To the Editor:
Isn’t it about time that our great city solve its current tour bus crisis by banning tour buses on our old and narrow streets in the Old and Historic District?
These humongous 45-60 foot buses have great difficulty in safely and efficiently turning corners especially if cars are parked near the intersections. However, the last thing we want to do is to remove corner parking spaces thereby contributing 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. On many of our narrow streets, Lee Street being a perfect example, there is just no way a citizen’s car can traverse safely with a tour bus staring them in the face.
It is also obvious that the tour bus drivers are not being informed concerning the current set of regulations before they come into Alexandria. They continue to 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.
In order to solve these pressing issues, Old Town residents have on a number of occasions suggested that tour buses park in a designated location (e.g., Masonic Temple, Eisenhower Avenue), and passengers could be shuttled into 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 indeed a great part of the city’s economic engine.
Recently the city established a new Motorcoach Task Force which to date has met three times. There are currently five approved loading and unloading locations within the Old and Historic District. These are (1) the Unit Block of King Street, (2) Market Square, (3) in front of Gadsby’s Tavern, (4) Washington Street in front of Christ Church and (5) in front of the Lyceum. The Task Force has also considered establishing six additional loading/unloading locations: (1) behind City Hall on Cameron Street, (2-3) on both sides of the 100 block of North Royal, (4) the 100 block of South Union (adjacent to the American Medical Group Building) and (5-6) the 100 and 200 blocks of North Union (across the street from the Torpedo Factory Condominiums and Cameron Mews). However, at its last meeting the Task Force brought out the fact that many of the newly recommended locations were terrible from a traffic and safety standpoint especially those locations on North and South Union streets. They did however generate an additional site on the east side of the Strand along Waterfront Park which will clearly be a traffic impediment.
Despite the fact that this new Task Force appears to understand most of the shortcomings in having motorcoaches navigate our historic streets, they should be putting their emphasis on developing a plan similar to what has been accomplished in other historic districts. This would be the best solution this Task Force can do for our citizens and merchants who travel our streets most of which were designed some two hundred plus years ago.
Townsend A. “Van” Van Fleet