Testimony: Duke Street Transitway (Support)

June 26, 2023

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

My name is Stewart Schwartz and I am the Executive Director of the Coalition for Smarter Growth, a 26-year-old non-profit, and our mission is to advocate 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. We have worked in Alexandria with local residents on important land use, housing, and transportation issues throughout our 26 years.

We strongly support Concept A for center running dedicated bus lanes and Concept Y for safe, separated bicycle and pedestrian facilities, as well as the vision for full-corridor length center running dedicated bus lanes when redevelopment and funding permit.

The city has conducted extensive outreach and engagement including commendable outreach to bus riders and lower income and minority residents who expressed overwhelming support for increased bus frequency, safer biking and walking, better bus stops, signal priority, and dedicated lanes. The technical team has done comprehensive and detailed analysis and the Advisory Group dedicated and thoughtful service, voting 8 to 1 to endorse Concepts A and Y and the long-term vision. The city staff report captures all of the reasons to support the project.

Among the many benefits, this project will:

  • Speed buses and allow for much higher frequency and reliability
  • Double daily bus ridership and move more people through the corridor
  • Make Duke Street much safer for all users
  • Improve conditions for drivers – and ensure better performance of the corridor compared to business as usual
  • Increase access to jobs within 30 minutes for bus riders with particular benefits for lower-income households

For those who argue that it will make congestion worse, that’s not what the study shows. In any case, congestion is always present in a strong economic region like ours and the key is to provide people with alternatives to sitting in congestion. Dedicated bus rapid transit is one such alternative as are safer walking and biking. 

Moreover, CSG has shown that creating a network of walkable, mixed-use, inclusive, transit-oriented communities will reduce vehicle miles traveled and greenhouse gas emissions, and reduce combined housing and transportation costs. The region’s Council of Governments and City of Alexandria and nearby jurisdictions have adopted this vision. CSG works in every local jurisdiction to implement the vision, and this includes supporting improved transit in Fairfax and Prince George’s counties in order to shift their commuters to rail and bus rather than driving through Alexandria.

It is critical that we not delay the Duke Street project and implementation of COG’s sustainable regional vision, because we have a housing/transportation affordability crisis right now, and just seven years to slash our greenhouse gas emissions – if we are to have any hope of stemming worldwide temperature increases. 

The Duke Street Transitway is a critical, sustainable link within the city and for our region. We urge you to vote unanimously to advance the project.