Dedicated Transit Lanes -- Help Or Hindrance?

Dedicated Transit Lanes -- Help Or Hindrance?

Task force meets to plan where to put such lanes to gain the greatest benefit.

There are basically four ways to deal with "daily peak-hour disparity" or in more common language -- grid lock. None of them is by exercising road rage.

The other four were the topic of discussion at the first of several community meetings to be held by the Transportation Policy and Program Task Force. Addressing an audience of approximately 50 interested citizens assembled in the community room of the William Ramsey Center last Thursday, the Task Force laid out its plans for addressing Alexandria growing traffic grid lock.

"One of the things we quickly discovered is that congestion is going to happen and it is going to get worse," said Task Force member Poul Hertel.

"What can we do about it?" he asked rhetorically. "There are four possibilities," he told the group. Expand the capacity of the roads

Ration road space by charging drivers a users fee Expand the capacity of public transit Let people sit in traffic.

The latter suggestion is similar to the theory of water flow, according to Hertel. "Once congestion sets in people will find other routes," he said.

"The ultimate solution we (the Task Force) arrived at was to establish designated transit lanes on the major thoroughfares that carry the primary volume of traffic. This means setting aside lanes for mass transit. However, this is just the first stage," Hertel said.

He was followed by Task Force member George Foote who reviewed the specifics of how and why the Task Force came to their conclusion for dedicated transit lanes. He noted that there were two primary sources of traffic with which to deal -- intra city and through traffic.

"We are driving on roads and streets designed by General Braddock and George Washington. No matter what we do we're not going to get rid of traffic congestion in the city," Foote said.

Therefore, it is imperative to get people to use mass transit, according to the Task Force. But, transportation planners face a series of problems in accomplishing that goal, according to the Task Force. One of those is having the proper shelters for mass transit users and providing more accurate up-to-date information on transit arrival times.

One of the concepts to get more people to use transit is to develop smart stations. But, this is a concept that is going to take 10 to 20 years to develop," said Task Force member Lois Walker.

"The object is to have these stations be multi-functional to meet rider needs," said Lawrence Robinson, Task Force chair.

As stated in a paper prepared by Hertel, the primary goal of the Task Force is to, "Ensure that people can travel within the City of Alexandria by providing a mass transit system that combines different modes on travel into a seamless, comprehensive and coordinated effort."

Hertel noted, "As congestion increases mass transit will become more desirable if it provides a time saving. In order to ensure such possibilities, the City needs to take steps to make sure the mass transit system is quicker than the alternative modes that will be available."

In the final analysis the Task Force has come to the conclusion that only dedicated transit lanes in various quadrants of the City will alleviate the congestion problem that presently exists and what will grow in the future. In order to accomplish this there is an elongated "Project Development Process."

"We are only at the very beginning of this process. But, it is underway," said Thomas Culpepper, deputy director, Transportation and Environmental Services Department. Other community input sessions are planned for the future.

There were a variety of questions from the audience as to which streets would benefit from dedicated transit lanes, would there be a viable connection with Fairfax County's efforts, what would be the impact on normal vehicle traffic flow, and how could shuttle buses be integrated into the system to service specific neighborhoods. All these elements and others will be part of future planning and study efforts, according to the Task Force.