Arlington seeking input on Master Plan's Bike Element

Arlington has finished work on the draft version of the County's Master Transportation Plan's Bicycle Element. As reported on before, Arlington has been working on this for over 15 months. The plan will provide guidance for Arlington's transportation system through 2030.

The county has an online survey, open until the 22nd, that they're asking people to fill out, so you should do that. That same day, they're going to host an open house on the update at Westover Branch Library from 6-7:30pm.

The MTP lays out six goals which are then modified specifically for cycling in the Bicycle Element. Those goals are

A. Provide an environment in which people of all ages and abilities can get places by bicycle safely and comfortably.
B. Make all of Arlington accessible by bicycle using easy-to-follow, low-stress routes.
C. Increase the mode share of bicycle travel, aiming to have the population of persons who bicycle for transportation be demographically similar to the population of Arlington overall.
D. Provide an excellent trail system that serves the needs of people walking and bicycling for transportation and for recreation.
E. Properly manage, maintain, and operate the infrastructure that supports bicycling in Arlington.
F. Integrate bicycling into an efficient, sustainable and equitable transportation system.

Those goals result in more than a dozen policies and dozens of actions such as "Add contra-flow bicycle facilities to one-way streets, where safe and appropriate."

Finally, there are a list and maps of facilities. 

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I don't ride in Arlington as much as I used to, but I can't spot any holes in the plans. It's unfortunate that Arlington Cemetery and the Pentagon sit right where the bridges cross to DC, but that can hardly be fixed. 

Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail is a 501(c)(3). Are they following the rules?

Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail has filed another lawsuit in an effort to stop the Purple Line. They've done a lot of that, but not much else that I can see. Mostly they've been arguing that the Purple Line Project isn't following the rules, and they get pretty far in the weeds on that. But what's good for the goose as they say.

FOCCT is a 501(c)(3) organization.

To be tax-exempt under section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code, an organization must be organized and operated exclusively for exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3), and none of its earnings may inure to any private shareholder or individual. In addition, it may not be an action organization, i.e., it may not attempt to influence legislation as a substantial part of its activities and it may not participate in any campaign activity for or against political candidates.

My first question is are they pursuing exempt purposes? 

The exempt purposes set forth in section 501(c)(3) are charitable, religious, educational, scientific, literary, testing for public safety, fostering national or international amateur sports competition, and preventing cruelty to children or animals.  The term charitable is used in its generally accepted legal sense and includes relief of the poor, the distressed, or the underprivileged; advancement of religion; advancement of education or science; erecting or maintaining public buildings, monuments, or works; lessening the burdens of government; lessening neighborhood tensions; eliminating prejudice and discrimination; defending human and civil rights secured by law; and combating community deterioration and juvenile delinquency.

I'd bet that rule is pretty loosy-goosy, but I don't see which one of those purposes they're serving.

My 2nd question is are they an action organization? They do try to influence legislation, but is it a "substantial part" of its activities?

I suspect they're within the broad range of the rules. But only a full investigation can really be sure. 

Bikes on Metro. Not against the rules, but still against the law (for now)

image from 3.bp.blogspot.com

This month, Metro changed their rules to allow bikes on metro during rush hour, so far without incident. But did you know it's against the law in DC - and has been for years (even outside of rush hour). That's right DC's laws have not kept up with WMATA's rules. According to D.C. Official Code § 35-251(b).

It is unlawful for any person either while aboard a public passenger vehicle ...or while aboard a rail transit car owned and/or operated by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority...or while within a rail transit station ...within the corporate limits of the District of Columbia to:

Park, operate, carry, wheel, or chain to any fence, tree, railing, or other structure not specifically designated for such use, noncollapsible bicycles, unless an individual has a current permit issued by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority for the transporting of noncollapsible bicycles by rail transit and the individual is complying with all the terms and conditions of said permit; provided, that an individual shall surrender said permit upon the request or demand of any agent or employee of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. Sections 35-253 and 35-254 shall not apply to a violation of the terms and conditions of said permit.

What will Crickey do until the law goes into effect? The crisis of conscience. WMATA has not required a permit for two decades, so this change is overdue. 

But rejoice good people, for this is about to be changed. The Metro fare evasion bill that Bowser just vetoed, and is likely to be overridden,  will also correct this. The law will then read:

It is unlawful for any person, either while aboard a public passenger vehicle for hire with a capacity for seating 12 or more passengers, including vehicles owned or operated by WMATA; or while aboard a rail transit car owned or operated by WMATA; or while within a rail transit station owned or operated by WMATA, to:

Operate or chain to any fence, tree, railing, or other structure not specifically designated for such use, skateboards, rollerblades, roller skates, non-motorized scooters, bicycles, tricycles, or unicycles;

I'm still unsure about the rule making it illegal to chain a bike to anything not "specifically designated for such use" but maybe there's now enough designated bike parking to make this a non-issue. Does anyone think this rule would impact them within DC? (Not that it will be enforced). 

Alexandria installs New Leading Pedestrian Intervals as Part of Vision Zero Initiative

From a press release:

In order to increase traffic safety, City of Alexandria staff recently installed 17 new Leading Pedestrian Intervals in high crash intersections or corridors as part of the implementation of the City’s Vision Zero Initiative to eliminate traffic-related deaths and serious injuries by 2028. 
 
As part of the Vision Zero Action Plan, one of the Year 1 Engineering Priorities is to install Leading Pedestrian Intervals in at least 10 intersections to improve safety for people walking and driving. Staff identified more than 10 locations where these improvements were warranted and installed 17 new leading pedestrian intervals, along with their respective No Turn on Red restrictions.
 
A Leading Pedestrian Interval is signal timing change that starts the walk signal a few seconds before the green light to give people waiting to cross the street a head start in front of turning vehicles so that drivers can better see people walking and avoid a serious crash. Localities across the country and around the world (including Alexandria) have been implementing this solution for decades. Staff has implemented this in the following locations: 
  • Route 1 and Gibbon
  • Route 1 and Wilkes
  • King and Washington  
  • King and Henry
  • King and Patrick
  • Wilkes and Washington
  • Duke and Henry (both crossings)
  • Gibbon and Washington
  • Slaters and Washington
  • Cambridge and Duke (both crossings)
  • N. Quaker and Duke
  • Cameron Station and Duke
  • Whiting and Edsall 
  • Slaters and Route 1
  • Duke and Holland 
City staff analyzed crash data, industry best practices and research, and public input, and formed an interdepartmental collaboration team to develop a set of Year 1 Engineering Priorities. These engineering priorities are intended to improve safety for all modes of travel, focusing on vulnerable road users (e.g. people walking and biking, children, and seniors) first. Crash data showed that during this time between 2011-2016, 445 people walking were involved in crashes, with one in seven crashes resulting in death or serious injury to the person. Turning-movement crashes were also found to be among the most common crash types in Alexandria. Leading Pedestrian Intervals aid in the prevention of turning movement crashes along with No Turn on Red Restrictions. 
Alexandria should follow DC's lead and allow cyclists to go through an intersection when the walk light is green. Maybe that's a state thing though. 

DDOT extends deadline for comments on the 20th/21st/22nd Street bike lanes

DDOT has extended the comment period on the 20th/21st/22nd Street bike lanes (aka the Western Downtown bike lanes) to allow the local ANCs to weigh in on the options. Comments are now due on February 13th. The design was presented in December, but the ANC 2B meeting where they were to be discussed ran long without a resolution. The issue was, and you're not going to believe this, some people didn't want to give up parking. The other ANC impacted is ANC 2A. 

That ANC 2B meeing this month lasted more than two hours

In the end, Chair Daniel Warwick was only able to pass a motion tabling the issue before adjourning the meeting and hustling us all out of the room.

The meeting sounds brutal, with all the usual complaints and "bikelash bingo" terms covered.

An almost universal complaint from residents was that they weren’t properly informed of DDOT’s potential changes to their neighborhood and that DDOT was rushing this. This is false. DDOT held two public meetings in 2018, at which significant public feedback was welcomed and design changes were made to the project. DDOT’s website for their PBL efforts in DC put up all the project and meeting materials, they sent press releases and media advisories around, they hung door knockers along the proposed routes.

The big "news" of the meeting was that the CFO of the Phillips Collection spoke out against bike lanes next to the museum, which resulted in a back lash from cyclists and a walk back from the museum. 

DDOT has received hundreds of comments, and doesn't yet have a preferred alternative as they won't choose one until after the comment period is over. 

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FOCCT sue the Army Corps of Engineers over the Purple Line

The anti-purple line group - the "Friends" of the Capital Crescent Trail - have sued the Army Corp of Engineers arguing that a permit for the project was issued erroneously. When the Purple Line is complete it will also complete the Capital Crescent Trail between Bethesda and Silver Spring. Purple Line opponent Robert Dyer describes the lawsuit:

The federal water law required that the ACE demonstrate that there was no alternative transportation project that would improve east-west travel in the Maryland suburbs without disturbing federally-controlled waters and wetlands. Jim Roy, VP of Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail said Thursday that the ACE failed to evaluate alternatives and declare one to have the least potential impact on waterways.

And Bethesda Now writes

The Friends of the Capital Crescent Trail and two residents announced Thursday they filed a lawsuit in the federal district court of Maryland challenging the 2018 decision of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to permit the discharge of dredge and fill materials as part of Purple Line construction.

The lawsuit argues the permit issued is invalid and violates the Clean Water Act.

“We also point out in our lawsuit that even if some dredging and filling were necessary, the agencies also failed to evaluate, let alone choose, the least harmful of the alternatives as the law requires,” FCCT Vice President Jim Roy said.

FOCCT has so far not been able to stop the Purple Line project, but they have managed to delay it quite a bit. 

“For a year, construction had been halted because of the lawsuit,” said Gregory Sanders, vice president of the advocacy group Purple Line Now. “It had always been a problem to try to figure out how they could get some of that time back.”

There were also reports that delays have added more than $200 million to the light-rail line’s cost.

I don't know if this is going to succeed in stopping or delaying the project, but it will definitely cost some money, and it won't save the trees - which was one of the main concerns of FOCCT - because those have already been cut down.

Business Partnership backs more biking

image from richmondbizsense.com

An alliance of the region’s top chief executives is urging ambitious, costly steps to improve commuter rail, bus networks and other transportation systems to reduce chronic traffic congestion and bind together the “super region” stretching from Baltimore to Richmond.

And one of the "other transportation systems" improvements they write about is biking, especially asking for more trails.

Investments in multi-use trails could increase bicycle and pedestrian travel (which are shown to reduce health costs)—generating
a return on investment as high as 8:1 in other regions. 

Locally they aren't asking for anything for which there isn't already some support and plans, but they are calling for Richmond to catch up to DC and Baltimore. Specifically, one of the 20 actions the report calls for is to expand the trail systems in Baltimore and DC in ways that are already planned, specifically the Baltimore Greenway Trails Network and Capital Trails Network, and establish a Richmond trail network strategy. I'm surprised that RIchmond doesn't have one. Richmond already has some great trails and, because of it's history as a rail hub, several opportunities for rail trails - including one north about 14 miles to Ashland. 

The Capital Region benefits from hundreds of miles of multi-use trails. Investments in a few critical trail connections for bicyclists and infrastructure for pedestrians can achieve further reductions in congestion, increase economic development, and improve community health outcomes. The Baltimore and Washington metro areas have clear strategies to close gaps between existing trails and the Richmond metro area should develop such a strategy. If executed well, the region has the potential to generate economic benefits as high as an 8:1 return  on investment as seen in other U.S. regions and reduce rates of chronic diseases—reducing direct health treatment costs in the community

It's heartening to see trails viewed as so important to the areas economic health, but It's only one part of the bicycle and pedestrian mobility and it would have been nice to see protected bike lanes included in the action. I suppose that trails are less controversial, since they won't take away space from parking or driving.

In addition they recommend tying the payment for transit and bikeshare to one card, something people have been talking about forever.

While the Washington metro area’s SmarTrip farecard allows consumers to pay for trips with the other transit agencies in the metro area, none of the region’s farecards currently function in Richmond or Baltimore—with Amtrak, VRE, bike share, or private ride share operations. This lack of integration across all trip options creates confusion for consumers and undermines the potential benefits of new technologies

I don't know the fix for this. I wonder if the federal government needs to design a single transit payment system and put it in the public realm so that no system has to worry about being captured. 

Meanwhile, here's an interesting factoid.

The average Capital Region resident can access more than 1,320,000 jobs by vehicle, 109,000 jobs by transit, 203,000 jobs by bicycle, and 25,000 jobs by walking within 45 minutes from their home.

Cyclists riding abreast

This, like a million times. 

Yesyesyes

Alexandria developments will improve and enhance the Mt. Vernon Trail

Screenshot 2019-01-10 at 10.56.18 PM

A proposed development adjacent to the Mt. Vernon Trail at the site of the former home of Bastille restaurant and the adjacent MetroStage theater could result in better connections to the trail, a bike rest stop area and "safety improvements" to the trail. 

A developer would like to build an 8-story multi-family dwelling along the Mt Vernon Trail and between 3rd and Royal in Alexandria. This is on the north side of old town where the trail splits to go around the old power plant. They call this the trail spur, even though it's older than the part on the other side of the power plant. 

Screenshot 2019-01-10 at 11.00.51 PM

According to a presentation set for tomorrow, the project includes

Open space connections provided to Mount Vernon Trail spur, including direct access from rear patios, and the placement of public art and a bike “rest stop” area at northwest corner of site. The open space is designed to integrate the patios of the ground-floor residential units with the adjacent trail, and direct access to the trail spur is provided and a seat-height retaining wall proposed.

 

The applicant is providing streetscape improvements adjacent to the northwest corner of the site where N. Royal Street, Bashford Lane and the Mount Vernon Trail spur converge. This area currently presents conflicts for bicyclists, pedestrians and vehicles as the Old Town street grid ends. The applicant will work with City staff to design a pedestrian and bicycle crossing as N. Royal Street turns into Bashford Lane, and physical separation between the Mount Vernon Trail spur and roadway. In addition to the in-kind improvements, the applicant is providing a contribution to the Old Town North Streetscape and Open Space fund for improvements in the plan area.

You can kind of see that in the top of this drawing. The trail will no longer transition to the street, but will have a connection to it. Instead the road will be narrowed to create space for the trail and a buffer. 

Screenshot 2019-01-10 at 11.25.17 PM

The bike rest area will include a bench, repair tools and an air pump and be located on the north side near Royal Street.

Screenshot 2019-01-10 at 11.41.09 PM

In addition to changes to the trail, the trail-oriented development will also include a $10,000 contribution to Capital Bikeshare and $486,011 to the Old Town North Streetscape and Implementation fund, which is  and based on the density added from the CRMU-X zone. The fund is reserved for future enhancements to the linear park that are planned along the Mount Vernon Trail. 

There will be no change to the trail itself behind the building, but it will get some more trees planted along it. 

Meanwhile, another development along the trail farther south will also add some enhancements to the trail. This one is at 901 Farifax Drive, on the north side of the trail between Montgomery and Canal Center. This development will include up to $770,000 in trail improvements. It could include

direct access to the Mount Vernon Trail and coordinating improvements to the adjacent section of the Mount Vernon Trail. The improvements will include trail path, lighting, landscaping and improvements to the garage wall that is located along the eastern property line. The plan for specific improvements to this section of the Mount Vernon Trail will be initiated by the City and coordinated with the applicant during the final site plan process. Staff anticipates the planning process for the Mount Vernon Trail linear park from Pendleton Street to the NRG site to commence by 2019. The improvements to this trail section that are constructed by the applicant are related to the developer contributions that have been negotiated with the development community to implement the OTN-SAP.

The project will include a "Trail overlook terace" with stairs leading down to the trail. Interesting the stairs will encroach on the trail right-of-way (but not the trail) a little, which required them to figure out who owned the land.

The applicant has oriented three of the townhouses to face the trail and has created a trail overlook terrace directly behind the multifamily tower. The issue of direct connection to the trail has been with determining ownership of this portion of the Mount Vernon Trail. It has been assumed through much of the process that Norfolk Southern Railway (through its predecessors) maintained ownership of the adjacent right-of-way, which includes the trail path and railroad line.

Recent research by City staff has produced evidence that the City had not vacated the right-of-way (formerly N. Lee Street and Water Street) to a railway company and remains the right-of-way owner. The portion of the railroad/trail right-of-way north of Canal Center Plaza (formerly First Street) was not incorporated into the City until 1930. City ownership of this right-of-way allows for stair and ramp encroachments from the site onto the trail. The City is drafting a letter to Norfolk Southern Railway that details the City’s claim of the right-of-way. The letter to Norfolk Southern includes a deed from 1976 related to the construction of a Mount Vernon Trail segment that shows the property line of Norfolk Southern and the City right-of-way (N. Lee Street). 

Screenshot 2019-01-11 at 12.38.18 AM

The project will also set aside land on Fairfax Street for a 15-dock Capital Bikeshare station; contribute $20,000 towards its construction; include 71 bicycle parking spaces and either keep the trail open or build a suitable detour.  

Highlights from the DDOT's January report to the BAC

Screenshot 2019-01-09 at 11.13.20 PM

At every DC Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting, DDOT gives a report to the BAC. Here are some highlights from this month's.

DDOT

  • Anticipates starting Environmental Assessment for new Metropolitan Branch trail route through NPS property north of Fort Totten this summer.
  • Has been installing New MBT Wayfinding singage between Union Station and Brookland and will be done by the end of the month. 
  • Has awarded the contract to replace all MBT overhead lights between Florida Ave and Franklin St, and work is expected to begin in the spring.
  • Is planning a public meeting for as early as this month on the new design of the Anacostia River Trail's Arboretum Bridge. It takes into account input from the rowing community.
  • Expects to advertise the Rock Creek trail construction contract (widening, resurfacing, and new segment along Piney Branch) between P Street and Tilden this spring, with the bids due in the fall.
  • Kicked off the feasibility study for the Palisades Trolley Trail in November 2018. They tentatively plan to have Public meetings in February or March.
  • Expect to begin designing improvements to the Suitland Parkway Trail this spring.
  • Is expanding CaBi by 40 stations across all 8 wards
  • Started a CaBi Pedal Assist pilot in September with 100 bikes and is exploring how to expand it.
  • Has nearly completed construction of the Virginia Avenue Trail in SE
  • Is working on the 2019 bike lane list
  • Is planning the final meeting on the Western downtown cycletrack (20th, 21st and 22nd Streets NW) project for this winter or spring
  • Is about halfway done with the 14th Street Reconstruction project. The project will move the existing bike lanes behind bus stop islands.
  • Has chosen a consultant to create the 100% plans for the Florida Ave NE Streetscape Project (2 nd to H Streets). This project includes a 2-way protected bike lane on the south side of the road.
  • Will break ground on the Maryland Ave NE Streetscape (2 nd to 14 th Streets) this spring. This project reduces travel lanes from 4 to 3, and includes bike lanes.
  • Has begun the 30% design for the Pennsylvania Ave NW Streetscape Project (17 th to 22 nd Streets). This will have a protected bike
    lane on both sides of the road. The preliminary designs are expected by fall.

So, lots of irons in the fire. 

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