To the editor:
The Alexandria Old and Historic District is experiencing a tour bus crisis on its old and narrow streets. These massive 45- to 60-foot buses struggle to negotiate corners, especially when cars are parked near intersections. However, removing corner parking spaces, as has been suggested, will just add to the overall shortage of residential parking spaces.
In addition, Old Town contains a large number of 18th and 19th century residences, and the sheer weight, density and excessive speed of these vehicles causes vibrations that have an adverse effect on these historic structures.
These buses also cause damage to sidewalks, and on occasion they have even grazed residents’ parked cars. On many narrow streets, Lee Street being a perfect example, drivers cannot safely proceed if a tour bus is staring them in the face. It is also obvious that many tour bus drivers are ill informed about tour bus regulations before they arrive in Alexandria.
They continue to park in unauthorized places, especially when dropping off and picking up passengers in front of some of our restaurants. In addition, bus drivers continue to block traffic, they idle for very long period of times – adding to the already high levels of pollution in Alexandria – and sometimes display an arrogant attitude when confronted about their lawbreaking.
In order to solve these pressing issues, tour bus drivers should be directed to park in designated areas such as the Masonic Temple or Eisenhower Avenue. Passengers can then be shuttled into the Old and Historic District. This solution is what the venerable cities of New Orleans, Charleston and Savannah have done. It allows for the control of tour buses without impacting Old Town businesses, which are a great part of the city’s economic engine.
Six approved loading and unloading locations are currently designated within the Old and Historic District. These areas are as follows: (1) the Unit Block of King Street, (2) Market Square, (3) in front of Gadsby’s Tavern, (4) Washington Street in front of Christ Church, (5) in front of the Lyceum and (6) the 100 Block on North Royal Street.
Since it is unconscionable that these lumbering motor coaches be allowed to indiscriminately wander through our historic streets, the City of Alexandria should emulate what has been done in other historic districts. This solution has not hurt our historic counterparts elsewhere, and indeed, it will add to the historic ambiance of our city, evoking scenes of days gone by rather than emphasizing the less seemly side of modern existence.
-Townsend A. “Van” Van Fleet, Alexandria