Transportation issues represent a huge challenge for us here in Northern Virginia, and, in many ways, Manassas City’s needs represent pieces of a very large puzzle. It means that we must work collaboratively with our partners and neighbors in the public sector (Manassas Park, Prince William County, VRE, and the Commonwealth) and private sector to develop a comprehensive plan that must, inevitably, include road improvements, road development, and real transportation alternatives, including mass transit, and, I would suggest, some Twenty-First Century thinking regarding technology and infrastructure to benefit telecommuters.
The reason citizens need to vote for change on City Council is that this requires strategic planning, forward thinking and a common sense commitment to the future. There are examples of the ways in which our city leaders should be addressing transportation more seriously. Let us consider the need to support City businesses by providing customer and employee access, promote commuting with mass transit, and manage traffic patterns and flow on behalf of our residents.
Developing a comprehensive plan to handle parking in our city is in the Council’s purview. City Council has already skirted dealing with parking with regard to population density issues, neither have they addressed transportation requirements. Undoubtedly, we need more parking alternatives that support city residents first. Perhaps you are aware that the city could have made relatively small investments in the city’s future with preparation for a parking deck next to city hall. They passed on the expense. Just recently the city passed on purchasing a parking lot on Church Street, though we may be footing the bill to rent that same parking space back and, so, engage in periodic renegotiations on that contract. Such choices are perhaps penny-wise, but they are certainly pound-foolish. The need to manage parking will not go away, the costs for action will increase, and a continued lack of planning will put the burden on the next generation of leaders, if the City is interested in solutions. I am interested in solutions.
Similarly, any increase in high-density housing must require considerations of road use and commuter impact. The bottom line is that government’s commitment should be to increasing the time our residents spend with their families by doing what can be done to lessen time behind the wheel. Particularly if a City resident commutes north or south, the car is still the only real way to do that. New road development is complex, but plans exist, as does the formula for funding change. As part of the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, Manassas City has already voted to support new roads. That’s good, because we need our boundaries to be less limiting.
In addition, our whole region is dealing with the economic burden of unused business space. A model for public-private partnership might allow some of that space to be civically supported with communication technologies, and other incentives might attract businesses and government to fill them as flexible workspaces. Knowing that such space management is already successfully underway and revitalizing small towns in Europe might help us be confident in such an approach. Innovation at Mason was an experiment in shared space for non-profits, so this is not a new idea even to our community, but it didn’t leverage the major industries and employers of the region, nor take advantage of the potential for secure locations in the city. There are other best practices being modeled across the globe and across our nation, and Manassas should seize opportunities to lead in innovation for resolving difficult questions. With an imbedded university and with our major industry in innovative technologies, creative solutions to our major challenges shouldn’t be out of reach and would brand our community as forward-looking and supportive of economic growth.