Live More, Commute LessLive More, Commute Less

Apr
25

DC Wants to Raise the Sustainability Bar

A proposal being put forth by the DC Council will further incentivize workers to abandon their single occupant vehicles for more sustainable means of getting to work, mostly biking, walking and transit.  The goal? To get 75% of commuters using sustainable forms of transportation.

According to a March article in the Washington Post, the DC Council will be one of the first major metropolitan areas to adopt an enforceable program that brings equal benefits to commuters who

choose to leave their cars behind and take alternative modes to work.  Employers who offer free parking will be required to offer transit benefits to employees, thus encouraging them to abandon their single occupant vehicles.

According to the Post article, Council member Charles Allen (D-Ward 6), the lead sponsor of the bill, contends:

The change… would address a fairness issue for the workers who sometimes turn down a valuable perk because they don’t drive or who are forced to take it because otherwise they can’t get the benefit any other way.

The Transportation Benefits Equity Amendment Act of 2017 is one response to growing criticism that historically commuter benefits for drivers are better than those available to people who take other modes of transportation. For instance, a few years ago, transit agencies including Metro fought for parity in transit and parking in the federal commuter benefits program, which three years ago gave commuters the option to spend up to $130 on public transit pretax vs. $250 for parking. That started to change in 2015, and this year the cap for the transit benefit and the parking benefit is $255 per month.

Currently, the District Department of Transportation indicates that about 40 percent of commuters drive to their place of employment.  Reducing this to 25% will be a formidable task, but providing incentives, as the Council intends to do, is a proven method in energizing commuters to change their behavior.

Apr
25

Old Folks on Spokes Storm Charm City

By Doug Pickford

Growing up I became a little familiar with Baltimore mainly through trips to Memorial and Camden Yards stadiums to see the Orioles play.  In college I befriended a couple Baltimoreans and made a few more forays into the City with them.  But over a recent weekend, I really got to see and learn more about Charm City than I had ever imagined.

The celebration of my nephew’s wife’s 40th birthday (a young folk on spokes) offered us the ability to plan a surprise expedition to Baltimore.  Unbeknownst to her, we planned a long weekend of activities and surprises.  One such activity was a guided bike tour of the City…a great decision on so many counts.

Recently my wife, friends and I (the Old Folks) have a modus operandi that involves booking bike tours in cities we visit.  We’ve done such tours in places like Boston and New Orleans, and more recently Baltimore.  On every tour we’ve taken, we have found the tour guides (and companies) to be extremely knowledgeable and super friendly.  These tours are developed for novice riders and can usually include children (see tour guidelines when booking for specifics).

A huge advantage of doing bike tours instead of say, a walking tour, is that you are able to see far more areas of the city you are visiting.  In Baltimore, we covered just about every neighborhood in the inner city in a three hour timeframe.  For our tour, we booked with Light Street Cycles, located in the Federal Hill area of Baltimore.  On our arrival (there were 12 Old Folks), bikes were tagged and ready to go.  After a few slight adjustments, we hit the streets.

Riding a few of the less traveled back streets in Federal Hill, you quickly realize why Baltimore is given the Charm City nickname – it is a truly charming place!  Federal Hill reminds you of so many inner city areas that are fast becoming destinations where millennials are moving to… nice, well kept row homes in walkable (and bikeable) communities located close to downtown areas of employment.  Bike lanes are appearing on most streets and access to places like the Inner Harbor is easy.

Our itinerary took us from Federal Hill to Ft. McHenry, back to the Under Armour headquarters, Domino Sugar, Baltimore Museum of Industry, Inner Harbor, Fells Point, Edgar Allen Poe’s grave, Babe Ruth’s birthplace, Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium…not to mention many unnamed neighborhoods and sections of the city in between.  All along our guide reminded us of how “feisty” Baltimoreans were (and possibly still are) known to be, hinging many of their early fortunes on being privateers – or legal pirates who pillaged foreign ships for the government’s benefit.

Joined by four additional riders midway through the ride, the Light Street guides certainly had a large contingent to deal with on city streets.  Huge kudos go out to this company, as they made for an incredibly enjoyable, safe and informative tour.  I highly recommend Light Street should you venture to Baltimore and want to experience more than just the Inner Harbor (which is what most people do).  Friendly, affordable and incredibly knowledgeable – perhaps the Light Street folks forgot to be feisty – or perhaps they simply are becoming more charming!

Light Street Cycles
1124 Light Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230
410-685-2234

Apr
25

Are You Happy Now?

If not, well…perhaps you want to move to Fremont, California (#1 Ranking Baby!), or Sioux Falls, South Dakota (merely 5th).  These are two communities that outranked Washington, D.C. as being some of the “Happiest Places to Live,” according to a recent survey conducted by WalletHub.

How are these rankings compiled, one might ask?  The survey asked about adequate sleep rates (you know Washingtonians don’t sleep – bad!), lowest and highest depression rates (as a political town, that is probably a wash), the most worked hours (we’re in the tank because we are a town of workaholics), income growth (now we gotcha!), obesity rate (not going there), and sports participation levels (well if you’re talking residents – extremely high, professional teams – ugh – but on the incredible rise!).

So Washington came in 10th behind a few notables, but at least we rank!  Perhaps this survey occurred prior to the recent news that both the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raider football teams were bolting their respective communities?  They ranked 7th and 8th respectively – perhaps we’ve jumped them since Daniel Snyder hasn’t bolted Washington yet?

Eight of the ten top winners were California cities.  Sioux Falls and Washington were the outliers.  Hmm…Is California that far ahead of the rest of the country in “happiness”?  If so, then they must sleep a lot, are chilled, work when they want, are not worried about money, spend a lot of time eating well and working out (see money), and play and enjoy a lot of sports.   Well, sounds pretty much like a darn happy place to me!  But we still love Washington for what it is – A GREAT PLACE TO LIVE MORE AND COMMUTE LESS!  And to BE HAPPY!


The Top Ten Happiest Place to Live

1. Fremont, CA
2. San Jose, CA
3. Irvine, CA
4. San Francisco, CA
5. Sioux Falls, SD
6. Huntington Beach, CA
7. San Diego, CA
8. Oakland, CA
9. Santa Rosa, CA
10. Washington, D.C.
Apr
25

McAuliffe Appoints Former USDOT Secretary LaHood To Find METRO Fixes

On March 23rd Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe appointed former U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood to oversee an independent panel to look into METRO’s long term financial needs and regional means of governance.  Both topics have been under increasing scrutiny by all federal, state and local players who have a stake in making METRO “whole” again.

Consistent, dedicated funding has been a thorn in the side of METRO for decades, hampering its ability to provide consistent and adequate resources to operations and maintenance.  As a result, over this past year riders have experienced a series of “Safety Surges” which have addressed long overdue maintenance, but have also negatively impacted service.  The LaHood appointment may signal a turning point, in which a mostly independent (though funded by Virginia but supported by both Maryland and the District of Columbia) panel will delve into the politically charged issues of funding and governance.

LaHood brings to the table a bipartisan background, having served as both a Republican congressman from Illinois and as Secretary of Transportation under President Obama from 2009 – 2013.  LaHood also brokered an agreement on federal and state funding disputes for the Silver Line with many of the Washington metropolitan stakeholders.  LaHood comes to the table well respected and with a very credible background in transportation and governing.

Among the myriad of concerns facing METRO, LaHood will attempt to find solutions to continued federal funding for METRO, while also allaying fears of a federal control board.  Recognizing that METRO must transform itself to survive, LaHood’s appointment by Governor McAuliffe clearly sends a signal to all that Virginia is seriously vested in METRO and wants to see this vital public transit system succeed.

Feb
26

Dulles Rail Construction Update

airport-sign

By  Dusty Smith

Work along the Silver Line Phase 2 alignment is making steady progress. Stations are taking shape at Dulles Airport and eastward to Reston. Crews in February started building a new entrance to the Herndon-Monroe Park-and-Ride lot along Sunrise Valley Drive to improve access to the commuter lot as well as the coming Herndon station. Work is also underway on a traction power substation – one of nine that will supply electricity to the rail line. In addition, Fairfax County has cleared a portion of the site for construction of a new parking garage to accommodate Metro users.

To the west at Innovation Center Station, drivers along the Dulles Toll Road will see the first pedestrian bridges installed on this phase of the project. The bridges will connect the rail stations in the median of the Dulles International Airport Access Highway to Metro pavilions, most of which include parking, bus bays, bike racks and kiss-and-ride lots.

At the airport, the aerial guideway decks are nearing completion and crews have begun installing tracks, and the station at Loudoun Gateway to the west is beginning to take shape. Along the Greenway, work has begun on the last of four straddle bents required for aerial tracks to span that road. At Ashburn Station, the last to begin construction, a tower crane has been installed and excavation is complete.

Construction is on track for completion in 2020.