jobs moving to Ft. Belvoir and the Engineering Proving Ground. At the same time, it appears that both businesses along Route 1 and the neighborhoods immediately adjoining Route 1 are opposed to a wider corridor footprint. How to widen Route 1 while minimizing the footprint/impact has long been debated in this part of the county, with some residents and meeting members complaining that corridor businesses and even elected officials have been playing obstructionist to Route 1 improvements.

While a parallel grid was generally supported (from my viewpoint), there were concerns about right-of-way and redevelopment needs/impacts in order to shoehorn such a grid in along the Route 1 corridor.

During the meeting, a resolution was passed requesting the county, CTB, VDOT, and area officials secure funding for something else long-promised: a transit study along the Route 1/Richmond Hwy corridor. There was a definitive preference among committee members that the study be on RAIL transit. I took this as meaning that area residents (as represented by committee members...all from area neighborhood associations) are supported of rail transit along Richmond Hwy but would be opposed to bus lanes or some sort of BRT.

Concerns were also raised about the Fairfax County Trnasportation Bond Referendum (presumably on today's ballot). The question to voters was whether the county should raise $120 million in bonds to pay for transportation improvements. While the fact sheet associated with the referendum points out that the county's intent is to use this bond money for the county's share of WMATA's capital program, the main concern was with the wording of the referendum, which didn't specify this...leading some to speculate that the money would be used elsewhere if other money "was found" to cover the WMATA obligation.

Lastly, there's another forum featuring Ian Lockwood on the calendar. The Coalition for Smarter Growth is sponsoring a Future of Fairfax Forum, with Mr. Lockwood as one of the guest speakers. The forum will be on Wednesday evening, the 17th, in Mclean. Click on the link for more info and to RSVP.

More meetings later in the week, including the Alexandria Transportation Commission. Stay tuned.