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A toast to 2010: Top five Smart Growth moments of the year

2010 was a great year for smart growth. It was the year that biking, walking and transit communities really took off. And what a battle for Metro service we had!

Here are our choices at the Coalition for Smarter Growth for the top five smart growth achievements from the last twelve months.

1. Approval of the Tysons Corner plan: After seven years in the making, the plan will transform the infamous "Edge City" into a sustainable urban community. It's a real first for the nation, and people around the country are watching to see how it turns out.

Change doesn't happen in a vacuum, and this is no exception. It took countless phone calls, letters to elected officials and testimony by the residents of Fairfax and others throughout the region. It must have been the astoundingly frustrating traffic that kept everyone motivated to make change happen.

While the plan will take years to implement, development applications are already moving forward and the approval is the catalyst for making Tysons Corner a walkable, bikeable and transit-oriented community with a vibrant mix of homes, jobs, retail, parks and entertainment.2. Passage of the White Flint Sector Plan: If you hang around White Flint or joined us for our walking tour, you know that White Flint, like Tysons Corner, isn't exactly a model of walkability. But with the unanimous passage of this plan (PDF), we can look forward to a vibrant, walkable center for North Bethesda anchored by the White Flint Metro station.

The plans include adding new parks and public spaces, an improved local street network, a boulevard conversion for Rockville Pike, a vibrant mix of uses, more housing choices, and better pedestrian/bicyclist access.3. Pedestrian victories across the District: The Washington Area Bicyclist Association and Greater Greater Washington have led the way in making DC a lot more bike-friendly. But this year saw a lot of progress for pedestrians too. The DC Council passed the Sidewalk Assurance Act, ensuring that DDOT adds or completes sidewalks while they perform scheduled reconstruction of streets that have missing sidewalks. Simple, common sense.

We joined forces with Connecticut Avenue Pedestrian Action to improve walking conditions along a major dangerous roadway in the District. This grassroots-led effort, that started with volunteers in safety vests taking notes along Connecticut Avenue, concluded with the community presenting a professional pedestrian safety audit and research report (PDF) to DDOT.

Progress continued near the Minnesota Avenue Metro station with the launching of the Nannie Helen Burroughs Great Streets project. We also pushed for fixing the narrow sidewalks at the Rhode Island Avenue Metro station as part of the new development project.4. Saving Metro service: It's been an ongoing struggle to sustain Metro service through these tough economic times, and devastating cuts were closer than ever to becoming a reality. A coalition of transit advocacy organizations, including CSG, Sierra Club, Action Committee for Transit, and Greater Greater Washington, led the way to preservation of this region's most vital asset.

Thousands of signatures sent to elected officials and the WMATA board won increased funding from the jurisdictions and avoided massive service cuts. The cuts would have hurt businesses and workers who rely on Metro every day, delivering a blow to our region's economic vitality.

Speaking of Metro, did you send your email to defend the $230 monthly transit benefit?5. Capital Bikeshare: Strength lies in numbers, and we're thrilled with the 1,100 Capital Bikeshare bikes and 114 stations throughout D.C. and Arlington. The day the program launched, we saw tons of people on the shiny red bikes. Ridership hit nearly 37,000 trips in the first month.

Leave your bike and lock at home. Hop on a CaBi, ride to a meeting and deposit the bike at a nearby station. No worries. Combined with all the new bike lanes, it's clear that residents are increasingly choosing cycling as a mode of transportation. Just remember to wear a helmet!Honorable mentions:

Wonder what else happened this year? Check out our year-end highlights.

Stewart Schwartz is Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth.

Stewart Schwartz is Executive Director and a founder of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, which he built into the leading smart growth organization in the Washington, DC region, addressing the interconnected issues of land use, transportation, urban design, housing, and energy. A retired Navy Captain with 24 years of active and reserve service, he earned a BA and JD from the University of Virginia and an MA from Georgetown University. 

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Restoration of the streetcar funds has to be on this list.

by BeyondDC on Dec 9, 2010 3:04 pm • linkreport

Another one that should be on the list under "Honorable Mention", pending its probable approval later this month, is a Complete Streets ordinance for Alexandria.

by Froggie on Dec 9, 2010 3:28 pm • linkreport

What, you left the election of Smart Growth supporter Vincent Gray off the list?

by David desJardins on Dec 9, 2010 5:59 pm • linkreport

What? "Leave your bike and lock at home. Hop on a CaBi." That doesn't make sense. Why would I pay money to rent a bike when I own one? I fully support CaBi and am thrilled it's here, but I'm pretty sure it's not intended to be an alternative mode of transport for people who already own bikes. It would make much more sense to say "Avoid sitting in traffic" or "Don't wait for six full trains to pass you by."

by Joe on Dec 10, 2010 8:05 am • linkreport

@Joe: Paying $75 a year removes the hassle of having do deal with bike locks, getting stuff ripped off because you didn't have everything chained together right, fixing flat tires, any sort of maintenance at all.

Some people have a nice bike and a beater bike, joining CaBi could let you donate the beater bike.

by Michael Perkins on Dec 10, 2010 8:27 am • linkreport

@Joe; actually that is a good pitch for bikeshare. It is the price of a good lock, and you have access to bicycles when you're not at home.

In terms of this list, I think the "DC" segment and WMATA are way overblown. Sure, you needed something for the District, but I would keep it at 3: Tysons, White Flint, bikeshare.

WMATA is far from saved; the budget problem is still there and there are just moving money from the capital budget rather than pushing for new investments. The fare hikes aren't generating the revenue, and service continues to get worse.

by charlie on Dec 10, 2010 8:44 am • linkreport

@Joe:

What? "Leave your bike and lock at home. Hop on a CaBi." That doesn't make sense. Why would I pay money to rent a bike when I own one? I fully support CaBi and am thrilled it's here, but I'm pretty sure it's not intended to be an alternative mode of transport for people who already own bikes.

That seem to be the intuitive point to make--but it's also wrong, from my experience. In fact, it's the avid cyclsts I know who've been the quickest to adopt CaBi. Strange but true. For my part, I've got a decent road bike that I use for fitness and training, a decent mountain bike I use on most weekends, but for pretty much any short- to medium-distance trip in the city where a child car seat is unnecessary, I use CaBi. Many of the folks I know do the same thing. It replaces the car, but also those bikes for those purposes.

And these folks who become the early adopters also become the most vocal evangelists for the system.

by oboe on Dec 10, 2010 9:55 am • linkreport

@Oboe, so you already own two bikes and like the Cabisystem because it allows you the use of 3rd bike, for shorter distances?

I'm not so sure that's really a good selling point for the program.

Hey, I already own two cars but like the Zipcar system because it allows me the option of using a 3rd car, for local travel.

*head scratcher*

by HogWash on Dec 10, 2010 10:12 am • linkreport

Well, isn't it just the difference between selling to early-adopters and then more mainstream customers. Hard to draw the line and say when it cross-overs into a larger base -- even at 5 or 6 thousand (assuming not many memberships sold over winter) you're dealing with people who are very familiar and comfortable on bike.

I've thought about selling my current car, buying the vintage Porsche, and then Getting zip car for a semi-daily (once or twice a week) driver. Only have one garage spot....and zip car would be cheaper than getting another spot.

by charlie on Dec 10, 2010 10:30 am • linkreport

@Oboe, so you already own two bikes and like the Cabisystem because it allows you the use of 3rd bike, for shorter distances?

@HogWash: As I said, it's counter-intuitive. And quite unlikely someone who's never used the system--or who rides a bike only very occasionally--might "get" it. But I'm certainly not riding my $2500 mountain bike to Chinatown--and locking it to a lamppost--to meet friends for beers.

To rephrase your question, is it likely that if I own a 20' box truck and a Ferrari 599 GTO, I would also keep a Zipcar membership because it allows me the option of a 4-door sedan for trips around the city?

Pretty likely.

Have you used CaBi yet? Really, I've found you have to use the system a few times before you really understand it's value.

by oboe on Dec 10, 2010 10:34 am • linkreport

@charlie,

Damn, you for beating me to the punch, without my superfluous prolixity.

by oboe on Dec 10, 2010 10:37 am • linkreport

@oboe; I always knew you were more the Ferrari driver.

In terms of bikeshare value, my personal takeaways are you do develop a few transit-like routes. I have 2-3 now, might discover more. For instance, I've found new street parking, then hop on bike-share for 2-3 blocks to my gym when I have to drive there.

Not dealing with a lock is priceless.

Not lugging your bike down 2-3 stories for quick trips is also really nice. If I had decent bike-parking at my building, that would be different, but we've had 3 rounds of thefts and I'm on my 3rd bike now.

Encouraging people to ride around in the city w/o a helmet -- also a huge positive.

by charlie on Dec 10, 2010 10:52 am • linkreport

@HogWash

I also already have a bike AND have a CaBi membership. It lets me use a bike when I want to go someplace and not have to worry about dragging my bike around (meeting friends out), or when I'm already somewhere and want to bike someplace else, etc.

When I take my bike, I have to drag it with me everywhere I go for the rest of the day until I get home. When I use bikeshare, I leave the bike at a station and don't have to worry about it after that.

by MLD on Dec 10, 2010 10:54 am • linkreport

@HogWash,

See, lot's of deviants and wierdoes out there--not just me.

:)

by oboe on Dec 10, 2010 11:08 am • linkreport

how about Alpert kissing the ring only to see Klein fired? Effing pathetic, GGW.

by Josh on Dec 10, 2010 11:47 am • linkreport

lol

Oboe, no I've never used the system and likely won't. But I also have the mock the idea of people being able to afford 2000k bikes and then go on to talk about how much more convienence Cabi affords their lives. I mean geez, imagine having to walk a bike downstairs or lock it for heaven's sake. It does make me wonder how the support for the system (and other smartgrowthiestuff)is broken down by class.

For instance, the belief by smart growthers that Anacostia benefits from a streetcar system. As I've pointed out, access to transit options isn't really a problem for the proposed stretch of the anacostia line. As it now stands, it's a novel idea designed to appease the smart growthers. It seems to make little practical or financial sense. BUT, it's a novel idea nonetheless.

Again admitting my own ignorance, if I use one of the bikes from let's say, the 18th street station and want to travel to georgetown, how exactly does it work? Do I pay the fare, get the bike, travel to g'town and (once i'm in the Rugby store) park the bike at another station, then bring it back to 18th street?

by HogWash on Dec 10, 2010 12:47 pm • linkreport

how about Alpert kissing the ring only to see Klein fired? Effing pathetic, GGW

Alpert's a great example of how modern liberalism is pretty weak. Gray recognize that he could co-op Alpert by saying some nice platitudes and let a "nice guy" like Alpert fill in the blanks and let him think there was even a chance that Gray would keep Fenty-appointees in place. As Alpert is not really a threat to Gray, an Alpert set himself up to be "not a threat," all of that stuff that Alpert liked about Fenty and convinced himself would be continued under Gray can be confidently ignored.

by Tyro on Dec 10, 2010 2:04 pm • linkreport

Tyro, that sounds a bit weird. Al should have supported Gray only if Gray agreed to keep Fenty appointees? Or shall I say ALL of his appointees?

Did you stop to think about what you were saying before you posted because it really does defy basic human logic.

I really get a hearty laugh each time Gray does something his critics dislike, then they go on to blame everyone who supported him for well, supporting him. Maybe you all are giving D. Al way too much power here while at the same time peddling the idea that his influence means nothing. Had D. Al supported Fenty and Fenty lost, then what? Would Al had then been on the right side of things?

His kissing Fenty's ring would have earned him what? Your support. That's all.

by HogWash on Dec 10, 2010 2:17 pm • linkreport

@HogWash:

[I]f I use one of the bikes from let's say, the 18th street station and want to travel to georgetown, how exactly does it work? Do I pay the fare, get the bike, travel to g'town and (once i'm in the Rugby store) park the bike at another station, then bring it back to 18th street?

If you're a member, you'd use a little red plastic "key" to unlock the bike. Then ride it to a second station. That's the end of your responsibility. No need to bring it back--unless you want to.

(If you're not a member, you can charge $5 to a credit card as a single-day member for as many rides as you like; the card becomes your "key").

Think of it like you would a cab: You need to get from 18th to Georgetown, so you hail a cab, it takes you to your destination, you pay, get out, and that's the end of it.

People who own cars may pay $500 / month in car payments, another couple hundred in insurance, taxes, gas, mechanic bills, etc, etc... But they still take cabs. That's because a) your car won't come when you call it; and b) you need to stash it somewhere when you get to where you're going. The fact that it's a bike has the added benefit that it's (and Lance is going to hate this) faster than driving if you're in town. Took me 20 minutes to get door-to-door from 14th and H NE to George Washington University the other day--during morning rush-hour.

If you haven't tried it, you really should. And I don't mean that in the sense that in a do-gooder, "It's good for the environment" way. You should try it because you'll be stunned by the utility of the system--and it's fun.

by oboe on Dec 10, 2010 2:23 pm • linkreport

No, Hogwash, Dave should have premised his endorsement of Gray on an understanding that it would mean more or less a repudiation of Fenty's administration and his staffers. If Alpert wasn't willing to accept that, he shouldn't have endorsed Gray.

by Tyro on Dec 10, 2010 2:39 pm • linkreport

Thanks for the info. One more though, what happens when you take a bike from a station but get to another station and no spaces are available? I ask based off of two experiences overhearing people complain. The first was a lady complaining that she had to travel to another station to drop off because the one she was closest to was filled. The 2nd was someone who had picked up at Anacostia but got to the library and found that station full. Neither seemed thrilled about the possibility of having to backtrack to their previous pickup point. Just wondering more about the system.

Tyro, are you saying that before Al agreed to support Gray, he should have arrived at an understanding with Gray that his (Alps) endorsement would be a repudiation (or not) of Fenty? Or should he have arrived at this understanding with himself? Either way, I'm not sure if you're making logical sense. If two people are running against each other, wouldn't voting for one mean that you, in a way, are repudiating the other? Not sure why there has to be a formal understanding of something widely known as fact.

by HogWash on Dec 10, 2010 3:39 pm • linkreport

Oh btw Oboe, I don't own a car.

by HogWash on Dec 10, 2010 3:41 pm • linkreport

If two people are running against each other, wouldn't voting for one mean that you, in a way, are repudiating the other?

I don't think that's true. Why can't they be good and better?

by David desJardins on Dec 10, 2010 3:54 pm • linkreport

Hogwash, I am saying that Alpert should have had the political maturity to realize that when a mayor is defeated, the consequence is that his successor replaces all of the staff of the previous mayor. Alpert convinced himself otherwise and thought a Gray administration would be a continuation of Fenty's policies and people with a friendlier face, which is beyond naïve.

by Tyro on Dec 11, 2010 10:42 am • linkreport

One more though, what happens when you take a bike from a station but get to another station and no spaces are available? I ask based off of two experiences overhearing people complain. The first was a lady complaining that she had to travel to another station to drop off because the one she was closest to was filled. The 2nd was someone who had picked up at Anacostia but got to the library and found that station full. Neither seemed thrilled about the possibility of having to backtrack to their previous pickup point. Just wondering more about the system.

Just saw this. This is obviously the Achilles' Heel of the system, but they seem to be doing a better job of redistributing the bikes so that doesn't happen. There is a website and a smartphone app for the iPhone and Android that will actually tell you the locations of the racks, how many bikes are available, and how many free "slots" are available.

If you arrive at a rack, and there are no slots left, though, you can go to the little "computer" part of the rack, and it will tell you where the closest rack with open space is (and add 15 min to your time above the 20 min "free" period).

Hopefully, with a bit of planning, that'll happen less and less.

by oboe on Dec 13, 2010 4:08 pm • linkreport

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