I can’t ever say it enough. Thank you!
You are the reason why the Coalition for Smarter Growth can fight for better transportation, less sprawl, more walkable neighborhoods, and convenient housing that everyone can afford.
Without you, we simply couldn’t make such progress! Your donation – together with support from hundreds of others like you from across the region – now makes up almost 30 percent of our budget.
Highlights for the first three months of 2016 include:
- Dedicated bus lanes on DC’s 16th Street NW
- Minimizing widening on I-66 in favor of more transit
- Progress for bus rapid transit (BRT) and improved bus service in Montgomery
- A win for more affordable housing in Alexandria.
Thank you again for your support!
16th St bus lanes: Next stop, implementation
For several years, we’ve kept up pressure for bus lanes on DC’s 16th St NW — one of the three busiest bus corridors in the region. Now, our community education, advocacy, and persistence have paid off. In January, DC officials settled on a plan to make dedicated rush hour bus lanes a reality on 16th Street NW. Even better, the lanes — which will extend from Arkansas Avenue to H Street downtown –will phase in off-board fare collection and transit signal priority. What does it all mean? People who ride the bus, who make up half of all commuters on the route, will see significant service improvements. Car drivers will likely see smoother travel conditions as well.
What’s next? The District has committed to a three-phase implementation plan starting with engineering. We’ll keep a close eye on things and let you know when to speak up to make sure they get the details right. Want to learn more? Go to our 16th St bus lane hub.
Whack-a-mole: Victory against the Outer Beltway
Big news here! In March, the Prince William County Board of Supervisors voted to remove the Bi-County Parkway, a part of the Outer Beltway, from the county’s comprehensive plan! For most of our 19-year history, we’ve been fighting against plans for this unneeded and sprawl-inducing highway. We’ve contested traffic forecasts for the highway, offered alternatives that better address the need for east-west connections, highlighted the economic benefits of protecting Manassas Battlefield, and teamed with local advocates to rally residents to speak out. This is huge victory and we particularly thank the local donors and advocates who’ve made it possible!
What’s next? Of course, the fight isn’t over. The state transportation board could still try to override local preference, so we’ll stay vigilant in the coming months. Look for more updates later this year.
Metro: A new regional conversation
Earlier this month, Metro’s new General Manager shut down the system for a full day to address safety concerns. We think this unprecedented move demonstrated that we may finally have the bold leadership WMATA needs.
We’re interviewing experts who understand Metro’s challenges. What are the funding and operational changes we should campaign for? We’ve also crowdsourced hundreds of ideas from supporters like you, brainstorming the changes to help Metro win back rider trust.
What’s next? Not a week goes by that we’re not involved in pushing positive change for Metro. This week, we’re one of 100 regional leaders at the Metro summit, and we’ve got a lot more on tap as the year unfolds: workgroups with regional leaders; more conversations on funding, governance, and communication; public forums and campaigns.
BRT and better buses from the Montgomery County Council
Right now, the Montgomery County Council is setting their 2017 budget priorities — and we’re making sure better transit is at the top of their transportation list. We’ve rallied hundreds of Montgomery supporters to speak up for better bus service, whether that’s signing our bus service petition, writing to their Council members, or testifying in person with us at budget hearings.
So far, it’s working. After initially stepping back from funding major bus service improvements, the Montgomery County Executive has now added funding for near-term express bus service and continued design studies for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) along Rockville Pike, US 29, and Veirs Mill Road – exactly where our supporters have said help is needed the most.
What’s next? We have good support on the council, but the final vote on the budget is still weeks away. Check out our BRT and better buses action hub for more details, and stay tuned for further updates!
I-66: A complicated compromise to minimize widening
I-66 is one of the most crowded highways in our region. It’s a testament to the negative impact of sprawling, car-dependent development to the west. For much of the past year, we’ve been deep in the debate over plans for inside and outside the Beltway. We pressed for a transit and land use first approach for outside the Beltway, but lost to plans for an extension of toll lanes. Still, we secured guarantees for substantial transit funding.
Meanwhile, we supported the Governor’s plan for publicly-owned tolls, HOV and transit inside the Beltway. But outside the Beltway legislators from both parties pressed for no tolls and immediate widening. Governor McAuliffe announced a compromise where the tolling/HOV/transit approach will be implemented, but so will widening of four miles inside the Beltway at a cost of $120 million or more.
Our preferred position? Toll and add transit first, evaluate the results, and study widening later. That way, there is much less chance to waste taxpayer money, and the damage to Arlington communities is hopefully minimized. Meanwhile, commuters who drive may see a significantly improved journey.
What’s next? We’re monitoring progress to make sure that substantial toll revenues indeed go to transit, and we’ll keep pushing against further unnecessary widening and for smarter growth policies in the outer suburbs.
The first new transit since the Silver Line
The DC Streetcar is officially open for passenger service! Have you ridden it yet? It’s quite a smooth ride. To celebrate our city’s newest way to get around, we hosted a DC Streetcar Happy Hour with Sierra Club DC Chapter in March.
What’s next? The city has a huge opportunity with planned extensions to Benning Road Metro and Georgetown. With dedicated lanes planned for most the route, the city will create a truly effective transit route to better connect eastern residents to jobs and make a walkable lifestyle possible for many more people. We’re following the study closely, and we’ll swing our supporters into action at critical points in the process.
Ramsey Homes: A test for Alexandria affordable housing
Alexandria strives to be a diverse, inclusive city. But it’s become too hard for teachers, police, firefighters, and service workers and their families to afford a place to live in Alexandria. That’s why we rallied support for building affordable mixed-income housing at the Ramsey Homes site in the Parker Gray neighborhood, near Braddock Road Metro. We engaged in deep discussions with neighbors, helped our Alexandria supporters contact Alexandria City Council, and testified at Council hearings. And it worked: after initially turning down the proposal, the Alexandria City Council voted in favor of moving forward this March.
What’s next? In addition to Ramsey Homes, the Alexandria Redevelopment and Housing Authority (ARHA) hopes to redevelop other properties to provide more units of affordable and mixed-income housing. We’ll be pressing for a better public process, improved coordination with City Council, good design, and good income targeting so that more Alexandrians can have an affordable place to live.
Sunshine for Maryland transportation spending
The Coalition for Smarter Growth has been working with partners in Maryland to pass legislation supporting transit investments and greater transparency in state decisions about transportation priorities and spending. Drawing on our experience in winning a much heralded transportation project scoring and prioritization system in Virginia (HB2), we have offered expert opinion at committee hearings and met with legislators.
What’s next? The bills are expected to pass the General Assembly, and hopefully will secure enough votes to override a possible veto by Governor Hogan.
Inclusionary zoning: More affordable homes for more people in DC
Over the last year, we’ve asked DC to consider how the inclusionary zoning (IZ) program could better serve lower-income households. IZ reserves a small amount of apartments in new construction for lower-income households, but evidence shows that the income levels the program currently targets are too high to help those facing the greatest need and fewest options in the marketplace. We’ve made the case for ensuring the economics work for all sides, and submitted a zoning text amendment, then campaigned to get it heard by the Zoning Commission, which it did in March.
What’s next? A follow up hearing is planned for mid-April and action may be possible after that.
images: top rowhouses/Aimee Custis, 16th St/Kian McKellar, Outer Beltway/York Image on Flickr, Metro by Glyn Lowe Photoworks on Flickr, BRT by SounderBruce on Flickr, I-66 by VDOT, Streetcar by Victoria Pickering on Flickr, Ramsey Homes by Chris Teale via Alexandria Times, Annapolis statehouse by Mark Goebel, IZ cranes by Ted Eytan on Flickr.