Category: Virginia

Joint Comments from Fairfax Healthy Communities Network on the Community-wide Energy & Climate Action Plan (CECAP)

Dear Chairman McKay & and Members of the Board of Supervisors, 

We, the representatives of the undersigned organizations, as part of the Fairfax Healthy Communities Network, are excited to support the Community-wide Energy and Climate Action Plan (CECAP). As Virginia’s most populous jurisdiction, Fairfax County can stand out as a leader in the region and have an outsized impact on the race to reduce carbon emissions.

Our network partners envision a Fairfax County where people can live, work, and play in connected communities that are healthy, sustainable and inclusive. In fact, there may be no policy endeavor that better embodies our joint work than a climate plan that addresses all aspects of providing clean air, clean energy, reducing reliance on dirty fossil fuels for transportation, and ensuring natural green space for all county residents. This is a large part of our vision for a healthy community.  

The newly-released Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) sixth Assessment Report on the science of climate change provides a dire picture of accelerated impacts.  Warming of the planet is happening at an alarming rate, far faster than predicted. 

The report predicts that warming of greater than 1.5 C (2.7F) will cause more extreme weather events such as fires, droughts and flooding. These events are already happening. Hurricane Ida, the Caldor Fire, the extreme heat in the Pacific Northwest and even our local intense pattern of rain are all very real “canaries in the coal mine” for all policy makers.  

Today, we do not feel the most severe and dangerous impacts here in Fairfax County. However, the current fires and storms serve as the newest wakeup call – we have the opportunity to try to get ahead of the most severe local impacts. Fairfax County is a significant contributor to the emissions problem in the metro area and shares the responsibility to solve it. Only by large and rapid cuts in emissions can these dire impacts be addressed.  There is no time to waste, and every jurisdiction has to play a role.

Core to this plan are twelve strategies that outline areas of focus. Each is important, but some will have greater mitigation impacts, such as energy efficiency in buildings and changes in transportation, particularly vehicular impacts. Others come with multiple benefits, such as preserving and expanding our natural resources throughout various land use processes to both sequester carbon and provide additional climate resiliency. Given the complexity of climate change and the world’s evolving response, we cannot rely on residents and businesses to voluntarily change behaviors or know which climate-friendly steps are most beneficial to prioritize, so we count on innovative and ambitious government policies and actions to influence change.  

Reaching the goals in CECAP will only be possible if the County moves from ideation to the implementation phase at full speed. An implementation plan must be crafted and put in place with the urgency that is needed. As with all County programs, it is critical that each facet of this program comply with the One Fairfax policy by asking who benefits, who is harmed by any actions, and how we prevent harm.

As advocates representing environmental, smart growth, transportation, affordable housing, and social justice, organizations, we urge the Board of Supervisors to: 

  1. Develop an aggressive timeline for the CECAP Implementation Plan
  2. Hire a team of climate experts to guide and support staff in implementing the plan
  3. Fund programs and provide incentives in FY 2023 to begin immediately mitigating carbon emissions

We are counting on the Board to offer its considerable leadership to this formidable task. If it is to be successful, it will also require dedicated, creative, and visionary staff to permeate throughout the government and into the private sector. Success is the only option.  

Thank you for taking this important next step in the climate fight.

Sincerely,

Audubon Naturalist Society, Renee Grebe, Northern Virginia Conservation Advocate
Coalition for Smarter Growth, Sonya Breehey, Northern Virginia Advocacy Manager
Friends of Holmes Run, Whitney Redding, Primary Conservator

Northern Virginia Affordable Housing Alliance, Michelle Krocker, Executive Director

Sierra Club, Great Falls Group, Ann Bennett, Energy, Climate and Land Use
South County Task Force, Mary Paden, Chair

Virginia League of Conservation Voters, Bridget McGregor, Senior Northern Virginia Organizer

Washington Area Bicyclist Association, Stephanie Piperno, Trails Coalition Manager

Take Action: Tell City Council you support transit, walking, and biking

City Council is set to vote on Alexandria’s updated mobility plan following a public hearing on Oct. 16. This plan is critical for more sustainable and equitable transportation in Alexandria — focusing on increasing walking, biking, and transit options, while making our streets safer for all users and modes. Let’s make sure it’s approved! If you haven’t yet, tell the City Council that you support the updated mobility plan.

Send an Email Today

In addition to sending an email, you are encouraged to speak at the upcoming public hearing in support of the plan’s goals for mobility in the city. 

City Council Public Hearing – Oct. 16 at 9:30am – Sign Up to Speak

The Alexandria Mobility Plan (AMP) is the result of a community-driven planning process that identified key priorities and recommendations to improve reliability, safety, and travel options in the city. The AMP strives to:

  • Give all Alexandrians convenient options in how they travel
  • Make transit easy to use and more reliable 
  • Continue towards Vision Zero designing safer streets and reducing speeding
  • Complete missing pedestrian and bicycle connections
  • Utilize technology to improve safety and efficient use of the street network
  • Proactively and equitably manage curb space for different needs (dining, bikeshare, loading/pick-up, parking, etc.)

The updated mobility plan will set a course for Alexandria to continue moving towards a more equitable, sustainable, and livable city. You can review the final draft of the AMP and learn more at the project website here

CSG comments in support of the Alexandria Mobility Plan

October 15, 2021

Alexandria City Council
301 King Street, Room 2300
Alexandria, VA 22314

RE: Comments in support of the Alexandria Mobility Plan

Dear Mayor Wilson and Members of City Council:

Please accept these comments on behalf of the Coalition for Smarter Growth (CSG) in support of the draft Alexandria Mobility Plan (AMP) with a few recommendations. CSG is the leading organization in the DC region advocating for walkable, bikeable, inclusive, and transit-oriented communities as the most sustainable and equitable way for the Washington, DC region to grow and provide opportunities for all.

The overall draft AMP is very good and builds on and expands Alexandria’s existing transportation policies, setting a course for the city to continue moving towards a more equitable, sustainable, and livable city.

I appreciate the updated plans focus on peoples’ mobility to truly give everyone who lives, works, and visits Alexandria convenient options in how to travel. To realize this improved mobility and accessibility, the plan appropriately calls for continued work towards Vision Zero designing safer streets, reducing speeding, and completing missing pedestrian and bicycle connections; making transit easier to use and more reliable; utilizing technology to improve safe and efficient use of the street network; and proactively and equitably managing use of curb space for different needs, such as dining, bikeshare, loading/pick-up, parking, etc.

While the AMP touches on the notion of reducing vehicle miles traveled (VMT), it should establish a specific target for per capita VMT reduction and call for specific actions to attain it. The targets should be based on the findings of the MWCOG’s Transportation Planning Board’s Climate Change Mitigation Study, which Alexandria’s Energy and Climate Change Action Plan should similarly support.

To help reduce VMT and expand transportation choices, I recommend that the AMP explicitly call for moving away from using a level of service modeling that focuses only on vehicle delay and identify better methodology that assesses level service for people walking, biking, and using transit too.

Ultimately the AMP goals will help improve safety and connectivity for people walking, biking, and using transit making it better for those already reliant on those modes but also making these sustainable transportation options a more convenient choice for others. This would serve to shift more people from single occupancy driving helping to alleviate congestion and still accommodating those that need to drive. Overall this plan would have a positive impact on climate and environmental impacts as well as mobility.

Thank you for your time and consideration of my feedback.

Sonya Breehey
Northern Virginia Advocacy Manager

ACTION ALERT: This coffin is a dramatic illustration of what’s at stake

ACTION ALERT: This coffin is a dramatic illustration of what’s at stake

Image: Sonya Breehey

Last week I joined the Gum Springs community demanding a safer Richmond Highway. The coffin included in the protest is dramatic, but captures just how dangerous our roads are. Fairfax County continues to experience high rates of pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities and serious injuries with 10 people killed already this year.

The Washington Post story captures the energy of local community members led by Queenie Cox and the New Gum Springs Civic Association fighting for safer streets. This community is showing that together we can make a difference.

Creating safe and connected ways to walk and bike in Fairfax County will take a strong vision and solid plan to overcome the disconnected and dangerous conditions we face today. That’s why the ActiveFairfax Transportation Plan is so important. Let’s make sure Fairfax County knows there is strong support for making active transportation a safe and viable option to get around our communities.  

Email Fairfax County Today

The County is currently seeking public input on the plan’s draft vision, goals, and objectives before it goes to the Board of Supervisors for approval. This is the first part of the ActiveFairfax Transportation Plan being developed that will be a road map for a safe and convenient network of sidewalks, bikeways, and trails in the county. 

There is a virtual public meeting tonight, Sept. 15, at 6:30 pm where you can learn more about the plan and ask questions directly to staff. Check out the Active Fairfax Transportation Plan website for information on the plan and how to join one of the meeting. Public comments will be accepted through September 19. 

We need safer streets and better walking and biking now. Remember to ask the county to move quickly from vision and goals to actually funding needed safety improvements!

Action Alert: here’s your chance to tell elected officials how you travel & what to build

The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) wants to hear from you as they update their long range transportation plan, TransAction. Take a short survey to let them know about your travel modes and preferences.

Take the survey!

The survey also includes two important questions about the transportation future we want. For Northern Virginia – and for our children and grandchildren – we need one that is more sustainable, healthier, safer, and where we cut the emissions that are fueling climate change. 

NVTA is a regional funding agency for transportation projects. Unfortunately, their long wishlist of road expansion projects included in past TransAction plans won’t get us to our urgent climate targets – even with the important transition to electric vehicles. Northern Virginia needs more walkable, bikeable, and transit-accessible communities – and the transportation projects that support this vision.

Thus far, NVTA has not seriously considered the option of improving our transportation network and access to jobs by bringing jobs, housing, and services closer together in walkable communities. So, when they ask about “reducing congestion” or “improving access to jobs”, the agency is generally viewing this through the lens of making traffic faster through more road widening. The science shows widened roads attract more driving and fill up in as little as five years.

Parting thoughts

This time the TransAction plan has to be different, especially if we are going to slash the greenhouse gas emissions from transportation that are contributing to climate change. Studies at the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments have repeatedly shown that the best performing approach to transportation is a network of walkable, transit-oriented communities. 

Stay tuned as we campaign for a better TransAction plan.

CSG/Sierra Club re: Northern Virginia Transportation Authority 6-year plan update

CSG/Sierra Club re: Northern Virginia Transportation Authority 6-year plan update

September 9, 2021
Fairfax County Board of Supervisors
CONVEYED VIA EMAIL

Dear Members of the Board of Supervisors:

The Sierra Club Great Falls Group and Coalition for Smarter Growth are submitting these comments concerning Fairfax County’s candidate projects for the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority 6-year plan update. We appreciate Fairfax County’s increasing focus on concentrating new development in walkable, bike-able communities near transit. For these smart growth plans to succeed, the County must prioritize transit, pedestrian and bicycle improvements in its applications for transportation funds.

In Fairfax’s current 6-year Transportation Priorities Plan, more than 59% of the anticipated available funds ($1.8 billion) are for road widenings, interchanges, extensions and spot improvements. Only 27.6% ($837.2 million) is programmed for transit capital and operations, and 7.2% ($219.5 million) for bicycle and pedestrian improvements. (Source: Transportation Status Report, Feb. 2021, p. 13) Most of the bicycle and pedestrian improvements are being funded by local sources such as the Commercial and Industrial Tax and a transportation bond. While the county may be able to design and implement individual projects more quickly through using local funding sources, local funds alone are not enough to shift the county toward a cleaner and healthier transportation future within the next 10 years. Fairfax County has a long list of missing pedestrian and bike connections and should seek to fill these gaps in our active transportation network through all available funding sources.

The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority allocates $200 million a year in regional transportation funds, as well as more than $80 million in 30% local-share funds. Fairfax County was awarded more than $700 million in NVTA regional funds for the 2018-23 six-year plan and 2020-25 update, in addition to receiving more than $30 million annually in local-share funds. However, most of Fairfax County’s NVTA projects have been narrowly focused on expanding road capacity for private vehicles. Among Fairfax County’s eight submissions for the NVTA
2020-25 update, for example, seven were road projects, with only one transit project (Route 1 Bus Rapid Transit).

Fairfax County has many bicycle, pedestrian and transit projects that are in the current NVTA Transaction Plan, that need additional funding, and that could be implemented by the 2027 “out” year for the Six-Year Plan update. Moreover, each of these is a regional transportation solution, including Metrorail station access improvements. Fairfax County should make a priority of completing the plans and seeking construction funding to complete these projects within the next six years. These projects include:

  • Herndon Metrorail Station Area access improvements: The Herndon Metrorail Station Access Management Study has identified numerous infrastructure improvements so that people can more easily walk, bicycle, and roll to the future Herndon Metrorail station. These include a pedestrian bridge over the Dulles Toll Road to Monroe Street; trail improvements and new trail links; and design improvements to make Herndon Parkway more pedestrian- and bike-friendly. These improvements should be funded and implemented as soon as possible to maximize the benefits of Metro and transit-oriented development.
  • High-capacity transit on Annandale and Gallows Road from Annandale to Tysons: Compact, walkable, mixed-use development is emerging all along Gallows Road, especially at INOVA, Mosaic, Dunn Loring and Tysons. The county should accelerate plans to improve transit through priority bus lanes, improved bus stations and other enhancements that will make this area even more walkable and reduce congestion and pollution.
  • Route 7 enhanced bus service from Baileys Crossroads to Tysons: Route 7 is the second-busiest bus corridor in northern Virginia. While the overall Route 7 Bus Rapid Transit project from Alexandria to Tysons is still being developed, the county should take steps now to better connect residents in Baileys Crossroads, Seven Corners and other areas to Tysons and other commercial centers in the corridor through enhanced bus service. Bus enhancements could include signal priority and enclosed stations with real-time schedule information, and ultimately transition to full Bus Rapid Transit on dedicated lanes with pre-boarding fare collection.
  • Fairfax County express bus service, Herndon Metrorail station to Fort Belvoir: Fairfax County has developed plans for improving transportation on Fairfax County Parkway. These include bus service improvements such as queue jumps and the planned Route 496 bus from Herndon to Franconia Springfield. Fairfax County should expedite key transit improvements and seek regional funding to implement them in the near term. At the same time, any new travel lanes on the Fairfax County Parkway should be dedicated bus and HOV3 lanes.
  • South County feeder bus service: Improve service levels on bus routes serving Richmond Highway, Kingstowne, and Springfield.

Thank you for considering our comments.

Sincerely yours,
Susan Bonney, Chair Stewart Schwartz, Executive Director
Sierra Club Great Falls Group Coalition for Smarter Growth

Cc: Tom Biesiadny

CSG comments on Plan Langston (Lee) Highway study

Dear Ms. Alfonso-Ahmed,

The Coalition for Smarter Growth appreciates the opportunity to provide comments on the Land Use Scenario Analysis (LUSA) shared with the community over the spring as part of the Plan Lee Highway visioning process. 

CSG advocates for walkable, bikeable, inclusive, and transit-oriented communities as the most sustainable and equitable way for the Washington, DC region to grow and provide opportunities for all. The Lee Highway (future Langston Boulevard) corridor provides a great opportunity to plan for a future that accommodates new growth and development in a way that is inclusive, sustainable, and meets the community’s current and future transportation, housing, and livability needs. 

CSG offers the following comments on the LUSA:

  • The additional heights and greater potential for consolidation as part of the LUSA’s Scenario B will help facilitate more affordable multifamily housing in the corridor and help to produce more housing overall. 
  • Providing bonus heights to reach the maximum heights shown in Scenario B could be achieved in exchange for committed affordable units within those buildings. Similar zoning incentives are utilized elsewhere in the County. The Columbia Pike Neighborhoods Form Based Code allows for a bonus of either two or six stories for provision of affordable housing, and other RA zoning districts within the County are allowed up to 60 feet of additional height for projects with 100% committed affordable units. 
  • The edges of the commercial areas along the corridor are ideal places for Missing Middle Housing as a transition to the lower-density residential areas. As presented in the LUSA, however, it is unclear how the County plans to regulate development within the “two-family to low-scale multifamily residential” and areas of up to 4 stories in height. This lack of clarity has caused concern among some neighborhood residents. Since the Missing Middle Study is expected to include an analysis of this type of housing, it would be helpful for the county to conduct additional community outreach and discussions regarding the specifics of these transition areas once that study is further along. 

To assuage concerns, the Preliminary Concept Plan should make clear that transition zones will be established to step down heights to nearby neighborhoods and include goals that these transition zones are expected to achieve and the potential forms that the development could take. It should further make clear that any action to move toward a possible redevelopment in these areas would be voluntary and that no forced acquisition or eminent domain will be a part of that process.

  • The East Falls Church (EFC) area plan should be updated with the higher allowable heights and transition zones consistent with the rest of the corridor. The current EFC area plan does not allow for an adequate amount of development for a key Metro station that will also serve the future Route 7 Bus Rapid Transit. These updates should include not only the direct Metro station area but also the surrounding commercial and residential blocks to create a walkable, transit-oriented neighborhood befitting a major metro station area. 
  • The Cherrydale plan should also be updated to be consistent with the allowable heights and transition zones in the rest of the corridor. This means that additional height beyond what is in the original Cherrydale plan should be proposed.

Thank you for your consideration of our comments. We appreciate the opportunity to help develop a plan that helps guide the new Langston Boulevard corridor into a vibrant, inclusive, and transit-oriented corridor.

Thank you,
Sonya Breehey  

Take Action: Speak up for Better Transit along Duke Street

You have until this Saturday to provide input! The City of Alexandria wants to hear from you as they develop a plan to improve transit along Duke Street. The Duke Street in Motion project is intended to improve mobility options from Landmark Mall to the King Street Metro, including plans for bus rapid transit (BRT). Take the survey to tell the City how you travel along Duke Street and share your ideas on how to improve transit in the corridor. 

Take the Survey

Your feedback will be used to develop the plan’s vision and goals for transit, street design, and safety improvements. While transit improvements are the primary focus, the study is considering all modes of travel. It’s important to note that related issues like the Telegraph interchange will be addressed in other city studies with the information helping to inform the Duke Street study. 

The Duke Street BRT is one of three BRT routes envisioned for the city, including the Metroway on Route 1 and the West End Transitway. BRT provides much better frequency and reliability, and reduced travel times, making it a more attractive and easier way to travel. Alexandria certainly can’t handle more cars and all the parking it requires. By providing more sustainable transportation options like better transit, biking, and walking, we will reduce driving and congestion, and help fight climate change.

You can learn more about the project on the Duke Street in Motion website. There you can find links to the recent public meeting recording and presentation, as well as the survey. The survey closes this Saturday, July 31st.