Interview with Chris Hamilton, Bureau Chief of Arlington County Commuter Services – 2014 ATP Champions

On April 20, 2014 Arlington Transportation Partners we recognized 122 Champions (employers, residential communities and commercial properties) at a breakfast ceremony. At this event, we interviewed a few Champions to capture how they were making a difference in Arlington County through their dedication to transportation programs and amenities. See what they had to say about their company and the Champions program.

Outreach & Education with Infrastructure – Creating a Prosperous Community

Chris Hamilton, Bureau Chief, Arlington County Commuter Services, shares insights into how outreach and education in combination with transportation infrastructure creates a prosperous community.
October 17, 2014

WLRN – Miami/South Florida Public Radio

Key West Challenged to Share the Road

By Nancy Klinginer; February 26, 2016
“Key West has one of the nation’s highest rates of commuting by bicycle. But it also regularly leads the state in bicycle and pedestrian fatalities for small cities…..”It’s important for Key West to promote bicycling and walking, and to do so safely,” said Chris Hamilton, the city’s new bicycle-pedestrian coordinator, “because it’s good for our prosperity.” Hamilton joined the city in January and launched Bike/Walk Key West. The new grant will help that effort, he said.”

Chris Hamilton is Key West’s bicycle/pedestrian/transportation coordinator.

Around Key West On Two Wheels

Nancy Klingener; June 26, 2016
“Key West is ideal in many ways for biking — it’s small, flat and warm year-round. But the island also faces challenges, with high accident rates for bicycles and pedestrians. Chris Hamilton, the city’s bicycle/pedestrian coordinator, is working to make the streets safer and encourage more people to get out of their cars and get around Key West by foot, bike or public transit.”

Stories in the Key West Citizen

Ladies of the House

By Barbara Bowers, September 28, 2018
“…Chris Hamilton, administrator for Old Island Restoration Foundation said, “this just fits the unique and diverse island history; everyone is accepted here.”

Citizens Voice

September 28, 2018
“My friends & I had the pleasure of riding the Duval Loop on Friday evening for a happy hour hop-on/hop-off bar crawl … it’s absolutely awesome. We really needed something like this in Key West. Thanks so much to all of those who made it happen, especially Alison Higgins & Chris Hamilton. You did it right. KUDOS!”

Key West Bike and Pedestrian Coordinator Resigns

By Scott Unger; September 1, 2017
“Key West Bike and Pedestrian Coordinator Chris Hamilton resigned Wednesday to accept an administrative position with the Old Island Restoration Foundation….Hamilton’s resignation letter was sent a day before the debut of the Duval Loop bus service, which he helped spearhead. The 16-stop free bus route is designed to ease congestion in Old Town and is part of the Car Free Key West marketing campaign, which Hamilton initiated.”

Loop de Loop

By Scott Unger; September 1, 2017
“Crammed with city leaders, Key West’s new Duval Loop bus made a ceremonial first trip around Old Town Thursday to mark the beginning of service for the free route designed to ease congestion around Duval Street….Higgins, Parking Director John Wilkins and Bike and Pedestrian Coordinator Chris Hamilton were all aboard the inaugural ride after steering the project to fruition.”

A Long Way to Go

By Scott Unger, June 11, 2017
“An analysis of bike networks in 300 U.S. cities ranked Key West tops among surveyed Florida locales, but its overall score shows room for improvement….“(The score) wasn’t too good,” Key West Bike and Pedestrian Coordinator Chris Hamilton said. “We’ve got a lot of progress to go. There’s lots of barriers and there’s things we can do to improve.”….“The state of bicycling in the USA, despite a decade of progress, is pretty sad and there’s a lot of work to do across the country,” he said.The analysis shows that Key West can become a biking destination if the needed work is done, Hamilton said.“If we dive into this bicycle plan that we’re doing and we listen to folks … and link up a connected network for safe biking, we’re going to be one of the best places in the entire country for biking and that could be a calling card; we’ll be known for that,” he said.The city is currently developing a bicycle master plan and recently launched the Car Free Key West campaign designed to get residents and tourists out of their cars.”

Duval Loop Bus Delayed Two Months

By Scott Unger, June 10, 2017
“Parts delays have pushed back the debut of the Old Town circulator bus by another two months, according to Key West officials….

A series of meetings with Old Town hotel and business interests has generated excitement for the debut, according to Bike and Pedestrian Coordinator Chris Hamilton.“We’ve reached out to lots of businesses and talked to them and most of them cannot wait for the Duval Loop to get there,” Hamilton told the Sustainability Board Thursday.”

Team Offers Insights On Bike Master Plan

By Scott Unger; May 5, 2017
“After a week studying Key West streets, the team in charge of designing a master plan for bicycles and walkers shared some of its findings at an open house Thursday at the Eco- Discovery Center…Rental and other tourism-based businesses have been eager to participate, Key West Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator Chris Hamilton said.“The Key West business community (is) fantastic,” he said. “They want the (outreach) stuff. They’re going to give out maps and they’re going to give out safety information.”

Duval Loop Free Bus To Debut Soon

By Scott Unger, April 21, 2017
“The Duval Loop downtown circulator bus will debut at the end of May or early June, according to Key West City staff….New details about the service were unveiled at Thursday’s Key West Lodging Association Luncheon during a presentation by Higgins, Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator Chris Hamilton…”

Three Vie for Bike Share Program

By Scott Unger; April 19, 2017
“The latest cog in the city’s Car-Free Key West campaign is underway, with applications submitted by three companies to operate a bike share program on city streets….

Because the bike share program is designed as an extension of the city’s public transportation network and not as competition for the many bike rental businesses in Key West, the companies were asked to focus their proposals on bike trips of less than an hour in length and the proposal stipulates that the city maintains final say on pricing options, according to Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator Chris Hamilton. “We really want a company coming in here to not rely on generating the revenue because then they would need to make revenue on every trip,” Hamilton said. “The whole reason we did that is we’ve got a really good bike rental industry in this town … and so we don’t want to compete with people who want to use bikes for a few hours or day.”

A Fine Balance

By Scott Unger; March 18, 2017
“The city of Key West has seen bike racks appear and vanish over the last few months, but it’s all in the name of accommodating residents, according to city officials. Racks were placed on Fleming Street earlier this year as part of the Key West Planning Department’s installation of approximately 170 bike “loops” (with each designed for two bikes) around town, according to Bike and Pedestrian Coordinator Chris Hamilton.”

Rollout and Timing of Transit Program Questioned

By Scott Unger; March 17, 2017
“Two initiatives designed to get residents out of their cars are underway, but their rollout and timeline raised the eyebrows of one Key West City Commissioner…While the master plan won’t be completed until early next year, according to Key West Bike and Pedestrian Coordinator Chris Hamilton, the Car-Free campaign launches this month, which led Commissioner Sam Kaufman to question the timing at a recent board meeting…

The educational component of the Car-Free campaign will lay the groundwork for the changes to infrastructure that will be made next year through the master plan, according to Hamilton.“They are distinct projects with the same goal. The Car-Free Key West campaign is about information and education (and) the bicycle and pedestrian plan project is mostly about infrastructure and facilities,” Hamilton said. “They go hand-in-hand and don’t need to be sequential.”“We don’t need to wait a year or two on implementing infrastructure improvements that may come out of the bike pedestrian plan to get these important messages out.”

Rolling Out

By Scott Unger; January 25, 2017
“Work has begun on an estimated one-year project creating a bike and pedestrian master plan for the City of Key West. Through a $250,000 grant from the Florida Department of Transportation, the city hired Toole Design Group last week to a two-year contract with an optional third year to carry out its 10-point plan creating a safe bicycling network of lanes and access routes around Key West and including Stock Island, according to Bike and Pedestrian Coordinator Chris Hamilton.“We want to make a connected bike network where people feel safe,” Hamilton said. “A lot of people only feel safe on the really slow residential streets and they’re reluctant to get out on (the busier roads). So what we want to make sure is that there’s safe connections that everyone feels safe on.”“The network that we have now suddenly ends. (The goal is to) get some sort of bike network that’s safe and crisscrosses the entire town.”

City Seeking Public Help on Bicycle Program Application

By Scott Unger; September 6, 2016
“City officials are asking for public help to make Key West one of 10 U.S. cities chosen for a new $750,000 bicycle program. Nonprofit People for Bikes is looking for communities of all sizes to participate in The Big Jump, which aims to double or triple local bike riders by 2020.Participating in The Big Jump would complement the $275,000 in grant funding and recent partnership with South Florida Commuter Services already in place, according to Key West Bike and Pedestrian Coordinator Chris Hamilton. “We’re trying to make biking safer and having the expertise of an organization like People for Bikes would make that a lot easier,” Hamilton said. “We’re starting to build momentum so adding this on top would be really cool.”Hamilton is asking city leaders to write letters in support of the city’s application and list their organization or business as a supporter. Supporters have the option of providing additional funding for the program and the opportunity to serve on the Key West Leadership Team if chosen as a participating city, Hamilton said.”

Moving Forward

By Scott Unger; August 10, 2016
“Alternative transportation plans for Key West are fueling up with help from South Florida Commuter Services…Key West Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator Chris Hamilton recently enlisted the help of SFCS to assist with the city’s plans of providing a network of alternative transportation options like walking, biking and public transit.Working with SFCS will save the city approximately a quarter million dollars in the first year, according to Hamilton. “They confirmed they would be spending somewhere between $200,000 and $300,000, just on Key West over the next year,” he said…In a year, people would know there are options … they’ll know how to access those options whether they’re living here, working here or visiting,” said Hamilton. “So you’d start to … see that incremental change where more people are biking, walking and using transit. And that’s just going to help Key West be a better place.”

City Eyes Carsharing Service

By Scott Unger; July 6, 2016
“In an effort to cut down on parking and traffic problems, Key West Bike and Pedestrian Coordinator Chris Hamilton plans to bring in more cars, via a car sharing program…

“I know it’s counter-intuitive, but the research shows that when people are sharing cars, it takes seven to 15 cars off the local (roads) for every car share vehicle,” he said. “Cars are parked 95 percent of the time. They’re sitting there, they’re not being used. So people who use car share shrink the number of cars in a local area, so it actually frees up parking spaces in local neighborhoods.”“People are more cognizant of the fact that if they’re paying by the hour, they’ll tend not to use the car as much. If people have a car in their driveway, they’ll drive it anywhere.”Hamilton is working with car sharing company Zipcar to start a one-year pilot program in Key West.”

Parking, Housing Top ‘Last Stand’ Agenda

By Scott Unger; June 10, 2016
“Community members filled the 75 seat theater at the Eco-Discovery Center on Thursday for Last Stand Organization’s neighborhood forum on parking and traffic problems and affordable housing….Key West Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation Coordinator Chris Hamilton shared his 10 steps to help any city battle traffic and congestion problems.

On a Roll

By Scott Unger; June 4, 2016
“Within a year Key West will be more accessible for bicyclists, thanks to two grants totaling $275,000 for improvements around the city. Key West Bike and Pedestrian Transportation Coordinator Chris Hamilton said the money will be used to develop and implement a master bike plan and improve biking lanes and signage throughout the city.”

Key West Considers Car-share

By Mandy Miles, April 29, 2016
“A newly proposed car-sharing program could let Key West catch up with other cities and clear up congestion on crowded streets…“Research has shown that people want access to a car, not necessarily the burden and expense of owning their own vehicle,” wrote Chris Hamilton, the city’s bicycle/ pedestrian coordinator in a report to City Manager Jim Scholl. “Car-sharing provides access to a vehicle or fleet of vehicles for short-term use, priced by the hour or minute, located conveniently through the community and with most, if not all, costs (gas, maintenance and insurance) bundled into the rates.”…”“Ultimately, a successful car-share program would see cars in every neighborhood at a mix of on-street and off-street, private parking spaces,” Hamilton’s report states.”

City Awarded $25,000 Bicycle Grant for Safety, Education

Citizen Staff, March 7, 2016
“The City of Key West was recently awarded a $25,000 Share the Road Challenge grant from Bike Florida…

Chris Hamilton, Key West’s new bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, welcomes the assistance.“The city is very grateful to Bike Florida for jump-starting our fledgling bicycle and pedestrian program. The grant dollars will lay the foundation for a program that we hope will encourage more people to ride bicycles and walk instead of driving and to educate all users of our streets to do so safely.”

City Hires New Bike and Pedestrian Coordinator

By Gwen Filosa; January 15, 2016
Chris Hamilton, the city’s new bicycle and pedestrian coordinator, started work this week after spending nearly 23 years at a Virginia county’s transportation department.
And yes, he rides his bike — a blue, one-speed Republic with yellow tires — to work from his new home on Stock Island to Habana Plaza on Flagler Avenue.”

Stories in KONK Life

These are the stories that appeared in KONK Life while I was the City’s Bike Coordinator.

Bike/Pedestrian Coordinator Quits

By Pru Sowers; September 23, 2017

Bikeshare Program Dead On Arrival

By Pru Sowers; August 20, 2017

Free Duval Loop to Launch

KONK Life Editor; August 24, 2017

New Key West Bus Loop Delayed Again

By Pru Sowers; July 10, 2017

Three Bike Share Companies Vie for City Contract

By Pru Sowers; May 7, 2017

How To Get Around Key West and What To Do With Your Car When You Get Here

KONK Life Editor; March 16, 2017

Bike/Pedestrian Master Plan Consultant Hired

By Pru Sowers; February 5, 2017

Internet Bike Rental Company Solves Legal Problem

By Pru Sowers; May 23, 2016

Bike Florida Challenges Key West

By Guy Deboer; February 27, 2016

Key West Ruins Everything

Our home town of Key West.

Originally published as a Facebook post on March 17, 2019.

“Key West ruins everything” Mikey said just now in response to me reminiscing about past trips to Spring Training to watch the Nats when we lived in D.C. He’s right. I got it immediately.

The allure of going to watch baseball on the mainland just doesn’t hold the same appeal, now that we live in Key West. When we lived in the District, one would dream all dreary, cloudy, cold, dark winter of getting to Florida at the end of February and March to feel the sun on your face, breathe in the pollen filled air and see trees and flowers in glorious full bloom. Much as we love it, baseball was really a second-thought. Getting down here was a head start on spring and summer that we really needed.

But now that we live in Key West, we get sunshine and warmth year round. Now that we live car-free in a fun-filled little urban tropical oasis, why would we want to subject ourselves to the drive-only, suburban splendor that is mainland Florida? Yech.

No, now that we live in Paradise, the desire to travel to most any other place is fading. Yes, Key West does ruin everything.

D.C. Baseball, Tattoos and the World Series

Kenny Akers, Steven Parrish, Michael Legg and author Chris Hamilton.

Some thoughts on one fans’ journey from Senators, O’s and Washington Nationals as the first World Series game is played in the District since 1933. Note this was first posted on my Facebook page on October 21, 2019.

“Oh, you’re from Baltimore?” is the usual reaction I’ll receive when a stranger notices the 1954 Orioles Bird logo tattooed on my right arm. “No, actually I’m from Washington, D.C.” I’ll say and usually get a quizzical look and continue, “When you’re of a certain age and grew up as a kid with the Senators who left in 1971, and we didn’t have team for 33 years, it was fairly easy to follow the Birds who were just a few miles up the road.” Ohhhh they’ll nod. To confuse them further, I’ll go on, “But I’m a Nat’s fan now – because I’m a Washingtonian.”

Just last week Mikey turns to me and says “Are we having fun yet, because it doesn’t look like it.” I reply, “Yes, this is fun Mikey!” He questions this supposed fun because we sit there, contorting our bodies as if trying to sink into the couch and agonize out loud with the bases loaded, our hopes fading, as Daniel Hudson desperately tries to hold a lead. “Yes, playoff baseball is fun! This is what we wait all year for… Really.”

Over the last couple of weeks as our Nats have surmounted seemingly intractable obstacles and banished old demons by winning their first playoff series – the Wild Card (bye Brewers), then winning the NLDS (see ya Dodgers) – after being jilted four times in the last seven years (3 times in the final game at home), and then sweeping the NLCS (that’s for 2012 Cardinals) – I’ve begun to breathe easier. The week off, because of the unexpected sweep of St. Louis, has given me some time to think. To ask, why does this matter so much to me? Why does this seem at once so personal and yet so communal – shared with my fellow Washingtonians? Perhaps for me, like for so many of us, its because baseball has a way of working its way into your system. 162 times a year – more if you’re lucky. Year after year. Decade after decade. That’s a lot of games! Even as there is communal anguish or joy, we all experience it differently. Baseball has a way of becoming part of our life.

I have hazy memories of going to a couple games with my Dad, Granddad and Uncle Jimmy before the Senators left RFK Stadium for Texas. From those experiences I somehow recall the sense of awe at seeing the huge field of green upon entering RFK’s seating bowl. How is it that I know the names Hondo Frank Howard, Del Unser, Mike Epstein, Ed Brinkman, and more? While I was never good at the intramural version I played as a kid in suburban Crofton, I learned to loved the game. I followed it in the Washington Post and Star newspapers and at night on the radio.

I was a new or young enough fan that when the Senators left, it was easy enough to pick up with the O’s. After all, my mother’s extended family were all from Baltimore. We had ties there and visited relatives on occasion. It was my granddad Lou Cicero, one of six kids who grew up on Hanover Street just blocks from where Camden Yards would eventually be, who moved to the District with my Grandma Lucille during the 30’s to find work. And so our family were Washingtonians. My Mom grew up in D.C. and Adelphi. I was born in Georgetown Hospital. The family mostly worked for the government and/or worked downtown. The District was in our blood, even though with the arrival of kids, my parents decamped for the then exurbs of Levittown Bowie and Crofton as my Dad’s Navy job took him from Washington to Annapolis.

We still had the Redskins, who’s Over the Hill Gang captured the hearts of people across the D.C. area as they started fielding good teams under Coach George Allen. Sunday’s were family days and fall Sunday’s were spent together, often including watching football. The 1971/72 Redskins and their trip to the Super Bowl cemented us as a Redskins family for decades. But I only mention the Redskins to reinforce the family’s D.C. bonafides, this is about baseball.

What solidified my true love of baseball was the late 1970’s/early 80’s Orioles led by wascally Earl Weaver. By then I was in high school at Martin (now Bishop) Spalding, just south of Baltimore. Our gang liked drive up to Memorial Stadium, clap and hoot as we drove by the “Welcome to Baltimore” sign (oftentimes lovingly inscribed by some scofflaw with “Hon” at the end), grab a bunch of to-go subs at Tugboat Annies on 33rd Street (or if we had time, at Attman’s Delicatessen downtown) – yes we were allowed to bring food into the ballpark – and then head as close as possible to the famed Section 34 overseen by cab-driver and ultimate O’s fan Wild Bill Hagey. It was Wild Bill who taught us how to spell – O R I O L E S Orioles! We loved shouting “Eddie, Eddie” for our favorite player Eddie Murray and singing John Denver’s Thank God I’m a Country Boy at the 7th inning stretch.

Back then tickets were so easy to come by that for the 1979 playoffs we snagged a group of eight seats to see all the home games vs. the Angles in the LCS. I vividly recall the upper decks serenading the Angles with a full-arm jiggly whammy. We got another 8 seats for each of the home World Series games – the first of which was postponed due to snow – and we proudly perched in the outfield’s first row behind our homemade sign that read, “Ain’t No Stoppin Us Now,” which had become the O’s and thus our anthem over the summer. The excitement of the series took on a cruel tone as our beloved O’s lost 3 of 4 home games, including game 7 to the Pittsburgh “We Are Family” Pirates. We despised the Pirates wives who had whistles and cow bells in OUR park. We were heartbroken that our bats went silent in the final two games despite our shouts. Even with the crushing loss, baseball was now more soundly embedded in my soul then ever. You never forget your first LCS and World Series.

As I began my twenties, my best friend Kenny Akers and I started a tradition to get together for the O’s Opening Day. We determined Opening Day is a holiday after all. By then I lived downtown in the District and he lived in Pennsylvania and then Delaware. But we always made it a point to meet up in Baltimore and go to Opening Day. We even made it a point to meet in Baltimore when the Queen came to Memorial Stadium. How could we not see the Queen? We didn’t miss an Orioles Opener – some twenty something years – until I broke the streak and attended the first Nats Opening Day instead. See…

…while it was fun and easy to follow, even love the O’s, as a Washingtonian, I always knew they were somehow being borrowed. Hope never died for baseball in our hometown. Throughout the 80’s there seemed to be rumors the O’s might move to D.C. or Howard County (you know – somewhere in the middle), or we might even get an expansion team or someone else’s team might move to the District. I remember in the early 80’s opening up a ‘Washington Baseball Riggs National Bank Savings Account’ that was supposed to show prospective owners we had people waiting with money to buy season tickets. But nothing ever came to fruition. Our hopes were always dashed and in the meantime the O’s were just up the street, so at least we had baseball. In the end, then Orioles owner Edward Bennett Williams did the right thing and laid the foundation for the team to stay in Baltimore. The City, with the now storied and prophetic prodding by O’s management, then built the beautiful Camden Yards and that changed everything.

The last Opening Day at Memorial Stadium was a gorgeous, hot and sunny day, but I recall being sad that an era was ending (I’ve still got the t-shirt). That gave way to jubilation upon entering Camden Yards for the first time on Opening Day in 1992. The ballpark changed baseball nationally and us local fans too. Most Washingtonians seemed to embrace the more easily accessible throwback style ballpark. The Washington Post, including my faves Thomas Boswell and Tony Kornheiser, wrote about them affectionately as if they were our home team. Cal Ripkin’s run at breaking Lou Gerigs’ record and then the ’96 and ’97 playoff runs (when I got that tattoo) seemed to cement the O’s as our team too. Estimates ranged from 1 out of 4 to 1 out of 3 fans being from the DMV (the affectionate term for our District, Maryland and Virginia region). Washingtonians helped fill the ballpark and the owner’s coffers – even as many Baltimoreans seemed to resent the more cerebral interlopers from the south. Attendance was so good that I needed to resort to buying mini-plans so as to provide access to Opening Day and potential playoff tickets.

What seemed an easy drive to get to the Yard from DC in 1992 seemed like a nightmarish crawl along the BW Parkway just 10 years later. Going to the games could be a chore. Hey, we needed our own team. Somehow, despite all the disappointments and near misses, that hope never died.

So when MLB decided to move the poor Expos (I’d been to Montreal a few times and was lucky enough to go to a couple games – nothing like poutine and sliced meat sandwiches in the cozy confines of the indoor Stade Olympique) to the District after 33 years – a lifetime for most of us, it didn’t feel quite real till that first pitch at RFK. I got season tickets and was in heaven. Especially as the team got out to a surprisingly good start during its first year. What a joy it was to be able to go see our own team, in our own ballpark. To take the subway to the game. To go after work – not having to leave 2 hours early to get there. To get home in time afterwards without it having to disrupt the next day.

It was awkward but fun to learn about the National League. I’d have to redirect my hate of the Yankees to who exactly? The Braves? Phillies? Mets? All of em! My real test would come a year later as the Orioles played their first interleague game with the Nats. I wondered if I could love two teams. I wondered if I could even root for two teams. The day came and there were plenty of orange clad O’s fans in the ballpark. Would I shout “Oh” along with them during the National Anthem? Hell no. Washington fans didn’t do that. Would I root for both teams? Hell no! That was it. With no hesitation, I was a Nats fans. Period. There was no going back. There was no loving two teams. In the new ballpark I was lucky enough to get seats in the Nats, Nats, Nats Woo! Section – 312. What a wonderful bunch of people. Wonky, smart and so many scorecards. I was living and breathing baseball. I loved the ballpark. I loved the teams.

Since they arrived in 2005, I’ve been to 20+ games per year, often riding my bike or Capital Bikeshare to Nats Park, plus all the playoff games through 2015 when I moved to Key West after the season to begin a simpler, sunnier and warmer life. I was fortunate enough to be there for the first pitch at RFK and at Nats Park where Ryan Zimmerman walked off the win with a homer. I remember Steven Strasburg’s first mesmerizing game when we didn’t seem to sit or go to the bathroom till he left the game. I remember the agony of the 9th and 10th innings against the Cardinals in 2012 – as just an hour earlier we were plotting our NLCS activity. The anguish of an 18 inning loss to the Giants in 2014 as the evening got dark and cold – we started the day in the sun and in shorts – still gnaws at me. I liked Bryce – till I didn’t. Loved Ryann Zimmerman from the start and am so happy to see him in a World Series all these years later. I was lucky to be there for Jordan Zimmerman’s no-hitter. I worshiped Dusty Baker and those teams that couldn’t get past the first round. I hated that they let him go.

Now that’ I’m living in the Conch Republic we get the MLB package on TV and listen to F.P. Santangelo and Bob Carpenter on a daily basis, even if most of the time it’s just on in the background – sort of like the radio in days of yore. With a digital subscription to the Post, I’m able to keep up with the day-to-day minutia and the perspective still provided by awesome writers Thomas Boswell and Barry Svrugla.

The well documented playoff agony of the Nats has somehow made the 2019 team’s run to the World Series all the sweeter. Yes, I kept waiting for something bad to happen in the Wild Card game, the Division Series and even the Championship Series. The fact that this team seems to have more grit, more fight and more fun – who doesn’t love the Baby Shark phenomena and home run dugout dancing? – makes these Nats, all the more lovable.

The Senators gave me a start. The Orioles taught me baseball tradition and love of the game. But the District is my hometown and the Washington Nationals are MY team. I couldn’t be happier to see them in the World Series. My first World Series in 40 years and D.C.’s first World Series since 1933. I guess it’s time I finally get that Nats tattoo on my other arm, eh?

10 Tools to Tackle Most Any City’s Downtown Traffic and Parking Problems

This post is derived from a discussion given at The Last Stand Neighborhood Forum on Transportation and Affordable Housing on June 9, 2016 at 6:00 p.m. at the Eco-Discovery Center in Key West, FL and has been updated with additional information over the last year. A snippet of video from the event is here .

Cities small and large across North America want to get more people biking, walking and using public transit instead of driving alone. Why? Because people-friendly, walk-bike-transit places spur economic development and make cities more green, healthy and happy too.

Streets and sidewalks take up 25-50% of a typical North American city’s land. This is a huge community asset. If you use this asset to speed cars around you get one kind of place. If you use this asset to prioritize people instead of cars you get another.


What are some of the ideas that make up a people first approach? What tools are useful for cities in using this great asset better? Research shows there’s no one single magic bullet that’s going to fix traffic and parking congestion in a city’s downtown. Rather, it takes a multi-pronged, holistic approach. Here’s 10 Tools that any city may consider doing to increase biking, walking and transit use and decrease traffic and parking congestion:

(1.) Parking Garages

If you need to build a garage for visitors, build it, and keep the congestion off the streets. But build it outside of your downtown district. No need to bring more cars inside an already small, tight and congested area. Do this AFTER you’ve done all the other steps and only if you really need it.

(2.) Wayfinding

parking signs

Direct people to garage parking with wayfinding signage so they aren’t hunting all over the place for on-street parking. Help pedestrians and bicyclists too.

  • Develop a truck/delivery plan for the main street so it is less congested with delivery and trash and recycle vehicles at all times of the day. Coordinate the merchants and plan the hours.

(3.) Transit

Transit is an important part of a city’s transportation system.

philly phlash
Philadelphia’s Philly Phlash Circulator

Downtown Circulator. To make it easy to get around downtown you need better ways of circulating around it. Many cities provide downtown circulators specifically for tourists and the folks who live and work close-in. Make the route easy to understand. Provide frequent service. Make it easy to pay.

  • Maps and Info at Bus Stops. Apps are great, but there is no substitute for putting a map and schedule at every bus stop. Brand the bus stop. Put amenities at the bus stop.
  • More frequency/Simplified system. Successful cities emphasize transit as a first option for the majority of people to get around. Don’t design your system so that only those that have to use it, will. Simplify routes. Increase service frequency. Make it easy to pay.
  • Vanpools and Carpools too. Supplement transit with a robust vanpool and carpool program.
  • This article points out the importance of frequency vs. coverage: Many Americans Live Near Transit, But Few Live Close to Good Transit. Also visit the Transit Center think tank and the Human Transit organization.

    (4.) Bikeways Network and Bike Parking


    About 60% of the population would be willing to bicycle, if it were easier and safer to do so.

    • Build a network of protected bikeways and trails and low-stress streets so that people of all ages and abilities can easily go anywhere by bike.
    • Provide ample bicycle parking everywhere people want to go.
    • Teach people to share the road.
    • Slow the cars down by redesigning the streets using traffic calming techniques.
    • Enforce the speed limit.

    For more information on best practices in bike networks and bike infrastructure visit and their Green Lane project. Also check out NACTO‘s Urban Bikeway Design Guide. Raising the Interest and Reducing the Concern, article by Alex Pines in Strong Towns.

    (5.) Carshare

    Studies show robust carshare programs increase the amount of walking, bicycling and transit. When you pay by the hour, people are more attentive to how often they drive, and as a result they drive less. People occasionally need the convenience of a car. What they don’t want necessarily is the hassle of owning and operating it.

    For more information on carshare visit Car-Free Key West’s carshare page.

    (6.) Bikeshare

    citibike miamiEven if everyone seems to have their own bike. Even if it’s easy and inexpensive for tourists to rent a bike, bikeshare works because it is in-between ownership and rental. It’s about getting from point A to point B spontaneously. Research show it enables one-way trip decisions. You may walk or take the bus in and decide to bikeshare back. It’s priced so that if used for more than a couple hours it is much more expensive than a rental. Bikeshare is part of a transit system. Studies show bikeshare programs complement walking and transit and decrease driving. Studies show bikeshare is a gateway to more biking and even getting people to buy bikes.

    For more about bikeshare visit: Cities Must Understand Bikeshare is Transit, April 17, 2015 and Car-Free Key West’s Bikeshare page. Also visit the North American Bikeshare Association, the  Better Bikeshare organization, and NACTO’s Bikeshare Guide.

    (7.) Education and Encouragement Programs

    bike map example

    Providing good options, or infrastructure, like transit and bikeways and bike parking is only half the battle. If people aren’t aware it exists or they’re unsure how to use it, they won’t. Research shows you get more out of the investment in transportation options infrastructure by educating people about it and encouraging them to use it. A local example is Car-Free Key West.

    • Work through Employers/Hotels. One of the best ways to do education and encouragement is through businesses. Especially hotels. A business influences their employees and their guests, with information, how-to-guides and passes. (Local example)
    • Target everyone to share our streets safely. Teach people behind the drivers’ wheel to slow down and share our streets. Teach people on two wheels to obey the rules of the road. And people on two feet too.
    • Encourage visitors not to bring cars to your downtown. But if they do, you want them to set it and forget it and use alternatives to get around once they’ve arrived instead.

    For more on Education and Encouragement see this article: 10 Steps to Take 100,000 Cars of DC’s Roads, May 6, 2015; Explanation of Education and Encouragement activities proposed by Bike/Walk Key West during the FY17 Budget discusssions; Car-Free Key West.

    (8.) Taxis and TNCs – Transportation Options That Support Bike, Walk, Transit

    Research shows that people who use taxis and TNCs (transportation network companies)  – like Uber and Lyft – also walk, bike and use transit more often. Taxis and TNCs support bike, walk and transit because they enable one-way trip decisions. You may take the bus or walk in and then decide you need a cab or TNC back.

    For more on how taxis and TNCs support transportation options visit the Shared-Use Mobility Center think tank. Article: Data for the Public Domain, from New Cities Foundation.

    (9.) Better Data. Open Data

    Historically cities have collected traffic and highway counts. We’ve measured a streets Level of Service or LOS. So to get beyond just cars, cities need to begin collecting pedestrian and bicycle counts. We need to measure how people are getting around, not just cars. And cities need to share this data and ask that all public and private transportation and parking operators publish open data too. This is the only way we can enable better and more comprehensive technology tools and apps.

    How open data helps promote transportation options like transit, biking and walking from Mobility Lab’s research.

    (10.) Parking Strategies

    pay to park

    If you want to encourage more walking, biking and transit and to make a dent in traffic and parking congestion apply the right parking strategies. Manage the parking you have to it’s maximum. Don’t give it away or subsidize it (under-price it), as this works against all the previous strategies.

    • Encourage Turnover for Retail. Metered parking should be tailored to encourage turnover in retail areas to help merchants. People who want to park for longer periods should be directed to longer term parking places. Consider that metered parking reflect location and  time of day/week/season.
    • Discourage Cruising for Free On-Street Parking. Research indicates that in some congested downtown up to 30% of cars are cruising for under-priced curb parking. Good wayfinding eliminates some of this. Right-pricing parking is even better. Given today’s technology from multi-meters to pay-by-cell, it is easier than ever to designate pay for parking spaces too.
    • Residential Permit Parking is intended for resident to be able to park within a few blocks of their home. Zones should be small and only available to people who reside or have a business within that zone. The permits should be priced so that each additional permitted vehicle costs considerably more.
    • Parking Revenue should be returned to the area it was generated in the form of amenities (benches, sidewalks, street lighting, pocket parks, flags, etc.) for that neighborhood and should be used on a broader scale to provide options to driving by investing in transit and bike services and facilities.

    car parking pricing nad cruisingAdditional information about parking strategies:

    This is a Key West specific bonus:

    (11.) More and Better Inter-city Ground Transportation

    About 84 percent of the people coming to Key West to visit get here by car. Airfare is expensive and the ferry and bus service is infrequent. Many of the people who fly in, whether to Miami or into our city directly, then get a rental car. We need to encourage people landing in other cities to take luxury coaches into the city, and encourage people landing here to taxi, transit, bike and walk, not rent a car. See # 7.

    So what do you get if you do all this? People First Streets


    Think about the places you’ve been and where you love to be. Are these usually full of people or cars? If you do all of these things and you use that great asset of our streets better, you have the opportunity to:

    • encourage more street space for pedestrian only areas and places for people to sit, chat, eat and people gaze. It doesn’t have to be entire streets. It can be parts of streets or even just parklets. Or alleys. Or for a weekend or a season.
    •  encourage complete streets that prioritize pedestrians, bikes, transit and then cars.

    The bottom line is that if you want to decrease traffic and parking congestion and increase biking, walking and transit you’d want to consider all of these tools. They work together. They support each other. They build upon each other. And doing these makes cities more prosperous, healthy, green and happy.

    For additional information please read: 11 Books About Fighting for and Building People-First Cities, February 21, 2016.