Monday, January 07, 2008

The Task Force Fires Back

After posting "The Lost History of BRT" last week, the Growler heard from Ad Hoc Transportation Task Force member George Foote, whose reply is printed below.

Take note who Mr. Foote sees as benefitting from BRT on Route 1 in his theoretical examples.

And finally, don't forget that tonight (Monday, January 7, 2008) at 6 p.m. we will have the next to last Braddock Metro Plan community worksession on transportation at Jefferson Houston Elementary School.


Happy New Year to you.

Thank you for your attention to the draft Transportation Master Plan and for your contributions to the conversation about transportation in Alexandria. In your post, you got a lot of things right, but you missed the bus badly on others. I am the George Foote referred to in your post of January 1, 2008 and I hope I can clear up a few things for you.

First, that PowerPoint presentation that I prepared for the Ad Hoc Transportation Planning and Policy Task Force indeed was not, to use your phrase, a "mere intellectual lark." It was a serious, though inexpert, effort to show how Alexandria's population and workforce of 25 years from now might be served by new transportation facilities. It represented solely my thoughts about ideal transit for the City, based on Council of Government projections and drawing on my experience of living in Alexandria for more than 30 years. I shared it with the task force and with Council just to spur the conversation about our transportation future. The task force had many other and better ideas as well.

I should emphasize that the presentation was never considered a proposal for the task force. Moreover, to characterize it as serving some dark force, as you do, is wrong. I did not create it to serve any outside party's interest, and most decidedly did not set it up to serve the Base Realignment and Closure Commision (BRAC). And for you to toss off some comment about task force members changing routes for their own parochial interest is just poisonous.

You missed another bus by setting up a false dichotomy between Alexandrians' interest and that of others when it comes to travel through Parker Gray. The question is not whether a north-south transit system serves the Pentagon or Alexandria. Of course, it serves both. Every colonel we move from her car to a transit vehicle on Route 1 will help reduce traffic and noise for residents of Patrick Street, will help the colonel do her work for the Pentagon, and will make it easier for Rosemont residents to get to offices and shops in Old Town.

While our emphasis should certainly be on meeting Alexandria's mobility needs, we cannot ignore the fact that we share traffic issues with our neighbors in the region and sometimes solutions of their problems will solve ours as well.

North-south commuting through Alexandria is a fact and, BRAC or no BRAC, the traffic is going to increase. Should we spend our time making some snarky arguments about who an improvement favors until our streets become all-day parking lots? Of course not. We should find ways to improve the situation for everyone by making more efficient use of our available street space, reducing the number and noxiousness of the vehicles that pass through, and using the new facilities to improve the quality of life and business in Alexandria.

Here is what you got right: Patrick and Henry may not be the right place to put the new facilities. The task force recognized that many transit questions remain open, especially in the Route 1 corridor. There are limits to where a new facility can go, of course, but the community, and I mean the whole community, should review the questions you raise and many other questions about impacts and benefits of the alternatives. The city will need to review routes, type of transit vehicles, location of stations, parking arrangements. We don't have to put new infrastructure any particular place, but we have to put it someplace.

You are also on track to suggest that maybe we don't need to install new transit facilities in the Route 1 corridor immediately. We have transit needs in all corners of the City, so it may be advisable to solve the transportation problems along, say, Duke Street, with the first available funding and live with the worsening traffic issues along Route 1 until additional resources are available.

With the help of Congressman Moran and many others and with the new resources available to the City for transportation improvements, Alexandria can address the mobility challenges that bother us all. We won't do it by pretending we don't need
to do anything.

Thanks for keeping the conversation going.

George M. Foote, Partner
Bracewell & Giuliani LLP
2000 K Street NW
Suite 500
Washington, D.C. 20006-1872
Phone: 202.828.7624
Fax: 202.857.2141