Save Downtown Train Service!

(ed. note- I don’t usually like running two editorials in a week, but there is a deadline involved here.)

I am strongly in favor of keeping two passenger rail stations for Richmond area, one being downtown’s Main Street Station, the other being Staples Mill. I reiterate that I am strongly in favor of keeping Main Street Station as a passenger rail station, for resiliency, convenience, and other reasons. I don’t want to lose service to downtown. I have felt this way for a long, long time.

Former VCU President Trani is promoting a plan to stop using Main Street Station and consolidate everything at one brand new station at Boulevard.
Trani’s allies are doing this fait accompli thing, where they are basically suggesting that citizens’ opinions like mine are pointless because decisions have already been made in favor of Trani’s plan. I doubt that and resent this politrick.
Those of us who have dealt wth VCU’s Trani in the past know this tactic all too well.

Anyway, I strongly urge all of you to make your opinion known (even if you don’t agree with mine). It’s not too late. Please go to www.vhsr.com/DC2RVA and spend a few seconds submitting your own comments to let Virginia state officials know your opinion. Virginia and the Federal Railroad Administration are requesting comments from the public before November 7th.

One neighbor submitted this comment:

Dear DRPT and FRA:

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the federal DC2RVA high speed rail study.

I would like to devote my comment in support of keeping the Main Street Station as a key rail station in Richmond. After all, the planned Pulse route goes right by Main Street Station, and multi-modal transit was part of the consideration for the Pulse route.

Millions of tax dollars are being spent on the Pulse bus route, and it would be absurd to now change the location of the Richmond rail station so that it is not served by the new Pulse route.

Millions of tax dollars are also being spent to renovate the train shed behind Main Street Station. The original pitch for renovating the train shed was that it would help Main Street Station. Now that millions of dollars have been spent on the train shed it would be absurd to change the location of the Richmond rail station to exclude Main Street Station.

Richmond needs an iconic entry point by rail, and the Main Street Station is just such a landmark building. It is in a convenient location and within walking distance for a vast number of residents. It is also at a prominent destination point near the Va. State Capitol, VCU, Shockoe Bottom, etc.

Thank you for considering my comment devoted towards keeping Main Street Station as an important Richmond rail station.

Sincerely,

Enjoy The Folk Festival But Don’t Park In Oregon Hill

There will be restricted parking in Oregon Hill this year for the this year’s 13th Annual Richmond Folk Festival.

Councilperson Parker Agelasto announced this at last night’s City Council meeting and OHNA President Jennifer Hancock confirmed that they are going over plans now.
Some portions of the neighborhood will be password protected for residents and some barricaded streets will be in effect.

While many neighbors are thankful and relieved to hear this, it is somewhat curious. With the roundabout construction, the route through or into the neighborhood is going to be congested anyway. There have been a few complaints from Southside residents about the lack of a Folk Festival bus shuttle to/from Southside. While the schedule is definitely rich in fantastic talent that should not be missed, there are no huge, blockbuster, headliner names. The Tredegar Civil War Center construction will also take up a lot of space that was previously used for the Festival.

In other words, while folks should look forward to attending the Richmond Folk Festival and expect to hear some great music, and certainly encourage others do so also, it seems like it will be purposely smaller this year. It’s a good year to use mass transit or ride bicycles to the Festival.

Depressing Local Politics

After listening to a talk by local mass transit experts today, I am feeling pretty down. The universities and counties are still very noncommittal when it comes to financial support of the new BRT or expanded GRTC service. The universities would rather keep running their private shuttles and students are ok with that. I expect that means City residents will bear most if not all operating costs, as with so many other supposedly ‘regional’ projects. This is in turn is going to force many poor people out of the City, never mind any mobility advantages. Perhaps this was the hidden intention all along.

Also, along those lines… I did not attend the meeting of City Democrats last night (I am a Green, not a Democrat), but my understanding is that they rejected endorsing the federal Kaine/ Warner/Evans legislation to allow historic tax credits for school buildings. They also rejected endorsing the local Put Schools First referendum because it would require the Mayor to come up with a school modernization plan that does not rely on a big tax increase and the Democrats, including Mayor Stoney, want to put a big tax increase forward next year. That’s what I am hearing….

Oh, and despite public opposition, the City’s Urban Design Committee approved the latest Monroe Park Conservancy/VCU plan to to remove MORE trees from Monroe Park, AND (conversely) if you happen to be one of those Richmonders who think the Confederate statues on Monument Avenue should be removed, the state and City governments will not allow it.

Welcome to RVA, still very much like the old Richmond, which does not tolerate any uppity grassroots politics.

Bike Share Almost Here

Power infrastructure put in for new bike share station just outside Pleasants Park.

City announcement:

RVA Bike Share Ready to Roll Public invited to bike share launch

Richmond, VA — Mayor Levar M. Stoney will launch the RVA Bike Share program on Tuesday, August 29 at 9 a.m. at Kanawha Plaza and lead cyclists on a 2-mile ride from across the Manchester Bridge to the T. Tyler Potterfield Bridge, ending at Browns Island.

“Bike sharing programs are a community transportation service and desired amenity provided by forward thinking and environmentally conscious cities,” said Mayor Stoney. “I am proud Richmond is now among those leading in this regard.”

Richmond has teamed up with Canada-based Bewegen Technologies Inc., an industry bike share leader, to supply the bicycles and docking stations. The equipment will be maintained by Corps Logistics, a Baltimore-based firm owned and operated by military veterans.

The initial phase includes 220 8-speed bikes and 20 docking stations located throughout the city. A second phase is expected to be implemented in the coming months, doubling the fleet and including electric assist PedElec bikes, making it easier to ride uphill. These hi-tech bicycles will be equipped with a color screen, live GPS and can be unlocked through a mobile app.

RVA Bike Share is a public-private initiative, and Mayor Stoney has written a letter to encourage Richmond’s corporate and business leaders to engage in sponsorship opportunities necessary to ensure the long-term sustainability of the program. Click here to read the mayor’s letter. (In comments)

Plans for RVA Bike Share have been in the works since 2012. The city was awarded a $1,064,000 federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality grant in 2014 to start the program, supplementing $280,000 in capital improvement funds made available by the city.

One-way trip and daily passes will be available as well as weekly, monthly and yearly memberships. For more information about RVA Bike Share, pricing, membership and sponsorship opportunities, please visit rvabikes.com.

More High Speed Dreams And #Rally4Trains

It seems like I wrote this decades ago, but it was years- The Dream of High Speed Rail.

Still, recent headlines promise and disappoint in a bewildering order.

High-speed rail meetings chugging along in Hanover

84 Amtrak passengers stranded five hours after train gets stuck on tracks in Charles City

As often as my hopes are dashed, I hope they can stay alive. To that end, join Mayor Stoney and others at the RVA #Rally4Trains this evening:

President Trump’s FY 2018 budget eliminates 48% of Virginia’s passenger rail service and we are rallying in support of improving our passenger rail network, not cutting it!

Join Virginians for High Speed Rail, Southern Environmental Law Center, and National Association of Railroad Passengers for RVA’s Rally for Trains at Main Street Station on June 28th at 5:15pm with Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney.

(You can then join Mayor Stoney at his 5th District Community Community Meeting at the Randolph Community center at 1415 Grayland Avenue at 6:30 pm (and ask him what really comes first, schools, or stadiums?).

VCU Announces “No Car Protocol” For First-Year Students

BEGINNING WITH THE FALL SEMESTER 2017, Virginia Commonwealth University will employ a “No Car Protocol Protocol” for first-year residential students.

You can go to this linked website for more details, but here are some summary statements:

The university encourages the involvement of students in the first year on-campus experience, supports a pedestrian-friendly, residential campus, supports a reduction in the campus carbon footprint, and encourages use of alternate transportation.

Parking decals cannot be purchased by other students for first year residential students. Violations of the protocol are pursued through student codes of conduct and/or revocation of future parking privileges.

Across schools that do not allow first year students to have cars there are certain exceptions. These exceptions include medical conditions, disabilities, employment, over 21 years of age, military reservists and other extenuating situations.

Students who can demonstrate a compelling need or who would suffer undue hardship due to this Protocol can petition for a waiver. Waivers are reviewed by a committee of staff and students and will be kept to an absolute minimum.

Freshman Residents have several options to get around without a car: VCU RamRide, VCU Ramsafe, VCU Ramcharter, VCU Ramaway, VCU Rambikes, Transit Passes, Go Green.

2000 Volvo – $1000

From Craigslist ad:

Needs transmission work to get going but could be a simple fix that I can’t afford to even check in to. It was inspected a month ago and had all necessary work done, new windshield, tune-up etc and is working great other than the transmission not engaging. 200k miles but it’s a volvo, it’ll run forever if ya do the work. Call/text/or email is fine. Thanks

Precautionary Closing Of Lee Bridge

Heard the sirens this morning, but did not see anything mentioned in the news until later…

From Times Dispatch:

The Lee Bridge is closed to traffic this morning as fire and rail officials investigate if a train in close proximity to the bridge is leaking fuel.

Lt. Chris Armstrong with the Richmond Fire Department said train officials are on the scene. Authorities are investigating whether a car carrying petroleum is leaking or simply venting, which is a normal procedure when there is excess product inside, Armstrong said.

Related, older post: http://www.oregonhill.net/2014/07/11/train-derailment-explosion-risk/

Update: I am hearing the bridge is open again.

Update 2: “Loose valve on rail car carrying propane caused Lee Bridge shutdown

Oversubscribed

The unseasonably warm weather this past weekend made it seem more like May than February. Visitors flocked to river (and hopefully gained some appreciation for the need to protect it). While it was wonderful to see people getting outdoors and enjoying the riverfront, the crowds also illustrated overcrowding at the Belle Island parking lot. Streets in Oregon Hill were also overflowing with visitors’ vehicles.

This is a worsening problem that needs attention. Some have suggested building more parking lots, but more parking lots will not come close to addressing the existing pent-up demand for easier access to the riverfront. Besides, Dominion Energy and other entities already have parking lots that could possibly be made accessible to the public during weekend hours. The Virginia War Memorial is supposed to be building a large underground parking deck. Even including these, they are not enough for all the park visitors and they come with their sets of problems, such as more stormwater runoff and eradication of more natural habitat and features.

The Sierra Club Falls of the James group and the Oregon Hill Neighborhood Association have repeatedly suggested that mass transit be connected more to the river park system. In the City’s Riverfront Plan, plans for a newly renovated Shiplock Park and’Sugar Pad’ landing in the East End will benefit from a planned, nearby Bus Rapid Transit stop, but still nothing for Tredegar Street and Belle Island. Perhaps a seasonal van shuttle can be created as a public amenity. As GRTC meets and plans for its new route structure, there needs to be more consideration of this issue.

‘Critical Mass’ Bicycle Ride On Friday

From the FaceBook event page:

Meet at 6, ride at 6:30.

Rain, fascism, or shine.

Our usual meeting spot in Monroe Park has been fenced off for renovations for the next year or more… For now we will meet at the same intersection, just across the street on the sidewalk in front of Altria Theater, to avoid too much confusion. A different meeting place may be chosen in future months, so keep an eye on the location!

What is this event?!

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Critical_Mass_%28cycling%29

Last Friday evening of every month! Come out on your bikes and ride en masse through the city, for any number of reasons: just for fun, to celebrate bicycles as an alternative to cars, to spread awareness that bicycles share the road, or as a form of political protest. Wear costumes, bring music, noisemakers, flags, ribbons, etc. Ride a skateboard, roller blades, unicycle or some other human-powered bike alternative. Make it a parade!

Many interesting routes (and stops) are planned in advance, but some are unplanned and can simply be determined spontaneously by whoever is riding in the front. Ride SLOWLY so we can all stay together, enjoy the ride, talk along the way, and encourage people to join us.