Forest Hill Widening Debate Continues

HIlls and Heights, my neighborhood blog has more debate going on about the Forest Hill Ave widening. As such, here is a reply to the detractors:

I know that it hits a nerve with motorists to hear that other users should have equal rights to transport options but the reality is that the most beneficial means to improve transport is through multi-modal options. Furthermore, residents don’t want additional asphalt so the best option is to put this section of the road on a “road diet” and to save the space for residents who live there and provide facilities for multi-modal commuters.

@Patty- I agree improving Forest Hill is a great idea. This is a debate about what that looks like, not weather it should happen or not. For Data please refer to the Census commuting patterns, while not specific to Forest Hill Ave per se they do provide insight on what commuting patterns look like. Primarily that suburban dwellers commute to urban ones for work. This requires a large subsidy from the state and federal governments to maintain those roads. Some people (myself included) consider this a subsidy for what I would consider poor decision-making. Some call it “welfare for the rich.” Here is a link to where you can find the data specifically line 1205 on the Excel Spreadsheet as well as 6802 that shows both that 34,000+ people are commuting from Chesterfield to Richmond everyday yet around 9450 people are commuting from Richmond to Chesterfield, a net inflow which is how I reasoned this. Obviously, not all of these people travel on Forest Hill but many do and many more Chesterfield residents may be traveling to Henrico, crossing through the city and using those same transport resources.

http://www.census.gov/population/www/cen2000/commuting/index.html#VA

As far as businesses are concerned I think you are taking a short-sighted approach to advocate for more automobile traffic. Take a look at this report by the League of American Bicyclists for example highlighting situations such as those seen in Portland Oregon where “Compared to the distance
and time spent commuting to work in the median American city, Portlanders travel 2.9
billion fewer miles and spend 100 million fewer hours, saving $2.6 billion a year.” and goes onto say that these additional savings are used as expendable income for use at businesses. I’d rather spend the money at Once Upon a Vine than the Wawa by Wal-Mart.

http://www.bikeleague.org/resources/reports/pdfs/economic_benefits_bicycle_infrastructure_report.pdf

@FH Resident- Unfortunately you are wrong. Sales Tax?….my bike wasn’t free. Road dollars are generated through gas taxes but also through the general fund and personal property taxes. Even in the article cited below, written by the president and CEO of the Virginia Petroleum Convenience and Grocery Association, he concedes that Virginia gas tax rate has remained unchanged since 1986 yet we have increased the number of road users by 60% from 1987-2009. While this does generate more revenue from sales of gasoline, for what? To drive around more and sit in your car in traffic? The fatten the pockets of corporate oilmen? I’d prefer to streamline the function of government through the elimination of subsidies for more roads, more cars, and more traffic to the detriment of our neighborhood.

http://hamptonroads.com/2011/01/virginias-low-gas-tax-competitive-advantage

This is a net economic loss relative to the revenue businesses could generate by having better communities and a stronger base of customers located in a neighborhood where people want to live, not get mowed over. If you wish to drive 30-45min each way to work, so be it. PAY THE COSTS ACTUALLY ASSOCIATED WITH THIS BEHAVIOR and let’s stop subsidizing wealthy suburbanites to the detriment of our community, our schools and the efficiency of our local government. Some of us WANT to live in the city, don’t believe the fairy tales the marketing types in Detroit have fed you for 80 years, and would like to see a neighborhood defined by green spaces, low traffic counts, sustainable local businesses and a community environment.

@Jay….if you feel comfortable mentioning your business here. Please do. I’ll make sure I come by and support you if you are in the neighborhood. I’d rather spend my dollars with you than at the Wawa.

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11 thoughts on “Forest Hill Widening Debate Continues

  1. Great responses to arguments based on lack of information or understanding. Bikes REDUCE vehicle traffic and INCREASE property values along good bike routes.

    Question – Where are the comments that you seem to be responding to? Were they from the meeting?

  2. There are two options (A/B) and then another contingent that does not want the road widened. I don’t know why they have to have a 12 foot median in the middle…why not a smaller median, narrower travel lanes, and sidewalks?

    1. Amy,

      Originally I thought simply adding the bike lanes, sidewalks, etc and widening the road was a great idea, but having read more about the subject I find that I now fall into the road diet camp. Persons living in the area don’t want the road widened, and I can agree with that. The other thing is the project stops at the bridge over the Powhite. To me it seems odd to make all these improvements and widen the road west of that bridge when VA Bike Route 1 traverses it and will create a bottle neck for cyclist and pedestrians anyhow with no plans to address that area. We should put this section on a road diet, and install facilities for bikes and peds. As Tom pointed out, having those facilities would reduce traffic and congestion and increase property values whereas widening the road will just make these peoples front yards into a superhighway. It may be an arterial but we don’t have to accept the status quo on that one, which is why we have political representation…..my $.02.

  3. Agreed. Actually that stretch of FHAve has fewer bike and ped accidents than areas directly east or west of it. Hathaway Road intersection is, naturally, one of the more dangerous ones. On the other hand, these folks bought on Forest Hill and it has been designated as an arterial for quite some time. But those houses and neighborhoods are nice and I’d hate to see them turn into a Horsepen Road type situation.

  4. And I HATE that gas tax argument. The roads haven’t “paid their own way” via the gas tax for decades, if in fact they ever did. VA would have to raise its gas tax severalfold to make this happen. And then you’d probably be considering a bike commute, too.

    1. FYI…for anyone that doesn’t know Amy….she happens to be a professional planner…..just sayin’, I like to lend credence to trained professionals opinions but maybe I’m off base.

  5. I’ve given up. You’re dealing with a massively subsidized form of transport, the personal automobile, that is never discussed rationally. And the people in them want to do whatever they can to limit transport choices for any one else.

    Next time someone brings up the tax argument, tell them to come to the IRS with you and have them tell the IRS agent you don’t have to pay taxes because you ride a bike. I bet the reaction is hilarious.

    In Virginia, the gas tax brings in about 800 million a year. VDOt’s annual budget is 3.2 billion. Not only that,the state now transfers very little money to localities for maintainance and upkeep of secondary and local roads (precisely the ones cyclists use). The math doesn’t add up,which is why the state borrows money, raids the general fund, and other sources as well, to pay for roads. Given the damage cars cause, the external costs,and so on, the subsidy is even more massive than the simple calculation above.

    I’ve been paying property taxes in this city for years,and as a 25+ year bike commuter, I bet this city hasn’t spent a penny of my tax $$$ on bike infrastructure. Maybe that is changing, but it’s going to be accompanied by an endless whine from the welfare babies of the car culture.

    1. Thanks for the stats on the finances! As a public administration/ political scientist we always remember that if you really want to know a representatives policy priorities look at the budget, not their talking points. This is a prefect example of that.

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