Elections Matter. This November, Arlington voters can choose between three very different candidates for Arlington County Board. We asked them all five questions about Sustainable Mobility. Here are their unedited answers. Stay tuned later this month for our endorsement in this race.
To make the page easier to skim, each candidate's answer is in a collapsed panel. Simply click or tap on the candidate's heading under each question to see their response.
George Mason Drive, Carlin Springs Road & Fairfax Drive are all dangerous corridors on Arlington County’s High Injury Network that lack basic facilities for sustainable transportation modes like transit, biking & walking. Admirably, the County plans to study these corridors for improvements in the coming years, but improving safety and supporting sustainable mobility will require making trade-offs within the right-of-way; there will have to be less space devoted to parking, driving, or planted medians to have sufficient space for dedicated transit lanes, low-stress bike facilities, and safe sidewalks.
Do you support the reallocation of existing street space to support speedy transit, a comprehensive all-ages and abilities bike network, and safe and complete sidewalks and trails? How do you think about and decide on appropriate trade-offs in these situations?
The need to prioritize speedy transit, a viable bike network and safe sidewalks and trails is a given. The question is how conflicts between competing modes should be resolved. In some situations, the answer is simple. Since bike lanes on large stretches of George Mason Drive and virtually all of Carlin Springs Road aren’t safe, the obvious solution is not to build them. On the other hand, bike lanes already exist on Fairfax Drive, but the question is whether to extend them in both directions from Glebe Road to Wilson Blvd in Clarendon. In most situations the question reduces to whether the proposed mode or mode improvement is: 1) feasible and 2) safe in conjunction with other existing modes.
Yes, I do support the relocation of existing street space to support speedy transit, a comprehensive bike network, complete sidewalks and trails. In each case, I would want to consider the data and to what degree the concept of induced demand might apply in each case to determine how to reach the best result, but I do support changing our street space.
In each of these three locations, I have worked on the issues involved. Carlin Springs Road has had an accident this past week. SusMo’s emphasis on infrastructure investments is particularly apt in this case as the problem is complicated and will not be solved overnight. I worked to advocate for advancing the study in the Capital Improvement Plan, but that is not enough. I walked this section of sidewalks with advocates in September after the CIP and am focused on it.
There are specific parts of Carlin Springs that we can and must work to address in the short-term. There is also a need for easements to address mobility as a whole. I am committed to both the short-term urgency we need on this road and the investments we need in the medium term to improve this road and create new options. The accident this week indicates we must work on this with more urgency and I am meeting with staff to help move this forward.
On George Mason drive, the work is ongoing and the study is being worked on. Data on the impact and parking management are both important information we must consider the two concepts for each of the three segments. The principles of walkability and safe bike facilities are critical. I will want to see the results from SusMo’s campaign as well as public engagement as a whole. We must provide an alternative to the traffic along George Mason that is currently moving quickly in cars without a real option for biking.
On Fairfax Drive, the street is wide enough that protected bike lanes are feasible as are wider sidewalks. It is my impression, however, that the cost of a fully functional street is significant and we must find the best solutions and funding. Funding for a study of the costs of a street with protected bike lanes, sidewalks, and a safer street is first. Scoping out the funding for the actual improvements must be a priority in the coming CIP. Again, data will be important. This is and will be a priority for me that I have and will work to realize.
How I approach the tradeoffs of “drivers versus cyclists versus pedestrians” is to view all of them through a Utilitarian lens of “what maximizes safety for the most people?” instead of the current mindset of “how can we move the most vehicles the fastest?”. I put safety first in planning, and speed always hurts safety.
It’s now widely understood that walking on wide and well-maintained sidewalks, cycling on protected low-stress bike lanes, and taking transit are far safer per mile travelled than driving (or even being a passenger of) a personal vehicle.
Through that lens, it is easy for me to advocate for narrowing lanes, road diets, and even reduction of on-street parking. I would try to keep from removing planted medians and tree boxes, but even those would be up for consideration in service to public safety.
I’m particularly excited about such improvements to S Carling Springs Rd, where multiple serious injuries and horrifying near-misses have occurred over the years – and is especially important due to the presence of elementary and middle schools. My concern is the incredibly slow process that planning has taken so far. That is unacceptable for such a dangerous yet important route for children.
I am also eagerly looking forward to improvements of N Fairfax Drive in Ballston, where I serve as Vice-President of the Ballston-Virginia Square Civic Association. I frequently bike along that road and have had more than a few scary near-miss collisions with drivers in their vehicles.
George Mason Drive will need some careful attention. I tried biking down that road shortly after moving to Arlington but was quickly scared of ever trying again. I’ve not been impressed with the proposals so far with their reliance on preserving existing curbs and medians, which greatly limits the potential for reducing lane widths and expanding safe bike lanes or trails.
Arlington’s trail network is one of its greatest assets but much of it was built decades ago as a purely recreational facility, at a time when the impact of impervious surfaces and the need for stormwater management were not yet recognized. Given their age, these trails will soon need not just repaving, but a full overhaul which is a critical opportunity to modernize the dated recreational designs and ensure that these critical arteries capture and filter their runoff and support safe, conflict-free travel not just for white-collar workers heading downtown at 9 am, but also for blue-collar workers heading home from their shift after last call and for families just out for a walk.
Do you support modernizing Arlington’s trail network to fix unsafe designs like hairpin turns & steep drop-offs, give pedestrians dedicated space (separate from bikes & scooters), capture and filter trail run-off, and add dark-sky friendly lighting for safe travel after sundown? Do you support significant capital investments to fill gaps in the trail network, for example, by filling the gap in the W&OD Trail in East Falls Church, connecting the W&OD to the Four Mile Run Trail at Shirlington Road, and connecting the Arlington Boulevard Trail to the Teddy Roosevelt/I 66 Bridge near the Iwo Jima Memorial?
As a thirty-year Washington DC area commuter, I support improvements to all of Arlington’s bike trails including those listed above. What I do not support is the taking of parkland adjacent to Potomac River tributaries for trail projects unless there are no feasible alternatives.
A prime example is NOVA Parks’ plan to double the width of the W&OD Trail between EFC and Carlin Springs Road. Unlike other jurisdictions, most of the W&OD Trail in Arlington boasts a parallel byway—the Four Mile Run Trail--on the opposite side of Four Mile Run. All that’s needed is to redirect some W&OD traffic to the Four Mile Run Trail with appropriate signage and connecting infrastructure. This would achieve NOVA Parks goal of accommodating additional bike traffic at far less expense.
In pushing for trail widening, the bike lobby has turned a blind eye to the fact that paving a trail immediately adjacent to a stream may actually have more detrimental impacts than paving a road some distance away. Evidence of that phenomenon occurred during the July 8, 2019 DC area flood event. Runoff from I-66 put an entire Arlington neighborhood north of the interstate under water. Yet an equal if not greater amount of damage occurred along the existing W&OD bike trail, when Four Mile Run breached its banks—taking with it tons of infrastructure from two County parks—including part of the trail--and pouring thousands of gallons of polluted water into the Potomac River.
The W&OD Trail east of Lee Highway is sandwiched between the I-66 retaining wall a few feet to the left and Four Mile Run a few feet to the right. There is no place to divert the stream let alone plant trees or add to the under story. Widening the trail at this location can only exacerbate runoff and erosion.
The bike lobby argues that widening the trail will provide congestion relief. Yet a Toole Design report commissioned by NOVA Parks to support the project indicates that much of the traffic along the trail is recreational rather than commuter. Thus even if this stretch of trail is congested on weekends, NOVA Parks has not demonstrated that widening the trail will provide congestion relief relative to cost (CRRC) on nearby roads, a key requirement for getting Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) funding.
Yes, I do support modernizing our trail networks. When I am out riding my bike around the loop, I see some of the dangers and the benefits of sections of trail that are safer. I see for certain the challenges of pedestrians and bikes co-located in numerous locations. We must also address the quality of trails which absolutely does not reflect the need we have in the 21st Century.
I also support significant capital investment in the critical junctures identified and am very aware that ultimately progress on these items comes down to progress via our CIP and the work that must be done in advance to make sure these critical intersections are funded. The Shirlington Road intersection and the Iwo Jima Memorial are more familiar to me than the East Falls Church connection, but I have ridden through each of these areas and seen the problems. To address these issues and as an indication of the importance of these key connections, I fully supported the Capital Trails Coalition resolution the Board passed as in 2021. I am ready to do the additional work that is needed to fund the significant investments in these three areas.
Public safety issues must be at the top of our county budget and Capital Improvement Plan to solve for. Prioritizing public safety includes improving our transit system, building protected bike lanes along all major streets, and designing intersections with pedestrians first in mind. Prioritizing public safety also means upgrading our off-street trail network to be on equal treatment for our transportation needs as our streets and sidewalks are.
And we musty finally recognize that our trails are not just for recreational cyclists anymore. Giving pedestrians – whether they walk, job, or “roll” with wheelchairs or strollers – a safe protected space on all trails is a key part of making an “Arlington for All”. And to serve commuters we need to fill in gaps for complete networks that connect to every area of the county and our neighboring jurisdictions.
I fully support all improvements to our trails for safety – especially fixing all dangerous turns, repairing potholes, adequate lighting, and promptly de-icing during winter instead of using our trails and bike lanes as a dumping space for snow.
One challenge will be funding. How to pay for it is always the bottleneck. A combination of bonds, careful project management with fiscal responsibility in mind, and exploring new revenue sources will be needed.
Another challenge will be ensuring communication and co-operation between the Department of Environmental Services and the Department of Parks and Recreation, which often share responsibility for our trails at various stages of planning, development, and maintenance.
Portions of Arlington’s Master Transportation Plan are more than 14 years old. While it has provided a strong foundation for Arlington’s efforts over that timeframe, the document is no longer meeting the evolving needs of its staff and citizens. Sections on pedestrian infrastructure and transportation demand management have failed to keep pace with evolving best practices, do not reflect our Vision Zero policy, give little to no guidance on street space allocation or project prioritization, and vary wildly in specificity from element to element.
What is your vision for the County’s transportation plan? Does it need an update or a rewrite? What policies and guidance would you want to see enshrined in it to guide staff when implementing transportation projects and operating our transportation infrastructure? Does our plan need to lay out “big ideas” that would seriously shift mobility in Arlington in the coming decades?
My vision for the County’s transportation plan is a single document with six concise chapters outlining the purpose of each element, the policies it plans to implement to achieve that purpose, along with links to a minimum number of supporting documents
The intent is to inform not benight the public with burdensome detail. If indeed planners need a high level of detail to do their jobs, then spare the public by publishing the summaries contained in each transportation element for public consumption as the Master Transportation Plan in Brief.
As it stands, each of the 6 elements of the County’s transportation plan contains a Table of Contents, Introduction, Summary, a section on Policies, Implementation Actions and Performance Measures (PIMPs), plus appendices--for a grand total of 200+ pages.
Yes, the MTP needs a rewrite, but I can understand why the team tasked with revising this lugubrious document might be loathe to undertake it.
Our Transportation work has suffered over the last few years in the course of the pandemic. I believe we have not had enough energy and vision with respect to our work and that new staff leadership is critical. Transportation Demand Management is indeed important, but how we live has changed and we need to be driving change with it.
The Transportation Plan does need to be rewritten over the coming years and we need to do so while implementing some of the policies we know make sense. Specifically, that means a greater emphasis on biking and pedestrian safety via small projects while rewriting the plan. Greater funding for small projects that can implement Vision Zero is needed and a greater attention to the weight that individual accidents have on our prioritization of work.
As far as vision for the Transportation Plan, Vision Zero needs to be infused throughout it. Greater awareness of the 50% or Arlingtonians who now work from home needs to be added. Greater emphasis on data-based decisions needs to be infused. One example of the benefits of doing so would be focus for our ART bus system: we must work to improve our reliability in South Arlington given data from our recent survey that shows reliability challenges.
Yes, we do need to lay out big ideas as the Board needs to clearly prioritize policies and direct staff to make progress. The Ballston Metro second entrance is an example of policy and work done years ago has come to fruition. We need similar big ideas and vision from the Board informed by new staff leadership. Not having done a new transportation plan while in Covid and leadership transition over the past two years is reasonable. Getting to progress on a new plan with energy over the next two years is essential.
Our county desperately needs a rewrite of the Master Transportation Plan. It’s one of the largest messes in our Comprehensive Plan and with our county planning in general.
However, while it is tempting to “blow the whole thing up”, start from scratch, and build a new Master Plan all at once, it would be extremely expensive with the needed outside consultants, take years to complete, and have a very high probability of being flawed and outdated even after all of that.
Instead, we should treat the new Transportation plan as an opportunity to use what is called “Agile Development” in computer and information technology (IT) spaces.
This “Agile” method breaks up big, complex projects into many small bite-sized steps that are tackled quickly one after another, involving all stakeholders in the process at various stages, and even allowing the team to go back and revise prior steps with “lessons learned” as the project progresses. It’s a highly structured, rapid-fire process that requires expertise and familiarity to conduct effectively but is incredibly powerful.
The Agile method doesn’t mean it is limited to “tinkering around the edges” – even big visionary principles, fundamental requirements, and use cases are developed as part of the Agile process. Big changes to our transportation planning are needed. Not only have our transportation needs changed radically in the past two decades, but they will continue to change even more in the next two decades. Let’s be ready for those even bigger changes.
Transportation is the closest that our municipal government has to the predictable 1’s and 0’s of computer code and updating the Master Transportation Plan for future needs would be an excellent project to use Agile methodology on.
It is becoming increasingly clear that the pandemic has reshaped our travel patterns and our transit system must adapt to these new challenges and opportunities. Many 9-to-5 workers have shifted to more, but not full-time, telework, and dealing with that loss of farebox revenue is challenging. With travel needs no longer so concentrated around 9-to-5 commute times, resources are available that could drastically improve service for people that have not been well served in the past, like those whose work schedule doesn’t fit the old standard, people taking non-work trips, and kids getting to school.
What is the role of public transit in Arlington? Is it a necessity or a nice-to-have? How, if at all, would you change transit service in Arlington to align with our new normal? Do you support adjusting transit service to better serve kids getting to and from school?
As a former member of the Transportation Commission and avid multimodal commuter, I can’t say good enough about ART Bus. But even ART Bus needs improvement. First, ART’s fleet is powered by natural gas, when it should run on electricity. ART has initiated a Zero Emission Bus Pilot to test zero emission buses featuring free rides. This is a great idea. If elected I will accelerate the conversion of the ART bus fleet to EV.
Second, ART’s ridership on most bus routes on nights and weekends is lacking. A lot of ART bus routes ride empty throughout the day. This may be a great convenience to the solo rider like me, but it is a waste of taxpayers’ money. The solution is not to retire buses. The solution is a sustained, eye catching, advertising campaign, pointing out that a SmarTrip card will get you there faster and cheaper than a fill-up.
I applaud APS’ recent decision to fully subsidize student fares on ART buses via SmarTrip cards, because it will provide a guaranteed ridership for a number of ART bus routes. This will assure ART’s viability until commuters do the math on transit use.
Public transit is essential for many Arlingtonians now and is a necessity for Arlington’s future. Our sense of place has been defined by the ability to use ART to get to Metro to get to work. ART will be even more important for our future with the number of Metro trips for work more limited for work. I see these trends serving on the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission as Secretary of the Commission and I will be taking on additional leadership with that Commission if I have the honor of being re-elected.
I also see clearly the shift that has come with some 50% of Arlingtonians working from home on any given day. We will move back in person more, and I believe Metro reliability is key to transit, but ART will play a more important role in our future. ART reliability must improve as we work on our maintenance facility transitioning from Alexandria to our new bus facility on 395.
I believe that our future will depend partly on moving easily via non-work trips. Bus service along Carlin Springs is essential for students to get to Aspire. Service along Columbia Pike will be critical to how well we will grow over the coming years with HQ2 filling out, over time. Langston Boulevard’s future is wrapped up in improving our bus service as well. I fully support the decision to make ART service free for students as I have already heard of the benefits from numerous parents. I also believe that for those most in need public transit should be free as equity supports that conclusion. I am not yet convinced that all ART service should be free for all; I want to see more data on that question before we make a change that I believe would be difficult to reverse. I also believe those who can afford to should pay, absent a data-based case that supports free transit.
Mass transit is a necessity for the continued prosperity, health, and climate security of our community. An extensive and safe transit system allows every resident to have full and equal access to high-quality education, jobs, recreation, and other amenities. Transit saves low-income residents the burden of vehicle ownership, maintenance, or the whim of predatory towing companies. Transit supports our small businesses with a wider customer base and allows commercial property owners to better develop their land for functional uses instead of parking lots.
We have experienced shifts in work patterns, and it’s important to become more flexible in response to those changes. But they key word is ‘flexible’, since we do not yet know how those work patterns will settle.
But let’s talk about possible solutions for improving transit in Arlington so we can be ready for anything:
- Investigate setting up a county “Transportation Utility” to reliably pay for infrastructure, maintenance, or even labor costs of everything such as paving of roads, bike lanes, buses, and even our Metro obligations. This may be similar to the “Stormwater Utility” the county is proposing, moving revenue for flood mitigation infrastructure over to utility fees based on usage rather than simply property values.
- Ensuring every public school has plentiful transit access so we can migrate as many students as possible over to using public transit, piggybacking on our current free fare iRide program.
- Making the expansion of hours of operation and frequency of service a higher priority than converting our bus fleet over to battery electric-vehicles.
- Greater co-operation and integration with neighboring transit systems to begin creating a regional transit system separate from the capriciousness of WMATA that continues to have so many safety issues.
While the County is pushing developers to install more EV charging stations and rushing a transition to not-ready-for-prime-time battery electric buses, e-bikes are flying off the shelves, changing lives for the better, and offering a safer, more sustainable mobility option without any assistance from our local government.
What should Arlington be doing to harness and expand the e-bike revolution? Do you support secure bike parking options with charging capabilities in the public right of way?
E-bikes may be flying off the shelves, but I dispute that they are changing lives for the better on area bike trails. The hazards presented by e-bikes to other trail users was brought home to me on a recent trek into Ballston on the Custis Trail. An e-bike came barreling downhill at 15 miles an hour on a narrow and crowded stretch of trail. If the rider had made contact with any of the half dozen other trail users within a quarter of a mile, it would have been game over for someone.
E-bike advocates no doubt argue that road traffic represents a much greater hazard to them than e-bikes do to trail walkers. Does that justify creating a hazard for trail walkers? Also there is a general understanding that the principal purpose of bike trails is recreational. People don’t need to walk, run or bike in fear of their lives on the local bike trail. I have no objection to e-bikes and infrastructure on city streets. I object to the use and abuse of e-bikes on recreational use trails.
We need to embrace the opportunity that e-bikes provide by highlighting their benefits in our communications and by providing infrastructure to make adoption easier. My first funding priorities would be the intersections discussed above—the critical places where trails must connect—since the routes that e-bikes take must be safe for wider adoption. I think this is critical as the e-bike expansions in New York and other cities have shown.
I also support bike parking options with charging capabilities. I’m interested in particular in public private partnerships that could help fund such charging stations. I also believe that in all likelihood investment from the County would be necessary. My brother-in-law commutes via e-bike and two of my friends have recently e-biked across long distances. I am ready to personally engage in this mode of transportation and I believe that communications like that can also be helpful.
It is true: e-bikes really do have the power to change how residents get around the community, and our county priorities need to reflect that potential. We need to invest in a variety of common-sense e-bike-specific infrastructure:
- Solar-powered charging stations in the public right-of-way like we do with CaBi docking stations.
- Property tax incentives (likely through a tax deferral program) to commercial property owners to provide e-bike charging at their buildings.
- Increase our share of electric CaBi bikes that Arlington provides into the regional program as a way for many people to experience an e-bike for the first time.
But honestly, the action that Arlington County needs to take to really help the e-bike revolution is to build out the shared infrastructure for *all* micro-mobility, whether those be e-bikes, regular bikes, or scooters.
- Build safe, low-stress protected bike lanes across all of Arlington so more people are comfortable using their choice of micro-mobility.
- Fill in the gaps of bike lanes and trails into complete networks that can take anyone to anywhere in the county and across the region.
- Universal racks and docking stations that can handle both bikes and scooters at every intersection, commercial building entrance, and transit stop.
Those shared infrastructure improvements, combined with the e-bike specific ones, is what is really needed for the mobility revolution to fight climate change, improve personal health, and be more efficient with our land use.
Also, like SusMo, I am skeptical of the push for electric busses. The money for them would be much better spent expanding our existing Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) bus fleet to improve bus frequency and expand routes for the entire network. Give the e-bus technology another 5 years to mature and costs to be more digestible. Currently electric busses are little more than “greenwashing”.