Tag Archives: Transportation

If Only … Bike Lanes were Ubiquitous

Two and a half miles to dinner (x2) – about 16 minutes – is easy. Bicycling as transportation is something other countries (and some American cities) understand. It’s about time we did so as well.

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Posted in General Real Estate, Transportation | Tagged | 2 Comments

The Western Bypass is Apparently Dead. So What’s Next?

So says the Daily Progress.

One decades-old question was answered with a resounding no.

“A bypass is not something we would consider,” Norfolk-based consultant Philip A. Shucet, the head of the advisory panel and former commissioner of the Virginia Department of Transportation, told the board.

Nearly two years after officials awarded a contract for the bypass, and after $54 million was spent on the project, the planned 6.2-mile road has become a footnote.

The transportation board, a 17-member panel of gubernatorial appointees that presides over Virginia’s transportation system, will determine what happens to unspent money from a project state officials had valued at more than $244 million.

If nothing else, this seems to remove the uncertainty from the conversation about the Western Bypass. We can return now to our discussions about the woes of traffic on 29 North and how the CharlAlbemarle area is woefully incapable of understanding the issues and equally incapable of implementing solutions. Such is life.

Rather than go into the history of the Western Bypass (it goes on for decades), discuss the various regional influences (Lynchburg is key), the various local players (broadly it’s growth vs no-growth) and whether VDOT is going to sell the houses it bought many years ago (it should if the Bypass is truly dead) or even whether the Western Bypass was the right route (it wasn’t but that’s because it’s a 30+ year old design, designed well before massive growth on 29 North) – start looking at background at Charlottesville Tomorrow.

Lynchburg is mad.

There is a fundamental disagreement over what, exactly, U.S. 29 is. Is it a major north-south transportation corridor with the goal of providing relatively unimpeded traffic flow to through traffic along its 1,000-mile path or is it, in Charlottesville and Albemarle County, a local retail strip? It can’t be both. …

Charlottesville and Albemarle, however, still persist in their silly, outdated belief that U.S. 29 is really just “Emmett Street,” the local retail strip, and has no connection to the rest of the state. That’s evident in Albemarle’s “plan” to address improvements on Emmett Street: a silly, utopian “Places29” with overpasses — built where major retail centers now sit — for through traffic, pedestrian-friendly amenities and added lanes for traffic.

I think they’re right. If the bypass is truly dead, what’s the solution?

Short story – a new solution needs to be implemented. One would assume it would need to be agreed upon first, so let’s accept that the segmentation of the Charlottesville – Albemarle region will continue. Not that that’s a bad thing, it just is. (more)

One of the first things I thought about what this line from Ocean’s 11.

I’m thinking we will need to wait for Elon Musk’s hyper loop.

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Posted in Albemarle, Charlottesville, General Real Estate, Politics, Transportation | Tagged , , , | 3 Comments

Will the Western Bypass Ever be Built?

Who knows if and when the Western Bypass will be built? Know this – lots of people will show up to comment on it. Again.

A vote on the resolution could follow the hearing, set to begin at 4 p.m. Wednesday in the County Office Building’s Lane Auditorium. That session is expected to stretch into the night and generate huge turnout, the latest turn in the enduring saga of the Western Bypass of U.S. 29.

I asked years ago a question about the Meadowcreek (John Warner) Parkway that could (and should, in a reasonable world) be asked of the Western Bypass – How would they design the Western Bypass today, with today’s human settlement and development patterns in place?

The answer is that the road would likely be a very different solution. Because implementing infrastructure solutions in the Charlottesville – Albemarle region takes a minimum of 30-50 years, plans should change, but they won’t.

I know this -

- The proponents aren’t going to give up just because the road is a flawed design. Terminating at Forest Lakes is the wrong terminus – it was probably the right location 30 years ago, but now it should dump traffic north of the Charlottesville Albemarle Airport, probably north of the UVA North Fork Research Park and really should terminate in Greene County. Those necessary changes aren’t going to happen.

- The opponents are accused of using flawed data as are the proponents, whenever these arguments arise. They don’t want the bypass and disregard the studies saying that the Western Bypass will save time.

- I just wish there was unbiased data and analysis by which the citizens could make informed decisions. I also wish that unicorns were real and

Charlottesville Tomorrow has the most comprehensive coverage of the Western Bypass, including the proposed route(s). Check out their CvillePedia page on the Western Bypass too.

UpdateInteresting analysis and commentary comes to us today from the C-Ville. Continue reading

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Charlottesville City Police Ticketing Bicyclists

Police officers in the City of Charlottesville have doubled in the past two years the number of tickets they have issued to bicyclists, Charlottesville Tomorrow reports.

First thoughts:

- Good. As a bicycle advocate and rider, seeing cyclists cutting in and out of traffic, on and off sidewalks, blowing through red lights, etc. makes it harder for the law-abiding cyclists.

- Really? The number of times I’ve watched a car badly blow through a red light while a police officer sits there watching the offense is itself almost criminal.

- Bad. Points on a driver’s license because of these infractions? Don’t you have to have a license in order to get points on said license?

- Good. Maybe this will serve as a discussion point for educating the police, cyclists and drivers.

- Is there something in the Code of Virginia for distracted pedestrians? Maybe they could target UVA students on the Corner; they’re dangerous, too.

Maybe the City can add this discussion point to their newest $50k study on creating and integrating “complete streets.” (it would be awfully nice to have this discussion include how to traverse City/County lines rather than myopically looking solely at each locality’s needs.)

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Charlottesville’s Walkscore – Not Bad on the Whole

As a City, Charlottesville has a Walk Score of 57, but neighborhoods close to the city center are much more walkable.

Walkability, in addition to generally having a positive effect on housing values, seems to lead to happier people as well.

If you haven’t seen Nextdraft, you should.

Are you trying to be more happy? If so, you might want to consider getting out of your car. According to Charles Montgomery, author of Happy City, we tend to be happier in places where we take to the streets and interact with each other. “As much as we complain about other people, there is nothing worse for mental health than a social desert. The more connected we are to family and community, the less likely we are to experience heart attacks, strokes, cancer and depression. Connected people sleep better at night. They live longer. They consistently report being happier.” Here are the secrets of the world’s happiest cities.

Food for thought. Continue reading

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A Big Shift in Albemarle County’s Board of Supervisors

Virginia Board of Elections - Election Night Results - November 5th, 2013 - Snow-Palmer.jpg

A lot of money was raised and spent in these elections.

The Albemarle County elections last night brought about a resounding change on the Albemarle County Supervisors. Gone are Rodney Thomas and Duane Snow; in are Brad Sheffield and Liz Palmer. For what it’s worth, the Democrats won and the Republicans lost.

Looking at the races through the lens of VPAP data, I saw this in a Facebook conversation:

So which Supervisors are beholden to real estate development groups? Here are some of the top donations by industry… Notice a pattern?

Duane Snow, $17,800 Real Estate/Construction
Liz Palmer, $26,043 Miscellaneous
Rodney Thomas, $12,300 Real Estate/Construction
Brad Sheffield, $17,386 Miscellaneous

It’s hard to argue with money. Seemingly more than the ballot box, money matters.

Local elections matter. The localities vote on growth management strategies, property tax rates, the ways in which the emergency services operate and cooperate (or not) and notably transportation and infrastructure improvements. And yesterday, about 13,000 people in Albemarle County helped decide the near (and long) term future of Albemarle County.

J. Reynolds Hutchins at the DP says:

Palmer, Sheffield and McKeel ran campaigns hinged on the county’s growing transportation problems and angst over the Western Bypass of U.S. 29.

Whether the Western Bypass gets built will be an interesting (continued) debate. Will they build it? Will they shut it down? Will they study it more? Will they extend it so it’s a more logical and functional road?

The County needs infrastructure improvements … let’s see how the new Board chooses to take up that task.

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How Do you Feel about Paying for Each Mile you Drive?

Source: http://www.reddit.com/r/pics/comments/1p97m6/the_hovenring_is_a_suspended_bicycle_path/

Would you prefer to raise the gas tax or pay for each mile you drive? America’s infrastructure is crumbling. Literally. How might we pay for it?

Proposals for taxing vehicles’ miles traveled have been around for a long time.

A quick search on Richmond Sunlight shows that this bill “Motor fuel tax; joint subcommittee to study replacement with mileage-based fee. (HJ626)” failed to make it out of committee in 2009.

Virginia’s Department of Transportation released a study in December 2008 that addressed many of the options available for a VMT tax:

One alternative widely proposed to the fuel tax is a “Vehicle Miles Traveled” (VMT) tax. Under this system, drivers pay a fee based on miles traveled rather than a tax on the amount of fuel used. The VMT tax concept can serve broader policy aims as well, by enabling policy makers to set variable fees in different network areas to reduce congestion during peak travel times, a critical and worsening issue in some metropolitan areas.

Some specific possible implications for real estate:

- Real estate agents might be less inclined to do full-day tours for incoming buyers
- I’d be tempted to encourage more drive-bys of homes and drive-throughs of areas than I do already
- We might see further hyper-local focus on areas and neighborhoods. When I was a new real estate agent in 2001, I used to go all over. As my career developed and gas prices went up, my geographical range for representation has shrunk. I tend to not go to Trevillians or Faber or Pratts very often anymore.
- Increase in bicycle use? Right now in most European countries, bikes are outselling cars. This, I’d say, is a good thing.
- Human settlement patterns may see even more trending towards denser urbanization.
- Higher demand for public transportation.

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The Walkable City – Achievable in Charlottesville?


What would it take to make Charlottesville and Albemarle truly walkable? People who live in areas that are walkable are happier, leaner, have more money for leisure, spend more time with their families … is that really achievable in the Charlottesville area?

The answer is – the public would have to express its desire for this, the leaders would have to listen to the people, collaborate, plan and execute a vision that would enable the City of Charlottesville and County of Albemarle to create more walkable and bikeable localities. Of course, in an area that takes 30+ years to build a short Parkway, I think there’s a better chance of flying cars gaining prominence than thoughtful infrastructure being implemented.

What could be done to craft a truly walkable City/County?

Walkability matters – there are growing urban cores within Charlottesville and Albemarle and the sprawlish segmentation continues. But … what if each of these urban cores grows up and densely?

This is the original Google Map I did in 2007. I’ve updated it for today’s world. Biscuit Run is no longer planned. Albemarle Place is now Stonefield (and is built). North Pointe is far off in the horizon.

This is a map of the “town centers” in the Charlottesville – Albemarle area

(If you’re looking for homes near these, use the radius search on my search site) Continue reading

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