To the Editor:
The City of Alexandria needs to solve the current tour bus crisis. Since the city's waterfront plan is being implemented, now is a good time to fix the traffic problem in the Old and Historic District, part of which means getting the tour buses off our old and narrow streets.
Tour Bus work groups appointed by the city have not dealt with the physical constraints regarding tour bus operations in Old Town. These humongous 45-60 foot buses have great difficulty in safely traveling the streets, especially on the narrow streets in the Old and Historic District. Since the buses cannot efficiently turn corners, they impede traffic, especially if cars are parked near the intersections. However, if the corner parking spaces are removed, this will contribute to the overall shortage of residential parking spaces.
In addition, Old Town contains a large number of 18th and 19th century residences, and the sheer weight, density and excessive speed of these vehicles causes vibrations that also have an adverse effect on these historic structures. The buses also cause damage to the sidewalks, and on occasion, they even graze some of the residents’ parked cars.
It is also obvious that the tour bus drivers are not informed about the current set of regulations before they come into Alexandria. They park in unauthorized places, block traffic, idle for very long period of times (adding to the already high levels of pollution in Alexandria), and sometimes display an arrogant attitude when confronted after breaking the law.
To solve these issues, Old Town residents have suggested that tour buses park in a designated location (e.g., Masonic Temple, Eisenhower Avenue), and passengers could be shuttled to the Old and Historic District, which is what the cities of New Orleans, Charleston and Savannah have done. This plan would be a responsible solution to the need to direct and control the tour buses coming into Old Town every day without impacting the businesses in Old Town, which are a great part of the city’s economic engine.
However, over the years, the city has maintained that changes to rerouting and parking tour buses cannot be accomplished without getting approval of the Virginia General Assembly in Richmond, which is not true. Sections 2.04 (d) and 204(t) of the Alexandria City Charter authorizes the city to control these contract carriers. It is obvious that city staff needs to become better acquainted with its own charter, after which point we can move forward to solve the tour bus problem in a responsible manner.
Townsend A. “Van” Van Fleet