Thursday, July 16, 2009

Comments due July 17 on Tysons Plan text

Comments on the draft "Straw Man" of Comprehensive Plan text for Tysons (PDF document) are due tomorrow, Friday, July 17. We submitted the following comments on the Transportation section of the Plan text:
DRAFT "Straw Man" Plan Text
Comments by Bruce Wright
July 16, 2009

1) P. 45, Local Bus Service - One of the major criticisms of the draft strawman is the lack of detail regarding transit solutions for overcoming future congestion. While there is an extensive bus network currently serving Tysons, it is not seen as a viable option for many people, I sense in large part because it does not use a dedicated roadway. Bus/bike lanes on Routes 7 and 123 could greatly improve travel times for buses. I anxiously await the "detailed bus service plan for Tysons".

2) P. 46, The plan text states: 'THE STREET NETWORK, Overview, The following principles are adopted from the document "Context Sensitive Solutions in Designing Major Urban Thoroughfares for Walkable Communities," published by ITE in 2008. They describe an approach to the planning and design of urban street networks:

The text that follows has no mention of bicycling, and yet the quoted document contains several references to the need for bike facilities. In fact, the first two principles for CSS in Urban Walkable Communities are:

a. Urban circulation networks should accommodate pedestrians, bicycles, transit, freight and motor vehicles, with the allocation of right-of-way on individual streets determined through the CSS process.
b. The larger network, including key thoroughfares, should provide safe, continuous and well designed multimodal facilities that capitalize on development patterns and densities that make walking, transit and bicycle travel efficient and enjoyable.

The fourth bullet in the text on p. 46 should read: "Street networks should provide a high level of connectivity so that drivers, pedestrians[, bicyclists,] and transit users can choose the most direct routes and access urban properties."

3) Starting on p. 50, Bike lanes are indicated on the Avenue and Main Street sections. These closely match what was included in the Tysons Bicycle Transportation Plan presented to the Planning Commission on February 19, 2009. However, the Boulevard sections (Routes 7 & 123 and International Dr/Gallows Rd) do not contain bike lanes. The text does state: "5 foot on-road dedicated bike lane per direction, where applicable." The Boulevard sections, especially International and Gallows, should have some kind of dedicated bike facility. I suggest striking "where applicable". The boulevards are the major commercial streets and bicyclists will want to access destinations along these streets, including the Metro stations. The text notes that people will be able to walk and bike along Routes 7 & 123 (p. 10, Achieving the Vison) and yet there is no provision for them to bike. My greatest disappointment as a task force member is the lack of a creative solution for Routes 7 and 123 that would create truly walkable and bikeable boulevards.

4) P. 58, Pedestrian and Bicycle Network - As noted above, a Tysons Bicycle Transportation Plan was presented to the Planning Commission on February 19, 2009. This plan should be refined by a transportation consultant and adopted as part of the Comprehensive Plan. The plan includes a network of bicycle routes that closely aligns with the proposed grid of streets and street types. Also included are examples of end-of-trip facilities (bike parking, changing facilities, showers), and proposals for a bike station and bike sharing within Tysons. Detailed end-of-trip facility requirements should be included in the Plan text, based on those used by Arlington County. The Arlington standards may not be applicable to other parts of the county but they do apply in Tysons.

Bicycle connections to surrounding neighborhoods are needed and should be identified now for those areas within a 3 mile radius from the Tysons Center 123 station. A three mile bike trip takes approximately 20 minutes. That travel time is be comparable to SOV and transit travel for trips with in 3 miles. Consideration of this mode should be included in transportation models of short trips into Tysons.

5) P. 59, Parking - It is disappointing that specific parking guidelines were not included in the strawman. As stated in the report, "Fairfax County's TDM Study, when completed, will suggest specific parking rates for TOD areas such as Tysons. These rates can be used for updating Tysons parking requirements in the Zoning Ordinance." It is difficult to review this section without any detail.

6) P. 60, TDM - This section is very weak. After all the work done by the transportation subcommittee on TDM measures, it's unfortunate that almost none of it is in the document. According to the staff note: "Targets for TDM programs need to be added based on the results of the transportation study." However, some basic TDM measures should be identified now, with specific goals based on the results of the transportation study. There is no mention of biking or walking in the measures listed at the top of p. 60. They should be added as examples. Examples could read: "Provide incentives for employees who commute by bike." and "Provide facilities for employees who bike and walk such as changing rooms and showers." or "Promote bike to work day events." Or "Provide one bike sharing station with 20 bicycles for use with the larger bike station network." Later in the document there is mention of TDM mode splits, but if non-motorized modes are not part of TDM, then they aren't part of TDM mode splits.

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