Metropolitan Branch Trail: Blair Road to Piney Branch Road Design Survey

While construction nears completion on the Metropolitan Branch Trail to Fort Totten, and final design nears completion to Takoma, DDOT has begun detailed planning for the half-mile between Blair Rd and Piney Branch Rd on the west side of the rail tracks in Takoma DC. DDOT held a public meeting in December 2021 and wants your feedback on the design concepts presented. The online survey closes on Friday, January 7, 2022. 

green = off-street trail
orange = protected bike lane
red = on-street & traffic-calmed

Two Critical Points for Advocates

  1. On Segment 6: none of the proposed on-street facility types for Whitter or 4th St are sufficient to create a continuous and safe trail experience that is suitable for all ages and abilities. Instead, we propose a new multi-use trail on the south side of Whittier St (using park land and DDOT right of way) and a continuous 2-way protected bike lane along the east curb of 4th St. from Whittier to Cedar St (converting 4th one-way southbound and repurposing existing parking)
  2. On Segment 5: only alternative 3 delivers a manageable slope and a wider trail. The others are quite steep.

Take the Survey Here

View DDOT’s presentation and other meeting materials on the project website, here.

See our detailed comments below. Segments are listed in reverse numerical order (south to north) to highlight the importance of the longest segment in need of most attention.

Segment 6 (Bair Rd to Cedar St)

WABA supports branching the through-running trail from Blair Rd starting at Whittier St, then turning north on 4th St. NW. However, none of the proposed on-street facility types for Whitter or 4th St are sufficient to create a continuous and safe walking and biking trail experience that is suitable for all ages and abilities. Instead, we propose: 

  1. A new multi-use trail on the south side of Whittier St (using park land and DDOT right of way),
  2. A continuous 2-way protected bike lane (PBL) along the east curb of 4th St. NW from Whittier to Cedar St (as proposed from Aspen to Cedar and by converting 4th one-way southbound plus repurposing east side vehicle parking between Aspen to Whittier), and
  3. A new traffic signal at Whittier St and Blair Rd to facilitate a safe trail crossing.

Why is a PBL is critical for 4th street? 

  1. If the PBL is not continuous, southbound bicyclists must transition from the east side of the street to the general travel lane at a stop-controlled intersection (either Aspen or Butternut). This is not intuitive and drivers will not expect it. Furthermore, less confident riders will not feel safe navigating this transition. 
  2. This would eliminate no more than 8-11 legal/safe parking spaces. All west side parking spaces would remain.
  3. This block has 5 homes on the east side and 2 have driveways for off-street parking.
  4. The safety and all-ages usability of a regional trail should be a priority versus residential car parking 1,000 feet from a Metro Station.

At the Cedar/Blair intersection, WABA supports alternative 1 which directs people on bikes to cross Cedar to the west of the pedestrian crosswalk. This locates potential bike and pedestrian conflicts on the widened north side sidewalk rather than the middle of the intersection, where additional conflicts are possible and the potential for injury is higher. If the north side travel lane removal is, for unforeseen traffic reasons, not possible, consider removing the south side travel/parking lane and narrowing the median island to find the needed road width. Widening the north side sidewalk should be a priority for improving the inadequate pedestrian spaces near the Metro and retail corridor.

Segment 5 (343 Cedar Trail)

WABA supports alternative 3 which provides a 12 ft trail and the most gentle slope behind 343 Cedar St. A 12’ trail is preferable here because it will be a popular pedestrian path to the Metro and shops for residents. The additional width allows for more comfort near the tall retaining wall. Most importantly, the gentler 5% grade will be much easier to climb than the 8% grade proposed for alternatives 1 and 2.

Segment 4 (Spring St)

WABA supports alternative 2 with chokers and chicanes. As the vehicle parking and alley access for many Cedar St and Blair Rd buildings, Spring St sees more frequent vehicle use and is a tempting location for illegal parking. Chokers and chicanes will keep vehicle speeds low while discouraging illegal parking that may block sightlines and endanger more vulnerable trail users (like children). This design prioritizes safety for vulnerable road users and trail users while they walk and bike in the shared street.

Segment 3 (Chestnut St)

WABA supports the proposed street design. Vehicle traffic is for the few local addresses only, so a new speed bump and in-street sharrow markings should be sufficient. Additional MBT branded wayfinding signage would also be helpful and should be planned for. 

Segment 2 (Ramp to Chestnut St)

WABA is supportive of either alternative 4 or 5. Though all five alternatives have similar slopes and are ADA compliant, the smoother turns of alt 4 and 5 will be easier to navigate by bike. Stairs create potential conflict points between walking and rolling users if they use the ramp simultaneously, but stairs also offer a more convenient path for pedestrians. WABA supports either alt 4 or 5, whichever is more popular with the public. 

We also recommend that DDOT explore options and neighborhood interest for a small pocket park with benches at the top of the hill or partner with DC’s Department of Parks and Recreation to explore a recreation use for this public space.

Segment 1 (Piney Branch Rd)

WABA supports Alternative 1 which constructs a new off-street multi-use trail on the south side of Piney Branch Road from the ramp to Eastern Ave. Alternative 2 (2-way protected bike lane) does not provide enough space for a comfortable 2-way protected bike lane and creates a complicated intersection at the bottom of the ramp that requires sharp turns without adequate space. Alternative 1, with appropriate wayfinding signage for southbound trail users, will avoid any confusion about where and how to cross PIney Branch Rd.

Breaking Down the Infrastructure Bill and What it Means for WABA

Everyone in the transportation world is talking about the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) (H.R.3684), which was signed into law (Bipartisan Infrastructure Law) by President Biden on November 15th. The $1.2 trillion dollar package will fund road and bridge projects, invest heavily in rail and transit, expand access to clean drinking water, ensure every American has access to high-speed internet, and advance environmental justice. But how does the law impact our work here at WABA, and what will it mean for those who walk and bike in the Washington Metropolitan Region? Passing this bill has been a long and complicated process, so let’s take a look at what it means for us at a local level. 

Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP)

The infrastructure bill includes a 70% increase in the legacy Transportation Alternatives Program (TAP), which includes the Recreational Trails Program. TAP will go from $850 million annually to an average of $1.44 billion per year. The program funds aim to expand travel choice beyond single occupancy vehicles, improve quality of life, and protect the environment by supporting multi-modal transportation projects. Counties, cities, and local agencies apply for funding for specific projects and each state makes selections in coordination with the regional Metropolitan Planning Organization. WABA does not apply for these funds directly, but we work with our jurisdictional partners to provide letters of support and help build a case for certain projects. 

How have local TAP funds been spent?

TAP funds have supported the expansion of Capital Bikeshare in Fairfax and Prince George’s County, construction of new sidewalks, planning studies for new trails across the region, intersection safety upgrades, and construction of miles of trail upgrades and new connections. In Fiscal Year 2022 (FY22), the Transportation Planning Board (TPB) selected 6 projects in the state of Maryland, one of which is the Oxon Cove Trail Resurfacing and Bridge Replacement—a top priority project for the Capital Trails Coalition. Explore recent initiatives funded through TAP on this map. With more funds available, WABA will continue to partner with our jurisdictional partners and encourage using these funds to support trail, bike lane, and vision zero priorities. 

What else is in the Act? 

Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity (formally known as BUILD and TIGER) has seen an increase in funding from $1B to $1.5B annually. RAISE is a discretionary grant program under USDOT for surface transportation infrastructure projects. Projects are evaluated based on: equity criteria, innovation, how well they will enhance safety, and how well they support economic competitiveness and environmental sustainability of localities and regions. This is an extremely competitive grant program, and two projects were selected across DC, MD, and VA (for the 2021 cycle). The District was awarded $15M for Benning Road Bridges and Transportation Improvements (to extend the DC Streetcar and improve biking and walking access), and Baltimore was awarded $22M for the Baltimore East-West Priority Corridor Project. The full list of projects can be found here: https://www.transportation.gov/sites/dot.gov/files/2021-11/RaiseGrants_Capital%20Fact%20Sheets.pdf

Although not selected, there were 3 applications relevant to trails in the Capital Trails Network:

1) South Capitol Street Trail, DC, DDOT

2) Cemetery Wall Trail, Arlington, Arlington DES

3) Dual-County Application by Montgomery County Parks Department, Prince George’s County Parks and Recreation, and the National Park Service (6 trail projects): 

  • Sligo Creek Rehabilitation
  • Central Avenue Connector Trail
  • Suitland Parkway Trail (Prince George’s County)
  • Prince George’s Connector Trail
  • Rock Creek Trail Rehab
  • Northwest Branch Trail Rehab

WABA’s goal is to work with our jurisdictional partners and our local elected officials to understand the shortcomings of the applications, and how to ensure a more competitive application for next year’s grant cycle. We also want to ensure that local jurisdictions are including equity in every aspect of their decision making processes.  2022 applications will likely be due in July. 

Our partners at Rails-to-Trails Conservancy advocated tirelessly for the Connecting America’s Active Transportation System Act. IIJA authorized this program, but re-named it as the Active Transportation Infrastructure Investment Program. The program authorizes $200 million per year on competitive connectivity grants that will invest in projects that connect active transportation infrastructure. Unfortunately, the program was not funded in the Act, so funding is contingent on the annual appropriations process.

Safe Streets and Roads for All

The Act allocates $200 million per year for the new Safe Streets and Roads for All grant program, which will fund projects and plans aimed at reducing traffic fatalities and injuries in communities throughout the U.S. Unlike most federal transportation funding which filters through State transportation agencies according to state-level priorities (predominantly highways and highway expansion), these grants will be available to cities, counties, metropolitan planning organizations(like the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments) and tribal governments, meaning more direct access to funds to support local priorities. The program will be managed by the office of the Secretary of Transportation, currently Pete Buttigieg, who has talked at length recently about vision zero, systemic safety, and prioritizing federal transportation funds to address the devastating impacts of highway building on communities of color.

This project will specifically fund developing comprehensive safety action plans for a community, planning, design, or project development on low-cost, high-impact elements of a safety action plan, or construction / implementation of those projects. Notably, $200 million each year will not build very much when spread across the US, but the hope is that supporting local communities to make their own vision zero action plans will identify actionable and fundable projects for future federal or state funding.

In the Washington Region, many jurisdictions already have created some form of a Vision Zero Action Plan and identified a range of actions, projects, and policy changes. This grant program may be especially helpful to support smaller cities and municipalities that want to start addressing unsafe roads, but lack the resources of their neighbors.

What about the Build Back Better Bill (BBB)? 

The Build Back Better Bill also includes some important provisions related to WABA’s work. The BBB passed the House of Representatives in late November, but has run into trouble with the Senator Joe Manchin.

The version passed by the House offers some Americans a fully refundable, 30% tax credit on purchases of certain e-bikes. Individuals who make $75,000 or less qualify for the maximum credit of up to $900. Joint filers who make up to $150,000 can qualify for two bikes and up to a $900 tax credit on each. It phases out for taxpayers above those income levels, and E-bikes with a sticker price of more than $4,000 don’t qualify for the credit.

WABA is a strong supporter of e-bikes. We believe that e-bikes increase opportunities for people who may not be able to ride a traditional bike due to physical fitness, age, or ability. E-bikes allow riders to travel farther distances, carry heavier loads (like children), and can reduce greenhouse gas emissions when used as an alternative to gasoline or diesel-powered modes of transportation.

BBB also includes $950 million for Community Climate Incentive Grants—carbon reduction projects for states that have adopted carbon reduction strategies aimed at achieving net-zero by 2050. $3 billion is also included for carbon reduction projects to eligible entities that are not states (local governments, tribes, or municipal planning organizations). These funds could go to zero-emission transportation options, like bicycling and walking, and projects that reduce single-occupant vehicle trips. WABA would not be applying for these funds, but we would work with our local jurisdictions to highlight eligible projects, provide letters of support, and help mobilize our base. 

Additionally, the House version of BBB includes Neighborhood Access and Equity Grants. This grant program provides $3.95 billion for projects that remove barriers to affordable and safe transportation access (complete streets, multiuse trails, regional greenways, and active transportation networks). It can also include grants to community organizations for planning and capacity-building activities in disadvantaged or underserved communities. Of the total ($3.95B), $1.58 billion must be used for projects in communities that are economically disadvantaged, have a community benefits agreement or anti-displacement policy, or have a plan for employing local residents impacted by the activity or project. WABA would be eligible to receive these grant dollars to support planning and capacity-building activities in disadvantaged or underserved communities.

Let’s build more trails!

Something incredible happened this year: the unveiling of a wider, better, more welcoming section of our region’s beloved Washington & Old Dominion Trail.

The new dual trail gives people room to bike, jog, push strollers, walk their dogs, and take a breath of fresh air. It raises the bar on what a safe and accessible trail should be.

Now: imagine that the W&OD connects to 836 more miles of biking and walking trails that allow you to bike the entire region without ever riding on a street with motor vehicle traffic.  Together, we can make this a reality.

When the 881-mile Capital Trails Network is complete, four million people in our region will live within two miles of a trail.

This year, WABA launched a report proving that the Capital Trails Network will pay for itself again and again: improving trail access, reducing carbon emissions and car trips, and creating green jobs. We’re shouting from the rooftops that trails are the best transportation investment we can make— and our elected officials are listening! We’ve won support from four jurisdictions and counting to complete the 881-mile Capital Trails Network by 2030.

In 2022 we’re going to keep up this momentum and build even more political will to get these trails built. Here’s to a new year of gorgeous trail rides and walks!

We’re Hiring! Trails Coalition Coordinator

Does the thought of working with a network of passionate people across the public, private, and nonprofit sectors to advance a project that will change the way people in the region experience the outdoors excite you? Are you passionate about multi-use trails and expanding people’s access to trails for both recreation and transportation? The Washington Area Bicyclist Association (WABA) is looking for a Trails Coalition Coordinator to accelerate our efforts to complete the 881-mile Capital Trails Network by 2030.

THE CAPITAL TRAILS COALITION

The Capital Trails Coalition (CTC) is a collaboration of public and private organizations, agencies, and volunteers working to advance the completion of an interconnected network of multi-use trails for metropolitan Washington, DC. The Coalition convenes and coordinates among the public and private stakeholders who are critical to accomplishing the vision of an interconnected network. In addition, the Coalition continually works to identify trail funding, broaden the base of support, and cultivate widespread consensus that a capital trail network is a regional priority. The Coalition is managed by WABA and is currently staffed by one full-time employee, the Trails Coalition Manager. The Coalition is constantly growing, but is currently made up of 72 members and is led by a 15 person Steering Committee.

TEAM

The WABA Advocacy Team is a five-person team: we have an Advocacy Director, Organizing Manager, Vision Zero Manager, and Trails Coalition Manager, and the Trails Coalition Coordinator. This role will sit on WABA’s Advocacy Team and report to the Trails Coalition Manager. Our job is to work with community partners and residents to help create a just and sustainable transportation system. That means:

  • Managing relationships with partner organizations and working with grassroots advocates across the region to support better places to bike, walk, and roll.
  • Bringing people together through coalitions to build power and advance transportation equity.
  • Supporting victims of traffic violence through WABA’s Crash Reporting Tool and elevating their voices through our work with Families for Safe Streets
  • Working with a diverse group of stakeholders, including government partners and agencies, to build a connected and equitably distributed multi-use trail network across the region. 

JOB RESPONSIBILITIES

The Trails Coalition Coordinator will assist the Trails Coalition Manager with the day-to-day operations of keeping the CTC up and running. A major role of the CTC is to serve as a convener and to facilitate meetings with our jurisdictional partners. A large part of this job will be to coordinate, organize, and run the Jurisdictional Working Group meetings. This will require close collaboration and frequent communication with the Trails Coalition Manager. Specific job duties include: 

  • Coordinating and helping plan workshops, meetings, and events. 
  • Assisting with meeting operations, including facilitation and note-taking.
  • Managing the CTC website and social media platforms (Twitter and Facebook).
  • Recruiting new CTC Members through a variety of means, including on-the-ground outreach (Farmer’s Markets, partner events, and community meetings).
  • Supporting our existing members through attending meetings and assisting in events when appropriate.
  • Developing new content for the website, including blog posts and newsletters. 
  • Writing letters of support to local, state, or federal government partners.
  • Working independently and collaboratively with partners from a variety of sectors.
  • Other duties as assigned.

QUALIFICATIONS

These core skills are essential to thriving in the role: 

  • Confidence engaging professionally with leaders in the private and public sectors;
  • Strong, sincere interpersonal and communications skills, both verbal and written;
  • Professional experience facilitating meetings;
  • Demonstrated administrative skills with keen attention to detail;
  • Demonstrated experience keeping multiple projects organized and on track; 
  • A commitment to inclusivity, and ability to work with colleagues and stakeholders across diverse cultures and backgrounds; and
  • An enthusiastic commitment to the Coalition’s position on Equitable Trail Development. 

If you have the following experience or these skills, let us know. You don’t need them to be considered for the position, but you should be eager to learn them:

  • Experience developing PowerPoint presentations;
  • Some familiarity with WordPress, Twitter, Google Suite (Gmail, Chat, Drive, Sheets, Docs), and Salesforce;
  • An understanding of the intersections between transportation, justice, equity and sustainability; and
  • Experience with political or policy organizing.

The candidate must be located in the Washington, DC area — while the majority of our staff are working from home, this position will require attending some in-person meetings and site visits. We expect all staff will return to working in the office in early 2022. 

WABA requires all staff to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or be eligible for an exemption as defined by the District of Columbia Mayor’s Order 2021-099, Section III.

SUPPORT

WABA is a team that works closely together, both internally as well as with other stakeholders and community members. Here’s some of what’s available to help get it done:

  • WABA’s Comms team is here to help you get the right messages to the right people. They assist staff with skill building in things like Salesforce and WordPress. 
  • WABA’s Programs & Outreach team is already on the ground all across the Region providing in-person and online courses and webinars. They are also attending farmers markets and community events to foster and build relationships with community partners. 
  • WABA’s development team engages with our WABA members and provides opportunities for people to come together and celebrate biking.

COMPENSATION & BENEFITS

This is an 18-month contract, with the possibility of extension depending on further funding. This is a full-time, salaried exempt position. The expected salary range is $45,000- $50,000.

  • 100% employer-paid health, dental, and vision insurance premiums.
  • Vacation, sick and personal leave, including:
    • Accrue up to 120 hours of paid vacation starting in your first year
    • Accrue up to 160 hours of paid sick time starting in your first year.
    • WABA supports and promotes the health of its staff. You may use accrued sick time for unscheduled leave when not feeling well (mind or body), as well as for scheduled medical appointments.
    • Paid time off for holidays following the federal holiday calendar. 
  • 8 weeks paid parental leave and up to 8 weeks of additional parental leave from the DC Paid Family Leave Act (based on eligibility).
  • Immediate access to WABA’s 403(b) retirement program, with up to a 5% employer match after one-year of service.
  • Optional commuter transit benefit (pre tax deduction).
  • Optional voluntary benefits including life insurance, short-term disability, and long-term disability.
  • A fun and relaxed workplace environment.
  • Passionate, supportive colleagues who are dedicated to working together for our mission and seeing the impact of our work. 

HOW TO APPLY

Send a compelling, relevant cover letter and resume to jobs@waba.org with “Trails Coalition Coordinator” in the subject line. We anticipate interviews will begin in mid-December with a start date in January.  The application period is open until Wednesday, December 15th. 

WABA is committed to providing equal employment opportunity for all persons regardless of race, color, religion, national origin, marital status, arrest record or criminal convictions, political affiliation, sexual orientation or gender identity, disability, sex, or age.

No phone calls please.

Community meeting with the National Park Service

Congresswoman Norton’s district office is hosting a joint community meeting with the National Park Service on Thursday, December 9th. Information below: 

Who: All D.C. Residents

Speakers: Congresswoman Norton and National Park Service representatives

What: A joint community meeting with the National Park Service

Where: Please email NortonEvents@mail.house.gov  to RSVP for the event and receive the Zoom link 

When: Thursday, December 9, 2021

Time: 7:00 pm  

Public Meeting: Southern Avenue Metro Station Areas Pedestrian Accessibility Study

In June 2021 the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission (M-NCPPC) launched the Southern Avenue Metro Station Area Pedestrian Accessibility Study. The overall goal of the project is to improve neighborhood connections, promote health equity, and stimulate economic growth. Their focus is recommending improvements to local streets and station connections to make it safer and more enjoyable for people to walk. Register here.

Speak up for Active Transportation Infrastructure in Arlington County!

Have you ever wished that Arlington County had better bike and pedestrian infrastructure? Do you ever wish that the trails were better connected? We do too! The good news is that you can speak up for bike/ped projects at the upcoming Fiscal Year (FY) 2022 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) Budget Hearing on Tuesday, June 29th at 7:00pm. Register to testify here.

The CIP budget covers larger and longer-term projects typically dealing with investments in facilities and infrastructure or capital projects. Some examples include projects such as the construction of trails, public schools, or park improvements. These investments often take years to build and their costs may be distributed over a longer period of time than the shorter-term operating budget. 

So, what are a few things that we will be fighting for? 

  1. Additional funding for the Arlington Boulevard Trail
    • Arlington Boulevard Trail upgraded to current trail standards from Jackson St to Glebe Road
    • An improved trail crossing at Glebe Road
    • A new section of off-road trail from Glebe Road to Thomas St. 
    • Upgrades to the existing north-side sidewalk to trail width from Thomas St to George Mason Drive
    • Upgrades to the existing trail between Rhodes Street Bridge to Ft. Meyer Drive.
  2. $150,000 a year for a Vision Zero Tactical Fund to dedicate money for quick-build safety interventions. 
  3. $5 million per year for a Vision Zero Capital Fund to fix priority safety problems on Arlington’s High Injury Network.
  4. A 2-way protected bike lane on Fairfax Drive connecting the Custis & Bluemont Junction Trails to Clarendon.
  5. Protected bike lanes on Highland Street to bridge the “Clarendon Wall” which inhibits north-south bike connectivity in Clarendon.
  6. $1 million to expand the scope of repaving, redevelopment, stormwater projects, and other major construction projects to include the development of quick build protected bike lane projects.
  7. $300,000 for paint and signage on routes & bike boulevards in the Master Transportation Plan (MTP) Bike Element plan.

Our partners at Sustainable Mobility for Arlington also put together a comprehensive outline of more projects that will help Arlington Build Back Better. Explore their summary here: https://susmo.org/building-back-better-in-arlington/slides/

What are we excited to see already included in the CIP? 

  1. $155,000 is included over three years for the Trail light maintenance program
  2. $691,000 for the Army Navy Country Club Trail 
  3. $7.4 million for Trail Modernization 
  4. $6.5 million for the Boundary Channel Drive Interchange improvement 
  5. $12.3 million for the Army Navy Drive Complete Street project which will add Arlington’s first curb-protected bike lanes to Army Navy Drive.
  6. $12.7 Million for BIKEArlington which includes: 
    • Construction of the Potomac Yard / Four Mile Run Trail Connection 
    • Bluemont Junction Trail Safety Improvements
    • Arlington Boulevard Trail (Court House to Rosslyn) 
    • Concept Development of the Arlington National Cemetery Wall Trail 
    • Trail Safety Improvements (various locations) 
    • Concept development of the Custis Trail Renovation and Expansion
    • Funding for 3 new Capital Bikeshare Stations per year as well as an expansion of the e-bikes program

Do not forget to highlight the projects you are excited about in your testimony too! If you are unable to testify live, you can submit comments online. Online comments may be submitted to countyboard@arlingtonva.us.

Prince George’s County Advocacy Training

Are you a Prince George’s County resident and want to learn more about how to advocate for better bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure? Do you ever feel like you want to report a maintenance issue, but are not sure who to contact? Are you curious to learn more about what the county is doing to make it safer for walking and biking?  Join us and Black Women Bike for an online webinar that will help demystify advocacy across Prince George’s County! This event is open to all.

Register Here

Ask your elected officials to support the Capital Trails Network!

We know that trails are good for our health, the environment, and the economy. But how good? 

The Capital Trails Coalition quantified these benefits in its recent Impact Report. Completing the 881 mile Capital Trails Network will:

  • reduce vehicles miles traveled by 49 million miles each year; 
  • generate more than $1.02 billion in economic investment each year; and 
  • save residents $517M on public health costs annually.  

We’ve got about 400 miles to go to complete the Capital Trails Network! Write to your elected officials and ask them to fund and complete the remaining top 40 priority projects identified by the Capital Trails Coalition by 2025. These priority trail projects (91 miles of trail!) will give another 231,00 residents access to trails and open space.

* Note: We know the “Title” field is all kinds of problematic! Unfortunately, the contact forms of many legislators require it, so if we don’t include it, your messages won’t go through.