A group charged with investigating whether dedicated transit lanes could ease congestion in Old Town was met with frustration and sometimes angry questions from residents at a public hearing last week.
The High Capacity Transit Corridor Work Group met Sept. 15 at to talk about traffic woes in the Route 1-Washington Street corridor, also called "Corridor A," and to begin brainstorming options to tackle the congestion. The group is studying whether express buses, streetcars or some other type of transit could ease traffic and make public transportation more convenient, and if it can, what is the best route.
Appointed by the City Manager last fall, the group has been studying two other high-traffic areas in Alexandria: the Van Dorn-Beauregard streets corridor on the West End of Alexandria and the Duke Street-Eisenhower Avenue corridor.
On Saturday, the Alexandria City Council approved the group's recommendation for bus rapid transit in dedicated lanes between the Van Dorn Metro and the Pentagon. The group recommended that the buses ultimately be replaced by a streetcar.
The notion that streetcars could also one day course through Old Town angered residents of the historic district, many of whom complained at the hearing last week that the majority of traffic is caused by drivers from Maryland and other places who merely pass through the city on their work commute.
A man who lives in the 200 block of N. Patrick Street told the group that he bought his 130-year-old townhouse because of the historic district. He said the transit discussions had nothing to do with preserving the city's historic character, but rather: "It's about accommodating people using Alexandria as a through-put."
Katy Cannady, who lives in Rosemont near the Braddock Road Metro, said the city already has a premiere transportation option. "Dedicated lanes are wonderful things; get on the Metro and nobody is going to be in your way," Cannady said. "We need to think about ways to get people to the very expensive Metro that we have already built."
But others noted that many commuters don't want to use public transportation. "If people are using cars, not Metro, what makes us think they'll use a bus later?" asked a man who lives in the 400 block of Patrick Street and walks to work at the Patent Office.
A woman who lives in the 400 block of N. Alfred Street seemed to speak for many in the crowd when she asked: "Why are we doing anything?"
Councilman Rob Krupicka, the co-chairman of the High Capacity Transit Corridor Work Group, told the crowd the group has four options to consider: Increase local bus service to cut down on wait times, create a dedicated transit lane, create a hybrid fix that could deliver marginal improvement or do nothing.
"It is very possible that we could decide not to create dedicated lanes in areas of Corridor A where we are hearing the concerns," he wrote in an email after the meeting. "We are looking at a range of options. That is the point of this process."