Bipartisan group introduces the Bikeshare Transit Act of 2016

Congressman Earl Blumenauer (OR-03) and Congressman Vern Buchanan (FL-16), co-chairs of the Congressional Bike Caucus, reintroduced the Bikeshare Transit Act last month. This bipartisan legislation supports local bikeshare programs by helping communities access federal funds for bikeshare facilities and equipment.

I can't actually find the bill online, but an identical bill was introduced by the pair last year.

This bill makes a bikeshare project eligible to be an associated transit improvement project, including one carried out to facilitate a bicycle rental operation that makes bicycles available for public transportation, allows riders to pick up and drop off bicycles, serves a defined geographic area, and facilitates the transit of individuals between various points in the area. Public transportation capital projects shall include any project for the acquisition or replacement of bicycles and related equipment, including technology and vehicles needed to restock stations, and the construction of bicycle-related facilities to facilitate a bikeshare project. The bill also makes eligible for funds under the congestion mitigation air quality improvement program projects or programs that reduce demand for roads through bikesharing.

Meanwhile, another piece of bikeshare friendly legislation was reintroduced last month as well.

bikeshare is missing from pre-tax transit benefits that offer many commuters savings on transit passes. Last month, Reps. Joe Crowley (D – N.Y.) and Erik Paulsen (R – Minn.) introduced the “Bike to Work Act,” which would fix that gap and add bikeshare to the list of modes eligible for commuter benefits.

 

Pope's Creek Rail Trail construction could start next year

Screenshot 2017-07-23 at 11.59.28 PM

11 years after Maryland made money available to buy the land, and more than 3 years after getting additional funding to buy (more land?) and to design the trail, it appears that they might break ground on the southern terminus of the 2 mile long Pope's Creek Rail Trail in 2018

Steve Engle of Vista Design Inc. outlined a conceptual plan for the trail, which includes an elevated observation platform over the Potomac River and a possible museum at the site of the old Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative power plant at Popes Creek, built in 1938. The facility closed in 1953, but because it was as the first power-generating station to serve Southern Maryland, its flat-roof, brick structure and arched windows make it architecturally worth preserving.

“We would like very much to incorporate the old power plant into the rail trail plans,” Engle said. “There’s a lot of history with this area. It would be a very nice enhancement for the Popes Creek area.”

The trail would run from the old power plant on to Route 301, he added.

The park is just phase I, which frankly has very little of the trail. Phase II appears to be off to the right in the image above and that is where the other 1.99 miles of trail will go, all the way to Crain Highway at Crossover road (and then I suppose a little beyond that to the existing railroad tracks). No idea when work will begin on that. 

The tracks will not remain, but the sidewalk will use colored pavers to look like tracks. 

Screenshot 2017-07-24 at 12.01.46 AM

I-66 Trail should be outside the sound wall, but VDOT giving into irrational fears instead of rational ones

I-66trail

The I-66 Outside the Beltway project will include 22 miles of parallel trail, which is great, but there is a real fight going on right now about what that trail will be like.  Specifically over the ~5 miles that will inside a sound wall.

For about five of the project’s 22.5 miles, the trail would be squeezed between the highway and the concrete wall that will serve as a buffer between traffic noise and adjacent neighborhoods.

Trail users, led by FABB, want the trail to be outside the sound wall. 

“It is air pollution, it’s noise, small particles that get kicked up from the highway,” said Bruce Wright, a member of the Fairfax Alliance for Better Bicycling. “Imagine riding on this trail and there is really no place to go if you have a problem. You are right next to a very tall soundwall, and you are right next to a jersey barrier.”

But it seems that VDOT is putting it inside the wall to address the irrational fears of neighbors while ignoring the rational concerns and fears of trail users. The only way to fix this is to speak up

Susan Shaw, the director of megaprojects at VDOT, said opponents of the design will have an opportunity to publicly state their cases in hearings later this year, before a final decision is made by the Commonwealth Transportation Board.

 At community meetings, residents said they fear a trail will bring crime, such as break-ins, to their neighborhoods.

The design plans are a response to property owners’ complaints that placing the trail outside the sound barrier could bring unwanted strangers riding bikes into their neighborhoods. 

I had always assumed that there was an engineering or project reason for this - like it would allow for access to break downs, or storm water benefits or something. I had no idea this was to placate the unfounded fears of jittery neighbors. (What the hell is an unwanted stranger - and can't roads or sidewalks also bring them? Can I oppose a sidewalk outside my house because it might bring "unwanted stragners"? I'm sorry, but eff that)

Update: I have since talked to someone closer to all of this who told me that VDOT is using utility space to build this trail. They indicated that the sound barrier could not move, meaning that if the trail is placed outside the barrier, more land will need to be taken from adjacent landowners. I had not understood that to be the case before. <end>

VDOT should listen to everyone, but when the desires of one group are in direct contrast with the project goals - and when their reasoning is so unfounded - they should politely tell them no.

the idea to place six segments of the trail inside the sound wall, starting with a 1.2-mile stretch in Dunn Loring, is about striking a balance between the needs of travelers and rights of property owners along the highway in Fairfax County, Shaw said.

“We are coming into peoples’ backyards. We are doing strip takes across those backyards with right-of-way just to get the roadway in,” said Shaw.

None of that is changed by moving the trail outside of the wall. And any loss of privacy can be fixed with a simple 6-foot tall privacy fence. More importantly, you don't need to compromise with lunacy. 

While safety concerns influenced the process, [Susan Shaw, the director of megaprojects at VDOT] conceded, “I don’t believe there is any data that would suggest that [crime] is an issue.”

OK, so you don't need to address it. 

Biking and walking to DCA might actually become a thing

The Crystal City BID is funding a feasibility study for an improved connection between Crystal City and DCA. 

the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) is in the middle of a planning study that may relocate the Crystal City VRE station to support larger trains and an island platform configuration in the  pursuit of multi‐directional service. This relocation could bring the VRE station closer to the National Airport Metro station and presents a 

strategic opportunity to not only integrate the VRE station better with Crystal City, but to improve the physical connection 

between the VRE and Metro and between DCA and Crystal City with a direct pedestrian bridge or tunnel. 

Project Objective: To directly link Crystal City with DCA and the National Airport Metro station via a 
context‐sensitive pedestrian connection that enhances economic development opportunities, 
strengthens the neighborhood’s hotel community, and offers new opportunities to link the thousands of 
workers and residents of Crystal City to a growing regional rail network

 And there are specific calls out for bicycle elements

4. Additional Pedestrian/Bicycle Connections – Consultant shall determine feasibility of 
designing the connection to accommodate bicycle traffic linking the on‐street bicycle network 
along Crystal Drive with existing or new potential bicycle parking at the airport, Metro station, 
and to the regional bicycle facility and recreational amenity along the Mount Vernon Trail. 

I remain hopeful that Capital Bikeshare will get a station close to the doors of DCA, but if not, a better pedestrian connection from the closest stations in Crystal City would greatly help. 

Arlington Bike and Walk Happy Hour - July 26th

Link

The Coalition for Smarter Growth is excited to link up with WalkArlington and BikeArlington for our July happy hour! Join us at the new Heritage Brewing Co. in Clarendon for a lovely night of socializing and chatting about we can work towards safer walking and biking, and more responsible growth in Arlington and throughout our region. 

Arlington County has earned Silver Level Bicycle Friendly Community designation, from the League of American Bicyclists, and has been named a Gold Level Walk Friendly Community by the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center!

Come chat with our staff, like-minded people, and Arlington's leading bike and walk advocates to learn what they're doing right in smart growth.

Meeting will discuss Monroe Street Bridge plans and schedule, including the Metropolitan Branch Trail

DDOT is hosting a meeting on the Monroe Street Bridge Project tonight from 6:30-8:30pm at Luke C. Moore High School, where they discuss the Reconstruction of Monroe Street NE Bridge Project. DDOT will present the plans and schedule for the upcoming bridge reconstruction.

The project will not include a tunnel under the bridge - as was once proposed, but it will include an improved intersection of 8th and Monroe as well as better bike facilities.

In its current condition, this intersection is unsafe for trail users. When waiting to cross Monroe Street at 8th Street, it is difficult to see westbound traffic coming over the Monroe Street Bridge. Left-turning (southbound) vehicles make many bicyclists waiting on 8th Street to cross Monroe Street feel unsafe. Additionally, the crosswalk is not aligned with the northbound lane on 8th Street, presenting cyclists with a less-than-ideal choice about where to situate themselves to cross Monroe Street.

Clearly the intersection needs major help, and in light of the tunnel being off the table, we know that trail users need a well-engineered intersection that puts the safety of the most vulnerable users (including bicyclists) first.

WABA asked for a set of improvements and there are some of these in the design:

Dedicated bike signals
Bike Boxes on 8th St. NE
Separated green lanes through the intersection
Raised crosswalks
Design features to slow westbound traffic on Monroe, coming over the bridge
Signal Detection and Actuation
Addition of an ADA compliant ramp

First of all, the bike lanes on Monroe will remain, and basically unchanged, but the real difference will be on 8th. On 8th, a bi-directional protected (by flexposts) bike lane will be added on the east side. The lanes - both NS and EW - will be painted green.

8thandMonroe

They're going to replace the stops signs at the intersection with traffic lights, including bicycle signals and loop induction detectors.  The intersection will get a bike box, separated green lanes and an ADA ramp. And somewhere there is a bicycle signal (but I can't find it). 

The cycletrack will fade out at Lawrence, but probably be continued later (as is the long-term plan).

8thand Lawrence

Biking and walking: A great investment for the Volkswagon settlement, but sadly not eligible

DC stands to get $8.125 million from Volkswagen as part of their settlement resulting from the civil enforcement case, Volkswagen “Clean Diesel” Marketing, Sales, Practices, and Products Liability Litigation. And other states and Puerto Rico will get some too.

The litigation stems from VW’s use of a defeat device in its vehicles. A defeat device is a motor vehicle hardware, software, or design that interferes with or disables emissions controls under real world driving conditions, even if the vehicle passes formal emissions testing. Use of this defeat device led to excess oxides of nitrogen (NOx) being emitted into the atmosphere. The litigation was settled by a Partial Consent Decree, which put in place a Mitigation Trust Fund that will allocate $2.925 billion to the states, Puerto Rico, and the District. The purpose of the Mitigation Trust is to fund eligible mitigation actions that replace diesel emission sources with cleaner technology to reduce excess emissions of NOXcaused by the violating cars. The District is expected to receive a total of $8.125 million of settlement funds from this litigation. The funding is to be utilized on eligible mitigation actions, as defined in the Partial Consent Decree.

Now, investing the money in walking and biking would be a great way to compensate for the added NOx emissions but, unfortunately, that's not allowed. According to the settlement, all eligible mitigation actions involve replacing dirty engines with less dirty engines. Jurisdictions can use the money to replace old trucks, buses, freight switchers, ferries and tugs, shorepower, airport ground support vehicles, fork lifts, port cargo handling equipment, electric car charging stations (only up to 15%), or certain Diesel Emission Reduction Act eligible programs (not the "Conserve by Bicycling Program" which I don't think ever happened).

I wonder how many of these things Volkswagen makes and how this settlement was negotiated.

Hyattsville to try blended bikeshare

Last spring, Prince George's County announced plans to add 670 Capital Bikeshare bikes at 67 stations spread between upcounty and the National Harbor* starting in spring 2018. More recently, Hyattsville has entered talks to add mBike stations to the town as well.

On June 3, the Hyattsville City Council also discussed a plan to sign onto an existing agreement with College Park to participate in a 20 to 22-month trial period for mBike, a bike sharing program launched by Zagster in May 2016. The mBike program is largely centered around the University of Maryland (UMD) campus, with several stations recently added in the surrounding areas of College Park. This trial period would bring four stations and 40 bikes to Hyattsville, at locations yet to be determined.

I like the idea of co-locating the stations so that people can switch from one to another, and it probably makes sense near the metro at least. 

The capital costs for the city to participate in the mBike program would be partially offset by a grant extended by the city of College Park. When the existing memorandum of understanding expires in May of 2019, Hyattsville will have the option of renewing the mBike agreement for an additional three years at full cost.  

Most councilmembers and the Mayor seem to like the idea, but not all

Some councilmembers questioned the cost effectiveness of simultaneously piloting two programs that may compete for riders. “We are caught in between two emerging markets when it comes to bike-share programs,” said Councilmember Joseph Solomon (Ward 5). “Do we need to be in both markets at this time? Do we think the first step to evaluating feasibility of bike-share is to have two systems?”

*While I get that bikeshare may not make sense everywhere in the County, I would have probably considered the close in Metro Stations like Southern, Naylor Road and Capitol Heights. Even Suitland and Addison Road would probably make sense (as ways for people to connect to DC). Cheverly, though close to DC, probably doesn't unless they build some kind of trail or trails to better connect it. 

Bridge closure on Sligo Creek Trail starting 7/31/2017

A couple of readers have alerted me that a bridge on the Sligo Creek Trail will be closed on 7/31/17. This is the most downstream bridge on the Sligo Creek trail, just feet from connecting with the Northwest Branch trail.

IMG-3277

Clang, Clang, Goes the Streetcar Trail Bike Tour

Maryland Milestones is hosting a special bike tour of the Heritage Area. Ride leaves from the Maryland Milestones Heritage Center, 4318 Gallatin Street, Hyattsville, MD. This ride does not include food and will require waivers of liability. Ride cost is a suggested $10 donation to defray costs.

10am – 12:30pm, July 22nd, 2017
Clang, Clang, Goes the Streetcar Trail Bike Tour
Ride with our historian on the Trolley Trail and Northeast Branch to see where the rivers, roads, and rails have all played a major part in the history of the Heritage Area.

image from bloximages.newyork1.vip.townnews.com

Speaking of the  PG County Trolley Trail, advocates want Hyattsville to push Maryland to close the half-mile gap between its southern end and the NW Branch Trail.  Though this has been supported for a long time, no progress has been made - and now it appears SHA wants to restart the design process. It's at least 2 years away, which is ridiculous for what is basically a sidewalk without any driveway crossings.

On June 22, Hyattsville newly formed formed Health, Wellness and Recreation Advisory Committee (HWRAC) met with two local residents and representatives of WABA, Karmel James and Alison Mendoza-Walters, who suggested that the completion of the trail project is up to the community now. According to the city’s website, HWRAC “makes recommendations to City Council, develops public awareness campaigns and coordinates community engagement initiatives to encourage healthy lifestyles.” The HWAC agreed to share the petition link, but no further action was decided upon.

The City of Hyattsville is in full support of finishing the Trolley Trail. However, the trail project is in the hands of the Maryland Department of Transportation State Highway Administration (SHA) since bridging the gap would be along Rhode Island Avenue...

The Maryland-National Capital Parks Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) developed designs to bridge this gap about seven years ago,

SHA project engineer Luis Gonzalez said that in 2015 the City of Hyattsville requested that the SHA take on the trail project. Despite M-NCPPC developing designs to complete the trail, Gonzalez said the SHA is taking on all responsibility for this project, from design to construction, and has a different process than M-NCPPC. Therefore, M-NCPPC’s designs will not be used, according to Gonzalez.

Gonzalez was not able to provide an estimated completion date for the trail project. However, Gonzalez said that it typically takes two years to attain all environmental permits necessary in order to start construction. The SHA is starting to engineer the project —  conducting measurements in order to develop a design.

image from hyattsvillelife.com

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