Last March, 7 months before the fall election, Governor Walker signed a $541 million tax cut. One week after the election, Governor Walker’s Transportation Secretary, proposed to erase that tax cut with a $751 million tax increase.
Last week, HUD Secretary Julián Castro issued an open letter to utility companies across the United States encouraging them to work with building owners to facilitate access to whole-building utility usage data. This is a critical issue for owners and operators of multifamily housing, and particularly for the affordable housing community and HUD.
Each year, HUD spends almost $7 billion on utility costs for affordable housing units. That nearly $7 billion supports utility payments to millions of households in public housing and private multifamily HUD-assisted housing to keep these homes safe and comfortable.
HUD is working with affordable housing developers to reduce energy costs, lower greenhouse gas emissions, and promote the use of renewable energy to preserve affordability. The ability to measure and control energy consumption is directly linked to the availability of the energy usage data. Making this data available in a comprehensive and usable format is the first step to being able to measure and reduce energy consumption, lowering costs for American families.
Access to utility data is a common problem for building owners, particularly when housing units are individually metered and/or billed. Many utilities across the country have overcome this problem by implementing successful policies for transmission of whole-building energy consumption data, some even automating this process to make it as easy as possible for building owners to benchmark their buildings. However, there are also many utilities that have not yet developed processes and policies for assisting building owners and operators in accessing this data.
Creating greater cooperation between utility companies and owners and operators of affordable housing units will save tenants money and reduce HUD’s utility costs. By using tools such as the new 1-100 ENERGY STAR Score for Multifamily Housing and the Environmental Protection Agency’s ENERGY STAR Portfolio Manager, building owners will be able to make informed decisions on how to improve their building and portfolio-wide energy performance. But they need whole building energy information to use these tools and take action.
The Department is committed to working with our partners in the federal government, non-governmental stakeholders, and utility companies to increase access to whole-building utility data and energy benchmarking.
Please read the attached Open Letter to Utility Companies from HUD Secretary Julián Castro. If you are interested in more information on the work HUD is doing to reduce energy costs and preserve affordability, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Harriet Tregoning is the Director of the Office of Economic Resilience.
This week, I've picked some of the best images of Metro from the Greater and Lesser Washington Flickr pool, showcasing the best and worst of the Washington region.
Got a picture that depicts the best or worst of the Washington region? Make sure to join our Flickr pool and submit your own photos!
The Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) thinks the region's next major bike trail should run along Arlington Boulevard from the National Mall to the eastern border of Fairfax City. On Tuesday, it released a report on how make it happen.
Once a main artery into DC, Arlington Boulevard now alternates between being a high-speed highway and a suburban or urban boulevard that has various levels of development and density. This varied nature affect's Arlington Boulevard's pedestrian and bike facilities, making it relatively easy to travel some sections on foot or bike but also creating some where it's rather difficult.
Connecting the infrastructure that's already in place would give Arlington Boulevard a trail nearly 25 miles long in both east and west-bound directions, opening up several neighborhoods and commercial areas to non-drivers.
Part of WABA's report documents just where these gaps are and how long each one is.
Almost half of the total route is already built to a point where even the most inexperienced of cyclist should feel comfortable riding on it, but the longest stretch of this type is, currently, only 1.2 miles long. About 40% of the route requires cyclists to ride in traffic or are narrow enough that only experienced cyclists would feel comfortable riding.
Finally, there are parts of the route that are simply too dangerous for anyone not in a car. The longest of this type is where Arlington Boulevard meets I-495 and Gallows Road, where anyone looking to get through on a bike or on foot has to make over a mile-long detour.
Specific parts of the route that need attention
The latter half of the report details how Arlington could improve specific sections of the route. In many cases, the county could use Arlington Boulevard's wide right of way along with some of the access roads that run parallel, carving out space for pedestrians and bikes without cutting existing travel lanes. Other trails and paths along the route simple need to be better maintained.
There are parts of the route, though, that would need substantial work.
There's currently a plan to widen Arlington Boulevard underneath the Seven Corners interchange, and that would need some sort of path if non-drivers are to avoid a lengthy detour. Another significant challenge lies between Annandale and Gallows Road, where WABA notes that a bridge would be needed to cross 495. That'd likely be the most expensive part of the project.
WABA estimates final costs to be around $40 million, but says a trail would pay long-term dividends
WABA estimates the full 23-mile route would cost around $40 million, but that's just an estimate. WABA says it needs more information to fully understand what the project would cost, but does do believe bundling trail work with other road work along Arlington Boulevard could keep costs low.
To be clear, WABA isn't just throwing these proposals up out of the blue; its suggestions are actually in line with a number of projects for which the Virginia Department of Transportation recently identified Arlington Boulevard as a potential recipient.
Continuous pedestrian and cycling facilities will help make Arlington Boulevard a road that connects neighborhoods rather than divides them. It can also help shape future land use and planning decisions in areas that might otherwise be fated to be stuck next to a high speed highway.
Pedestrians surrender a lot of public space to cars. It's something society has accepted, but this clever illustration from Claes Tingvall of the Swedish Road Administration shows how extreme our allocation of public space has become, from the pedestrian's point of view.
Photo by tracktwentynine on Flickr.7000s delayed over safety: The new 7000 series Metro cars likely will not debut in January. An independent oversight committee claims Metro is moving too fast through safety testing and evaluations. (Post)
Uber vs. Cheh: Councilmember Mary Cheh wants to increase the number of wheelchair-accessible taxis. Uber supports more wheelchair-accessible vehicles, but it's set for a battle with the Council over releasing data on the new service. (City Paper)
Diplomatic impunity: Hundreds of foreign diplomats with reckless driving or DWI cases in the Washington region have never been punished thanks to diplomatic immunity. In the past two years, 45 diplomats have been kicked out of the country instead. (NBC4)
Courthouse Square of the future: More details are emerging about what Arlington's Courthouse Square could look like in the future. Underground parking and a park would replace the current surface lot, and several blocks would be redeveloped. (WBJ)
DC Cool: Destination DC wants to bring tourists to visit DC for more than just the monuments and museums. Their latest tactic highlights sidewalks as a dynamic and charming part of DC's neighborhoods. (City Paper)
Denmark's bike super highways: Denmark is building 28 bicycling super highways across 22 different municipalities. The super highways are an alternative to car commuting after Copenhagen failed to impose a congestion charge. (CityLab)
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On Thursday, November 20, the Rhode Island State Planning Council is scheduled to vote on a draft Economic Development Plan for the State of Rhode Island. The draft plan, which has been under development for more than two years as part of an initiative known as Rhode Map RI, emphasizes the very unradical notion of building on our strengths. In recent weeks, critics of the plan have put forward a great deal of misinformation and misinterpretation that has threatened to undermine public confidence in this forward-looking and sorely needed economic development plan.
Grow Smart is proud to have been a member of the consortium of state agencies and public and private organizations that guided the development of the Economic Development Plan now under consideration. We strongly support its adoption by the State Planning Council. We believe that the Council, Rhode Island’s elected officials and the people of Rhode Island can have full confidence in the transparent and open public process through which the plan was developed, the extensive research on which the plan is based, and the recommendations that the plan makes. We are writing to set the record straight on some of the misinformation that has been presented as fact.
False Assertion: The plan would amount to “ceding (Rhode Island’s) sovereignty to federal government agencies.”
Fact: The plan reflects the thinking of public and private Rhode Island interests. The extent to which it is implemented and what specific strategies will be used will be decided by the Governor, the General Assembly, municipal governments and private businesses and organizations. Rhode Island did not have the resources to undertake a planning process of this magnitude. Therefore, the state applied to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Sustainable Communities grant program to secure the funding required for the research, writing and coordination of the public outreach effort that went into the preparation of the economic development plan. However, that research, writing and public outreach was managed by the Rhode Island Division of Planning and guided by a Consortium made up of representatives from Rhode Island state agencies and private organizations.
Furthermore, it is critical to remember that this is a plan. The fact that it was produced with the assistance of Federal funds in no way enables Federal interests to insert themselves in decisions as to how the various strategies contained in the plan will be implemented. Those decisions rest with the State Executive and Legislative Branches, with municipal governments and with private businesses and organizations.
False Assertion: The plan is not an economic development plan.
Fact: The draft plan was written to comply with a mandate from the General Assembly which directed the economic development corporation and the division of planning to produce a strategic plan that would include:
- A unified economic development strategy for the state that integrates business growth with land use and transportation choices;
- An analysis of how the state’s infrastructure can best support this unified economic development strategy;
- A focus and prioritization that the outcomes of the economic development strategy be equitable for all Rhode Islanders;
- Reliance on comprehensive economic data and analysis relating to Rhode Island’s economic competitiveness, business climate, national and regional reputation, and present economic development resources;
- Suggestions for improving and expanding the skills, abilities, and resources of state agencies, municipalities, and community partners to speed implementation of the plan’s recommendations; and
- The inclusion of detailed implementation plans, including stated goals, specific performance measures and indicators.
The plan, which was written with input from business leaders around the state, outlines six goals for strengthening our economy: provide educational and training opportunities to activate a 21st-century workforce; foster an inclusive economy that targets opportunity to typically underserved populations; support industries and investments that play to Rhode Island’s strengths; create great places by coordinating economic, housing and transportation investments; create a stronger and more resilient Rhode Island; and make Rhode Island a state where companies, workers, and the state as a whole can develop a competitive advantage.
It advocates strengthening the state historic tax credit program; supporting industries and investments that play to Rhode Island’s strengths including the marine, defense, arts and food sectors; better marketing of our tourism brand and assets; regulatory reform / streamlining; and “…setting fair tax policies consistent with those of other states.” The plan also asserts that expanded workforce training and a better education system are important to ensure that Rhode Island’s workforce meets the needs of employers and that the growing minority population in RI is as economically productive and self sufficient as possible. This call for social equity has especially inflamed the most vocal critics of the plan, even though it is in the enlightened economic self interest of all Rhode Islanders.
False Assertion: The plan is an “extreme social engineering scheme” that would “block paths to property ownership and infringe on rights of property owners.
Fact: As noted above, the General Assembly directed that the economic development strategy should “integrate business growth with land use and transportation choices,” and should include “a focus and prioritization that the outcomes of the economic development strategy be equitable for all Rhode Islanders. Responding to those directions, the plan recommends location of housing and businesses that will promote access to work opportunities. These recommendations do not infringe on the rights of property owners.
False Assertion: The plan’s development process did not provide the public and the business community with an opportunity for input.
Fact: From the beginning Rhode Map RI has been characterized by extensive public outreach and many opportunities for public input. Over the last year and a half, public input sessions have been held in every corner of the state. The public input phase launched with coverage in the Providence Journal, and all sessions were publicized through press releases and social media. Opportunities for electronic input were also provided. The research and drafting of the economic development plan was guided by a diverse Economic Development Committee with representation from such strongly pro-business and pro growth organizations as the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, the Rhode Island Builders Association, the Rhode Island Nursery and Landscape Association, and the business funded Providence Foundation. In addition, the Rhode Island Foundation and Commerce RI co-hosted a series of workshops during which over 300 business leaders discussed their needs and identified ways to work together with the state to build on Rhode Island’s strengths. The State Planning Council held public hearings for the draft Economic Development Plan on October 27 and 28 at which 62 individuals testified. In all, more than 1,000 people have contributed their input.
False Assertion: There is no reason not to delay passage of the Plan in order to allow for further discussion.
Fact: The draft Economic Development Plan has been developed to comply with legislation passed by the General Assembly requiring that such a plan be developed and that it be submitted on or before October 31, 2014. In 2013, the RI General Assembly passed a law directing that, “(a) The economic development corporation and the division of planning shall develop a written long-term economic development vision and policy for the state of Rhode Island and a strategic plan for implementing this policy… (b) On or before October 31, 2014, the economic development corporation and the division of planning shall submit the written long-term economic development vision and policy and implementation plan to the governor, the senate and the house of representatives.” The Division of Planning’s standard practice is to submit plans to the State Planning Council for approval and to have the Council hold public hearings on proposed plans. In keeping with that practice, public hearings were held and the State Planning Council vote was scheduled so that the Plan would be ready for submission to the governor, the senate and the house or representatives as close to the October 31, 2014 deadline as possible.
The Rhode Map RI Consortium signed off on the plan last week and it now goes to the State Planning Council for final adoption on November 20th.Let’s get this done and move Rhode Island forward now.
On Tuesday, we posted our twenty-ninth photo challenge to see how well you know Metro. I took five photos in the Metro system. Here are the answers. How well did you do?
This week, we got 31 guesses. Nine of you got all five correct. Great work, Alex B, Peter K, Murn, DavidDuck, Justin...., coneyraven, Ian, DC Dave, and Cosmo!
Image 1: West Falls Church
The first image shows the north bus loop at West Falls Church. This loop was formerly home to many of the Fairfax Connector routes that served Tysons Corner and other places in northern Fairfax, but today is less important since the Silver Line has opened. The primary clue here is the unique canopy covering the bus platform. 21 of you knew this one.
The second image shows an outbound Blue Line train approaching Arlington Cemetery station. In addition to the side platforms, which narrows the list of possible stations significantly, the bucolic setting and the Rosslyn skyline make this obviously Arlington Cemetery. 28 got this one right.
The third image depicts the memorial pylon at Metro Center. This granite column is a memorial to fallen Metro employees. It stands in the southern mezzanine, which is an extension of the Shady Grove platform above the Blue/Orange/Silver platform near the sales office. 19 of you correctly guessed Metro Center.
This image shows a mirror on the platform at Silver Spring station. Because the platform here is curved, these convex mirrors are in place to allow the operators of inbound trains to see all the doors on the train. Only two stations have these mirrors. Other clues included the distinctive bridge between the MARC platforms and the buildings in the background. 18 knew this was Silver Spring.
The final image shows a staircase at Wheaton station. These steps lead down from the southeast corner of Reedie Drive and Georgia Avenue into the mezzanine. The distinctive blue wall is a clue, as is the new residential tower above the Wheaton Safeway, visible in the glare. 14 correctly guessed Wheaton.
Thanks to everyone for playing! Great work. Stay tuned. We'll have five more images for you next week.
After a decade of planning, officials in Arlington cancelled the Columbia Pike streetcar this week. If streetcars aren't going to be the answer on there, what might realistically happen instead?
Columbia Pike. Photo by harry_nl on Flickr.
In the wake of the streetcar's cancellation, some have suggested Metrorail, BRT, or light rail. None are likely. The county will probably just end up running articulated ("accordion") buses on Columbia Pike. Voters might be surprised how long that takes, how much it costs, and how little capacity it adds.
It's also time for the anti-streetcar forces to prove that when they claimed they supported better transit, they meant it and weren't just using the issue to divide voters. That means they now have to get involved in finding a solution and making it a reality.
There's tremendous demand for good transit on Columbia Pike. It's already the busiest bus corridor in Virginia, and by 2040 there could be more transit riders on Columbia Pike alone than in the entire Richmond metropolitan area. Doing nothing isn't a viable option.
As we discussed yesterday, Metrorail is (unfortunately) not financially realistic, and the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has told Arlington it may not dedicate a lane to transit—if even that were politically possible over drivers' inevitable objections.
So what can happen now?
How soon can Arlington beef up bus service?
Unfortunately, large transit projects take years to plan and, if they cost a significant amount, even longer to fund. The funding process is what really held up the Columbia Pike streetcar; Arlington and Fairfax leaders thought they had the money together in the past, like in 2007, when Virginia handed some taxing authority to a regional authority to build transportation. But then courts ruled the plan unconstitutional, and it took more years to get funding together again, culminating in Governor McAuliffe's pledge this year for the state to pick up a significant amount of the tab.
One plan has gone through some detailed studies: the option called "TSM-2" in the streetcar alternatives analysis. That includes running longer articulated buses on Columbia Pike along with larger bus stops, machines to pay the fare before the bus arrives ("off-vehicle fare collection"), and rebranding the buses as MetroExtra or Metroway.
But even that isn't so simple.
First, WMATA doesn't have any bus storage or maintenance yard in Virginia equipped to handle articulated buses. Arlington will have to find land and build that, just as it would have had to do for a streetcar railyard.
Second, Columbia Pike's pavement isn't strong enough to handle the wear and tear of hundreds of articulated bus trips per day. It wouldn't crumble the first week, but before long Arlington will have to reinforce and repave the street, just like it would have had to do for streetcar tracks.
Finally, a lot of planning work will have to re-done. Just how much is not yet clear. At the very least, contracts and design work that had been progressing will cease, and Arlington will have to prepare new contracts and possibly hire new contractors. At the higher end of the scale, it's possible the entire alternatives analysis process that produced the TSM-2 option will have to start anew, with a different set of constraints.
Whatever the specifics turn out to be, it's definitely not a simple matter of buying some buses and calling it a day. It's going to take years.
That likely won't last for long
The Alternatives Analysis estimated that at current growth rates, ridership will outstrip the capacity for articulated buses before long.
There are three likely scenarios here:
- Columbia Pike will not grow as leaders and residents hope, in which case it will remain depressed relative to the rest of the county and not need more transit ridership. A streetcar might become necessary to jump-start the economy, or voters will keep letting it languish.
- It will grow, demand will increase again, and we'll be back where we started. Maybe the county will again consider a higher-capacity streetcar, just years later and at an even higher cost.
- The AA is totally wrong and everything will be hunky-dory with just articulated buses, as Libby Garvey and others have argued. That's worked with voters, but no transit experts have really said it holds water.
Several readers have said they believe that transit is just not worthwhile without dedicated lanes. Certainly dedicated lanes are better, but elected officials have to make a judgment about what is politically possible and what is not.
Columbia Pike used to be a state road (and still is in Fairfax). The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) turned it over to Arlington, but with the condition that the number of lanes open to cars not drop below four—and it's a four-lane road.
It's theoretically possible that a transit-friendly governor in Virginia could order VDOT to change this condition and let Arlington dedicate lanes on Columbia Pike. Or maybe in another decade or two, VDOT will come to that decision naturally.
The McAuliffe administration stuck its neck out in support of the streetcar. After Arlington hung them out to dry, will they take even more of a risk to take lanes away from cars?
And what evidence do we have that the voting bloc that would fight against losing any car lanes is smaller than the bloc who opposed spending money?
It's about politics now
All of the above is, essentially, the calculus that folks inside Arlington government are or will be working through. What should they plan for now? What contracts are necessary?
But this project didn't lose because of insufficient planning. It lost because of politics.
Arlington has long operated on the "Arlington Way," where civic leaders and other residents discuss issues calmly in advisory committees, the staff formulate recommendations, the board debates them, and ultimately passes things usually with unanimity.
This works pretty well when residents are willing to trust their elected leaders and county officials. But that system is now dead. The faction opposed to the current board members told voters that the consensus on the county board was a sign of the board not listening to people, and eroded popular trust in the county board and staff.
The county board has no committees. There's just one political party. The executive isn't independent. Everything is set up around the idea that everyone acts together. But a faction that now represents 40% of the board isn't interested in doing it that way (unless they are in charge, maybe).
If the board members just ask the transportation department to devise some options, recommend them to the board, and pick the best one, some people will still be unhappy with whatever happens. There will still be opportunities to blame Mary Hynes, Walter Tejada, and Jay Fisette for not doing it the right way, because there's no perfect way that will satisfy every person.
Transit supporters need to start thinking of this as a political fight and not a transit planning fight.
Streetcar opponents: You won. Now, get something done
Libby Garvey, John Vihstadt, and Peter Rousselot have consistently claimed they are for better mobility on Columbia Pike. They just don't want the streetcar. Well, now the streetcar is gone, so there's no apparent division.
Either they were genuine, in which case they can and will work to make transit better, or they were just using it for political advantage. The trick is to now set things up so that voters will be able to see which it is. (Update: Rousselot, at least, has stated his spending priorities and none of them is transit of any kind on Columbia Pike.)
How about putting Garvey and/or Vihstadt in charge of some sort of committee to analyze transportation on Columbia Pike and recommend solutions? And hold a vote putting the county on record that it does want to ask Virginia for a dedicated lane, and send Garvey down to Richmond to push for it. She sure had nearly boundless energy to meet with state officials to criticize the streetcar; how about doing the same for something that would help Arlington County?
If she succeeds, then that's fantastic! We get better transit. I don't think it'll happen, but I'd love to be proven wrong here. I'd love to be able to praise Libby Garvey and John Vihstadt for making things better instead of just breaking things. Then transit supporters can start seeing them as friends and support their re-election.
But if a dedicated lane can't happen, articulated buses turn out to cost almost as much as the streetcar, and they're still too crowded, then voters should blame them, not Fisette, Hynes, and Tejada who tried to do something and got shot down.
If you've walked through Lanier Heights in recent years, it's clear that new construction has changed the neighborhood. Some residents want to change zoning laws to limit that trend, while others welcome it. Both groups faced off at a meeting on Tuesday.
Over the past five years or so, multi-unit condos known as pop-ups have replaced a number of single-family row houses in Lanier Heights. Several more of these projects are already under way, making it clear that pop-ups are the trend in the quiet, residential neighborhood.
Some long-time residents are mad as hell about it, saying pop-ups block sunlight and crowd yard space. They contend that buildings block views, damage historic row houses, and make it hard to find parking on the street. The result, they argue, is that it's much harder for families with children to live in the neighborhood.
Those who support pop-ups say that people's rights to build onto their property, which can increase its value, shouldn't be limited. They also point out that expanding houses or converting them into multiple units increases the city's dwindling housing supply.
A change in Lanier Heights' zoning laws would limit pop-ups
To stop future pop-ups, these residents have proposed a change to Lanier Heights' zoning designation. They want to downzone the neighborhood from R-5-B, which allows property owners to build to the back and the front of their lot and up to 50 feet in height, to R-4, which would limit the number of units in a row house to two as well as put a cap on how much of its lot construction can occupy.
Neighbors Against Downzoning has officially rejected the proposed zoning change, and at Tuesday's meeting residents added a number of additional reasons not to downzone.
Some pointed out the technical failings of R-4, citing ways developers could get around the proposed restriction. An architect in the audience voiced his opposition, saying that the difference between R-5 and R-4 is too minor to warrant changing. "We're fighting over 10 feet," he explained. Many lots in Lanier Heights aren't even eligible for R-5 development, making the debate a moot point for much of the neighborhood.
Others voiced broader opposition to restricting development. "I agree, we have a problem," one resident said. "However, I don't agree that downzoning is the solution. I believe in density, I believe in growth, I believe in diversity, and I think this downzoning will have unintended consequences."
"We're in the middle of a housing crisis in this city, and downzoning will only exacerbate that," another resident said.
He was not the only one to point out that many row homes in Lanier Heights neighborhood are valued at over $1 million, making them financially out of reach for many of the young families residents claim to want. Several younger residents explained that owning a home in Lanier Heights simply would not have been possible were it not for the smaller, more affordable condos available in pop-up buildings.
A solution could come in the form of a new type of zoning
While most residents are interested in protecting Lanier Heights' historic row homes, what became clear at the meeting is that R-4 downzoning is a far-from-perfect solution. ANC 1C commissioners brought up conservation districts and historic preservation designations as other possible solutions, but acknowledged that each has its downsides.
There's rumor that the DC Office of Planning's zoning rewrite will put forth a new zoning designation that would essentially fall between R5 and R4, and that might be an ideal compromise. But given how drawn out the zoning update has been, it's anyone's guess when the new code will go into place.
Neighbors should work to establish common goals
ANC Commissioner Marty Davis suggested a next step that's practical for all parties. "The one thing this neighborhood doesn't have," he said, "is a plan saying 'This is what we like. This is what we want Lanier Heights to be.' Help us make that plan by going to http://www.envisionadamsmorgan.org and expressing your opinion."
Davis encouraged everyone in Adams Morgan to join a community-wide meeting about these and other zoning issues on January 24.
As for downzoning, ANC1C will deliberate and vote on the substance of Lanier Heights' zoning proposals on Wednesday, December 3rd at 7:00 PM at Mary's Center. If you live in the neighborhood and have an opinion on the matter, come to that meeting to share your thoughts with the commission.
Photo by Trevor.Huxham on Flickr.No density: A mixed-use plan to add more density in the Westbard area in Bethesda encountered stiff opposition. One resident balked at the idea of walkability, saying she "likes her car and wants to keep driving it." (BethesdaNow)
Let them ride the bus: The death of the Columbia Pike streetcar highlights a class divide in Arlington, says Bob McCartney. Wealthy residents did not want to pay for a fancy streetcar for poorer residents and would rather they just ride the bus. (Post)
No Reeves swap, no deal?: Without the Reeves swap, Akridge may not sell its Buzzard Point land to DC for the cheaper price in the original deal. That could force DC to use eminent domain, pay much more, and delay the project. (WBJ, City Paper)
What's coming for bikes: DDOT is currently only planning one more cycletrack, a north/south corridor east-west on M Street between 4th and 9th streets NE. But there are some good trail and bridge projects in the works, and the region as a whole is planning 2,000 miles of bike and pedestrian projects. (TheWashCycle, WAMU)
Bazinga! GGW parking nerds: DC plans to test demand-based parking pricing in Penn Quarter, beginning in the summer of 2015. (City Paper) ... The DCist story's first commenter was spying on the GGW HQ when we heard about the announcement.
Arlington seeks more retail: Arlington may expand retail guidelines county-wide, require storefronts that work well at pedestrian speed and scale, allow more food trucks, and other changes to increase retail. (WTOP)
Mobility may not be affordable: The American Dream of economic mobility is thriving in some cities, but these cities tend to have the most expensive housing. There are some exceptions, like Pittsburgh, Minneapolis, and Salt Lake City. (CityLab)
And...: Workers have finished erecting the scaffolding around the Capitol dome, so restoration work can begin. (WAMU) ... Fairfax County has approved the first Tesla dealership in Virginia. (Post) ... DC's latest statehood bill died in a Senate committee, but the bill itself raised awareness about the cause. (WAMU)
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An effort is underway to turn a stretch of land along New York Avenue NE into a biking and walking trail, connecting Ivy City to NoMa and beyond.
The western end of the trail will be at 4th Street NE in what many know as Union Market—the Office of Planning and Douglas Development, one of the district's biggest developers, actually call it by its original name, the Florida Avenue Market. This area used to be the rail yards for the wholesale market, and there's an unused tunnel under New York Avenue that DDOT could repurpose for a trail.
The south side of the tunnel leads to a large plot of city-owned land, which could eventually be a park that the thousands of new residents coming to the neighborhood could enjoy while at the market.
"The New York Avenue Trail has been in our plans for several years," said DDOT bicycle program coordinator Jim Sebastian. "With new activity and community support in the corridor, we can start a more concerted planning effort that will end with better neighborhood connections for walking and bicycling."
DC's 2005 DC Bike Master Plan designated New York Avenue NE as the site of a future off road multi-use trail. A feasibility study, conducted by the Rails to Trails Coalition and commissioned by Douglas, will look at the corridor from Union Market to the Arboretum.
A trail through the area would provide access to new development in Ivy City and help connect several Ward 5 neighborhoods to the NoMa Metro.
"We couldn't be more excited about the potential of linking the Florida Avenue Market all the way to the Arboretum," said Paul Millstein, a vice president and head of construction at Douglas. "We think it's key to the pedestrian-friendliness of the entire sector as this industrial area transitions to a livable community."
The trail will help make it easier to travel to and from Ivy City
Wedged between New York Avenue NE and West Virginia Avenue NE, Ivy City has long been one of DC's poorest neighborhoods. Some have even called it a "dumping ground" for undesirable industrial and parking uses.
But change is underway, as the DC Department of Housing and Community Development is working with several non-profits to build dozens of new houses and Douglas Development is constructing 400 apartments with several hundred thousand square feet of retail in the historic Hecht's warehouse. Douglas also owns other nearby buildings and land.
Trail users will skip the steep New York Avenue bridge and have access to downtown
The tunnel gives the trail a way to avoid the steep New York Avenue bridge over the railroad tracks. In Ivy City, the tunnel connects to a path that descends back to the trail and track level at Fairview Street.
Trail users will be able to connect to downtown and elsewhere through the M Street NE cycletrack, which leads to the Metropolitan Branch Trail and may eventually link with the M Street NW cycletrack across town.
Safety will need to be a priority for the trail to serve its purpose
The nearby Metropolitan Branch Trail has had issues with safety and maintenance, and without many parks or retail locations along the way, the trail from Ivy City to NoMA will run through areas that are even more devoid of activity. Excellent lighting, connections to area businesses and the main road, retail kiosks, and pocket parks, then, will be a must.
MOM's Organic Market just opened its first DC store at 1501 New York Avenue NE. For now, the safest and easiest way to get there is by driving, which is inviting because MOM's sits at the base of a five-story parking garage. But hopefully, sometime in the not-too-distant future, it will also be safe for MOM's patrons and other Ivy City and Ward 5 residents to bike or run there along this new trail.