Live More, Commute LessLive More, Commute Less

Jan
4

Be One of the Best!

You bike to work almost every day, shower at the office and use the secure storage to keep your wheels safe until it’s time to call it a day.  When the weather’s bad, you ride the rails and save money with your transit benefits.  You work for a company that’s concerned about its employees and the environment – it’s one of the reasons you took this job – and you wish there was a way your employer could be recognized for promoting commuting choices.BWC Larger

Since 2010, fifty-seven businesses in Fairfax County – more than anywhere else in the country – have been designated “Best Workplaces for Commuters” by the National Center for Transit Research at the University of South Florida.  Best Workplaces for Commuters (BWC) is an innovative membership program that provides qualified employers with national recognition and an elite designation for implementing green commuter programs like ridesharing, transit benefits, biking and walking, teleworking and alternate work schedules.

Other advantages include: web conferences and training to help your company implement commuter benefits; research and benchmarking; web-based tools to help calculate the overall financial, environmental, and traffic improvements associated with commuter benefits; and networking opportunities with peers and experts in the field to exchange ideas and learn new strategies.

Next year, your progressive employer could be among those recently recognized at a special ceremony at the Fairfax County Government Center hosted by Fairfax County Department of Transportation Director Thomas Biesiadny.  Your Employer Outreach Specialist can provide technical assistance to help your organization meet Best Workplaces for Commuters’ National Standard of Excellence, assist in the completion of the application, and even underwrite the annual fee for employers that qualify.

“Promoting alternate ways to work, and policies such as teleworking and flex time, help make Fairfax County a better place to live and work by reducing congestion on our roadways,” commented Biesiadny in congratulating the ‘Fairfax First 50.’ We are pleased that Fairfax County is leading the nation in ‘Best Workplace’ designations and are committed to continuing to expand this program in years to come.”

This year, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors also issued a proclamation in support of the “Fairfax First 50,” with special mention being given to the 2015 recipients:  Horizon Industries Limited, Prosperity Metro Plaza, FUTREND, U.S. Geological Survey, Kimley-Horn and Associates, Inc., Freddie Mac, Synaptek Corporation, National Student Clearinghouse. FOX Architects LLC, and Pyramid Systems, Inc.

 

For more information on Best Workplaces for Commuters, visit www.bestworkplaces.org, call the Fairfax County Department of Transportation at 703.877.5600 or contact Ciara Williams:  703.877.5605, ciara.williams@fairfaxcounty.gov.

The Best Workplaces for Commuters program is available nationwide.  For information on how to participate in your jurisdiction, contact your Loudoun County Commuter Services Employer Outreach Specialist Judy Galen:  703.737.8044, judy.galen@loudoun.gov or visit (https://www.loudoun.gov/commute).  Your Prince William County Transportation Demand Management Specialist is Holly Morello:  703.580.6130, hmorello@omniride.com or visit (http://www.prtctransit.org).

Jan
4

Senate and House Agree on Transportation Funding

The U.S. House and Senate have announced an agreement on a 5-year roughly $300 billion surface transportation bill!  This is the first transportation agreement to come out of Congress in 10 years.  Below are some highlights of the aptly-named “Fixing America’s Surface Transportation Act” or FAST Act:

Fully funds all public transportation programs for five years at growing levels;

Increases overall public transportation funding by 18 percent and dedicated funding for buses and bus facilities by 89 percent over the life of the bill;

Continues current formula funding and creates new, discretionary competitive grants under the bus and bus facilities program;

Provides funding stability for the Transit Cooperative Research Program;

Authorizes increased funding for Amtrak and competitive grants for intercity passenger rail; and

Provides funds for implementation of positive train control (PTC) systems on commuter railroads.

This is an important achievement for our transportation infrastructure, and represents a slight shift in federal priorities towards better funding transit and alternatives to single occupant vehicle oriented projects.

 

Jan
4

Train, Train, Take Me On Out of Here

Seems as if every time someone mentions train travel, and the ease of use it provides, Europe is brought up as the shining example of rail accessibility.  A recent study conducted by a Ph.D. student at the University of Vienna, Austria, illustrates just how accessible Western Europe really is.  Eastern Europe?  Not so much.

The data that Peter Kerpedjiev analyzed for 28 cities is quite telling how car independent a tourist or citizen travelling  in Western Europe can actually be.  Mr. Kerpedjiev’s table of train travel time distances from London illustrates that a person can reach almost all of Western European cities within 24 hours.

In the United States, the network of rail lines is far less extensive. However a resident, business travler, or tourist can reach many of the major eastern and western seaboard cities via train as well.  A quick review of Amtrak’s schedules for trains leaving Washington, D.C. indicates that a train traveller has a lot of options to reach some pretty far away destinations within a 24-hour timeframe.

With the opening of the Acela, D.C. train travelers can reach Boston, MA under 7 hours.  New York, NY under 4 hours.  Destinations along the eastern seaboard as far south as Tampa, FL can be reached within 24 hours, and with the Auto Train option, a traveler can even bring their car along for the ride.

If you are interested in more Western destinations, a D.C. train traveler can reach Pittsburgh, PA in 8 hours; Chicago under 18; Charlotte, NC in 8 hours and Atlanta in 14.  Closer cities such as Philadelphia, PA, Charleston, WV and Richmond, VA are all reachable under 2 hours.

Obviously European train travel is far more extensive, less expensive and allows travelers to cover greater distances in less time than that in the U.S.  But with that said, it is not impossible to reach many U.S. destinations via train should one choose to do so.  With the current state of our roadways, leaving the car behind can be a much more relaxing way to travel these days.

Jan
4

Multi-Modal Improvements Advance on I-66 Outside the Beltway

By Tom Biesiadny

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is undertaking a significant expansion of I-66 from the Beltway (I-495) to Route 15 in Haymarket.  Phase 1 of the project includes two Express Lanes in each direction from the Beltway to Gainesville; significant increases in bus service along the corridor; additional park-and-ride lots; transportation demand management; a parallel trail; and numerous interchanges improvements.   In addition, VDOT is also reserving the median in most places for the future expansion of high-quality transit.   VDOT has been closely coordinating this project with Fairfax County, Prince William County, the City of Fairfax, the Towns of Haymarket and Vienna and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (Metro).

Express Lanes

Just like the Express Lanes on the Beltway and I-495, the I-66 Express Lanes will allow vehicles with three or more people to travel for free.  Vehicles with fewer than three people can also use the lanes, but they will pay a toll.  Toll rates will be managed dynamically to ensure that the speeds are maintained at 55 miles per hour.  The new lanes will be separated from the existing travel lanes by flexible posts, similar to the ones on the Beltway.  Users can enter and exit the lanes at specific places.  Several new ramps will also be constructed to provide access.  Three regular, or general purpose, lanes will be maintained in each direction for those traveling with fewer than three people who don’t want to pay a toll.  There will also be an auxiliary lane between some interchanges in Fairfax County.

Bus Service, Park-and-Ride Lots and Transportation Demand Management

The project will fund significant increases in bus service in the corridor that will take advantage of the new Express Lanes.  The new service will be implemented as “point-to-point” service, such as Haymarket to Tysons and the Stringfellow Park-and-Ride Lot to downtown.  The new bus service will be operated by existing providers, such as the Fairfax Connector and OmniRide; however, the service will likely be branded to provide a consistent image for riders.  To facilitate this new transit service and also support ridesharing, four new park-and-ride lots (three in Prince William County and one in Fairfax County) will be constructed.  Also, an existing park-and-ride lot in Gainesville will be expanded.  In total, approximately 4,000 new parking spaces will be added when the Express Lanes open.  VDOT and the Department of Rail and Public Transportation will also be implementing a number of demand management strategies, such as ridesharing and transit fare incentives, during the construction of the project and beyond.

Parallel Trail

VDOT and Fairfax County have worked closely to develop a trail that will be constructed along I-66 with the project.  The trail will extend from Gallows Road to Bull Run Regional Park.  In general, the trail will be located between the shoulder of the roadway and the soundwalls.  It will be similar to Custis Trail that parallels I-66 inside the Beltway.   In some places, the facility will become bike lanes on existing roadways.  In other cases, the trail will traverse parks.  In places where the trail is within the I-66 right-of-way, there will be periodic breaks in the soundwalls to allow access from adjacent neighborhoods.  The width of the trail will vary, but in most cases, it will be eight to ten feet wide.

Roadways Across I-66

As part of the Express Lanes Project, VDOT will be replacing a number of bridges across I-66.  Other bridges will be upgraded.  Each of the new bridges will contain new pedestrian and bicycle facilities  connected to the networks adjacent to I-66.

Implementation

VDOT will be implementing this project with a private partner.  There are three different project delivery options: design-build; design-build-operate-maintain; and design-build-finance-operate-maintain.  The procurement method is expected to be announced in December 2015.  The project will be constructed in phases.   Construction of the first phase of the project will begin in 2017 and is expected to be completed in 2021.

Tom Biesiadny serves as the Director of the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.

 

Jan
4

Robert E. Simon, Visionary, and the Reston Master Plan

By Patty  Nicoson

Robert E. Simon was born in New York City on April 10, 1914 into a family that had  emigrated from Germany. His father developed a successful real estate BobSimon_HuntersWoodsVisit2management business.  Bob graduated from Harvard University and took over the family business at age 21 when his father died suddenly. After several decades of managing Carnegie Hall, Bob sold  it in 1961 and invested the proceeds to purchase 6,750 acres of land in Fairfax County not too far from the Washington Dulles International Airport, which was then being planned and was soon to be under construction.

Bob’s father had worked on the planning of Radburn, an early attempt to provide an attractive, open space and pedestrian-oriented community that accommodated the car. This influenced Bob’s lifelong interest in planning and in the creation of community.

Planning for Reston began in the early 1960s.  Reston gets its name from Bob’s initials R-E-S ton. In creating Reston, Bob’s major goals were:

That the widest choice of opportunities be made available for the full use of leisure time. A wide range of cultural and recreational facilities were to be made available, as well as an environment of privacy.

That it would be possible for anyone to remain in a single neighborhood throughout his or her life by providing the fullest range of housing styles and prices serving various income levels at the four different stages of a household’s life.

That the importance and dignity of each individual be the focal point for all planning. It was the first open community in Virginia, open to people of all races. The Commonwealth of Virginia had enforced segregation in housing and educational facilities.  Today, Reston is a vibrant, multi-cultural community with an annual festival that celebrates this diversity.

That people be able to live and work in the same community.

That beauty — structural and natural — is a necessity of the good life and should be fostered.  Natural beauty is a hallmark of the Reston community, as is high quality architecture and urban design.

Two community design review boards and a set of covenants governing the appearance of structures have helped the community maintain an appealing physical environment.

The final of the original goals was that since Reston was being developed for private enterprise, in order to be completed as conceived it must also, of course, be a financial success.  It wasn’t for Bob Simon since he was fired by Gulf Reston, but over the decades the concept of mixing uses in a community has come to the fore in planning circles.  The mixed-use Reston Town Center is the forerunner of the walkable urban environment that is now desired by employers, employees and developers, as well as residents.  The Town Center has proven to be an enormous financial success.

Bob Simon’s vision for Reston emphasizes the dignity of its residents and their 20150925 037 Bob Simon Candlelight vigilquality of life. The community was designed as a place where you could live, work, and play because of the mix of uses being provided: housing, retail, office space and other places of employment, worship, parks and other recreational amenities, and schools.

Simon hired the architectural and planning firm of Conklin + Rossant to do the Master Plan for Reston.  In 1962, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the Residential Planned Community (RPC) zoning that made Reston possible by providing the ability to build a mix of uses within an area and the flexibility to respond to market conditions over time.

Construction began on Lake Anne and the Lake Anne Village Center in 1963. In 1964, the first industrial tenant came to Reston and the first residents moved in.

In 1967, Gulf Reston bought Bob Simon’s development interest. In 1973, Reston’s first office building, the International Center on Sunrise Valley Drive, was dedicated and the nearly 1,000,000 square-foot U.S. geological survey headquarters opened. In 1979, the Reston Community Center opened, funded by a special tax district. Also in 1979, Mobil Land bought Reston, which by then had grown to 30,000 residents and 49 community businesses. In 1996, Reston Land sold its holdings to Westerra, which was renamed Westbrook Communities.

In 1990, the first phase of Reston Town Center opened and was hailed for its innovative urban design of retail, hotel, and office uses served by a grid of privately owned streets in contrast to the suburban shopping malls that had been developed around the country. In 1997, Reston Town Center added more shops, office buildings and high rise residential towers.

Today, Reston is a community of 62,000 residents and 68,000 employees. It is possible to live and work in Reston and more than one third of the residents do so. It is also possible to live in Reston without a vehicle. The plan for Reston with its arterial, collector, and local streets facilitates transit services. The Reston Internal Bus System (RIBS) provides transportation within the community, but it now links the recently opened (July 26, 2014) Metrorail station at Wiehle-Reston East to the town center and the commercial buildings along Sunrise Valley and Sunset Hills Roads.

Phase 2 of the Silver line will have two additional stops at the Reston Town Center and Herndon stations.

 

When Bob Simon returned to live in Reston in 1993, he became very active in the community including serving on the Board of the Reston Association (RA); testifying in support and opposition to development projects; and frequently writing op ed pieces and letters to the editor in the local newspapers.  He also worked to ensure the completetion of a number of major community elements.  He spurred interest and support for the development of the Nature House in south Reston on the 75-acre nature preserve. The RA had for many years run programs and camp activities on the property, but these had been limited by the lack of an all-weather facility. With his active encouragement, residents began a campaign to raise funds for construction of the Nature House.  It has been a great community resource and is used by RA for its many educational programs and community events.

When the Reston Community Center opened in 1979 in the Hunter Mill Village shopping center, Bob Simon recognized that there was a need for an additional facility to serve the north side of Reston. He purchased space in the Lake Anne condominium and rented it to RA. A variety of programs are offered there and its community room is used for activities both public and private.

Bob Simon (and his wife Cheryl) were active participants in the planning process for the redevelopment of the Lake Anne Village Center and were involved in the selection of the development team that won approval to do the redevelopment and expansion of the center.

Fairfax County had amended its Comprehensive Plan in 2001 to reflect the arrival of bus rapid transit and rail in the Dulles corridor.  Recognizing that these planning recommendations were out of date in 2009, Supervisor Cathy Hudgins appointed a task force to update the Reston Master Plan.  Its recommendations were approved by the Fairfax County Board in February 2014.  Bob Simon was an active and effective participant in the four-year process making sure that the plan respected and built on his original principals.  Design excellence and environmental sustainability remained key elements, as well as diversity of housing types for all incomes.  He made sure that the plan language encouraged plazas, the traditional focal point of communities in the transit station areas and village centers as these areas develop and redevelop.

Bob remained active in many of the planning issues affecting the community until his death in September 2015.  He was involved with efforts to secure a performing arts facility, a new recreation facility, and the redevelopment of Reston Town Center north and the Tall Oaks Shopping Center.  Over the years, he had the ear of Reston’s Congressmen and state and local officials and was an effective lobbyist for Reston’s plans and projects.

Bob Simon’s Reston has had a worldwide influence on community planning with visitors coming from around the world to see this special community.  Bob served as a mentor to countless planners, architects, and the residents and students in Reston.  His wisdom, enthusiasm, and dedication to the community of Reston and its people will be sorely missed.

Patty Nicoson serves as President of the Dulles Corridor Rail Association.