Several dozen residents and community group representatives urged the company to take a stronger stance on pedestrians and public transit during a site plan review at the Aurora Hills Community Center (735 18th Street S.) Tuesday night.
Cars and parking
Planners shared several car-oriented transportation plans during the presentation, including:
- A pick-up and drop-off zone for ride hailing services like Uber and Lyft at the intersection of Eads Street and S. Elm Street.
- A drop-off zone for a daycare center in the park, also located on S. Elm Street.
- Street parking for cars along S. Eads Street, 15th Street S., and S. Elm Street.
Amazon’s plans for its new headquarters, including an underground parking garage with 1,968 parking spaces, remain unchanged.
“We believe the parking is the right size to accommodate the number of people working in the building,” traffic engineer Dan VanPelt, with transportation planning firm Gorove/Slade Associates, said during last night’s meeting.
The company has previously pledged to provide transit benefits to its eventual 25,000 employees to allay county fears of traffic jams near HQ2. Transportation Commission Chair Chris Slatt suggested the company charge for parking on a daily basis to further encourage employees to choose transit.
“Arlington’s own research has said the amount you pay for parking at your workplace is the number one determinate if you drive to work alone or not,” Slatt told ARLnow, referring to a 2013 Mobility Lab study.
When asked, VanPelt said Amazon is planning to charge employees for parking, though he was not sure how much. He was also not sure if it would charge for the spaces designated for electric vehicles — a travel type county officials are betting will become more common.
Site Plan Review Committee members, however, expressed concern that the plans did not give same level of accommodation to pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users.
VanPelt highlighted the 500 long-term and 120 short-term bicycle parking spaces slated for the property, and noted that each of Amazon’s buildings will have bicycle entrances.
“It shows the commitment to accommodate cyclists in the project,” said VanPelt.
The tech and retail giant is also planning to install a protected bike lane on the west side of S. Eads Street that runs along the project, which several people commended for its use of concrete curbs to separate cars from cyclists.
However, Amazon will not be giving 15th Street S. the same treatment, despite advocates urging the company to implement protected bike lane on the busy road.
The plans shown for the existing 15th Street S. bike lane would keep it unprotected from cars, and would add street parking next to it.
Several audience members shared safety concerns over the 15th Street plan, with one cyclist saying it was “unsafe” considering the amount of near-misses he had already experienced on the roadway.
Slatt said cars parking will have to cross the bike lane, and can “door” cyclists when exiting, creating more conflicts than already exist. He also noted to committee members that the newly updated Bike Element of the county’s Master Transportation Plan calls for more protected lanes, especially on main routes like 15th Street.
“I think the proposal as currently envisioned would be a drastic decrease in your ability to actually bike safety through 15th Street,” Slatt told ARLnow, adding that he was “disappointed” in the current design but hopeful it could be revised in later planning meetings.
Buses and Pedestrians
For pedestrians, Pamela Van Hine of the Pedestrian Advisory Committee said Amazon needed to consider a path crossing the main green of the campus diagonally. Otherwise, Hine said the open space could “become a victim of foot traffic” as walkers often create shortcut “desire paths” to their destination.
Though HQ2 will be within an easy walk of both the Pentagon City and Crystal City Metro stations, buses may also play a key role in bringing employees to and from the office complex. VanPelt shared design details for two new bus stops along S. Eads Street at 13th Street S. and 15th Street S., which will replace the one removed with little notice.
One member asked whether Amazon had any plans to hire dedicated buses to shuttle employees to and from the outer D.C. suburbs, a practice that’s common among large tech companies in the San Francisco Bay Area and somewhat controversial there.
VanPelt did not confirm whether shuttle service was slated for the project, but did reiterate the fact that, “one of the reasons this site was chosen was the wealth of transportation options chosen for it.”