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Column: Transportation Requires Regional Approach

This is part of a continuing series of columns, coordinated by former council member Lonnie Rich, that includes other past city leaders writing on governance and politics.

Alexandria is not an island. It is a group of communities inside a geographic area in a region in a state in a country. It is necessary to connect these communities from within the city and from without the city. In order to do, this regional cooperation is essential.

Transportation is an issue that cannot be discussed without agreement between neighboring jurisdictions. Alexandria has some systems in place, some that are proposed but still has communities that are not attached. Alexandria has not had high-level regular meetings with counterparts in Arlington County or Fairfax County. These regular meetings would be able set an agenda for a year of cooperation. This type of cooperation is essential in an area which is regional. We must build connections between our communities within and without Alexandria. It seems that we force a person to own a car and then complain about the traffic. If you want to go to George Mason University you need a car. Northern Virginia Community College Alexandria campus has a big parking problem even though it is in a highly populated area. You must drive.

Even though Alexandria has one of the most dense populations in the United States, we still are a city made up of suburban areas approachable only by car — yet surrounded by roads and centers that we want to use to travel, shop, work. But we are unable to reach these areas without driving ourselves, walking long distances, or staying home. If you wish to shop in Alexandria — get groceries at Foxchase, Bradlee, shop at Potomac Yard or Old Town — each destination should not only be designed for access by pedestrians, cars but also by public transportation — either by those who can no longer drive or by families that wish to use their cars less.

I have many friends in Arlington County which touches Alexandria’s borders all along the north. There is almost no way to get to Arlington except by car. One way to travel to Ballston, in the center of Arlington, is to take the 10B Metrobus from Hunting Towers, or from the Braddock Road Metro Station up Mount Vernon Avenue, along Glebe Road into Shirlington, up Walter Reed Drive back to Glebe Road and up to Fairfax Drive. If you take this service at 6 a.m. on a weekday and head north to Ballston you will get there around 7 a.m.

As an alternative you can walk or drive to the King Street or one of the other Metrorail stations in Alexandria. You can then take the blue Metrorail to Roslyn and change to the orange Metrorail to Ballston. You can take a DASH bus to a Metrorail station in Alexandria. But you cannot take a DASH bus to Arlington. Arlington has its own ART bus system. When Arlington finishes its streetcar/light rail system in Crystal City and its streetcar/light rail system along Columbia Pike to Bailey’s Crossroads — the system will stop at the Arlington/Alexandria border. A passenger will have to leave the streetcar and transfer to the Alexandria bus.

Our transportation solutions need a regional approach.