Post #444: MAC-related public meetings this week

There are several public meetings this week with some relevance to MAC zoning.

Monday, 11/4/2019, at 8:00 PM in Town Hall, Town Council will hold a meeting that includes several MAC-related items. 
1)  They will hold a public hearing on extending the MAC moratorium through June 30 2020.  Citizens are invited to speak.  Three minute time limit.
2)  They will consider a resolution to request grant funding for a three-story parking garage/library to replace the current Patrick Henry library.
3)  They will examine (and likely approve) the modified rear facades of the Marco Polo/Vienna Market MAC project.

The relevant materials can be found here:

Thursday, 11/7/2019, at 7:30 PM in Town Hall, Town Council will hold a work session to obtain their final briefing on the Kimley-Horn “Maple Avenue Corridor Multimodal Transportation and Land Use Study”.

The relevant materials can be found here:


Friday, 11/8/2019 at 8:00 AM (AM), the Board of Architectural Review will hold a work session on the new building proposed for 380 Maple West, a Sunrise assisted living facility.

The relevant materials can be found here:

The Town reserves the right to change or cancel meetings on short notice, so check the Town’s general calendar before you go, at this URL:


On the Monday Town Council meeting, I would have expected the extension of the MAC moratorium to be cut-and-dried.  Would have, except that it was anything but that at the preceding Planning Commission meeting.  The actual discussion was in fact for more convoluted than I said in my brief writeup (Post #440), and included some legal arguments to block any consideration of an extension of the moratorium

Also, the Town Council is being asked to approve a grant request for funding the largest parking structure option that the Town’s consultant offered them.  I had not realized that the Town had made the affirmative decision to go with that option.  If that’s a done deal, I certainly wish they would reconsider (e.g., Post #367, Post #369, Post #371).

Separately, the Town is also going to ask for about $240K in grant funding for Capital Bikeshare bike racks.  I’ve already expressed the sentiment that this is almost sure a near-total waste of money, given the lack of use of these rental bikes in Tysons and other remote suburban near-Metro locations (Post #387).

On the Thursday Town Council work session, to me the big question is how they’ll deal with the estimated traffic impact of MAC development.  The rest of the items — the proposed projects for the Town to undertake — seemed fairly weak to me.  You can see can see my analysis in Post #358 and subsequent posts to Post #364.  It is worth bearing in mind that the traffic impact analysis does NOT use current traffic as baseline, which is why (e.g.) redevelopment of the currently empty BB&T site was estimated to reduce traffic on Maple in that study.

The Friday BAR session is a bit of a puzzler to me, as it is not clear to citizens that (e.g.) Sunrise has actually signed a contract with the current owner of 380 Maple West, and so on.  This is due, in part, I think, to the fact that this isn’t a MAC application.  Formally, it’s a request for changes to the existing, approved MAC building.  (I.e., new building, new owner, new purpose, new conditional use permit and so on, and yet all done within the context of the land already having been rezoned to MAC instead of standard commercial development.)

Post #383: It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future

I’m going to attribute the title of this post to Yogi Berra.  And while my last post was a lament for the things I think the Town ought to ask, this one is my prediction of what they’re actually going to do.

The point of this post is to predict what the zoning will look like for Maple Avenue, once the Town Council’s deliberations are finished five months from now, in February 2020.  (Or at least, scheduled to finish.)  And, by inference, what Maple will look like in the long run.

This post is just a plain statement of what I think we’ll get.  A subsequent post will explain why I think we’re going to get that.

Anyway, let’s face the facts.  Allowing just five months to redo the zoning, within a cumbersome legal and governmental framework, strongly limits what you can do and what you can consider.  Thus, once you’ve set that at the goal, you have a good idea of where this is going to end up.  That’s based on what’s on the table now, recent history, and some understand of the players.

Just as a hint, the original title of my last post was “why I despair”.  So if you expect something chipper and upbeat here, you’ve come to the wrong place.

But first, one more for the obits

I have one more item to add to the obits of the prior post.  Of all the things I could have added to that last posting, but forgot to, I want to mention “produce a drawing of what one whole block of Maple would look like, under MAC redevelopment”.  That came up at one of the recent meetings.  Staff were going to look into doing that.  But some Town Council members didn’t want anyone to do that.  So staff didn’t bother.  And it was forgotten.

The bottom line is that they Town is not going to commission any drawing of what the MAC build-out might look like.  Which is not a surprise, as that is just one more in the list of incredibly reasonable questions the Town might try to answer before plowing ahead.  But won’t.   Most of which I listed in my just-prior “obits” post.

A few pictures of a block-level build-out would be useful, if for no other reason than to see what it will look like when two abutting MAC developments are built  just off the common lot line, as the law allows.  But it’s obvious by now that this request — “may we please have even one image of what Maple might look like” — ain’t gonna happen.

As an economist, I believe in “revealed preference”.  That is, what you do reveals what you actually prefer.   So in this case, I infer that Town Council would rather buy a pig in a poke than let anyone have any image whatsoever of what they are actually voting for.  Fully admitting that (see post title), I just shake my head about that whenever I think about it.  The full extent of our forward-looking planning is going to be, more or less, “oh, just surprise us.”

So, because we won’t hire a professional to try to give you a picture of the future, I figure, what the hey, I might as well give it a shot — let me tell you what I think we’re going to get, to be decided by our Town staff Council over the next five months.  Let me first outline what, then why.

Continue reading Post #383: It’s tough to make predictions, especially about the future

Post #338: Rental electric scooters, again.

This article is about decisions that the Town must make, in the near future, regarding rental electric scooters and rental bicycles.  It ends with some discussion of the presumed environmental benefits of electric scooters.

Bottom line:  Thanks to a change in Virginia law, the Town needs to come up with some form of regulation for “dockless” rental electric scooters by 1/1/2020.  If not, we end up with open season for rental electric scooters in Vienna, which we probably want to avoid.  Unregulated dockless bike and scooter rentals have become a nuisance in many major cities (see examples in this post).

Here, I line out what a minimum set of regulations probably ought to cover.  (Which is no great shakes — just look at what other local jurisdictions have done.)

Separately, the Town needs to find places for racks for the “docked” Capital Bikeshare rental bikes.

N.B:  In “docked” systems, bikes (or other devices) are picked up from and returned to dedicated racks.  (If not, steep charges mount up for the renter.)  Smartphone apps show how many bicycles/scooters are available for use at each rack.  By contrast, in “dockless” systems, scooters or bikes may be picked up and left anywhere, tracked by a combination of on-board GPS and internet connectivity.  Smartphone apps show the location of available scooters or bikes.   Rental is accomplished via smartphone app and account, or in some cases, via credit card swipe.

Continue reading Post #338: Rental electric scooters, again.

Post #211: Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting, 3/26/2019

I attended the 7 PM 3/26/2019 meeting of the Town of Vienna Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC).  The BAC reports to the Town’s Transportation Safety Commission (TSC), and from there to the Town Council.

This BAC matters, in the context of MAC zoning, due to the Town’s much-hyped multi-modal transportation study, aka, the traffic study.  “Multi-modal” means that in addition to cars, that study will include travel by bus, bike, foot, and possibly other means.  Our Town government bike experts should matter in the ensuing discussion.

I recorded the meeting, and if you click this Google Drive link, your browser should open up an audio player.  (If not, you can download it and listen to it.)  Many parts are unintelligible as speakers frequently did not use microphones.  Click here to get to my index of that recording (what was being discussed, when) is in this post, below.

In theory, the Town will post its own recording, but if so, I have yet to figure out where they are going to post it.  Click here to see my final section on Town governance for a further discussion.

Otherwise, the first part of this post is about Capital Bikeshare. Continue reading Post #211: Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting, 3/26/2019

Capital Bikeshare, trip flow visualizations 3/11/2019

Links to a flow map of the entire Capital Bikeshare system added 3/14/2019.

Reston and Tysons Bikeshare Flows

The links below take you to maps showing the average daily flow of trips, for the Reston and Tysons Bikeshare network, for 2018.  I only show the 20 most-frequently-used origin-destination pairs, separately for Reston and Tysons, separately for each map. Continue reading Capital Bikeshare, trip flow visualizations 3/11/2019

Dockless Bikes as an alternative to Capital Bikeshare, 3/10/2019

After analyzing the data and writing extensively on Capital Bikeshare — a bike sharing system using dedicated bike “docks” — I decided to take a quick look at dockless bike rental alternatives.

In a nutshell, dockless systems — where the bikes can be parked anywhere, and you can rent them using an app on your smart phone — have some huge advantages over docked systems like Capital Bikeshare.  I summarize those advantages below.  But they can cause a mess if people park them willy-nilly.  Most of the cities that have allowed dockless bike rental have ended up passing significant laws to regulate them — particularly, to regulate where you can leave them parked.

Detail follows.  Drop down to the paragraph in red to see my summary. Continue reading Dockless Bikes as an alternative to Capital Bikeshare, 3/10/2019

Capital Bikeshare rack location, data analysis, 3/8/2019.

On this page, I describe the issue facing Vienna, and then profile the typical Capital Bikeshare user and analyze data on Capital Bikeshare use in Tyson’s Corner and Reston.  See a separate page for a quick summary of dockless bike alternatives.

Edited 3/9/2019 to correct minor errors in the data analysis.  Gray pins in the map below indicate racks with less than one bike trip per day, on average, in 2018.  Edited 3/10/2019 to add an analysis of growth trends for newly-opened Bikeshare stations.

Continue reading Capital Bikeshare rack location, data analysis, 3/8/2019.

2019-02-26 Transportation Safety Commission, audio recording and notes

I attended last night’s meeting of the Traffic Transportation Safety Commission (TSC).  You can find a (rather poor-quality) audio recording, and an Excel file that serves as an index to the recording, here on Google Drive. Basically, use the Excel spreadsheet to find the times for items you would care to listen to, then move to that spot in the recording to hear what was said.

I attended because TSC was considering an on-demand flashing sign at the crosswalk where Glen Avenue hits Courthouse Road.  The sign is called a rectangular rapid flashing beacon (RRFB).  It would allow pedestrians to stop traffic in order to get across Courthouse. We already have a few of these in Vienna.  Here’s a view of an RRFB pair on Beulah.

Continue reading 2019-02-26 Transportation Safety Commission, audio recording and notes