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Votes

Getting There

Citizens wanted to be able to talk more, listen less.

Citizens assembled in the cafeteria of George Washington Middle School on Mount Vernon Avenue last Thursday night were told "we want input from all of you," and "we want input on how we might implement this," and "we don't want you to be the missing link."

That being said, representatives of Alexandria's departments of Transportation and Environmental Services as well as Planning and Zoning used up much of a 90-minute community workshop dealing with the Crystal City/Potomac Yard Transit Corridor rehashing plans and details that originally surfaced nearly 18 months ago. In the end there was little dialogue.

J. Lawrence Robinson, chair of the Ad Hoc Transportation Task Force, under whose aegis the meeting was being held, kicked off the public session. "One of things we all agree on, on the task force, is that transit is a major concern for the City. We want input from all of you so we can come up with specifics for the Potomac Yard transit proposal."

Whatever plans are ultimately proposed it would "go back to the Planning Commission," according to Robinson who also serves on that body. "We look forward to you (the citizenry) playing a major role," he said.

That premise was buttressed by Thomas Culpepper, deputy director of transportation for the Transportation and Environmental Services, who told the approximately 35 citizens in attendance, "We want input on how we might implement this corridor for the City of Alexandria. We are trying to market a service."

Spelling out the reasons for the workshop, Richard Baier, director of T&ES, said, "Our goal is to develop a transit system that will serve Potomac Yard and Crystal City. Bus Rapid Transit is the preferred alternative. I don't think we are going to see funding for Metro in the near future."

The primary goal of the task force is to arrive at the best possible solution to link Crystal City with Potomac Yard and with the Braddock Road Metro Station, according to Culpepper. "This would be our transit corridor," he said.

IN ORDER TO accomplish this, two basic concepts are being explored: the first, to create a transit corridor through Potomac Yard utilizing the new Main Street; and the second, to utilize Route 1 as the primary transit corridor.

Since 1999 there have been three development studies dealing with a Crystal City/Potomac Yard Transit Corridor. They were released in October 1999, March 2003, and December 2005. In each case there have been opportunities for citizen input and involvement.

The Route 1 corridor location is considered prime because of forecast increased ridership. According to the workshop presentation, ridership more than doubles on the Route 1 example when compared to the Main Street corridor.

In each case the following factors were taken into consideration, according to the presentation:

* Market area for transit services (potential ridership)

* Access to transit services

* Compatibility with adjacent land use

* Compatibility with street function

* Impacts on other modes of travel, especially pedestrian and bicycle

* Impacts on visual environment and landscaping

* Adaptability to multiple transit systems, such as bus rapid transit to light rail

* Implementation barriers

* Efficiency of transit operation.

All of these elements have been subjected to a variety of design factors for both the Route 1 corridor and within Potomac Yard. There has also been comparison with other transit systems throughout the nation, how they are designed, how they draw ridership, how they compliment their surrounding environment, and a host of other considerations.

Thursday's workshop was another stop along the path to finding the most appropriate, cost effective and efficient solution to the problem of serving one of the city's largest residential developments in the years ahead. However, the primary question remains, are these community workshops accomplishing their goal of gaining real and meaningful "input"?

At the beginning of the meeting, Baier expressed disappointment that there were so few in attendance.