Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Another JHAA Meetup

Yet another JHAA meeting tonight:

"Alexandria City Public Schools will be holding a series of community meetings to highlight academic achievements and ongoing challenges in our schools. Superintendent Rebecca Perry will speak about important issues in education, followed by principals who will make brief presentations on their schools, and concluding with a question and answer period. Not every school will be featured at each meeting. See the list below. If your child is not currently a student and you do not know which school is in your attendance zone, please call 703-824-6710. RSVPs would be appreciated but are not required. Please call the ACPS Department of Information and Outreach at 703-824-6635 and indicate which meeting you plan to attend. Meetings will be:

. . . .

East End - Tuesday, April 24, 5:30 - 6:30 p.m.
At Mount Vernon Community School, 2601 Commonwealth Ave.

Schools:

Mount Vernon Community School
Jefferson-Houston School for Arts and Academics
Cora Kelly School for Math, Science and Technology
Lyles-Crouch Traditional Academy
George Washington Middle School
Minnie Howard 9th Grade Center
T.C. Williams High School

For more information, contact the Department of Information and Outreach at 703-824-6635.

License to Fill

If the Growler did not race to the computer to cover last week's transportation meetings, it's because much of what was discussed at both sessions was at a regional, macro level. There weren't lots of specifics about Alexandria, although there were a few more local details at the Mayor's forum.

Nevertheless, in an indirect fashion the presentations underscored how intense development in central suburbs like Alexandria is being touted as a measure to reduce pressure on transportation systems. Count that as one more factor in the thinking behind the stalled Braddock Road Metro small area plan.

Fortunately, other alternatives have been identified, including pushing jobs as well as housing to the outer Virginia suburbs like Loudoun County or promoting more development on the eastern side of the region, including Prince George's County where many of our cross-Alexandria commuters originate.

The first transportation session, sponsored by the Federation of Civic Associations, featured a presentation by staff members of the Transportation Planning Board of the Metropolitan Council of Governments. If you remember from past Growler articles, local transportation projects that require Federal funding must be run through the TPB to be added to the list of regionally blessed projects.

The basis for the discussion at this meeting was the TPB study "The Regional Mobility and Accessibility Scenario Study," and the accompanying document "What if the Washington region grew differently?" With no end in sight to population and job growth in the Washington area, TPB undertook the study to try to grapple with the implications for traffic and congestion.

The study developed several scenarios for transportation planning, including (1) what if more people who work here lived here, (2) what if people lived closer to their jobs, (3) what if there were more development on the eastern side of the region (i.e., Prince George's County), and (4) what if more people lived and worked closer to transit? Each scenario was analyzed to determine whether it would have a positive or negative impacts on congestion.

At this meeting, the audience was broken into small groups and asked to perform an exercise in planning (groan!), indicating on a regional map where jobs, housing and transportation would be sited if we had our way and if money were no object. It ended up as a pleasantly challenging game: the Growler's table built a new high-speed rail system paralleling the Beltway with limited stops. Nothing like being told there are no spending limits!

The second, third, and fourth scenarios were described by TPB as having positive regionwide impacts on congestion. Nevertheless, it is the fourth scenario that should have Parker-Gray residents most concerned, since it proposes more jobs and housing closer to transit and proposes an extensive transit network including more commuter and Metro rail as well as BRT.

The Mayor's Forum featured a grave panel of suits talking about transportation. Mayor William D. Euille kicked off the presentations with a discussion of recent state legislation that will provide more local dollars for transportation. He also touched on the enhanced taxing authority to be granted to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) to fund local jurisdictions with transit and roads projects. Other panelists discussed TransAction 2030 (a project of NVTA), the impact of more train cars on Metro, the possibility of privately-built HOT lanes (which motorists would pay to use), the prospect of rail across Wilson Bridge, and future expansion of DASH bus service in Alexandria.

But one principal question remains unanswered for those of us living in Parker-Gray: should neighborhoods like ours be sacrificed to accommodate regional transportation needs? Can enhanced transportation be reconciled with the protection of existing neighborhoods?