Your View: When it comes to effective transit solutions, the city is a follower, not a leader


To the editor:

To the extent that the city suffers from transportation problems — problems created by north-south cross-jurisdictional commuters and intracity destination drivers — parts of Old Town have sacrificed their quality of life for the political betterment of others.

At issue is the traffic congestion associated with Patrick and Henry streets, or U.S. Route 1, and the city’s unproven need for bus rapid transit, especially for southbound-morning commuters assigned to Ft. Belvoir.

The city, since the passage of its transportation master plan, has had years to make its case. It has failed miserably. Bus rapid transit assumptions are weakly stated. More importantly, the cost-benefit to the neighborhood remains unexplained. What the city offers is a political construct and little more.

City staff’s September 15 “Corridor A” transit meeting deteriorated into public mayhem. The neighborhood does not apologize for its response to the consultants’ lack of specificity. When planning commission member Donna Fossum asked city staff to explain the origination and destination of bus riders, staff had no answer. Staff had no answer because it has no credible data. Residents’ time has been wasted.

In 1956, the city relocated Route 1 from Washington Street to Patrick and Henry streets using eminent domain. Residents lost their front yards to roadway expansion and homes stand 9 feet from the busy street. Trucks travel unencumbered, parking lanes are a safety requirement and street vibrations and auto accidents a reason for complicated repairs. Owners of these historic homes cannot install soundproof windows, nor can they use environmentally hardy building materials.

Policy discrimination is a given. Del Ray merchants, unlike Old Town merchants, do not contribute parking revenues. Mount Vernon Avenue has no parking meters, while King Street does. Yet Mount Vernon Avenue will soon have trolley service.

Old Town has proven its willingness to deal with the circumstances, for example by forcing trucks to use Route 1’s center lane. But city enforcement of such signage, HOV-lane restrictions and speeding has been, and is, woefully lacking.

We are asked to believe the city will use due diligence and monitor bus rapid transit.We do not believe.  The safety considerations are many, for riders and residents.

In the past, the neighborhood has offered planning possibilities. Huntington Station Park and Ride was and remains among them. Fairfax County now promotes trolleys; Arlington promotes streetcars; and Alexandria ineffectuality. Alexandria does not lead. It only follows chaotically.

– Melissa Luby and Charlotte Landis