Friday, March 19, 2010

New bike connection in Tysons area

A new bridge that connects two dead-end segments of Wolftrap Road in the Vienna/Tysons area was recently completed (map). Charlie Strunk, the county bike coordinator, worked with county Park Authority staff to get the bridge funded and built over the winter.

It's a great addition to the bicycle network in that area, connecting the very bike-friendly Wolftrap Road and residential areas in Vienna to Kilmer Middle School, the Dunn Loring Fire Station, and businesses along Gallows Road. Bike lanes on Gallows Road from Old Courthouse Road to the W&OD Trail are funded and should be completed in the next year or so. There is also an easy connection to Oak Street. Once the HOT lanes are completed, Oak Street will be a good bike route leading to Idylwood Rd, Pimmit Hills, and Route 7 and the West Falls Church Metro station.

Thanks to Charlie and the Park Authority for making this happen.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

Getting Tysons right

Some opponents to transforming Tysons from a suburban office park to a vibrant, livable, mixed use community say that until the "transportation infrastructure" is in place, we can't have any more density in Tysons. Yet with this type of thinking a place like New York City, San Francisco or just about any other dense urban area shouldn't work.

What most people mean by "transportation infrastructure" is usually more and wider roads. What makes dense urban areas work? Having a mix of uses that allows people to walk and bike to nearby destinations. Having a good transit system and bicycle network that provide people with choices for moving around. Having interesting streets people want to be a part of and not just to pass through on their way to somewhere else.

Clark Tyler, Chairman of the Tysons Land Use Task Force, understands this and discusses his concerns about people who demand more and wider roads in Tysons before allowing development in the article "More lanes in Tysons is not the answer":
The goal in trying to transform the area is to enable people using Tysons to shift to public transit, and away from the automobile. Transportation improvements must focus primarily on making Metrorail a success. This can only be done by creating a viable circulator system: enhancing community shuttles from places such as McLean, Vienna, Great Falls and south county; building a grid of streets with completed sidewalks and bike lanes; and forgetting about such things as more lanes on Route 7, Route 123 and the Dulles Toll Road.


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Friday, January 29, 2010

Tysons Neighborhood Traffic Impact Study

The Neighborhood Traffic Impact Study developed by Fairfax Dept. of Transportation, was conducted to assess the impact of future development in Tysons Corner on neighboring communities. These are the communities where using a bicycle to get into and around Tysons should be a viable option for many short, local trips.

As with many "traffic" studies, there is no mention of bicycling and walking. The contractor selected 19 intersections for analysis, using two levels of future density in Tysons and looking at the modeled impact of that development on traffic delay (Level of Service or LOS). Where intersections "fail" with a low LOS, mitigation measures, such as added through or turn lanes, are recommended. The impact of these "improvements" on pedestrian and bicycle levels of service isn't considered.

As Greater Greater Washington explains in The only thing we have to fear is fear of traffic, this narrow view of how the world works isn't very effective when it comes to analyzing how cities work:
The math seems simple. If you build new houses, stores or offices, they will generate a certain number of trips. Roads have set capacities. The added trips will therefore increase congestion and decrease Level of Service (LOS). To avoid congestion, many areas have Adequate Public Facilities ordinances requiring developers to widen the roads.

That's a straightforward formula for adding suburban sprawl. It's the system that built Tysons Corner. But strangely, when a plan comes up for building a real city, people balk. It could never work. It'd generate way too much traffic.
Despite increased growth in the Ballston Corridor, traffic congestion has not increased; people live in mixed-use communities near transit and they walk, bike, and take transit. These factors are often not properly handled with current traffic models.

See a related post at SF.Streetsblog, Paradise LOSt (Part I): How Long Will the City Keep Us Stuck in Our Cars?.

[It should be noted that despite the above rant on LOS, the conclusion of the Traffic Impact Study was that: "revising the existing Comprehensive Plan by considering the GMU High Land Use Alternative will not cause any significant traffic impacts in the study area."]

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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Tysons plan meeting tomorrow night

After nearly 5 years of work, Fairfax County staff have completed the final draft of proposed Comprehensive Plan language [PDF] for redevelopment of Tysons into a compact, walkable, bikeable, liveable place. The Planning Commission Tysons Corner Committee is holding a public meeting tomorrow, January 27 to solicit input on the plan language. The meeting is at 7:00 pm in Conference Rooms 4/5 at the Fairfax County Government Center, 12000 Government Center Parkway, near Fair Oaks Mall. See the Bicycle Network language.

If you live or work in or near Tysons, now is your chance to weigh in on proposed changes. New bike parking requirements, based on those in Arlington County, are included in the plan. An extensive network of on-road bike routes, mostly bike lanes, are planned for many of the streets in Tysons. FABB strongly supports these improvements. We are concerned that no bike facilities are planned for Routes 7 & 123 in the heart of Tysons. If cyclists end up using sidepaths near the stations, there would be too many conflicts with pedestrians; on-road facilities or separated bike facilities are needed.

There will be another public meeting on Feb. 11 (see FABB Events page for more info). There will also be formal public hearings before the Planning Commission (March 24) and the Board of Supervisors (May 25). See the Tysons Study website for more info.


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Friday, January 22, 2010

Tysons plan presented to Planning Commission

The plan to remake Tysons into a walkable, bikeable community was presented to the Fairfax County Planning Commission last night: Fairfax County sets Tysons Corner approval process timeline. As we noted in an earlier post, the plan is online and contains new bike-related language, including bicycle parking requirements similar to those used in Arlington County. We'll post comments soon.


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Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Creating a bike-friendly Tysons Corner

That's the title of a letter we recently sent to the Post regarding the article Shuttles for Tysons Metro stations in Virginia need grants that appeared on Dec. 22. The article notes that a shuttle bus system will cost "$9 million to buy the new buses and $5.8 million annually to operate the service."

For Tysons to become a true mixed-use, livable place there need to be many transportation options. We pointed out that a bike sharing system would cost very little and could be in place in a matter of months. Bike-friendly streets, long- and short-term bike parking, and other infrastructure will allow new residents a low-cost, pollution free alternative to sitting in traffic jams at all hours of the day.

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Bikes can be part of the Tysons traffic solution

Daring to dream of reducing Tysons traffic is the title of an article in today's Washington Post about measures being taken to get more cars off the road in Tysons, especially during the construction of Metrorail and the I-495 HOT lanes. A couple of new transportation options are now being offered.
A new free Tysons Connector shuttle loops around the malls and banks and restaurants at midday. And, starting next year, carpoolers will get points they can redeem at stores in Tysons, where 120,000 people work but only 17,000 live.
a new express bus service operated by PRTC OmniRide will bring commuters from Woodbridge to Tysons on weekdays.
One of the most obvious solutions to congestion isn't even mentioned: bicycles. A Tysons bike share system could handle many of the short, lunchtime trips, at a very low cost compared to the transit options. Bikes can be used for many commute trips for people living within a 5 mile or greater radius of Tysons, especially when combined with trips on Fairfax Connector buses, all of which now have bike racks. For those who drive, even short trips are now taking a very long time:
Pam Minett found another option entirely: She moved to Tysons. Life was good in her Vienna apartment until this year, when the trip to the small law firm where she works as office manager began to take over an hour.

"We're talking 6.92 miles," Minett said. "That's painful."

Her rent on WestPark Drive jumped 30 percent, but she says it was worth it. "That's how bad the traffic was."
At a very slow pace, cycling 6.92 miles takes just over half an hour.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009

New version of Tysons plan language released

Fairfax County planning staff have released the second version of proposed plan language [large PDF file] for redevelopment of Tysons. Development densities in the new version are much lower than those proposed by the Tysons Land Use Task Force.

The main reason given for the lower density is the inability of the transportation network to support increased traffic. From the Post article Tysons Redevelopment Plans Don't Square With Tysons Vision:
Before developers can build high-rises, even near the Metrorail stations, planners say, the area's already clogged road network will need to expand to accommodate the extra development because many of the new residents and office workers will drive [emphasis added: Why is the county assuming new residents and office works will drive? If Tysons is planned as a true mixed-use community, many people will be able to walk and bike and take transit to get around]. That would require three new interchanges on the Dulles Toll Road; another lane on the Beltway between Interstate 66 and Route 7, in addition to the high-occupancy toll lanes now under construction; and wider lanes on other local roads.
However, similar development occurred in the Ballston Corridor without increased traffic congestion; many more people now take transit or bike and walk.

A major change from the first version is the removal of bike lanes from the removal of bike lanes from the Boulevard cross section text. Version 1: "5 foot on-road dedicated bike lane per direction, where applicable." A complete bicycle transportation network is not possible without a provision for bicyclists to reach destinations along Routes 7, 123, and International Drive.

We are also concerned about statements contained in the Bicycle Network section on p. 62: "The expanded street network and the associated street types will improve connectivity and provide a safer environment for bikes by providing sidewalks and dedicated bike lanes." The last place for bicyclists in an urban area like Tysons is on the sidewalk. There is also no mention in this section of shower and changing facilities for employees.

These recommendations will be refined by a contractor-led bicycle plan for the greater Tysons area. The county is developing guidelines for a plan that will build on the bicycle plan that we presented to the Planning Commission Tysons Committee in February.

We will continue to monitor the plan language as it develops over the next several months.


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Friday, June 5, 2009

Bike lanes proposed on Boone Blvd and Greensboro Dr

As part of the redesign of the Tysons Corner area, Fairfax County is developing street profiles for a future grid of streets. A major part of that grid will be to provide alternatives to driving on Route 7. Boone Blvd runs parallel to Route 7 on the south and Greensboro Dr runs parallel to Route 7 on the north. In the current cross section, bike lanes are proposed for both roads. Since there are no bike facilities on Route 7, it's important that these parallel roads provide good bicycle alternatives.

Fairfax County is soliciting comments on the road designs:
The Fairfax County Department of Transportation is accepting public comments on conceptual designs for the extensions of Boone Boulevard and Greensboro Drive. See the presentation from a June 2 meeting on the project's status.
Cyclists should send comments to expressing support for the proposed design:
  1. Bike lanes on Boone and Greensboro will provide safe, convenient bicycle alternatives to riding on Route 7.
  2. The proposed bike lanes are part of an integrated bicycle network for Tysons. They are needed to allow residents and visitors to use bikes for short trips within Tysons.
  3. The bike lanes will help reduce congestion and air pollution and will help create a liveable Tysons.

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Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Tysons Metro Access Group

Supervisor Hudgins, along with Supervisors Smyth and Foust, has asked Fairfax County staff to form a group to review multimodal access to the four planned Metro stations in Tysons:
  • That a Tysons Metrorail Access Group (TMAG), similar in composition and purpose as the RMAG group, be established with the representatives from three bordering Supervisor districts, TYTRAN, and the Town of Vienna, to create a plan that identifies multimodal access challenges and possibilities to Tysons four new Metrorail Stations.
  • Direction to staff to report with necessary funding and the proposed structure. With the Tysons Plan nearing completion, bus access, sidewalk and trail, and bicycle connectivity to and from surrounding communities will be vital to the success of the new urban "downtown".
See the March 30, 2009 Board Summary, Item 50, and the Tysons Task Force website.


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Friday, February 20, 2009

Tysons bike plan presented to Planning Commission

The Tysons Bike Plan was presented to the Fairfax County Planning Commission Tysons Corner Committee last night.

To show an example of good bicycle integration, we noted that Copenhagen, with a well-planned bicycle infrastructure, had a bicycle mode share of 36% in 2006.

We discussed the need for bicycle connections to surrounding neighborhoods to overcome barriers such as the Dulles Toll Road and I-495 to allow access from the north and east.

We discussed the map of planned bike lanes (above) that closely matches bike lanes shown in the Transportation component of the Straw Man Draft of Comprehensive Plan Text (pdf document, pages 49-57). The bike plan includes two proposed transit/bike/ped crossings of the Beltway, proposed by the Tysons Task Force, that will allow cyclists in McLean and Pimmit Hills to finally be able to safely bicycle into Tysons.

The biggest challenge: what facility is appropriate for Routes 7 and 123. Route 7 is being widened from 6 to 8 lanes with no bike accommodations. The sidewalks will be filled with people accessing Metro. As the Route 7 and 123 corridors will be the heart of the newly planned Tysons, bike access is needed. The current design for Route 7 is very bike- and pedestrian-unfriendly. A shared bus/bike lane would be one solution.

Along with a network of bike routes, support infrastructure such as bike parking, changing facilities, and showers is needed. The EPA Bike Room is an excellent example for employers in Tysons, where employees have keyed access to a room with lockers, bike racks, changing and shower facilities. The Arlington County Bicycle Storage Facility Requirements (pdf) are an appropriate model for Tysons Corner.

We also discussed the possibility of having a bike station, a small storefront that provides services such as bike parking, changing room and showers, bike rental, bike accessories for sale, and bike repair. See photos of the Cherry Creek Bike Rack, a bike station in Denver.

Finally we discussed how bike sharing could reduce motor vehicle traffic with bike trips, especially short trips from Metro to work or lunchtime trips. The Vélib' system in Paris is the best example, with 20,000 bicycles and 1,450 stations.

A copy of the presentation is online.

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Thursday, September 18, 2008

Final Tyson Plan to Board of Supervisors

The Tysons Task force, on which I served for 3 1/2 years, has finalized their report and will present it to the Board of Supervisors on Sept. 22. The draft plan (PDF) is available on the County website. The plan contains many references to the need for making Tysons more bicycle-friendly:

"Pedestrian and Bicycle Network: Specific guidelines for the treatment of the pedestrian and bicycle amenities should be developed. Many of these elements (e.g., designated bike lanes and sidewalks, buffers from the automobile, etc) are addressed in the urban design guidelines section related to streets and streetscape in Chapter 8. As the grid of streets is refined, careful thought should be given to how pedestrians and bicycles are integrated into the street grid. The pedestrian and bicycle network should be more detailed closer to the transit stations, with routes separated from automobile traffic."

"In addition to an easily accessible bicycle and pedestrian network, a number of facility improvements will encourage people to walk or cycle more. A number of these improvements are relatively inexpensive and easy to implement. Some are policy-driven and others are simply providing facilities for pedestrians and bicyclists such as bicycle racks at appropriate locations and pedestrian countdown signals at specific intersections to encourage nonmotorized travel and to make it easier and safer for pedestrians and cyclists."

The plan will be accompanied by a second document which is an overview of the task for recommendations:

"Use 'complete streets' design principles. Complete streets will be designed to enable safe access for all users. Pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities will safely move along and across a complete street."

"Create extensive bicycle lanes and facilities. Residents and workers will be able to travel by bicycle on dedicated on-road facilities, making use of bike racks, bike lockers and other facilities at residential, retail, and commercial areas."

Public hearings before the Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors will be held on the plan recommendations and when those dates are announced we will post them here.

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Friday, March 14, 2008

Final Tysons plan being developed

Many people attended the public workshops held to discuss the future of the Tysons Corner area on Feb. 27 & 28. As was noted in an earlier post, most participants said they want to be able to ride bicycles into and throughout Tysons. Without parking for motor vehicles at any of the four planned Metro stations, bicycle access and parking is critical to making Tysons successful in the future.

The Tysons Task Force is now finalizing plans for Tysons. The consultants PB Placemaking and Cambridge Systematics are developing a final preferred alternative that includes a proposed street network. According to the consultants, that street network should: “Include street cross section recommendations that address separated bike and pedestrian lanes. Include a circulation and street design element in the urban design guidelines based on best practices.”

It is critical at this stage of the process that a bicycle circulation network be developed to ensure that the design of the street network allows cyclists to reach Tysons from surrounding neighborhoods and move throughout Tysons safely.

The next chance for public participation will be the public hearings before the Planning Commission and the Board of Supervisors. We will let you know when those date are set. In the meantime, as a member of the task force, we will continue to try to ensure that Tysons becomes a bicycle-friendly place.

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