Live More, Commute LessLive More, Commute Less

Feb
24

Jump in a Pool–It’s Easy! And you don’t even need to know how to swim…

For some, forming and sustaining a carpool seems like second nature, but for many, it might seem like a nebulous idea that can be daunting to get off the ground. The truth is, carpools can be as simple or as complicated as we make them, but I’m here to keep them from becoming the latter!

There are several ways to form carpools, but I usually get involved when people sign up for ridesharing at onsite events.  Once I have information about their commute – where it originates and ends, what time they usually work and whether they prefer to drive or ride, I drive use ride-matching software like the Commuter Connections (commuterconnections.org) database to find the right match. We then set up a meeting with the potential carpoolers to work out details about things like pick-ups and drop-offs and how gas expenses and tolls will be shared.

You can DIY-carpool or you can let me do the heavy lifting. It’s what I’m here for. Reach out to schedule a ridematching event at your workplace or send me your info so I can start matching you to carpoolers nearby.

For more information, contact Ericka Amador at 703.817.1307, ext. 6 or e-mail eamador@datatrans.org.

 

Cl·vate en un Carpool

Para algunos, la formación y el mantenimiento de un viaje compartido (carpool) puede sentirse natural, pero para muchos, puede parecer una idea nebulosa que puede ser intimidante. La verdad es, formar carpool puede ser tan simple o tan complicado como lo hacemos, pero estoy aquí para evitar que sea complicado!

Hay varias formas en que se puede participar, pero la forma en que estoy más comúnmente involucrada es cuando las personas se inscriben para carpool en eventos en el sitio de trabajo. Una vez que tengo la información sobre sus viajes como donde se originan y terminan, a qué hora regularmente trabajan y si prefieren conducir o viajar, uso software de “ridematching,” como la base de datos Commuter Connections (commuterconnections.org), para encontrar la combinación correcta. Luego, establecemos una reunión con los participantes de carpool potenciales para averiguar detalles como donde y cuando recoger a los pasajeros y bajadas. También pueden comentar sobre como los gastos de gasolina y peajes serán compartidos.

Usted puede formar su propio carpool o puede confiar en mi para hacer el trabajo pesado. Para eso estoy aquí. Por favor, contácteme con toda confianza para programar un evento de carpool en su lugar de trabajo o enviéme su información por email para poder empezar a buscar a carpoolers cerca de usted.

Feb
24

Spring Into These Activities This March and April!

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Had enough of Snowzilla by now?  Ready to get outdoors more often?  Perhaps get rid of some cabin fever?  Fortunately, with Earth Day and spring just around the corner, there are numerous opportunities to visit and participate in some local festivals.  Below is a sampling of some in our region.  Go ahead, get out there and live a little more!

 

4th Annual Grow Your Health Festival

March 5, Fairfax High School, 3501 Rebel Run, Fairfax, Virginia 22030.  9:00 am – 5:30 pm.

A project of the Northern Virginia Whole-Food Nutrition Meetup Group, the festival presents 60 exhibitors plus learning opportunities and more for home gardening, sourcing organic and local food, and nutrition and wellness for adults and children.

Classes and talks on gardening, nutrition and wellness will be offered through the day in the exhibit hall of farmers, food artisans, gardening services, and wellness products and services. The classes will empower festival attendees to start gardens, source better quality food, and learn holistic techniques to achieve better health. In the Food & Farming section of the exhibit hall, attendees will be able to meet farmers who sell direct to consumers and deliver weekly to convenient drop sites throughout Northern Virginia, and shop in the festival’s 2016 Pre-Season Farmers Market. The Grow Your Health Festival will also present the Northern Virginia debut of the documentary film Growing Cities. A family-friendly event, the Grow Your Health Festival offers several hours of supervised, age-appropriate activities for children, including gardening classes, kids’ yoga, indoor recess and quiet floor play. All activities, classes, and the film are included in the admission price – $10 online/$15 at the door; free for children 16 and under. Organic, non-GMO snacks and lunch will be available for purchase.

“We’re very pleased that our fourth annual Grow Your Health Festival has grown to a larger venue with many more exhibitors and offerings than ever,” according to Jack Moore, leader of the Northern Virginia Whole-Food Nutrition Meetup Group. “This event is important for learning of the benefits of local, organic, foods, and for the contributions we’re able to make to foster the whole-food perspective on good nutrition.” Proceeds from the Grow Your Health Festival will benefit the Weston A. Price Foundation and local non-profits that share the festival’s mission.

Get tickets and details for the 4th annual Grow Your Health Gardening, Local Foods & Wellness Festival at www.GrowYourHealthNoVa.com and follow on Facebook: GrowYourHealthFestival for more information and healthy tips.

 

16th Annual Jewish Film Festival

April 7 – 17, Angelika Film Center, Mosaic District; 2911 District Ave, Fairfax, VA 22031;

Phone: 571- 512-3301.

The 16th annual Northern Virginia Jewish Film Festival, powered by the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia, will screen 10-12 contemporary Jewish-themed and/or Israeli-made feature films that explore identity and place in the world. Festival home from April 7-17, 2016 is Angelika Film Center and Café at Mosaic.   Specific line up of films will be released in February and can be found at the website at www.jccnv.org/film-festival/northern-virginia-jewish-film-festival.

Leesburg Flower and Garden Festival

April 16 – 17, Downtown Leesburg, Virginia.  Contact: Ida Lee Park Recreation Center at 703-777-1368 or visit www.flowerandgarden.org.

Historic Leesburg will once again be in full bloom as lush landscapes and gorgeous gardens fill the streets. On April 16 and 17 over 120 vendors will be on display featuring landscape designs, gardening supplies, outdoor living items, plants, flowers, herbs and so much more! Stroll through the streets and take in the sights and sounds of springtime. Whether it’s gathering ideas for your new outdoor patio, stocking up on gardening supplies, or searching for a perfect gift for the avid gardener in your life, this event will have something for everyone! The event runs from 10:00am – 6:00pm on Saturday and 10:00am- 5:00pm on Sunday.

Festival goers can take a break from exploring the treasures vendors have to offer by stepping inside the Beer and Wine Garden located on the Town Green. Here, they can relax and sample ice cold brews and wines from around Loudoun County and beyond.

The Flower and Garden Festival will also host two entertainment stages. The Main Stage, located on the Loudoun County Courthouse grounds, will feature acoustic performers all day on Saturday and Sunday. The music kicks off on Saturday with local favorite, Gary Smallwood. This is a great place to sit under a tree, take in the tunes, and savor a tasty treat from one of the many food vendors onsite.

The second stage is all about our younger festival attendees and is located in the Children’s Area. The Children’s stage will feature interactive, live entertainment all day Saturday and Sunday afternoon. In addition to the entertainment, children can paint large wooden animal cut outs, create a garden marker, or participate in one of the other crafts available in this area.

 

89th Annual Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival

April 22 – May 1, 2016.  135 North Cameron Street, Winchester, VA 22601; Phone: 540-662-3863

The Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival, a six-day festival held annually in Winchester, Virginia, is known for its many guest celebrities and events. The festival was first held Saturday, May 3, 1924, and was originally celebrated as a one-day event (although not held in 1942-1945 due to World War II). Features include a Grand Feature Parade, Firefighters’ Parade (first held on Thursday, April 18, 1929), a carnival and midway, luncheons, races, walks, dances, and concerts, as well as a field show competition which formerly gave out the Queen’s Cup trophy to the winner, starting with the original Queen, Elizabeth Steck.

Springfest Fairfax

April 30, 2016, Lorton Workhouse Arts Center, 9518 Workhouse Way, Lorton, VA 22079; Phone: 703-324-5471.

Clean Fairfax produces SpringFest with partners Fairfax County Park Authority and The Workhouse Arts Center in Lorton, VA!  SpringFest Fairfax grows every year and we hope you’ll celebrate with us on Saturday April 30, 2016. This year we welcome FCPA Healthy Strides Expo–workshops, vendors and activities to help us be healthier and happier. Healthy People-Healthy Earth! Stay tuned for more details.  This is Fairfax County’s official Earth Day and Arbor Day event.

Feb
24

Smart Cities – Is The Future Near?

Ever wonder what the city of the future may look like?  Do you think it looks something like Los Angeles in the movie Blade Runner, with 10,000 foot buildings and cars and vehicles flying through the air?  Perhaps, but many urban planners and the Obama administration, have a more innovative view of what America’s urban landscapes may look like, and they have proposed investing millions of dollars in making this work – it is called the Smart shutterstock_85858207Cities Initiative.

In a September 2015 press release the Obama administration announced “a new ‘Smart Cities’ Initiative that will invest over $160 million in federal research and leverage more than 25 new technology collaborations to help local communities tackle key challenges such as reducing traffic congestion, fighting crime, fostering economic growth, managing the effects of a changing climate, and improving the delivery of city services.”

The heart of the initiative lies in the key strategies that the administration would like to focus on in the coming years.  These include:

Creating test beds for “Internet of Things” applications and developing new multi-sector collaborative models: Technological advancements and the diminishing cost of IT infrastructure have created the potential for an “Internet of Things,” a ubiquitous network of connected devices, smart sensors, and big data analytics. The United States has the opportunity to be a global leader in this field, and cities represent strong potential test beds for development and deployment of Internet of Things applications. Successfully deploying these and other new approaches often depend on new regional collaborations among a diverse array of public and private actors, including industry, academia, and various public entities.

Collaborating with the civic tech movement and forging intercity collaborations: There is a growing community of individuals, entrepreneurs, and nonprofits interested in harnessing IT to tackle local problems and work directly with city governments. These efforts can help cities leverage their data to develop new capabilities. Collaborations across communities are likewise indispensable for replicating what works in new places.

Leveraging existing Federal activity: From research on sensor networks and cybersecurity to investments in broadband infrastructure and intelligent transportation systems, the Federal government has an existing portfolio of activities that can provide a strong foundation for a Smart Cities effort.

Pursuing international collaboration: Fifty-four percent of the world’s population lives in urban areas. Continued population growth and urbanization will add 2.5 billion people to the world’s urban population by 2050. The associated climate and resource challenges demand innovative approaches. Products and services associated with this market present a significant export opportunity for the U.S., since almost 90 percent of this increase will occur in Africa and Asia.

Complementing this effort, the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology is examining how a variety of technologies can enhance the future of cities and the quality of life for urban residents. The Networking and Information Technology Research and Development (NITRD) Program is also announcing the release of a new framework to help coordinate Federal agency investments and outside collaborations that will guide foundational research and accelerate the transition into scalable and replicable Smart City approaches.

While Ballston, Clarendon, Falls Church, Tysons, Reston and Dulles Corridor are not classified as a “city,” this corridor represents more office space and density than all but a handful of “cities” in the United States.  Should this corridor be eligible as a consolidated activity corridor for inclusion in these programs, or will this initiative simply focus on the historic “urban” areas?  Other “surburban” cities – most of which represent high technology corridors and bio-tech concentrations that would lend themselves to moving this initiative forward quickly – are probably asking similar questions.

@livemore is interested in your opinions on the Smart Cities initiative and how Northern Virginia may fit into the larger scheme of this program.  Contact us at: editor@livemore.us.

Feb
24

Leesburg’s 26th Annual Flower & Garden Festival, April 16th and 17th

Historic Leesburg will once again be in full bloom as lush landscapes and gorgeous gardens fill the streets. On April 16 and 17 over 120 vendors will be on display featuring landscape designs, gardening supplies, outdoor living items, plants, flowers, herbs and so much more! Stroll through the streets

Photo courtesy of the Leesburg Flower and GarndenFestival.

Photo courtesy of the Leesburg Flower and GarndenFestival.

and take in the sights and sounds of springtime. Whether it’s gathering ideas for your new outdoor patio, stocking up on gardening supplies, or searching for a perfect gift for the avid gardener in your life, this event will have something for everyone! The event runs from 10:00am – 6:00pm on Saturday and 10:00am- 5:00pm on Sunday.

Festival goers can take a break from exploring the treasures vendors have to offer by stepping inside the Beer and Wine Garden located on the Town Green. Here, they can relax and sample ice cold brews and wines from around Loudoun County and beyond.

 

The Flower and Garden Festival will also host two entertainment stages. The Main Stage, located on the Loudoun County Courthouse grounds, will feature acoustic performers all day on Saturday and Sunday. The music kicks off on Saturday with local favorite, Gary Smallwood. This is a great place to sit under a tree, take in the tunes, and savor a tasty treat from one of the many food vendors onsite.

The second stage is all about our younger festival attendees and is located in the Children’s Area. The Children’s Stage will feature interactive, live entertainment all day Saturday and Sunday afternoon. In addition to the entertainment, children can paint large wooden animal cut outs, create a garden marker, or participate in one of the other crafts available in this area.

While at the festival, visitors can vote for their favorite landscape display in the People’s Choice Landscape Competition. Ballots can be picked up at the entrance booths or at the Gazebo. Completed ballots should be placed in the birdhouse at the Gazebo by noon on Sunday so that the winner can be announced that afternoon.

The Flower and Garden Festival is Leesburg’s unofficial start to the spring season, so be sure to join your friends and neighbors for the award winning “Best Community Event”; it’s an annual event and a perennial experience!

There is a $3 suggested donation per person. Donations can be made at the festival entrance booths. To see photos from the festivities, check out the event Facebook page at www.facebook.com/flowerandgarden.  For more information about this event, call Ida Lee Park Recreation Center at 703-777-1368 or visit www.flowerandgarden.org. While at the festival, be sure to visit the historic shops and restaurants. A shop directory can be found at http://downtownleesburgva.com/.

Feb
24

Changing How Transportation Projects Are Prioritized in Virginia

By Andrew G. Beacher, P.E.

Have you ever wondered if there is a better, more transparent way to fund transportation projects in Virginia?  Your state representatives have, and, as a result, the Commonwealth has embarked on a groundbreaking new effort to change the way it allocates funding for transportation projects.  In 2014, Governor McAuliffe signed into law the legislation known as House Bill 2 (HB2) which creates a framework by which proposed transportation projects are rated according to their potential benefits.  This information can then be considered by the Commonwealth Trans-portation Board (CTB) in its selection of which projects to fund.

With the passing of this new legislation, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and the Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT), under the leadership of Virginia’s Office of the Secretary of Transportation, have worked to implement HB2, using the framework established under the new law to develop a process by which potential projects may be vetted and scored, and ultimately considered for funding.

Chart A

Chart A

The HB2 Process

Under HB2, Regional Entities (such as Metropolitan Planning Organizations), Localities (Counties, Cities and Towns), and Public Transit Agencies are eligible to submit candidate projects in accordance with certain criteria (outlined below).  It is noted that while the Metropolitan Planning Organization for Northern Virginia is the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board, which resides at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, for HB2 purposes, the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority has assumed this role. See Chart A.

All projects submitted must pass through an initial screening which is tied directly to the Commonwealth’s statewide long-range transportation plan, VTrans2040.  VTrans2040 examines Virginia’s transportation needs in four categories:

1) Corridors of Statewide Significance (CoSSs), which represent the interregional travel market (examples of CoSSs in Northern Virginia include Interstate 66, Route 29, Interstate 95, and the North-South Corridor in Loudoun and Prince William Counties);

2) Regional Networks, which represent the intraregional travel market (in Northern Virginia, the designated regional network includes all roads within the boundaries of the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, which includes Loudoun, Prince William, Fairfax and Arlington Counties, as well as the independent cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas and Manassas Park);

3) Urban Development Areas (UDAs), which represent local activity centers (such as Tysons Corner); and

4) Safety.

For HB2, each candidate project must meet a VTrans need in at least one of these categories in order to be scored.  If a project is screened out, it will not proceed to scoring, and therefore would not be eligible for HB2 funds.

Once a project has been screened in, it is scored across five factor areas: congestion mitigation, economic development, accessibility, safety and environmental quality, plus one additional factor area, the land use factor, for areas over 200,000 in population, such as Northern Virginia.  Within each factor area, there are anywhere from one to three measures that have been identified to calculate a project’s overall score.  These measures were chosen with the goal that they: 1) analyze what matters to people and have meaningful impact; 2) ensure fair and accurate benefit-cost analyses; 3) are both transparent and understandable; 4) work for both urban and rural areas; 5) work for all modes of transportation, and 6) minimize overlap between measures.

The measures for each of the factor areas are displayed in Chart B.

Chart B

Chart B

 

Upon calculation of the factor scores, one of four weighting frameworks is applied to the scores to reflect the different characteristics of the diverse regions of the Commonwealth.  In urban areas, such as Northern Virginia, congestion mitigation is weighted the highest, while in other portions of the Commonwealth, congestion is weighted lower, with other factors such as accessibility or safety receiving higher percentages.  The four weighting frameworks, as adopted by the Commonwealth Transportation Board, are illustrated in the following table, with Northern Virginia falling into Category A:  See Chart C.

Chart C

Chart C

 

Finally, the summation of the weighted factor scores for each of the factor areas is used to determine the overall project score, which is then compared to both the overall project cost, as well as the HB2 cost (in other words, the amount of funds being requested through HB2) to determine the project’s relative benefits versus costs.

 

Inaugural Round and Next Steps

Earlier this year,  after soliciting feedback from around the state, the Commonwealth rolled out the HB2 implementation process to jurisdictions, regional entities and transit agencies, and established a timeline for application submissions.  The inaugural application period closed on September 30, 2015, with over 300 applications received (46 in Northern Virginia alone).  Initial screening, validation and scoring have since been completed, and results were presented to the CTB at their January, 2016 workshop.  Projects will be considered by the CTB over the next several months, and ultimately, their selections for funding will be incorporated into the Commonwealth’s Six-Year Improvement Plan (SYIP), scheduled to be finalized in June, 2016.

For more information on House Bill 2, including scoring results, please visit the official website at: www.virginiahb2.org.  Andrew Beacher is Assistant Transportation Planning Director for VDOT – Northern Virginia District.