Greater Greater Washington

Transit


Homeowner gets bus stop moved for parking space

Many residents of the Fox Mill Estates neighborhood in Herndon are disappointed with Fairfax County's decision to move a bus stop because a new homeowner doesn't want it in front of her house.


The stop (red) moved to the playground to the south. Image from Google Maps.

According to resident Carmelita San Jose, the current stop at Pinecrest Road and Viking Drive is safe and well lit, with stop signs to aid crossing and enough room for buses to pull out of traffic. Many residents of the neighborhood walk 10 or 15 minutes to reach the stop.

A mother and son moved into the house nearest the bus stop in 2008, and asked Fairfax to remove it. They initially agreed, but then backtracked after residents objected.

However, the son began parking his car on the street in late 2009, which made it difficult for buses to pull in close to the stop. One bus trying to pick up a blind passenger almost hit the car and was unable to leave until the homeowner moved the car; in October, a bus actually scraped against the car.

According to Ms. San Jose, Paul Mounier of FCDOT then posted a notice about the County's decision to move the stop to another location 500 feet away along Viking Drive. Ms. San Jose wrote to FCDOT and Supervisor Hudgins, saying this will inconvenience those who ride the bus, is not well-lit, and will require people to walk on narrow sidewalks along busy Viking Drive. That includes a blind man who uses a guide dog which would need retraining.

FCDOT says that most public comments favored moving the stop, and claims the new location is "both safe and accessible." They will also retrain the guide dog.

The homeowner and Ms. San Jose also disagree about whether the son's car had been parked illegally. The law prohibits parking within 30 feet of the bus stop. Ms. San Jose says her measurements show there is just about 30 feet available, meaning the son must be violating the zone, while the homeowner claims there are 47 feet available, which leaves more than enough room to park legally. Ms. San Jose asked the County to measure the distance, but they did not.

It's unclear why the son can't simply park somewhere else on the street. As a suburban area, there's plenty of street parking. In many suburbs, homeowners get cranky about people parking in front of their houses, even though the street belongs to all. The son can't park in the driveway so that the mother can get her car out in the morning; it's also unclear why they can't just switch cars, or switch the locations of the cars at night ahead of time. Is a tiny bit of convenience for them worth inconvenience for all bus riders?

It's disappointing that Fairfax planners seem to be prioritizing one homeowner's desire to monopolize public space over the general good. It's not the homeowner's curb, it's the County's, and the homeowner certainly knew about the bus stop when she bought the house.

If 30 feet isn't enough for a bus to pull to a curb, the stop should be wider. If the car is parking illegally, it should get a ticket. And if a homeowner doesn't like buses stopping in front of his or her house, County officials should listen, but ultimately do what's best for the greatest number. Perhaps they think that's what they're doing, but from the emails Ms. San Jose forwarded, there's no evidence of that. I've left a message for Mr. Mounier to find out if he has a better explanation.

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

Comments

Add a comment »

Anybody want to volunteer to park in front of her house every day? Somebody must live near there.

by Adam L on Jan 12, 2010 1:59 pm • linkreport

While I generally agree with the point of this post, I wholeheartedly disagree with the writing style. To wrap up the points I'm about to make, it seems like you're pretending that this is a piece of journalism. It obviously isn't, and pretending that it is make it sound pretty awkward.

You use the term "many residents" twice. "Many," in this form, is a weasel word. You don't actually have any evidence of how many residents are disappointed or how many walk 10 to 15 minutes to the stop. You use the vague "many" to say that the number is high, but you don't actually know how high it is, or even if it's high at all.

Then there's the difference between "says" and "claims." When San Jose makes a measurement, she "says" it. But when the homeowner makes a measurement, she "claims" it. "Claims" is a loaded word meant to insert the author's own skepticism. You use this word again when FCDOT "claims" that the new stop is "both safe and accessible."

And then you get into the "unclear" stuff. This is another way to insert an author's skepticism into writing while trying to make it seem like it isn't. Of course those things are unclear. You know what else is unclear? Why the author chose to ask those questions in the first place. People don't ask questions without bias. That's the Fox News way of thought. Say outrageous, accusatory statements, then follow them with question marks. To play devil's advocate here, I could say, "It's unclear why the few people who use this stop can't just walk 500 more feet."

Don't say "It's unclear why the son can't simply park somewhere else on the street," just go out and say "The son should simply park somewhere else on the street."

I could go on, but I'll stop.

by Tim on Jan 12, 2010 2:16 pm • linkreport

A similar thing happened in Tanglewood, near where I live in Silver Spring, except residents there forced Metrobus to route a bus outside of their neighborhood completely to make room for street parking. Unfortunately, that was the only Metrobus serving my neighborhood as well.

by dan reed on Jan 12, 2010 2:22 pm • linkreport

Having grown up in a house with a bus stop right out front, I sympathize with the homeowner.

by Fritz on Jan 12, 2010 2:22 pm • linkreport

No sympathy. If you buy a house next to a highway, road, bus stop, waste treatment plant, cement factory, school, bar, club, strip club, gym, ballpark, etc., you shouldn't expect those things to MOVE!

by Michael on Jan 12, 2010 2:25 pm • linkreport

I bet many residents are happy that the new stop location is closer to their homes now. It will be safer for them to get to this new stop because it is closer to them.

by Lou on Jan 12, 2010 2:31 pm • linkreport

While I strongly suspect the home-owner's desire to move the stop was born from selfishness, laziness, and even possibly racism (note the last name of the bus rider), I agree generally with Tim that more investigation is necessary before deciding whether this was in fact a case of the interest of one being put ahead of the interests of many. Maybe the new stop is actually closer to where most of the riders live.

And generally speaking, I do think it is reasonable for a transit agency to attempt to set up bus stops in front of non-residential lots, where practical and where it would not unreasonably increase the distance between stops. Seeing a larger map showing how this stop relates to the others on the route would be helpful in making that determination.

by Reid on Jan 12, 2010 2:41 pm • linkreport

Supposedly, when the bus stop in front of Alice Roosevelt Longworth's house on Mass Ave near Dupont Circle opened, she had poison ivy planted in front of her house to deter folks from standing on her lawn.

Of course, I've also heard that she had the ivy planted there to annoy burglars after a robbery, so take it with a grain of salt.

by TimK on Jan 12, 2010 2:45 pm • linkreport

1) Why isn't in front of a playground a better place for the bus stop? I understand the point about "the stop was there before the resident" but why burden one resident with stop rather than spread it more evenly (or not at all) by having it in front of a community playground, where the burden falls across a much larger number of people for a shorter period?

2) If the parking space is legal, why should this resident uniquely be prevented from using a legal space whereas others may park in front of their house if they wish? He's not "monopolizing" the space--he's using the space when it's available. It's bad roadway design or signage (or driving) if the bus gets stuck because a car is parked near the stop.

by ah on Jan 12, 2010 2:45 pm • linkreport

In addition to an overall map of the stops nearby, I'd like to see some more explanation about how a bus can not service a stop on an outside curved road with cars parked in the curb lane, or how the driver managed to get stuck because of parked cars. Plus, if the bus hit the car and the car was not ticketed (blog does not say one way or the other), you have a problem of liability and cost associated with this stop.

by Lou on Jan 12, 2010 2:47 pm • linkreport

While I agree that it's ludicrous to move a bus stop under these circumstances, it is certainly not safe to assume that because it's the suburbs, there is plentiful curbside parking.

by Ron on Jan 12, 2010 2:50 pm • linkreport

Is it just me who would actually like a bus stop right outside their house? Seems like that would be really convenient, and you wouldn't even need to wait outside in the cold.

by dand on Jan 12, 2010 3:03 pm • linkreport

Dand, the squeal of brakes and the dull roar of a diesel engine accelerating will help make sure you never sleep through your bus.

by ah on Jan 12, 2010 3:10 pm • linkreport

Unfortunately, this is not limited to suburbs. ANC 3E recently requested that the N8 be re-routed south four streets. I get that the brakes are loud, but I don't know how a longer route by more houses will be any less annoying. It will also be worse for the commuters who use it, but, like, whatevs.

by Neil Flanagan on Jan 12, 2010 3:24 pm • linkreport

Is it just me who would actually like a bus stop right outside their house? Seems like that would be really convenient, and you wouldn't even need to wait outside in the cold.

It has its plusses and minuses. Particularly in a quieter area, the noise can be jarring. The cigarette butts and litter that accumulate get old, too. I wouldn't mind if our bus route moved over one block, but I figure the county concluded it would have maximal overall utility where it is now (though maybe not, maybe someone the next block over just complained about it).

by hugo on Jan 12, 2010 3:37 pm • linkreport

Neil, it would be less annoying for the neighbors requesting the change!

Anyway, isn't that the bus that WMATA determined was the most expensive per rider of all (or all DC) buses?

by ah on Jan 12, 2010 3:48 pm • linkreport

Since all you guys are obsessed with externalities, I'm sure you guys will support the homeowner getting a monthly check to account for the external cost of the bus stopping in front of her house.

by MPC on Jan 12, 2010 3:50 pm • linkreport

And now it's annoying to other people, except that there are probably more AU students, and they don't vote here.

by Neil Flanagan on Jan 12, 2010 3:52 pm • linkreport

An additional new problem with having bus stops nearby is the VERY loud route announcement which the new buses have. I'm a good 500 feet from a bus stop, but I can hear loud and clear the "FEDERAL TRIANGLE" announcement. I can only imagine what residents closer by hear ... as early as 5 am. And I don't see a good reason for it to be that loud. It's not like there isn't a 'visual announcement' (i.e.. the standard signage on the bus) for the hearing-impared ...

btw, I agree with the poster who said in front of the playground or other public space would be a better placement than directly in front of any one house. I think having a bus stop 'near by' is an asset .. Having one directly 'in front' is not ...

by Lance on Jan 12, 2010 3:55 pm • linkreport

MPC, if you follow the logic, though, the "monthly check" is in the form of a lower mortgage payment on a lower priced house. The only person taking the hit is the one owning the house when the stop was installed.

by ah on Jan 12, 2010 4:01 pm • linkreport

And now it's annoying to other people, except that there are probably more AU students, and they don't vote here.

few of them pay taxes here, either.

Where did it get rerouted? Yuma street is highly residential, so I can see the problem. It's not exactly a major road.

by ah on Jan 12, 2010 4:02 pm • linkreport

@Lance

The destination announcement is no doubt to comply with some facet of ADA, and as such there is sure to be a decibel requirement associated with it. To wit, elevator call signals must be 10dBA above ambient, but 80dBA maximum. My guess is Metro exceeds their requirement by far, and the same goes for the shocking horn blast when the bus lowers for the mobility impaired. I hear both very clearly from my bed every morning, even though the stop is on back side of my block.

by Lou on Jan 12, 2010 4:16 pm • linkreport

You know, I was all set to (finally) agree with you on something, and then I read the details. It just wasn't to be.

All I see a lot of outrage here for something that's pretty damn reasonable. You seem to oppose this simply because the homeowner wants to move a bus stop without really assessing the situation reasonably. Your argument focuses on all the things that the homeowner could do to make life more convenient for the bus -- which really, he shouldn't have to, since he's just parking in a spot this is almost certainly legal. (If it was not legal, why would they ask the county to come measure -- which they failed to do? Why wouldn't they ticket the car?) This is outrageous. You're blaming the guy for his car being hit by a bus.

The reality is that this is obviously a bad place for a bus stop, if it can't pull out without hitting legally parked cars.

At the same time, the new site doesn't bother anyone because it's not in front of a house, and I see little change in convenience for the bus riders, since as you noted "many walk 10 or 15 minutes" to get there. How is moving it 500 feet going to materially change that walk? I suspect some will walk 500 feet less, some will walk 500 feet more, with a net zero change overall.

Your question "is a tiny bit of convenience for them worth inconvenience for all bus riders?" is a good one.

If you had in any way demonstrated that there was an inconvenience for the bus riders, I might agree with you. But I see no material change for the riders, an improvement for the driver who has the space needed to safely pull out, and an improvement for the homeowner. Nobody loses.

by Jamie on Jan 12, 2010 4:29 pm • linkreport

I can't help but wonder how much different this argument would be if we were talking about a school bus.

If the bus stop is being moved, fine. 500 feet isn't an unreasonable distance. However the new location ought to have similar lighting and sidewalk approaches.

by Dave Murphy on Jan 12, 2010 4:33 pm • linkreport

A school bus comes twice a day. Surely public transit is more frequent than that.

by ah on Jan 12, 2010 4:52 pm • linkreport

This is just another part of the car-centric conspiracy.

But seriously, someone call a whambulance for this article. It's in desperate straits.

by Fritz on Jan 12, 2010 4:56 pm • linkreport

Neil,

Is that request by ANC 3E about the N8 something new (beyond a July '09 letter)? I hope not since I take that bus every day. Do you have a link to any more information about it?

thanks,
rdhd

by rdhd on Jan 12, 2010 4:59 pm • linkreport

Whoever suggested putting a bus stop in front of a playground obviously doesn't have kids. I know of at least one child who was hit and killed by a transit bus because he ran out into the street without looking first. Kids are unpredictable, and sometimes manage to get away from you, despite your tight grip on their wrist. All it takes is a few seconds.

Question: Should the transit agency move a bus stop every time a homeowner requests it? Should the transit agency hire more staff just to go out and respond to citizen requests? Should all 4000 bus stops in the county be continually negotiable?

by Mom on Jan 12, 2010 5:26 pm • linkreport

I'll talk to someone - they passed a resolution IIRC, but I can't find any notes on it.

by Neil Flanagan on Jan 12, 2010 5:33 pm • linkreport

This article strikes me as yet another example of the knee-jerk "car bad, bus good" attitude of many on this site. Without knowing the relevant information omitted from the write-up such as is the car parked legally or not and is moving the bus stop really an inconvenience (it is possible that the new stop location might even be 500 feet closer to the bulk of the riders, isn't it?) it is not possible to judge the issue on its' merits and the reader is left with nothing but the author's assumption that the homeowner and her son must be wrong because they own cars and are therefore morally inferior to those using the bus.

by Jacob on Jan 12, 2010 5:39 pm • linkreport

Mom - I do have kids, and impress upon them the importance of making sure there are no vehicles in the road. But I'd bet the risk of cars hitting kids is a lot higher, if only because there are a lot more of them.

(BTW, the "suggestion" was what actually was done according to the article. I was merely saying putting a stop near a public space was more equitable than putting it in front of one person's house.)

by ah on Jan 12, 2010 5:44 pm • linkreport

ah - thanks for clarifying; I can't believe the transit agency would relocate the bus stop in front of a playground!

I'm sure you're right that there's a greater risk of getting hit by a car; however, a car can react more quickly than a mega-ton bus to stop or swerve, and the impact is less certain (although I suppose any vehicular impact would be devastating to a 3-year-old).

by Mom on Jan 12, 2010 6:36 pm • linkreport

@Mom-

"Won't somebody please think of the children?" rhetoric aside, the bus already runs past the playground. How does putting the stop there increase the likelihood of children being hit by the bus? Indeed, since the stop will slow the bus as it passes the playground, that ought to be safer.

by Josh B on Jan 12, 2010 6:39 pm • linkreport

Another complaint about a bus stop move. Apparently the Hunters Woods Safeway in Reston asked Fairfax Connector to move the stop away from the door. Lots of people would be waiting for the bus (including many with Safeway grocery bags), but it made some people nervous to see blacks, Latinos, and teens out there. Now Safeway customers, not to mention the general public, are inconvenienced by this anti transit move.

by Joshua Davis on Jan 12, 2010 7:35 pm • linkreport

I can't believe the debate here. I am mostly just pissed that my county wasted so much resources for the convenience of two citizens. Not happy that's where my property taxes are wasted on.

Perhaps I should raise a complaint about the school bus that idles around 6am in my cul-de-sac with its freaking flash light waking everybody up. Or I could just behave like an adult and get up and go to work.

by Jasper on Jan 12, 2010 8:02 pm • linkreport

Jasper, I think you should go outside, inhale the diesel fumes, and then make a decision on whether to complain.

by ah on Jan 12, 2010 8:19 pm • linkreport

@ah

I know this is OT, but I get sick of hearing this from people. College students *do* pay taxes where they're going to school. Even if we assume students don't have any income where they're going to school, they still pay sales and excise taxes when they purchase anything from clothes to beer, or when they eat at a restaurant. Students living off-campus indirectly pay property taxes through their rent. Just because the property owner signs the check to the District doesn't mean he's the one that paying the tax.

by Andy R on Jan 12, 2010 10:53 pm • linkreport

The bus route is FFX Connector route 553. It passes by the stop three times in the morning and five in the evening - - a rush hour only service.

This is not the 24T, the least efficient Metrobus route by whatever the measures were.

by Transport. on Jan 13, 2010 11:12 pm • linkreport

I lived in front of a bus stop for three years. Every six to twenty minutes, from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m., with external announcements. I never had a problem with noise or "inhaling diesel fumes," I survived having to walk 50 feet from the nearest on-street parking space, and the convenience of not having to walk to the stop in the cold and snow was fantastic.

by mp775 on Jan 14, 2010 11:45 am • linkreport

I live in that neighborhood and use that stop. I never understood why it is so close to the intersection of Viking and Pinecrest. There is a stop before that one at Viking and John Milton...about 2 tenths of a mile away. Use that one. It all comes down to who is inconvenienced the most or least for that matter. That stop may have 20 people a day. Moving the stop 500 feet is not a big deal but I feel for the man and his guide dog.

by J on May 3, 2010 7:42 am • linkreport

I hope the blind passenger sues the bejesus out of that racist homeowner. I bet she is some white hick that doesn't like us people. You need to call LULAC and Jesse Jackson and tell them to get their butts over here and cover the story. A homeowner taking away the bus stops in neighboorhoods is a RACE issue it is also a DISABILITY issue. You need to sue that bag of a creature and her son. Sue the city for negligence (failed to tow, failed to give ticket to son if that is the case) call the FBI and have the police department investigated and their police chief. If this happened in my neck of the woods I would be doing this.

If you sue be sure you file a affadavit of inability to pay court costs (it lets you sue for free!!!!)

by Jose Gomez Proud to be Hispanic on Oct 2, 2010 1:23 pm • linkreport

Add a Comment

Name: (will be displayed on the comments page)

Email: (must be your real address, but will be kept private)

URL: (optional, will be displayed)

Your comment:

By submitting a comment, you agree to abide by our comment policy.
Notify me of followup comments via email. (You can also subscribe without commenting.)
Save my name and email address on this computer so I don't have to enter it next time, and so I don't have to answer the anti-spam map challenge question in the future.

or

Support Us

How can our region be greater?

DC Maryland Virginia Arlington Alexandria Montgomery Prince George's Fairfax Charles Prince William Loudoun Howard Anne Arundel Frederick Tysons Corner Baltimore Falls Church Fairfax City
CC BY-NC