Final Draft Design chosen for South Park and the Four Mile Run Trail

LunaPark

Arlington County presented the Final Draft Design of South Park at Potomac Yards, a small rectangle of land on the north side of Four Mile Run between Route 1 and Potomac Avenue, formerly known as Land Bank F. The Four Mile Run Trail will pass through the park, and the park will include trail connections to both Route 1 and Potomac Avenue. It will also include bike parking, a trail map, signage and bicycle calming. 

Capture

This is basically concept C as presented in the spring and it was the one I preferred because it created a direct and shaded connection between the trail and the street grid. It was also preferred by those who took the survey. Survey participants also preferred the name Luna Park. 

In addition to the trails across the park and the connection between them, the park will include bike parking. Work on the Arlington portion of the park won't begin until 2023 (part of the park is in Alexandria and part is in Arlington because the line didn't move when Four Mile Run was straightened out) but in late 2018, they'll start work on "Phase 1" which will create a trail connection to Route 1 along with turf and plantings. Phase 1 has been modified a little since the spring. The trail connection follows a slightly different route without a transition area in the middle. 

Phase1

At least two participant at the meeting were concerned with cyclists biking too fast and running pedestrians down (don't do that). Another was worried that a lack of parking for the park would result in people parking illegally (don't do that either). 

Construction progressing along the Jones Falls Trail

Work on the long delayed $8.5 million Phase V of the Jones Falls Trail in Baltimore is currently underway. The section will extend the trail north from Clyburn to the Mt. Washington light rail station, crossing a 400-foot-long bridge built with steel arches, support beams and cable wires over Northern Parkway along the way. This new 4.25 mile long section will also serve as part of the East Coast Greenway. 
 
 
image from mwia.org
 
Someday the trail will connect to the Gwynn Falls Trail,  BWI Trail and the B&A trail.  While the Jones Falls Trail has its north terminus at the light rail station, the bike-friendly train connects to Hunt Valley, where the Torrey Brown trail commences about a mile from the station.  That portion of the ECG goes to York, Pa. and beyond as the Heritage Rail Trail. 
 
Here are some construction photos taken near the Mt. Washington Light Rail Station this month
 
Screenshot 2017-11-21 at 6.14.02 AM
 
Screenshot 2017-11-21 at 6.41.15 AM
 
 
 

Senate Tax Plan would repeal the bicycle commuter benefit

image from pbs.twimg.com

The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act has moved from the House to the Senate, and so last week Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) released the “Chairman’s Mark” to the Senate’s version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.

This much-anticipated amendment includes a number of important changes to the tax plan, including fitting the package within the constraints imposed by the Senate’s so-called “Byrd Rule,” which places limits on what can be adopted under the reconciliation process.

One part of this amendment is to repeal the federal bicycle commuter benefit. The quick and dirty history of this is that Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) had long advocated for a bicycle commuter benefit to more fairly treat cyclists considering the parking and transit benefits other workers get. In a cruel twist, the idea, after being rejected numerous times, was watered down and added to the ??? bill in an effort to get Blumenauer's vote (it didn't). So it went into law in 2009. As written, it allows an employee to exclude up to $20 per month in qualified bicycle commuting reimbursements. This has to be a benefit explicitly for bike commuting, and employees can't set their own money aside pre-tax. Nor can they combine it with the transit or parking benefit. So, I suspect it has few takers (Full disclosure: I'm one). 

Blumenauer has advocated for making the benefit better, like allowing you to use it for bike share, increasing it, allowing commuters to put in their own money pre-tax and/or allowing commuters to get it in combination with another benefit (just like they can get both parking and transit if they want); but none of that has gotten anywhere.

No one, as far as I know, has done a study of how much it costs or what the effect of it has been. It was originally expected to cost $1M a year. The Joint Committee on Taxation estimates that it costs no more than $5M a year, which (by my math) would mean that ~63,000 people are getting the full $240 benefit (and that they would have been paid that money even without the carve out - a dubious claim).

I can't easily assert that it induces more people to bike commute (though that's how both parties normally talk about taxes, that they effect behavior). And I have no idea what it really costs. So without knowing either the costs or the benefits, it's impossible to say if it's worth it. Perhaps we should figure some of those things out before we call it a failure and quit.

Pentagon Master Plan suggests new sharrows, showers and bike parking

Screenshot 2017-11-17 at 6.28.29 AM

The Department of Defense has submitted an updated Pentagon Master Plan to the National Capitol Planning Commission for their approval. The new master plan is intended to improve security, enhance the quality of life for employees, and address accommodations for visitors to the Pentagon and to the other public facilities located on the Reservation grounds. Naturally, it deals pretty heavily with transportation, and thus cycling and was created in coordination with a Transportation Management Plan. In recognition that "the Pentagon is... located in a busy urban environment that is more dependent on transit, bicycle and pedestrian circulation than ever," and new direction from the DOD's 2012 sustainability goals and Facilities Criteria, the plan suggests several ways to make the Pentagon more bicycle friendly. The main tools they settle on are sharrowed routes connecting to the nearby trails, employee shower facilities and more bicycle parking. 

The Master Plan Update improves the overall pedestrian and bicycle circulation on the Pentagon Reservation by connecting the external trails surrounding the Reservation with routes on the Reservation in order to provide Pentagon employees a clear and direct route from the external trails to the employee bicycle racks and pedestrian entrances on the
Reservation.

In the figure above, it's hard to tell the sharrowed routes from the bike lanes, but basically all the bike lanes are on Arlington roads and the bike facilities on Pentagon property are sharrows. 

SharrowsPentagon

What's surprising about this reliance on sharrows is that one of the problems the Plan Update makes note of is the "lack of painted bike lanes," and then they proceed to add zero bike lanes.  The North and South Rotary Roads will also have signage. 

A Transportation Management Plan (TMP) was prepared in parallel with the Master Plan Update to provide a comprehensive set of actions to reduce traffic congestion and improve air quality affecting the Reservation study area. While the Transportation Management Plan (TMP) focused on identifying actions to facilitate employee multimodal transportation, the Master Plan ensured transportation considerations were integrated into the wider context of the Reservation Master Plan. The Master Plan and TMP planning processes jointly determined circulation improvements in order to facilitate safe, secure, and efficient vehicular and pedestrian movement on the Reservation for employees and visitors alike.

Currently cyclists access the Pentagon via a combination of two trails and on-street routes, but improvements recently completed and others being planned could change that. The bicycle network also connects to Columbia Pike, and that won't change

Cyclists utilize both of the Arlington County Multi-Use Trails (the trail running along the eastern edge of Route 27 and the Mount Vernon Trail) as well as vehicular roadways. A number of bike racks are situated around the Reservation; the most heavily used are near the Corridor 3 Bridge and at the Pentagon Athletic Center (PAC).

Improvements to the Humpback Bridge and a new shared-use path underpass have recently been completed. Modification of the Boundary Channel Drive/I-395 interchange is planned to serve the proposed Long Bridge Park Regional Aquatics Center and the recently completed Long Bridge outdoor recreation park. The proposed project would provide improved pedestrian and bicycle access to Boundary Channel Drive and the Pentagon building for Pentagon employees.

To the north and west of the Pentagon, modification and repair to the Route 27 overpass over Route 110 is being planned to provide space for a shared-use path and a wider sidewalk. Improvements to the existing Route 110 Trail are also being planned.

Beyond the added sharrows, there are other planned improvements. At the Pentagon's Hayes Street parking lot between I-395 and Army-Navy Drive (which connects to the Pentagon via the longest pedestrian tunnel in Virginia), a new public bike parking facility is recommended. It would also remove some car parking to make room for a bus  drop-off. Facility-wide, the number of employee parking spaces will be reduced from 8,494 parking spaces to 7,199 parking spaces.

Bikeparking

There are a few elements that planners think will eliminate conflict areas and make biking better, even though they aren't bike projects per se. These are:

• A dedicated bus lane to and from the Pentagon Transit Center on the outside perimeter of the South Parking Lot commuter plaza will eliminate conflicts between pedestrians and buses accessing the PTC.
• A dedicated rideshare lane with a waiting area will allow for the smooth circulation of rideshare vehicles and minimize conflicts between pedestrians and cars in the parking lot.
• The signalization of intersections along North and South Rotary Roads will allow for safer pedestrian crossings.
• A reduced number of access points to parking areas at South Rotary Road to improve traffic flow and enhance traffic and pedestrian safety.

Other planned bike improvements are

• Coordination with Arlington County to facilitate the County’s installation of a fence and a multi-use trail connection along Boundary Channel Drive and the Pentagon Lagoon that will connect to a signed public bike route from the proposed roundabout on Boundary Channel Drive to Long Bridge Park. Areas north of the multi-use path intersection with the roundabout will be signed as restricted to DoD/Pentagon badge holders only.
• Two new Pentagon employee bike racks in addition to the existing 46 racks.

Finally, the Pentagon received numerous comments suggesting that more employees would bike to work if they had shower facilities available. They did an analysis and have decided that locker and shower facilities for bicyclists and pedestrians will be added within the Pentagon at the bike rack entrances, pending space availability.

What I don't see is a plan to fix one of my pet peeves, the useless, but commute-slowing leftover driveway stub along Washington Blvd. I mean, c'mon man. A little work on the Route 27 Trail (really just a sidewalk) would be much appreciated too. 

Here, by the way, is the current conditions as they see them.

Pentagon

Driver in fatal DC hit and run crash found and charged

In late June, cyclist Burgess Johnson was struck by a Camaro while going to the store. The driver of the Camaro reportedly got out of the car after the crash, assessed the situation and then drove away. Three weeks later Johnson died

At the latest Bicycle Advisory Council meeting, MPD reported that the driver has been found and charged with hit-and-run. Johnson was found to be at fault - after running a stop sign - but the driver failed to render aid. Neither the name of the driver nor the exact charges were reported. 

College Park TOD will update bike/ped Metro tunnel and add bike sharing

image from www.thesentinel.com

The Prince George's County planning board has approved a 440-unit transit-oriented apartment complex on a parking lot just south and east of the College Park Metro Station. That project will also build a parklet and add amenities for cyclists. 

The development of the apartment complex also includes redeveloping and landscaping the area in between the property and the Metro station known as Brooks Parcel. The vision for the patch of land, north of the proposed complex, is a public pedestrian plaza that will also be home to an M Bike station and the bikeshare program the county chooses to install in the coming years.

Other tasks detailed as conditions for approval by the planning board staff include updating the nearby bike and pedestrian tunnel with lighting and paint, replacing and relocating old and damaged signage in the area, and adding crosswalks through nearby streets.

Commissioner Will Doerner also made two other suggestions for the developers to consider as they go further along in the approval process. He suggested they consider adding a tool station for bikers near the bike share docks and that they consider adding wayfinding maps near the stations as well.

“That would be an obvious place for someone with a bike, who owns a bike, to kind of go and look and see if they could repair their bike,” he said. “I haven’t seen anything when I’ve been riding up there and it’s a terrible incident when you have a flat or something goes down and you just need to fix your bike really quickly.”

Haller noted that Gilbane is well aware of the need for bike tool stations and that a similar concern has come up as they continue to develop near a metro station in Hyattsville. He also said the history of this area of the county will play a large role in the development of the building and said the maps with local sites and places to visit are a great idea.

Other conditions for final approval include plans for short-term and long-term bike parking, restriping the street at River Road and River Tech Court and have a final internal sound study completed to ensure outside noise is not overpowering.

They should also set aside space along the south side of the stream (name?) through the Brooks Parcel for a trail between the Metro and the Northeast Branch trail. Such a trail could tie several facilities into the trail system and create a direct connection to the Metro. 

2017 Trails Symposium this Thursday

Join the Capital Trails Coalition on November 16 for the fourth annual Trails Symposium! We'll learn about and discuss the progress of the Coalition's second year, dig into current trail development topics, and look forward to the year ahead. 

The Capital Trails Coalition seeks to create a world-class network of multi-use trails that are equitably distributed throughout the Washington D.C. metropolitan region. Over 40 agencies, non-profits, business improvement districts and organizations are part of the Capital Trails Coalition.  Learn more about the Coalition here.

Agenda is forthcoming. Coffee and lunch will be provided. Please contact Katie Harris, Trails Coalition Coordinator, with additional questions (katie.harris@waba.org). 

The 2017 Trails Symposium is presented by REI. 

Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital
921 Pennsylvania Ave SE
Washington, DC 20003

New Van Buren Bridge will feature bike markings

image from www.fallschurchva.gov

The city of Falls Church is rebuilding the Van Buren Bridge over Four Mile Run in Benjamin Banneker Park. A spur of the W&OD Trail connects to Van Buren just south of the bridge and a repair was needed here. The bridge had gotten so bad that the sidewalk had been closed and replaced by a flexpost protected walkway.

Screenshot 2017-11-12 at 8.09.31 AM

During construction, expected to last until March 2018, pedestrian and bike traffic will be redirected onto the trail

image from www.fallschurchva.gov

The Van Buren Bridge project will replace the existing Van Buren Bridge to accommodate pedestrians along this corridor to the East Falls Church Metro. The current bridge has no pedestrian access and has been identified as “structurally deficient” during its annual inspection. The new bridge will accommodate two lanes of vehicular traffic and have a 12' pedestrian walkway on the downstream side. 

It also appears that it will include bicycle markings that aren't quite sharrows. I'm not sure what these are. I guess they're what you go with when sharrows seem too aggressive. "We want drivers to share the road, but in a modest way. We're not a bunch of hippies."

image from www.fallschurchva.gov

The crosswalk (which I'll note is not zebra striped) and sidewalk represent a connection between the end of the W&OD Trail spur and the start of a footpath along the south side of Four Mile Run.

Georgetown section of C&O canal could get the High Line treatment

image from assets.urbanturf.com
The National Park Service and Georgetown leaders have been working on a plan to change the C&O Canal from a sleepy back yard to a front yard show piece. The goal is to restore, revitalize and reimagine the 1 mile of the C&O Canal in Georgetown. 

The project recognizes a lot of needs and components, but most important to cyclists are ideas to widen and rebuild the towpath and create more connections to it. They view it as one path, with 8 sections and 5 gateways. One goal is to connect the end of the towpath at Rock Creek with Mile 0 at the watergate possibly with a boardwalk and trail.

Boardwalk

The towpath used to be on the west side of Rock Creek, but was destroyed and can't be easily restored. The existing towpath could be widened from 6' in places to 8' with a 4' overhang cantilevered over the canal.

Width

The design also seeks to utilized the Aqueduct abutment, create better plazas, elevators, etc.... There's also the idea of bicycle parking and service station at Lock 1. 

image from assets.urbanturf.com

Where the canal meets Rock Creek, they're also considering a new footbridge. 

That area might be held up by the recent historic designation of the West Heating Plant. The project to develop that was to create a park and trail section.

image from assets.urbanturf.com

Not everyone loves the idea.

Some Georgetown residents, though, are more concerned with what the canal might look like in the future than how it’s looked in the past. At the meeting, attendees were asked to comment on the design concepts using sticky notes. Among some of the concerns they attached to designs: “There is no consideration for the residents who live about the water!” and “Too much focus on space for people — too many people — what then happens to serenity.”

Pelegrin pointed to photos of High Line-goers basking on chairs along the walkway, and expressed concern that the canal would face the same fate: “When you open up a space in that fashion, you’re gonna get a lot of people–tourists–a bazillion people. That’s my concern,” she said. Pelegrin, who lives in a building along the canal, expressed interest in preserving “the bucolic and historical nature of it,” but was unenthusiastic about attracting more tourists the the already-bustling neighborhood.

We moved to a tourist neighborhood, but we don't want any tourists or people around.

 

OT: When counting votes in Virginia, intent should matter

Sorry while I get a little off-topic. After the 2000 election in Florida, I read a ton about how the recount shook out. One thing was that Katherine Graham at first said that they would figure out the intent of voters, but then (after getting a call from party higher-ups) said that she would count votes to the letter of the law. That mattered because in cases where a voter had selected a candidate AND wrote their name in, that ballot would not count, despite the voters intent being crystal clear. As it turns out, a lot of people do that, and in Florida more people did it for Gore than Bush. Gore's campaign never asked to include these in the recount and so there was no fight over it, but a study of the ballots afterword showed compelling evidence that if they had been, Gore would have won. It was so compelling that Florida changed it's law to allow these kinds of overvotes to be counted in future recounts. 

So, I was looking at how Virginia counts overvotes and write-ins and this (below) is from the State Board of Elections Guide. This is not an overvote, but an accidental write-in for a candidate on the ballot. The intent here is pretty clear. And later it notes that if both a candidate is selected and a write-in included, that ballot will not be counted - even if the write-in name is the same. Again, there the intent is clear.

Ballot

In the VA recounts, this could swing the election. And it would do so by ignoring the voter's clear intent. I can't believe I'm going to say this, but VA should look to FL about how to do this (I won't say that often). This is a matter of counting everyone's vote - include the votes of cyclists (I had to tie it in to the blog). 

 

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