Post #1169, Capital Bikeshare, final post for this round

Background

Capital Bikeshare is a short-term bike rental system, currently in the process of expanding in Northern Virginia.  In particular, the Town of Vienna is deciding where to place four (?) Capital Bikeshare stations.  The cost of the stations and bikes will be paid from toll revenues from I-66, so they are “free” in the sense of the capital cost being paid by somebody else.

In theory, the location of the bike racks matters greatly.  Capital Bikeshare is a “docked” bike rental system focusing on short rack-to-rack trips.  Bikes must be picked up and returned to one of Capital Bikeshare’s “docks” (slots in their locking electronic bike racks).  Users may rent a bike via annual membership, one- or multi-day pass, or credit card at time of rental.  Stiff financial penalties apply for failure to return a bike to a rack in a timely fashion.  For the casual user, the first half-hour costs $2, the next costs $2, the third costs $4, and the fourth and higher half-hour increments cost $8 each.  If you (e.g.) use your credit card and accidentally keep a bike outside of a rack/dock for an entire eight-hour day, that will cost you $112.

In other words, this is a bike rental system strongly oriented toward going from A to B, where A and B are Capital Bikeshare racks less than a half-hour bike ride apart.  That makes the location of A and B crucial to the use of the bikes.  To be clear, Capital Bikeshare is NOT a bike rental system for people who just want to ride around for a while and aren’t quite sure of their destination.  Based on their member surveys, their members overwhelmingly use Capital Bikeshare because it’s the quickest way for them to get from A to B, typically a very short work commute.

In practice, however, Capital Bikeshare typically gets so little use out here in the suburbs that it may not much matter where Vienna places its Bikeshare racks.  That was the main finding of my analysis two years ago.  If you have an interest in Capital Bikeshare in Fairfax County or Vienna, VA, you should start by reading my original analysis, in this unnumbered post from 2019.  Two years later, that still stands up as a pretty good piece of analysis.  Among the highlights are the following, all of which are documented in that post:

Each bike rack costs around $45,000

Each bike costs about $1000 (2011 data) or maybe $1200 (2015 data).

In addition to those capital costs, the annual operating cost per bike is somewhere around $2000 (2011 data, Wikipedia) to $2800 (2019, calculated from Arlington, VA fiscal report).

Best guess, on any given weekday, in the peak month, the entire Tyson’s Bikeshare network serves about six people/12 trips (2018 data).  That’s with a fleet of almost 100 bikes deployed across 15 racks.

In Tysons, three-quarters of the Bikeshare racks are used for less than one trip per day, on average.  In Reston, 69% of the racks are used for less than one trip per day (2018 data).

The “use rate” (bike trips per bike-parking slot) of Tyson’s Bikeshare racks is just 6% of the all-metro-area average Bikeshare use rate.

That low use rate was not expected. The 2018 Reston use rate is less than 20% of the level projected for the second year of operation in the Reston bikeshare feasibility study (.pdf).  With this most recent analysis, we know the use rate is not increasing.

The low use rate in Tysons generates an absurdly high cost per trip. My estimate from my prior analysis worked out to an average cost of $25 per bike trip.  That compares to a calculated all-metro-area average cost of just over $3/trip.  Data for Arlington County (.pdf) works out to around $7/trip

Capital Bikeshare is owned by our local governments, but it’s operated by a private for-profit enterprise.  It’s not clear that any entity involved with this has any incentives other than to expand the network regardless of value.

Despite having hundreds of racks placed in this area, there is no standardized process to guide the choice of rack locations.  Every locality gets to decide it on-the-fly.


Current data analysis:  Merrifield.

In my last post, I did enough analysis of more recent Capital Bikeshare trip data to show that nothing had changed materially since my earlier work summarized above.  For the Reston area, the number of trips was stable through 2019, then declined in the pandemic.  For the Tysons area, they increased the number of bike racks by 50%, and and the number of trips increased by about 50% in 2019.  In both cases, the value proposition remains the same or worse than it was.

Let me quickly reiterate the (lack of) value proposition at the low Tysons use rate.  Arlington County’s 2019 financial report (cited above) shows an annual operating cost of $2800 per bicycle.  That’s not hugely different from the roughly-$2000-per-bike 2011 figure cited by Wikipedia.  It’s hard to say what it would be for Fairfax County, but I believe the for-profit company that manages the system gets a fixed per-bike fee.  Let’s assume Fairfax’s average cost could be at the lower $2000 figure.  Tyson’s Bikeshare racks were reported to have almost 100 bikes available on July 4 (see just-prior post).  For all of 2019, there were about 5700 trips that used those racks.  When I do the math, that comes out to an average operating cost of $35 per half-mile bicycle trip.  And that’s assuming that all the capital equipment (racks, bikes, kiosks) is free.

The upshot is that by any plausible estimate, the Tyson’s area cost per trip is ghastly.  For example, you can buy a Schwinn comfort bike for $300.  For the estimated annual operating cost of the Tysons portion of Capital Bikeshare, you could give away about 650 of those bikes, per year.  I’d bet that’s far more than the number of people who used those Tysons bike racks in 2019.  You could literally give every user a new bike, every year, for what it costs to supply those rental bikes.

The only thing that’s really new in this whole picture is Bikeshare at Merrifield.   The three racks in that area seem to have an above-average use rate, at least during the peak months of use.  During the peak month, each bike dock sees about one bike trip every four days (0.27 trips per day).  And while that’s a pitifully low rate compared to the racks in the DC urban core, it’s the best of the four Fairfax County areas.

So, the question is, why?  Why does Merrifield appear to outperform the other three regions of Fairfax County?

My answer is that it combines enough apartments and shopping, near metro, that you get a few people to use those bikes every day.   Although there is no personal identifying information on the trip data, you can use some clues to infer what a typical trip was for.  A short trip, during rush hour, involving the Metro station, by somebody who has an annual membership, is probably a Metro commuter.  By contrast, a long round-trip around a Bikeshare station, mostly by non-members, mostly not during rush hour, is probably somebody out running an errand of some type.

That logic is what I’m trying to show in the table below.  This takes all the trips involving Merrifield stations during the peak months of June to September 2019, and tabulates them by start and end points.

Probably, an average of three commuters used those bikes steadily to get to and from Metro.  That yielded an average of six trips a day.

But on top of that, there’s another 3.4 trips per day that look like shopping/dining trips to me.  These were either long round-trip excursions from a single location, or people going to and from the Mosaic shopping district.  These were typically not during M-F rush hour, and typically involved a lot of casual (non-annual-membership) users.

The upshot is that the entire Merrifield Capital Bikeshare system served a handful of people a day during the peak summer months of 2020.  Six, maybe?  That was three or so commuters to and from Metro from nearby apartments.  And maybe another three or so shoppers/diners, mostly taking round trips from the Metro or the other two destinations.

And that was enough to make the Merrifield area — with 37 functional bike docks, in three racks — by far the busiest in Fairfax County.

Just to beat that dead horse one more time, if Fairfax really does see a $2000+ per year operating cost per bike, as Arlington does, then for the first full year of operation, Merrifield Capital Bikeshare rides had an average operating cost of $9 per trip.

It’s still cheaper to use Uber.

To my eye, the Town of Vienna has none of the advantages that Merrifield does in this situation.  It doesn’t have a lot of purpose-built Millenial-friendly apartments under a mile from Metro.  In fact, there’s nowhere to build apartments within a mile of Metro.  It doesn’t have a hip Millenial-oriented shopping district with a mile of Metro either.  And ditto on the ability to build one.  All of the synergy that yields that outstanding nine or ten bike trips a day in Merrifield will be missing here.

I would therefore expect to see less use of those racks in Vienna — no matter where they are put — than is currently the case in Merrifield.

So, where should Vienna put those Bikeshare racks?  It just doesn’t matter.  But it would be good to be clear about who is paying for the operating costs of keeping them running.  It’s one thing to waste some other taxpayers’ money.  It’s a different thing entirely to waste our own.

 

Post #1168: Capital Bikeshare again, part 2

 

More than two years ago, I looked at Capital Bikeshare use in suburban Fairfax County and concluded that Bikeshare was largely a waste of the taxpayers’ money.   The use of those docked rental bikes was far below what is seen in (e.g.) central D.C., and as a result, the average cost per trip was exceptionally high.  My estimate was that Tysons area Capital Bikeshare trips had an average cost of about $25 each, and an average length of less than a mile.

In this post, I refresh that analysis and see whether or not use of those bikes has changed markedly in the subsequent two years.

To cut to the chase, it appears that the only truly successful Bikeshare stations in this area are the three stations serving Merrifield.  (Successful in the sense of getting a lot of use).  As the Town of Vienna contemplates where to put their its own racks, there may be some lesson there. Or maybe the Vienna racks these will end up just as nearly-useless as they appear to be in Tyson’s, just up the road.

You should look at the just-prior post to see all the links to my original analysis of this issue.

Continue reading Post #1168: Capital Bikeshare again, part 2

Post #1167: Capital Bikeshare, again, part 1.

I see from a recent article in the Tyson’s Reporter that we’re still in the process of bringing Capital Bikeshare to Vienna.

Aside 1:  Capital Bikeshare is a “docked” bike rental system, where bikes must be returned to some Capital Bikeshare rack. The system is set up for short rides, as additional charges typically accrue after the first half-hour. Essentially, you plan your ride to go from one rack to another. The bike itself is a three-speed fat-tired bike weighing nearly 50 pounds. It has been quite successful in the DC urban core, and not very successful at all in the lower-density suburbs.

Aside 2:  I am not a bike hater.  To the contrary, I am lifelong avid bicyclist and have supported the Washington Area Bicyclists’ Association by taking out a lifetime membership.  Locally, I bought (and still ride!) the first bike ever sold by Bikes of Vienna (then Bikes@Vienna), a Bike E semi-recumbent, pictured above.  Back in the days when the internet was new.

To me, knowing what I know, that article seemed ridiculously upbeat about the current and future prospects for Capital Bikeshare in this area.   I say that because, as of two years ago, installing those Capital Bikeshare racks in this area looked like a complete and total waste of money.

And, as is typical for this website, that statement was based on detailed analysis of data.  In this case, public-use data provided by Capital BikeShare.  As of two years ago, the Capital Bikeshare racks at the Tysons and Reston Metro stations were virtually unused.  They might have six riders using them on any given day.  With the high fixed (capital and maintenance) costs, that generated an average cost of $25 per bike trip for the Capital BikeShare bikes at the Tysons Metro.  It would have been vastly cheaper literally to pay for daily Ubers for half-dozen individuals who used the Tysons Capital Bikeshare racks on a typical day.

The upshot is that Capital Bikeshare works well in the dense urban core of Washington DC.  It works to some degree in the densely-built inner suburban areas.  It doesn’t work at all way out in the distant, low-density suburbs.  Not in Virginia, not in Maryland.  Both states saw the same patter of extremely low use (and so extremely high average cost per trip).

This post is just a listing and summary of my prior work.  It’s all pre-pandemic, and uses data slightly more than two years old.  At the time, there was no significant upward trend in use, but clearly I’ll have to revisit it to check that.  A subsequent post will refresh those analyses with more current data, assuming Capital Bikeshare still provides those public-use datasets.

Maybe the world has changed, and it’s all sunshine and roses in the market for 50-pound fat-tired rental bikes, out here in the low-density, no-bike-lane suburbs.  But I suspect that little has changed, and this is just another case of a government entity that has more money than it knows what to do with.  In this case, with a budget force-fed by I-66 tolls.


Prior work

  1.  Maps showing the flow of trips at Tysons and Reston metro (in this unnumbered post).  Those maps are still there.  On a computer, click the gear icon in the lower left corner and turn on animation to see the full visualization of the trips.  The text of the post characterizes the number and direction of trips.  There’s a map for the entire Capital Bikeshare system toward the end of the post.
  2. Detailed analysis of cost and ridership for the Tysons’ Capital Bikeshare racks (in this unnumbered post).  That’s the analysis where I derived the estimate of $25 per trip, average cost, for the Tyson’s racks.  This post also goes through the obscure and muddled economic incentives of this public-private partnership.  (The racks are owned by local government, but the company that runs and services the system is a private entity.)
  3. The huge government per-trip subsidy probably explains why Capital Bikeshare is coming, but private providers of dockless rental bikes and scooters won’t touch Vienna.  You can see the dockless bike alternative laid out in this unnumbered post.
  4. Finally, FWIW, this unnumbered post has a summary of a February 2019 Transportation Safety Commission meeting in which Capital Bikeshare was first discussed.  My take on it is that they were ask skeptical of the success of Capital Bikeshare here as I am.  But we’re still getting Capital Bikeshare, because it’s “free”.

Post #1159: Robinson estate sidewalks

 

In this post, I’m just trying to get my bookkeeping straight on the Robinson estate  sidewalks in the Town of Vienna, VA. This will be of no interest to anyone outside of Vienna, and of questionable interest to those who live here.

I think we just saw the first one of those completed, on Pleasant Street.  And if that’s true, that’s worth noting.

But before I can say that, I need to get my head straight about where this now stands.  The following is a timeline for this process, centering around my prior posts on this issue.

April, 2019, starting the clock.  I believe this is when information of the Robinson bequest was formally delivered to the Town of Vienna, so this is the date when clock starts for the five-year period in which the Town must spend the money.

Post #518, the 1/18/2020 meeting of the Transportation Safety Committee.  This is where first learned of the Robinson bequest for the construction of sidewalks in Vienna, and the restrictions on the use of the money.  Apparently this discussion took place almost a full year after the bequest was made and the clock begain ticking on the five-year period in which the Town must use the money.

Post #532, the 2/24/2020 Town Council meeting.  This is the meeting where Town Council authorized sidewalks on three streets literally chosen by the executor of the Robinson estate.  This is also the first time that Town Council clearly stated that the estate’s executor would literally only pay for the sidewalk (not curb and gutter).  This was also the first time that I calculated what a ludicrously small fraction of the Robinson estate money could be spent under the rules imposed by the estate’s executor.

The meeting materials for that meeting listed five candidates, of which Town Council approved three (in boldface below).  I vaguely recall that the other two were rejected by residents on those streets but I may be imagining that.

* Even side of DeSale Street SW from Moore Street to Tapawingo Road
* Odd side of DeSale Street SW from Tapawingo Road to end
* Even side of Holmes Drive NW from John Marshall Drive to Upham Place
* Odd side of Cabin Road SE from Branch Road to Glyndon Street
* Even side of Plum Street SW from Cottage Street to Tapawingo Road

Post #1056, March 14, 20201, I revisited Plum Street (above), more than year after the Town appeared to approve a sidewalk there.  I had something of a senior moment based on the complete and total absence of a sidewalk.  Near as I can recall, the Town had done nothing about spending the Robinson sidewalk money since that 2/24/2020 meeting, but I can’t claim to have been tracking that closely.  For sure, there was no sidewalk on Plum, nor on Cabin, so if they’d been working on it, they were taking their time.  Particularly given the five-year limit on spending the Robinson funds.

By April 5, 2021, the Town had a new list of sidewalks to be considered, but it included some pretty bad candidates.  That’s the gist of Post #1096.  My guess is that with the restrictions imposed by the executor of the Robinson estate, the Town was scraping the bottom of the barrel trying to find candidates for sidewalks.  At that point, one Town Council candidate (David Patariu) openly suggested that the Town take the Robinson estate to court to clarify that the actual language of the will did not contain those restrictions, and to get the court to remove those restrictions so that the Town could build sidewalks where they were needed, not where curb and gutter happened to have been put into place decades ago.

By April 23, 2021, the Town clearly had a list of 11 proposed projects that, in theory, constituted the Town’s proposed plan for spending the Robinson sidewalk money.  They were going to have a public hearing on those the following Monday (4/26/2021), and by report, that public hearing did not go well.  In Post #1120, I again took the time to show how little of the available money this was likely to use.  I have since been told that my costs — based on VDOT data — are too low.  To which my response is, then double my estimate, it’ll still be a tiny fraction of the total available funds.

In Post #1133 (May 3, 2021), I talked about the five projects that the Town approved after that 4/26/2021 public hearing and Town Council meeting.  At this point, there appear to be no rules whatsoever as to what can and cannot be built using the Robinson estate money.  Some streets have curb and gutter, others don’t, some are fill-in sections, some are entirely new street segments to have sidewalk, and so on.  If there is some rule behind any of that, I was not apparent to me.

And, this was not some sort of make-believe.  The Town’s meeting materials had contractors and firm contract prices listed.  So approval of those seemed to indicate a pretty solid intent to build that hodgepodge of sidewalk sections.

Do I even need to say this?  Again, any plausible total spending for the five approved projects would be dwarfed by the overall size of the Robinson bequest, which by this time had grown to a reported $9M.

Those five projects, approved in the 4/26/2021 Town Council meeting, are the focus on the rest of this post.  To cut to the chase, I thought that all five of those contracts were superseded by what happened next.  But in fact, one of the five projects was built.  The other four were either canceled, or waiting.

Finally (Post #1139), at a Town Council work session scheduled for 5/10/2021, the Town had a brand-new, much larger list of sidewalk candidates.  This, along with a brand new story as to what could and could not be done with Robinson estate money (curb and gutter?  who said anything about curb and gutter)?  This now included a thorough rewriting of history, as if this had been the plan all along, along with a document that listed a new, much-higher cost for a project that had already had contract bids, along with an astounding $450 per foot average cost estimate for the construction of plain-vanilla sidewalks in Vienna.

But, by gum, the Town finally had a document — no matter its oddities — by which it could claim that it had a plan for spending the Robinson estate sidewalk funds.  I think that, with the $450/foot, the new higher costs listed for already-bid project, and the inclusion of all the roads that they thought fit (including some clearly bad candidates, see Post #1096), they were able to claim with a straight face that they had more than $10M worth of potential sidewalk projects.  And thus had a plan that would, on paper at least, spend that money.

Yeah.  OK.  Sure.  That’s good, I guess.


Five projects.

Now that I’m back up to speed, my sole goal for this post is to see what the Town actually has done for the five projects that it appeared to approve on 4/26/2021.  Because, near as I can recall, one of those re-appeared in the final plan at a vastly different cost, and the other four just disappeared entirely, and are not listed at all in the master plan for the use of the Robinson sidewalk funds.

And so, after all that to-ing and fro-ing, two years and two months into the five-year period during which that money must be spent, I just want a straight answer to a simple question:  Have they started working on those five projects or haven’t they? 

And as I now have come to realize is the norm for this topic, the answer is far stranger than I would have guessed.

The list of five projects is laid out in Post #1133.  I rode past all five of them this afternoon, and the status is:

124 Courthouse Road SW.  Not started. The missing sidewalk is actually along the back of the property, where Cottage Street dead-ends at the shopping center.  It’s about 100′ of sidewalk.

503 Ware Street SW (~$17K).  Not started. This is right across from Meadow Lane park.  This is also about 100′ of sidewalk

 

1002 Hillcrest Drive SW (~$22K).  Not started. This is about a 200′ long stretch.

 

 

Cabin Road SE – Branch Road to Glyndon Street.  Not started.  The entire stretch is just over 800′ long and pretty much dead flat.

 

Pleasant Street SW – Courthouse Road to Maple Avenue.  Finished and road repaved.  This is a several-hundred-foot stretch of road with sidewalk on one side, and no sidewalk on the other.

 

Here’s a before and after of Pleasant Street, courtesy of Google Street view and some photos taken today:

Before:

Source:  Google Street View.

After:

 

By eye, and by feel, it seems as if the Town widened the road a bit as it put in the sidewalk, but objectively, near as I can tell, that’s not true to any material degree.  It’s just a lot easier to drive at the edge of the road when there actually is a well-defined edge (curb), instead of just pavement that stops.

At any rate, I find the outcome here quite odd.  Three of those projects are no longer listed anywhere, and there’s no evidence of sidewalk construction.  One of them — Pine — remains listed in the Town’s current plan, but now at a much higher price than the actual bid.  And one of them — Pleasant — no longer remains listed as a Robinson estate project, but is now completely done, six weeks after the Town approved it.  This, in a Town where it was reputed to take two years to get a sidewalk done.

In any case, I think I count this as the first sidewalk completed from the Robinson estate funds.  I don’t think it would be asking too much for the Town to put up a little marker or something to commemorate.  People get their names on a little plaque when they donate the cost of a bench to one of the local parks.  Seems like every one of these new sidewalks ought to have something similar.

Maybe just a stamp, C&MR, to be stamped into the wet concrete at the completion of every project paid out of those funds.  Fifty years from now, people might notice that and wonder what it’s all about.  Maybe somebody will bother to look it up.  Or if you don’t like that simple approach, find some alternative.  The physical concrete in those sidewalks is no different from any other.  Seems like all the more reason to provide a permanent reminder of the gift behind it.  In any case, it seems a bit cold to finish a sidewalk, paid for from that bequest, and just move along to the next job.


Afterword

Still, I keep wondering, why this street?  Why so fast?  Did they or didn’t they widen the road a bit as they did this?

This section of road met none of the criteria that were once presented as governing the use of those Robinson funds.  Most of the section where sidewalks were placed had no curb or gutter.  And this street already has sidewalk own the full length of it, on one side.  And so on.

But there it sits, right across the street from 44 new dwelling units shoehorned into roughly two acres, constructed under MAC zoning.  (I guess it’s rude to say “shoehorned” about townhouses that will cost more than my house.)

And so you might reasonably ask, is this just another part of the Town’s plan for the densification of Maple Avenue?  And that’s why this, uniquely among all potential projects, got priority?  Or was it the case that they needed to do it while the road paving crews were still here, owing to the nature of the roadway prior to the installation of sidewalks?  And so the proximity to Maple and MAC development is just a coincidence?

Or yet some other explanation of why this street, and why so promptly.

As a member of the peasantry, I’ll never know.  But in a Town where the standard spiel is that sidewalks take at best a couple of years, this one, completed about six weeks from the time the Town Council authorized it, certainly stands out.  I just wish I understood why.

Post #1155: Architect hired for Patrick Henry Parking Garage and Library

I’ve been avoiding writing about the Town of Vienna of late.  The Town government is in the process of rewriting all the zoning laws, during the pandemic.  There’s no doubt that we’re going to get zoned for a lot more density.  It’s just a question of how dense the Town is going to be.

I’m about a month behind in terms of keeping track of what’s going on with the rezoning.  After the Town got its “economic development” report (Post #1138), I’ve been afraid to look at what’s been happening.

As a way of avoiding that for yet another day, let me get back to writing about the Town of Vienna by talking about the Patrick Henry Parking Garage (and Library).


Some actual news

Fairfax County has chosen the architect for the design and construction of the Patrick Henry Library and Parking Garage. Continue reading Post #1155: Architect hired for Patrick Henry Parking Garage and Library

Post #1139: Plain-vanilla sidewalks at $450 per foot? Only in the Town of Vienna

The whole Robinson Trust sidewalk thing just keeps getting weirder.  And the story keep changing.  That said, the Town now has a plan that, on paper at least, will spend that money on sidewalks.  So that’s coming ahead.

You can download the current list of proposed projects here, from the Town of Vienna Granicus web page.  Town Council will discuss this at a work session on Monday.


Bookkeeping

First, a little bookkeeping is in order.  The Town already gave the go-ahead for two sets of sidewalks under the Robinson trust. Continue reading Post #1139: Plain-vanilla sidewalks at $450 per foot? Only in the Town of Vienna

Post #1138: 100 dwelling units per acre, up and down Maple Avenue

Now that the election is over, the Town has posted the first detailed look at its economic development study.  (Download it from this link, ,pdf).

Per the Town’s consultant, we need to put 2400 apartment on Maple merely to “catch up” with “competing” areas.  And we must stack those in at 100 dwelling units per acre, to be economically viable.
Continue reading Post #1138: 100 dwelling units per acre, up and down Maple Avenue

Post #1135: The final Town of Vienna May election.

N.B., That exceeds the population of Herndon because that’s total votes for all open seats, not total voters.

In Post #340, August 2019, I made the case for moving the Town of Vienna elections to November, to coincide with the general election.  If you think that voter participation is a good thing, all you had to do is look to the well-run Town of Herndon to see what happened to voter participation when they did that (above).

In Post #1059, I noted that the Virginia legislature had passed a bill moving all elections to November.  There’s some interesting detail there, including the fact that this was uniformly opposed by all Republican state legislators.

That bill has since been signed by Governor Northam.  As a result, this is probably the last May election in Town of Vienna history. Continue reading Post #1135: The final Town of Vienna May election.

Post #1133: Robinson sidewalk bequest, odder and odder.

 

If you want the background, look at Post #532, Post #1056, Post #1096, and Post #1120.

Briefly, here’s the story up to now:  A former Town Council member left $7M (now $9M) in her will for use in constructing sidewalks in Vienna.  There’s a five-year time limit, starting more than two years ago.  The executor of that will imposed a limitation — not mentioned anywhere in the will itself — that the money could only be spent literally for the sidewalk, not anything else that you need to build a sidewalk.  No “curb and gutter”.   The Town’s staff then put a lot of effort into finding the streets where it already had curb and gutter in place, and in effect chose streets for sidewalks based on what concrete had been poured a half-century ago, instead of some objective measure of need.  And with that restriction, by my simple calculation, it was obvious that the Town wasn’t even going to be able to spend the interest that trust money would earn in five years, let alone spend the principal on new sidewalks.

In the last Town Council meeting, if you look at the details, turns out, they were just kidding about not paying for curb and gutter.  Hence the image above.  Of the first five projects for which the Town has approved construction funding under this bequest, and that the Robinson estate trustee has agreed to, sure looks like the trust is paying for curb and gutter for four of them.

The Town voted to approve the construction of those five projects without so much as a comment on the flip-flop.  And, apparently, with no change in their planning, despite drawing up those plans based on streets with existing curb and gutter.

In Vienna, decisions just kind of wander around until they stop.  And it looks like this is where this one has stopped.  It is what it is, and it’s not even all that unusual, in this context.  Looking on the bright side, after more than two years, they did manage to get some of the money allocated before the upcoming Town election.

My only due diligence on this, now, is to figure out what happened to the first three streets that the Town approved more than a year ago (Post #1056).  People forget about those.  They no longer appear on any of the documents, presumably because they’re a done deal.  And yet, I can’t seem to find where the Town did a similar funding approval for their construction.  (They approved only the money to pay for the engineering work that must be done prior to construction.)  The key question is whether the Town will approve the funding, for the first three, in time to get them built within the five-year window.  Or does the Town Council think they already did that?

Continue reading Post #1133: Robinson sidewalk bequest, odder and odder.