Metro’s Silver Line is set to officially open on Saturday, with Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe, U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx, and other notable officials on hand to watch the first train depart the Wiehle-Reston East station.
The launch of the Silver Line has economic ramifications for Arlington, though there’s some debate over whether those ramifications will be mostly good or mostly bad.
On the pessimistic side, rail transit in Reston and Tysons could enhance the desirability of those areas and present Arlington with stiff competition, especially in the commercial office market.
On the optimistic side, the fact that the Silver Line will run through Arlington on the way to D.C. could actually make the county’s Orange/Silver corridor even more desirable as an economic hub. The video above makes the case that Ballston in particular is well-positioned to benefit from the Silver Line.
Publicly and privately, officials with Arlington Economic Development say they expect Tysons to take many years to develop as a truly desirable urban area, with walkable and active streets and ample housing. Even then, they believe Arlington’s multi-decade head start on transit-oriented development, and its proximity to D.C., will give the county the competitive edge over Tysons.
(Updated at 2:20 p.m.) Officials from Arlington County and Alexandria gathered near Potomac Yard this morning to break ground on the region’s first Bus Rapid Transit line.
The 4.5-mile Crystal City Potomac Yard Transitway, when it’s completed, will connect the Braddock Road Metro station in Alexandria to the Pentagon City Metro station with a dedicated bus lane. The bus route, which WMATA is calling Metroway, will open Aug. 24 and run from Braddock Road to the Crystal City Metro at first.
“Unless you invest in growth for the future, all you have is memories of the past,” Rep. Jim Moran said. “Many other communities across the country are not growing, yet Arlington and Alexandria are growing. The principal reason is they’re willing to invest in infrastructure for the future.”
The dedicated lanes, already under construction in Alexandria, were approved for a $10.2 million construction contract in February and are expected to be completed by 2015. The right-of-way in which the buses will operate is planned to eventually turn into the Crystal City streetcar system, which will connect to the controversial Columbia Pike streetcar. The streetcar’s two opponents on the Arlington County Board, Libby Garvey and John Vihstadt, attended the groundbreaking and Vihstadt passed out press releases elucidating his support for the transitway, but not the streetcar.
“Even the county’s own press release on the new Crystal City Transitway says it will ease congestion and support both redevelopment and high-density growth,” Garvey said in the release. “This is exactly what we have been saying BRT can do and this is why we don’t need an expensive streetcar. We appreciate the validation of BRT and look forward to watching how it performs.”
Alexandria has not yet committed to building a streetcar system to connect to the Crystal City project — something Arlington officials say the city is “open to” — but the transitway is seen as a piece to connect the two communities even further.
“I think it makes amenities on both sides of the [boundary] line available to people on both sides,” County Board Vice Chair Mary Hynes said. “Our communities are good friends and our borders are kind of invisible. This just knits this place into a much more cohesive place over time.”
The construction is expected to take about 10 months. When completed, the bus will operate in dedicated lanes near Potomac Yard, with stops on Crystal Drive, S. Bell Street, Clark Street, 15th Street, 20th Street and 26th Street. During morning and evening rush hours, the buses will use a dedicated lane south on S. Bell and Clark Streets and north on Crystal Drive, replacing an existing traffic lane. The lane will be open to normal traffic during other times.
The groundbreaking ceremony was put on brief hold in the middle when one of the attendees suffered an apparent seizure. Arlington County medics responded and the individual was transported to a nearby hospital.
Crystal City Business Improvement District President/CEO Angela Fox said the transitway is key for Crystal City in that it’s simply another layer of accessibility for its residents and workers.
“I think one of the most amazing aspects of Crystal City, which we’ve built our marketing and integrity around, is how accessible Crystal City is,” Fox said. “The transitway is just one more step to ensure Crystal City is competitive as we reach the next step. We support any and all things that make transit easier for Crystal City.”
The county says the new funding will enable to Arlington and Fairfax to proceed with the streetcar project more rapidly — accelerating the construction timetable by at least a year — partially thanks to eliminating the need to obtain federal funding.
“The Commonwealth is committed to supporting the Columbia Pike project as a funding partner,” Virginia Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne said, in a letter to Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette and Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova.
The new funding will also help save $25 million in project costs, according to an Arlington County press release. The Columbia Pike streetcar is now estimated to cost $333 million, about half of which will be funded by the state. The other half of the cost will come from regional transportation funds and local commercial property taxes dedicated to transportation projects.
“No Arlington County homeowner-funded General Obligation bonds will be used to finance design and construction of the streetcar,” the county said.
County Board member Libby Garvey, who along with recently-elected Board member John Vihstadt oppose the streetcar, slammed the state’s decision. Garvey issued the following statement, in which she expresses hope that “the wise voters of Arlington” will vote out Board members who support the streetcar.
I could not be more disappointed in the quick decision by Secretary Layne to devote much needed and scarce transportation dollars to a project as foolish and wasteful as the Columbia Pike streetcar. This project will not improve transit on the Pike. In fact, it will make traffic worse as slow streetcars clog up an already congested thoroughfare. Fortunately, I am pretty sure that within 2 years the wise voters of Arlington will have voted out board members who support the streetcar. That will end the project and allow the Commonwealth, despite this ill advised decision by the Secretary, to spend its money on much more worthwhile and needed projects. I hope that will include a modern and cost effective bus rapid transit system on the Pike in Arlington. That’s what both Arlington and the region need.
Vihstadt also issued a statement, in which has charged that the Commonwealth “rushed to judgment and failed to perform the independent due diligence expected of a state agency to fully analyze this ill-advised local government request.”
“Many valuable transportation projects for which there is a broad public consensus, ranging from improved Metro and bus service to road and pedestrian safety enhancements, will be sacrificed for this controversial project that has deeply divided Arlington County and contributed heavily to my election on April 8 as the first non-Democrat to the County Board since 1999,” Vihstadt said.
The county’s press release, after the jump.
The videos are part of the county’s renewed effort to justify the massive streetcar investment to the public. The controversial project — which includes streetcar tracks in Crystal City and along Columbia Pike — is supported by County Board members Jay Fisette, Mary Hynes and Walter Tejada, but opposed by members Libby Garvey and John Vihstadt.
The four most recent videos include Tejada and housing advocate Holly Bray saying the streetcar will help preserve affordable housing on the Pike; planning commissioner Inta Malis saying the streetcar will reduce traffic congestion and benefit the environment; and real estate developer and former Arlington Chamber of Commerce Chair David DeCamp saying the streetcar will attract 6,600 new jobs and add $3-4 billion in new real estate value over 30 years.
Previous videos released by the county included the following titles: “Because more people will want to ride the streetcar;” “Because Metro was a success and streetcars will be, too;” “Because buses alone can’t carry enough people;” “Because streetcar improves connections;” and “Because it will broaden our tax base.”
The streetcar remains a source of controversy, with ardent advocates and detractors among local residents. The county plans to fund the streetcar system with federal, state and transportation-designated local funds, though Fisette recently asked county staff to come up with a way to pay for the streetcar without federal funding.
(Updated at 4:45 p.m.) The bus line that will eventually run on dedicated lanes in Crystal City and along Route 1 to Alexandria is expected to open to riders later this summer.
WMATA announced today that the partial bus rapid transit line will launch Aug. 24 and will be called “Metroway,” instead of the given 9X route designation that had been previously planned. The dedicated transit lane is the first of its kind in the D.C. area.
The route will go between the Crystal City and Braddock Road Metro stations at first, but WMATA is planning to expand service to the Pentagon City station by 2015. By that time, Arlington expects to finish construction on the dedicated bus lanes it has approved for the northbound route on Crystal Drive and the southbound route along S. Bell and Clark Streets.
A portion of Alexandria’s section of the Metroway route will have dedicated bus lanes when it opens, from Potomac Avenue to E. Glebe Road. There will also be expanded weekend and late night service, WMATA says. Buses will run every six minutes between Crystal City Metro and S. Glebe Road during rush hour, every 12 minutes during weekday off-peak hours and every 20 minutes over the weekend.
“We’re delighted to be partnering with Alexandria on the region’s first dedicated transitway — using separated lanes to encourage travelers up and down the Route 1 corridor to choose transit rather than their cars,” Arlington County Board Vice Chair Mary Hynes said in WMATA’s press release. “We’re proud to be working the kinks out now so that the region’s Priority Bus Corridor Network can be smoothly implemented over the next 15 years.”
Buses along the line will be new, and painted with the “Metroway” branding “that differentiates it from other transit service,” WMATA said in its release. By 2015, WMATA also plans to have off-board fare collection, real-time bus displays, all-door boarding and “traffic signal optimization” to ensure the buses run on time along the route.
The route starting in August will include the following stations:
- Braddock Rd Metro
- Fayette Street (Opening 2015)
- Potomac Avenue
- Custis Avenue
- Swann Avenue
- East Glebe Road
- Reed Avenue
- S. Glebe Road
- 33rd & Crystal Drive (Opening 2015)
- 27th & Crystal Drive
- 23rd & Crystal Drive
- 18th & Crystal Drive
- Crystal City Metro
- Crystal City Metro
- 23rd & S. Clark Street
- 26th & S. Clark Street
- 27th & Crystal Drive
- 33rd & Crystal Drive (Opening 2015)
- S. Glebe Road
- Reed Avenue
- East Glebe Road
- Swann Avenue
- Custis Avenue
- Potomac Avenue
- Fayette Street (Opening 2015)
- Braddock Rd Metro
Images courtesy WMATA
During the Feb. 12 evening rush hour commute, while on an Orange Line train near the Ballston Metro station, the man “allegedly rubbed the inner thigh of a patron as she sat next to him,” according to police. The crime is being described as “assault and battery.”
“Anyone who is able to identify the individual pictured below is asked to call Metro Transit Police Detectives at (202) 962-2121 and reference case #2014-07734,” MTPD said in a press release.
Garvey made a presentation during yesterday’s County Board meeting, challenging the return on investment (ROI) study a consultant performed on contract with the county and presented last month.
Garvey said the study makes faulty comparisons, disputed the $3.1 billion ROI claim, said that calling the streetcar a “seamless ride” is nonsensical since a bus would do the same, and claimed it ignored contrary analysis, among other assertions.
After Garvey’s presentation, County Board Chair Jay Fisette challenged streetcar opponents’ claims that bus rapid transit (BRT) would be a preferable solution since dedicated bus lines, widely considered a requirement of a BRT system, are not possible on Columbia Pike. In response, Garvey offered an olive branch of sorts on the language the two sides of the streetcar debate uses.
“On BRT, I’ll make a deal with you,” Garvey said. “We don’t ever talk about BRT here again, we just say ‘streetcar-like bus.’ That’s all we need to say. A streetcar-like bus will do much better on Columbia Pike than a streetcar. Let’s just forget about it. It’s just a canard, it’s silly to talk the way we have on what’s BRT and what’s not. That just gets away [from the point], and I share your frustration.”
Fisette quickly agreed to Garvey’s terms, replying “all right, let’s call a truce on that one.”
The bus system that is feasible on the Pike was referred to by the ROI consultants as “enhanced bus service,” which wouldn’t use a dedicated lane but would have many features of a streetcar, like greater ridership capacity, a sleeker appearance and off-board fare collection.
Garvey’s challenge to the consultant has been echoed by other streetcar critics, who say the study was biased from the start, and its methodology — comparing two streetcar systems and two enhanced bus systems in cities around the country — was lacking. Fisette said the consultants, HR&A Advisors, will be making presentations to several county commissions, and backed them on their claims.
“I’m not saying [the study's detractors] don’t have some good points or couldn’t use clarifications to better understand how the consultants went about their work,” he said, “but I take issue with discrediting the work of these consultants overall.”
The incident happened just past 8:00 p.m. According to Metro, the man was “apparently trespassing” on the tracks when he was struck by an inbound train approaching Arlington Cemetery.
“Security camera footage shows [the] subject intentionally walk onto the trackbed,” Metro Transit Police said via Twitter.
The man is dead and his body is between the tracks and a fence, according to scanner traffic. The striking train is still on scene with 80-100 people on board, firefighters reported.
The Blue Line is single-tracking and trains are running every 20 minutes as a result of the incident, Metro says. The agency is advising riders to use the Yellow Line as an alternate between D.C. and Virginia.
WMATA says a switch problem was discovered outside of the Foggy Bottom Metro station this morning. Metro employees were unable to fix the problem before the start of the evening rush hour.
“The affected track was taken out of service, and trains have been single tracking during the midday hours,” the agency said. “Unfortunately, permanent repairs will not be completed in time for the evening commute. Metro personnel will make a temporary repair that will allow trains to operate on both tracks, at a significantly reduced speed, during the PM rush hour.”
Metro says Blue Line riders should consider taking the Yellow Line instead. The agency issued the following information for riders.
What should I expect?
- Shortly after 3 p.m., single tracking will end, and Blue/Orange trains will use both tracks during the PM rush. Single tracking will resume after 7 p.m. so that permanent repairs can be made overnight.
- Expect delays. Trains traveling from Foggy Bottom to Farragut West will move through the area at an extremely slow speed for safety reasons. This will cause congestion in the Rosslyn-Foggy Bottom area as trains have to wait their turn.
- Trains will operate less frequently than normal. During the PM rush, trains will depart end-of-line stations every 10 minutes. At stations in Downtown DC, trains will arrive about every 5 minutes, alternating Blue and Orange destinations.
- Trains will be more crowded. Metro will operate more 8-car trains during this evening’s commute to provide additional room, but with fewer trains operating, things will seem crowded. Please take note of the train length and make use of the full platform if an 8-car train is arriving. Often the last two cars of an 8-car train are the least crowded.
What are some alternate travel options?
- If traveling between DC and Blue Line stations in Virginia from Pentagon to Franconia-Springfield: Use the Yellow Line instead. The Yellow Line is not affected by this problem and trains will operate more frequently than the Blue Line. Connect to Yellow Line service at L’Enfant Plaza or Gallery Place.
- Metrobus may be an option. For example, Metrobus 38B runs between Farragut Square and Ballston, with stops at Rosslyn, Court House, Clarendon and Virginia Square. View the 38B timetable here. To check the best Metrobus alternatives for you, use Trip Planner and select the “bus only” option.
When will repairs be completed?
Due to the complexity of the repair work, it is expected that repairs will be completed during the overnight hours. Normal service is expected for Tuesday morning.
File photo by @soxinly
(Updated at 5:45 p.m.) An independent consultant hired by Arlington County has found that the planned Columbia Pike streetcar could generate between $2.2-3 billion more than an enhanced bus system for the corridor over the next 30 years.
The study, conducted by HR&A Advisors, estimates that the streetcar will generate between $3.2-4.4 billion of net impact to the area in the form of increased property values, density and retail opportunities, among other factors. In addition, the streetcar is estimated to bring in up to $620 million in additional local tax revenues between Arlington and Fairfax counties over 30 years, plus 4,600 more jobs within 10 years after construction is completed.
“[This study] is a great validation for what we’re about to do,” County Manager Barbara Donnellan said at a press conference this afternoon announcing the results of the study.
The study, which was commissioned last year as an update to the streetcar’s projected return on investment, compared the streetcar to an enhanced bus system. HR&A President Eric Rothman said the study did not factor in bus rapid transit because a dedicated bus lane is “not feasible” for the Pike.
HR&A used four case studies for its projections for Columbia Pike, as well as interviews with Arlington developers and retailers — some of whom are already invested along the Pike — to formulate its predictions.
HR&A used the streetcar in Portland, Ore., and the Hudson Bergen lightrail system in northern New Jersey as case studies for the streetcar. The Boston-Washington Silver Line and the Max Bus in Kansas City, Mo., were used as case studies for enhanced bus service.
“Previous studies that have been done by and large found positive impacts across the board for streetcar implementation in the country the last 15 years,” Rothman said.
Kyle Vangel, who was the study’s project manager for HR&A, said the developers he interviewed the project looked more favorably at the Columbia Pike streetcar if it connected with the Crystal City streetcar line, which Transportation Director Dennis Leach said will have its environmental impact study completed this fall. He also said that, while the tracks and wires might not be aesthetically pleasing, rail engenders confidence in long-term investment.
“In many people’s perceptions,” Vangel said, “the streetcar has more of a feel of permanence than an enhanced bus.”
From one end of the corridor to the other, Vangel said the streetcar would only take one fewer minute than an enhanced bus system, but it would hold 61 more riders per trip, be a one-seat ride to Crystal City and would be under capacity by 2035, whereas enhanced bus would be over capacity in 30 years.
“Having previously spent many millions of taxpayer dollars on studies trying to justify the choice of the Columbia Pike streetcar”, said Peter Rousselot, ARLnow.com columnist and a leader for Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit, in a press release, “there was no legitimate reason to spend more taxpayer money on another ‘study’ unless the consultant had been given the independence to reach the conclusion that the streetcar was the wrong transit choice on Columbia Pike.”
Rousselot’s main point of contention was over the contract HR&A signed with the county, which stipulated the county must approve the study at certain milestones before it could be presented. Rothman said those milestones were simply submitted to the county so the company could receive payment, not edited for review.
“The county provided no substantive input for the numbers in the report,” Rothman said.
Frequent County Board critic Jim Hurysz, attending the meeting for his blog, Arlington Yupette, railed against the consultants and county staff members giving the presentation, accusing them of cherry-picking examples of streetcars and buses to serve the county’s agenda. Hurysz fired off questions and opinions alongside reporters from ARLnow.com, the Washington Post and the Washington Business Journal, before being shouted down by a county communications staffer, as she was attempting to end the meeting on schedule.
ART 43 will run from the Crystal City Metro Station to the Crystal City VRE station and Rosslyn and Courthouse Metro Stations between 5:55 a.m. and 8:55 a.m. and 3:20 to 7:17 p.m. starting March 31.
The bus will only run during rush hour on weekdays; there’s no planned off-peak or weekend service yet. The bus schedule indicates a 20-minute travel time from the Crystal City Metro stop to Courthouse.
The new bus is designed to serve as an alternative to the Blue Line. On the same day, Metrobus is launching two bus lines of its own — called 10R and 10S — that will travel between Crystal City and Rosslyn.
Arlington says the three lines will combine to ensure a bus going to Rosslyn from Crystal City will be available an average of every 10 minutes.
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.