How to take the I-495 Express Lanes without an E-Z Pass

The new I-495 Express Lanes (also known as HOT lanes, for High Occupancy Toll) on the Capital Beltway opened in mid-November 2012.  For those paying attention, there has been a lot of information about what they are.  Importantly, they have been making the point that one MUST have an E-Z Pass to travel on the lanes (or an E-Z Pass Flex for travelers who want to travel free with 3 or more passengers - see my critical post about this policy).

In fact, this E-Z Pass requirement has been made so strongly that numerous crashes occurred at the southern entry point caused by drivers trying to get out of the Express lanes, because they did not have an E-Z Pass.

However, less well publicized is the fact that one can use the Express lanes without an E-Z Pass for a slight additional charge.  There is a "Missed a Toll?" link on the Express Lanes website where one may pay the toll on-line.  There is a $1.50 administrative fee added to the toll as long as you pay within five days.  Certainly that's a small amount to pay to avoid a crash.  It may even be a reasonable amount to pay if stuck in interminable traffic.

Bikes represent 2-3% of Washington-Lee HS population

Earlier in the school year, on a nice day, I stopped by Washington-Lee High School in Arlington to see how the new bike racks they installed were doing.  Last spring they doubled the number of bike racks from 23 to 46, which increased capacity to 92 bikes.

It's a good thing they added the new racks.  On September 12 I went past the school and counted 59 bikes locked up in them.  This represents about 2.6% of the student population.  Including faculty and staff reduces that percentage somewhat.  I did not look around the school to see if there were more bikes parked elsewhere.

That's not bad, but it would be great to have them max out and have to add even more bike parking.

Arlington Public Schools Should Evolve Bus Plan to Comprehensive Transportation Plan

Photo by afagen on flickr
My hometown of Arlington, VA has been embroiled in a minor controversy regarding bus transportation for school students since a few weeks prior to the start of school.  The school district made changes to bus routes and reduced the number of students eligible to ride buses by more rigorously enforcing the 1-mile and 1.5 mile walk zones.  Details of the controversy can be Googled, so I won't go into the details here.

My point of view, and this blog post, have to do with the overall transportation plan for Arlington Public Schools.

A visit to the web site under the transportation department reveals this statement:

It's GOOD that extraction of resources from public lands is down (if it is)

From Barack Obama's photostream on flickr
During the second presidential debate, candidate Mitt Romney accused President Obama of causing a decline in extraction of energy resources from public lands.  Although this accusation is misleading if not outright false, Obama could have derailed Romney entirely by agreeing with him and taking credit.

How about this exchange:

ROMNEY (what he actually said):  "As a matter of fact, oil production is down 14 percent this year on federal land, and gas production is down 9 percent. Why? Because the president cut in half the number of licenses and permits for drilling on federal lands and in federal waters."

OBAMA (what he could have said):  "As President and steward of our federal lands, I am proud of the fact that the resources on these lands are managed and conserved.  Our federal lands are meant not just for our generation, but for the next and the next and the next ten after that.  Governor Romney appears hell-bent on extracting every drop of oil, molecule of gas and lump of coal from our federal lands as soon as humanly possible. Right now the private sector is preferring to find resources on private lands rather than public.  That is good.  Since that's the case, I believe we should conserve the resources we have on our public lands for the future, when our descendants may need them more than we do.
So thank you, Governor Romney, for complimenting me on my conservative approach to use of our public lands.  I am proud that we are deliberately and carefully managing those resources for use of all Americans, present and future."

Benefits of Investing in LEED Certification in Retrofits - Guest post


Transform to Sustainability has previously written about LEED certifications and the work required to obtain them. This guest post by Noelle Hirsch touches on the benefits of LEED certification as it relates to several states within the U.S. -- not surprisingly, thousands of dollars can be saved over time from just a few simple green tune-ups on an old building. Noelle claims to write for an expert construction management website called (although I have had trouble verifying this claim).

The Benefits of Investing in LEED Certification and Retrofitting Old Buildings

As the effects of climate change have become increasingly apparent in recent years, the importance of reducing carbon emissions for environmental health has been espoused in all forms of media. While many people today acknowledge the environmental necessity of raising energy efficiency, most individuals are still unaware of how sustainable construction and building maintenance can substantially reduce power costs. Yet, an increasingly wide body of research is finding that by following the standards of The US Green Building Council's LEED program, building managers and residential owners can save thousands of dollars by building with green principles in mind or retrofitting existing structures.

Happy Birthday to Capital Bikeshare!!

Today, September 20, marks the 2nd anniversary of the launch of Capital Bikeshare in DC and Arlington.  I was there for the launch (see a couple of photos below).  Although I was optimistic about CaBi being successful, it has far outstripped my expectations.  To see some stats, click here.

My own personal stats are:
68 rides (just under 3 per month)
56 miles.

These stats reflect the way I use CaBi.  I use my own bike for commuting and for trips from home to Metro, local shops and around town.  There are no stations near my house. 

I primarily use CaBi when I go into DC via Metro and then want to travel from one location to another.  Or if I want to shorten my trip by replacing a Metro transfer with a bike ride.  My most common trip is between Foggy Bottom and DuPont.  On Metro I would have to switch between the Orange and Red lines.  On CaBi, it's a 7-9 minute ride--faster than the Metro.  And often I end closer to my destination.

With CaBi expanding to new areas, I may have even more opportunities in the future.  Hope to see you out there on the red bikes!
The bikes lined up on the plaza ready to be staged
Remember this guy?

Another hidden advantage of the hybrid car

We bought a 2007 Toyota Camry hybrid in the spring of 2007, and I have blogged on my experiences with it numerous times in the past (brand new feelings, disappointing mileagehypermiling, tire efficiency, taxes,).

One nice advantage is that some maintenance costs are reduced due to the use of the electric motor.  For one, the gas engine runs less and more efficiently than in a regular car, so one can stretch out oil changes a little.

The one that caught my attention recently, though, is brakes.  Our car now has 66,000 miles on it.  When I took it in for regular maintenance the front brake pads, which are still original, look great.  Since many of the hybrid cars on the road use regenerative braking, the brake pads are rarely employed to slow the car.  Instead, the energy to slow the car is used to charge the battery.

So not only do we enjoy the added efficiency of harvesting the brake energy, we also almost never have to purchase new brake pads.  Sweet!

Virginia HOT Lanes: For Insiders Only

The new I-495 HOT lanes, also known as 495 Express Lanes, are expected to go into operation late this year.  Discussion of these lanes and the concept of dynamic pricing can be found in many places on the web (official site,  a previous post of mine re: the theory of HOT lanes).

My particular concern for this post is the requirement that all users must have an E-ZPass in order to use the lanes.  What this means is that only local drivers with knowledge of the system and those who are willing to bear the monthly admin charge will be able to utilize the lanes. Thus, in order to use the HOT lanes for free one must:
  • Have 3+ persons in their vehicle, AND
  • Have an active monthly E-ZPass Flex Account, AND
  • Make sure the Flex pass is set to HOV mode

Romney is not for favoring particular technologies (well, unless it's nuclear, that is)

A quick glance at the "Energy" tab on Romney's website led me to notice this logical inconsistency.

"History shows that the United States has moved forward in astonishing ways thanks to national investment in basic research and advanced technology. However, we should not be in the business of steering investment toward particular politically favored approaches. That is a recipe for both time and money wasted on projects that do not bring us dividends."
So he doesn't want to play favorites.  There are plenty of economists who share this basic philosophy: let the market determine the winners.  (In general I agree with this philosophy, but only if the market prices externalities appropriately.)

His site also says:

Humankind wins the Darwin Award with anthropogenic climate change

People like me who follow climate-change news closely often find it difficult to understand why it is that we ("we" as in humankind) are doing so little to stop it.  Maybe I can't speak for everyone, but I certainly find it difficult.

Bill McKibben
Bill McKibben's recent article in Rolling Stone was another hard slap in the face that exposed how close to doomed we are.  So close, yet so little is being done.  Why?

There have been many articles and studies and opinions written about this, claiming everything from genetics to politics to economics to obliviousness--most of which contains at least a little truth.  I think that the real answer is more Darwinian.  Like this:

Hooray (maybe) for the Farragut Crossing - a true story

Last week I went to an event near the Van Ness metro.  I started home about 10pm, taking the Red Line from Van Ness towards downtown DC.  Prior to the introduction of the Farragut Crossing transfer, I would have changed to the Orange Line at Metro Center.  However, with the advent of this potential time saver, I planned to exit at Farragut North, walk to Farragut West and catch the Orange Line from there.  If the timing worked out, there was a possibility I would catch a train that was one train ahead of the one I would have otherwise caught.  That could save me 12-20 minutes--well worth it.

What I failed to anticipate (and one of the disadvantages of the tunnel being "invisible.") was that it would be pouring rain at Farragut Square.  I mean just sheets of rain, with thunder and lightning.  Yow!  I stood for a moment with two dozen others at the top of the escalator shielded from the storm.  I could see the Farragut West entrance beckoning me just 500 feet away.  I retreated back down the elevator, figuring I would use the usual transfer.  But then I went back up to see if maybe the rain was slowing down.  It wasn't, so I went back down.  Next train to Metro Center: 20 mins.  Now I was regretting getting off my train at all.  Back up.

The walk signal turned in my favor on K Street, so I made a spontaneous decision and a mad dash, covering the total distance in under a minute.  It didn't matter, though, I got thoroughly soaked anyway.

The awesome outcome was that an Orange Line train going my way pulled up just as I got to the platform.  This was probably the same train I would have been on had I changed at Metro Center originally (only drier).  The first passenger I saw when I boarded the train said, "I just got a text from my friend saying it was raining, and I see she is right."

Tree Hugger Meets the Bike Hugger

Arlington County's continuing efforts to improve the network of bike infrastructure has recently butted up against Arlington County's efforts to improve its urban forest.  These represent two environmental goods--both of which I have strong support for.

The County is now in the final stages of engineering the extension of the trail along Washington Blvd. south of Route 50 to Columbia Pike (via Towers Park) (map).  The construction of this trail will require the removal of about 350 trees, some temporarily and some permanently.

As a member of the Arlington Bicycle Advisory Committee, I advocate for and support the County's efforts to continually improve bicycling for our residents and visitors.  This trail extension is an important part of the cycling network.

As a long-time environmentalist working on climate change and an amateur urban planner, I fully understand the tremendous value that trees and tree canopy bring to urban areas like Arlington.

So what's the tree hugger to do when he's also the bike hugger?  It's a tough question, worth asking.  I believe asking the question allows us to think about an approach that can lead to a reasonable solution.

Some of these trees will be removed in order to construct the Washington Blvd. trail extension
First, my tree-hugger self has to agree that there is value in the trail extension.  My bike-hugger self must acknowledge that those trees are also important.  Likewise with the communities involved.  Those who paint one side or the other as wrong while they are "right," ultimately work against any kind of solution.  And if they "lose," then they may likely get nothing that they want.

Once both sides of me acknowledges the importance of the values of the other side, then we can work together to find a solution.  The solution may not be perfect for one or both sides, but mutual respect and a collaborative approach is much more likely to create a result that can benefit both.

I don't know what the absolute perfect solution would be, but I do believe that the trail extension is a critical link, so some way of building it must be found.  Perhaps the construction of the trail could provide an opportunity to actually enhance the urban tree canopy?  Currently, this area is partially wooded and completely unmanaged: some of the trees are full-grown native trees, others are overgrown bushes and others are invasives.  Kudzu has invaded, too, threatening many of the trees that are there already.

Because of the topography, some trees will need to be removed, but can be replaced once retaining walls are built and the trail is completed.  The entire project may present a terrific opportunity to create an even more beautiful canopy as well as improve habitat.  By working with arborists and urban forestry experts, perhaps an even better canopy could be created in harmony with the trail.  I don't know if this is possible, but I am sure that some aspects could definitely be improved.

For instance, I recently planted an elm tree in my yard in a small effort to help re-establish elms in America.  Imagine if this project included planting numerous elms alongside Washington Blvd.  Once grown, they could create a beautiful tree-lined boulevard, shading both the trail and the street, with all the concomitant environmental benefits.  It probably won't look quite like this, but still could be a big improvement.

The first step, though, is to get past the idea that these two environmental efforts should be battling each other.  My bike hugging self is not the enemy of my tree hugging self.  We both want a better Arlington community to live in.  The challenge is to find a way to turn this project into an opportunity.

Public input sought for new Carlin Springs bridge design

As reported in my post from December, Arlington County will be replacing the bridge on Carlin Springs Drive where it crosses over N. George Mason Drive (map).  The bridge will be widened slightly, and improved bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure will be included.

The County is now soliciting public input for the aesthetic design of the bridge.
Four potential bridge designs for new Carlin Springs bridge

Another example of why we're doomed: helium tanks

A couple of weeks ago I helped organize an event.  It was a fun event with decorations, including helium balloons.  One of my volunteers took charge of getting the helium for the balloons.  In the past I have rented a helium cylinder from a party store and then returned it afterward.  My volunteer noted that it was actually cheaper to BUY two small party tanks of helium to fill the balloons and then just, well, I guess throw them out.

So she bought two of them; they came in a cardboard box and weighed about 12 pounds each.  I found this idea to be almost comically absurd--if it weren't an actual serious environmental problem.  A steel pressurized tank should be a durable item, not a disposable.  Yet here we were purchasing 25 pounds of steel and valves to blow up about 75 balloons that would last for at most a day.  The party itself was about 4 hours long.

Am I the only person who thinks this is absolutely crazy?  How many thousands of these things are sold every year?  Where is the iron ore mined? and then manufactured and shipped thousands of miles,etc.  Yet, I can hardly find anyone who finds this to be somehow just, well, wrong.

Well, not nobody.  If you've never seen the Story of Stuff, watch this.

I was able to recycle them with my curbside recycling, but that was not a satisfying ending for me.  Recycling them seems like a huge waste as well--just not quite as bad as sending to the landfill.

What recent political happenings in Arlington can tell us about politics in general

A series of events in Arlington VA underscores issues with our political system that prevent good people from serving in public office.

Arlington County recently experienced the following series of events:
  • County Board member Barbara Favola won election in November to the VA state Senate, requiring her to resign her seat on the Board
  • The County held a special election in March to fill the empty seat
  • Arlington School Board member, Libby Garvey won that election, requiring her to resign her seat on the School Board.
  • The empty School Board seat did not need to be filled by election; the four remaining School Board members chose the replacement board member.
  • The School Board chose Todd McCracken to fill the empty seat through the end of 2012, at which time whoever wins the election in November will take the seat.
When the school board announced the process for selecting someone to fill the empty seat, sixteen (16!) citizens submitted letters of interest and resumes (disclosure: I was one of those).  For a relatively small jurisdiction like Arlington, that struck me as a remarkable level of interest. 

My public comments to Arlington County Board re: Bollards

On May 19, I attended the Arlington County Board meeting and made comments during the public comment period.  Each commenter is allotted two minutes, so I had to keep my remarks short.

(For more details and photos, see my recent post on this issue)

Here is the text of what I said:

My name is Steve Offutt, and I wanted to bring to the board’s attention recent activity by the parks department that needs to be addressed as soon as possible.

More bollards in Arlington County

There has been a proliferation of bollards in Arlington County over the last few weeks.  I know of six that have been installed within one mile of my house, all of which are unnecessary.

From conversations with insiders, I have learned that these bollards are being installed without consensus among staff and against the recommendations of some staff with cycling expertise.  In any case, they are being installed without community input and without any input from the Arlington Bicycle Advisory Committee, of which I am a member.  I have previously posted about how bollards are mostly unnecessary and often create more problems than they solve.

(UPDATE: I made comments to the Arlington County Board on May 19.  Text of my remarks is here.)

The new East Falls Church bridge went into service last month, and about a week later four bollards were installed: three at one end and one at the other.  These three went in first:

The Multi-Mode, Car-Free trip to the party

On Monday I attended the Queen's Day celebration at the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Washington DC.  As it turned out, the trip to and from utilized numerous modes of travel that all added together to make for an interesting trip as shown on this map.

View Steve's Multi-Mode Car-Free Trip in a larger map

Here's how it went, with the travel mode for each segment shown in BOLD:

New ped/bike bridge near East Falls Church Metro goes into service

The new bicycle/pedestrian bridge linking the W&OD trail with the East Fall Church Metro station in the Madison Manor neighborhood has been put into service.  The old bridge has been demolished and removed.  Final construction details are still being completed, but the bridge is now in use.

View East Falls Church trail bridge replacement in a larger map
As reported in my post a few months ago, the new bridge is larger and modernized compared to the old one.  Here are some photos of the new bridge:

Margaret Thatcher understood environmental dangers like climate change way back in 1989

Watch this video of Margaret Thatcher speaking on the dangers of environmental degradation and continuing human interference with nature. The section on climate change begins about 5:30.

Keep in mind that Ms. Thatcher was a staunch Conservative in the mold of Ronald Reagan (or perhaps he was in the mold of Margaret Thatcher.  Well, either way.)

Arlington County begins posting new trail "wayfinding" signs

Arlington County has started installing the first of the 250 "wayfinding" signs it has planned for along the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor (as detailed here).  I have blogged on trail signs in the past--mostly negative, because they either tend to not exist or fail to function well.

So it's great that these are finally going up.  I'm sure I will have criticisms (see below), but signs of almost any kind are better than the absence of signs.  So all in all, this is a great step forward.

 I took pictures of them and their exact locations are shown on this map:
This one is mounted on the sound wall at the entrance of the trail  It is excellent that the signs indicate the name of the trail.  In the past, this has often been a problem.  Signs would point towards destinations but would fail to tell you where you were.  Now someone using Google Maps and given the direction "Turn Right on the Custis Trail" will have confidence they are in the right place when they reach the trail.
The East Falls Church distance indicator is swapped with the one on the sign below.  This sign is actually closer to East Falls Church than the sign below, but indicates that it is farther away.

New member of Car2Go

I just joined Car2Go, a new car-sharing concept that has just debuted in Washington DC.  I was able to join for free during a promotional period (if you are in the area, try the promo word "capital").

I'm not sure when I'll try it out, but since it was free to join and there are no costs until I actually use a car, there's no downside.

I saw some tweets suggesting that Car2Go will supplant Zipcar.  No doubt there will be competition, but Zipcars can hold more passengers and they are available outside the city of DC, which is where I live.  So for now, I can see opportunities to use both.

And the cars are cute.

Observations at Powering the People 2.0

The Edison Foundation held their 1-day meeting, Powering the People 2.0, on Thursday, March 22.  I was able to visit for a short while, visiting the electric vehicles outside, listening to the introductory speakers and first panel, and visiting the area they called "Innovation Avenue."

My favorite moment of the entire meeting was when the President of Pepco Holdings greeted everyone by saying, "I want to take credit for the early blooming of the cherry blossoms."  I'm pretty sure he did not realize the irony of his own statement, what with the significant contribution the electricity sector makes to climate change.  (One could point out the Pepco owns no generation, but I still found his statement amusing.)

Verizon's short-sightedness on saving energy

Today's Environmental Leader included a story entitled: Verizon Aims to Cut Carbon Intensity by Half by 2020 (also reported by Tree Hugger).
"We're going to reduce our carbon footprint fifty percent," Lowell McAdam, Verizon's CEO, said in a sit-down with Bloomberg's Alix Steel. "We are now beginning to install solar arrays for powering our cell tower sites, and we've got our first data center powered by geothermal going in."
I am a FIOS customer of Verizon in Northern Virginia.  When we had Fios service installed, they placed a backup box unit in my house that draws a continuous 20 watts. 24/7/365. It does not power down when the battery is charged nor when there is no call for service. Just a constant 20 watts. That costs me (and all customers) about $20 per year.   Not a lot, but a nice lunch.
I cannot turn this box off.  If I unplug it, then it just draws down the battery until it's used up, which is senseless.  I could pull the battery out, too, but that's a lot of effort--not as easy as pushing a power strip switch, which I can do with my wireless router.

Five years of blogging on Transform to Sustainability

Without realizing it, the 5-year anniversary of my original blog passed by last month.  Since then I have posted 368 posts here.  Many of these have also been featured on other blogs, including:
So what has been popular?  Below is the list of my all time top ten blogs by number of views:

Declines since 1982!!! (A global warming analogy)

I get the occasional email from my skeptic friend highlighting the latest study he's seen on Watt's Up With That and how the entirety of global warming science is thrown into question.  He included this statement in his last email:
". . .the earth has been cooling now for the last 15 years, while CO2 is still rising."
This is a common meme among the skeptics: that there has been no warming recently despite increasing CO2, therefore global warming has stopped.

The main problem with this argument is that 15 years is too short a period to make any definitive statements about long-term trends.  It also fails to take into account other forcings, such as solar intensity (down), ENSO (more La Nina lately) and increased aeresols from Chinese coal burning (study here).

For today, though, I want to show this:

Join Bruce Piasecki at the Robert H. Smith School of Business for a discussion of his new book

The Green Business Roundtable, in partnership with the Robert H. Smith School of Business, is pleased to announce a book discussion with Bruce Piasecki, author of World, Inc.. He will be discussing his brand new book, Doing More With Less, the New Way to Wealth.

Date: Monday, March 5

Time: 5:00 PM

Location: Robert H. Smith School of Business
  Ronald Reagan Building & International Trade Center
  1300 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
  Washington, DC 20004
  Concourse Level - Room C3

This event is free. Please RSVP to

BRUCE PIASECKI is President and founder of AHC Group, Inc. , a management consulting firm. For more than thirty years, AHC Group has focused on the critical areas of corporate governance consulting, energy, and environmental strategy, product innovation, and sustainability strategy. Whether working with Toyota, Shaw Industries, Suncor Energy, or FMC, Bruce and his team show companies how to compete on price, quality, and social needs. Piasecki has evolved from a niche expert on environmental issues for Fortune 500 corporations to a mainstream advocate for sustainable strategies for everyone.

Benjamin Franklin knew instinctively what so many of us have forgotten: Frugality and industriousness are the ways to wealth. After the last set of business scandals and financial busts, many powerful interests, from governments to multinational corporations, are exploring how to do more with less.
Doing More with Less dives into our primal competitive instinct, which embraces frugality as a crucial competitive edge.

A financial solution to the Bethesda tunnel

East end of tunnel (

Recently Montgomery County has estimated that the additional costs to the Purple Line of building the bike/ped trail through the Bethesda tunnel could add as much as $40 million to the project.  Using financing mechanisms to capture savings could ameliorate part or all of these costs and improve the project and the community at the same time.
 (Update: the Washington Post reported on February 25 that the MTA has rejected proposals to put the trail in the tunnel.)

In order to fully appreciate this proposal, we have to accept a couple of assumptions that I believe are true:
1) It is cheaper to build the Purple Line and the trail if there are no buildings and/or building supports in the way during construction
2) It is cheaper to build commercial buildings when there is not an operating transit line below them.
3) Conclusion (to accept for the sake of argument) - It would be less expensive for the Purple Line project AND the building developers to design and build everything at the same time.

Arlington County removing dangerous bollards from trails

Arlington County has been removing some of the dangerous bollards and collars that riders have identified on the bollard map, which is here:

View Arlington Bollards in a larger map

Last week I noted that the two bollards on the connector from N. Van Buren St. to the Custis/W&OD, just east of Lee Highway and west of the East Falls Church Metro station, have been removed and new pavement has been smoothly added.  I updated the Bollard map to show this change.  Please check out my previous post on why bollards are mostly unnecessary.

If you have noted other bollards or collars (or other similar hazards) on Arlington's trails, please add them to the map.  Please also note any bollards that have now been removed, as I did.

Kudos to Arlington for using the information provided through this public forum to improve cycling for all of us.
Steve Offutt is a member of the Arlington Bicycle Advisory Committee

Transforming the market for electric cars: The solution to "Range Anxiety"

Building the market for electric cars presents a tricky conundrum: charging.  People are less likely to want to buy an electric car if they are uncertain about being able to get it charged, and charging stations are not likely to pop up to serve these vehicles if there are few electric cars around.  This fear of running out of charge, "range anxiety," is  a significant obstacle to more widespread adoption.  I believe a forward-looking gas company can help break this logjam while also improving their market positioning.  Here's how.

Suppose one company, let's say Shell, installed chargers in every one of their stations in the Greater Washington area (or another region where there are electric cars on the road).  The key here is to install in every station, even though many will hardly get used.  It's a marketing strategy: make your stations synonymous with electric charging.  One company getting out ahead on this could create a very long lasting market advantage.  Put a charger in every station and make that information common knowledge to everyone.  The marketing has to be comprehensive, so that everyone knows those gas stations have charging stations; it becomes common knowledge. The stations and the marketing are loss leaders; a marketing strategy that pays off in more than one way.

Robert Samuelson redefines "reassuring," downplays seriousness of climate change

In a short op-ed piece today in the Washington Post (January 26, 2012), Robert Samuelson invokes a strange reality on our future.
"A week after President Obama denied the application for the Keystone XL pipeline — which would carry oil from Canada’s tar sands deposits in Alberta to U.S. refineries along the Gulf of Mexico — it’s time for an energy reality check. What does the future hold? It may be better than you think."
That's how he starts the article.  Not that he supports the canceling of the KXL pipeline.  No, he's optimistic because we will continue to burn fossil fuels on into the interminable future no matter what.  That's the "better than you think" line.

Royal Netherlands Embassy achieves LEED Silver

I am pleased to report that my work with the Royal Netherlands Embassy in Washington, DC has resulted in their achieving LEED Silver for their building. They were awarded Silver for the Existing Buildings: Operations and Management (EBOM) track. (I am a LEED AP and am available to help others pursue similar goals.)  The building was constructed in the 1950's and underwent pretty significant improvements in the early 90's.

The project started in the spring of 2010 and was completed in June of 2011.  Preliminary review by the Green Building Certification Institute (the official certifying body) was followed by a re-submittal of additional documentation in September.  This re-submittal resulted in 49 points, just one shy of Silver.  We were able to successfully appeal one credit to achieve the necessary 50 points.

Ped/Bike bridge replacement will improve connection from W&OD to East Falls Church

Arlington County is replacing the footbridge across Four Mile Run that connects the
Existing bridge as approached from the east
W&OD/Custis Trail east of Sycamore Street with the East Falls Church Metro station.  The current footbridge is very narrow, very old and has become obsolete. Its replacement is necessary for safety reasons. However, with input from the Arlington County pedestrian and bicycle advisory committees, the County has taken advantage of this opportunity to improve the bridge.  The replacement bridge will meet ADA standards, will be wider and is in a better location for reducing confusion among trail users.

I-66 "Spot Improvement" now completed

I-66 looking westbound from Ohio St.
The project to widen I-66 westbound between Fairfax Drive and Sycamore Street is now completed.  This is one of several projects that VDOT calls "Spot Improvements."  In this case, the "spot" is about 1.5 miles long (map).  This is the first of these projects, and was begun in the summer of 2010.  Neither of the other two projects is currently underway nor scheduled for the immediate future.

Arlington looking for help with bollard locations

Arlington County has created a public Google Map that people can edit with bollard locations and issues.

View Arlington Bollards in a larger map

In particular, they are asking for locations where bollard collars (that part in the ground that holds the bollard itself) may be sticking up causing a hazard. Since we have the map, it will also be useful for identifying other bollard-related locations, such as where bollards are needed or where they should be removed.

I have posted on this topic before (here and here). Those who know me know that I am opposed to bollards in general and believe they should only be installed where there is documented need, rather than at every intersection just as a policy. The W&OD trail removed all its bollards along the entire 45 miles some years back and experiences few problems with cars. Not zero, though. However, they have decided that the positive aspects of better aesthetics and safer travel for cyclists outweigh the negatives of a rare car encroaching on the trail.

Please check the map out and add any locations that you believe could use attention. It's easy, just click on the EDIT button and you will be able to edit the map. Remember to save when you are done. Thanks for your help.