Category: Transportation

County Board Loosens Regulations on E-Scooters

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, November 16, 2019

Last month I protested the advertisement of this regulation as an exercise in reckless endangerment. As an example I related an experience reported by my physical therapist.

Several months ago, the therapist was biking on the Mount Vernon Trail near Gravelly Point, when he approached a helmetless 10 year-old travelling in the same direction on an e-scooter. Since the e-scooter was moving erratically, the therapist attempted to pass him from the left. As he did so, the e-scooter swerved into his path, causing the biker to wipe out.

I further related that the biker, a young, physically fit adult male, was not seriously injured. I have since learned that I was misinformed. The therapist suffered lacerations the length of the left side of his body and required physical therapy to alleviate the pain in his badly bruised left shoulder. The therapist further reports that his facility has been treating e-scooter riders for elbow injuries. His colleagues report a surge of ER visits from people with e-scooter injuries.

With adoption of this regulation, incidents like that reported by the physical therapist will become routine rather than incidental. Even those who want this regulation acknowledge that its limited protections are unenforceable. Absent an enforcement mechanism, it represents a public hazard.

Image the consequences of adding a complement of e-scooters to the additional traffic County Board authorized today at the intersection of Glebe Road and North Randolph Street. Personal injury lawyers will benefit from this regulation. No one else will.

County Board Doubles Down on Massive Parking Facility at HT Development Site

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting: 11/16/19

I am speaking on my own behalf as a long-time bike commuter, not on behalf of the Arlington Transportation Commission, of which I am a member.

However, I voted with the majority of the commission on October 30, when it recommended that this item be deferred until the developer produces a more realistic parking plan. HT currently proposes 946 parking spaces or 812 more than the current HT parking lot. The Parking Guidelines for Multi-Family Residential Projects requires only 506 spaces for this site. So HT is effectively doubling what the County recommends.

The Transportation Impact Analysis (TIA) produced by Gorove/Slave discounts the impact of the development at the intersection of Glebe Road and Randolph Street, trotting out its usual argument that since the intersection is already operating at an unacceptable level of service (LOS F), the predicted net increase of about 100 cars during peak hours isn’t going to make things worse.

According to neighbors at nearby Hyde Park Condominium the intersection at Glebe and Randolph is already dangerous, because due to the lack of a westbound left turn lane at Glebe and Henderson Road, residents of Hyde Park must use the Glebe and Randolph intersection to execute westbound turns into the condominium.

The staff report indicates that the project provides almost 300 bicycle parking spaces, with bike access afforded by bike lanes on adjoining streets. But there are no current or planned bike lanes along Glebe Road. 300 bikes competing with hundreds of cars and thousands of pedestrians to get into and out of 600 Glebe Road every day gives new meaning to the term “traffic hazard”.

To get an idea of just how dangerous the HT location already is, the other day I road my bike during rush hour on the sidewalk of Glebe Road from Fairfax Drive to Route 50 and back. En route I jockeyed for space with numerous pedestrians, other bikers and turning cars on uneven pavement. It was a hazardous trip that will become exponentially more dangerous with new HT development. Time to hit the reset button on 600 Glebe Road and come up with a new safety conscious parking plan.

County Board Set to Loosen Regulations on E-Scooters

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, October 19, 2019

I am speaking on my own behalf as a long-time bike commuter, not on behalf of the Arlington County Transportation Commission, of which I am a member.

The proposed Ordinance Revisions that Regulate the Use and Rental of Micro-Mobility Devices–read e-scooters–are a sop to group of self-interested entrepreneurs and their mostly young, male, thrill seeking clientele and a hazard to the public at large.

When the Shared Mobility Device (SMD) Pilot Project was implemented last year, it excluded SMDs from sidewalks and bike trails and banned users under 16. These regulations proved to be meaningless due to lack of enforcement.

The result was a public outcry against the inconvenience and hazard to pedestrians and bikers by SMDs travelling on and obstructing sidewalks and multi-use trails.

Instead of responding to these concerns by developing the means to enforce existing regulations, the County proposes to essentially eliminate them. Thus SMDs will now be permitted on both sidewalks and multi-use trails, with a speed limit of 6 mph on sidewalks and 15 mph on trails. While non-enforcement of a lax regulation is irresponsible, loosening lax regulations further constitutes reckless endangerment.

As an example I point to an experience related to me by my physical therapist on October 3 shortly before the Transportation Commission recommended these revisions to Chapter 14.2 of County Code.

Several months ago, the therapist was biking on the Mount Vernon trail near Gravelly Point, when he approached a helmetless 10 year-old travelling in the same direction on an e-scooter. Since the e-scooter was moving erratically, the therapist attempted to pass him from the left. As he did so, the e-scooter swerved into his path, causing the biker to wipe out.

The biker, a young physically fit, adult male, was not seriously injured. Nevertheless I ask you to consider the likely outcome if the e-scooter had collided with a woman walking a stroller or a person in a wheel chair at 15 mph on the Mount Vernon Trail.

Toll Cheating Drives Up Tolls on I-66

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, 5/18/19

I am speaking on behalf of the Arlington Coalition for Sensible Transportation (ACST), not on behalf of the Arlington Transportation Commission, of which I am a member.

On May 2, 2019, VDOT Tolling Division Administrator David Caudill and NOVA Assistant District Administrator Monica Bhatia provided the Arlington Transportation Commission with a performance report on tolling operations on I-66 Inside the Beltway since their inception in December, 2017.

The good news is that headway on the corridor has improved with east bound speeds between Route 7 and Lee Highway increasing 30.2% from 41.4 mph to 53.9 mph and west bound speeds between Route 7 and I-495 increasing 25.4 percent from 40.1 mph to 50.3 mph.

The bad news is that tolling enforcement operations by Virginia State Police (VSP) are lax. On May 9, 2019, Caudill further reported:

“since December 4, 2017, Virginia State Police troopers have issued 258 citations eastbound and 615 citations westbound. 91 citations have been written between 7:30AM and 8:30AM.”

91 peak hour HOV citations in the 356 tolling days during the 74 week reporting period reduces to only about one peak hour citation for every four days of tolling or 0.256 HOV citations per peak-toll-price hour.

A 99% HOV-compliance rate among the I-66 ITB facility’s 14,000 daily HOV vehicle trips would equate to 140 toll-cheating trips/day or 17 citations per toll-price-hour. Yet actual HOV citation numbers are a fraction of that.

Significantly lower numbers of citations on eastbound I-66 further indicate that toll cheating contributes to higher peak hour toll prices documented in the a.m. on inbound I-66. Absent an adequate enforcement regime, tolls will continue to spike on eastbound I-66, fueling political opposition to the program, despite its success at reducing congestion.

Public Spaces Master Plan Calls for Widening Bike Trails

Comments At Arlington County Board Meeting, 4/25/19

The same environmental considerations that govern the Bicycle Element should guide the Public Spaces Master Plan (PSMP) especially for those areas that are located in Resource Protection Areas (RPAs) governed by the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Act (CBPA). This includes the entire linear regional park along Four Mile Run and all of the local parks that abut it.

Dr. Bernard Berne has forwarded to you amendments to the draft PSMP to remove language to widen trails located in urban parks, on the grounds that:

“Wide paved trails within natural areas and Resource Protection Areas (RPAs) add impermeable surfaces that disturb natural areas, harm nearby trees, reduce the size of adjacent meadows and other natural features, and increase stormwater runoff.  Further, wide trails detract from the experiences that people visiting the areas for reasons other than transportation wish to enjoy.”

Dr. Bernard Berne

Dr. Berne cites the 2012 AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities, which recommends designing trails for lower speeds in urban parks (p. 5-12).

He also recommends removing Section 2.3.4 (p. 90): as inconsistent with preservation of natural areas stipulated in Section 3.2 (p. 98):

2.3.4 Explore ways to safely separate modes, where space allows, on high traffic trail routes and where user conflicts commonly occur, while minimizing impact on natural resources and trees.

Separating bicycle and pedestrian traffic on the most heavily used routes will enhance the safety of all users.

And adding a second sentence to Section 6.1.4 (p. 128):

Mowed buffers adjacent to paved trails in natural areas should not exceed three feet in width, except where environmental conditions prevent this.

As authority, Dr. Berne cites the AASHTO Guide (p. 5-5), which recommends that:

. . . a graded shoulder area at least 3 to 5 ft (0.9 to 1.5 m) wide with a maximum cross-slope of 1V:6H, which should be recoverable in all weather conditions, should be maintained on each side of the pathway.

Finally Dr. Berne recommends an appendix that contains all existing County maintenance standards for parks and trails, so that the public can determine if the County is adhering to them.

Toll Cheating on I-66 Drives Up Tolls

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, March 16, 2019

I’m speaking on my own behalf as an Arlington Coalition for Sensible Transportation (ACST) director, not as a member of the Transportation Commission.

Recently, ACST made FOIA inquiries with Virginia State Police (VSP) and VDOT to determine whether toll cheating on I-66 Inside the Beltway (ITB) by solo motorists is inflating the toll prices.

Reportedly, pursuant to the attached, redacted Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between VDOT and VSP, during the first year of tolling, VDOT reimbursed VSP approximately $550,000 from I-66 toll revenue for new VSP enforcement activities, including at least four additional state troopers to monitor the gantries along I-66 for toll cheaters.

Under this MOU (p. 4), the VSP Area Commander is supposed to issue daily, monthly, and quarterly HOV-enforcement reports–“with vehicle information and the time/date of violations”–to VDOT’s “I-66 ITB Facility Manager”. VSP indicated that it does not routinely do this.

Instead, it produces database-generated summary reports showing incidents and citations by incident type. The incident summary report for the first 53 weeks of I-66 tolling shows 1,326 HOV stops resulting in 702 citations.

Dividing the 702 HOV citations by 253 8-hour tolling days in this 53-week reporting period, yields an average of 2.77 HOV citations for every 8 hours of tolling.

A 99% HOV-compliance rate among the I-66 ITB facility’s 14,000 daily trips vehicle trips/day taken with an E-ZPass Flex set in the HOV mode would equate to 140 toll-cheating trips/day, whereas the VSP has cited fewer than 3 vehicles/day, on average, for HOV violations.

Moreover, ACST suspects that HOV enforcement on I-66 is largely limited to westbound travel, allowing eastbound solo motorists to routinely cheat the tolls with near impunity.

Populist outrage over the “sky high” AM eastbound tolls threatens to undo the Transform 66 initiative, leading to more traffic congestion in Arlington and DC and an even wider I-66. Unless elected officials and VDOT get serious about enforcing I-66 tolls, I fear that will happen.

Arlington Civic Association Says VDOT Responsible for Erosion of W&OD Trail

Comments At Arlington County Board Meeting, 2/26/19

I am speaking in my capacity as a director of the Arlington Coalition for Sensible Transportation (ACST), not as a member of the Transportation Commission.

I support VDOT’s request for temporary and permanent easements along the W&OD and Custis Trails to implement needed trail improvements between East Falls Church Metro and Ballston.

I pulled this item from the consent agenda because it does not include a plan to address the root cause of flooding of Four Mile Run in the immediate vicinity of the work VDOT has outlined.

You should have received a recent letter from the Madison Manor Civic Association (MMCA) thanking you for undertaking to shore up erosion along the W&OD trail in the vicinity of the Patrick Henry overpass.

However, MMCA is concerned that unless the cause of the erosion is addressed, it will recur. Members of the civic association have identified the problem as clogged intakes to a storm water diversion bypass tunnel about one third mile upstream.

It is irresponsible for the County to ignore this situation, of which it is surely aware. County Board itself in approving the I-66 widening project on 1/28/17 in agenda item 37.C.e stipulated to VDOT that:

any new stormwater management facilities proposed with this project be adequately maintained, specifically that erosion and sediment controls should be outlined and contain information on inspection and enforcement actions.

County Board should direct staff to contact VDOT and stipulate the repair and upgrade or replacement of the existing intakes as part of the I-66 eastbound widening project, which authorizes such improvements as long as they are within the scope of the project.

Insofar as the bypass tunnel runs directly under the I-66 ROW before emptying into Four Mile Run, it is definitely within the eastbound widening project’s scope of work. Thus it is well within the authority of Arlington County Board to make this request.

County Board Ignores Neighborhood in Approving APAH Deal

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting, 2/23/19

I am speaking on my own behalf and not on behalf of the Transportation Commission, which heard this item on February 7.

I support affordable housing in general and Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH)’s mission to provide it in particular. However at over $400,000 per unit, which is the price of a luxury condo, I do not believe that APAH actually provides affordable housing.

Regarding the American legion site, I am concerned that issues raised by the neighborhood have been ignored. The Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association submitted a letter dated 2/7/19 to both the Planning and Transportation Commissions detailing its concerns. It concluded:

In conversations with several planning commissioners, it has been made clear that Arlington County’s need and desire for affordable housing means this project is moving forward regardless of its deleterious impacts to nearby residents. It is feared that neighborhood concerns are not being fully considered and given the weight they duly deserve. In this way, citizens have participated throughout the process, but their voice has been lost.

I concur with this assessment. In particular I’m concerned about the decision to remove the fence separating this development from the 12th Road residential neighborhood in order to provide egress to emergency vehicles.

In another letter a resident of that block pointed out that 12th Road is a narrow, one way street with no sidewalks or adequate lighting. If indeed emergency access is needed to 12th Road, then the County should treat this situation like it does any other easement.

The County should require compensation from the developer to pay for needed street improvements. To me upgrading 12th Road is both a matter of public safety and simple equity. The fact that APAH would find millions to spend on the American Legion site–over $38 million–while beggaring the neighborhood is amazing.

Crystal City Traffic Impact Analysis Misreported

Comments at Arlington County Board Meeting on May 19, 2018.

Although I’m a member of the Arlington Transportation Commission, I’m speaking on my own behalf, and my opinion does not reflect that of the Commission on the matter at hand.

I like this plan because its principal feature, a 21 story residential tower, represents a practical way to reuse a vacant office building that promises to remain vacant otherwise. It will meet the demand for more housing while promising economic benefits to the developer and the County. The architectural design is aesthetically pleasing, and the developer promises to dedicate a major portion of the site to a public park.

However, my principal focus is traffic generated by the development, and I am concerned about the numbers reported and the conclusions drawn by the Traffic Impact Analysis (TIA), which is referenced in the staff report accompanying this agenda item. (more…)

NVTA’s Funding Formula Is Biased

Comments at Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) Meeting, May 10, 2018.

Although I’m a member of the Arlington County Transportation Commission, I am speaking only on my own behalf.

NVTA ranked 60 projects as a preliminary to awarding more than $1.2 billion under the FY 2018-2023 Six Year Program (SYP). NVTA ranked five Arlington projects as follows:

  • 1 Transportation Demand Management (TDM) project;
  • 2 Metrorail station improvement projects–one at Ballston and the other at Crystal City;
  • 2 bus system improvement projects–one to extend the Crystal City Transitway to Pentagon City and the other to construct improved ART bus facilities.

Of those five projects, the only one with a high CRRC (congestion reduction relative to cost) rank was the TDM project. All the others scored low—extremely low. In fact ART bus facility improvements ranked 56 out of 60, even though ART bus is one of only two regional bus services to realize an increase in ridership in 2017. Improvements to the Crystal City Metrorail Station scored 58 out of 60 even though it is seen as necessary to service a projected major increase in VRE ridership offloading at Crystal City. (more…)