Live More, Commute LessLive More, Commute Less

Dec
21

Herndon’s Red Caboose

By Carol Bruce 

The big red caboose that sits between the Herndon Municipal Center and the W&OD trail is more than a local landmark. It is a symbol of the railroad that for so many years was the heart of our town. 

What eventually became known as the Washington & Old Dominion Railroad had its origins more than a century and a half ago, in Alexandria. In 1853—after an earlier effort to establish a railroad foundered—a group of businessmen formed the Alexandria, Loudoun & Hampshire Railroad. The plan was that the line would run from Alexandria to the Blue Ridge Mountains. Unfortunately, financial problems intervened and the line never went beyond Snickersville
(now Bluemont). 

The Herndon Depot was constructed in 1857, in anticipation of the railroad’s arrival, and the community that would become the Town of Herndon grew up around it. The first train passed through town on May 17, 1860, on its run from Alexandria to Leesburg, which at that time was the end of the line. 

Herndon was a farming community, and its dairy industry thrived because the trains provided an efficient means of transporting milk to the processors and distributors in Washington, DC. The railroad also carried mail, provided freight service to and from the many communities springing up along the line, and furnished passenger service. The railroad also became a popular means of travel for city dwellers wanting to escape Washington’s heat and humidity and visit the “resort” towns along the line, including Herndon. 

After a series of owners—and names—the line became the Washington & Old Dominion Railway Company on July 1, 1912. (The name was changed for the final time on April 16, 1936, when it became the Washington & Old Dominion Railroad Company.) 

The line, which began with steam engines, was electrified late in 1912. At that time, the company published a brochure that promoted “the cooling breezes, the quality and abundance of the meals provided by the hosts of the many boarding houses along the line and the home-like atmospheres of the various establishments.” Along with weekend visitors, commuters—who now found it possible to live in the clean, quiet countryside while still working in the city—began arriving in Herndon. 

The railroad was only modestly successful throughout its life, although it experienced a boom during World War II, which also was the time when diesel power replaced electricity. Business declined quickly after the war ended, falling victim to the development of better roads and more dependable trucks and cars. Although the railroad continued hauling freight for a number of years (the last big job it handled was hauling the sand used in the concrete mix for the runways at Dulles Airport), passenger service ended on May 31, 1951. Freight service ceased and the last train ran through Herndon on August 27, 1968. 

The Virginia Electric and Power Company (now Dominion Virginia Power) purchased the abandoned right of way, and in 1978, the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority bought the section from Shirlington to Purcellville from the power company. The W&OD Regional Park that so many of us enjoy today was completed in 1988. 

In 1989, Herndon resident, Historical Society member, and train aficionado George Moore—who was determined to memorialize the Town’s railroad heritage—was almost single handedly responsible for finding a surplus caboose, securing its donation, and having it relocated to Herndon. 

The plaque that is displayed at the caboose says it all: 

In Memory of George Moore 1939-2003

George thought Herndon should have its own caboose. In 1989, he made it happen.

Reprinted from the Herndon Historical Society: herndonhistoricalsociety.org. First published in the Herndon Patch.

Nov
1

DATA News

DATA’s 4th Annual “party with a purpose” included plenty to enjoy and to inform! The 2018 Live More Block Party was held October 3 at the Reston Town Center Pavilion, in partnership with METRO. With in-kind and promotional support from the Reston Town Center, the event drew approximately 200 attendees over a 3 hour period, continuing the pattern of attendance growth experienced the past several years.

The Block Party featured 16 exhibitors and organizations showcasing commuting choices from vanpooling to ridesharing to biking…plus activities to enjoy with the time gained by making those smarter choices.  Exhibitors included METRO, LINK, Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project, Potomac and Rappahannock Transit, Transform 66, One-to-One Fitness, Friends of the Fairfax County Animal Shelter, NeoNiche Strategies/Bus Transformation Project, Virginia DMV, The Bike Lane, Reston Bike Club, Commuter Connections, Clean Air Partners, The Commuter Store, Enterprise Rideshare, and Vanpool Alliance.  DATA also had tables providing information on its Vanpool!VA grant as well as its Live More Commute Less® brand.

New this year was “DMV2Go,” a mobile DMV office which allowed participants a convenient way to access services such as driver’s license renewal, registration, and titles and tags.  The Friends of the Fairfax County Animal Shelter was another first time participant, providing information on how to give a needy animal its forever home.  This year also saw the implementation of a Block Party Passport, which allowed participants to “check off” exhibits they visited.  Completion of the passport entered the attendee into a drawing for a $250 Reston Town Center Shopping Spree.  For kids and the young-at-heart, the ever-popular Faces by Arla and Company returned to decorate hands, arms, and yes, faces! AV support, including music, was provided by Optimum Audio and there were free homemade ice cream from Scoops 2U.

As always, DATA and its partners and exhibitors will analyze this year’s experience and suggest ways to make the 2019 Live More Block Party an even more effective way to showcase the benefits of leaving that single occupant vehicle in the driveway and exploring commuting options. And that’s the real purpose of our party!

Nov
1

Look Into The Crystal Ball – Visualize 2045

Imagine a future where the region’s transportation network brings jobs and housing closer together; bus rapid transit (BRT) is expanded regionwide; we move more people on Metrorail; the region provides more telework and other options for commuting; an expanded network of express highways is created;  walking and biking access to transit improves; and, we complete the National Capital Trail.  Is this possible?  Transportation officials from across the region, who make up the Metropolitan Region’s Transportation Planning Board (TPB) believe it is possible.  

For the first time in decades, the TPB has put together “aspirational” goals for the region, a set of recommendations that the region should strive to achieve and fund in the coming 25 years. Unlike in years past, where only “constrained” financially achievable transportation goals were included in the region’s long range planning, this go-around the TPB is including goals that perhaps will motivate the region to find the necessary resources to achieve a vision that the whole region should embrace.  It is bold, but also doable.

The vision put forth by the TPB includes:

Bring Housing and Jobs Closer Together

What is it? 

More housing and jobs in central locations.  There would be new opportunities for people to live or work in Activity Centers – places where jobs and housing are concentrated and it’s easy to walk, bike, or take public transit. 

Taking advantage of underused Metro stations.  Local planning efforts would encourage housing and job growth close to Metrorail stations that aren’t as busy as others and have available space nearby for new construction. 

Reduced traffic from commuting from outside the region. Our region doesn’t have enough housing for our expected growth. By building more housing, we can encourage more people to live in our region instead of commuting in and out every day. 

Coordinated local policies. This initiative asks regional leaders to coordinate local policies — through zoning and revisions in local plans – that would allow more people to live closer to jobs. 

“Visualize” the future: 

Fewer, shorter trips in cars.  More housing close to Metro and in Activity Centers would let more people walk to work and transit. That means there would be fewer cars on our region’s roads. And that would significantly reduce congestion, making driving more reliable for those who commute by car. 

Increased economic opportunity. More jobs would be available to more people within a short distance from home – which is particularly important for low-income workers and those without cars. 

Vibrant communities. Imagine being able to walk and bike to work, school, errands, and fun. It’s good for our health and for the environment. More household growth concentrated in central locations would help us achieve that future.

Expand Bus Rapid Transit Regionwide

What is it? 

Buses that feel like rail. Bus rapid transit (BRT) in suburban Maryland, Northern Virginia, and D.C. would provide high-quality transit services that approach the speed of rail, but at a fraction of the cost to build.

A dramatically expanded transit service. BRT, streetcar, and light rail systems would be available for more people in more places throughout the region.

Targeted rail projects. Streetcar and light rail routes would provide targeted connections within the regionwide system, serving high-density locations and promoting economic development.

“Visualize” the future: 

A diversity of transit options. Imagine having access to express transit, even if you live or work far from a Metrorail station. Fast and reliable transit now comes in many shapes and forms, and in the future, this initiative would provide an abundance of options. BRT buses would operate in their own separated lanes with prepayment systems and level boarding to get people on and off quickly.

More access to jobs. Along with new transit comes access to new opportunities. BRT, light rail, and streetcars would not only connect the region’s many Activity Centers – our economic engines – but would also help people move around within them. More transit would provide new travel options for scores of people who currently struggle to get to and from work.

Better bike/ped access. New buses and rail encourage walking and bicycling. To maximize the benefit of new transit services, we need to make sure people can get to and from stations on sidewalks, paths and bike lanes safely.

Move More People on Metrorail

What is it? 

Moving more people through the center of the region. To move more people on Metrorail, there would be more trains and lines, and stations would be expanded. The focus would be on the downtown core of the region to accommodate more riders where stations and trains
are overcrowded. 

Longer trains. In the near-term future, eight-car trains (instead of six-car trains) would run on all lines at all times. 

Expanded stations. Stations at the heart of the system would be expanded to handle new riders with less crowding. These changes would include expanded mezzanines and new fare gates and escalators. 

A second station in Rosslyn. The addition of a second Rosslyn station to increase the frequency of Orange, Blue, and Silver Line trains would relieve a system bottleneck that slows down commutes throughout the region. 

A new inner loop. A new loop rail line across the Potomac River (via a new Rosslyn tunnel) would connect Virginia to Georgetown, and on to
Union Station. 

“Visualize” the future: 

Dependability. With Metro restored to an excellent state of good repair, imagine more trains, running more often, with stations that have space for more people. The expanded capacity would make the Metrorail system more reliable and efficient. 

Regionwide impacts. Enhancing capacity on the existing system would benefit the whole region. Currently, the 26 stations in the region’s core are the destination or transfer point for 80% of all rail riders system-wide. When those links are clogged, travel everywhere is affected. 

Reduced road congestion. These projects would not only affect transit riders. By making it easier to get on the train, we can reduce road congestion significantly and shorten many daily trips, whether on Metro or by car. 

World-class system. The economic benefits would be profound. Enhanced capacity on Metrorail would improve access to jobs and strengthen our competitive advantage in the global economy.

Provide More Telecommuting and Other Commuting Options

What is it? 

Reducing solo car trips. This initiative would expand programs to increase the number of people who telework, ride in carpools, or use transit. These programs can be implemented by employers, government programs, or both.

More workers teleworking. As a result of employer based incentives, one in five workers in the region would telework each day. That’s double the amount today. In addition, workplaces would let employees come to work early or late some days to avoid traveling during rush hour.

Subsidies for not driving. The number of employees receiving transit and carpool subsidies from work would increase significantly. And workers who currently receive free parking could receive the cash value of that benefit to pay for transit or other commuting options (known as parking cash-out.)

Reduced parking incentives at work. Local governments and employers would stop subsidizing the cost of parking in the region’s Activity Centers, where jobs and housing are concentrated. This would encourage more people to carpool or take transit. The new parking prices would vary based on distance from central business districts.

Areas that currently do not charge for parking would charge lower amounts than those that already charge.

“Visualize” the future: 

Getting cars off the road. Imagine a future with fewer cars clogging the roads and polluting the air. This initiative would take many cars off roads due to the number of people telecommuting and using alternate modes on any given day. Without needing to build any new roads or other infrastructure, this initiative greatly lessens congestion due to the vast reduction in people traveling alone in cars for work trips.

Reduced emissions. Vehicle emissions would consequently decrease, greatly benefiting the region’s air quality and environment.

Expand Express Highway Network

What is it? 

Congestion-free toll roads. Toll lanes would be added to existing highways throughout the region. Traffic on these lanes would be congestion-free because of dynamic pricing – toll rates increase during the most congested times of day. And higher tolls would reduce demand on the lanes, keeping traffic free-flowing. 

Building on an emerging toll road network. Managed lanes exist today on new facilities in Maryland and Virginia. We are already seeing that toll lanes are the most likely way that we will be able to fund needed road projects in our growing region, even as we seek to reduce our dependence on driving alone. They would also encourage carpooling by exempting cars with more passengers from the tolls. 

New opportunities for transit. A new network of express buses would travel in the express toll lanes, connecting people and jobs throughout the region. The revenues generated from the tolls would be used to operate the new extensive regional network of high-quality bus services. 

“Visualize” the future: 

Less congestion, faster trips. The expanded express lane system would reduce average travel times and congestion. Driving would be more reliable and predictable. 

Speedy bus service. Operating in free-flowing traffic would ensure reliable bus service. For people who cannot regularly afford to drive in toll lanes, express buses would provide a dependable way to take advantage of the congestion-free express lanes. 

Expanded access to jobs. Express lanes would expand economic opportunity, making it easier for commuters to know with certainty that they can get to work on time on a regular basis.

Improve Walk and Bike Access to Transit

What is it? 

More paths to transit. Our region doesn’t have enough safe options for walking or bicycling to transit stations. Often, there are barriers in the way, such as a lack of safe sidewalks or crosswalks, or a major road that cannot be crossed. If you live or work within a half-mile of a rail or BRT station, you should be able to walk to the station within 10 minutes on average, or bike to the station within a short period. 

Removing barriers for walkers and bicyclists. Sidewalks would be built or repaired, crosswalks and crossing signals would be installed, and new trails would be constructed. Walking or biking would be comfortable
and convenient. 

“Visualize” the future: 

Safe and comfortable. Imagine having easy and safe access to transit, free of worry from unsafe sidewalks, poor lighting, or lack of safe crossings. Throughout the region, many more people would have safe and easy access to high-capacity transit – not only would this mean that people’s personal safety while walking or biking to transit stations would improve – but it would also mean more people would choose to use transit because it would become a much more attractive option to them. 

Providing key links. First- and last-mile connections would provide access to jobs and other destinations within shorter commute times. Such cost-effective measures can improve Metro ridership and stimulate the economy. More people taking transit would take more cars off the roads, improving the environment and helping to reduce congestion for those who drive. 

Easily move around your community. Diverse economic activities would thrive if people can easily move around their communities. Seniors, people with disabilities, and transit dependent populations would have more opportunities to get around without a car. Communities would benefit from increased street life and renewed vibrancy.

Complete the National Capital Trail

What is it? 

A bicycle beltway. The National Capital Trail, a network of bicycle/pedestrian trails, would circle the region’s central jurisdictions. It has often been referred to as the “bicycle beltway.” The trail would be 60 miles long when complete. Currently, 21 miles of the trail have not yet been constructed and three miles need to be upgraded. 

“Visualize” the future: 

Access to opportunities. When complete, the trail would connect 26 Metrorail stations and 36 of the region’s Activity Centers, where jobs and housing are concentrated. This means many thousands of the region’s residents would have access to high-quality trails for recreational use and vital connections for commuting and making other daily trips via the trail or by connecting to transit. 

A regional network. The trail would be a regional crossroads, where visitors would mingle with local residents, and connections to communities would be easily navigable.

Imagine what our region would like and feel like in 2045 if we were to achieve these goals? Let’s get cracking!

Nov
1

Launch Your Holiday Season At Reston Town Center

Image by Lesnick Photo – www.lesnickphoto.com.

Since 1991, holiday season celebrations have begun at Reston Town Center on the Friday after Thanksgiving. This year, this day of cheer and charity will be presented on Friday, November 23, highlighted with the 28th annual Reston Holiday Parade at 11:00 a.m. and many more festive activities all day, for all to enjoy. For two years in a row, USA Today Travel’s Best Holiday Parade nominations included this community event and Reston Holiday Parade was voted one of the “10 Best” in 2016 and 2017. 

Reston Holiday Parade features Macy’s-style balloons, marching bands, dancers, antique cars, characters, community groups, dignitaries, and much more, capped with the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus in a horse-drawn carriage. A cast of more than 1,400 performers and groups from around the region will march, sing, dance, and drive in a one-hour, half-mile, one-of-a-kind procession along Market Street. Special guest emcees, Angie Goff and Doug Kammerer of NBC News4, will announce the parade at two VIP grandstand locations. In another annual tradition, before the 11:00 a.m. start of the Reston Holiday Parade, 10,000 commemorative jingle bells will be distributed along the route to spectators who come from near and far for the event. 

Grand Marshal, 2018: Reston Town Center is pleased to present Reston’s own Sissy Sheridan as the 2018 Grand Marshal of the Reston Holiday Parade. This 14-year-old stage and screen actress is known nationally for the popular children’s series, “Chicken Girls,” hosting Nickelodeon’s “DIY with Me,” and recurring in Netflix’s “Maniac” starring Emma Stone and Jonah Hill. In October she’s appearing in “Billy Elliot” at Signature Theatre in Arlington.  She will lead the Reston Holiday Parade in a chauffeur-driven convertible car, and after the procession concludes around noon she’ll meet and greet fans at Fountain Square in Reston Town Center.  

“Winter Wonderland” is the theme of the 2018 Reston Holiday Parade, reflective of the frosty sparkle of the season, the twinkling, jubilant atmosphere of Reston Town Center, and its renowned Ice Skating Pavilion. Earlier in the day, from 8:00 a.m. until 9:00 a.m., tots to teens can take part in the annual Gingerbread Man Mile races with a small registration fee to benefit a children’s charity. After the parade concludes, Santa and Mrs. Claus will stay for visits and photos, and Mini-Train rides will be offered on Market Street from 12:30 p.m. until 4:30 p.m. The Clauses will return for the Tree Lighting in Fountain Square at 6:00 p.m. to begin the half-hour Sing Along of traditional Christmas songs, followed by horse-drawn carriage rides from 6:30 p.m. until 10:00 p.m. All proceeds from rides and voluntary donations for photos are received directly by local charities. Public ice skating continues until 11:00 p.m. at the acclaimed Reston Town Center Ice Skating Pavilion, which is open every day from early November until March. (See below for the full schedule for November 23 and more holiday events.)

All activities take place at Reston Town Center, 11900 Market Street, Reston, Virginia 20190. Information about all holiday events at Reston Town Center – including more festivities throughout the season – is available at www.restontowncenter.com/holidays. 

Holidays are Here! – Festivities continue through the season: 

Horse-drawn Carriage Rides: Saturdays – December 1, 8, 15, 22 from 4:00 p.m. until 9:00 p.m. All proceeds are received directly by local charities. $5 per person; children 5 and under ride free with adult. Departure point is 11900 Market Street, near Clyde’s.

Mini-Train Rides: Sundays – December 2, 9, 16 from 12:00 p.m. until 4:00 p.m. All donated proceeds are received directly by local charities. Departure point is 11900 Market Street, near Clyde’s.

Community Performances: On weekends in December, Reston Community Center will present professional performances of music and dance by local groups at The Promenade, 11957 Market Street, at Reston Town Center. Schedules will be posted online at restoncommunitycenter.com and restontowncenter.com/events. 

Gingerbread Village at Hyatt Regency Reston: Friday, November 23 – Thursday, January 3, see the annual display in the hotel lobby. 703.709.1234  reston.hyatt.com 

Reston Town Center Ice Skating Pavilion

The glass-sheltered outdoor ice rink is open for public skating every day, including all holidays, from November until March. Ice Skating Pavilion rates, rentals, and more information: 703-709-6300;
www.restontowncenter.com/skating.

Nov
1

Work From Home? You’re Not Alone

For the first time workers who work from home (7.9 million), or telework, exceed those who use public transportation (7.6 million) to get to work.  The Census Bureau’s most recent annual Community Survey found the teleworking surpassed transit usage as the second most popular means of getting to work (the single occupant vehicle still
reigns supreme).  

These findings are both good and bad news for many regions.  The good news is that more and more companies are embracing the concept of teleworking and as a result, this shift in worker mode is easing congestion on regional road networks.  The bad news is the impact that such a shift is having on regional transit services, which continue to see declines in ridership in the majority of metropolitan regions.

 

Major metropolitan areas like New York, Boston and DC, have all seen about 3.9 percent decline in transit usage. The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has also seen a 10 percent decline in bus usage, even more troubling (see associated article in this edition) because bus service is often the only means of transportation for underserved communities and populations.

The percentage of workers who work from home is probably underestimated due to the fact that the Census numbers under-count those who are self-employed, most of which whom work from home.  Moreover, in the DC area, teleworking has been encouraged by most federal agencies, therefore this region probably has a higher percentage of teleworkers than most metro regions.  The good news, as expressed in the chart below, teleworking is on the rise.  As we all know, we can’t build our way out of our regional congestion, but telework offers another very useful tool to combat lost economic opportunity due to traffic congestion.