Some Background on the W. Main project

Below are series of Charlottesville Tomorrow articles describing the late 2014 – early 2015 events surrounding the W. Main plan.

The article gives a good lay of the land.  As a resident of an adjacent neighborhood to W. Main (I can see it from my front porch), I too worry about cut-through vehicular traffic.  It is bad now.  It is bad because the City has never addressed the issue.  A reduction of traffic on W. Main will force people driving cars to find alternative routes around the area of W. Main on not just W. Main itself.  Any issues of voluntary traffic diversion through adjoining neighborhoods can be alleviated with a holistic view of all traffic in the W. Main area and use use of traffic engineering controls that either a) prevent through traffic from crossing adjoining neighborhoods or b) diverting the traffic back onto W. Main.   Any W. Main plan must include other improvements to deter people who drive cars from cutting through our neighborhoods.

I would also like to point out that the plan only removes 33 of the 85 ON STREET car parking spots.  38% sounds like a lot.  However, those 85 spots are only a fraction of the available parking in and around W. Main.  33 spots is only a few percent of all of those parking spots.  It is also clear much more parking could be easily added.  For instance, 7th St. SW has car parking only on one side.  At least a third of all the spots lost on W. Main could be made up there alone!  I suspect that a good number of the current spots on W. Main are illegal.  It is illegal to park within 15 feet of a street entrance.  Many intersections on W. Main have parking within that zone.  Also, there is documented and anecdotal evidence that MUCH of the parking on W. Main goes to business owners and employees.

Not really sure where to start with this one other than to say:

1) The public process is messy and compromise in the only way.

2) Prior to the discussion of the W. Main plan, Council spent much time lamenting the lack of public input on a rather benign subject (a street name).  Huja then spends a good amount of time bashing the public process.

3) None of the Councilors in question have actually had to ride a bicycle on W. Main.

My comment on on the Cville Tomorrow site:

I have come to expect this sort of thing from Ms. Edwards. However, I was truly disappointed to read Mr. Signer’s unfortunate words above I won’t spend a lot of time going over the countless benefits of bicycling to the people who ride bicycles or to the City having more people who ride bicycles.

People who ride bicycles are not flies in the ointment. People who ride bicycles and people who walk are tax paying, equal road users to whom the City has promised equal consideration (and thereby protection from motor vehicles) by way of the Complete Streets resolution. People who ride bicycles are your neighbors and coworkers who would like to see Charlottesville a much better place.

I would also like to point out that both Ms. Edwards and Mr. Signer were members of the group that twice unanimously approved the current W. Main plan that includes physically separated bicycle lanes. And, Mr. Signer showed approval for the current plan in front of the Fifeville Neighborhood Association.

The fact is that W. Main is the only direct route between UVa and downtown. It is by far the flattest and shortest route which makes it even more desirable for people who ride bicycles. Studies have shown that W. Main is at the heart of any viable bicycle network. Having a proper bicycle network makes W. Main a bicycle DESTINATION. People in bicycles spend lots of money at local businesses where they can ride.

Sharrows are not viable option for the backbone of the Charlottesville bicycle network. They are meant to make small connections and sometimes to provide wayfindng between other infrastructure in bicycle networks. They also serve to remind people who ride bicycles and people who drive motor vehicles to the right to the road for people who ride bicycles have. I remind you that the dedicated bicycle lanes were a compromise to the W. Main plan because Mr. Signer’s idea would force a serious reduction in speed and volume on W. Main. Would you let your children ride bicycles down the travel lane on W. Main? That’s my threshold for ANY bicycle facility.

Charlottesville has the potential to be become a world class cycling city. We have some great professionals from here. National and international cycling teams are training on the roads around the Albemarle and surrounding counties. There is a national bicycle route running through town (on W. Main) which brings people riding bicycles from all over the world. Increasing density along the W. Main and extending corridor will increase the number of people riding bicycles. Charlottesville has a large under-served population that would benefit from a proper bicycle network. It has been proven over-and-over that proper bicycle facilities not only dramatically increase the number of people riding bicycles, it is economically advantageous to install proper bicycle facilities for ALL. The return on investment in bicycle facilities is amongst the highest of all civil projects.

One thought on “Some Background on the W. Main project

  1. First, regarding parking … or more specifically, on-street parking:

    Yes, the plan calls for a reduction of on-street parking spaces. But I read the recent parking study, and on page 8 it said this:

    “Parking on the corridor is currently unmanaged or poorly managed. On-street or public off-street parking is routinely occupied for long periods of time by employees of both the small commercial establishments as well as university patrons. There is a substantial quantity of underutilized off-street parking, however, this parking is generally not publicly available. All of these provide an opportunity for mitigation for any potential reduction in on-street parking.”

    Then the recommendation (also from page 8):

    “Meter both on-and off-street public parking, accommodating free very short term parking (15 minutes or less). Metering parking can more than triple parking turn-over rates effectively increasing parking access even with a decrease in parking supply.” [emphasis added] This idea is not new. Shoup, as noted in Jeff Speck’s book, long ago recommended this, and it has been shown to work in other cities.

    Regarding the valuation of each parking space at $300,000. I think this might be true if we had a well-managed set of parking spaces, but we do not. Lacking a well-managed supply of on-street and off-street parking spaces it is a bit alarmist to say we’d be losing all this revenue if we reduced the number of on-street spaces. Per the line from the parking study just quoted above, there are many ways to mitigate any reduction in on-street parking.

    Councilor Dede Smith said at the January 20 City Council meeting, “Use on-street parking to slow down traffic.” Well, there are many ways to slow-down traffic, and I think the plan employs them. In part it is from improving conditions for people walking and people biking. To the merchants who fear loss of business with a smaller number of on-street parking spaces it should be noted that improved bikeability and walkability conditions along streets have been shown to increase business, not diminish it. For a 23-page report to this effect in places in the U.S., see “Bicycling Means Business: The Economic Benefits of Bicycle Infrastructure” at

    Also check out this 15-minute video on Vimeo about Groningen, a city in Holland, which restricted motor vehicle traffic in certain parts of the city with very positive results despite the initial misgivings of the businesses there. At


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