Posts about Gerry Connolly
On Monday, a meeting hosted by Congressman Gerry Connolly will talk about the potential to extend Metro to Woodbridge. The hurdles are large, especially funding, and on the pure transportation merits another mode might be better. However, it's still a good idea for the Congressman and residents of Prince William to talk about Metro.
Why talk about an idea which might never happen and might not even be the best of the options? There are many good reasons:
- Talking about Metro gets people excited, and can stimulate the real important conversation about all transit modes.
- It takes a long time to build big transportation facilities, and by the time this happens, Metro might be the best option after all.
- There is political value as well as mobility value in bringing some forms of transit to all communities, not just the densest ones.
- Transportation "megaprojects" tend to suck up all the transportation funding, and transit megaprojects should be among the options when funding comes available.
Metro is a starting point for the broad discussion around transit.
The meeting revolves around a bill Connolly introduced to study running Metro specifically in the area. But as he explained, his goal is "not to prejudge Metro" as the right or wrong mode, but rather to get a conversation going about transit in the area. That is sorely needed.
Earlier this week, we discussed the merits of many transportation options, from light rail to improved VRE to extending the Blue or Yellow Lines (or both). All of these have their pros and cons and any discussion of transit options for southern Fairfax and eastern Prince William should consider them all and more.
But the simple reality is that if Connolly had called a meeting entitled "Discussion of multimodal travel alternatives in the I-95 corridor," almost nobody would show up. But announce a meeting on "Metro to Woodbridge!" and it gets major coverage in the press.
We have to think very long-term.
Prince William County needs to start thinking about transit. If they fill the county with entirely car-dependent development, they'll end up regretting it in 30 years, but it'll be too late to cost-effectively provide any alternatives. Designing more walkable and transit-oriented communities in a few spots and focusing most of the growth there can help the county grow without making traffic worse for all its existing residents.
But these things take a long time. Connolly pointed out that rail in the Dulles corridor was first discussed in a federal document in 1962. 47 years later, Virginia signed the first funding agreement to build it. The question is not just what's best for southern Fairfax and eastern Prince William today, but what's best in 2058 as well.
And for all we know, 47 years from now there will be automated tunnel-building machines which can not only dig tunnels, like today's TBMs, but handle utility relocation and everything else to make building a long tunnel far cheaper than it is today. Or maybe not, but we can't know today.
Transit planning is also politics.
Some argued in the comments on Tuesday's article that we should focus on transit in the core. That is where the capacity crunch is greatest. On the other hand, transit in outer areas will bring transit accessibility to the greatest number of people who lack it today. Not only is that good public policy, but it builds public support for transit generally.
When there's no transit in a community, nobody uses it, nobody builds with it in mind, and so few people can imagine how transit could be a part of their transportation mix. If a big transit project is coming to the area, people have something to look forward to and advocate around.
Also, designing transit for all communities is an important way to bridge the "culture war" gap between the urban and suburban lifestyle. When transit is an element of many communities from the densest urban ones to the lowest-density suburbs (perhaps with different modes, like commuter rail or express buses), it helps prevent or reduce the political dynamic where the more numerous suburban legislators want to cut transit entirely since they have no constituents who use it.
Bad road projects shouldn't be the only megaprojects to choose from.
Finally, our system of government and media has a bias toward transportation megaprojects over many smaller ones. A huge project gets headlines and attention. Leaders, from local to federal, like to be associated with big public works. Big projects make people feel that something significant is getting done.
This is unfortunate, since a larger number of smaller transportation improvements can make more of a difference for less money. As I noted in the Post, Capital Bikeshare (which was itself a big deal) could be built 18 times over for the price of the massive Gainesville interchange rebuild alone. Individual bike lanes, sidewalks, roundabouts, street reconnections, bus lanes, bus service enhancements, and more each cost little but add up to a lot of value.
The 2030 Group/Bob Chase/Rich Parsons survey of unnamed transportation experts fell (or deliberately leapt) into this trap, asking transportation engineers what their short list of 10 big projects would be to address regional mobility. Naturally, those engineers picked 10 very large projects even if 100 or 1,000 small ones would do more.
But if transit advocates simply stop thinking big, the result won't be more sensible projects, but just more big, sprawl-inducing, induced demand-creating road projects. There are always more pie-in-the-sky big freeways. The state DOTs have been studying some of them for decades, like the Tri-County Parkway in Virginia or the I-270 widening in Maryland. If they're turned down, like the Mid-County Highway extension, the DOT brings it back a decade later.
These projects float around for a long time with absolutely no money to build them. Then, at some point the economic outlook improves or a governor wants to borrow significant money from a few generations hence, and presto, the projects get funded.
Therefore, it's important to start studying and planning some big transit projects and get those plans closer to "shovel-ready." Maybe the conversation will settle on a more modest solution. Maybe the travel demand and federal funding climate will change and big projects will again become fiscally feasible. Maybe technology will make building subway tunnels cheaper. Or maybe just having the conversation will itself lead to a better vision for the future of this area.
The meeting is Monday, September 26, 6:30 pm at Harbour View, 13200 Marina Way, in Woodbridge.
Federal government workers in the DC area are allowed to telework when it snows. Why aren't they encouraged to do so on extreme heat days? Fortunately, there are signs of progress.
During the worst of our record July heat, I asked Federal News Radio's Amy Morris about the federal government's heat wave telework policy. She Federal News Radio posts this memo on the heat from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to agency heads, which advises managers to keep employees hydrated but says nothing about teleworking. If federal government workers were allowed to telework in the most extreme heat (say, on days when the heat index is forecast to be over 105), there would be several real benefits: Last week, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) wrote to OPM asking for a renewed look at encouraging telecommuting on the hottest days: This summer's weather suggests that extreme heat may also create a need for expanded telework. As you know, we have experienced nearly a month of consecutive days with 90 degree or higher temperatures, including record high temperatures and unusually high nighttime temperatures. This extreme heat is not only uncomfortable, but also exacerbates ground level ozone pollution and associated respiratory diseases.
I am aware that the Department of Homeland Security encouraged employees to take a telework day during the most extreme heat, and would appreciate your consideration of making such a practice more common across agencies. Reducing traffic and associated ozone pollution in our region will become increasingly important as extreme heat becomes more common in our region. Of course, our climate is now even hotter than it was in DC's early days, and it's getting worse fast. Globally, June was 1.60°F hotter than the 20th-century average. And considering Congress hasn't curbed America's carbon emissions and the world has copied our inaction, we're hurtling towards the most extreme changes.
Letting feds telework on the hottest of hot days won't protect DC from global warming, but it would be an easy step to making it a bit more tolerable.
Last year I wrote to you following the blizzards and nuclear summit to ask if OPM was using telework to mitigate congestion during extreme weather or events which cause widespread street closures. I appreciate your leadership to implement telework during these events.
Adapting to DC's oppressive summer heat isn't a new concept. It's why Congress takes an August recess. But at some point our attitude shifted from taking summer siestas to trying to show nature who's boss. Anyone who's gotten a whiff of fellow passengers on Metro lately can tell you how well that's working out.
Federal News Radio posts this memo on the heat from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to agency heads, which advises managers to keep employees hydrated but says nothing about teleworking.
If federal government workers were allowed to telework in the most extreme heat (say, on days when the heat index is forecast to be over 105), there would be several real benefits:
Last week, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-VA) wrote to OPM asking for a renewed look at encouraging telecommuting on the hottest days:
This summer's weather suggests that extreme heat may also create a need for expanded telework. As you know, we have experienced nearly a month of consecutive days with 90 degree or higher temperatures, including record high temperatures and unusually high nighttime temperatures. This extreme heat is not only uncomfortable, but also exacerbates ground level ozone pollution and associated respiratory diseases.
I am aware that the Department of Homeland Security encouraged employees to take a telework day during the most extreme heat, and would appreciate your consideration of making such a practice more common across agencies. Reducing traffic and associated ozone pollution in our region will become increasingly important as extreme heat becomes more common in our region.
Of course, our climate is now even hotter than it was in DC's early days, and it's getting worse fast. Globally, June was 1.60°F hotter than the 20th-century average. And considering Congress hasn't curbed America's carbon emissions and the world has copied our inaction, we're hurtling towards the most extreme changes.
Letting feds telework on the hottest of hot days won't protect DC from global warming, but it would be an easy step to making it a bit more tolerable.
With so many races around the region, we sadly haven't had time to write in-depth articles about every one. Here are a few important ones to keep in mind as you go to the polls tomorrow.
We support Gerry Connolly for Congress in Virginia's 11th Congressional district in Fairfax and Prince William Counties. Connolly has a solid record of fighting for improvements to the area, including a multi-decade campaign to get the Silver Line built and turn Tysons Corner into a walkable urban area.
Keith Fimian is an ideologue who would put national Republican battles above the interests of Fairfax County, even to the detriment of the DC region. Our local delegation needs to work together, and while former Republican Rep. Tom Davis did so as has Connolly, Fimian has already taken pugnacious stances toward DC and others.
But not all Republicans are bad. We endorse Republican Patrick Mara for the DC State Board of Education. When the Mayor took control of schools, the State Board of Education switched from being the school board for DCPS to a much more advisory role. However, its members still have opportunities to influence the course of education reform in DC, especially in the way DCPS relates to the charter schools.
Mara, who David endorsed in 2008 for DC Council at-large, is challenging incumbent Dotti Love Wade for the Ward 1 seat.
Mara is running as a hardcore reformer. Wade is more of just an in-the-trenches Board member who works on nitty gritty things like curriculum and teacher certification. We need a voice for change at the "state" level and Mara would certainly bring it.
Mara would also provide an opportunity for Adrian Fenty's and Michelle Rhee's supporters to add strength toward keeping her reforms going. The one big practical difference between Rhee and Mara is that Mara strongly supports funding parity for DC public charter schools, which presumptive Mayor-elect Vince Gray also does and which Fenty did not, creating yet another reason to vote for Mara.
The only thing to disappoint public education supporters in DC could be Mara's vocal support for the private school voucher system that was imposed on DC by Congress. We feel that it's better to provide choice through the robust charter system and the DCPS out of boundary system if their neighborhood schools are not making the grade.
Ward 6 features a contest between two mothers who bring real energy to the cause of school reform. We endorse Monica Warren-Jones, who despite her tepid support of charter schools, is a serious candidate with a strong background and well thought out positions on how to continue to move schools forward.
The other candidate, Melissa Rohan is a vigorous proponent of school choice, but seems to lack specifics beyond supporting charter schools and vouchers. Her debate performance failed to fill in the blanks, with answers such as "I'm going to be an advocate for your kids!" and "I care about your kids!" Additionally, she canceled the long-scheduled debate at the last minute, only to hurriedly rescind her cancellation. This raises questions about her understanding of the process and reliability.
wants your ideas for an even better Car Free Day this year.
More Metro on I-66? Every time I post a future Metro map, no matter what the topic, some commenter(s) ask to add an Orange Line extension to Centreville. Now that the Silver Line is a done deal, Congressman Gerry Connolly wants to extend the line down I-66 at least to Gainesville. (WTOP) BeyondDC argues that extending Metro is the wrong approach. With the same amount of money, "we could extend VRE to Gainesville and drastically improve service frequencies on the entire VRE system and build a regional network of streetcars on several corridors around Northern Virginia."
Ground floor retail? Arlington required new buildings to include ground-floor retail. Now there's too much of it. Good thing or bad? Ryan Avent says it's good, since arts spaces, doctors and dentists can and are starting to use those spaces. On the other hand, some planners say that upper Georgia Avenue has too much retail space, leading to widespread vacancies and an overabundance of liquor stores. DC's current approach recommends consolidating Georgia Avenue retail into smaller nodes. Which is better? Is the right choice different between Arlington and Georgia Avenue?
use their phones in Metro tunnels. The new network will also provide Wi-Fi access. (Post)
Robert Moses what if: Vanshnookenraggen created some Google maps showing what Manhattan would look like if Robert Moses has gotten his Mid-Manhattan and Lower Manhattan expressways built.
What America are you from? An American tourist blocked the exits to a "car park" in Telford, UK. She'd lost her ticket, triggering a mandatory £6 charge, and refused to pay, insisting that nobody pays for parking where she comes from. (Shropshire Star via How We Drive)
LEEDing the way: LEED's 2009 revisions fix two major criticisms of the green building rating system. Retaining an old building gets more points than tearing one down, throwing away all the materials, and building a brand-new energy-efficient building in its place. Also, projects near transit and in dense urban areas will get a lot more points for location than under the old code. (Preservation Nation via Will Stephens)
Free Metro for life? 2,800 former Metro employees and board members have special farecards giving them unlimited rides, for life. Metro wouldn't say how much these cost the system, but the Examiner's Kytja Weir estimates it's at least $377,460 a year. Transit advocate Ben Ross defended the practice as "a legitimate part of compensation and retirement for employees." (Examiner via Unsuck DC Metro)
Honoring Gerry Connolly: The Coalition for Smarter Growth honored Congressman Gerry Connolly of Fairfax last week for his work promoting transit-oriented development, affordable housing, conservation and energy efficiency while Chairman of the Fairfax Board of Supervisors. Will Sharon Bulova continue his legacy? (Article XI)
raising the gax tax to close huge budget gaps. With Mary Peters and her seemingly-irrational opposition to the gax tax in all forms on the way out, gas prices low, and budget deficits high, this makes some sense. (WTOP)
Not going to help: Port Huron, Michigan and Hollywood, Florida are both removing all parking meters to boost flagging. Parking Today thinks that's a mistake: employees will take up most of the spaces, parking still won't be more attractive than at the mall, and the cities won't even have money to use to improve downtown.
Greening our "unnecessary garages": Today's Post prints an op-ed by Ingrid Specht endorsing lower parking minimums for DC. "In fact, employees should receive benefits for not driving to work." Specht suggests the Columbia Heights garage could be better utilized if it stayed open later for restaurant goers, filled in some of the empty space with bicycle parking, or added Zipcar spaces, "rather than hoping they are someday filled with personal vehicles, promoting pollution." Tip: Michael P.
Paleolithic road planners: Dr. Gridlock considers a right-turn lane on Georgia Avenue at Spring Street (probably not a good diea) and reveals some ongoing old-fashioned traffic thinking at the Maryland State Highway Administration: "Their goal, [SHA traffic planners] say, is to get the most vehicles through the area in the most predictable way possible." Even pedestrians aside, the goal should be to get the most people through the area, not the most vehicles. It's an important distinction, since one bus carries as many people as a whole lane of cars.
And... The NOAA headquarters in College Park is indeed transit-unfriendly; Great Streets and the 11th Street Bridges may be on the budgetary chopping block; a Welsh translation attempt leads to a hilarious result.
Posting will be light today because 1) I'll be voting (will there be long lines?) and 2) You should be voting instead of reading blogs. Voting is the most important thing you can do all year this year, especially if you live in Virginia.
Here are the top urbanism-related races here and elsewhere:
President: Barack Obama and Joe Biden are a dream ticket for cities. Obama voted for Amtrak funding, and Biden has been one of the Senate's Amtrak supporters, while John McCain opposes rail transit. Obama has made high-speed rail, mass transit and bicycle lanes a centerpiece of his economic policy. Obama had the right position on gas prices while McCain was dead wrong and still is. This choice couldn't be more clear. Plus, there are thousands of other reasons to vote Obama that have nothing to do with metropolitan policy.
Virginia: In Virginia's 11th district (Fairfax/Prince William), Democrat Gerry Connolly supports Metro to, and density at, Tysons; has fought BRAC-related auto-dependent sprawl; supports better bicycle infrastructure, and more. Here's the profile for the primary.
Maryland: Is there anything interesting? What do you think about slots? Anyway, vote.
New York: Vote for Obama on the Working Families Party line (Row E). It counts just the same, but strengthens progressive forces that are working for green jobs, affordable housing, public transportation, and more.
North Carolina: I'll be watching the nail-biter of a Senate race in North Carolina, where Democrat Kay Hagan strongly supports transit. Some extremely controversial and outright false Dole ads in the final days have made this a firestorm and a very close race.
Minnesota: Vote for Al Franken, because he's a really good guy, and so is his family, whom I had the pleasure to get to know while in New York.
California: Two ballot propositions are extremely exciting. As an urbanist, I'm rooting for 1A, which will fund a high-speed rail system from San Francisco to Los Angeles (with future spurs to Sacramento, Irvine and San Diego), giving Californians a sustainable way to traverse their state. As a person who believes in basic human rights, I'm rooting for the defeat of Proposition 8, which will reverse California's recently-won freedom for all couples to marry. That's yes on 1A, no on 8.
- Bikeshare is a gateway to private biking, not competition
- Latest Metro map drafts add Anacostia parks and other tweaks
- Short-term Washingtonians deserve a voice, too
- DC Council makes major policy changes overnight
- Judge denies injunction against closing schools
- Public land deals have both benefits and pitfalls
- Parklets give every block a little park