Autumn on Lake Audobon

Autumn on Lake Audobon
Autumn on Lake Audubon, Photo by Alison Kamat

Monday, April 29, 2013

Letter: Government’s failure to plan for housing is hurting people, Washington Post, April 29, 2013

This letter to the editor of the Washington Post by Tom Loftus President, Equitable Housing Institute, hits very close to home.

Problems described in the April 22 front-page article “Big firms scooping up home bargains,” about Wall Street firms outbidding individuals for homes in recovering real estate markets (such as this one), and in the same day’s Metro article “Budget cuts threaten to upend Fairfax man’s fragile existence” are aggravated by the failure of most area jurisdictions to plan for, and permit, enough housing for their ­workforces. . .
Major potential sources of new housing in Northern Virginia are being planned along the new Silver Line to Dulles Airport and eastern Loudoun County. But the local governments that ultimately will make the decisions about these communities have resisted allowing enough housing for future workers in those areas. . . .
Click here for the rest of this letter.  

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Today’s Dream House May Not Be Tomorrow’s, New York Times, April 28, 2013

Robert Shiller--Yale economics professor, one of America's foremost housing experts, and co-creator of the Case-Shiller Housing Index--has an excellent article in today's NYTimes about the future of housing in America.  He tracks the evolution of housing since the beginning of the last century and says this about where we are now:

AT the moment, walkable urban areas — pleasant places where people can stroll to work and to restaurants — are becoming more popular. Last year, a Brookings Institution study of the Washington area by Christopher B. Leinberger and Mariela Alfonzo concluded that such neighborhoods, where creative people cluster, show the highest property values. Far-flung suburbs are losing value relative to cities and close-in suburbs that offer such walkable areas. And these denser places seem to fit in better with more environmentally conscious values, too.
Attitudes toward renting have also been changing. A MacArthur Foundation survey, conducted by Hart Research Associates in February and March, asked Americans if they thought that, “given our nation’s current situation,” buying a home had become more or less appealing. Fifty-seven percent said it had become less so, with only 27 percent saying it had become more appealing. When asked if they agreed with the statement, “For the most part, renters can be just as successful as owners at achieving the American dream,” some 61 percent agreed; 28 percent did not.
Perhaps that trend will continue. Renting, which connotes mobility, might come to be identified with a high-status lifestyle in the new economy. If renting does become more important, owners of existing housing will be affected unevenly. . . .
He concludes this way:
If you want to settle down for a quiet life and watch your children grow up in a nice neighborhood, you might well act now to lock in an ultralow mortgage rate. Then again, if you’re restless, ambitious and determined to be mobile, it might be sensible to rent rather than own. Calculating the best economic return may not even be possible, given the uncertain investment potential.
Instead, it may be wisest to choose the housing that best meets your personal needs, among the choices you can afford.
 Click here for the rest of this thoughtful article.  

Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Soapstone Connection, A Bridge to Reston's Future, An RCA Reston 2020 White Paper, April 24, 2013


Nova Labs: Reston's New Creative Hotbed, Colin Mills, Reston Patch, April 24, 2013

As RCA president, I’ve seen and done a lot of unique and exciting things.  On Saturday, I had one of my coolest experiences yet, as a delegation of RCA members and I visited one of Reston’s hidden gems.  You’ve probably never heard of it, but it’s a place that exemplifies Reston’s spirit of creativity and experimentation.  It’s called Nova Labs, and I think it’s a dream come true.


Nova Labs describes itself as a “makerspace.”  What’s that?  Think of it as a clubhouse for creative types.  It provides people with a space to build things, kind of like a garage or a basement workshop.  But Nova Labs offers two key advantages that a basement or garage doesn’t.  For one thing, Nova Labs is stocked with an amazing array of tools that no one would have the space or money to maintain at home.  Second, Nova Labs gives you the chance to interact with other makers.  You can collaborate, learn how to do new things, and share ideas with like-minded folks.  It’s an incubator for creation, and a chance to go beyond what you could do on your own.

I first heard of Nova Labs from RCA Board member Gary Thomas.  He had visited with his son, and he kept telling me that RCA needed to check it out.  So we arranged to tour the facility with Brian Jacoby, President of Nova Labs.  We met at the unassuming storefront where the facility is located, tucked away near the Wiehle Metro station.

Brian explained to us how Nova Labs got started.  A couple years ago, 12 friends who liked to build things kept talking about how they wished they had a space where they could work outside of the house.  The more they talked about it, the more they wanted it to exist, until (in Brian’s words) they “double dared each other to do it.”  And then they did it.  Talk about an inventive spirit!

I could tell from the moment we met that Brian was excited to show us the facility.  As soon as he took us inside, I could see why.

If you’re a creative type, walking into Nova Labs is like walking into a toy store.  Just being there filled me with inspiration to experiment and invent.  Once inside, Brian pointed out a light switch on the wall,   inside a Plexiglas box containing some wiring.  I thought it was neat-looking.  But Brian explained that it was more than a light switch.  When a member flips the switch, it updates the Nova Labs Web site and Twitter feed to let people know the facility is open to visit.  How cool is that?

Brian took us around the different areas in the facility.  He showed us the metalworking shop, the newly expanded woodshop, the classroom space, and the open tables for people to work on their projects.  And he showed up the cool tools that Nova Labs has to offer.  All of the their tools were either donated by sponsors or provided by members who owned the tools but didn’t have the space or the time to really get the use out of them.  They have drill presses, table saws, CNCs (which allow you to do three-dimensional cutting), laser cutters, and more.  (They also have safety and usage classes, so that people learn how to operate the machines responsibly.)

Perhaps my favorite tools at Nova Labs are the 3-D printers.  You might have heard of this new technology; you might have even seen the demo that Nova Labs did at Reston Regional last year.  If you’re not familiar, 3-D printing allows you to use an extruded material (plastic or metal or other things) to make three-dimensional objects using digital models.  They’re used to make things from gears to clocks to jewelry to auto parts.

Brian showed us a couple of 3-D printers, and they were much smaller than I expected; you could lift one with one hand.  Nova Labs received their first 3-D printer as a donation from a sponsor; they then used it to make parts to build new printers!  Currently, there’s a group of 25 folks at Nova Labs who are making their own printers.

As soon as we left Nova Labs, our RCA delegation was talking about how we could work with them.  We’ve come up with possibilities.  Nova Labs is planning to hold a Maker Faire in 2014, and we are thinking of working with them to make it happen.  Our Education Task Force looks at Nova Labs as a model for how hands-on learning might work in their Academic Village.  (Nova Labs offers classes and education opportunities aimed at kids, to foster their love of science, technology, and creativity.)  And since Nova Labs’ current facility is likely to be replaced within the next few years by Metro-related development, we’re on the lookout for a permanent home for them.

Reston has always been a creative community.  We owe our very existence to Bob Simon’s desire to experiment and build a new kind of community, a place that was quite different from a typical suburb.  Citizen groups like RCA built on that creative spirit, launching experiments like chartering a commuter bus service and pioneering a more active concept of “getting involved” in the community.

Now that we’ve matured and built out, there are fewer opportunities for community-wide creativity and experimentation.  Projects like the Initiative for Public Art – Reston (IPAR) keep the spirit alive.  But we need other outlets for the dreamers and the creators.  Nova Labs is a perfect playground for people to create, to innovate, and to experiment.

Nova Labs provides a workspace and a community for people who like to make things.  It’s open to inventors, programmers, electronics wizards, artists, crafters, or anyone who is interested in technology and creation.  Places like this can help Reston maintain its reputation as a hotbed of creativity and experimentation.  The next generation of Thomas Edisons, Bill Gateses, and Steve Jobses are getting their start right here.

I hope this post has inspired you to visit the Nova Labs website or, better yet, visit their facility to learn more.  And I hope that Reston continues to foster places like Nova Labs, to keep our reputation as an innovative and creative community alive.

South Lakes debate win marks series of firsts, Fairfax Times, April 24, 2013

First academic state championship in school’s 35-year history

A once-empty trophy display case outside of South Lakes High School’s library now houses a montage of awards won this year by the school’s newest powerhouse: the debate team.
“We started off literally with four people. We didn’t even have a name. Since then South Lakes has become a force to be reckoned with,” said South Lakes senior Jeffrey DiSanto-Ranney, 18, a captain for the debate team. “The trophy case was empty. Now it’s filled with debate trophies.”
This past weekend, South Lakes took first in the Virginia High School League’s state debate championship held at Liberty University in Lynchburg. The win marks the first academic state championship in the school’s 35-year history. . . .
Click here to read the rest.

These students are the future of Reston.  Congratulations to all of them, their coach, and South Lakes High School for this outstanding performance!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Letter to Chairman Bulova re Workspace Requirements for Office Workers, Terry Maynard, April 24, 2013

RCA Letter to Supervisor Hudgins re Steps to Improve Wiehle Station Access, April 22,2013


Could Silver Line Cause Tysons (..& Reston!) Parking Problems? NBC4, April 23, 2013


View more videos at: http://nbcwashington.com.
By Adam Tuss
When the massive Metro Silver Line opens in Northern Virginia in just a matter of months, the vast network of parking lots in and around Tysons Corner could become the center of major controversy.
Here is the problem: there is no parking at the four new Metro stations being built in Tysons Corner. But there is plenty of available, free parking at nearby shopping centers like Tysons Corner Center and the Pike 7 Plaza.
Some are worried commuters will start leaving their cars in those parking lots and just hop on the train. Shopping center parking lots could effectively be turned into commuter parking lots. . .
Commuter cheaters are nothing new for the D.C. Region. Some drivers along the Dulles Toll Road try to get around the toll by using the Airport Access Road, even though they don't have airport business. Of course, there are the HOV lane cheaters.
And now, the commuter cheating could extend to the parking lots of Tysons.
Click here for the rest of this article.

And so is anyone in the County government thinking about the impact of Metrorail on parking in commercial lots and residential neighborhoods in Reston by "commuter cheaters" rather than pay to park in the newly built parking garage?

We haven't heard a peep from County officials about the near-certain parking problems at Reston's end-of-the-line stationIts just Tysons, full time, all the time. 

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Continuing Lengthy Gaps in Proposed Reston Bus Service

UPDATE:  If you use or plan to use Reston's buses--or know someone who does--please make sure they comment on the proposed bus transit service at  fairfaxconnector@fairfaxcounty.gov.  For further information on the proposed changes, please visit the Fairfax Connector Silver Line bus service website and review its updated presentation and other materials on the proposed bus service.  Fairfax Connector listened to what Restonians had to say in the first round and we believe they will listen again--but do it soon, time is running out!

This table highlights the continuing gaps in Reston area bus service as it shifts from AM Rush--Mid-Day Service--PM Rush--Night schedules.

 

According to FCDOT staff, the time ranges for hours of service in the Connector’s proposals represent the beginning and end of service on each route, and the second time is when the last bus will be ‘off the road.’  If this is correct, the last trip necessarily would begin 15-30 minutes earlier, perhaps more depending upon the length of the route, so the gaps shown in this chart may be even greater than stated.
 
In South Reston, modified all-day Routes 551 and 585 will provide some stop-gap coverage (although Route 585 will have a 60-minute headway), but there is no similar alternative in North Reston between the end of rush-hour service and the beginning of mid-day and nighttime service (60- and 80-minute gaps, respectively).
 
Probably the best solution would be to add at least one additional rush hour trip on all the feeder routes (552, 553, 554 and 557) to fill the gaps. Fairfax Connector staff have indicated that they cannot add additional trips, however.  Their solution is to spread out the mid-day routes, but this would increase the already lengthy 40-minute headways on Routes 558 and 559.