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A driver was seriously injured in a crash in Old Town that shut down N. Washington Street between Montgomery and First Streets. (Staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Daniel Pearson from the Philadelphia Inquirer recently took his city to task for high traffic fatalities despite a Vision Zero pledge — a commitment by localities to get their pedestrian deaths down to zero. But Philadelphia isn’t alone: many cities vocally promoting Vision Zero plans, many of those cities are faced with continually increasing traffic fatalities.

So, with 2022 in the rearview mirror: how do Alexandria’s crash statistics measure up against the “vision zero” goals?

The good news is that data from the city’s Vision Zero Crash Dashboard shows crashes have mostly been trending downward over the last decade.

There are a few important notes to weigh down that optimistic reading of the data, however.

Crash data from the Alexandria Police department: the black bar represents property-only damage, the yellow bar represents non-severe injuries, the orange represents serious injuries, and red represents fatalities (image via City of Alexandria)

For one: in the two years after the city adopted a Vision Zero action plan in 2017, the total number of accidents was higher than they were in 2017. What’s more: crashes had already been trending downward in the years prior to 2017.

The number of total traffic crashes only dropped dramatically in 2020, which leads to the second major footnote: Covid had a significant impact on traffic patterns.

According to a staff report from last March:

This reporting period includes the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. No formal study has been conducted regarding the Alexandria-specific travel impacts of COVID-19. However, regional studies have shown that travel patterns changed drastically due to public health lockdown measures in 2020 which resulted in lower overall traffic volumes and public transit ridership, and higher rates of walking and biking. The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic (lockdowns, work from home mandates etc.) should be considered when evaluating crash trends and insights associated with 2020.

The Vision Zero dashboard data also does not include numbers from December so far, so the overall figures for 2022 are likely to be higher than those in the graph above.

While overall crashes have declined, the data also shows that the number of deaths and serious injuries has remained fairly consistent. In 2017 — the year Alexandria adopted its Vision Zero plan — there were 27 serious injuries from crashes and four fatalities. In 2021, there were 24 serious injuries from crashes and four fatalities.

While the 2022 data still does not include December, the numbers for last year are still promising overall. Between January and November of last year, there were seven serious injuries from crashes and two fatalities.

The dashboard also shows that, from the last ten years of crash data, around 60% of crashes took place at intersections. To that end, the city has been working on redesigning some crash-prone intersections and eliminating right turns on red lights at a few Patrick and Henry street intersections.

The city’s goal is ultimately to reach zero deaths and serious injuries by 2028.

“Alexandrians should be able to use our streets safely,” Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson said in a newsletter in December. “We will have to take ourselves out of our comfort zone to make that happen. Ultimately, these efforts will not only provide mobility options for our residents, help achieve climate initiatives, but also save lives.”

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There was a robbery in the 1200 block of N. Henry Street on Friday, Dec. 9, 2022. (via Google Maps)

A 23-year-old man was robbed of his rental car key by two people in the 1200 block of N. Henry Street on Friday, Dec. 9.

The Alexandria Police Department said that the victim, who is not a city resident, was sitting in his rental car at around 4 a.m. when approached by a man and a woman. The pair implied that they had a weapon and demanded that the victim hand over his personal items.

“They demanded more stuff, but all they ended up with was a rental car key before running off,” Alexandria Police public information officer Marcel Bassett said. “It was reported that the suspects motioned as though they had a weapon, but no weapon was confirmed or seen.”

The victim was not injured and no arrests have been made.

The incident occurred near The Grayson apartment complex (1200 N. Henry Street), and across the street from the Powhatan Park Tennis Court (1010 Douglas Street).

Anyone with information can contact the APD non-emergency number at 703-746-4444. Callers can remain anonymous.

Via Google Maps

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Yellow Cab taxi (image via Alexandria Yellow Cab/Facebook)

Alexandria’s taxi cab industry is going through some changes as a result of ongoing used vehicle supply issues.

New and used vehicles remain very expensive as a result of pandemic-related disruptions to car production. As a result, local taxi cab drivers with vehicles that are coming up on the city’s age limit for taxis have expressed concerns they won’t be able to afford vehicles in compliance with the city’s limit that non-hybrid taxi vehicles can’t be older than 10 years.

At a meeting earlier this week, the Traffic and Parking Board reviewed potential changes to taxi regulations in Alexandria. Among the recommendations working their way through the city review process are changes that would eliminate the age requirement for vehicles and allow taxi companies to determine if an age limit is necessary.

Other changes focus on making city policy flexible, allowing taxi companies to reduce size to meet demand without incurring penalties, and continuing fee reductions implemented last year.

The city is increasing some fees on taxis though, adding a $1 surcharge and a $0.50 increase to the initial meter charge.

A staff report to the Traffic and Parking Board said the taxi industry is still in rough shape following the double hits of competition from companies like Uber and Lyft and then the pandemic.

“The taxi industry continues to face challenges resulting from the pandemic and the increased competition from Transportation Network Companies, such as Uber and Lyft,” the report said. “Regarding the impacts of the pandemic, many taxi trips start or end at hotels and National Airport. While travel is increasing, it is not back to pre-pandemic levels.”

Kyle Summers, Chief Operating Officer of Alexandria Yellow Cab, said the removal of the limit on the age of taxis will be a relief to many local drivers.

“We support the proposed changes,” Summers said. “With Covid, we lost quite a few vehicles with drivers no longer able to work. They are coming back, but drivers whose vehicles are going to expire soon are struggling to find options to replace their vehicles. Removing the ten-year limit on vehicles is really going to help the industry continue to work, continue to make a living, and serve the public.”

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Former National Tire and Batter (image via Google Maps)

A former National Tire and Battery (NTB) in the West End could be transformed into a used car dealership if the repair shop next door can get approval.

Koons of Alexandria has filed an application for a special use permit to establish a used car dealership at the former NTB building at 5800 Edsall Road, just off S. Van Dorn Street.

Koons of Alexandria also operates the repair center and car rental agency next door, which will remain there under the new proposal.

The application said the project would come with extensive interior and exterior renovations to the NTB building. The dealership would have around 50-100 cars at any given time, with some light repairs ongoing inside the building.

“With this proposal, the Applicant proposes interior and exterior renovations of the existing building to upgrade the building’s appearance, as shown in the enclosed plans,” the application said. “A total of 359 parking spaces are located on the Property and the neighboring 5800 Edsall Road site and are shared between the two buildings. The provided parking is more than sufficient to meet the needs of both buildings.”

The NTB building was built in 1995 and mostly stayed as a tire sale facility until December 2020, when NTB relocated elsewhere in the West End. In 2017 there were plans to turn it into a Land Rover/Jaguar dealership, but those ultimately fell through.

The project is scheduled for review at the Nov. 1 Planning Commission meeting.

Image via Google Maps

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Potomac Greens neighborhood (image via Google Maps)

The Potomac Greens neighborhood has voted overwhelmingly in favor of new parking restrictions aimed at keeping the residential streets from being overrun by commuters.

The proposed parking district, which would encompass the Potomac Greens neighborhood, is scheduled for review at a City Council meeting  (item 17) on Tuesday, June 14.

A new Residential Permit Parking District 14 for the Potomac Greens neighborhood is headed to the City Council after a survey of the neighborhood came back with 95% of survey respondents expressing support for new parking restrictions. The survey had a roughly 68% response rate — 155 of the 227 mailed surveys.

The staff report said the goal of the project is to protect the neighborhood from the impact of commuters looking for parking before boarding the Metro. A ballot about the parking restrictions said the district would limit on-street parking to two or three hours unless the vehicle has a residential parking permit.

“The intent of this proposed RPP District is to mitigate the impact of commuter parking in the neighborhood that may arise due to its proximity to the future Potomac Yard Metro Station, which is anticipated to open in fall 2022,” the staff report said.

The Metro station is currently scheduled to open sometime this fall.

Image via Google Maps

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Thousands of visitors strolled through Old Town on Sunday (May 22) to check out dozens of classic cars.

The third annual Old Town Festival of Speed & Style took up the 200-to-400 blocks of King Street and the 100 blocks of North Royal and North Fairfax Streets.

The event, which features some rare and unusual supercars, was sponsored by Burke & Herbert Bank.

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After the idea was floated by Mayor Justin Wilson a month ago, proposed tax relief for car owners was approved as part of the city budget last night (Wednesday).

The one-time measure is intended to keep the vehicle tax from skyrocketing after vehicle values were estimated to increase by 26% for around 87% of cars in the city. For comparison, the tax base increased by only 5% for 15% of vehicles the previous year.

The relief was included in the budget, but the City Council still has to amend the allocation of state funding from the Personal Property Tax Relief Act (PPTRA) to increase the maximum value for 100% relief from cars valued at $1,000 to cars valued at $5,000. The ordinance is scheduled for review (item 18) at the City Council’s meeting on Tuesday, May 10.

The ordinance is under review at the upcoming meeting and largely a formality to bring the ordinance in line with the proposed budget. The change is included on the consent calendar — a wrap-up of items considered uncontroversial.

A staff report on the potential relief called the dramatic increase in car values an “unprecedented situation.”

According to a release from the city:

In addition, the budget includes personal property tax relief for all vehicles by adopting an assessment tax ratio of 78.8% on the assessed value of vehicles. City Council’s action discounts a vehicle’s actual market value by 21.2% for Tax Year 2022 to reflect unprecedented value appreciation due to the pandemic. Beyond this, Council has taken additional action to further minimize the tax burden on lower-valued cars. The City receives a fixed amount from the state each year to be used to help offset personal property taxes on the first $20,000 of the assessed value of “personal use” vehicles. Due to the rising car values and the fixed amount of state funds, City Council has shifted the allocation of Personal Property Tax Relief (PPTRA) funds to lower-value cars. The threshold for vehicles that receive a 100% state car tax subsidy will be increased, from $1,000 and less to $5,000 and less. This action is estimated to eliminate the local tax burden on more than 30,000 cars.

The tax relief has additional adjustments based on the value of the car, with lower valued cars seeing higher relief.

Proposed Personal Property Tax Relief Act rates, image via City of Alexandria
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This year’s budget could include a one-time measure meant to keep the vehicle tax from skyrocketing.

In his monthly newsletter. Mayor Justin Wilson outlined a unique set of circumstances that, if left unchecked, could see Alexandrians’ vehicle personal property tax skyrocket.

“Alexandria’s second-largest General Fund revenue is the vehicle personal property tax,” Wilson said. “As a local tax assessed on vehicle owners annually, based on an assessed value, there is perhaps no tax more hated in the Commonwealth of Virginia.”

Wilson said in Fiscal Year 2021, the city collected $36.5 million from vehicle owners to provide for a total of $60 million of total general fund revenue.

The tax on vehicle is generally fairly steady, but Wilson said changes in the vehicle market has caused that value to increase dramatically and, with it, the associated vehicle personal property tax.

According to Wilson:

Now, the City Council is grappling with a challenging aberration in this revenue source. Under normal circumstances, the valuations of vehicles do not increase. In 2018 and 2019, only about 1% of Alexandria’s registered vehicles increased in value.

Yet, the pandemic has caused chaos in the used car market place. Last year, many Alexandrians saw increases in the value of their cars. This year, this phenomenon was projected to continue, as the City Manager’s proposed budget assumed an 8.5% increase in revenues.

Wilson said the current estimates are that vehicle values would increase by an average of 26% for 87% of the vehicles in Alexandria.

“This is extraordinary,” Wilson said. “To protect taxpayers, the City Manager has brought to the Council a proposal for one-time relief for vehicle owners.”

The proposal from City Manager Jim Parajon would have the city assess only 77% of the Fair Market Value of vehicles to counter-balance the Covid related upswing in value. The proposal would provide no 2022 tax for vehicles assessed at $5,000 or less, and cars valued higher would still have a smaller amount of relief from the tax.

“This proposal provides all vehicle owners with tax relief, while reserving the greatest relief to vehicles with the lowest valuations,” Wilson said. “It is hopeful that the used car market will get back to normal next year. Council will determine their approach to this proposal later this month.”

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Thinking about going into business in the Alexandria area?

It can sometimes be easier to buy an existing business, and the latest listings on BizBuySell show all kinds of companies in and around the city.

The website aggregates numerous business sale listings, and the names and locations are generally left out.

Reasons for selling, when provided, typically do not mention economic hardship, but more often involve the owner retiring or not having time to actively run the business.

Here are some that are currently listed:

  1. Low rent bakery for sale — “Specialty bakery for sale in the heart of Alexandria. This bakery is located on a very busy road surrounded by residential and retail businesses. The current owner is looking to retire and we are looking for a new owner/operator ready to expand this current business by adding a new menu with more options than the current menu. Seating inside and outside. Bring your concept to this turn key location.”
  2. Dog boutique in Old Town — “Incredible dog boutique store in charming and wealthy Old Town Alexandria. The business has been growing since inception in 2010.The high visibility location draws in hundreds of customers each week.”
  3. Truck parts distributor — “Turn Key Truck Parts Distributor! This business has been profitable for 60+ years. Loaded with Goodwill!”
  4. Alexandria-Falls Church nail salon — “Established, nice nail salon/spa with good income available for sale in the Falls Church, Alexandria area. Good rent. Potential for growth if adding more nail techs. Nail services comprise 80% of the business, the rest is hair services. Highly visible from main road. Good reviews. Nice and well decorated. Owner can stay and work on a part time basis. Staff will stay if new owner want.”
  5. Plumbing company in Alexandria part of Fairfax County — “Recent Price Adjustment a must see business. PROFITABLE, GROWING, Fully Staffed with great growth potential.”
  6. Former hair salon in Fairlington — “Formerly a hair salon by the name of Primary Colors, a hair salon that was in business for twenty years. Now the space is open, and is still built out to be a hair salon, but the space can also be altered to become a different business.”
  7. Hair salon for sale — “Great opportunity to own a small business for hairstylists who dream of owning their very own salon or a low capital investment for seasonal beauty salon owners who want to expand their business networks. The important fact to know is not about the price to buy this salon, it’s the financial ability and assets to prove to the Landlord in order to get the Landlord approval on the Leasehold of this great and unique business location.”
  8. Profitable restaurant for sale — “Great location, great visibility, long lease term, plenty of parking spaces, in a busy shopping center with many other businesses that crowded with customers on the daily basic, this restaurant is built up from the cold cell condition with new kitchen equipment, freezer, cooler, HVAC….., that’s clean and presenting a long useful life for new owner to do business in years to come without any major upgrading. This restaurant can be converting to other cuisine given there is no other restaurant of that cuisine is currently operated within the shopping center.”
  9. Highly profitable well-established restaurant for sale — “Located in the big shopping mall with a lot of traffic. Business serving dine in and high volume of carry out and perfect for any type of cuisine. Ample parking all around and lease is inexpensive. Owner is seeking a retirement.”
  10. Busy high-end Mediterranean restaurant — Sales at this location are listed at  more than $75,000 monthly, and the seller claims that the owner income is $250,000. The restaurant seats 104, has 12 trained employees and is surrounded by commercial and residential properties.
  11. Dog waste removal company — “Currently have 500 active customers and growing quickly! Fully staffed and great reviews. Owner is looking to relocate and invest in a new venture.”
  12. Full-service restaurant with outdoor seating — “Prime location full service restaurant in the heart of Alexandria. Located on a heavy traffic road surrounded by residential, retail and offices. This restaurant has 3 floors which is great to host private events, lounge area as well as the sit down restaurant portion. The menu/concept can be kept the same or converted to your own. Large kitchen area with top of the line equipment. This is a must see location for any restauranteur looking to expand or take over an established turn key location. The current owner is ABSENTEE but ready to retire and we are looking for a new hands on owner/operator to bring this location to its full potential.”
  13. Profitable fast casual restaurant — “Profitable Thai restaurant in a very busy shopping center on a high traffic road in Alexandria VA. This restaurant has been in business for almost 10 years and has a great following with excellent google reviews by serving the most authentic Thai food with the highest quality ingredients in the area. All furniture, fixtures and equipment are in excellent condition and are included in the sale of this restaurant. Can be converted to fit most concepts & menus.”
  14. Mexican restaurant in Alexandria part of Fairfax County — “Fast casual dine in & carry out Mexican restaurant in a high traffic shopping center. This restaurant needs an updated menu with a hands on owner to manage daily business and take this location to the next level. The current Mexican menu can be changed to fit most concepts. Great layout for almost any type of fast food restaurant. All furniture, fixtures and equipment are in great working order.”
  15. Optometry practice — “Turnkey Optometry and Optical Business. Lease is assignable. Business is established and profitable. Optometry is considered “essential” business. Sellers will stay for transfer training. Beautiful store fully stocked with inventory, equipment, lab, exam room. 5 star location. Database, business name, website, inventory, and seller training all included. Priced below market.”
  16. Pizza restaurant — “Pizza restaurant established in 2014 for sale in Alexandria. This restaurant is located on a heavy foot traffic road surrounded by residential, retail and businesses. Great location with very low rent. Perfect starter restaurant for anyone looking to get into the restaurant business as well as a great location for restauranteurs looking to expand. This restaurant serves hand crafted pizzas, sandwiches and pasta’s as well as beer and wine. All furniture and fixtures are in excellent condition. High end kitchen equipment.”
  17. Japanese restaurant — “The restaurant is located in a busy area, and has been in the operation more than 8 years. More than 5000sf, high-class construction and decoration. The menu includes sushi, hibachi, and ramen. First generation owner since the business was founded, tons of the local customers and Japanese food fans from other places, the business can make $180k sales per month, lease can be extended definitely.”
  18. Barbecue chain with food trucks — “An American-style (Kansas City ) BBQ Restaurant with food trucks. They also have a nice catering component to the business. Decorated in a rustic decor, these units are located in great locations in easily accessible areas close to Washington DC.”
  19. Remodeling business — “After serving the community for 7 years, the current owner is ready to retire from this successful construction business. Ranked as a Top 100 Remodeling Company in the United States by Remodeling Magazine, the company provides exterior remodeling, windows, roofing, siding, gutters, doors, and attic solution services to their residential clients, tailored to fit their needs.”
  20. Auto sales and repair shop two blocks from Metro — “Auto use is grandfathered making this literally a once in a lifetime deal!”
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Nestled away in a budget presentation for the Transportation Commission, a report on ten years of crash data shows that crashes in Alexandria are overall on the decline.

The report includes data collected from 2011 to 2020, with a note that the COVID-19 pandemic likely impacted crash data from the final year of the study. But even pre-2020, the total number of car crashes in Alexandria had been fairly consistently declining year after year.

Crashes that involve kills or serious injuries (KSI) were more erratic over the years, remaining at a fairly consistent 3% of all crashes throughout the reporting period..

“Crash totals from 2011-2020 show a downward trend for all crashes, including those that involved fatal or severe injury,” the report said. “The 2016-2020 annual crash averages by all modes (vehicle-only, pedestrian, bicyclist) and crash type (all and KSI) are less than those seen during 2011-2015. Year over year, vehicle-only crashes had the highest number of KSI crashes followed by pedestrian and then bicyclist crashes.”

The report only covered crashes on city streets — not including crashes from major highways like I-395 or I-495. Vehicle-only crashes account for most of the KSI crashes each year, followed by those involving pedestrians then cyclists.

The study tracked other information on crashes, like location, time, weather, road conditions and more. The information put together a portrait of which crashes tend to be most fatal.

“During the weekday, high crash frequencies are seen during the evening commute,” the report said. “Early spring had the highest proportion of KSI crashes for bicyclists, while the late summer months were the highest for pedestrians.”

The report found that vehicle occupants who were not wearing seat belts were 20 times more likely to be killed or severely injured.

“Most vehicle occupants wore their safety restraint (e.g., seat belt) during crashes,” the report said. “However, vehicle occupants who did not wear their seatbelt were approximately 20 times more likely to be killed or severely injured compared to those who did wear their seatbelt.”

The report also noted that 58% of all KSI crashes occurred at intersections, and intersections with five points or more had the highest proportion of KSI crashes though the total number of crashes at these intersections were relatively low.

There were roughly the same number of crashes for bicyclists in locations where bike infrastructure was present as areas where there wasn’t, but areas without bicycle infrastructure had a higher fatality rate.

“Out of the eight KSI bicyclist crashes,” the report said, “seven had no presence of bike infrastructure.”

The full report is available in the docket (page 31 of the pdf, page 4 of the docket) for the Transportation Commission’s March 16 meeting.

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