Active Prince William

Helping to make Prince William, Manassas, and Manassas Park a More Livable, Sustainable Community.

Category: Planning (page 2 of 2)

Join the Manassas Community Conversations

The City of Manassas is holding a series of “Community Conversations” to gather ideas, priorities, and visions for the community’s future from individuals, families, neighbors, business professionals, and community leaders. This is your opportunity to shape Manassas by sharing your perspectives and providing input on key topics such as quality of life, services, transportation, land use, and economic development.

This community engagement process follows up on the City’s 2014 and 2016 community surveys, in which the following 10 community priorities were identified in order of importance.

 

The following engagement sessions remain:

Thursday, Sept. 7, 2 PM – Active Adults & Seniors
​​​Manassas Senior Center Board Room / 9320 Mosby Street ​​

Thursday, Sept. 7, 6PM – Families ​
​Manassas Museum / 9101 Prince William Street ​

Thursday, Sept. 21, 6 PM – Twenty & Thirty Somethings
​​​Bad Wolf Brew House / 8420 Kao Circle ​​ ​​​​

Saturday, Sept. 23, 2PM – Everyone!
​Grace Methodist Church Fellowship Hall / 9750 Wellington Road

You can also engage with City staff at the farmers markets in downtown Manassas on September 16 and 28 and October 21 and 26.

In addition, you can participate online through the City’s new online engagement portal!

The Community Conversations will dig deeper into the “why” of the top priorities to find location-specific issues and gauge if any priorities are missing from the list generated by the survey. The findings from both the survey and the Community Conversations will assist the City in updating its strategic priorities and comprehensive plan. Join the conversation!

Transportation, Health and Well-Being

What a nice surprise when I opened my email and found that I had trans1been invited to attend the inaugural “Every Place Counts Leadership Academy” hosted by U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. As an advocate of walking, biking and transit in my community, and at George Mason University, I was very excited by the opportunity to learn more about how transportation decisions are made and how community members can get more involved in the process.

Transportation decisions shape our lives and connect our communities. Transportation also directly affects our health and well-being. Yet members of the public often struggle to figure out how and when to engage in these important decisions. The fact that the Secretary of Transportation was going to attend the session sent a powerful message that he truly valued the input of community members in the transportation decision making process.

Transportation Secretary Foxx is a believer in the power of transportation to increase opportunity for all, but also knows that community members need to be more included in the process.  He initiated the “Every Place Counts: Leadership Academy” to demystify, clarify and simplify transportation decision making. The Leadership Academy is geared toward future community leaders who have limited experience with transportation decision making, and want to learn how to participate effectively and add their insights to the process. The Academy also featured a Transportation Toolkit trans4designed to convey information to the widest audience possible.

What I enjoyed most about the academy was the opportunity to meet people from all over the country and hear their about their experiences advocating for accessible and affordable transportation – the advocate from Baltimore who talked about transportation and access to jobs, the advocate from the Boston area that talked about safe infrastructure for children to walk and bike to school, the advocate from California who talked about transit and the access to healthcare for the elderly, the high school STEM student from Falls Church who talked about technology and transportation, and the advocate from Philadelphia who talked about how important it is to get stakeholders from the community involved in the planning and design process.

This was probably the most diverse group of advocates I have had the privilege of interacting with during my years of advocating for accessible and sustainable transportation. However, what everyone had in common was a passion to create livable communities, and advocate for access to reliable and affordable transportation.trans3

Where you choose to live impacts the mode(s) of transportation you use to get to work, but regardless you still have choices you can make. When I moved to Prince William County I was told that the only option to get to work at Mason in Fairfax was to drive.

Being the curious person I am, I decided to check the validity of this statement. Of course I relate this back to the book club I participated in focused on the Todd Kashdan’s book, Curious. Kashdan asks, “What is essential to creating a fulfilling life? Being curious, being open to new experiences, being able to effectively manage ambiguity and uncertainty, being able to adapt to the demands required of different situations (what I call “psychological flexibility”), discovering our strengths, deepest values, and what it is we are passionate about, and strengthening connections to these values and commit to a life aligned with them.”

An acquaintance of mind once said that, “life beings at the end rick-holt-5of your comfort zone.” Being curious and wanting to step out of my routine I found that there were actually multiple ways to get to work:

  • Bike to the Fairfax campus (I make the 20 mile ride several times a year, takes about an hour and 1/2)
  • Bike (4 miles) to the SciTech campus and take the Mason shuttle to the Fairfax campus (what I do 90% of the time)
  • Take an Express Bus to Tysons Corner metro and then metro to Vienna and take the shuttle to campus (a longer trip due to the changing modes, I have tried once but not the best option)
  • Take the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) to the Burke Centre VRE station and take the Mason shuttle to campus (I have tried this and it is a great way to travel, variations include bike, carpool or drive alone to the VRE station)
  • I can check out the ZimRide site and connect with a Mason student, staff or faculty member who might want to carpool to work
  • Telework from the SciTech campus using one of the drop in suites
  • Drive alone (85% of Prince William residents drive alone to work and sit in traffic on I-66/I-95)

Of course you might be thinking what do I do if I have an emergency and need to get home quickly, or what if the weather turns bad and I can’t bike home? These are valid concerns but Commuter Connections has you covered.  “Guaranteed Ride Home (otherwise known as GRH) provides commuters who regularly (twice a week) carpool, vanpool, bike, walk or take transit to work with a FREE and reliable ride home when one of life’s unexpected emergencies arise. Commuters may take advantage of GRH up to four times per year to get home for unexpected emergencies such as a personal illness or a sick child” (http://www.commuterconnections.org/commuters/guaranteed-ride-home/).

Transportation affects all areas of our well-being to include physical, social, career, financial and community well-being. By starting off, and ending, my day with a four mile bike ride I get 30 minutes of exercise almost every day. On the shuttle I often talk to other members of the staff and faculty, read a book, check my social media and email accounts, or just take a nap. I find that biking to transit keeps my stress levels low, I am more alert and ready to get the day rolling when I arrive at work.

Being enrolled in the Mason bike commuter program and riding the Mason shuttles provides financial benefits. I don’t need a parking pass, I am not using my car, when I ride at least eight times to campus each month I get a $20 voucher good for bike maintenance, and I also receive two complimentary parking passes. As a bike advocate I am very involved in the community promoting active transportation (walking/biking), transit and outdoor recreation. I belong to several community groups including Prince William Trails and Streams Coalition, Active Prince William and the Virginia Bike Federation. Being involved in these groups has helped me meet more people and create strong social relationships with members of the community and government officials.

The health benefits of regular physical activity (biking and walking) are far-reaching: reduced risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic diseases; lower health care costs; and improved quality of life for people of all ages. Regular exercise provides health benefits for older adults such as a stronger heart, a more positive mental outlook, and an increased chance of remaining indefinitely independent—a benefit that will become increasingly important as our population ages in the coming years.

Walking and bicycling are affordable forms of transportation. Car ownership is expensive and consumes a major portion of many Americans’ income. When safe facilities are provided for pedestrians and bicyclists, people can walk and ride more and spend less on transportation, meaning they have more money to save or spend on other things.

  • The cost of operating a sedan for one year in 2013 was approximately $10,374 (AAA, Your Driving Costs).
  • According to AAA and the 2008-2012 American Community Survey, ownership of one motor vehicle accounts for 19.5 percent of a typical household’s income.
  • The cost of operating a bicycle for a year is only $308 (League of American Bicyclists).
  • An eight-year study of Atlanta communities suggests that a two person household in a walkable community saves over 260 gallons of gas annually. If gas is $3.25 per gallon, that is over $850 in savings.
  • Walking is free (well maybe you might want to buy a good pair of walking shoes for $50-100)

Benefits of Walking/Biking (from the Pedestrian and Bicyclist Information Center http://www.pedbikeinfo.org/data/factsheet.cfm)

I have found that how we design our transportation network, and what transportation options are available to us, can have significant impacts on our quality of life. Research on transportation options consistently shows that people who walk and bike to work are the happiest with their commute.

A well designed transportation network with more transportation options can create a strong sense of community.  People walking, biking and taking transit have more opportunity for social interaction and interacting with the community they are moving through. In Happy City, Charles Montgomery talks about the dividend we get when we choose to reside in a livable community with sustainable transportation choices.

We all make our own choice about how we commute to work. You may choose to drive alone but it is your choice. Trying out a new mode of transportation to get to work can have healthy benefits. If you think you have no choice maybe it is time to get involved as an advocate for a better transportation network in your community.

Starting out the New Year I will be using my new knowledge to facilitate local leadership academies that educate, and inform, community members on how they can get involved in the transportation planning and design discussion. Get involved, make a difference, and enhance your well-being.

The City of Manassas is Poised to Revamp Grant Ave with the City’s First Road Diet, Citing Pedestrian Safety Concerns

The City of Manassas is in the planning stages of a redesign of Grant Avenue, a road considered the southern gateway to downtown Manassas. Citing pedestrian safety and safe routes to schools, City staff are considering a road diet from 4 to 3 lanes with improved pedestrian sidewalks and crossings. A public meeting was held on 29 June with additional public engagement in the planning process to come in the future. Implementation of the Grant Ave Streetscape Project will also enable the city to move forward with smart growth re-development on the southern side of the city.

Streetscape Meeting

Manassas Grant Ave Streetscape Meeting

At the public meeting on 29 June, there was considerable staff, consultant, and community support for implementing a four-lane to three-lane road diet to improve walking and bicycling conditions, enhance bus stops, and increase aesthetics without significantly degrading motoring. Mayor Parrish, three current City Council members, and senior City staff were present at the meeting.

Existing Condition Comments

Manassas Grant Ave Streetscape Existing Condition Comments

At the meeting, staff guided interested individuals in using the Streetmix computer program to design alternative cross sections for Grant Ave.  While conventional bike lanes are eminently feasible and should be adequate for many bike riders with a road diet’s traffic-calming influence and a lowered 25 MPH speed limit, it was clear that the current street right of way is constrained, and expanding the sidewalk areas to include planting strips with street trees, urban street lamps, and bus shelters is an important “competing” priority that may preclude adding buffered or separated bicycle lanes.

View near Brent St.

Manassas Grant Ave view near Brent St.

While a simple road diet can often be accomplished using only maintenance funds to repave and re-paint the new lane configuration, expanding the sidewalks and planting strips, undergrounding the currently overhead utilities, and adding bus shelters, urban street lights, street furniture, trees, and other landscaping along Grant Ave will necessitate considerable construction funds.

The Initial planning and design for the project has been funded, but there’s not yet any funding allocated for construction, and thanks to HB 2 and HB 599, which target road capacity expansions, neither the Virginia Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) nor the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) are likely to provide any money for a road diet.  If construction will be locally funded, it’s unlikely that the curbs will be moved, so as to greatly reduce construction costs.  At the meeting, Active Prince William advocated for alternatives–including buffered bike lanes–that could fit within the existing roadway.

Example Road Profile

Grant Ave Streetscape Example Road Profile

For more information, visit the City’s project page [http://www.manassascity.org/grantave], where you can sign up for project updates, and view the meeting presentation which provides background information and describes how the meeting was conducted.

Dale City Revitalization Project Public Open House

Prince William County is holding a public open house for a presentation on the Dale City Revitalization Project at the Hylton Memorial Chapel, 14640 Potomac Mills Rd, Woodbridge, VA on Monday 18 July, 2016 from 6:00 – 8:00 PM. The presentation will focus on suggested improvements for revitalization of the Dale Blvd-Minnieville Rd area in Dale City that have been developed this year, with community input.

Dale City Revitalization Public Meeting Announcement

Dale City Revitalization Public Meeting Announcement (click to open)

The Dale City Revitalization Project is a continuation of the planning efforts initiated by the Prince William County Planning Office beginning with last year’s American Institute of Architects (AIA) Sustainable Design Assessment Team (SDAT) report (link to report here). Issues identified in the original SDAT report include developing a sense of place for Dale City, addressing transportation deficiencies such as a lack of sidewalks, bike paths and connections to neighborhoods, revitalizing run-down commercial properties, and adding genuine community spaces. The SDAT report suggested a focus on two areas, the Dale Blvd-Maple Dale intersection, and what they termed, The Streets at Minnieville and Dale.

Streets at Minniville and Dale Map

Streets at Minniville and Dale Map

The County successfully submitted a proposal for a Metro Washington Council of Governments (MWCOG) grant for a Transportation and Land Use Connection (TLC) Project that has funded further planning work on “The Streets of Minnieville and Dale” design concept. The open house presentation will include details developed from this new planning project that were shaped through a process of community input.

Dale City - Dale Blvd/Minnieville Revitalization Map

Dale City – Dale Blvd/Minnieville Revitalization Map

The Prince William County Planning Office contact for the project is Ryan Foster, Community Development Manager. He can be reached by phone at 703-792-7359 or rfoster@pwcgov.org

City of Manassas Solicits Ideas to Improve Grant Ave

The City of Manassas is soliciting ideas for how to improve Grant Avenue at a public meeting on Wednesday 29 June 2016 at 7PM in the Georgetown South Community Center, 9444 Taney Rd, Manassas, VA. Active Prince William encourages residents to attend the meeting and provide input on ways to help make Grant Avenue a safer place to bike and walk.

GrantAve Streetview at railroad underpass

GrantAve Streetview at railroad underpass

The public meeting on Wednesday is the beginning of the planning process for the Grant Ave corridor from Lee Ave to Wellington Rd. The Manassas spokeswoman who announced the project stated that the intent is to consider potential improvements to the existing public right-of-way without acquiring additional private property. The City mentioned potential pedestrian improvements as an option, but there was no mention of bicycling improvements. This is an opportunity to suggest that Grant Ave should be a safer place to ride bikes and walk.

Grant Ave Road Profile Proposal

Grant Ave Road Profile Proposal – courtesy of @FixRoute28 (on Twitter)

In its current state, this section of Grant Ave is unfriendly to bicyclists. Active Prince William’s Bicycle Comfort Level Map (http://ow.ly/c24d100cBbG) shows this stretch as “Low Comfort” due to multiple lanes of traffic, high traffic volumes, and no accommodations for bicycles along the route.

Grant Ave StreetView

Grant Avenue StreetView at Taney Rd

See additional details from the announcement here.

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