Arlington, VA

Modern Mobility is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

The title of today’s column is a common adage in the planning world that’s at least 30 years old; I regret that I do not know its original source to provide credit.

At its heart, it reflects the insight that the best way to ensure people can quickly and easily get to the places that they need to go is to ensure that they don’t have to go as far to get there – trips, on average, become shorter.

For motorists, shorter trip lengths mean you drive through fewer intersections and along fewer segments of street which means fewer cars on each street at a time which means less congestion. Shorter trips are also more convenient for active transportation like walking and biking – many folks would walk a few blocks to a restaurant who wouldn’t walk a mile. Many folks would bike a mile to a doctor’s appointment would wouldn’t bike 10 miles. The result? More trips by means other than car.

Many parts of Arlington’s land use plan embrace this. Arlington’s original “urban village” planning maxim was designed around creating neighborhoods, centered around good transit, where people had ready access to work, play and everyday needs like shopping.

For someone living in the denser corridors of Arlington, a huge number of useful destinations are reachable on foot, many more by bike and even more by frequent transit. They may choose to have a car, or some may need a car because of a job located far from transit or a job that requires traveling to many different sites on a daily basis, but many are able to happily live car-free or car-lite and those who do drive generally make shorter trips in those cars.

This growth strategy, along with continued investment in multimodal transportation facilities has allowed Arlington to grow its economy and its population while also holding traffic levels relatively stead, adding new parks (like Long Bridge Park and Mosaic Park) and reducing the relative carbon impact of our residents.

As Arlington embarks on a Missing Middle Housing study, a look at transportation and density in Pentagon City, the Plan Lee Highway Study and a re-examination of some details of the Clarendon Sector Plan, we would do well to remember that everything is easier, from a transportation standpoint, if you let people live nearer to where they want to go on a regular basis.

Chris Slatt is the current Chair of the Arlington County Transportation Commission, founder of Sustainable Mobility for Arlington County and a former civic association president. He is a software developer, co-owner of Perfect Pointe Dance Studio, and a father of two.

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Modern Mobility is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

On Saturday, the Arlington County Board voted 4-1 to endorse the County’s application for $25 million in grant money for VDOT’s Arlington Blvd Safety Improvements Project, covering the area from Glebe Road to Fillmore Street.

That grant money, if awarded, would not be disbursed until 2026, meaning construction is at least six years, if not seven or eight years away. VDOT’s decision to select a costly, construction-intensive capital project to solve the safety issues in this stretch means our community will be stuck with six to eight years of additional crashes, injuries and even fatalities when VDOT’s own study makes it clear that a the majority of the safety benefit of their preferred alternative could be implemented in the short-term, with temporary materials and a much lower cost.

VDOT’s preferred alternative consists of a wide median from Glebe Road to Fillmore Street, the creation of dedicated left turn lanes at Irving Street, the extension of the westbound left-turn lane at Fillmore Street and the addition of dedicated left-turn phasing (green arrows) at Irving Street to service those new dedicated turn lanes.

VDOT’s report shows that, had these improvements existed from 2014 to 2018, there would have been 16 fewer crashes with injuries or fatalities. So, the fact that we’re waiting for these improvements until 2016 or 2018 means we can expect between 24 and 32 additional, preventable crashes with injury or fatality in the meantime.

However, all of the listed design elements from their preferred alternative, except for the extension of the westbound left-turn lane at Fillmore Street can be implemented within the existing roadway simple by narrowing some lanes to 10′ (within the Arlington County standard) and by repurposing some of the existing shoulder. A narrow median could be added with jersey barriers or a similar material, the dedicated left turn lanes striped in by repurposing excess lane width and some of the existing shoulder, the dedicated signal phases could be added at Irving Street. This would gain us 87% of the safety gains of the full project, while avoiding the slow and costly widening that VDOT is calling for which will cut down trees, add 2 acres of impervious surface, and reshape this stretch of Arlington Blvd into a defacto limited access highway.

The grant application was opposed by a number of nearby neighbors concerned that it would lead to additional cut-through traffic on Irving Street and I submitted and presented a letter for Arlington’s Transportation Commission for the reasons outlined above. Unfortunately, only one member of the County Board (Takis Karantonis) found the slow pace of implementation and large cost of VDOT’s preferred alternative unacceptable and so the grant application has been endorsed, leaving little incentive for VDOT to make interim safety improvements. The result: a project that costs more money and results in more crashes, injuries and potentially even fatalities.

Bizarrely, this safety study is a result of a program called “Strategically Targeted Affordable Roadway Solutions” (STARS), a program that would appear geared toward finding quick, cheap solutions to safety problems. Instead, it appears to be yet another vehicle for VDOT to push forward large, slow, expensive roadway widenings wrapped in the veneer of a safety study.

Chris Slatt is the current Chair of the Arlington County Transportation Commission, founder of Sustainable Mobility for Arlington County and a former civic association president. He is a software developer, co-owner of Perfect Pointe Dance Studio, and a father of two.

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Modern Mobility is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

Just in time for the start of the normal busy season in the D.C. area, MetroRail, MetroBus and ART have largely resumed normal levels of service. If you need to return to the office, transit is likely there and ready for you and the newest research is finding that riding transit can be done very safely.

MetroRail Service

MetroRail has returned to near pre-pandemic levels of service and most stations that were closed for platform reconstruction have re-opened, including East Falls Church. Dunn Loring and Vienna are set to reopen next week. Masks are required and customers are encouraged to socially distance to the extent possible.

MetroBus Service

MetroBus service ramped back up on Aug. 23 to about 75% of normal weekday service. Weekend service is back to 85-90%. Masks are required, customers are encouraged to socially distance to the extent possible, and boarding is through the rear doors to lessen bus driver exposure; bus fare collection is suspended.

ART Service

Most ART routes have returned to normal service with just routes 31, 61, 62 and 74 remaining out of service. Masks are required, customers are encouraged to socially distance to the extent possible, and boarding is through the rear doors to lessen bus driver exposure; bus fare collection is suspended.

Safety

The service has returned, but is it safe? Increasingly the answer appears to be “Yes”, that fear of public transit got ahead of the evidence. While we still have a lot to learn about this virus, public transit appears to not be a significant transmission vector.

France and Japan’s contact tracing efforts have found almost zero clusters linked to their public transit systems. A similar study in Austria was unable to link any of their 355 clusters to transit. Hong Kong, a dense city of 7.5 million people whose subway system was carrying nearly 13 million people per day saw and whose transit ridership dropped significantly less than other global systems has recorded only about 4,800 cases so far, or about a quarter of the number of cases seen in Prince William County here in Virginia — a county with a population of under 500,000 which is largely car-dependent. Read More

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Modern Mobility is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

On Friday, the County announced a new emergency ordinance prohibiting pedestrians from congregating on sidewalks in groups of more than three people or ever being less than 6′ apart from any other person.

Targeted quite plainly at young, mask-less patrons waiting in tightly-packed lines for long periods of time outside of Clarendon bars whose capacity has been limited by social-distancing requirements, the ordinance seems well-intentioned but flawed in concept.

The Ordinance

The ordinance, as released by the County states the during a state of emergency, “pedestrians shall obey signs and other signals erected on highways, streets, sidewalks, and public spaces adjacent thereto used by pedestrians prohibiting pedestrians from congregating in groups of four or more than four persons in those places and requiring pedestrians to maintain a physical separation from others of not less than six feet at all times.” I will note, however, that the verbiage about “and public spaces adjacent thereto” does not seem to exist in the language passed by the Board during the virtual board meeting.

Problems with the Ordinance

The ordinance appears to criminalize common behaviors: A plain reading of the ordinance would appear to prevent a family of four from walking down one of these signed sidewalks together without maintaining 6′ of distance between all family members, including small children.

The ordinance results in some very strange juxtapositions. Four people sitting at an outdoor dining table eating dinner, mask-less is not just legal, the County has adopted other emergency legislation to fast-track the creation of more outdoor dining space to encourage it. Those same four people, the exact same distance apart, but now standing on the sidewalk outside of a dining area are now all subject to a $100 fine. If those four now all climb into a car together, parked on the street in front of that same restaurant, they are legal again. Read More

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Modern Mobility is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

“Is it BRT if it doesn’t have dedicated lanes?”  That was a hot topic of conversation in 2013 and I can’t finish out my series on Pike Premium Transit without digging back into the most controversial aspect of the Columbia Pike Streetcar debate.

If you need a refresher,  Part 1 introduced what was envisioned for the Pike Premium Transit Network. Part 2 looked at progress on features to improve bus travel time. Part 3 examined the planned convenience & dependability features.  Today, I’ll take a look at the most controversial feature that was ever discussed for Columbia Pike’s transit system.

What’s the point of dedicated transit lanes?

Dedicated lanes are a core feature of the best transit systems, no matter the mode.  Given that your bus or train needs to stop places that aren’t your personal destination, transit systems can only be time-competitive with cars if they have a way to make up some or all of that time – like by not having to sit in the traffic created by those cars.

Why weren’t they planned for the Streetcar System?

Why wasn’t a dedicated lane recommended for the Columbia Pike Streetcar or the Premium Bus network that is replacing it?  The first reason, is that it was seen as impossible at the time.  During the first Alternative’s Analysis, VDOT was in control of Columbia Pike and made it clear they would never approve a reduction in the number of available through travel lanes of traffic.  During the second Alternative’s Analysis, Arlington had gained control of Columbia Pike (except for the intersection with Glebe Rd and the interchanges with Route 27), but the agreement between Arlington and Virginia stipulated that Virginia would withhold maintenance funds for the entirety of Columbia Pike if it were reduced to fewer than two through travel lanes in each direction except during temporary lane closures related to construction, repair and maintenance.

What’s changed?

That agreement, however, is no longer in effect.  It was amended in 2017 and would now allow a lane in each direction to be dedicated to only transit, or transit and HOV, or some other prioritization. So now that it technically possible, should we do it?

One of the earliest transportation analyses that was done for the Pike (in 2003) actually looked at several possible configurations for transit on the Pike:

  • Curb Shared – transit operates in the curb lane and shares space with cars.
  • Median Shared – transit operates in the median lanes (moving transit stops to the median) and shares space with cars.
  • Curb Varies – transit operates in the curb lanes. It shares space with cars east of Taylor Street and new dedicated transit lanes that would be built in addition to the existing car lanes West of Taylor.
  • Median Varies – same as Curb varies, but transit in the median lanes.
  • Curb Exclusive – the existing curb lanes are dedicated to transit, all car traffic consolidated to the median lanes.
  • Median Exclusive – the existing median lanes are dedicated to transit, all car traffic consolidated to the curb lanes.

The results?

A small improvement in travel time for transit over the “no-build” scenario (which already accounts for the rest of the improvements we’ve looked at – off-vehicle fare collection, all-door boarding, etc.) and a major increase in travel time for cars.  Unfortunately, the study in question doesn’t ever calculate “person-throughput” or “per-person travel time” which are metrics that would clearly quantify the overall effect on travelers in the corridor, but with the effect on car traffic so much higher than the effect on transit and knowing transit ridership, while high on the Pike, is not more than 50% of travelers, it’s clear the overall effect is negative.

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Modern Mobility is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

As Northern Virginia prepares to enter Phase 2 and our community businesses and organizations begin to look for ways to safely resume activities, I have noticed a distributing trend — the use of cars as required Personal Protective Equipment.

The first time it caught my eye was Arlington’s drive-through COVID testing site that opened in March, offering convenient testing for any citizen… as long as they own a car. Thankfully the County recognized the inherent injustice in this arrangement and opened a walk-up testing site, though unfortunately not until nearly two months later. Sadly, other local organizations don’t seem to have taken this lesson to heart.

My children’s elementary school, Fleet, recently had a pick-up and drop-off day where families could pick up remaining items that were left at school when the COVID closure hit, as well as drop-off library books and other items. The logistics of this event were entirely built around the idea that everyone had a personal automobile.

No directions were given about how to drop-off or pick-up without a car and parents were warned in bolded and underlined letters that they were to stay in their car at all times. This despite Fleet having a sizable walk and bike to school rate.

Finally, the Ballston BID has recently announced a Retro Drive-in Movie Night.  While less egregious than the above examples since it is purely for entertainment, it also stands out due to the demographics of Ballston. In a neighborhood where less than 40% of household drive alone to work and more than 16% are car-free, the BID has chosen to hold an event that requires a car to participate.

Likely none of the above organizations were trying to exclude anyone. Some may have been driven primarily by fear of the virus, others are certainly just suffering from what is known as “windshield perspective.” When you so often view the world from behind the wheel of a car, not only do you begin to implicitly assume that everyone owns a car, but it also colors your perceptions of people, places and events.

Research in 2013 found that not only do people who drive through less-affluent neighborhoods view them more negatively than people who walk, bike or take transit through the same neighborhoods, they even viewed the exact same event differently.

Participants in the study were shown one of four versions of a video of an ambiguous event (two boys fighting over a piece of paper). The only difference between the videos was that they were shot from either the perspective of a driver, a bus rider, a cyclist, or a pedestrian. Researchers found the participants shown the video from the driver’s perspective rated the actors higher on negative characteristics (threatening, unpleasant, etc.) than those shown the other videos.

If we are to meet our climate goals, we must make our transportation sector more sustainable. While electric vehicles can help, they aren’t enough. We need to be increasing the number of trips made via less carbon-intensive, not bowing to our windshield perspective and allowing COVID to push us in the direction of more cars.

Chris Slatt is the current Chair of the Arlington County Transportation Commission, founder of Sustainable Mobility for Arlington County and a former civic association president. He is a software developer, co-owner of Perfect Pointe Dance Studio, and a father of two.

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Modern Mobility is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author

As part of our response to COVID-19, travel has ground to a halt. Automotive vehicles miles traveled is down around 90% in Arlington County according to Streetlight Data, while transit service has been cut drastically across the board. As Virginia starts to slowly move into its phased reopening plan, Arlington needs to prepare for the return of travel.

COVID-19 is likely to impact our transportation choices for months, if not years to come.  What do we want our transportation system to look like post-COVID?

Transit’s core efficiency of moving lots of people efficiently is predicated on those people being pretty close together, a situation that many people will be loathe to enter in the foreseeable future. Even if they wanted to, Metro’s current reopening plan doesn’t see full service resume until the Spring of 2021.

With around one-fourth of Arlington residents relying on transit for their commute and about one-fourth of those who work in Arlington but live elsewhere doing the same, where are those people going to turn when they return to work?

If we maintain the status quo, the most likely answer is their own private automobile. If you thought D.C.-area traffic was bad before, you won’t want to see how that future looks. If you dislike trying to walk or bike safely while maintaining proper social-distancing now, imagine what it will be like when traffic levels surpass previous norms.

Purchasing a car, or a second car, generally ends up being the equivalent of pre-paying for a bunch of single-occupancy vehicle commutes. Once people have that car, they tend to discount that sunk cost when making a decision about the most cost-efficient means to future travel. Helping people continue to not own a car is much easier than getting someone to give up a car in the first place.

What if, instead, we used this time of low-traffic and social-distancing to reclaim our streets for people instead of cars? For healthy-living instead of spewing CO2? People are looking for more space to walk and bike NOW. In the coming months they will be looking for a new way to get to work.

Now is the time to pause some of our expensive transit investments, like Metro station second entrances, and divert some of those resources into a quick-build, all-ages, low-stress bike network that can help with socially-distant exercise as well as give people another mobility option when more frequent travel returns.

Chris Slatt is the current Chair of the Arlington County Transportation Commission, founder of Sustainable Mobility for Arlington County and a former civic association president. He is a software developer, co-owner of Perfect Pointe Dance Studio, and a father of two.

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Modern Mobility is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

Back in January, I kicked off this series looking at the Pike Premium Transit Network.

2020 is the year that the Columbia Pike Streetcar was supposed to start running; since many folks claimed that a “Modern BRT” system could be implemented more quickly than a Streetcar, I’m examining how far we’ve come in that implementation compared to what was envisioned.

If you need a refresher, Part 1 introduces what was envisioned for the Pike Premium Transit Network. Part 2 looked at progress on features to improve bus travel time.  Today, we will look at convenience & dependability features.

Hours of Operation

Our BRT system was supposed to be there, and reliable, at all hours to support a car-free lifestyle.  5:30-1 a.m. on weekdays, 6:30-1 a.m. on Saturdays, 6 a.m.-11:30 p.m. on Sundays according to the FTA Alternatives Analysis.  This is the kind of “all-day, every day” operations that people can count on for their primary means of transportation.

For some parts of the Pike, we are achieving or even exceeding this.  Where all of the Pentagon City Pike Buses overlap (approximately Carlin Springs Road to Pentagon City) there is service from 6 a.m. until 2:30 a.m. on Weekdays & Saturdays, as well as Sundays 6 a.m.-11:30 p.m. thanks primarily to the early & late night service of the 16E.  Service to Skyline, however, falls far short of this service achieving something more like 6 a.m.-10 p.m. on weekdays, 7 a.m.-9:30 p.m. on Weekends.

Grade: B

Peak Frequency

To be transit that “just works” for people, our BRT system needs to come frequently enough that you can just show up without having to consult a schedule and plan your trip around said schedule.  This is especially important during peak commuting times, with the BRT alternative to the streetcar planning a bus every two to three minutes.

Once again, the County is pretty close on the core of the Pike, but falling down a bit if you are coming from Skyline, if you are trying to get to a specific metro station, or if you are heading west from a particular MetroRail Station.  For those traveling east on the core of the Pike and who don’t care whether they’re going to Pentagon or Pentagon City, a bus comes approximately every 3 minutes and 20 seconds, but this falls if you you’re westbound or need to get to one of those two MetroRail stations and not the other.

Grade: B-

Off-Peak Frequency

To really enable car-free living, our BRT system needs to be convenient and reliable for non-commute trips as well.  The majority of trips that people make take place off-peak.  The BRT alternative envisioned a bus every six minutes off-peak and, to be honest, we aren’t every hitting that and we’re only close if you’re starting on the core of the Pike (not from Skyline), heading east and don’t care which Metro station you’re going to.  In those cases, while mid-day headways are just over six minutes, trying to catch a bus between 10-11 p.m. on a weekday you’re looking at a bus every 12 minutes, Saturdays are generally around every 7.5 minutes and Sundays every 8.5 minutes.  If you’re heading west from Pentagon or Pentagon City you’re only getting half of those buses so you can double those numbers (so every 24 minutes weekdays from 10-11 p.m.).  Same if you’re heading east but specifically trying to get to Pentagon or Pentagon City.

Grade: C

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Modern Mobility is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

Back in January, I kicked off this series looking at the Pike Premium Transit Network.

This is the year that the Columbia Pike Streetcar was supposed to start running; since many folks claimed that a “Modern BRT” system could be implemented more quickly than a Streetcar, I’m examining how far we’ve come in that implementation compared to what was envisioned.

If you need a refresher, take a look back at Part 1. Here in Part 2, I’ll be looking at the key features related to improving travel time. Future installments will examine convenience, dependability and capacity features.

Fare Collection

One of the slowest and most frustrating parts of riding the bus is waiting in line to get on the bus while everyone pays their fare. Our BRT system is supposed to avoid this using “off-vehicle fare collection”, which moves that fare-payment activity to occur at the bus stop instead of on the bus. There are many ways to do this, the simplest of which is a “proof of payment” system where people pay at the bus stop, and are given a receipt. Fare enforcement officers ride the bus throughout the day and can ask to see a passenger’s receipt. If they don’t have one, they are ticketed for fare evasion.

Arlington appears to be working to make off-board fare collection happen on Columbia Pike, but has been stymied by a lack of progress at WMATA. With the majority of bus service on the Pike run by WMATA and with the importance to riders of a functioning regional fare system that allows a seamless transfer between providers, WMATA is at the center of any progress on off-board fare. Unfortunately, WMATA declared it’s “Next Generation Fare Pilot” a failure in 2016 and has made little progress in moving off the SmarTrip platform since.

Being saddled with 1990s-era fare technology make implementing off-board fare collection technically possible, but extremely challenging requiring numerous workarounds and potentially investing millions of dollars in fare infrastructure that could then become obsolete within a couple years when WMATA finally moves forward on a new regional fare system.

Arlington could try to go its own way on this, or potentially in partnership with other Northern Virginia jurisdictions in the same way that VRE has created its own mobile ticketing app. Unfortunately, without a link to SmarTrip, users wouldn’t get a transfer discount when connecting from a Columbia Pike bus to MetroRail.

The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission and the business community have been trying to push WMATA forward on this, with limited success so far — the Federal City Council did a feasibility study for off-board payment on Metrobus in Arlington & DC in 2017 and Arlington has been participating in quarterly meetings between regional partners who are planning off-board or multi-door fare collection systems.

Arlington has made little-to-no discernible progress on this front, but staff are clearly trying; we may need our political leaders to wade deeper into this issue. All Columbia Pike buses currently accept fares exclusively on the vehicle but Arlington is trying to move the ball forward.

Grade: B for effort, F for actual progress.

Boarding

Once you’ve got off-vehicle fare collection and don’t need everyone to make their payment in front of the driver, you can get a great speed-up by now using more than one door to get people onto the vehicle. The more doors, the faster you can board.  Currently about 25% of a Columbia Pike bus’ travel time is spent letting passengers on and off. If you can halve that, you’ve sped up the bus by more than 12% (about 3 minutes off a 30-minute trip).

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Editor’s note: In lieu of Chris Slatt’s Modern Mobility column today, ARLnow is running an edited version of a press release issued today by the small, Arlington-based business he and his wife run.

Perfect Pointe Music & Dance Studios, with locations in the Lee-Harrison Shopping Center in North Arlington and the Saratoga Shopping Center in Springfield/Fort Belvoir has acted quickly to respond to the needs of its community amidst COVID-19 closures and concerns, moving all of its over 250 weekly classes, lessons and rehearsals to an online platform, plus offering bonus content to keep students and families active and engaged while social distancing, and offering full scholarships to those whose finances have been adversely affected by the crisis.

“Now more than ever, we know how important it is for us to offer our community the connections and positivity our studio is known for,” says founder and CEO, Kendra Slatt. “We all need some sense of normalcy and routine. The last thing we all want is for our children to play video games and watch YouTube all day, or to become depressed because of lack of social interactions, lack of goals, or lack of positive activities to look forward to. We need them to be active, use their mind and still interact socially with their peers. This is exactly what our online platform is providing during the closure of our physical location, and no students will be turned away due to inability to pay.”

  • The online platform uses private Zoom links to facilitate live classes with teachers and students on their normal weekly schedule.
  • In addition to weekly classes, students are encouraged to take advantage of bonus content, tailored to their specific age and level including coloring and activity sheets, dance history and nutrition lessons, recommended playlists, extra practice videos, and much more.
  • Community building activities and events like virtual dance parties, story times, social media challenges, photo sharing, parent meet-ups and more keep community relationships strong and morale up while maintaining safe social distancing

Parent Feedback:

  • “THANK YOU Mr. Philip and all of our amazing dance teachers at Perfect Pointe Dance Studio, Arlington, VA for bringing rays of sunshine and at least part of our ‘normal’ routine into our living room during this unprecedented time of physical distancing! Your enthusiasm is infectious and the Zoom sessions are producing a lot of laughter along with the conditioning. So grateful for all of you! #LiveLoveDance #PerfectPointePride”
  • “You all are great! I really appreciate you working hard to keep the students moving. Katy is enjoying tuning in to her classes. Great job on pulling this all together.”
  • “I just want to thank you (and Mr. Chris) for so quickly switching classes to Zoom. And all the teachers for using it so well. It is amazing!!!! It has made this crazy (and scary) time so much better. Both kids love being able to take their classes. So it’s trifold — exercise, regular routine and social.   Such a wonderful way to stay connected to our dance family. I can’t say enough positive things. Thank you!!!”

Perfect Pointe Dance Studio was founded in Arlington in 2007 and expanded to Springfield, adding music to its offerings in 2016. Throughout that time, they have become known as a leader in high-quality arts education with a strong focus on community and customer service, as well as health and positivity for their students, families and staff.

For more information, see Perfect Pointe’s website or its Facebook and Instagram pages.

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Modern Mobility is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

At this point, the bike lane blocking problems on Crystal Drive are well understood. The combination of popular retail establishments, standard painted bike lanes and entitled drivers leads to non-functional bike lanes.

The parkingdirty.com data-gathering effort I led back in 2016 found that they are blocked between 50% and 64% of waking hours.

The “data-protected bike lane” effort last year by the folks at OurStreets found that during morning rush, evening rush and lunch time, the Crystal Drive lane was blocked nearly 90% of the time.

The situation on Hayes Street by the Pentagon City Metro entrance is similarly dire, though less well-studied. Parkingdirty.com found they were blocked between 51% and 63% of waking hours and it is a common complaint area on Twitter.

Now a development project is moving forward that is currently on-track to duplicate these same mistakes. JBG Smith’s 1900 Crystal Drive project proposes to build two large residential towers on Crystal Drive between 18th and 20th Streets. The project will upgrade the sidewalks on its street frontage and provide new on-street parking spaces, but it proposes unprotected, paint-only bike lanes on both Crystal Drive and 18th Street.

To make matters worse, the project proposes significant new retail all along Crystal Drive and the corner of 18th and Crystal Drive will eventually be home to a 2nd entrance to the Crystal City Metro Station. The Metro station entrance and the new retail will generate significant pick-up and drop-off activity; where will people do this pick-up and drop-off? Where will people park for “just a minute” while they run into the retail? Our experience on Crystal Drive and Hayes Street give us the answer: in the bike lane.

Calls during the Site Plan Review (SPRC) process to provide a protected bike lane along the street frontages have not been accepted by staff, at least as of the last SPRC meeting. Staff acknowledges that the Crystal Drive bike lanes are a problem, but maintain that two blocks of protected bike lane in front of this one development aren’t helpful and that instead the County must find a comprehensive solution for this entire stretch and that the curb-to-curb width being provided by the development is sufficient for this.

Unfortunately, they have not provided a plan to find this comprehensive solution. They have not indicated a timeline for finding this comprehensive solution. They have not identified a funding source for this comprehensive solution.

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