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While more property owners have signed on to plans to shift Alexandria’s workforce to car-free, a report on those plans showed an increasing percentage of workers and residents in new developments driving alone compared to last year.
Some commercials and residential developments are required to have plans to get employees or residents to use non-car transportation to commute. These plans are called Transportation Management Plans (TMPs) and there are currently 75 developments in Alexandria with TMPs.
The report notes that over the last year 58.9% (out of 702 people surveyed) said they commuted to work driving alone, compared with 46.6% in 2018.
The report does state that these results could be inflated because the program is heavily weighted towards ten large office developments with TMPs, outweighing others, but the results still show riding alone dwarfing all other forms of transportation.
Among residents, driving alone and taking Metro increased over the last year, despite the Metro shutdown over the summer. The percentage of residents saying they carpool fell dramatically though, from over 40% to under 10%.
Staff acknowledged that there are several issues with the current TMP system, “including low compliance, a penalty structure that is less expensive than compliance, and poor incentives to comply.”
According to the report, staff is planning to make recommendations regarding the program next year to push larger, new developments to get employees and residents out of cars and into mass transit.
In related transportation news, the city has worked to sign more employers throughout Alexandria onto voluntary Transportation Demand Management (TDM) strategies. These plans guide employers and residential communities on how to reduce reliance on cars for employees, customers and residents.
There are currently 522 employers with TDMs, according to an update delivered to the Transportation Commission, up from 313 last year. These range from the indoor playground Scramble to federal agencies like the Department of Defense, National Science Foundation and Patent and Trademark Office.
Image via City of Alexandria
The company’s lease currently prohibits boats from coming in or out of docks before 9:30 a.m., which staff told the Waterfront Commission this morning (Tuesday) means the boats are usually used by tourists. But during the Metro shutdown, the city waived that restriction.
“The water taxi was well used,” staff said. “Most of the new users were Metro riders. They had up to 997 boardings a week [in June] and averaged 600 during the rest of the shutdown.”
During the shutdown, the city offered a reimbursement program that included $100 for a seasonal pass and $8 for round trip tickets. Current prices post Metro shutdown are notably pricier: $195 for an unlimited annual pass and $18 for a round trip pass.
The city previously required Potomac Riverboat Company to implement a parking plan for commuter parking, but 85 percent of the new riders biked or walked to the water taxi and the city reported there were no parking complaints or capacity issues related it.
Now, the staff said City Manager Mark Jinks has expressed interest in asking the council for an extension of the hours in the lease to allow operations to begin “before 6:30 a.m.” and to promote the water taxi as an alternative to driving.
“This is great,” said Waterfront Commission member Nathan Macek, also chair of the Planning Commission. “I’m happy to see it move forward. I think we’ve had an irrational fear [of utilizing the waterfront] and this pilot helped.”
The conversation also spurred discussion of a waterfront taxi that would connect with Prince William County and Fort Belvoir, along with locations further upriver like the Pentagon. Charlotte Hall, a member of the Waterfront Commission, said a company is looking at building a water taxi network up the western side of the Potomac River sometime in 2020 but would likely skip Alexandria in at least the first year of operation.
“Alexandria is not ready for this in 2020,” Hall said, “but others are.”
“We’re so restrictive on our lease covenants with when the boats can come and go,” said Macek. “I think the city contracts need to be less specific about that. Let boats come and go as they please, and I don’t think the city needs to regulate the boat spaces as strictly as they do.”
There was only one note of light dissent on the Waterfront Commission when Beth Gross, a representative on the Commission from the Founders Park Community Association, said the idea of boats coming and going from the docks like planes coming and going from the airport made her “a little worried.”
Staff photo by Jay Westcott