Some erroneous new signage in the Virginia Square Metro station would have one believe that George Mason University is greatly expanding its local presence beyond Arlington and Fairfax County.
The sign correctly labels the station it’s in as “Virginia Sq-GMU” — but then labels the first Orange/Blue Line station in the District of Columbia as “Foggy Bottom-GMU.” Flip the M upside down and you get the correct abbreviation for the institution of higher education in Foggy Bottom, George Washington University.
The error was pointed out this afternoon in a Twitter post that was retweeted by the tireless, anonymous WMATA critic Unsuck DC Metro. “Unsuck” subsequently opined: “If Metro can’t even get signs right, what’s going on with the tracks, trains and other safety gear?”
Photo via @DCtransitnerd
The second act of today’s snowstorm has arrived, with a couple more inches of snow expected to accumulate.
The snow returned just as Arlington road crews were starting to tackle still snow-covered neighborhood streets. It could force the snow plows to continue focusing on primary and secondary arteries while the residential roads remain barely, if at all passable.
“Crews have moved into residential streets with a focus on school related routes,” Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services tweeted late this afternoon (Thursday). “Additional snow late could affect progress on residential/neighborhood streets.”
From DES, later: “Big, heavy snow flakes falling again. Although many main roads are clear, please don’t drive so plows can continue to do job.”
DES said that it could take up to 36-48 hours to clear roads after a 10-inch snowfall, which Arlington is on the verge of reaching, depending where in the county you were measuring.
The snow caused other, unexpected problems on the roads in some parts of Arlington.
On Lee Highway, near Rosslyn, a nearly half-mile-long portion of the fence that runs along I-66 collapsed onto one of the still snow-covered travel lanes, according to police radio traffic.
In Courthouse, a gigantic mound of plowed snow was piled up in the median, blocking a crosswalk adjacent to the Metro station. That is creating a hazard for pedestrians and drivers alike.
VDOT said tonight, before the snow started falling again, that it was making progress clearing roads in Northern Virginia.
“Interstates are mostly clear and wet,” VDOT said. “Primary roads are partially clear with some lanes open and many secondary roads remain snow-covered.”
VDOT warned that a refreeze may make driving even more treacherous overnight.
“Roads that appear to be bare pavement may become slick from sleet and refreeze,” the agency warned.
Other transportation options were slowly returning Thursday night.
Reagan National Airport’s main runway was back open as of 5:05 p.m., allowing some flights in and out. Still, many flights were canceled as a result of the 7 inches of wet snow that fell, making it difficult for crew to clear runways and taxiways.
“There have been significant flight cancellations throughout the day,” the airport authority said on its website. “Check with your airline for flight information and do not drive to the airport before confirming the status of your flight.”
Metrorail continued to operate on a near-normal schedule. Metrobuses are now running on major arteries again.
ART bus service, however, is still suspended. Arlington Transit said it will wait until 10:00 tonight to post an update on planned ART and STAR service tomorrow.
The National Weather Service, meanwhile, says that the D.C. area could receive another 2-4 inches of snow tonight before the winter storm system finally moves out.
… HEAVY SNOW TO IMPACT AREAS EAST OF BLUE RIDGE INCLUDING THE GREATER METROPOLITAN AREAS OF WASHINGTON AND BALTIMORE THROUGH MIDNIGHT…
AREAS OF MODERATE TO HEAVY SNOW WILL IMPACT THE REGION THROUGH MIDNIGHT… WHERE 2 TO 4 INCHES OF NEW SNOWFALL ACCUMULATION CAN BE EXPECTED AS AN UPPER LEVEL DISTURBANCE MOVES THROUGH THE AREA. AT 600 PM… MOST LOCATIONS HAVE TRANSITIONED TO ALL SNOW AFTER THE SLEET AND RAIN FROM EARLIER IN THE AFTERNOON.
THE AREAS OF HEAVIEST SNOWFALL WILL OCCUR ALONG AND EAST OF INTERSTATE 95… AND ALSO IN HOWARD AND CARROLL COUNTIES IN MARYLAND.
THIS ADDITIONAL SNOWFALL WILL MAKE TRAVEL HAZARDOUS AS ROADS WILL ONCE AGAIN BECOME SNOW COVERED. VISIBILITIES WILL BE LOWERING TO BELOW 1/4 MILE AT TIMES… SO TRAVEL IS NOT ADVISED UNLESS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY.
All school extracurricular activities, adult education classes and Dept. of Parks and Recreation classes are canceled.
Most ART bus service in the morning has been canceled, although Arlington Transit will try to keep ART 51 service running between Ballston Metro station and Virginia Hospital Center. “ART will restore other service tomorrow as street conditions permit,” the agency said.
Metro says it will try to run trains every 6-10 minutes during the morning, as conditions allow. Metrobus service will be limited to major arteries only.
Under the current proposal, the base Metrorail peak fare would increase from $2.10 to $2.20 and the base off-peak fare would increase from $1.70 to $1.75. The maximum fare, with distance charges added in, would increase from $5.75 to $6.00 for peak and from $3.50 to $3.65 for off-peak. Standard Metrobus fares could increase as much as a quarter.
Metro fares help pay for just over half of WMATA’s operating budget, with the remainder funded by local governments like Arlington.
Arlington will play a pivotal role in the regional economy with the coming of the Silver Line, suggests Metro planning director Shyam Kannan.
Speaking at GMU’s Va. Square campus last week, Kannan said that the Silver Line and development around Tysons Corner will make the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor the economic “fulcrum” of the D.C. area. Development pressure — particularly demand for new apartments and condos — “only becomes more pronounced” with the Silver Line, he said, thanks to our central location between the “downtowns” of the District and Tysons Corner.
That should come as a welcome bit of prognostication for Arlington County, which has been fretting about economic competition with a newly Metro-accessible Tysons Corner.
The Silver Line, however, will hasten the necessity to build a second Potomac River crossing between Rosslyn and the District. Already, service adjustments are putting a squeeze on the Blue Line through Rosslyn, reducing train frequency and increasing crowding. Metro envisions building a second Rosslyn Metro station, which will connect with a new Metro line through Georgetown via a second Potomac River tunnel. That will help alleviate the increasingly problematic “bottleneck” between Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom.
Kannan acknowledged that overcrowding and frequent equipment breakdowns are a problem, but said Metro is working to solve both.
“For those of you who have experienced the service disruptions… you’ve seen that there are impacts to our daily lives,” he said. “Metro needs to continuously invest in its resources.”
Another “long, long range plan” is to build an express line on the Orange Line which will bypass the R-B corridor, Kannan said. And South Arlington was not left out of Metro’s plans: a second entrance to the Crystal City Metro station is being proposed.
All of this will come at a cost. Kannan made sure to emphasize, for the Arlington officials in the audience, that Arlington and other local jurisdictions will either need to increase their contributions to Metro in order to fund its long-range capital plans, or help the agency obtain a dedicated funding stream — i.e. some sort of a regional tax.
“The question as a region we have to ask ourselves is, ‘are we okay going into the middle of the 21st century with a transit system that functions the same way it functioned in 1976?” he asked. “I don’t think that really spells economic strength or prosperity or livability.”
“Arlington has been a great partner,” Kannan said. “Metro is hitching its wagon to Arlington County. What bet are you willing to make now?”
The plans discussed by Kannan are a long way off, likely a decade or much longer. In the meantime, Kannan says Metro hopes to increase the capacity of its increasingly crowded rail system — which is “busting at the seams” — by switching from a combination of 6- and 8-car trains to all 8-car trains. But even that seemingly simple solution is proving to be an expensive uphill battle.
“We’re fighting hand to hand combat right now to make sure we just have the funding to keep the system going and to get to 8-car trains,” he said.
Editor’s Note: A version of this article originally appeared in ARLbiz, our weekly local business e-newsletter. Click here to subscribe.
(Updated at 3:45 p.m.) Road conditions around Arlington are bad and are only expected to get worse as today’s snowstorm increases in intensity around rush hour.
Numerous crashes, involving cars, postal vehicles and buses, have been reported on Arlington’s roads and highways this afternoon. Other vehicles are getting stuck or spinning out of control on snow-covered hills. Sections of George Mason Drive and Carlin Springs Road are particularly treacherous, we hear.
ART buses are operating under a Severe Weather Policy, with limited service for ART 41, 51 and 77 routes and all other routes cancelled.
Via Twitter, Arlington residents report 1.5 to 3 inches of snow on the ground so far, with higher amounts generally to the north. The National Weather Service says 6-10 inches of snow will fall by the time the flakes tapers off tonight.
In addition to the snow, frigid temperatures and high winds are expected to bring additional wintry misery tonight. The predicted -5 to -15 degree wind chills prompted a plea from Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D).
“I urge every Virginian to make proper preparations as this storm moves in and brings snow, potentially life-threatening low temperatures and high winds,” Gov. McAuliffe said in a statement. “Unfortunately, injuries and even deaths from hypothermia, heart attack, stroke and traffic crashes are all too common during the winter storms of this type. Don’t travel unnecessarily, and be prepared to stay where you are until conditions improve.”
WMATA says trains were single-tracking between Ballston and Clarendon due to a disabled train at Virginia Square. As of 9:35 a.m., WMATA says normal service has been restored.
Riders reported crowded station platforms and having to wait more than half an hour for an inbound train.
The $1 million Walter Reed “Super Stop” on Columbia Pike had its first big test of handing inclement winter weather over the weekend.
By at least one measure, it failed.
Part of the Super Stop’s bench was covered by snow Sunday, as a tweet from Arlington County Board candidate Peter Fallon showed.
“No, it doesn’t keep the snow out. :-(,” Fallon tweeted.
Photo via Twitter
(Updated at 5:50 p.m.) The three two-month old elevators at the Rosslyn Metro Station were all out of service this morning, leaving commuters to use the long escalators on the other side of N. Moore Street.
The problem, according to Arlington Department of Environmental Services spokesman Eric Balliet, was caused after Metro workers turned off power to the station after closing Thursday night. The new elevators failed to restart this morning when the power was turned back on.
“We apologize to Rosslyn Metro riders,” Balliet said in an email. “We’re working with [Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority] and our contractor to address unforeseen issues like this in the future.”
The elevators were designed and constructed by DES and opened Oct. 6. Friday morning was not the first time there have been problems with the high-speed elevators, which are designed to carry thousands of passengers a day. WMATA spokesman Dan Stessel said that the elevators are under a yearlong warranty with the manufacturer, meaning Metro is not responsible for maintaining and repairing the elevators.
Two of the elevators returned to normal operations around 10:30 a.m., Metro spokeswoman Morgan Dye said in an email. The third elevator has been out of service — and continues to be out of service — due to an unrelated issue.
“It is not uncommon for there to be a need for fine tuning during the initial ‘break-in period’ on any new machinery — whether it be elevators, escalators, railcars, buses, etc.,” Dye said. “Working through the fine-tuning of this kind of equipment is routine and expected.”
Balliet echoed Dye’s words about the break-in period.
“Many of the problems experienced since opening are typical for an elevator break-in period,” he said. “In fact, the number of disruptions had been decreasing week by week until this power outage for track work. We’ll continue working with our contractors to ensure higher levels of reliability.”
Metro General Manager Richard Sarles’ budget calls for bus fares to increase by 15 cents, Metrorail fares to increase by 10 cents, and parking fees to increase by 25 cents. Will that lead to significantly more commuters hitting the road in cars? Probably not, says AAA Mid-Antic.”
“Even with a three percent average increase, area commuters will still save by using public transit after doing the math,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs. “After adding up the costs of driving and parking, commuters will often find that public transit is a more economical way to get to work and stick with Metro.”
For instance, AAA says a commuter who drives to work in downtown D.C. from Alexandria pays about $500 per month in vehicle costs, gas and parking. Someone who parks and rides from the Huntington Metro station will pay about $330 per month after the fare hike.
A portion of the trail near the junction with the Mt. Vernon Trail will close during the day in order to demolish a bridge overhead. Closures will be in place from 5:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. on Mondays through Fridays, and 8:30 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. on Saturdays. The trail will be open on Sundays.
The Northern Virginia Regional Commission (NVRC) notes that a detour will be in place for ADA compliance, but it may not be the best option for some trail users, such as bikers. The detour diverts traffic off of the trail and onto the west sidewalk of Jefferson Davis Highway, then across the highway at the S. Glebe Road signal. Those using the detour can reconnect with the trail farther east via new switchback ramps.
Earlier: It’s been a rough morning for Metrorail. First, a dangling cable prompted major delays on the Red Line, and now a cracked rail is causing minor delays on the Orange Line.
The cracked rail is on the inbound track of the Orange Line between East Falls Church and Ballston. Repairs are underway and are expected to be completed before the evening rush hour.
While repairs continue, trains will be single tracking between East Falls Church and Ballston. According to WMATA spokesman Dan Stessel, right now there are only delays of about five minutes because trains are currently operating on an off-peak schedule.
The cracked rail is reportedly “almost certainly” the result of the recent temperature drop. Stessel explained that because metal expands and contracts with temperature fluctuations, over time that can cause cracks in the rails.
Metrorail service on the Yellow Line will be suspended from 10:00 p.m. Friday through system closing on Sunday, to allow the annual safety inspection of the Yellow Line bridge over the Potomac River.
Yellow Line riders in Virginia are instead advised to take the Blue Line, which will run at normal weekend intervals.
Orange Line riders, meanwhile, will be subject to delays this weekend. Orange Line trains will run every 20 minutes, starting Friday night at 10:00, due to track work and platform reconstruction at the Minnesota Avenue and Deanwood stations.
Orange, Yellow and Blue Line trains will all arrive every 20 minutes, beginning at 10:00 p.m. on Friday, November 8, and continuing through closing on Monday, November 11. All Yellow Line trains will run only between Huntington and Mt. Vernon Square.
The system opens at 5:00 a.m. on Monday and will close at midnight. Additional trains will operate on Monday between Vienna and Stadium-Armory from 6:30-9:30 a.m. and 3:30-6:30 p.m.
Crews working on the Yellow and Blue Lines will improve track infrastructure, including installation of new ties, fasteners, insulators, grout pads and cover boards. Orange Line workers will reconstruct station platforms at Minnesota Avenue and Deanwood stations, as well as performing tie renewal, insulator renewal and structural improvements.
More information about weekend schedule alterations throughout the Metro system can be found on the WMATA website.
National Public Radio kicked off a nationwide series on commuting Thursday morning with a lengthy profile of Arlington’s transit system on Morning Edition, saying the county “sets the bar for suburban transit.”
Morning Edition host David Greene interviewed former Arlington County Board member Jay Ricks, who was on the Board when it decided to build the Orange and Blue Metro stations underground, spurring the eventual urban development around each station.
Greene, reporting from the Ballston Metro Station, interviewed commuters and Robert Brosnan, the director of the county Department of Community Planning, Housing and Development.
Greene noted that because of the Metro’s appeal, housing prices have skyrocketed — which is forcing out some of the county’s lower-income workers. Additionally, Greene reported, the county’s reliance on Metro means that a train or track malfunction during the commute affects thousands of Arlington residents simultaneously.