WAMU 88.5 FM in Washington DC just aired an interesting feature by reporter Martin di Caro (pictured interviewing Chris Zimmerman of the Arlington County Board).
It essentially captured that the DC region is one of the top places in the U.S. for transportation mobility options. Compared to many places throughout the rest of the world, however, we still have some catching up to do.
The article focuses heavily on Arlington County’s achievements (and gives a nod to Mobility Lab – whoosh!).
Here’s an excerpt:
“The most important things that Arlington has done right start with land use and the decisions that were made by my predecessors beginning in the ’60s and ’70s to invest in the Metro system in the way that no one outside of D.C. did,” says Chris Zimmerman, a member of the Arlington County Board with 20 years of expertise in sustainable transit.
The county is a partner in the Capital Bikeshare program and has worked to design the areas around the Rosslyn Metro Station, to name one, to be more bike-friendly.
“We were the first to put bike lanes on the street and we have about 30 miles of bike lanes. We also have bike trails that connect to them,” said Zimmerman in an interview outside the Rosslyn station. “We created bike parking. A lot of the work this shop does is to make sure people have provisions in their buildings. I can bike to work because there is a place to put my bike in the building.”
Arlington provides an array of resources online, from websites to help commuters who choose to walk or bicycle, to its Mobility Lab (mobilitylab.org). The county also runs several one-stop shops for commuters called Commuter Stores, where people can access transit schedules, bike/walk maps, and car and van pool information, as well as purchase fares.
Zimmerman says the county’s efforts to get people moving more efficiently have garnered a lot of attention with the United States, but he looks to other continents, too.
“I went to Copenhagen about 11 years ago on a study tour,” he says. “I saw what rush hour looked like in a place in which a third of the people were moving on bicycle in a place that’s farther north than we are, tough winters and all that, a third of the people were moving on bicycle. They had become more car-oriented and they had to re-orient themselves to walking and bicycling.”
In order to facilitate more walking and biking in Arlington, officials needed data. Commuter-counters were employed at key junctures. The results were eye opening–6,000 people were crossing the Key Bridge daily, to name one major roadway, on foot or on bike.
“No one was counting for years,” says Zimmerman. “In many places in this country we are already moving large numbers of people without cars. We ultimately save money, we even build tax base.”
In a few weeks Zimmerman will depart for France to visit three cities roughly the size of Arlington to study how they are becoming less car-dependent. The goal, he says, is to create a seamless transportation system in which commuters know they can travel around the region without wasting time. They would be aware of plentiful bus routes, bike lanes, and train schedules.
“In European cities they’ve been doing this for many more decades,” says Zimmerman. “They’ve built up more of it, and so you can get all over the place in a combination of transit and bicycle; you can pretty much travel anywhere. It is hardly ever an option in the United States.”