Live More, Commute LessLive More, Commute Less

Nov
1

Area Rates As Some Of The Best Bicycling Cities In The US

A recent Bicycling magazine survey of the 50 most bike friendly cities in the U.S. found both Washington, D.C. and the City of Alexandria ranked within the top 25 best biking cities.  The surveyors spoke to hundreds of bike experts and enthusiasts, and sifted through thousands of data elements to determine the rankings.  The ranking “system is out of 100 points divided into four categories, each weighted based on their importance. Safety tops the list and is ranked out of 40 points. Eight to 80 friendliness (how accessible the city is to riders of all ages) came next out of 30 points. Then energy—a measure of the political climate in regards to bikes—out of 20 points. Finally, culture—the shops, routes, and attributes that make each city a great place to ride—was ranked out of 10 points.”

Bicycling magazine noted the following about D.C. (ranked 11) and Alexandria (ranked 25).

Washington, D.C.

Safety – 32/40 pts. Friendliness – 23/30 Energy – 15/20 Culture – 8/10

2016 Ranking: 9

Our nation’s capital has done an excellent job investing in both trail systems and on-street infrastructure, so cyclists can zip in from the suburbs on pathways, but still feel safe as they connect from pathways to office.

One of the city’s recent big projects is the Anacostia River Trail, a four-mile section of trail that connects to 26 more miles of trail in Maryland. Traditionally, Anacostia has been an underserved community, so the trail was one step towards infrastructure equity, says Jim Sebastian, who works for the District’s Department of Transportation.

D.C. is also prioritizing programs that incentivize cycling in the city. The GoD.C.Go program works with employers to make their offices bike friendly. And the 2014 D.C. Commuter Benefit Ordinance stipulates that all D.C. employers with 20 or more employees must offer transit benefits—like free bus passes or a bikeshare membership.

Finally, D.C. continues to be a leader on the safe routes to school program. Every single second grader in the city learns to ride a bike, and many of the schools have bike to school days where large numbers of students actually make their way to school by bike—something other cities are truly strugglingto achieve.

City of Alexandria

Safety – 30/40 pts. Friendliness – 20/30 Energy – 12/20 Culture – 6/10

2016 Ranking: 34

This D.C. suburb is putting in the work to move up this list and should be even higher by the time the 2020 rankings roll around. In the past two years, Alexandria ratified a new bike and pedestrian plan, and a Vision Zero plan. The city has also added three employees who work extensively on bike and pedestrian projects, says Jim Durham, chair of the Alexandria Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory committee.

That’s just the groundwork, though. Now the hard part has to happen. Like Arlington and D.C., Alexandria has a good existing trail network that can move commuters into the city. But first- and last-mile connections leave something to be desired. And getting to and from places that aren’t served by this network means mostly riding in traditional bike lanes—just paint, few buffers and even fewer physical barriers. “Equity is also an issue,” say Durham. Alexandria’s West Side, which has traditionally been lower-income, hasn’t gotten the same amount of bike and pedestrian attention as the rest of the city.

Things are moving the right direction, though. Alexandria is taking safety seriously and has reduced speed limits, narrowed lanes—which slows traffic and forces drivers to be more careful—and built in speed cushions (which are flatter and less harsh than speed bumps) and curb bulb-outs to slow traffic. Moving forward, Durham says the focus will be on creating more neighborhood greenways to close gaps in the bike
infrastructure—though to really bump this city up in this list, they’re going to need to get serious about building protected lanes too.

Congratulations are in order to both localities, as our region turns more bike friendly every day.  Livemore and Bikemore!

Nov
1

Metro Progress On New And Old Pedestrian Access

Dulles Garage Tunnel Access to Reopen By Thanksgiving

By Marcia McAllister

Remember when you could park at Daily Garage One at Washington Dulles International Airport and walk to the terminal via a tunnel with moving sidewalks? 

That tunnel from the garage to the United Airlines end of the terminal has been closed since January 2016 to permit upgrades construction of the Dulles Airport Metro Station.

With Thanksgiving approaching there is good news: the tunnel is about to be re-opened. Those who park in the garage will again be able to take rebuilt moving sidewalks to the main terminal.

This means shuttle buses which have picked up parking customers at garage will no longer serve this garage but travelers will have quicker, convenient trips using the mobile sidewalks. 

Travelers and other airport users should be on the lookout for press announcements that will provide specific dates for the re-opening.

When Phase 2 of the Silver Line opens in 2020, the new tunnel also will serve customers arriving at Dulles via Silver Line trains. The tunnel work is being done by the Washington Metropolitan Airports Authority as part of its Silver Line construction project.

New signage throughout the airport and in the parking garage will direct passengers to the tunnel. When completed, Phase 2 will run from the Wiehle-Reston East Station to the future Ashburn Station in eastern Loudoun.

Meanwhile, construction progresses at the Innovation Station which continues to be the centerpiece of discussion about Jeff Bezos’ search for an East Coast headquarters for Amazon.  And, Fairfax County, which is building a commuter parking garage on the south side of that station, says its staff is working to resolve settlement problems at the facility. The county says the garage will still be completed in plenty of time to meet
project schedules.

In addition, work continues at the south pedestrian pavilion leading to the Reston Station and on the Herndon South Pavilion.

Nov
1

Rethinking The Bus

Our regional bus system serves as a vital link to communities and workplaces that our fixed rail systems do not reach.  Those residents, many of them lower income or underserved populations, rely heavily on the bus network for their daily commutes and general sustainability.  However, in recent years, WMATA and other bus network providers have seen a steady decline in ridership.  What are the reasons for this decline?  There are many factors involved, but business leaders in the region are starting to take note and have developed a briefing paper with recommendations on how the region can improve its bus service.

In September, the Greater Washington Partnership published a briefing paper titled Rethinking the Bus, a thoughtful examination of the
problems and possible solutions to improving bus service in the greater Washington Metro area.  The Greater Washington Partnership is comprised of business leaders throughout the metro region. Therefore, they are keenly aware of the economic importance of having a reliable and efficient bus network.  Their recommendations for improving this network are outlined below.

1. Optimize routes to improve service and better match demand

In the Capital Region, as in many parts of the country, one can still find bus routes that are not well-matched
with riders’ needs. Some stop short of major employment centers. Others, designed to serve 9-to-5 commuters, are ineffective for those who work less traditional schedules. Land use policies that encourage development in far-flung suburbs have forced transit agencies to stretch some routes past the point of being cost-effective. Years of one-off tweaks and adjustments have led to routes that serve stops off the main road, slowing travel for everyone aboard. 

While transit agencies regularly tweak bus routes, several regions (including both Baltimore and Richmond) have taken a more comprehensive approach: a complete overhaul of their bus networks. This process starts with a simple premise: ask the community what they value in bus service, and develop routes and schedules that serve these goals. In some cases, existing routes may already effectively serve those needs, while in others, new or modified routes must be created. There will always be trade-offs involved: buses that arrive frequently mean people spend less time waiting, but they cost more to operate. Providing service to the neighborhood on the outskirts of town increases access for those residents, but could mean less service in denser areas where more people would ride. The following tools are some of the ways that routes can be optimized to help communities serve more riders within existing resources. 

Tools: Connect Major Destinations; Match Frequencies with Ridership Demand; Redesign Indirect Routes; Break Up Long Routes; Optimize the Distance Between Bus Stops; and, Utilize Non-Traditional Buses and Routes.

2. Make space for the bus on the region’s roads

Buses use the same roads as many other vehicles: cars, trucks, bicycles, and motorcycles. In some places, there is enough space on the roads to easily accommodate everyone. In others, road space is in high demand, leading to traffic congestion and slower travel. For buses, these capacity constraints not only reduce speed, but also reduce reliability and increase operating costs. 

Improving bus service in these conditions requires local and state governments to make sure buses have the space they need to move quickly on the region’s roads. There are a number of ways to give
priority to buses in order to move the greatest number of people as quickly as possible through an area with limited capacity.
By increasing the speed of bus travel, total trip times are reduced. Research has shown that when travel times decline by 10 percent, bus ridership tends to increase 4-6 percent.  The tools to help buses move faster on shared roads are generally low-cost and flexible, in that they can be targeted to specific locations and removed if conditions change. Jurisdictions that implement these changes must be committed to enforcing them if they are to have the desired effect. 

Tools: Dedicate Lanes to Buses; Install Bus Bulbs and Boarding Islands; Optimize Traffic Signals for Buses; Use Queue-Jumps; and, Allow Bus-on Shoulder lanes.

3. Make boarding faster

Those who regularly ride the bus would not be surprised to learn that from one-fifth to one-third of buses’ travel time is spent waiting for people to board and pay. On most bus routes, people must line up at the front door, walk up several steps, and then either show a pass to the driver, tap a card on a reader, or feed dollars and change into
a farebox. A person paying with cash will take about three times as long to pay as someone paying with a mobile phone, so the more cash consumers a bus has, the more time will be spent on boarding. Transit agencies are beginning to address this issue with both physical and technological changes to the boarding process. 

Tools: Use Off-Board or Tap-And-Go Fare Payment; and, Allow All-
Door Boarding.

4. Make buses easy to use

The harder it is for consumers to get information about a particular transportation option, the less likely it is that they will choose that option. Buses are susceptible to a host of challenges in this area, including, among other things, hard-to-read maps and confusing fare policies. Buses also face physical issues that can make them difficult to use, such as bus stops that are hard to get to due to lack of sidewalks or crosswalks. Addressing these issues, particularly when coupled with service improvements to increase speed and reliability, can improve the experience of existing riders and attract new ones. 

Tools: Provide Real-Time Information; Simplify Schedules; Improve Wayfinding; Establish Bus-Friendly Fare Policies; Connect Buses With An Integrated Mobility Platform; Improve Physical Access to Bus Stops; and, Provide a Safe and Comfortable Trip.

5. Measure and report on bus performance

Publicly reporting performance data serves two goals. When performance is strong, data can help to counter misperceptions about the bus system. When performance is lacking, data can help to identify particular issues
or bottlenecks, the first step in correcting them. Performance reporting should focus on how well the region’s
bus systems are contributing to the four mobility priorities: connecting the super-region (e.g., percent of jobs accessible by transit within 45 minutes), improving the customer experience (e.g., how often buses and trains arrive on-time), ensuring equitable access (e.g., percent of jobs and services accessible to low-income residents by transit within 45 minutes), and integrating innovation (e.g., percent of riders paying with mobile phones). 

Tools: Publish Regular Performance Reports; and, Institute Open-Data Policy.

The entire report adds context to these recommendations by providing data and examples from other regions that have optimized their bus services.  

You can download the entire report from the Greater Washington Partnerships website at greaterwashingtonpartnership.com.  

Aug
30

DATA’s 32nd Anniversary Celebration!

Photo by David Galen.

DATA welcomed Commonwealth of Virginia Secretary of Transportation, Hon. Shannon Valentine (inset photo ©David Galen), as keynote speaker at DATA’s 32nd Anniversary Celebration and Awards Ceremony on Thursday, May 24th at the Hilton Washington Dulles Airport Hotel in Herndon.  The annual dinner event is one of only two fundraisers DATA holds each year to help support its mobility management efforts. 

DATA President John Martin served as emcee for the evening, introducing the elected officials in attendance and delivering opening remarks.  Helen Cuervo, District Engineer, Northern Virginia District of the Virginia Department of Transportation, introduced Secretary Valentine.  The Secretary shared the new administration’s vision for transportation in the Commonwealth, particularly as it relates to the challenges faced by businesses and citizens in the Dulles area. 

As always, a highlight of the evening was the presentation of DATA’s Awards.  This year’s honorees included:

J. Hamilton Lambert, recipient of the 16th Annual Dr. Sidney Steele Founder’s Award. Mr. Lambert is a former Fairfax County Executive and the current Executive Director ofthe Claude Moore Charitable Foundation.

James N. Larsen, recipient of the President’s Award. Jim is the former Executive Director and CEO of DATA and currently heads up the Commuter Services Bureau of Arlington County’s Department of Transportation.

Bob Evans and Kelley Westenhoff, recipients of the “DATAs.” Bob and Kelley provided key support to DATA’s Live More Commute Less: FOCUS! grant, aimed at establishing a bike-oriented community in Reston and at encouraging commuters to bike or walk the “last mile” from the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station to their home or office.

Fairfax County employers who have received “Best Workplaces for Commuters” designation were recognized with a banner in the ballroom.

The program concluded with DATA Executive Director Doug Pickford thanking the event’s sponsors and providing brief remarks on the successes and future challenges for DATA. 

For more information on DATA, or to become a DATA member, please contact Director of Sales and  Marketing Kelly Woodward at kwoodward@datatrans.org.

Aug
30

Dulles Matters: Don’t Miss Dulles Day Festival and Plane Pull 2018

For more than 25 years, Washington Dulles International Airport has invited the community to a free, one-day open house to experience aviation up close and raise money for a good cause. This year, the Dulles Day Festival and Plane Pull 2018, benefitting Special Olympics Virginia, is on Saturday, September 15.

“We are extremely proud of the event that we’ve built over more than two decades as a partner to this community and in support of a great cause,” said Mike Stewart, Airport Manager for Dulles International Airport. “Special Olympics Virginia opens doors for athletes with intellectual disabilities to have their dreams fulfilled of competing in the sports they love. The support of the community and the donations raised through Dulles Day is vital to the ongoing success of Special Olympics.”

For newcomers to the event, you can start the day early with the first activity: a 5K and 10K Race on the Runway. Runners will trot over huge skid marks where aircraft wheels touch down each day on an airport runway, and take in unique views that are normally seen for just a few moments by airline passengers. There are only 2,500 runner slots available, so register early at www.potomacenmotive.com. 

Following the race at 10:30 a.m., the gates open to the airfield where a huge, free festival awaits all visitors. The signature event of the day is the Plane Pull, a friendly competition featuring teams of 25 people trying to pull a full-size jet aircraft – weighing 82 tons – the longest distance in the shortest time. Proceeds from this fund-raising activity benefit Special Olympics Virginia.

But guests don’t have to race or pull planes to enjoy the Dulles Day Festival and Plane Pull—there’s something fun for everyone. Children can flex their muscles in the Kids’ Truck Pull competition, and surrender to fun at kids’ play area with bounce houses and a dunk-a-cop tank. For aviation enthusiasts, there will be current and vintage aircraft on display, and a classic car show. Not to be left out, the Airports Authority Police, Fire and Rescue and Maintenance teams will also display the massive equipment that keeps the airport running smoothly. 

For those guests curious about the airport, there will be airfield tours aboard the famous Dulles Mobile Lounges and rides on Airports Authority Fire Trucks. And for the dog lover community, the Airports Authority Police Department K-9 team will give hourly demonstrations.  And for the foodies, several food and beverage vendors and food trucks will be on site offering a wide variety of options for all tastes.

The day-long, family-friendly event has free admission and free parking, and is accessible through the Silver Line Express. 

For more information about Dulles Day Festival and Plane Pull, visit planepull.com.