Reston Wiehle Metrorail Station

Reston Wiehle Metrorail Station
Photo by ehplen, November 2013

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Metro aims to cut trains on some lines, including the Silver Line to Reston.

Washington Post

Metro aims to cut trains on some lines

Trains would arrive less frequently under a new proposal from Metro. (Courtesy WMATA)
Metro is proposing adding more trains and reducing the wait times for riders on its crowded Blue Line, but at the expense of at least four other rail lines.
The proposed changes are expected to be presented Wednesday night at a meeting of its riders advisory group. They would still need to go through public hearings and approval by the board. If approved, the changes would go into place in December, according to Metro officials.
The changes are meant to ease crowding on the Blue Line.
Riders on the Blue Line would see trains every eight minutes in rush hour, up from the current 12 minutes. There would also be more trains on the Blue Line at peak times — roughly 56, up from the current 36.
That means trains on the Orange, Silver, Green and Yellow lines will see changes as well. There would be fewer trains on most of those lines. Trains would come every eight minutes, instead of every six minutes as they do now. . . .
Click here for the rest of this article.

Oh, why not?

Dulles Toll Road users are only paying half of the $6 biillion cost to build the Silver Line, not to mention the $900 million the County is putting into building it, so if there are fewer trains, maybe more people will crowd on to the DTR--lowering future astronomical toll growth.  The line should last years longer if fewer trains run on it!  (OK, we're just kidding!) 

. . . but it is really hard to make this stuff up!  Who are these people???

Monday, June 29, 2015

Silver Spring has a new public library with many new features. Will this be what the new Reston Regional Library looks like?

Greater Greater Washington reports today that "Silver Spring is a more complete place thanks to its new library."  We wonder if the Fairfax County Board and Library Trustees have the imagination to make this kind of investment in Reston and the County's future. 

Here's how the article begins:

Silver Spring is a more complete place thanks to its new library

Downtown Silver Spring's library opened just over a week ago, and it's more than just a building full of books. The new library is full of things that are there to help the community, like meeting spaces and a coffee shop and, in the future, a transit stop.

Residents at the new library's grand opening. Images by the author unless otherwise noted. Downtowns and town centers are reemerging as increasingly important parts of their communities, and libraries are a big part of that. Parents, for example, can bring their kids during the day before hosting a book club meeting later that evening, and community leaders can use the space to host their meetings.
Meeting space at the library.
Libraries are also not strictly quiet places like they once were. Vibrancy and social connections are a big part of the library experience. You can meet friends, or have kids' play dates—here, you'd do that in the new "Early Literacy Center" on the 5th floor. If you do want the traditional solitude, you can go to a designated "quiet" room, where you can join students quietly typing on their laptops or visitors reading the newspaper. . . .
Click on the link above for more information.  

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Office Market Assessment: Montgomery County, Maryland, by Partners for Economic Solutions, June 18, 2015

Below we offer the subject study in its entirety.    Although the report was prepared for the Montgomery County Planning Department, its lessons are equally valid for Fairfax County (which has the highest level of office market vacancies in the region).  Every major point made in this report is consistent with what Reston 20/20 has told the Reston Master Plan Task Force, the County's Department of Planning & Zoning, and the Board of Supervisors (including specifically Chairman Bulova) since September 2011 when we commented on the then peculiar seeming case of Accenture leaving Reston for Ballston.

Here are the report's key findings and a few comments on them.
Findings

  • Most jobs created during the economic recovery have been in restaurants, retailers and health care facilities, rather than in office-based sectors such as professional and technical services.
This is consistent with a recent report from GMU's Center for Regional Analysis.  It not only makes the same point, but adds the corollary that a key result has been a lowering of Gross Regional Product as a result of the lower incomes earned in these newer jobs.
  • Telecommuting, technological advances, more efficient work spaces and practices such as hoteling have enabled office tenants to reduce their square footage even as they expand their workforce.
This is a point Reston 20/20 has made repeatedly, including four letters to the Board of Supervisors Chairman (here, here, here, and here) to no discernible effect.  The County continues to insist on planning for 300 GSF per employee, an amount that could see twice as many employees in a building as are expected, including all the ramifications of that growth.  
  • The most successful office clusters in Montgomery County are part of mixed-use developments with a strong sense of place and a quality environment. Transit connectivity is increasingly important to office tenants. This trend is consistent with recommended land use strategies in recent County plans for White Flint, Bethesda, White Oak and other communities.
Reston and Tysons have the advantage of the arrival of the Silver Line as a focal point for mixed-use development, but in both cases the balance in square footage strongly favors office space increases--at the 300 GSF per office worker level discussed above.  Moreover, the "quality" of these areas is seriously undermined by the absence of concrete goals for open space and the County Park Authority's refusal to adhere to its own "Urban Parks Guidelines" in the development of these areas.  The result could easily be crammed office, residential, and retail development that is unattractive to employers, employees, residents, and shoppers. 
  • Single-use office developments without convenient transit or highway access are having difficulty in attracting tenants.
Reston is blessed that its existing single-use office development is almost exclusively located in the former Reston Center for Industry and Government (RCIG) that, except for the far east end, is within conventional transit-oriented development distance of a 1/2 mile of Reston's three Metrorail stations.  This fact could mean that these office spaces will remain well occupied and, therefore, have less near-term motivation for redevelopment, especially in the slower office market development climate discussed below.  
  • Future office development is likely to occur at a much slower pace and be concentrated in prime locations. Not every location will be able to attract new office development or maintain former occupancy levels.
One consideration we believe that PES may have overlooked is the prospect of long-term federal austerity, meaning fewer employees and contracts in the metropolitan area for some time as reflected in several Reston 20/20 postings.  It appears to be a concern also shared by GMU CRA in its thinking about regional employment.  This goes beyond GSA's deliberate efforts to shrink office space per worker, do more work in government office buildings, etc.  It is basically an extension of the sequestration mentality of the last few years (not to mention the occasional Congressional budgetary dysfunction resulting in total government shutdowns). 

We encourage readers to review the entire PES report below:



Saturday, June 20, 2015

Loudoun says it's in the dark on Silver Line despite $300M investment, Washington Business Journal, June 17, 2014

Michael Neibauer writes:
When it comes to the Silver Line project, even a $300 million investment isn’t enough to get answers.
Loudoun County will pay for more than 10 percent of the $2.778 billion extension of the Silver Line from Reston to Ashburn — or 4.8 percent of the $5.7 billion combined Phase 1 and Phase 2 price tag. But the county has very little role in, or even knowledge of, the project itself, according to a staff report. That includes major decisions such as schedule, cost and design changes. . .
The frustration bubbled to the surface in late April, when MWAA publicly announced that stormwater management and technical design changes would delay the opening of the 11.4-mile Silver Line Phase 2 by roughly 13 months.   (Reston 20/20 note:  And we have learned since that the stormwater issue accounts for only one month of the 13-month delay.)
The decisions were all made, Loudoun staff says, by MWAA and contractor Capital Rail Constructors (led by Clark Construction Group LLC and Kiewit Infrastructure South Co.) during a “six-month effort of schedule development and negotiations” in which neither Loudoun nor Fairfax had any role. Loudoun received a revised schedule in mid-May, indicating a late 2019 or early 2020 launch for passenger service, but it still has not been provided a new cost estimate or any word of the increased construction costs resulting from the design changes. . .
Both Loudoun and Fairfax, according to Loudoun staff, “were again excluded from schedule impact discussions” between MWAA and its contractor, the development of a revised schedule, and ongoing discussions regarded additional costs resulting from the massive stormwater management redesign. . . .
Click here for the rest of Mr. Neibauer's article.

Pope to Urban Planners: Build Better Cities By Anna Clark, Next City, June 19, 2015

Pope Francis called for an extraordinary global response to climate change this week in his much-anticipated encyclical. But the first pope from the developing world also has a message for urban planners: Build better neighborhoods for the poor. And while you’re at it, find a way to integrate the natural world in city design. “We were not meant to be inundated by cement, asphalt, glass and metal, and deprived of physical contact with nature,” he writes in Laudato Si. It’s subtitled “Our Care for Our Common Home.”
Cities have become unhealthy places for human beings — not only because of toxic emissions, but also because of poor transportation, visual pollution, congestion, social exclusion, violence, noise and even “the loss of identity.” And inequality looms over it all.
"In some places, rural and urban alike, the privatization of certain spaces has restricted people’s access to places of particular beauty,” Francis writes. “In others, ‘ecological’ neighbourhoods have been created which are closed to outsiders in order to ensure an artificial tranquility. Frequently, we find beautiful and carefully manicured green spaces in so-called ‘safer’ areas of cities, but not in the more hidden areas where the disposable of society live.” . . .
The Pope understands the role of quality of life in urban planning, a factor that is especially important in a planned community such as Reston.

Why can't our County leaders, starting with the Board of Supervisors, but including planning, parks, transportation, education, and more, grasp this need and plan and build accordingly?

For the rest of Anna Clark's excellent article, click here.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

WMATA Safety Management Inspection Report, June 15, 2015



To receive this unsafe Metrorail service, Dulles Toll Road users are paying $2.8 billion plus interest toward the construction of the Silver Line, all Restonian and other Fairfax County residents are expected to pay $161MM in 2016 (per the WMATA draft budget) for the operation and capital investments in WMATA rail & bus service through the County's contribution to WMATA, and a much smaller share of the statewide contribution to WMATA. 

And that was before the costs the FTA's fixes will require.  

Friday, June 12, 2015

The Cost of Ebooks vs Print Books for Libraries

Fairfax Library Advocates reports that, in 2013, the lifetime cost of e-book leases ran 28 times higher than the price of a printed book.  New pricing schemes (and less information available from FCPL) indicates e-book pricing schemes have since lowered that ratio to 4- to 10-times the cost of a print book. 

Read the details here:  http://ffxlibraryadvocates.blogspot.com/2015/06/the-cost-of-ebooks-vs-print-books-for.html