Transportation, Pedestrian Safety, and Vision Zero
Transportation, Pedestrian Safety, Biking infrastructure, are critical priorities for our community. I fully
support Vision Zero and multiple modes. I serve as Secretary of the Northern Virginia Transportation
Commission and have worked hard to address intersections that are unsafe as well as in support of
funding for bike and bus infrastructure. Below are answers to the questions posed by Sustainable
Mobility for Arlington that reflect my views.
Candidate Questions from Sustainable Mobility for Arlington County, County Board General Election 2022
1. Tradeoffs. George Mason Drive, Carlin Springs Road & Fairfax Drive are all dangerous corridors on Arlington County’s High Injury Network that lack basic facilities for sustainable transportation modes like transit, biking & walking. Admirably, the County plans to study these corridors for improvements in the coming years, but improving safety and supporting sustainable mobility will require making trade-offs within the right-of-way; there will have to be less space devoted to parking, driving, or planted medians to have sufficient space for dedicated transit lanes, low-stress bike facilities, and safe sidewalks.
Do you support the reallocation of existing street space to support speedy transit, a comprehensive all-ages and abilities bike network, and safe and complete sidewalks and trails? How do you think about and decide on appropriate trade-offs in these situations?
Yes, I do support the relocation of existing street space to support speedy transit, a comprehensive bike network, complete sidewalks and trails. In each case, I would want to consider the data and to what degree the concept of induced demand might apply in each case to determine how to reach the best result, but I do support changing our street space.
In each of these three locations, I have worked on the issues involved. Carlin Springs Road has had an accident this past week. SusMo’s emphasis on infrastructure investments is particularly apt in this case as the problem is complicated and will not be solved overnight. I worked to advocate for advancing the study in the Capital Improvement Plan, but that is not enough. I walked this section of sidewalks with advocates in September after the CIP and am focused on it.
There are specific parts of Carlin Springs that we can and must work to address in the short-term. There is also a need for easements to address mobility as a whole. I am committed to both the short-term urgency we need on this road and the investments we need in the medium term to improve this road and create new options. The accident this week indicates we must work on this with more urgency and I am meeting with staff to help move this forward.
On George Mason drive, the work is ongoing and the study is being worked on. Data on the impact and parking management are both important information we must consider the two concepts for each of the three segments. The principles of walkability and safe bike facilities are critical. I will want to see the results from SusMo’s campaign as well as public engagement as a whole. We must provide an alternative to the traffic along George Mason that is currently moving quickly in cars without a real option for biking.
On Fairfax Drive, the street is wide enough that protected bike lanes are feasible as are wider sidewalks. It is my impression, however, that the cost of a fully functional street is significant and we must find the best solutions and funding. Funding for a study of the costs of a street with protected bike lanes, sidewalks, and a safer street is first. Scoping out the funding for the actual improvements must be a priority in the coming CIP. Again, data will be important. This is and will be a priority for me that I have and will work to realize.
2. Trails. Arlington’s trail network is one of its greatest assets but much of it was built decades ago as a purely recreational facility, at a time when the impact of impervious surfaces and the need for stormwater management were not yet recognized. Given their age, these trails will soon need not just repaving, but a full overhaul which is a critical opportunity to modernize the dated recreational designs and ensure that these critical arteries capture and filter their runoff and support safe, conflict-free travel not just for white-collar workers heading downtown at 9 am, but also for blue-collar workers heading home from their shift after last call and for families just out for a walk.
Do you support modernizing Arlington’s trail network to fix unsafe designs like hairpin turns & steep drop-offs, give pedestrians dedicated space (separate from bikes & scooters), capture and filter trail run-off, and add dark-sky friendly lighting for safe travel after sundown? Do you support significant capital investments to fill gaps in the trail network, for example, by filling the gap in the W&OD Trail in East Falls Church, connecting the W&OD to the Four Mile Run Trail at Shirlington Road, and connecting the Arlington Boulevard Trail to the Teddy Roosevelt/I 66 Bridge near the Iwo Jima Memorial?
Yes, I do support modernizing our trail networks. When I am out riding my bike around the loop, I see some of the dangers and the benefits of sections of trail that are safer. I see for certain the challenges of pedestrians and bikes co-located in numerous locations. We must also address the quality of trails which absolutely does not reflect the need we have in the 21st Century.
I also support significant capital investment in the critical junctures identified and am very aware that ultimately progress on these items comes down to progress via our CIP and the work that must be done in advance to make sure these critical intersections are funded. The Shirlington Road intersection and the Iwo Jima Memorial are more familiar to me than the East Falls Church connection, but I have ridden through each of these areas and seen the problems. To address these issues and as an indication of the importance of these key connections, I fully supported the Capital Trails Coalition resolution the Board passed as in 2021. I am ready to do the additional work that is needed to fund the significant investments in these three areas.
3. Master Transportation Plan. Portions of Arlington’s Master Transportation Plan are more than 14 years old. While it has provided a strong foundation for Arlington’s efforts over that timeframe, the document is no longer meeting the evolving needs of its staff and citizens. Sections on pedestrian infrastructure and transportation demand management have failed to keep pace with evolving best practices, do not reflect our Vision Zero policy, give little to no guidance on street space allocation or project prioritization, and vary wildly in specificity from element to element.
What is your vision for the County’s transportation plan? Does it need an update or a rewrite? What policies and guidance would you want to see enshrined in it to guide staff when implementing transportation projects and operating our transportation infrastructure? Does our plan need to lay out “big ideas” that would seriously shift mobility in Arlington in the coming decades?
Our Transportation work has suffered over the last few years in the course of the pandemic. I believe we have not had enough energy and vision with respect to our work and that new staff leadership is critical. Transportation Demand Management is indeed important, but how we live has changed and we need to be driving change with it.
The Transportation Plan does need to be rewritten over the coming years and we need to do so while implementing some of the policies we know make sense. Specifically, that means a greater emphasis on biking and pedestrian safety via small projects while rewriting the plan. Greater funding for small projects that can implement Vision Zero is needed and a greater attention to the weight that individual accidents have on our prioritization of work.
As far as vision for the Transportation Plan, Vision Zero needs to be infused throughout it. Greater awareness of the 50% or Arlingtonians who now work from home needs to be added. Greater emphasis on data-based decisions needs to be infused. One example of the benefits of doing so would be focus for our ART bus system: we must work to improve our reliability in South Arlington given data from our recent survey that shows reliability challenges.
Yes, we do need to lay out big ideas as the Board needs to clearly prioritize policies and direct staff to make progress. The Ballston Metro second entrance is an example of policy and work done years ago has come to fruition. We need similar big ideas and vision from the Board informed by new staff leadership. Not having done a new transportation plan while in Covid and leadership transition over the past two years is reasonable. Getting to progress on a new plan with energy over the next two years is essential.
4. Transit. It is becoming increasingly clear that the pandemic has reshaped our travel patterns and our transit system must adapt to these new challenges and opportunities. Many 9-to-5 workers have shifted to more, but not full-time, telework, and dealing with that loss of farebox revenue is challenging. With travel needs no longer so concentrated around 9-to-5 commute times, resources are available that could drastically improve service for people that have not been well served in the past, like those whose work schedule doesn’t fit the old standard, people taking non-work trips, and kids getting to school.
What is the role of public transit in Arlington? Is it a necessity or a nice-to-have? How, if at all, would you change transit service in Arlington to align with our new normal? Do you support adjusting transit service to better serve kids getting to and from school?
Public transit is essential for many Arlingtonians now and is a necessity for Arlington’s future. Our sense of place has been defined by the ability to use ART to get to Metro to get to work. ART will be even more important for our future with the number of Metro trips for work more limited for work. I see these trends serving on the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission as Secretary of the Commission and I will be taking on additional leadership with that Commission if I have the honor of being re-elected.
I also see clearly the shift that has come with some 50% of Arlingtonians working from home on any given day. We will move back in person more, and I believe Metro reliability is key to transit, but ART will play a more important role in our future. ART reliability must improve as we work on our maintenance facility transitioning from Alexandria to our new bus facility on 395.
I believe that our future will depend partly on moving easily via non-work trips. Bus service along Carlin Springs is essential for students to get to Aspire. Service along Columbia Pike will be critical to how well we will grow over the coming years with HQ2 filling out, over time. Langston Boulevard’s future is wrapped up in improving our bus service as well. I fully support the decision to make ART service free for students as I have already heard of the benefits from numerous parents. I also believe that for those most in need public transit should be free as equity supports that conclusion. I am not yet convinced that all ART service should be free for all; I want to see more data on that question before we make a change that I believe would be difficult to reverse. I also believe those who can afford to should pay, absent a data-based case that supports free transit.
5. E-bikes. While the County is pushing developers to install more EV charging stations and rushing a transition to not-ready-for-prime-time battery electric buses, e-bikes are flying off the shelves, changing lives for the better, and offering a safer, more sustainable mobility option without any assistance from our local government.
What should Arlington be doing to harness and expand the e-bike revolution? Do you support secure bike parking options with charging capabilities in the public right of way?
We need to embrace the opportunity that e-bikes provide by highlighting their benefits in our communications and by providing infrastructure to make adoption easier. My first funding priorities would be the intersections discussed above—the critical places where trails must connect—since the routes that e-bikes take must be safe for wider adoption. I think this is critical as the e-bike expansions in New York and other cities have shown.
I also support bike parking options with charging capabilities. I’m interested in particular in public private partnerships that could help fund such charging stations. I also believe that in all likelihood investment from the County would be necessary. My brother-in-law commutes via e-bike and two of my friends have recently e-biked across long distances. I am ready to personally engage in this mode of transportation and I believe that communications like that can also be helpful.