NCPC updating Federal Transportation Element calls on Feds to do more for biking

The National Capital Planning Commission has released the draft federal Transportation Element for public comment through November 12, 2019. 

The Transportation Element provides policy guidance to support a regional multimodal transportation system that promotes responsible land use and development and contributes to a high quality of life for residents, workers, and visitors. NCPC uses Comprehensive Plan policies as the primary guide when reviewing federal projects and plans. The proposed updates consider new parking ratios that better reflect existing and planned regional transit accessibility. Other new additions include policies addressing parking at federal visitor destinations and more detailed discussion of emerging trends and new technologies shaping regional transportation patterns.

All are welcome at an open house to learn about the proposed updates, ask questions, and provide written comments.

The report notes that the need for the update comes in part from a change in how people get around. They do so less by SOV and transit and more often by bicycle and ride-hailing for example. 

Between 2000 and 2016, bicycle commuting increased by 200 percent; though overall, bicycling accounts for only 1 percent of total commuting...There are a number of factors contributing to these trends such as an increase in teleworking and alternate work schedules; the rapid growth of bikeshare and other bicycle infrastructure, which prompted growth in non-motorized modes of travel.

For federal employees, bike commuters make up 2%. 

And it points out that the federal government has an oversized impact on transportation through the choices they provide. 

the federal government has an interest in coordinating with regional and local agencies and other stakeholders on a range of transportation issues. From establishing an integrated bicycle and trail network to improving tour bus operations and encouraging resource coordination among commuter bus systems, the federal government influences how travelers use and experience the transportation system. There can be challenges in connecting federal and regional systems, such as bicycle trails, due to differences in agency missions. Security requirements for some federal facilities can also pose a challenge to developing an integrated network. To the extent possible, it is important to create a seamless experience for users and integrate federal and regional trails and systems, which could be achieved through physical design and/or consistency in rules and regulations.

Here are the policies relating to cycling. The federal government should...

  • Work with transit providers to ensure that stations are equipped to accommodate a range of travel options, including providing parking for car-sharing services, amenities for bicyclists and pedestrians, and curb space for shuttles, circulators, and ride-hailing services.
  • Work with relevant agencies and other stakeholders to promote bicycling and establish an integrated regional bicycle network.
  • Support the maintenance and improvement of existing transportation infrastructure, with a priority on multimodal transportation corridors that support transit, pedestrian, and bicycle use
  • Work with local jurisdictions to ensure there is adequate infrastructure for bicycles and pedestrians to safely and efficiently travel to and from federal destinations, including sidewalks, protected bike lanes, and multiuse trails, as appropriate.
  • Provide secure bicycle parking spaces or bicycle lockers in close proximity to federal building entrances and in convenient locations throughout federal campuses, such as in parking facilities and at transit centers.
  • Provide publicly accessible bicycle racks, bicycle sharing stations... on federal land, where possible, or coordinate with local jurisdictions to provide them near federal facilities.
  • Encourage compact development and connected walking, bicycle, shuttle/transit infrastructure and wayfinding on federal campuses so users can easily and comfortably travel between on-site destinations.
  • Locate parking facilities so they do not obstruct pedestrian or bicycle access to buildings and minimize their visibility from surrounding public rights-of-way.
  • Support efforts of local jurisdictions to design and implement new, expanded, and innovative multimodal services that connect to the existing public transportation network and enhance first- and last-mile connectivity, including supplemental transit services and small-scale solutions like dockless bikes and scooters.
  • Coordinate with local and regional bike sharing programs to expand service at federal facilities, where feasible, to provide a flexible, comprehensive, and efficient bike sharing network.
  • Provide a system of dedicated, inter-connected trails, protected bike lanes, and sidewalks, for pedestrians and other small-scale mobility options, among federal campus entrance points and all on-site buildings.
  • Coordinate with regional and local agencies to develop an integrated system of trails that provides connections throughout the region including to and from federal destinations.
  • Coordinate with regional and local agencies to ensure that trail connections and rules in areas with multiple jurisdictional boundaries are clear to users and result in seamless transitions.
  • Allow regional and neighborhood trail access across federal land, where feasible, working with federal security staff to determine appropriate access points, pathways, and hours of operation.
  • Consider a range of transportation management techniques to enhance multimodal access to visitor destinations before expanding parking, particularly for destinations in more isolated areas of the region. Such strategies may include improved multiuse trail connections, bus facilities, and sidewalks, along with improved pedestrian wayfinding.

I'm not clear on how much influence this document has, but NCPC is not some toothless organization, so it's good to have them making a statement in favor biking as transportation, and the need for the federal government to do more. 

The open house will be on Monday, October 7th 6-7:30pm at the National Capital Planning Commission, 401 9th Street, NW, Suite 500N, Washington, DC

Car Free Days start tomorrow

[Did you know that the whole idea for car free days started in Europe during the 1973 energy crisis? It started in early November 1973 when Netherlands and Belgium began banning cars on Sundays for anyone not working that day. By the end of the month West Germany, Denmark, Luxemberg and Switzerland joined in followed not to long after by Italy. Norway stopped selling gasoline on Sundays. As you'd expect people started riding transit and pulling bikes from out of the garages. They even had a lot of people riding horseback. I saw a photo which I can find of a bunch of young people (hippies) having a picnic/party in a highway median.]

Registration is still open for the region’s annual Car Free Day event organized by Commuter Connections at carfreemetrodc.org. Workers, residents, parents, and students across the D.C. region will have an extended opportunity to go car free or car-lite (share a ride with friends, family, or co-workers) on one, two, or even three days during Car Free Days – Saturday, September 21; Sunday, September 22; and Monday, September 23.

Taking the free pledge is fast and easy at carfreemetrodc.org. Everyone who takes the pledge to go car free or car-lite on September 21, 22, and/or 23 will be eligible to win great prizes, including $25 SmarTrip cards, Giant grocery gift cards, KIND Healthy Snack gift bags, Capital Bikeshare memberships, and much more! See the full list at carfreemetrodc.org.

Stay up to date and share your participation on Facebook and Twitter by following @CarFreeMetroDC and using #CarFreeDay.

Organizer name: Commuter Connections 

Organizer email: ridematching@mwcog.org                            

Phone: 800.745.7433

Website:  https://carfreemetrodc.org/

Registration: https://carfreemetrodc.org/

Registration email: ridematching@mwcog.org

Submitter name: Rachel Adler                                           

Submitter email: Radler@asc-pr.com

Montgomery County Planning Board approves new bicycle parking recommendations

In June, the Montgomery County Planning Board gave approval to transmit a proposed zoning text amendment (ZTA) to the County Council to modify the bicycle parking requirements in the county's zoning code. This ZTA would fulfill a recommendation in the 2018 Bicycle Master Plan to update bicycle parking requirements and "end-of-trip" amenities that must be provided as part of the developments projects within Montgomery County.

Highlights of the ZTA include requiring spaces to accommodate larger bicycles, such as cargo bikes and recumbent bikes, and provide bicycle repair stations and charging capabilities for e-bikes within long-term storage areas of many multi-family residential and commercial buildings.
 
The staff report shows how the new zoning requirements would require more and better bicycle storage, while also changing the requirements for things like churches, assisted living units and day care facilities. It standardizes and defines things like "bicycle locker" and it makes the inverted U rack the default type. It even requires an outlet nearby for charging e-bikes. It also changes the rule requiring facilities for male and female and instead requires two "all-gender" shower facilities for the comfort of all users, regardless of gender identity.
 
Not sure when the Council will take this up (or if they already have) but it seems like a lot of good changes. 
Bikeroom

Montgomery County wants meeting on Georgetown Road following cyclist death

A cyclist died on Georgetown Road in Montgomery County at the end of July. He was riding on a narrow sidewalk next to an unfriendly road, fell while trying to navigate around trash cans and was hit by a car. 

The same day as the crash, state and local elected officials began organizing a meeting with the Maryland State Highway Administration, which oversees Old Georgetown Road, to discuss flaws in the design of the stretch of road where Cassell was killed.

Korman said it is worth examining the section of Old Georgetown Road where the crash occurred.

“The sidewalk is very close to the street, and the sidewalk being very close to the street is not how infrastructure would be built today. And so you need to look at that and see if it could be modified today,” he said.

There have been 57 pedestrian-involved crashes on Old Georgetown Road since Jan. 1, 2015, according to county data. About half involved bicyclists.

[Does that mean that half of the 57 are pedestrians hit by cyclists or that cyclists are half of the 57?] As far as I know that meeting has not occurred, but the road needs some attention if that many collisions are happening. 

Army punts on bike/ped concerns about Arlington Cemetery expansion

Bikepike

Arlington National Cemetery is going to expand south, which will remove a bicycle-friendly route on Southgate Road and replace it with a multi-use trail along Columbia Pike.  Gillian Burgess has an excellent write-up of it here from last year with all the relevant bike information and there's no need for me to repeat it all, but the critical part is this: 

as advocates have pointed out, the proposed facilities for biking and walking are not adequate. The proposed plan replaces Southgate Road, which is a safe and comfortable place to bike separated from where people walk, with only a 10-foot-wide side path.

A trail should be built along the north side of Columbia Pike and be designed to current National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) standards.

Similarly, the trail along the new South Nash Street should be built on the east side of the street along the cemetery wall. Both trails should be part of the Cemetery Wall Trail, and should include features like water stations and bicycle parking at cemetery entrances.

According to the Final EA and Draft FONSI made public  a lot of people commented on this part of the project. Approximately 90% of the comments related to the dimensions, design, and safety of the bicycle and pedestrian trails. People wanted the bike and ped facilities separated, widened or both. Arlington County also wants it widened and pushed back on the notion that "multi-modal improvements along Columbia Pike are part of the purpose and need of the project."

At the time of the release of the Draft EA in August 2018, ANC received much feedback from the public concerning the proposed multi-use trail along Columbia Pike. Bicyclists and pedestrians indicated that they were used to using Southgate Road, which is currently a wide roadway with minimal traffic. They were concerned with this facility being closed and replaced and provided suggestions for cross sections, schematics, signage, and usage. Many preferred wider trails separated for bicycles and pedestrians rather than shared-use trails.

Arlington County and the Pedestrian Advisory Committee also expressed some concern. They recommended an additional five feet of design width for the shared-use trail. Arlington Public Schools indicated that it preferred separated trails for bicycles and pedestrians.

The Army defended the preferred alternative

The Preferred Alternative, including the combination of proposed improvements to Columbia Pike and the closure of Southgate Road, would maintain existing connections with the pedestrian and bicycle trail network in this area. It would include the appropriate level of bicycle/pedestrian infrastructure consistent with VDOT standards and Arlington County’s Columbia Pike multimodal design standard.

And then they punted. The acknowledged that Southgate Road is a bicycle friendly roadway and that the bike facility on Columbia Pike would be steeper and narrower than that, but then stated that the design of Columbia Pike is ongoing and that the multi-use trail will be built to current standards and similar to other recent trails. 

Specific suggestions for design provided by the citizens were passed along to the design team for consideration. Lighting and signalized cross-walks would help to ensure pedestrian safety along the route.

The final design, including actual widths of the realigned Columbia Pike right-of-way, is outside the scope of the EA and this Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI).

So, the promise to replace a bike-friendly street with a mutli-use trail of debatable equivalence is enough to qualify as No Significant Impact, even though the removal of the street is absolutely going to happen?

They further added that 

Arlington County’s “Wall Trail” was not considered because of construction feasibility issues and its unknown schedule.

The “Wall Trail” is in the county's transportation plan. It's to be located between the cemetery's east side boundary wall and the west side of Washington Boulevard/Route 110 between Foxcroft Heights and Memorial Drive. The Army says that "The trail appears to have severe space constraints due to aboveground utilities along the proposed route." They're also punting on that.


Bikepike

No wonder Army lost to Michigan. Too much punting. 

Custis Trail Detour in Arlington near Bon Air Park Begins Sept. 16

The Custis Trail in Arlington will be detoured beginning Monday, Sept. 16, due to I-66 Eastbound Widening Project construction. The trail will be closed where it passes under I-66 near Bon Air Park for construction to widen the bridge above. The detour is expected to last until fall 2020.
Custis detour
 
Trail users will be directed to cross over I-66 using an existing pedestrian bridge about 750 feet east of the underpass. The pedestrian bridge can also be accessed from N. Fairfax Drive near Kensington Street. The detour will be marked and uses existing paved trails.
 
An additional lane is being added to I-66 East between the Dulles Connector Road and Fairfax Drive / Glebe Road (Exit 71). Extensive work will occur on the I-66 bridge that runs above the trail, which requires the underpass to be closed for safety. As part of the construction, the Custis Trail alignment will be modified to improve safety for trail users.
 
Work is expected to be complete by fall 2020. The closure and detour were previously announced in spring 2019, but implementation was delayed until work overhead progressed to make it necessary. 

Buzzard Point Park section of Anacostia Riverwalk Trail comes into view

In late July, NPS hosted an open house on the Environmental Assessment for the Buzzard Point Park Improvement Project. The Project will include about 1000 feet of the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail, filling in a gap between two sections currently under development as part of the River Point and 1900 Half Street building conversion projects. Comments are due on Monday at noon, so hurry if you have any. 

The trail is one of the driving forces for the park improvement, so it was the focus of much of the presentation even if it wasn't much of the discussion (turns out a lot of wildlife lovers are interested in this project for other reasons). 

The purpose of the Buzzard Point Park Improvements project is to transform the Park into an accessible community waterfront amenity that continues the Anacostia Riverwalk Trail (ART).

At the meeting NPS presented the preferred alternative which was to change the park into a linear waterfront amenity settled in the neighborhood. And then of the two options for that, they settled on Option 2 which mostly deals with how the park connects to the waterfront (with a stone revetment or, in the preferred option, a boardwalk). The trail is basically the same. 

For both Options, the ART would be extended through the Park as a multi-use trail of varying widths (between 10-16 feet) to allow for access to recreational features along the trail without inhibiting circulation. The multi-use trail would be higher in elevation than the passive walking trail and would continue through the central portion of the Park. The trail would then tie into the terminus of the existing ART at the southern end of the Park.

ParkLocation

The trail would start at the Half street property line (where it will connect to that section of the trail), pass by the small parking lot and Matthew Henson building before going through the pinchpoint. South of V there's a wider area where it would pass through some activity areas, with access to the water and then connect to the River Point Section of the trail. [On the other side of River Point it connects to the PBL on 2nd. And on the other side of the Half Street project to T Street and then I don't know what?]

BuzzPointTrail

Earlier in the process they had considered a trail structure over the water, but that was eliminated because of public concern, worry about trash and safety and possible impact on fish. But people asked if perhaps a small one could be used at the pinch point, where V meets Half Street. I suggested that DC or NPS try to buy the old right-of-way of Water Street (visible as a dotted diagonal box at the intersection) when PEPCO disposes of the power plant there. Then the road can be shifted over to there and the park can be expanded a bit where it's needed. For now the plan is to separate the trail and road with an 18" wide wall/fence and have the boardwalk right next to that, and to narrow the trail to 10 feet. 

Crosssection

A lot of the discussion was about bird habitat and fish and it was all very pleasant with no one fearing for the children or complaining about parking. There was no opposition to the trail that I heard. Hopefully this will go smoothly and then DDOT will get a plan for getting from T Street to the South Capital Street Bridge part of the trail. 

 

Commuters can earn rewards and avoid traffic with new incenTrip mobile app

From a press release

Commuter Connections and the Maryland Transportation Institute at the University of Maryland, with technology development funding from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Project Agency – Energy (ARPA-E), will launch incenTrip, a new mobile app that allows commuters in the Washington D.C. region to save time, money, and fuel, while earning rewards for planning trips.

The incenTrip app recommends the best travel mode, departure time, and route based on both real-time traffic prediction data and user personal preferences to help commuters avoid both day-to-day congestion and traffic jams caused by accidents, work zones, special events, and adverse weather conditions.

With the app, commuters can earn rewards, including gift cards and cash, every time they plan trips to and from work, avoid traffic, or use alternatives to drive-alone commuting, such as carpooling, taking transit, walking, and biking. The app provides users a fun and game-like environment, where they can accomplish customized weekly goals, win challenges, and invite friends to participate.

The launch event of the app will include an overview of the app development, demonstration of key features, and discussion of regional impacts, such as reducing congestion and vehicle emissions. Reporters will have the opportunity to ask questions and be among the first users to try out the app.

Here's more from the Washington Post back in 2018.

I haven't yet used it, but I wonder if it lets you combine metrorail with biking, or bike sharing or is it like Google Maps and if you choose transit it assumes you can use the train or bus or walk but that's it. 

County Council members challenges Planning Board's CCT decision

Three Montgomery County Council members are questioning the local Planning Board’s decision to abandon a temporary road-lane reduction and realign the Capital Crescent Trail’s crossing with Little Falls Parkway in Bethesda.

In June, the planning board voted to get rid of the road diet on Little Falls Parkway and move the Capital Crescent Trail to the intersection. This month om Hucker, Evan Glass and Hans Riemer of the county council wrote a letter to the planning board saying that it flies in the face of the Vision Zero commitment. I'm not sure how much this will do, since the planning board doesn't have to listen to the Council, and it's not even an official position of the council, but it's nice. 

It's worth noting that Park & Planning commissioned a traffic study, which generated best practice recommendations. It recommended the road diet. 

Installation of the interim road diet along Little Falls Parkway approaching the Capital Crescent Trail was quantitatively shown to significantly improve safety at the trail crossing while also minimizing adverse impacts to vehicular operations along the corridor. The interim road diet has eliminated the multi-lane threat, slowed vehicle speeds through this segment of Little Falls Parkway, and increased visibility between trail users and drivers....

Unlike all other alternatives, signalization of the trail crossing introduces delay to trail users (approximately 30 seconds on average), where they currently have none. Our analysis showed that the additional signal phase for trail users is also projected to increase travel times along the corridor for vehicular traffic by approximately 13 seconds over pre-road diet conditions. These increases in delay for all users may result in non-compliance in the form of violations of the “no right turn on red” restriction for vehicles and “jay walking” by trail users, potentially degrading the safety benefits of signalization.

Conclusion: By eliminating the multi-lane threat, reducing vehicle speeds and increasing motorist and trail user awareness, the road diet has been effective in improving safety for trail users. Significant reduction in conflicts and crashes from 12 in the two-year prior to the road diet down to 5 in the two years post-road diet. “Severity” of conflicts appears reduced due to slower vehicle speeds. Compliance of drivers yielding to trail users is very high and wait times for trail users are very low.

City officials say the road change won’t happen until at least another year, and it's possible the planning board could change its mind. 

In other CCT news, Purple Line Transit Partners says that the 4.3 mile expansion to the trail being built in conjunction with the Purple Line could open before the Purple Line. 

“We could conceivably start looking at ways to open the trail before the Purple Line is open,” he said. “There could be times we have to close it again when construction crews have to come in and finish some landscaping.”

I don’t think they’re saying the CCT will open before the Purple Line construction is finished, but that it COULD open, at times, before the Purple Line is running (because there will be some time between completion of construction and operation). 

WB&A trail completion in sight, expansion being seriously considered

I wrote a post on GGW Washington about this. 

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