Greater Greater Washington

Posts by Aimee Custis

Aimee Custis is a policy wonk by training and a communicator by profession. She is the managing editor of Greater Greater Washington and the Communications Manager at the Coalition for Smarter Growth. Weekends, you'll find her practicing her other love, wedding and portrait photography

Alexandria has identified locations for its next 16 bikeshare stations

The City of Alexandria might not follow through on plans to add 16 new Capital Bikeshare stations throughout the city this year. But if it does, city staff have identified the general areas the new stations are likely to go.


Capital Bikeshare stations overlaid on crowdsourced demand map (Click to enlarge). Map by the author from City of Alexandria data.

City staff presented the expansion information at the Alexandria's transportation commission's December. (The overlay map above reflects a slightly updated set of locations I received after reaching out to the city this week.)

The locations are based on the city's public crowdsourcing maps, connectivity to transit, proximity to mixed-use activity centers, and whether the location was within .25 mile of an existing station.

Technical considerations like direct sunlight to power the stations, adequate space, flat ground, and utility clearances will be important in choosing the exact site for each station.

The new stations would be primarily to the east, in Old Town, Del Ray, Potomac Yard, and surrounding areas. But three new stations would add to the cluster in Fairlington, and Eisenhower East will recieve a new station as well. Though there's definitely a demand for stations in West End, activity centers, density, and a lack of nearby stations could make it harder for stations in those areas to be successful.

What else do you notice about the locations?

Map: When and where Metrorail fares come from

Data fans, rejoice. Now you can see for yourself which Metro stations generate the most farebox revenue when, thanks to a new interactive data visualization released today by PlanItMetro.


Map by PlanItMetro. Click for interactive version.

As you'd expect for a system that serves as many commuters as Metrorail, terminal stations dominate in terms of revenue contribution in the morning, and core stations dominate during evening rush.

Union Station functions as an internal terminal station, since commuter rail and Amtrak connections to Metro are extremely important to the overall ridership and revenue picture.

What other patterns do you notice?

Events roundup: Get up and go!

Get outside and grab some exercise with these great events, or if you're feeling a little less active, mark your calendar for Metrobus meetings. Still too much for you? Take an online survey to give your feedback!


Image by the author.

New modes in New Carrollton: New Carrollton as a vibrant, multimodal hub? New Purple Line connections, pedestrian and bike-friendly development, and state of the art planning are all in the works to make that a reality. Join the Coalition for Smarter Growth's walking tour to get your learning and exercise out of the way for the weekend.

After the jump: Bicycle counts, bike to work, the future of Columbia Pike, Metrobus meetings, and more...

Talk water with the White House: Early risers, join Samantha Medlock of the White House Council on Environmental Quality and other experts over breakfast to talk about the future of water infrastructure policy in the US. The breakfast is hosted by the American Planning Association. Breakfast is free, as long as you register.

Metrobus meetings and survey: WMATA and DDOT are studying how to improve service on the 60, 62, 63, and 64 bus lines, which are some of DC's most heavily-used routes. They are seeking public input via an online survey and public meetings on Wednesday, April 15 (5:30-7:30 pm at Petworth Library) and Saturday, April 18 (12:30-2:30 pm at Takoma Community Center). The study will wrap up in late 2015.

What is "Tactical Urbanism"? There's still time to sign up for our free book talk with Tactical Urbanism co-author Mike Lydon at 6:30 pm on April 21 in Brookland. We're co-sponsoring the talk with Coalition for Smarter Growth, CNU-DC, and Island Press, so be sure to mark your calendar and snag a space before they're all gone!

Future of Columbia Pike: With the cancellation of the Columbia Pike Streetcar, what's next for the corridor? Listen to and ask questions of a panel of community leaders about the future of Columbia Pike on April 30 starting at 6:00pm. The Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization is hosting the event at the Salsa Room on Columbia Pike. Space is limited, so be sure to get the full details and RSVP.

Bicycle counts: How many cyclists ride in Alexandria? Advocates count just that 2-3 times per year, and this time, they're looking for volunteers to help! The Alexandria Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee (BPAC) is conducting counts on Thursday, May 7 (5-7 pm) and Saturday, May 9 (12-2 pm). If you can help, be sure to sign up for an assignment!

Bike to Work Day: On Friday, May 15, join over 10,000 area commuters for this year's Bike to Work Day. Be sure to register (it's free) to get your free t-shirt. 79 pit stops throughout DC, Maryland, and Virginia will host refreshments and raffles.

Do you know of an upcoming event that may be interesting, relevant, or important to Greater Greater Washington readers? Send it to us at events@ggwash.org.

Ask GGW: Unusual items on Metro

People carry a lot of weird stuff on Metro. We asked our contributors what they've seen, and what Metro's rules are for carrying unusual items.


Photo by chricycle on Flickr.

We started in on the topic when contributor Ned Russell asked what the policy for skis on Metro is during our discussion on best projects from other places, adding, "I contemplated taking them on for a flight to Colorado earlier this winter but ended up just getting a ride."

Fellow contributor Nick Keenan had the answer:

You can bring your skis, your surfboard, your washing machine—if it fits it rides.

But the answer isn't quite that simple. Gray Kimbrough pointed out that in response to video footage of a mattress on Metro, last year, WMATA issued clarifying policy language:

Patrons may carry ordinary hand baggage and instrument cases, tool cases, folding baby carriages, wheelchairs, bundles, or packages which can be handled without inconvenience to other patrons. Such articles must not be permitted to remain in a position where they will interfere with entrance or exit, free use of the aisle, or the proper and safe operation of the vehicle. Patrons must remain with their possessions at all times. Unattended articles may be confiscated and/or destroyed for safety and security reasons.
Naturally, we devolved in a discussion of the craziest things you've ever seen on Metro.

David Cranor and Nick Keenan point us back to a washing machine, though whether or not it's Metro is up for debate.

Julie Lawson confesses, "I've taken my surfboard on Metro during rush hour. I also, a looooong time ago, took a life-size inflated emperor penguin on during evening rush. It sat on my lap. Not nearly as large as a washing machine but possibly more ridiculous-looking."

Home appliances... but no bikes?

"Metro has stringent regulations on bicycles but none on other large and bulky items," says Nick Keenan. "Your bicycle, even if it's in a cardboard shipping container, is restricted. Boxes of bicycle parts, on the other hand, are no problem."

Steve Seelig points out that this is a "huge gap in Metro policy with the rush hour bike ban. Seriously, I would ditch my car if I could use the system [with my bike] during rush hour. Rumor has it Metro is having ridership issues, and I recall last year one of their spokespeople mentioned they are trying to lure more cyclists onto the system. But he just meant the people, not the bikes."

What's the craziest thing you've ever seen on Metro? Tell us in the comments!

Do you have a question? Each week, we'll post a question to the Greater Greater Washington contributors and post appropriate parts of the discussion. You can suggest questions by emailing ask@ggwash.org. Questions about factual topics are most likely to be chosen. Thanks!

Events roundup: More than just sunshine

As the weather is warming up, there's plenty more to do around the region than soak up the sun at a sidewalk cafe. (Though, you should do that too.) Mark your calendar for great activities around the region this week and beyond.


Photo by Joe Flood on Flickr.

Affordability with APA: Talk affordable housing for Montgomery County Tuesday 4/7 (tomorrow) at 5:30 pm with Praj Kasbekar of the Montgomery Housing Partnership. The event is part of the American Planning Association's "Tuesdays at APA" series at 1030 15th St NW.

After the jump: Tactical Urbanism, federal transportation policy, and more.

Tactical Urbanism: Spaces are filling up fast for our free book talk with Tactical Urbanism co-author Mike Lydon at 6:30 pm on April 21 in Brookland. We're co-sponsoring the talk with Coalition for Smarter Growth, CNU-DC, and Island Press, so be sure to mark your calendar and snag a space before they're all gone!

Federal transportation reauthorization: Talk about the upcoming reauthorization of the federal MAP-21 transportation program over wine and cheese at the American Public Transportation Association's Transportation Tuesday series, Tuesday 4/7 (tomorrow) at 5:00 pm. Hear from keynote guest Governor Jim Gilmore, President & CEO of the Free Congress Foundation (FCF). RSVP requested to cowens@apta.com.

Potomac Yard Metro: Alexandrians awaiting the infill Potomac Yard Metro station can rejoice: the next step is here! Last week, officials released the draft environmental impact statement for four alternative locations being considered. Public comment on the alternatives is open through May 18, so why not weigh in Wednesday, April 8 at 6:30 pm at the latest public meeting?

Purple Line in the legislature: At this month's ACT meeting on April 14, join Maryland Delegate David Moon (District 20) for a briefing on the latest about the Purple Line as this year's Maryland legislative session comes to an end. ACT meetings are the second Tuesday of the month at the Silver Spring Civic Center, beginning at 7:30 pm.

Do you know of an upcoming event that may be interesting, relevant, or important to Greater Greater Washington readers? Send it to us at events@ggwash.org.

Local support is waning for building the Bi-County Parkway

A letter sent earlier this week is reviving the debate over whether Northern Virginia should build the ten-mile, four-lane Bi-County Parkway.


Photo by Yuya Sekiguchi on Flickr.

The Bi-County Parkway is the latest incarnation of what some have called an "Outer Beltway," which highway boosters have been pushing for decades. The proposed north-south highway comes with a $440 million price tag to link Loudoun and Prince William counties west of Dulles Airport.

Delegate Tim Hugo, who represents Virginia's 40th district where the project would largely be built, asked the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) to clarify its position on the long-studied highway.

In response, VDOT officials dispatched a letter saying that for the time being, VDOT has suspended negotiations seeking National Park Service approval of the highway route through the Manassas National Battlefield Park, and that it has put a hold on completing the necessary environmental studies to move forward with the project.

"VDOT is not actively working on the project including pursuing the Programmatic Agreement or the environmental approvals from the Federal Highway Administration," the letter said.

Local support for the highway is waning

In response to the letter, Delegate Hugo and several other state and local elected officials gathered yesterday to announce it's time to kill the project for good, demonstrating the growing opposition to the project from elected officials and their constituents.

Smart growth advocates, who oppose the highway, say that if built, the north-south route wouldn't solve northern Virginia's mainly east-west traffic problems.

But the highway would open over 100,000 acres of the Rural Crescent in Prince William County and of the Transition Area in Loudoun County to sprawl-style development, which would hurt the environment and put additional stress on already overburdened east-west roads like I-66 and Route 50 as commuters travel to jobs.

Next week, the Prince William County Board of Supervisors will introduce a resolution to remove the project from the county's comprehensive plan.

"This road, as we know it, is dead, or on life-support. And what we are saying is kill it totally, to remove the cloud that is hanging over all these constituents out here, all these citizens, homes, and churches," said Hugo. "The letter says they are not pursuing the programmatic agreement [with the National Park Service]. There is no way you build this road if they are not going to do it."

VDOT is keeping the project alive

While not pursuing an agreement with the National Park Service or completing the environmental studies at this time, the McAuliffe administration intends to evaluate the Bi-County Parkway through the project rating system outlined in legislation passed by last year's General Assembly, known as HB2.

The legislation requires that major transportation projects in the state be scored under a range of factors, to help determine which projects move forward. Those criteria are being developed, but are likely to be ready in June.

Smart growth advocates are working to offer input to those criteria, and are optimistic that the Bi-County Parkway will not score well in terms of congestion reduction, cost-effectiveness, or environmental impact. They are urging the Governor to simply cancel the project and direct transportation funds to the I-66 corridor, regional transit, and local road needs.

Thanks for celebrating our Greater Greater birthday

Thanks to all of you —our readers, friends, and donors—who celebrated our seventh birthday last night!


Our 7th birthday bash. Photos by Kian McKellar.

Almost 200 of us (according to our sign-in sheets), including several local elected officials and agency heads gathered last night at Lost & Found near the Convention Center for cake, drinks, and mingling.


Thank you to everyone who turned out to help us celebrate!


Our terrific crowd looks on while managing editor Aimee says "thanks" to everyone at the party.


We were thrilled to see so many longtime contributors, readers, and friends!

If you weren't able to join us, we hope you enjoy these and the rest of the photos on our Facebook page. Also, you can join us at an upcoming Greater Greater happy hour. Thank you for being a part of our seven years (and counting) of success!

Strange bedfellows are making waves for the Purple Line

Last night, nearly 200 activists from across Maryland flooded the statehouse in Annapolis to remind legislators of broad popular support for the state's two transit projects, the Purple Line and Baltimore's Red Line.


Nearly two dozen elected officials attended the rally. Images by the author except where noted.

Amid concerns that Governor Larry Hogan may cancel the projects, transit supporters from around the state attended over 50 meetings with delegates from Montgomery County, Prince George's County, Baltimore County, and Baltimore City. They also stirred up social media with the hashtag #transitnight.

An exceptionally diverse range of organizations, from the Board of Trade to the Sierra Club to University of Maryland students to CASA, an immigrant advocacy organization, organized and attended the event. Support from so many different walks of life makes sense given that the Purple Line will strengthen neighborhoods, improve connections to friends and family, and boost local economies all over.


Activists write letters to their elected officials before heading to their meetings.


Volunteers help with check-in and assignments for late arrivals.


District 16 residents outside of a meeting. Photo by @actfortransit on Twitter.


A large contingent of students from College Park attended in support of the Purple Line.


Baltimore mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake was one of many elected, community, and business leaders to speak at the rally.

Organizers of the event hosted a rally after the evening's meetings, which nearly two dozen elected officials attended. Among them were Montgomery County Executive Ike Leggett, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Prince George's County Councilmembers Mel Franklin, Dannielle Glaros, and Deni Taveras, and Montgomery County Councilmembers George Leventhal and Roger Berliner.


Young supporters at Transit Night. Photo by @Somos_LP on Twitter.

Councilmember George Leventhal summed up the sentiment and hopes of the packed room when he said, "When we stand together like this, these projects cannot be killed."


A portion of supporters at the rally.

Governor Hogan's transportation secretary Pete Rahn, who has come under scrutiny for having little transit experience, is currently reevaluating the Purple Line, and the Governor has said he will make a final decision about the project in mid-May.

Transit and bike bills advance in the Virginia legislature

Virginia's General Assembly session has reached its halfway point. Tonight is "crossover," when bills passed by one chamber move to the other. Here's the latest on the bills we've been following this season.


Photo by Virginia Guard Public Affairs on Flickr.

Mixed news on anti-transit bills

Unfortunately, bills mandating highway-favoring "congestion metrics" are still alive. Under these bills, when selecting new projects to build, Virginia officials would effectively have to ignore the many benefits of transit for moving more people and building strong communities, and focus solely on how a project affects the capacity of existing highways to carry cars.

HB1915/SB1314 would force Northern Virginia officials to ignore the benefits of transit for moving more people and building strong communities. While a substitute version of SB1314 with better language passed the Senate, companion bill HB1915 passed the House with its troubling language intact.

Meanwhile, lawmakers have modified HB1470, which specifically directs officials to model transit according to "congestion reduction" criteria, to delay its effective date until July 2016. Northern Virginia jurisdictions are removing their opposition to HB1470 because they think it will be possible to fix traffic modeling software to fairly show the benefits of transit investments.

A House committee tabled a bill to merge the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, which plans and funds Northern Virginia transit, into the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, a broader agency (HB2170). Combining the two agencies would have reduced NVTC's laser-focus on transit investment and potentially reduced the voting power of transit-dependent jurisdictions to control transit decision-making, so the tabling is a win for transit.

Good news: transit funding and oversight

Transportation omnibus bill HB1887 has passed the House and is now before the Senate Transportation Committee. Among other reforms, the bill starts to plug a huge hole in transit capital funding, which was created when lawmakers didn't adequately fund transit as part of the 2013 transportation tax increase.

Plugging this hole is critical: unless addressed, Virginia's transit capital funding would drop 62% in the next two to three years. The omnibus bill reprograms $40 million annually from highways and freight rail to transit. That's only a partial win, since the hole in transit funding is close to $100 million, but it's better than nothing. By comparison, individual highway interchanges frequently cost over $40 million each.

The omnibus bill also changes the formula VDOT uses to distribute highway construction funds, to give local jurisdictions more opportunities to apply for road funding.

Elsewhere, the bill reforming the Public Private Transportation Act (PPTA), HB1886, would establishing new oversight and accountability for public-private partnerships in transportation projects: an important priority following debacles like Hampton Roads' Route 460 project, which wasted $300 million in taxpayer funds without having permits in hand.

Bicycling and pedestrian bills

SB781, which would make it legal for cars to cross the double yellow line to pass bicyclists with the required three foot safety distance, and which has mixed safety implications for cyclists, has passed in the Senate and is headed to the House.

SB882, the pro-cyclist dooring bill, has also passed the Senate and is headed to the House.

An amended HB1402, which would make sure urban jurisdictions don't lose state road maintenance funding if they implement road diets with bike improvements on local streets, passed the House and is headed to the Senate. But its Senate companion SB952, didn't make it out of committee, so the Senate will consider the House version.

Two other bills have been tabled and won't move forward this session: HB1746, the "mandatory sidepath" bill prohibiting riding on the road when a sidepath is available (opposed by the cycling community), and SB1279 (supported by a range of safety advocates), which would have banned use of any personal communications device while driving, unless that device is hands-free or the vehicle is stopped.

Land use and conservation

As expected, Virginia's very successful Land Preservation Tax Credit program is facing significant cuts, even though it has effectively helped Virginians to voluntarily conserve tens of thousands of acres in farms and forests, and helped communities reduce sprawl and the costs of public infrastructure.

The bills in question, SB1019 and HB1828, passed their respective houses and have crossed over. They reduce total state tax credits available to landowners placing conservation easements on their land from $100 million to $75 million per year, and restrict the amount of annual credit that each landowner can claim.

Opponents of land conservation have pushed legislation designed to undermine conservation easements, impacting the ability of private landowners to conserve their land. But there is good news to report: HB1488, which would have created a number of obstacles to the conservation easement program, was cut back to simply establishing an alternative dispute resolution mechanism, and HB1571, which would have threatened public purchase of development rights programs, was pulled by the patron.

This year's Virginia General Assembly session wraps up on Saturday, February 28.

There's just $1,858 left for you to match

We're up to $14,285 raised so far in our reader drive, which ends tomorrow! (Woohoo!) We still have $1,858 left in the match pool. If you can help us get all of that with a contribution, we'll meet our goal of $18,000!


We're close to the top! Original photo by ekelly80.

Big thanks to Brandon, Chris, Christopher, James, and Scott for signing up for a recurring monthly donation yesterday!

We're up to nearly 200 active donors, helping us bring you great content daily, from WMATA funding to pop-ups to police ticketing cyclists.

GGW needs your support to pay Jonathan, our editor, and do other awesome things.

Update: After this post went live, another generous donor reached out to offer additional match funds to get us all the way to our $18,000 goal. So the numbers above now reflect that. A big thank you to our new match donor!

We're in the home stretch! Please consider a contribution right now! Thank you!

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