Candidate Name (Affiliation): Christopher T. Morgan (I)
District: Mount Vernon
1. Improving Public Transit
Public transit is the backbone of a sustainable, equitable transportation system and a thriving economy, and Fairfax County has admirable plans to expand its bus rapid transit (BRT) network to ensure fast, frequent, and reliable service for residents. While public transit ridership on some systems has been hit by the pandemic with reduced commute trips due to increased teleworking, transit remains key for essential workers, and for supporting compact, walkable communities.
Do you support increased funding for public transit to address budget shortfalls and make improvements to better serve riders?
Candidate’s Response: No.
What is your experience riding public transit? What ideas do you have to improve public transit in Fairfax County?
Mobility and access are critical to economic success. If we “get it wrong”, we are condemning future generations to lesser opportunities.
I support investment in inter-modal transportation and believe we need to link the Metro, the VRE [Virginia Railway Express], and our 3 regional airports and make it fast, easy, and low-cost to access this transportation network. Mount Vernon is a large, diverse district, but what does connect is Route 1, the Richmond Hwy. We need a clear path to improve the area, rid it of crime, and improve traffic. It’s a car-centric avenue, but our focus should be extending the Metro and connecting it to the VRE, and Fort Belvoir, which is our largest-single employer.
I support adding travel lanes, installing dark fiber for future investment, and having dedicated lanes for self-driving cars. I would like to see vertical mixed-use development along the corridor, green spaces with preserved old-growth heritage hardwood trees, and spillway protection for our streams and waterways.
2. Active Transportation Funding
The ActiveFairfax Transportation Plan – the County’s most significant overhaul of its bicycle, pedestrian, and trails plans – is expected to be finalized this year. The plan’s recommendations address critical safety needs for residents who already walk and bike and also make improvements to allow more residents to walk and bike conveniently and safely for daily needs. Realizing the Plan’s vision will require substantial, dedicated, and consistent funding.
Would you support Fairfax committing dedicated annual funding to support the ActiveFairfax Transportation Plan, even if that meant potentially delaying road expansion and interchange projects?
Candidate’s Response: No.
What is your personal experience dealing with or advocating for pedestrian or bicyclist safety issues?
Our family — my wife, my 5-year-old son, and myself — walk or bicycle together every single evening.
We travel within neighborhoods that are lacking complete sidewalks, have too few stop signs, and too few speed bumps.
I’ve advocated to Fairfax County staff for improvements and have learned that the process is far too difficult for the average citizen. That must change.
Myself, along with multiple neighbors, have been developing a plan over the past several months to request the installation of additional “traffic calming” measures in our neighborhood, including additional stop signs and speed bumps.
Over 1 year and 9 months ago, in June 2021, we contacted Supervisor Storck’s office to request speed bumps. It took until Nov. 16th, 2021 for the Supervisor’s office to respond to the initial request. At that point, the next step was for us to form a citizen “task force” and follow the process. We formed such as task force attended the project kick-off meeting in Nov. 2022.
The process is not easy. After the initial request, adjacent property owners are asked their views, FCDOT [Fairfax County Department of Transportation] does a study, a “vote” takes place involving neighbors within a certain radius, and there is a final review in which an adjacent owner may “veto” the installation.
What Are the Challenges?
Unfortunately, Fairfax County is not looking at pedestrian issues comprehensively and every single element is in a separate silo of approvals and procedure.
There should be a single point of contact, single review process, and single document on knowledge for:
- Speed bumps and speed tables -> This process starts with the county
- 4-way stop signs -> VDOT [Virginia Department of Transportation] apparently has a rule where 4-way stop intersections are required to be so far apart, which is why our previous request was denied. Why?
- Sidewalks. -> There is no realistic process today to receive new sidewalks, which would increase both walkability and safety.
- Our neighborhoods also need Odometer Signs (“you’re going 30mph”), painted crosswalks, school bus stop traffic pattern reviews, temporary speed bumps and rumble strips to gauge effectiveness before an expensive installation, and police enforcement among other issues.
Safety, transportation, and traffic issues are a critical aspect of our quality of life and it’s likely going to take the involvement of many of us to enact meaningful change.
3. Low-Stress Bike Network
Fairfax County has committed to reducing the amount people have to drive and associated transportation-related carbon emissions. The County’s climate plan calls for meeting a goal of 30% non-auto commuting trips by 2030. To make this shift, the County will need robust, accessible alternatives and bicycling is an ideal, low-cost, carbon-free alternative. But that mode shift requires dedicated infrastructure including an expanded network of trails and comfortable, protected, low-stress bicycle facilities – not just painted bike lanes or sharrows – to make bicycling meaningfully safer, more appealing, and more accessible and often requires roadway redesign that reduces parking and/or vehicle lanes.
Compared to the current prioritization, do you think greater priority should be given to the needs of bicyclists and pedestrians in the County’s roadway designs?
Candidate’s Response: No.
How would you ensure that people of all ages and abilities have robust active transportation access to and along the County’s major and most important thoroughfares and connecting streets?
The Route 1 Corridor, which is a commuting avenue, connects multiple areas of the Mount Vernon District, and should serve as a model for such programs has serious safety and crime issues. Nobody will ride their bike through an unsafe area.
I’m particularly concerned when we see such patterns.
- On May 2nd of this year, a Woodbridge Man allegedly conducted a spree of armed robberies including a carjacking and kidnapping near Furman Ln.
- In February, an 81-year-old woman was assaulted and carjacked in a grocery store parking lot in broad daylight by two out-of-state men.
- Last June, a 63-year-old woman died after an assault while waiting at a bus stop.
- Last January, an 18-year-old male college student was shot and killed at a bus stop over a dispute over shoes. The career criminal who allegedly shot him then shot another man in the head while attempting to carjack him.
- Smash and grab robberies are becoming common at local businesses. Last April, over $20,000 in eyeglass frames were stolen by a gang of 5 youths.
This is in no way a comprehensive list of the violent street crimes that are now plaguing our neighborhoods. I have voluntarily joined a “ride along” with Fairfax Police Department and saw and experienced first-hand the issues in our community and the challenges we are facing. I spoke with our officers and heard their concerns and listened to their suggestions and well as observing my own.
As someone who used to ride his bicycle to work at least twice a week, I can testify that before we can expect people to commute on bicycle, we need to address these serious safety concerns.
4. Safe Streets for All
On May 10, 2022, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously endorsed the Safe Streets for All Program, a comprehensive initiative to address systemic transportation safety issues for people walking, biking, taking transit, and driving. Included in the recommendations is a call for roadway infrastructure changes to slow traffic on our community’s streets. Unfortunately, the County has not yet dedicated staff or funding to begin executing the program. At the same time, Fairfax County experienced a troubling uptick in traffic-related pedestrian fatalities in 2022.
Do you support the full implementation of the Safe Streets for All Program in Fairfax County, including changes to roadway design guidelines and an expanded automated speed enforcement program?
Candidate’s Response: No.
What proven traffic safety improvement policies, programs, and/or technologies would you like to see implemented in your district and throughout the County? Given the lack of clarity around who has the legal and budgetary authority to make roadway safety improvements stemming from state ownership of County roads, what steps would you propose to ensure that these roadway safety improvements are implemented?
Everyone should feel safe going to and from work, women should feel safe running at night with headphones. Children should be able to safely ride their bicycles to and from their friends’ homes from dusk to dawn. These are non-negotiable tenets.
While controlled by the National Park Service [NPS], the George Washington Memorial Parkway is used by residents daily and is in poor condition. The $30M project to reduce travel lanes has not improved safety and has made several intersections more dangerous and frankly terrifying to use. Invasive vines are choking the old growth trees, dangerous depressions and bumps derail traffic, and both animals and branches lay on the road for weeks at a time. The reality is that the parkway is used daily by our residents to commute to work, get to the airport, and make appointments. As a critical part of our infrastructure, the road has a completely different use and different needs than originally designed for over 100 years ago and we need our government to adjust for the times. As Supervisor, I would use my influence to push the NPS for real improvements.
5. Safe Routes to School
Trips to and from schools are among the best opportunities to reduce car trips in Fairfax County. A robust Safe Routes to School (SRTS) program can play a critical role in encouraging more families to walk and bicycle to school, which has been shown to increase confidence and sense of independence among children while also reducing pickup/dropoff vehicle congestion and associated carbon emissions. Unfortunately, the County’s SRTS program includes just one dedicated staff position for a public school system that serves 185,000 students.
Would you support expanding the Safe Routes to School program, including additional staff capacity, to get more kids to walk and bike to school?
Candidate’s Response: No.
What other policies or budget items will you pursue to upgrade transportation infrastructure so kids can safely walk and bike to school?
I do not believe in expanding bureaucracy and increasing the associated county spend on a county resource whose job is to encourage children to walk to school. I do not see this as a productive use of tax dollars.
I believe that such funds would be better appropriated by investing in schools in high-density neighborhoods, thus reducing the need to bus students across the school district.
Walking to school should be encouraged by families and will happen if schools are neighborhood-based and close in proximity, there are walkable and safe sidewalks or trails, and everyone feels secure and protected during the trip.
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