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April 16, 2012

City increases support for bicycle planning; New smartphone biking app to aid planning

DailyProgressBy Courtney Beale & Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, April 16, 2012

The city of Charlottesville is addressing the bicycle and pedestrian needs of area residents with renewed effort. With the appointment of a new bicycle and pedestrian coordinator and an expanded budget, officials say progress is being made toward completing the goals outlined in the 2003 Bike and Pedestrian Plan.

Charlottesville's bike coordinator, Amanda Poncy, using the Cville Bike mApp with software developer Jeff Shirley

Amanda Poncy, bicycle and pedestrian coordinator for the city, said the city has completed about 30 percent of the on-street projects in the plan.

“We are currently working with the Bike Safety Committee to update the on-road portions of the bike plan,” Poncy said. “This includes prioritizing the two-year improvements based on grassroots public involvement efforts in 2007 and 2011.”

City councilors voiced their support for increasing bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure during recent budget work sessions.

“Bike infrastructure is getting trickier,” Councilor Dave Norris said. “We’ve done all the easy stuff.”

Mayor Satyendra Huja asked for there to be a better funding balance between different transportation modes.

“For all the amounts [invested] in transportation, we spend the least amount on the bicycle,” Huja said. “People want to know why we are repaving things and not putting in more bike infrastructure.”

These sentiments were reflected in the city’s FY2013 budget approved last week. It includes additional funds for the upkeep and creation of bike and pedestrian facilities.

The city’s budget director, Leslie Beauregard, said $100,000 of the capital budget was moved from undergrounding utilities into bicycle infrastructure development. Beauregard added that other portions of the bike and pedestrian plan have their own funding.

“There are also funds for trails and greenways, budgeted at $75,590; sidewalk repair, $201,571; new sidewalk, $285,000; and citywide ADA improvements to sidewalks and curbs, $95,000,” Beauregard said.

Despite these investments, some local stakeholders are still concerned about the future of bicycle infrastructure.

Continue reading "City increases support for bicycle planning; New smartphone biking app to aid planning" »

March 30, 2012

Community gets engaged on West Main's past, present and future


On Thursday night at Charlottesville Tomorrow's monthly News n' Brews, about 70 community members packed into Zinc to talk about the evolution of the West Main Street area.

Curious about who owns property there?  So were we...

Here's how we captured the conversation...

March 25, 2012

Meet Your Government: Donovan Branche


Donovan Branche  

Acting City Engineer, City of Charlottesville

Where were you born (and raised, if different)?

I was raised in Orange, VA. 

When and why did you move to the Charlottesville/Albemarle area?

I came to Charlottesville in 2008 after working in Washington, DC and Harrisonburg, VA. It's good to be back home and with my family.

What neighborhood do you live in now?

I live in Ruckersville, VA.

Family (spouse, kids, etc)?

I am married to a handsome Englishman, I have 2 children, 3 dogs, 1 cat and 1 rat. I've tried (unsuccessfully) to convince my husband that we need chickens and a goat.

Continue reading "Meet Your Government: Donovan Branche" »

March 05, 2012

Regional planners to launch bike-tracking application

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, March 5, 2012

Cyclists who own iPhones or Android phones will have the opportunity this spring to help the Thomas Jefferson Planning District Commission collect data to help plan the next generation of bike infrastructure.
Screenshot1The TJPDC is hoping to have as many cyclists as possible download C-Ville Bike mApp to make sense of how people use their bike.

The C-Ville Bike mApp project will use the global positioning satellite system to keep track of where participating riders have traveled. When trips are completed, users will be asked to upload them to a server and the results will be mapped.
“This can be really powerful data for us to show decision-makers and funders about how we need to be improving the bike network,” said Sarah Rhodes, transportation planner for the TJPDC.
The organization is currently updating its long-range transportation plan. The application is one tool that will help determine where limited transportation money could be most effective.
“The funds for cycling are really limited and they’re only going to get worse,” Rhodes said.
“When we get a lot of information, we’ll be able to track hazards, space where we need more signage, and where we need more dedicated bike routes,” said Russell “Mac” Lafferty, an Albemarle County planning commissioner and bike activist.

Continue reading "Regional planners to launch bike-tracking application" »

February 21, 2012

Winning design for Belmont: No bridge, more connectivity for Belmont and Downtown Mall


Kate Martin, UVa Architecture graduate student, next to her team’s winning entry

Related Belmont Bridge stories:

UVa teams unveil Belmont Bridge concepts, 2/12/2012 by Sean Tubbs

UVa teams finalizing designs for new Belmont Bridge, 2/11/2012 by Courtney Beale & Sean Tubbs

UVa architecture school to spend next 10 days imagining a new Belmont Bridge, 2/1/2012 by Brian Wheeler

Belmont residents seek new design for city bridge, 1/30/2012 by Sean Tubbs

Belmont Bridge design coming into focus, 6/22/2011 by Sean Tubbs

City to pay $14K to fence off Belmont Bridge sidewalk, 4/13/2011 by Jason Ha & Sean Tubbs

JPA bridge replacement funded by money from Belmont Bridge project, 1/27/2011 by Sean Tubbs

Belmont Bridge replacement offers opportunities for cyclists, pedestrians, 12/1/2010 by Sean Tubbs

City adopts new strategy to accelerate Belmont Bridge project, 5/19/2010 by Sean Tubbs

MMM Design selected to oversee new Belmont Bridge design work, 4/8/2009 by Sean Tubbs

By Courtney Beale
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The winning entry in the grassroots contest to design a new Belmont Bridge is a proposal that recommended eliminating the bridge altogether. Community members and exhibitors gathered together Sunday at CitySpace to learn the results of the Project Gait-Way design contest.

With over 120 ballots for 36 entries, the jurors and the public agreed that the UVa project, “Belmont Unabridged,” was the best idea for the city. The concept won first place in all four categories: Judges’ Best Bridge Design, Judges’ Best Urban Design, People’s Choice Best Bridge Design and People’s Choice Best Urban Design.

The winning team was made up of UVa students Kate Martin, Wyatt Hill, Nell Connors, Charlotte Miller, Jason Truesdale, Joanna McKnight, Madeleine Hawks, Kirsten Sparenborg, Chris Barker, Enrique Cavelier, Meghan Maupin, Rodrick Cruz, and Kelly Hitzing. The UVa faculty advisors for the team were Daniel Bluestone and W.G. Clark.

“We had doubts about going into a bridge competition without a bridge, but we did feel strongly that [our design] was the right answer,” said Martin, a second-year graduate student in architecture and member of the winning team, which received $1,300 in prize money.

The winning concept focused on better connecting the Downtown Mall with Belmont and would remove the existing bridge over the railroad tracks to create an at-grade crossing on Avon Street for vehicles. The Belmont Unabridged entry would also relocate the nTelos Wireless Pavilion and widen the underpass on Fourth Street Southeast to two lanes to accommodate more traffic.

“We decided to take the Downtown Mall and design it in such a way that it reached Belmont,” Martin said.

The winning designers said they were thinking about the needs of Charlottesville in the future.

“Designs like [Belmont Unabridged] are looking forward and saying, ‘What are the needs of the community going to be in the next 100 years? Will we [have] 150 coal cars coming by holding up traffic and do we need to accommodate that?’ Probably not,” said Brian Wimer, the Belmont filmmaker who created the contest.

The jury was made of local community stakeholders Peter Waldman, a professor of Architecture at UVa; Phoebe Crisman, associate professor of architecture at UVa; Greg Jackson, president of the Belmont-Carlton Neighborhood Association; Joe Atkins, architect and former Board of Architectural Review chair; Heather Higgins from Bike Charlottesville; Zack Worrell, co-founder of the Bridge Progressive Arts Initiative; and Brian Wimer.

Continue reading "Winning design for Belmont: No bridge, more connectivity for Belmont and Downtown Mall" »

February 01, 2012

UVa architecture school to spend next 10 days imagining a new Belmont Bridge

DailyProgressBy Brian Wheeler
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Wednesday, February 1, 2012

If you see teams of university students and faculty circling around downtown Charlottesville over the next 10 days, they’d like you to know that they are part of the “Belmont Vortex.”

This whirling academic energy is being directed by Iñaki Alday, the chair of the University of Virginia Department of Architecture. Alday convened the entire school at Culbreth Theater Wednesday and challenged them to find new solutions for the redesign of the city’s Belmont Bridge.


Daniel Bluestone, Architectural Historian, University of Virginia
Photos by Sabrina Schaeffer, The Daily Progress. Used by permission.

The studio desks and class schedules at Campbell Hall have both been cleared for everyone to participate in a grassroots design contest that the faculty says is unprecedented.

“This is the first time ever that all the designers in the school have worked on one project,” said Elizabeth Meyer, an associate professor in the Department of Landscape Architecture. “This might be a model for how we can rethink how we teach.”

The “Belmont Vortex” design workshops will be led by a visiting professor from Spain, Eduardo Arroyo, described by Meyer as being both “relentlessly pragmatic and visionary.”

“A vortex is a place where many things happen at the same time,” Arroyo said. “I’m here with a mission to make you imagine the city, to use your imagination, your fantasy, and that’s a different field.”

Continue reading "UVa architecture school to spend next 10 days imagining a new Belmont Bridge" »

January 30, 2012

Belmont residents seek new design for city bridge

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Monday, January 30, 2012

Dissatisfied with the design process for a new Belmont Bridge in downtown Charlottesville, a local filmmaker has launched a contest to solicit fresh ideas for its replacement.

“In the city’s design brief, this was to be an iconic gateway to the city, [but this] design is neither,” said Brian Wimer, a resident of Belmont who runs Amoeba Films.


Source: City of Charlottesville

In 2003, engineers determined that the bridge’s deck was deteriorating. City officials determined it would be more cost-effective to replace the structure than to repair it.

The bridge replacement has a cost estimate of $14.5 million and the city has accumulated nearly half of that amount.

The city hired engineering firm MMM Design to develop a new bridge with community input. However, Wimer and many others feel the work did not go far enough to connect downtown with Belmont.

“After a year of charrettes and things like that, they came up with a design that the community didn’t like,” Wimer said.

In September, members of the Board of Architectural Review agreed, and directed city staff and MMM to develop a new design that takes public input into account.

Continue reading "Belmont residents seek new design for city bridge" »

January 28, 2012

City brings bicycle/pedestrian coordinator onboard

DailyProgressBy Kurt Walters
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Saturday, January 28, 2012

The city of Charlottesville has added a part-time bicycle and pedestrian coordinator in the hopes of creating a more cohesive network of bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure throughout the city.


Amanda Poncy, Charlottesville's Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator

The new coordinator, Amanda Poncy, brings five years of experience with the local Renaissance Planning Group that she plans to apply toward the city’s ambitious transportation goals.

“The city’s Comprehensive Plan has a goal reducing the percentage of people who drive alone as a means of transportation to work, from 61 percent to 50 percent by 2015,” Poncy said in an email. “Making bicycle and pedestrian facilities safe and accessible so people will use them is certainly an important part of that goal.”

Local bicycling advocate Scott Paisley, a member of Charlottesville’s Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety Committee and owner of Blue Wheel Bikes, said that while the city has completed many of the possible easy, uncontroversial improvements, the network of bike lanes and pedestrian facilities remains “pretty disjointed.”

However, he lauded the city for its progress in creating a connected East-West Corridor between Water Street and Ivy Road and its commitment to increasing walkability.

“It’s been amazing in these past few years the amount of work that’s been done on pedestrian improvements,” Paisley said.

Poncy will be responsible for filling a variety of roles including coordinating bicycle and pedestrian planning efforts between the city, Albemarle County and the Virginia Department of Transportation, handling inquiries and complaints from cyclists and pedestrians, reviewing development proposals for their suitability for biking and walking, and overseeing the city’s Safe Routes to School program.

Continue reading "City brings bicycle/pedestrian coordinator onboard" »

November 06, 2011

Albemarle Supervisor candidates on transportation


image from cvilletomorrow.typepad.comimage from cvilletomorrow.typepad.com


In the run up to Election Day on November 8th, Charlottesville Tomorrow will once again mail out our in-depth nonpartisan voter guide, featuring exclusive one-on-one interviews with all the candidates for Albemarle County Board of Supervisors and Charlottesville City Council.  In the weeks before the election, we will feature one to two questions a day so that citizens like you can compare candidates’ answers and make an informed choice November 8th.

Charlottesville Tomorrow’s 2011 Election Center website features links to the full written transcript and audio of candidate interviews, as well as links to videos of candidate forums, copies of our 2011 voter guide, information on where to vote, and more.  All the following passages are excerpts from our interviews.


image from cvilletomorrow.typepad.comWhat is your transportation agenda for the county? Does it require more money?  How will you fund AND implement it?


Rivanna District

Ken Boyd (R) – Incumbent

Multi-modal transportation is important to our community and the board has committed to providing opportunities when fiscally feasible—and that’s important—where fiscally feasible.  We participate in the city with mass transit routes, and we put bike lanes on all new and expanded roads, we promote Rideshare, we contribute heavily to JAUNT and we advocate for mixed-use neighborhood model [development] where citizens can work, live and shop within walking distance.

I will continue to support all of these initiatives, but the key to it is we must be fiscally responsible in doing this.  Transportation efforts can be expensive, and I think we need to do it in a responsible way.

… I think what we have to do is look at the budget and we have to allocate the funds appropriately for our transportation along with the other things there.  It would be difficult to say how I would change what we are doing today.


Cynthia Neff (D) – Challenger

So that is maybe the hardest question that I’ve seen on here. … I’ve heard people say that we haven’t gotten our fair share of transportation money and yet I know that the State of Virginia has decided not to fund transportation … we don’t really fund for the maintenance of it. …

…  I think the frustration level has grown exponentially among residents that are saying, “What’s going on here?  Do we have a plan?”  And I’ve been involved and I’m not sure we do.  I know that we had a transportation plan for the neighborhood I live in called Places 29.  And I know it kind of got thrown out of the window.

Continue reading "Albemarle Supervisor candidates on transportation" »

October 30, 2011

Bike expert advises area cyclists on how to improve bike network

DailyProgressBy Sean Tubbs
Charlottesville Tomorrow
Sunday, October 30, 2011

One of the country’s leading experts on bicycle infrastructure offered area cyclists advice last week on ways to maket cycling safer in Charlottesville and Albemarle County. 

“Go ahead and think bold,” said Mia Birk, the author of “Joyride: Pedaling Toward a Healthier Planet.”

Mia Birk (Photo: Heather Higgins)

Birk is the president of Alta Planning and Design, a firm that specializes in developing bike trails and greenways. She served in the mid-1990’s as the Bicycle Program Manager for Portland, Ore. 

Nearly 8 percent of commuters bike to work in Portland, the highest proportion of any major U.S. city and 10 times the national average. In Charlottesville, 2 percent of commuters use a bike, according to the U.S. Census American Community Survey. 

“This idea that people just woke up in Portland and started riding a bike is a myth,” Birk told an audience of cycling enthusiasts at Lane Auditorium. “We’ve been on a really long journey.”

Birk explained that Portland was a very automobile-centric city 20 years ago. 

“Portland was built around the streetcar, and then the automobile came in full force after World War II,” Birk said. “Highways were built in all directions, ripping through many old neighborhoods.”

Continue reading "Bike expert advises area cyclists on how to improve bike network" »