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by Katie Pyzyk — January 22, 2013 at 4:45 pm 929 14 Comments

Smoke from Ballston Metro grate (photo courtesy @CAPT258)(Updated at 4:50 p.m.) The Ballston Metro station has reopened after temporarily closing due to smoke. However, Metro now confirms there was no fire inside the station.

A tipster sent a photo showing smoke flowing from the grate over Metro at Fairfax Drive and N. Utah Street.

According to Metro’s Twitter activity, debris inside a vent shaft began smoldering but there was no fire inside the station. The Arlington County Fire Department confirmed the smoke came from leaves that had ignited in a ventilation grate. Capt. Gregg Karl said that sometimes occurs if a passerby tosses a cigarette through the grates and debris below ignites.

The trouble started just before 4:00 p.m., and for about 15 minutes trains skipped the Ballston station while the smoldering debris was extinguished. Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said the brief incident affected two trains in each direction. Fans were brought in to clear the smoke and trains are again running on a normal schedule.

Photo courtesy @CAPT258

by ARLnow.com — January 22, 2013 at 3:30 pm 1,858 137 Comments

The following op-ed is written by Chris Slatt, an advocate for streetcars in Arlington County. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Rendering of a streetcar along Columbia PikeI’m Chris Slatt, a supporter of Arlington Streetcar Now — a group of local citizens committed to seeing Arlington County continue its investment in high quality transit through the installation of a modern streetcar network. There are many reasons that Streetcars are the right transportation system for Columbia Pike, and we highlight many of them on our web site, but for me it all comes down to one main reason, ridership.

What good is a transit system if few people ride it?  People, at least in US, seem to prefer rail transit even in cases where it isn’t faster or more frequent than equivalent buses. For instance:

  • When Seattle temporarily substituted buses for streetcars on its Waterfront line while the streetcar vehicles were being overhauled, ridership dropped to 1/15th of what it had been with Streetcars, despite the buses providing “equivalent service”.
  • When Memphis surveyed its transit riders it found that 83% of those who rode their streetcar system didn’t utilize any other form of public transit — it was the streetcar or nothing at all.
  • In 2003 the City of Tacoma converted an existing bus line that ran every 12 minutes to a streetcar line that runs every 10 minutes. Despite that only being a small increase in “performance,” ridership increased by 500%.
  • The Arlington County Resident Study, a survey that was completed in 2009, found that while 36% of Pike residents use the current bus system at least once a week, 59% of respondents indicated they would use a proposed streetcar at least once a week.

Some folks may note that Arlington’s own Alternatives Analysis shows only a small ridership benefit for the Streetcar Alternative. This is because it is Federal Transit Administration policy to only allow a 5% “mode factor” for rail in federal alternatives analyses — despite many examples like those above that would indicate that it should be much higher.

(more…)

by ARLnow.com — January 22, 2013 at 2:30 pm 1,239 66 Comments

Modern BRT bus (via sensibletransit.org)Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column published on Tuesdays. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

Last week, ARLnow reported on the formation of a new citizens’ advocacy group: Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit (AST).

I am an AST supporter. You can check AST out here. I urge you to sign up if you support AST’s mission.

AST’s mission is to convince the Arlington County Board to do something it has not yet done:

  • hire truly independent experts to do a cost-benefit analysis of the Columbia Pike (CP) streetcar compared to a modern bus rapid transit system (BRT) and other alternatives,
  • share the results with the community, and then
  • have a community conversation about whether the CP streetcar really is the best transit choice in these challenging economic times.

Several streetcar supporters posted comments to last week’s ARLnow story saying the streetcar has been studied for years, and it’s time to move on. However, the vital studies AST recommends have never been performed. Because these studies have never been performed and shared with the community, the “Arlington Way” has not been followed appropriately. Moreover, the CP streetcar’s price tag has soared during these years, as ARLnow has documented .

AST supporters have identified quite a few misunderstandings and misconceptions about both the CP streetcar and alternative BRT systems. Several of the comments posted to last week’s ARLnow story reflected misunderstandings and misconceptions like these:

  • You can only have a BRT service if you have a dedicated lane for it
  • White collar professionals will ride streetcars but not BRT
  • Given projected density on the Pike, only streetcars will be able to handle the anticipated increase in ridership
  • Streetcars, but not BRT, will attract needed economic development to the Pike
  • BRT service on the Pike really wouldn’t be any different from current bus service

Every one of the above statements is incorrect. To learn why, check out the Get the Facts, Resources, and FAQ sections of the AST website.

BOTTOM LINE: if you think that all or some of the above statements are correct, while AST does not, that’s one more reason why the Arlington County Board needs to hire independent experts to study and report back on all these issues, and share their conclusions with the Arlington community.

Peter Rousselot is a member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.

by Katie Pyzyk — January 22, 2013 at 1:45 pm 2,667 32 Comments

Excavation at Washington Blvd and N. George Mason Drive(Updated at 4:25 p.m.) An excavating crew has begun clearing land in the Waycroft-Woodlawn neighborhood where a new subdivision will be built. The space at the northeast corner of Washington Blvd and N. George Mason Drive is private property and was one of the few remaining undeveloped pieces of land in the county.

The Department of Environmental Services recently reviewed and approved dividing the property into nine residential lots. This was done as a matter of right, which means the County Board does not have to give approval if the applicant meets all requirements.

During the preliminary review and approval of the subdivision proposal, the applicant, Lacey Lane Land Company, L.C., had to send notification to all adjacent property owners as well as those across the street. The president of the neighborhood’s civic association also had to be notified, along with the neighborhood conservation representative. The notification was to inform neighbors of a possible new development in their area, and to give them a chance to speak with county staff about the proposal.

The developer had to submit design plans for the site to ensure all the development’s infrastructure would be adequately designed and built. As with any public infrastructure to be built and be turned over to the county for operation and maintenance, this one had to be guaranteed by a public improvement performance bond and agreement. The applicant also had to meet requirements in the Zoning Ordinance regarding landscaping regulations and tree removal.

Arlington County Urban Forester Vincent Verweij says the developer was sent a letter suggesting preservation for many of the 150 trees on the land. However, Verweij noted it was only a suggestion because private land owners can cut down whichever trees they choose on their own property once receiving the initial land disturbance permit for the site. He believes the excavators left about five trees on the property.

Verweij believes the remaining trees are too exposed and may be unstable in storms or on windy days.

“I fear they may fall into houses now, because a forest is much stronger than individual trees,” said Verweij. “Most of the support and strength comes from being rooted outward and that’s going to be cut significantly by these houses.”

Under the Chesapeake Bay Preservation Ordinance, the developer must preserve, or in this case re-plant, 20 percent of the trees that stood on the site. The county will not award certificates of occupancy for the homes until those standards are met.

Lacey Lane Land Company, L.C. recently applied for a construction permit for one of the homes, which will be built at 1312 N. Evergreen Street. That permit could be approved in about 30 days. The developer will have to apply for individual permits for every additional home and each will have to be reviewed by the county. Currently, there is no estimate on when the subdivision will be completed; it will depend on the developer’s timing for submitting the additional eight permits and beginning construction those houses.

by ARLnow.com — January 22, 2013 at 11:45 am 3,573 136 Comments

This periodic sponsored Q&A column is written by Adam Gallegos of Arlington-based real estate firm Arbour Realty, voted one of Arlington Magazine’s Best Realtors of 2013. Please submit follow-up questions in the comments section or via email.

Question: I know this is a bit outside the scope of real estate, but my husband and I just moved to Arlington from the west coast and are looking for some insider tips on places to eat. What restaurants should we try?

Though this doesn’t have much to do with real estate, it is a subject near and dear to my heart, so why not…

Pupatella is a great new addition to Arlington. Every town has to have a go-to pizza place and the competition has heated up in Arlington. What can I say, I love the authentic brick oven pizzas and the charm of this little spot. I recommend eating there so your pizza is straight out of the brick oven.

Mala Tang serves Chinese hot pot, which I recommend trying at least once. It’s the Chinese version of fondue. I usually order the spicy Mala broth (mild and vegetarian available). I recommend the lotus root, watercress, king mushrooms, fish balls and Mala beef. As for the sauce bar, try the Chinese BBQ sauce with cilantro and chili peppers. It’s a very different kind of dinner experience.

Ray’s The Steaks and Ray’s To The Third are worth a visit. Either one is sure to satisfy your carnivorous cravings, but Ray’s The Third includes a more casual menu. They aren’t fancy, but the food is better than any of the big name chains that come to mind. They are located along Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. Sorry, they don’t have a website.

El Chilango Truck is a food truck that sits on the north side of the Route 50 access road near Queen Street in Courthouse. If you can’t find it, ask anyone in the area and they should be able to point you in the right direction. It’s hard to find good Mexican food in Arlington, but El Chilango is legit.

The Italian Store has become a landmark in Arlington. So much so that you need to take a number when visiting, regardless of the time or day. But, it’s worth it. Start with any one of the sandwiches and I’m pretty sure you will be back for further exploration. My latest trick is buying their pre-made pizza dough to make my own pizza at home.

Crisp & Juicy is one I almost left off, but I have at least a dozen friends who would be upset if I did. You can smell the charbroiled chicken from a couple blocks away. The fried yuca is awesome. As is the chimichurri sauce.

I’m hoping there will be some commenters who are willing to share their favorites…

The views and opinions expressed in the column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.

by Katie Pyzyk — January 22, 2013 at 11:35 am 2,858 41 Comments

Aaron Darnell AlexanderPolice have arrested a man accused of grabbing a woman’s breast on an ART bus.

Around 4:30 p.m. on Friday (January 18), police say a woman was riding the ART bus when a man got on at the Ballston Metro station and sat across the aisle from her. He allegedly began speaking to the woman in a vulgar manner and she asked him to stop. The woman became nervous and also asked the man to move away from her.

Around the area of Washington Blvd and N. Pershing Drive the suspect allegedly leaned over and grabbed the victim’s breast. The victim yelled and told the man to stop, to which he reportedly responded, “F— you.” The bus driver pulled over and called police upon hearing the commotion, and the suspect took off on foot.

Police quickly found a man in the area meeting the suspect description, and the woman was able to identify him. Police arrested 28-year-old Aaron Darnell Alexander, of no fixed address.

Alexander was transported to Virginia Hospital Center for a laceration on his hand, which he said he received when he was robbed and stabbed the previous evening. Alexander has been charged with sexual battery and is being held on a $3,500 bond.

by Katie Pyzyk — January 22, 2013 at 10:10 am 1,072 27 Comments

Plans for Tuckahoe Park

At its meeting on Saturday (January 26), the County Board is expected to approve the award of a contract for the reconstruction of a playground at Tuckahoe Park (2400 N. Sycamore Street).

County staff recommends awarding the $666,650 contract to Jeffrey Stack, Inc. There would also be more than $66,000 approved for change orders, for a total contract authorization of more than $733,000.

The county received only two bids for the work but both came in above what had been budgeted for the project. County staff negotiated with the lowest bidder, Jeffrey Stack, Inc., to reduce the total cost.

The East Falls Church park was last renovated in 1994, and the Arlington East Falls Church Civic Association has been working with the county since late 2010 on revitalization plans.

Improvements include an accessible entrance, new play equipment, accessible paths, site furnishings, synthetic turf safety surfacing, site drainage, bio-retention gardens and plantings.

by Katie Pyzyk — January 22, 2013 at 9:05 am 1,333 17 Comments

The troll's view (photo by wolfkann)

Absentee Voting Bill Passes State Senate — The state Senate passed legislation that would allow residents age 65 and older to vote by absentee ballot without having to give an excuse. Currently, Virginians can only vote absentee if they meet one or more of the requirements on a list of reasons for not being able to make it to the polls on election day. Del. Alfonso Lopez (D) introduced similar legislation that failed in the House of Delegates. [Washington Post]

Water Main Issues Continue — Repairs on the broken 30 inch water main at Arlington Blvd and S. Irving Street are expected to take several more days. While draining the pipe on Sunday, a significant pressure drop occurred. Customers may experience low water pressure during peak times (6:00-9:00 a.m and 5:00-9:00 p.m.) and are asked to minimize water use during those times.

Landrum Extends Ray’s Free Burger Special — Owner Michael Landrum has decided to extend the Inauguration special he had been offering at Ray’s to the Third (1650 Wilson Blvd) after closing Ray’s Hell Burger across the street. Customers can get one free “Li’l Devils” burger from 11:30 a.m. until the last burger is given away. “We realized that our office neighbors didn’t get a chance to participate, so we wanted to extend it another day to give them a chance,” Landrum told ARLnow.com. It is suggested that customers receiving a free burger donate $5, which will go to local Boys and Girls Clubs.

Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann

by ARLnow.com — January 22, 2013 at 6:00 am 0

Energy Journey Game
Washington-Lee High School (1301 N Stafford Street)
Saturday, February 02 from 1:00 pm – 5:00 pm

AIR-036-ARL-Now-AIRE-Ad1Arlington County’s AIRE Program — Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy — invites you to the Energy Journey Game! Come be a player in our interactive life-size board game. Challenge yourself on everyday actions that have an energy impact as you journey down a path of decisions and chance. Journey through Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall as you make investments, take chances, and earn rewards.

Doors open at 1pm and the last game begins at 4pm. Raffle prizes for recycled artwork every half-hour! Registration is not required, but your RSVP will help us better plan for the event.

Be sure to check out the full Arlington event calendar. Submit your event to the calendar here.

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