Saturday, April 28, 2012

Squeeze Play

On Wednesday, May 2 the Alexandria Transportation Commission will meet to review the recommendations of the High Capacity Transit Corridor working group regarding Corridor A (north-south on Washington or Route 1). 

This is an issue of great concern for our community, especially beleaguered home owners who live on N. Patrick or N. Henry Streets and are already prey to vibration, noise, cracks in their homes' foundations, and safety hazards from pass-through traffic.  They also face the potential seizure of the much-needed parking lanes for dedicated bus rapid transit.

Word is that a certain Council candidate wants to override the unanimous findings of the citizen member Work Group. Why? Because Fairfax County may have later through-traffic transportation needs.

The Work Group concluded that Corridor A should not be pursued and no dedicated lanes provided. It seems Fairfax County has decided to terminate its Richmond Highway bus rapid transit at Huntington Metro.

It's bad enough that Alexandria citizens are once again being prepared on the sacrificial altar to appease Fairfax County commuters, but are we also getting the squeeze play from Arlington?

The candidate's recently published campaign finance disclosure form indicates he's received money from Arlington County's transit mouthpiece, Chris Hamilton.  Mr. Hamilton's official title is Commuter Services Chief for Arlington County's Department of Transportation , and he is also the author of CommuterPage Blog

So why in the context of City politics do Alexandrians matter less than our non-voting neighbors? 

When Planning Commissioner Stew Dunn is asked the question -- often in joint meetings -- the pass-through traffico Planning Commissioner typically says no.

"No" is a good answer.  Perhaps the best answer.

POSTSCRIPT:

The Growler received an E-mail on Sunday from Justin Wilson about this blog posting.  Here is the Growler's response to Mr. Wilson:

Justin:

I am sorry we are having a “Rashomon” moment; that you believe I am being untruthful.  We talked about two issues on April 18:  the first was the High Capacity Transit Corridor Working Group’s December 2011 resolution that there not be dedicated transit lanes on Route 1, which you supported.  The second was a proposal which was then being discussed by Commission members to remove references to Corridor A from the Master Plan, since the resolution advised against the dedicated lanes. This you told me you did not support.  

As we discussed the removal of the Corridor references from the Master Plan, you asked a rhetorical question: without such an option in the Plan, how would you be able to respond if Fairfax County suddenly decided in the future to run light rail to the Alexandria border?  To me, this was the lynchpin moment. 

Supporting the original Working Group resolution is one thing.  Opposing an amendment to the Transportation Master Plan to reflect the fact that the Working Group said no to dedicated transit lanes effectively overrides the Working Group's determination of non-feasibility.  It keeps Corridor A in play for some future date. 

If the language relating to Corridor A stays in the Master Plan, the City could come back at any time and insist on revisiting the idea of dedicated lanes for buses or streetcars on N. Patrick or N. Henry Streets. This means neighbors will continue to face threats to the integrity of their homes’ structures, their physical safety, their peace and quietude, and their quality of life. 

I recall that you also asked me if I had looked at the City’s 10-year CIP budget lately, presumably because there is no room there for a Corridor A extension.  But any short-term dearth of resources to pay for this does not provide long-term protection for our community.  After all, you and Rob Krupicka successfully revived the issue of a Potomac Yard Metro station.  Our community strongly supports an infill station in the Yard, and continues to applaud your political courage.  We appreciate your stewardship – and only ask for reasonable consideration for our neighborhood.  

The permanent barriers to a Corridor A’s extension involve more than funding.  They include not only physical limitations, but also effects that will directly impact Route 1 residents’ daily living situations.

If I am wrong and you now support removing Corridor A south of Braddock Metro from the Plan – as well as supporting the original Work Group resolution – I will be happy to retract.

Perhaps now is also the time to clear up a discrepancy that has puzzled the neighborhood for many months.  Attached is a file which is provided as supplemental information for Wednesday's Transportation Commission agenda.  This document, dated June 1, 2011, lists the City's long range transportation priorities.  Near the top of the list, #3, is "Construction of extension of CCPY transitway south of Braddock Road to connect to King Street station."  Why make Corridor A a priority six months before the Working Group finished its deliberations, especially when the Working Group's opinion is not to proceed with dedicated lanes on Route 1?

Leslie







16 comments:

Nat said...

SIGH! Just when our family thought the Route 1 problem solved, the joy boys again rear their ugly heads.

The candidate undoubtedly is Wilson. No doubt his sidekick, Krupicka, is standing nearby. Krupicka always takes care of his baby bro. Too bad neither is especially smart.

Cowards, every last one of them. Dare we explain how unholy the study is? The city celebrates an electric car history but today Del Ray forbids revisiting the route.

If BRT is not good enough for the bros' backyard, then it's not good enough for ours. Plunking, anyone?

Jennifer said...

There aren't enough expletives in my vocabulary to describe my disgust. Do Wilson and Krupicka not understand the task force vote was unanimous?

Sounds like the pelulant one had a snit fit and is fighting now to get his way. Do the joy boys not understand why they lose their races?

Remember how obnoxious Wilson was in dealing with Hopkins House parking issues? He lost at Council, was made to secure staff parking, and HH staff is happier than before.

Before and after, Wilson-style.

S&P said...

"There aren't enough expletives in my vocabulary to describe my disgust."

Growler, we plan to attend the transportation meeting and would appreciate your giving us the exact wording of the Corridor A resolution as passed by the Task Force members? Your story does not provide a link. Many, many thanks!

Froggie said...

@S&P: Page 3 of this document has what you're looking for.

There's a couple items I'd like to address here. I've attended all of the transit corridor meetings and heard numerous comments. Lately, there's been the impression among some (and perpetuated by this particular blog post) that dedicated transit lanes along Patrick and Henry was the ONLY option being considered through Old Town. Hardly the case. There were several north-south options that were looked at, as far east as Washington St. But everyone seemed fixated on Patrick/Henry and I believe that fixation influenced the work group's decision.

Furthermore, by stopping Corridor A at Braddock Rd, it's not going to connect to Corridor B along Duke Street. So even without factoring in other jurisdictions, you're crimping travel within Alexandria without some sort of extension.

Something I heard almost nothing about during the corridor meetings, or from residents for that matter: why not route it immediately next to the Metro between Braddock Rd and King St? Plenty of room there.

Contrary to the blog post writer, I don't see "No" as a viable option. "No" simply perpetuates the traffic sewer that is currently Old Town, especially during rush hour and on the weekends. The only way to mitigate that traffic is to get effective transit going to...AND THROUGH...Old Town. The Yellow Line alone isn't going to cut it, especially for east-west traffic (i.e. coming in from Duke St or King St). And the only way transit can be effective in heavy traffic is if it has its own lanes.

Anonymous said...

Your report borders on libel and certainly is unethical.
Wilson told you 10 days ago that he did not favor BRT on Route 1 or Washington Street. And to suggest that he changed his view for $150 is below the belt.

I am against BRT on corridor A and have contributed to Wilson's campaign. He was a thoughtful Councilman.

The Growler said...

Here is the wording of the Working Group resolution:

Whereas the Alexandria Comprehensive Transportation Master Plan conceptually
envisioned the eventual location of high capacity transit in dedicated lanes in the
portion of Corridor A south of Braddock METRO Station; and

Whereas the High Capacity Transit Corridor Work Group was appointed to recommend methods for implementing the Alexandria Comprehensive Transportation Master Plan to City Council;

Be it hereby resolved that the High Capacity Transit Corridor Work Group recommends that there be no dedicated-lane high capacity transit on the portion of Corridor A south of Braddock METRO Station. Instead, the High Capacity Transit
Corridor Work Group recommends that resources be used to explore the possibility of putting circulator buses/trolleys or other forms of conventional and scale
appropriate transit in this portion of the City.

The Growler said...

Thanks for your comments, Froggie. The Growler chatted with you at the transit meetings relating to Corridor A and recalls that you live in Huntington in Fairfax County. Don’t you commute to the Pentagon for a temporary assignment and are heading to a new posting in Norfolk next month?

Froggie probably already knows first-hand the value and speed of having a heavy rail connection to get from Huntington to the Pentagon: it takes only 15 minutes according to WMATA’s schedules. A bus between those points is going to be a lot more time consuming.

Parker-Gray residents strongly support the idea of Fairfax County residents like you parking at Huntington and then riding Metro to get to points north. In fact, we’ve been collectively recommending this for a decade or two, and that’s what Fairfax County’s strategy consistently remains as far as north-south connectivity. However, Froggie says he often bikes because the shuttle service from his complex to metro doesn’t run frequently and there are 30-minute headers for the #9 bus – which itself takes 38 minutes at morning rush hour to reach the Pentagon from Huntington.

While it is true that homeowners who live in Alexandria along Patrick and Henry Streets seem to have focused single-mindedly on Route 1’s proposed role in Corridor A, in fact they are not without reason. Froggie might not have been in the area back in 2005-when the Ad Hoc Transportation Task Force meetings were held. At that time, the Task Force identified Corridor A exclusively as Route 1. It was only later, before adoption of the controversial Transportation Master Plan, that Washington Street and streets in between were added to the mix and the potential Corridor A was expanded eastward.

BTW, Froggie talked about east-west traffic. We in Parker-Gray have also asked that question but with a different twist: stand on Henry Street at evening rush hour, and you’ll see a big percentage of the cars heading south have Maryland plates. BRT on Route 1 won’t fix that problem.

Anonymous said...

"And the only way transit can be effective in heavy traffic is if it has its own lanes."

That is exactly why it won't work in the southern part of Corridor A - there is no room to expand Washington, Patrick, Henry or West streets to create a dedicated lane for transit. Seriously, some houses sit less than 10 feet from the road! The only way to create space for dedicated lanes would be to buy out the homeowners along one or both sides of the street. Not only would that be prohibitively expensive but would also destroy many historic homes, which are exactly what makes Alexandria unique.

The city is investing millions in a new metro station. Metro is the best transit answer.

Anonymous said...

"That is exactly why it won't work in the southern part of Corridor A - there is no room to expand Washington, Patrick, Henry or West streets to create a dedicated lane for transit. Seriously, some houses sit less than 10 feet from the road! The only way to create space for dedicated lanes would be to buy out the homeowners along one or both sides of the street. Not only would that be prohibitively expensive but would also destroy many historic homes, which are exactly what makes Alexandria unique."

This is the crux of the matter; only Alexandria has neighborhoods at stake in this matter, unlike those pushing these plans from Arlington and Fairfax County. And the officials from those jurisdictions always choose neighborhood concerns over the broader regional traffic concerns (i.e. non-Alexandria-based commuters using our city as a cost-free pass-through).

If that weren't the case, we'd have expanded lanes of I-66 for the regional good all throughout Arlington, and the streets of Route 7 from I-395 west through Tysons Corner would have dedicated bus and rail transit lanes courtesy of Fairfax County's visionary traffic planning that put commuter concerns over several neighborhoods who would oppose such plans. Let's be real; Baier et al smell extra Fed transit funds and care not one whit if our neighborhoods suffer if that's what it takes for some free green. Sorry, but it's time for Alexandria to do what Arl. and Faiorfax officials would do in this case, and that's put neighboorhood concerns above those of pass-through commuters, end of story. Route your special shuttles in the new HOT lanes and HOV lanes and you'll move people fine.

Froggie said...

@The Growler: you must've read my commuting blog posts over the past few months. Yes, I often bike-commuted when I was at the Pentagon...travel time was comparable to the 9A bus (without having to deal with a 30min headway), and definitely cheaper than the Yellow Line.

I mentioned earlier that relying on getting folks to the Yellow Line won't cut it. There's a reason for this. First, Metro ridership projections suggest that in the future, the Yellow Line will be the most jammed metro line, especially crossing the river (which very much suggests the need for more cross-river capacity). Second, the Richmond Hwy corridor has Fairfax County's most transit-dependent population, and these are people who in my experience have jobs in Old Town, the existing retail in Potomac Yard, or in Crystal City. These riders often are unable or unwilling to ride Metro....I see it all the time with the number of folks transferring between the 9A bus and the REX or Fairfax Connector 171.

Accommodating these riders efficiently, especially as we get more of them in the future, will require either extending Corridor A to Huntington, or extending the Fairfax County bus lines (171 and REX in particular) to Braddock Rd. One option that I recently saw suggested is extending the REX up to Braddock Rd. There's apparently a flyer circulating around that is very fearful of this option, although I've also seen an E-mail from a West St resident who makes very good points about how it's not that bad. And it's definitely an option to bridge the gap.

As for the number of Maryland commuters who drive through Old Town, true BRT along Route 1 won't fix that. But what would fix it is a decent transit connection across the Wilson Bridge. This is one reason why the Wilson Bridge was designed/built to accommodate a heavy rail line in the wide left shoulder in the Thru Lanes. Connecting that to King St would be a boon to cross-river travel, and you'd get a lot of those Maryland commuters to switch to it.

@Anonymous: no, buying out the houses is NOT the only way to get dedicated lanes for transit. First off, there is a wide expanse of open space immediately next to the Metro between Braddock Rd and Cameron St...this could be used for bus lanes. Secondly, the Transportation Master Plan has an item within it, often cited by Poul Hertel during the transit corridor meetings, that conversion of existing lanes to transit lanes is an option. But what I recall hearing from the meetings from Old Town residents is that they're even more opposed to that than they are to building dedicated lanes somewhere. My takeaway from that (harsh as it may sound) is that Old Town residents are as wedded to their cars as the outsiders who drive through.

Anonymous said...

Thank you to all the neighborhood residents (special kudos to the Patrick Street contingent who showed up in force) who came out for yesterday's Transportation Commission Hearing on Transit Corridor A. There were so many people they had to move the hearing from the council work room to Council Chambers. I think this made a definite impact and showed the solidarity between all the affected neighborhoods.

The Transportation Commission endorsed the working group's recommendation on Corridor A and also added additional language beneficial to our neighborhood. The Commission passed it 7-1.

The neighborhood owes a huge debt of gratitude to Donna Fossum who served on the Transit Corridor Working Group and took the neighborhood's concerns to heart. We would not have achieved this positive outcome without her diligent efforts.

Given the hits Justin has taken on this blog, I will give him credit for advancing the resolution last night - a welcome surprise.

Tim Lovaine, who we all know is a big supporter of transit, testified that he did not support or believe dedicated transit south of the Braddock Metro would work - another welcome surprise.

We all have reason to celebrate. However, we haven't reached the finish line yet - Planning Commission and City Council remain.

Anonymous said...

"Let's be real; Baier et al smell extra Fed transit funds and care not one whit if our neighborhoods suffer if that's what it takes for some free green."

Is Alexandria City so overspent it now sells itself one neighborhood at a time?

Anonymous said...

"We all have reason to celebrate. However, we haven't reached the finish line yet - Planning Commission and City Council remain."

It goes directly to Council does it not? When the fire marshall made us change rooms not all speakers forms changed with him. Consequently some of us sat long hours unaware we would not speak.

"Given the hits Justin has taken on this blog, I will give him credit for advancing the resolution last night - a welcome surprise."

Not us. He's the primary reason language was not removed from the Transportation Master Plan.

"The Transportation Commission endorsed the working group's recommendation on Corridor A and also added additional language beneficial to our neighborhood. The Commission passed it 7-1."

We thank Commissioner Jennings for his dissenting vote. He held true to principle. We'll see what happens at Council.

"Tim Lovaine, who we all know is a big supporter of transit, testified that he did not support or believe dedicated transit south of the Braddock Metro would work - another welcome surprise."

Lovain with no e. Yep, his remarks were a welcome admission. He may be on the road to redemption.

Anonymous said...

It goes directly to Council does it not?

I am mainly going of what the Transporttion Commission said during the hearing when they noted it would be handled the same as corridor C, which went to both. If you also look at the agenda for the June 5, 2012 Planning Commission you will see that it is listed - http://alexandriava.gov/uploadedFiles/planning/6-5-12%20Planning%20Commission%20Preliminary%20Docket.pdf.

Anonymous said...

Given the hits Justin has taken on this blog, I will give him credit for advancing the resolution last night - a welcome surprise.

Tim Lovaine, who we all know is a big supporter of transit, testified that he did not support or believe dedicated transit south of the Braddock Metro would work - another welcome surprise.

Should I vote for them then in June?

Anonymous said...

Should I vote for them then in June?

Personally, I would not vote for either Wilson or Lovaine because of their statements they made at one hearing. Neither actually did much of anything for the neighborhood, and I would argue that Wilson's part was pure political maneuvering versus genuine concern or a conviction that the quality of life for our neighborhood matters. As someone else noted, it was Wilson who opposed altering the transportation master plan to reflect the working group's resolution. Now, had he supported that idea then I might have a different opinion. If you want to reward a city council candidate for helping out our neighborhood, then Fossum deserves credit for her efforts. Without her efforts the outcome would have been very different.