Follow Up: Tactical Transportation vs. the Megaproject in Arlington

By Michael A. Spotts, President

After considering yesterday's post on Tactical Transit vs. the Megaproject, I gave some thought to transportation infrastructure investments near my home in south Arlington, VA. I tweeted them out as a thread today, which I've embedded/copied below. 











A thread by Michael Spotts (via Spooler)

Thread- Yesterday, I wrote on the @nbhdfundllc blog about tactical approaches to local infrastructure and planning decisions, making the case that such approaches can be work as standalone efforts or as a complement to larger projects (…)

2- This had me thinking about a couple projects near my home in south Arlington, VA, one using the all-or-nothing "megaproject" approach, another more tactical

3- we live a short walk from Columbia Pike, which was supposed to get a mixed-traffic streetcar. It was highly controversial and debated for more than a decade, before getting cancelled at the last minute after a County Board election was won by an opponent.

4- a lot of associated planning efforts (including a form-based code with a strong affordable housing policy) were predicated on the streetcar, which caused some consternation when the project was cancelled, but it seems that after a brief lull development is picking up.

5- The County is working on "enhanced bus service" as a replacement and some utility work, but there's some local frustration that few transit improvements of significance have been put into place on the Pike

6- Then there's something the County tried in Shirlington, also close to my house - a pedestrian-friendly road lane reduction at a busy intersection. (…) 

7- Now there's a huge difference in scale, but I still think there's a lesson to be learned. The County went ahead with minimal forewarning and reduced the lanes through largely low-cost (and reversible) techniques.

8- People were mad at first, and the County billed it as an experiment. 8 months later, the lanes are still reduced and there's not much public convo about it. I haven't noticed many delays there of substance, and a brief scan did not yield any public plans to reverse it.

9- It seems that people adjusted, opposition waned, and pedestrians are better off because of Arlington's experiment. This brings me back to the Pike.

10- A lot of people vehemently disagreed about the transportation-specific impacts of the potential mixed-traffic streetcar. I wonder what would have happened if the County would have started to try testing different elements out to see the impact.

11- Could they have convinced the state DOT to let them try rush hour only bus/HOV3 lanes for a couple weeks? Could they have given a fare holiday to increase boarding/off-loading speeds? Could they have tested out any of the elements that go into gold standard BRT?

12- Maybe it would have ended the same. Maybe people would have adjusted to inconveniences and opposition would be reduced (or countered w/real-world experiences). Maybe dedicated lane could have entered the convo. Maybe they could have discovered BRT gave us better value.

13- I have no clue whether such an approach would make a difference. But in the future, hopefully jurisdictions will at least consider the tactical-incremental approach, particularly when the stakes/costs are so high. /end