Wednesday, October 13, 2010

BRT Betrayal

Tonight there is an important joint meeting between West Old Town Citizens Association and the Old Town Civic Association at 7:30 p.m. at the Lyceum (201 S. Washington Street). This landmark meeting is being arranged because the issue of bus rapid transit (BRT) on Patrick and Henry Streets through our two neighborhoods is back on the table. Vice Mayor Kerry Donley will be present, because he is promoting the idea of taxing commercial businesses along the routes to defray the cost.

If you live on either Patrick or Henry streets, you need to be at that meeting.

Last month the City unveiled plans for a new "Transitway Corridor Feasibility Study." Our neighborhood (naturally) is not represented on the study group membership roster.

Readers may remember that during the drafting of the City's Master Transportation Plan there was neighborhood uproar about the prospect of bus shelters in front of living room windows and the potential loss of parking that might happen if dedicated lanes were created. In response, the group writing the plan changed the description of the three proposed transit corridors from "Route 1" to "North-South," identifying a broad swathe of streets that could alternatives.

However, the Growler has always questioned the sincerity of the move. Ponder this description, included in the announcement about the new feasibility study:

North-South—This corridor follows US 1 and connects to future transit corridors in Fairfax and Arlington Counties. The North-South corridor would serve commuters, residents, and employees with origins and destinations along the corridor; would function as an alternative to Metrorail services (Blue and Yellow lines); and would improve access to key destinations within the city and in Fairfax and Arlington Counties such as Old Town, Potomac Yard, Crystal City, the Pentagon, and Ft. Belvoir.

So was the City's adoption of the "North-South" moniker sincere? Was it really their intention to review and evaluate all the alternatives? Or was the verbiage change designed to mask the intention to ultimately run over our community by forcing BRT or streetcars down Patrick and Henry Streets?

Judge for yourselves readers. The minutes from the July 2010 Transportation Commission meeting indicates "City Council approved a master plan to adopt three high capacity transit ways in the City on Route 1, Duke Street and the Van Dorn/Beauregard Corridor." Route 1 was specifically named, not a "North-South" corridor. Freudian slip?

And when Planning Commission's representative Jesse Jennings requested clarification about the Route 1 designation at the September Transportation Commission, stating he was was under the impression a specific route had not been established, former City Council member Justin Wilson admitted Council had "fuzzied it up" and laughed.

Not a smart thing to do in the presence of neighbors like Route 1 resident Charlotte Landis.

All in all, this latest group smells of a "done deal" with regard to mass transit. Why didn't Transportation & Environmental Services Director Rich Baier tell residents about this study group when he attended the September WOTCA meeting? Why does there need to be an alternative to the Blue and Yellow line on Metro when heavy rail offers the fastest service through Alexandria into Fairfax County?

Could this latest manipulation be one more indication that City leaders don't have the will or integrity to stand up to Fairfax County or Arlington (or DoD) in defense of its neighborhoods?