Newsletter
Self-driving car (photo via Alan/Flickr)

Among the changes the city is making to its mobility plan, Alexandria is starting to lay the groundwork for autonomous vehicles on city streets.

There are currently serious concerns about the safety of self-driving cars, with specific concerns about the ability of these cars to reliably avoid hitting pedestrians and cyclists. But at the technology advances, city staff are still including plans for self-driving cars on Alexandria streets as a future possibility worth planning for.

The recognition of autonomous vehicles was noted as one of the changes highlighted at a Sept. 29 joint Transportation Commission and Alexandria Mobility Plan Advisory Committee meeting. Staff said that the city needs to be prepared for that future from a policy perspective.

The city is in the middle of a broad update to the original plan from 2008. The new Alexandria Mobility Plan includes several actions to help prepare for autonomous vehicles.

  • Consider pilot projects to lay the groundwork for and evaluate the effectiveness
    of various new technologies
  • Prepare for connected vehicles by developing maintenance and infrastructure
    plans to ensure street readiness
  • Prepare for autonomous or self-driving vehicles by developing policies to manage
    potentially significant increases in miles driven and traffic volumes within the city,
    including limiting zero-passenger miles and incentivizing shared use
  • Ensure that safety is a priority when testing and implementing new technologies

Despite the current safety concerns, the Alexandria Mobility Plan said there’s potential for autonomous vehicles to be a roadway safety improvement, as well as an accessibility benefit:

Autonomous and connected vehicles have the potential to improve roadway safety, enhance mobility for persons with disabilities, and potentially reduce congestion. Vehicle technology is advancing quickly, and the City needs to be well-positioned to adapt to these changes. It is important to prepare for connected vehicle technology through strategic investments that accommodate vehicle-to-infrastructure and vehicle-to-vehicle communications, which will help travelers find parking spaces, avoid traffic and crashes, navigate hazardous conditions, and more. Proactive policy making and monitoring will be needed to address potential for increased travel and congestion associated with the development and deployment of autonomous vehicles.

The plan’s 20-year goals include accomodating self-driving vehicles, vehicle-to-infrastructure communications, and vehicle-to-vehicle communications.

In neighboring Fairfax, a self-driving shuttle started operation last year, though some drivers have been irked by the vehicle. Autonomous vehicles have also been used at Fort Meyer in Arlington. In 2017 a “driverless car” was spotted in Arlington, though it later turned out to be a car driven by a person disguised as a car seat.

Photo via Alan/Flickr

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Morning Notes

Robbery in Landmark Area — “The Alexandria Police Department is investigating a robbery from person in the unit block of South Reynolds Street. Victim had items taken and received a minor injury. Expect police activity in the area.” [Twitter]

Alexandria’s Mobility Priorities — “The top four priorities for the future of transportation according to Alexandria residents are congestion management, safe and comfortable places to bike and walk, reliable and efficient transit and maintaining infrastructure. The Alexandria Mobility Plan team revealed those results from their community outreach meetings at seven locations in Alexandria and an online survey last fall.” [Alexandria Living]

VT Names Innovation Campus Director — “The new leader of Virginia Tech’s billion-dollar tech campus project in Alexandria is laying out his vision for it. Lance Collins comes from Cornell University, for which he helped open a tech campus in New York City. The Virginia Tech Innovation Campus is being built in the Potomac Yard area.” [Virginia Tech, WTOP]

Crash Near Hospital Yesterday Morning — “Police, medics on scene of a car that reported[ly] crashed into a tree on the 800 block of N. Howard Street, near the hospital. Road may be temporarily closed.” [Twitter]

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Alexandria City Council (file photo)

North Potomac Yard, the Virginia Tech Innovation Campusaffordable housing and more! It’s budget season, and you know what that means — the Alexandria Planning Commission will soon begin looking into prioritizing city-related plans and studies with the updated Interdepartmental Long-range Planning Work Program.

So… what plans and studies will Alexandria focus on in the near future? Don’t worry, those interested will have plenty of meetings to attend.

The Planning Commission, on Tuesday, Jan. 7, will discuss a draft work program — which will “help inform development of the City Manager’s Proposed Operating Budget,” notes the city staff report, which also states that there are only “minor updates and additions” to the the work program that the city council approved in last year’s budget.

At the top of the list is streamlining plan and zoning updates for North Potomac Yard and Virginia Tech Innovation Campus. Council will vote on developmental special use permits and the Potomac Yard Master Plan this fall, the latter of which will be a blueprint into Alexandria’s future with the development of a Metro station, Virginia Tech’s $1 billion campus, a new elementary school, and residential and retail. It’s going to be an economic juggernaut for the city, and Development Special Use Permits.

Alexandria’s neighborhoods are evolving, and this fall city staff launched community meetings on updating the two Mount Vernon Avenue plans for Del Ray and Arlandria, which the commission and council will discuss early this year. Additionally, public meetings on the Duke Street Area Plan update will be held in the spring.

Equity/affordable housing made the list of development priorities, as the city’s Housing for All policy dictates that Alexandria “develop or preserve 2,000 affordable housing units through 2025,” notes the staff report. The city’s low cost, market-affordable (non-subsidized) rental housing fell 88 percent between 2000 and 2018, and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments recently set a goal for the region to produce 320,000 affordable housing units by 2030.

Other plans to be prioritized are the Alexandria Mobility Plan and a number of park and natural resource plans, including the Pocket Park PlanUrban Forestry Master Plan Update, Stream Valley and Trail Plan, Public Open Space Policy Plan and the Dog Park Master Plan update.

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