Friday, May 04, 2007

The Weekend Report

BRT on Route 1: Still Alive and Kicking

In recent weeks word has been circulating that the Ad Hoc Transportation Task Force might focus more on the Duke and Van Dorn Street corridors for bus rapid transit (BRT) and less on Route 1, particularly Patrick and Henry Streets in our neighborhood. Also heard: a rumor that Transportation & Environmental Services Director Rich Baier was paying lip service to the BRT concept in the hopes that it would be shot down by citizens.

The Growler isn't sure if this was part of a disinformation campaign or reflects a genuine split of opinion among task force members. At the least, this is a sign that things are getting a little Byzantine.

Well, the Growler heard it from the Task Force members' own lips on Thursday: Route 1 is still definitely going to be proposed as one of the three major transit corridors.

While members reiterated that no decisions have been made on "sequencing," the schedule for tackling each corridor, readers should recall that at the last meeting Eric Wagner was vigorously pumping DOT's new Small Starts grant program for less gargantuan urban transit projects, and proposed bundling Route 1 and Duke Street together for a first stage grant application. He was back pushing Small Starts again on Wednesday night.

One little sop: if Federal funds are sought for BRT, there will be a required "alternatives" study that might look at some other nearby North-South routes such as Powhatan to Washington Street.

But right now, Patrick and Henry Street residents in Parker-Gray should remain vigilant because BRT is alive and kicking. Just because references to it may be removed from the draft Braddock Road Metro small area plan, that doesn't mean the concept is dead and buried.

And the Growler is predicting that the special tax district language will remain in the Braddock Road plan, just as it is included in the Eisenhower East and Potomac Yard plans.

Low-Income Housing at 728 N. Patrick Street?

A concerned reader E-mailed the Growler after hearing rumors of new low-income housing at 728 N. Patrick Street. The address is the site of the old Canal 8 Club, a major dive that was shut down years ago by neighborhood activists.

The Growler has traced this rumor to a March budget memo that appears to have been requested by Council Member Rob Krupicka as a follow-up to Mayor William D. Eiulle's Inner City walk last April. The memo includes discussion about the possibility of site reuse for housing, which seems to have been raised by someone on the walk.

While it appears from the memo that the City is not anxious to buy the property, since it would have to pay to relocate other businesses currently operating on the site, this is nevertheless something to keep an eye on.

Mayor's Walk

Speaking of the Mayor's 2006 walk, what ever happened to the proposal for another Mayor's Walk this year? If readers recall, we were told it would be scheduled in April but this time would be held in the evening.

If this walk ever materializes, will the Mayor have the fortitude to walk around Adkins at 11 PM on a Friday or Saturday night?

Soft-Room Idea for Charles Houston

Moms of toddlers have complained before on this site about the lack of park features and recreational facilities suitable for wee ones.

One of our neighbors has now floated the idea of dedicating space at Charles Houston Recreation Center for more a "soft playroom." She writes:

I realize most of you don't have children and probably don't even know what this is. It is a padded room with soft padded climbing equipment in it that is designed for young children ages 1 thru 4. I myself have rented one for a birthday party at a Fairfax County rec center.

Apparently soft playrooms are all the rage now, and in fact a proposal to convert a racquetball room at the Chinquapin Recreation Center has ignited a small war currently being conducted in the pages of the Alexandria Times.

If you are interested in seeing a soft playroom constructed at Charles Houston, drop an E-mail to Leslie Clark of the Recreation & Parks Department at leslie.clark@alexandriava.gov.

Missing in Action

The Growler was sad to hear that neighbors' vintage Schwinn Twinn tandem bicycle was stolen from their backyard last weekend as the family ate dinner.

This was clearly a targeted burglary and a thief with a discriminating eye because the bike was normally kept hidden under a tarp. To add insult to injury, someone stole their grandson's bike the following day. Grrrrrrrrrrrrrr!

It's a fact of life in an urban neighborhood: garden accessories, barbecue equipment and bikes may disappear from backyards at this time of the year. The Growler and others have even lost potted plants off porches and stoops.

(A former Growler colleague who lives in Columbia Heights in D.C. recounts an amusing story about catching the thief in the act and chasing him for several city blocks until he dropped the pot with a resounding crack. At least the posies were preserved, if not the container.)

In the meantime, if anyone catches sight of an orange tandem bicycle that screams 1970s, the Growler will pass it on to the owner and her heart-broken hubby, who are prepared to offer a reward for the bike's return with no questions asked.