Updates from Letty – November 18, 2022

Blog posts are the personal views of Letty Hardi and not official statements or records on behalf of the Falls Church City Council

Dear Friends,

With the upcoming holiday, this week’s post will be short and sweet. I am still including links, including to my previous posts, if you’d like more info or my thoughts. This week’s highlights:

  • For those who have wondered about the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) initiative and implications for Rt 7 in Falls Church, you’ll want to read on.
  • We adopted new City Council salaries (effective July 2024) and took the first of two votes on 20 mph speed limits and a $5.8M budget amendment.
  • Finally, as you plan your holidays:
    • Be ready to buy The Little City Gift Card beginning on Small Business Saturday, November 26. The growing list of participating small businesses is amazing. The City is matching bonuses for customers to spend that businesses will be able to keep as additional revenue, which will help their continued recovery from Covid – a win-win for everyone.
    • I hope you’ll join friends and neighbors to kick off the holiday season at the City’s annual “Lighting of the (Street) Trees” event on Monday, November 28 at 6 pm – bigger and better this year at Founders Row! There will be free snacks, festive performances, food for purchase from food trucks, a preview from the retailers at Founders Row, and as always, a special guest arriving on a firetruck.

City Council will be back in session on November 28, so my posts will resume in two weeks.

Happy Thanksgiving,

What Happened This Week:

(1) Bus Rapid Transit on Rt 7

Takeaways from our briefing this week:

  • A Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) regional project is proposed along the Rt 7 corridor from Tysons to Alexandria.
  • BRT means enhanced bus service, with dedicated lanes (where possible), station spacing farther apart to reduce boarding delays, and more frequent service. When done together, it dramatically reduces travel times.
  • For Falls Church, this has the potential to better connect our commercial areas with West and East Falls Church Metro stations, make transit more attractive, and shift mode share from single occupancy vehicles which will be more environmentally friendly and reduce congestion.
  • See potential route below and elements of the BRT system that could happen in Falls Church. Due to Rt 7 narrowing in Falls Church, note that a “business access and transit lane”, aka BAT lane (not a dedicated lane) is what’s being studied.
  • BRT is still in the study phase. There was a community meeting in October, with more public engagement planned this winter through next spring, with a final report due summer 2023. Note that the start of service for BRT is projected to be 2031.

(2) 20 mph speed limits

We voted 6-0 to adopt 20 mph speed limits on the majority of the city’s streets, with the exception of Rt 7, Rt 29, and collector streets which would remain at 25 mph for now. With the compelling safety benefits of 20 mph, I’d like to see us get to a simpler “20 mph across the entire city” policy, but there are various constraints such as VDOT and additional re-engineering and traffic calming on the collector streets to achieve more natural 20 mph compliance.

A second/final vote is planned on November 28. If adopted, new signage and community education would happen next, before any enforcement beginning at the earliest spring 2023. Please see the staff report and my previous post if you’d like more info.

(3) Budget Amendment

The budget amendment we voted on 6-0 this week is largely the same as what we discussed in work session last week so I’ll point you to my last post if you’d like more information on the highlights. Like speed limits, we’ll take a final vote on these appropriations on November 28.

(4) City Council Salaries

We voted 5-1 to increase City Council members salaries effective July 2023, which would be after the next election in November 2023. This is the first increase in 15 years. Salaries would increase from $9200 (Council members)/$9800 (Mayor) per year to $11,000/$11,500 per year based on our population size. More meaningfully, City Council members are also eligible for health benefits as city employees, which may encourage more to seek public office. See my September and October posts for my thoughts on why I supported this increase.

What’s Coming Up:

Saturday, November 19 – East End Small Area Plan Community Meeting (9 am)

Monday, November 28 – Annual Lighting of the Trees (6 pm)

Monday, November 28 – City Council Meeting*

Monday, December 5 – City Council Work Session* (Joint with School Board)

Monday, December 12 – City Council Meeting* (last meeting of 2022)

*every Monday (except 5th Mondays and holidays) at 7:30 pm. You can access the agenda and livestream here, including recordings of past meetings