Opinion: City offers no justification for bus rapid transit on Patrick and Henry streets

Opinion: City offers no justification for bus rapid transit on Patrick and Henry streets

To the editor:

The Alexandria city government is asking residents who live on or near Patrick, Henry or Washington streets, what the city terms “Corridor A,” to once again sacrifice our neighborhood and quality of life for the sake of politics and some ill-defined and ever-changing goal.

After more than three years and multiple meetings, the city has failed to make its case for installing bus rapid transit through Old Town. It has wasted residents’ time and squandered our patience.

City staff and its consultants advance conflicting goals and explanations to attempt to justify installing BRT through Old Town. At one point during a September 15 high capacity transit corridor meeting, David Whyte, the consultant hired by the city, claimed installing BRT might improve travel times on Patrick and Henry streets only to be contradicted by city staff later in the same meeting who admitted it would have little impact. The city’s justifications for BRT shift continually; when one justification fails to receive buy-in, they move to the next.

Despite requests from residents, the city has failed to provide a shred of hard data to support its claims. New 2010 Census data shows a staggering 41 percent of the residents in West Old Town already utilize public transportation for work — the highest rate in Alexandria and well above surrounding jurisdictions. Yet staff and their consultants have offered no evidence or even reliable projections BRT will result in a significant additional increase in ridership that could even begin to justify its costs and disruptions to Patrick and Henry street residents.

Claims by the city’s transportation department and consultants that BRT is necessary in Corridor A because Metro already is at capacity are contradicted by previous information provided by the city. The Braddock Road small area plan states “WMATA [Metro] has capacity to increase service frequency on the Yellow and Blue lines to accommodate anticipated growth and demand.”

In March 2011 planning and zoning further advised the Braddock implementation advisory group (of which I am a member) that, “In speaking with WMATA, there is plenty of capacity to board or de-board more people at the station. The station was designed to accommodate eight car trains, and most of the current trains are six cars. The amount of usage of this station is relatively low, so there is considerable room to grow.”

The city’s first and foremost responsibility is to its residents and taxpayers. The government’s desire for BRT would put additional heavy vehicles on Patrick and Henry streets and further compromise the fragile historic houses, many of which sit less than 10 feet from traffic. As residents can attest, the noise and vibrations from trucks and buses can be felt within our homes, damaging our quality of life.

The city has not provided a believable justification for BRT in Old Town. Nor has it provided any evidence to show their proposals will benefit our neighborhood or improve traffic flow. It’s been just the opposite.

– Heidi Ford