Live More, Commute LessLive More, Commute Less

Feb
27

The Nation’s Only Statewide House and Garden Tour Continues to Keep Virginia Beautiful

April 27-May 4, 2019 

“Historic Garden Week is unprecedented as a fundraiser that underwrites restoration projects and supports our centennial project with the state parks,” explains Jean Gilpin, President of the Garden Club of Virginia (GCV), the event’s sponsoring organization. With 40 active restoration sites and 24 grants to Virginia’s parks in the past three years, the work of the Garden Club of Virginia has broad and significant statewide impact. 

While Virginia might be the “Mother of Presidents,” Historic Garden Week, as the oldest and largest house and garden tour in the nation, is surely the “Mother of House and Garden Tours.” The inspiration happened early in the organization’s history when a flower show organized by GCV volunteers raised $7,000 to save trees planted by Thomas Jefferson at Monticello. The first tours, known as “pilgrimages,” took place two years later. Tour proceeds have continued to fund the restoration and preservation of the Commonwealth’s significant historic public gardens ever since. 

“Historic Garden Week has raised millions of dollars to keep Virginia beautiful,” notes Lynn McCashin, the Garden Club of Virginia’s Executive Director. “The grounds of our most cherished landmarks including Mount Vernon and Stratford Hall have been restored with tour proceeds.” Additionally, this annual event funds a historic landscape research fellowship program that is building a comprehensive library of Virginia’s important gardens and landscapes. Since its inception in 1996, it has documented twenty-five. 

“Much more than a benefit, Historic Garden Week is a beloved springtime tradition – for both our members and for the nearly 24,000 people that attend,” commented Stephie Broadwater, the event’s State Chair. The only statewide house and garden tour in the nation, it promotes tourism while showcasing communities both large and small across the Commonwealth. “Perhaps most importantly, this enduring legacy brings our membership together towards a common goal,” Gilpin adds. “Historic Garden Week would not be possible without the hard work of our 3,300 members.” 

“Virginia is especially beautiful during Historic Garden Week,” Gilpin continues. “For eight days at the end of April and early May visitors from all over the world will tour beautiful homes and gardens and enjoy all Virginia has to offer.” The 2019 event encompasses 31 tours organized and hosted by 47 member clubs. Approximately 200 private homes, gardens and historical places will be open especially for Historic Garden Week. “Every year the properties opened and the tours offered are different, making each year a unique experience,” she explains. 

“It’s hard to conceive of the scope of Historic Garden Week, so we like to share some surprising numbers,” Broadwater notes. “In addition to the amazing interiors and gardens on display, our volunteers will design over 2,200 spectacular floral arrangements to decorate rooms open to the public. Most of the plant materials will come from their very own gardens.” 

The event’s 2019 marketing materials will showcase the Virginia bluebell and Waverley Hill, the former home of the President of the Garden Club of Virginia from 1928 to 1930. “Designed by William Lawrence Bottomley, with gardens by the landscape architect that did the restoration at Colonial Williamsburg, Arthur Shurcliff, this gorgeous Georgian- Revival country house was completed in 1929 – aptly, the year of the first Historic Garden Week,” Broadwater shared. 

Feb
27

The True Cost of Driving – An Eye-Opening Analysis

INRIX, the company that delivers a congestion management app, is also a very sophisticated analytical firm that has conducted studies on congestion-related issues worldwide.  A recent report on the cost of driving, based on their capture of data and analysis of parking, maintenance and other related costs (lost time, carbon emissions, etc.) is a staggering eye-opener that should give everyone pause to examine the potential benefits that car sharing may really afford each individual.  We might want to think long and hard about car ownership after looking at these results.  The INRIX analysis is summarized below.

INRIX announced the findings of the first ever Cost of Driving study that calculated vehicle ownership costs in 30 major cities in the United States, United Kingdom and Germany. The study found that the indirect, hidden costs of driving, such as sitting in traffic and searching for parking, carry a significant economic burden for drivers in the U.S. – to the tune of $3,037 per driver in 2017.

The average U.S. driver faced a total driving cost of $10,288 in 2017, made up of direct (maintenance, fuel, insurance, and parking and toll fees) and indirect/hidden costs (wasted time and carbon emissions, parking fines and overpayments). Interestingly, traffic and parking-related costs made up nearly half (45 percent) of the total cost of ownership in the U.S.

“The true cost of driving was staggering but what was truly surprising was the size and breakdown of the hidden costs. Parking, for example, made up a third of the total cost of vehicle ownership,” explains Dr. Graham Cookson, Chief Economist, INRIX. “On average, drivers spent more than $3,000 a year on all parking-related costs.”

INRIX Cost of Driving Index U.S. City Results

On the local level, New York City was the most expensive city for drivers out of the 30 cities studied. In 2017, the total cost of driving in NYC was nearly two times the national average at $18,926 per driver, mostly due to the cost of parking. New Yorkers parked more often (10 times/week), paid more frequently (60 percent) and paid the most (average off-street rate of $28 for two hours). At $10,203 per driver, Detroit had the lowest total cost of car ownership mostly due to cheaper on-street and off-street parking rates.   (SEE FIGURE 1.)

INRIX Cost of Driving Index Country Results

The average U.S. driver faced a total driving cost of $10,288 in 2017, which was 55 percent more than the average U.K. driver and 14 percent more than the average German driver. However, U.S. drivers use their cars more than their German counterparts (13,467 miles driven annually in the U.S. and 8,709 miles driven annually in Germany), but the congestion impact is smaller. (SEE FIGURE 2.)

 

Feb
27

Virginia and Transurban Sign Agreements to Invest More Than $1 Billion in Northern Virginia Transportation

Governor Ralph Northam announced on January 29th that the Commonwealth of Virginia has signed agreements with private partner Transurban to deliver critical transportation solutions along Interstate 495 and Interstate 95. Months of close

 I-95 Traffic Congestion, photo by D. Allen Covey, VDOT.

collaboration and negotiation between the Commonwealth and Transurban have resulted in a deal for four transportation infrastructure projects that will create significant value for citizens and businesses throughout Northern Virginia and Fredericksburg.

“My administration is committed to creating opportunity for Virginia families and businesses in every corner of the Commonwealth, and that requires having a safe, reliable transportation network,” said Governor Northam. “I am pleased to announce these four projects that will bring significant improvements to I-495 and I-95, easing congestion, enhancing safety, and driving economic growth.”

The projects are:

A 2.5-mile extension of the 495 Express Lanes north to the American Legion Bridge to reduce congestion. The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) and Transurban have signed a Project Development Agreement for the Capital Beltway Express Lanes Northern Extension (Project NEXT), which includes direct connections with the George Washington Memorial Parkway and the Dulles Toll Road.  Four general purpose (GP) lanes and two new Express Lanes will run in each direction of the Capital Beltway starting from the current terminus near the Dulles Access Road and ending at the American Legion Bridge. With no public funding by the Commonwealth, the Express Lanes network will be extended to the Maryland border, helping address one of the worst bottlenecks in the region and reduce cut-through traffic in local McLean neighborhoods.

Addition of a new, reversible ramp connecting the existing 95 Express Lanes at Opitz Boulevard to provide improved access to Potomac Mills and Sentara Virginia Medical Center. The ramp will offer Express Lane drivers the option to exit directly onto Opitz Boulevard. Transurban will be responsible for the design, construction, maintenance, and all associated costs, creating greater accessibility for the residents and
business community.

Construction of a new southbound Occoquan auxiliary lane on Interstate 95 in Woodbridge to address the traffic bottleneck at the Occoquan Bridge. The Occoquan Auxiliary Lane will connect the southbound Route 123 ramp onto I-95 with the off-ramp at westbound Prince William Parkway. The Commonwealth and Transurban have agreed the improvements will not require any compensation payment to Transurban.

“Transurban has a long history of working with the Commonwealth to collaboratively solve major transportation challenges,” said Transurban President Jennifer Aument. “With expanded capacity and new connections to commuter routes and commercial centers, we are committed to delivering transportation solutions that keep travelers moving faster and safer throughout Northern Virginia.”

VDOT is advancing required environmental studies to support these projects, and the partners will commence extensive engagement with the community and local stakeholders as they develop more detailed design plans. While the timeline for delivery of the improvements will continue to be refined, construction could begin as early as 2020.

In addition, the proposal for the Fredericksburg Extension Project (Fred Ex), a project consisting of a 10-mile extension of the 95 Express Lanes to Fredericksburg, has been finalized and is on track for commercial close this spring. Since the project was initially
announced in January 2018, contract negotiations, a competitive design-build procurement, and more favorable financing options have advanced the deal, enabling Transurban to deliver to the Commonwealth a payment of between $54 to 98 million to fund additional transportation improvements depending on final teams of
TIFIA, a low interest federal loan. In addition to the existing three general purpose (GP) lanes, Fred Ex will provide two reversible Express Lanes of new capacity, which will be available at no charge to HOV 3+ and transit riders. The project is expected to increase capacity on this section of I-95 by 66 percent during peak periods. Construction is planned to begin later this year with the facility opening to traffic in the fall of 2022.

“These negotiations have resulted in a more than $1 billion investment in transportation infrastructure in these vital regions of Virginia,” said Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine. “Working collaboratively, we are delivering on our commitment to reduce congestion, improve safety, and increase reliability for those we serve.”

In total, Transurban has committed more than $1 billion over the next five years to fund enhancements to the regional transportation network. Competitive design-build procurements are being used to further ensure best value for Virginia taxpayers.

“The I-95 bottleneck at the Occoquan Bridge has been a source of personal frustration and time stuck in traffic—valuable time that could be spent with family,” said Sena
tor Jeremy McPike. “With funding now in place, VDOT will begin the design and construction that our community has sought for years. I applaud Governor Northam and Secretary Valentine for their commitment and leadership to making improvements and identifying funding to start this
project immediately.”

“The Occoquan bottleneck is the worst traffic problem in Virginia and has been one of my top priorities since I was elected to represent Prince William County in 2015,” said Senator Scott Surovell. “I am ecstatic that Governor Northam’s administration and Transurban were able to negotiate a way to expedite construction on this critical improvement. Everyone wins in this deal.”

“I am delighted that Governor Northam and his team have found a way to expand capacity on I-495, heading up to the American Legion Bridge,” said Senator Barbara Favola. “This improvement demonstrates Virginia’s commitment to easing traffic throughout the region and provides further incentives for Maryland to help address congestion on the Bridge.”

By 2022, the Commonwealth of Virginia will have in place 90 miles of connected Express Lanes network throughout Northern Virginia and Fredericksburg. Together with general purpose (GP) lanes, rail, commuter rail, transit, ferries, and trails, these multimodal travel options are creating a future of more seamless mobility for residents, commuters, and businesses.  

 

Feb
27

The Quest for the Perfect Summer Camp

It’s hard to believe, but those long, lazy days of summer are just around the corner!  While the summer months can conjure up nostalgic memories of relaxed, school-free days, they can also be a challenge for parents who work, or who are looking for ways to keep their kids engaged and active as the summer wears on.  Luckily, in the DC-metro area, there are a variety of camps available that range in price and cater to different interests. With so many available options, keeping a few things in mind can help you find the perfect camp for your child:

Lake Drummond is located inside the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, a nature preservation with hiking trails, birdwatching, biking, fishing, boating, and hunting. Virginia Tourism Corporation, www.Virginia.org

What interests your child?

This is probably the most important question to answer. With so many themed camps to choose from, it helps to think about the types of topics and activities that interest your child.  Some camps are very focused. Would your child be happy playing soccer or basketball every day? Is your child happier playing indoors or outdoors? As a camp instructor, I witnessed more than one unfortunate mismatch between camp and child. Picture a kid who is fearful of worms and finds fishing boring at a camp where that was the activity all day, everyday – this actually happened.  The camp, aptly named “Fishing Camp,” was a dream come true for most of the kids, but perhaps the parents of this young man didn’t realize to what extent the kids would be fishing, or thought he would “warm-up” to the sport.  

Do your homework. If you can, talk to someone who has a child who has previously attended the camp. If you have any questions or uncertainties, call the camp director.  And, by all means make sure your child is part of the camp decision process.  By the way, STEM camps are all the rage right now, so if that is something that interests your child, be sure to sign up early!

Sleep-Away Camp?

Most overnight camps are offered to children starting at about seven years old. Camps range from high-adventure (think ziplines, white water rafting and horseback riding) to performing arts-focused to traditional camps that touch on a little bit of everything. Once again, think about what interests your child.  You might also want to consider accommodations – is the camp single sex or co-ed? How many kids attend the camp? Do campers spend the night in tents or cabins? These types of details can make or break a camper’s experience. 

Day Camp?

When we hear “camp,” many of us think of the traditional “sleep-away” camp, but there are many exciting day camps to look at too. Day camps are typically offered to children beginning at four years old. Similar to overnight camps, think about the theme and camp size.  While many day camps offer a variety of activities, there are a number of specialty camps focusing on sports, the arts, nature, etc. Additionally, you want to think about transportation – is busing an option, or will you need to drive your child each day?  Do camp hours coincide with work hours, or do they have an aftercare program?  You may also want to inquire about lunch options for your child.

Interested?  

The following are more resources to help you and your child make some decisions about how to spend a week (or eight weeks!) of their next summer.

Week-long day camps are offered through the Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William County Parks and Recreation Departments. 

With zoology, soccer, fishing, gymnastics and chess camps (to name a few), there truly is something to fit every child’s interests. 

Fairfax County:
http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/camps/

Loudoun County: https://www.loudoun.gov/camps

Prince William County: http://www.pwcgov.org/government/dept/park/summercamp/Pages/default.aspx

For a comprehensive listing of private day and overnight camps, check out Washington Parent’s 2019 summer camp guide:

https://www.washingtonparent.com/guides/guide-camp.php

The American Camp Association has guides on how to choose and prepare for camp, as well as comprehensive information on topics like camp accreditation, the value of camps and camps as an industry.

http://www.acacamps.org

Dec
21

Is Your Company A “Best Workplace for Commuters”?

By Sarah McGowan

On December 4, 2018, fourteen Fairfax businesses were honored before the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors for receiving the “Best Workplace for Commuters” national designation.  Managed by the Center for Urban Transportation Research (CUTR), at the University of South Florida, the Best Workplaces member program provides employers with national recognition and an elite designation for offering outstanding commuter benefits.

Recognizing that commuting experiences differ geographically, this national designation provides individual employers with a wide-range of qualifying commuting options. This made it possible for three very different partners of the Dulles Area Transportation Association (DATA) to qualify – AbleVets, Northwest Federal Credit Union and Odin, Feldman & Pittleman, PC. Their qualifications ranged from compressed workweeks and on-site showers, to telework and preferred parking for carpools and vanpools.  Other qualifying strategies include ride-sharing, transit benefits, biking and walking, alternate work schedules and other strategies.

In addition to the recognition, the “Best Workplaces for Commuters” program offers employers educational opportunities and support to improve their commuter options, including FAQs, employer case studies, webinars and other resources.

Interested in earning this designation for 2019?

If your company is interested in earning the “Best Workplaces for Commuters” designation, please contact Sarah McGowan at smcgowan@datatrans.org, or via phone at (703) 963-3568.

You can learn more about the program by visiting Best Workplaces
for Commuters.