Your View: Improving the Duke Street transit experience

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Your View: Improving the Duke Street transit experience
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To the editor:

Following a two-year public process, the City of Alexandria has arrived at a publicly supported transportation plan for a four-mile section of Duke Street. That process included numerous public outreach efforts culminating in an alternative preferred by a majority, 60%, of feedback responses received in April and recommended by a resident advisory group.

That preferred alternative would provide dedicated bus lanes in each direction for the western-most third of the corridor, i.e. from Jordan Street to Ripley Street, and maintain two travel lanes for cars throughout the entire corridor. The preferred option would improve round trip commute times during morning and afternoon peaks for buses by 11 to 16 minutes and for car trips by 11⁄2 to 2 minutes.

The preferred alternative includes a half-mile-long east-bound only bus lane from Wheeler Avenue Lane to Roth Street to enable people riding buses to avoid some of the congestion that makes bus travel times less reliable. To address cut-through traffic in neighborhoods and mitigate congestion, city staff also conducted successful pilot projects and engaged residents in separate Duke Street Traffic Mitigation and Duke Street/West Taylor Run projects.

To appreciate the importance of improving transit on Duke Street, one might consider current bus ridership and already-approved development plans: Weekday bus ridership in the Duke Street corridor is steadily increasing and now exceeds pre-pandemic levels. It is the second highest bus ridership corridor in Alexandria. Mixed-use development of the former Landmark Mall is expected to deliver about 1,000 new residential units in 2026 and 2,500 units at full build-out; the new Inova Alexandria Hospital is expected to open in 2028 with about 2,000 employees. Improved transit on Duke Street is needed to serve existing and future residents and commuters.

Here in Alexandria, improved transit on Duke Street has been our shared goal since 2008, when Council approved a Transportation Master Plan to transform this section of Duke Street into one of three high-capacity transit corridors in the city. Subsequent City Councils approved a 2012 Transitway Feasibility Study, 2016 and 2019 grant applications for design and construction funding and a 2021 community-driven Alexandria Mobility Plan, that includes a strategy to “Build out the city’s priority transitway corridors and identify improvements on congested, high-ridership corridors.”

The Advisory Group’s recommended preferred near-term alternative is not the most aggressive bus-transit configuration, but one that considered resident input and balanced tradeoffs consistent with our city’s vision to provide “Safe, seamless, and connected mobility options foster a thriving Alexandria for all.”

-Jim Durham, transportation advocate, Grassroots Alexandria

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