County Board Still Steamed Over Tree Removal — Arlington County Board members are still lashing out against Arlington Public Schools’ removal of some trees from the grounds of Ashlawn Elementary School, which is beginning an expansion project. The school system received county staff approval to remove the trees but did not receive County Board approval. “The community has reason to be upset,” Board member Walter Tejada reiterated on Saturday. County Board members also questioned whether a controversial plan to create a loop road for student drop-off was still necessary. [Sun Gazette]
Transitway Stops Cheaper than Superstop — The new transit stops along the just-approved Crystal City Potomac Yard Transitway will cost between $345,000 and $530,000. That’s significantly less than the cost of the $1 million “Superstop” on the corner of Walter Reed Drive and Columbia Pike. The new transit stops will still come with an “[improved] sidewalk, boarding platform, benches, trash cans, lighting, information signs, canopy, bike racks and windscreen.” [Washington Post]
W-L Wrestler Finishes Second in Tourney — Washington-Lee senior wrestler Narankhuu Ganbaatar has finished second in the 6A state tournament. [Sun Gazette]
Flickr pool photo by J. Sonder
Bluemont Neighborhood Plan Approved – The Arlington County Board last night accepted an updated Bluemont Neighborhood Conservation Plan, which will ”[allow] the Bluemont Civic Association to pursue funding to transform the neighborhood to a true ‘urban village’ with slower traffic, better sidewalks and revitalized commercial corridors.” The plan also calls for a grocery store to remain at the current Safeway site. [Arlington County]
APS Plans to Use ‘Big Data’ to Reduce Dropout Rate — Arlington Public Schools is launching a competition that will challenge teams of scientists to figure out a way to reduce the school system’s dropout rate by combing through 12 years of student data. The winning team will receive $10,000. [Washington Post]
SuperStop Makes ‘Wastebook’ — The $1 million Walter Reed SuperStop on Columbia Pike has made Republican Sen. Tom Coburn’s annual “Wastebook,” which highlights “100 examples of wasteful and low-priority spending.” The bus stop, which can be found on page 32 of the Wastebook, was partially paid for with federal funds. “This report speaks volumes about why confidence in government is at an all-time low,” Coburn said of his publication. [Wastebook 2013, ARLnow Forums]
Fisette to Serve as Board Chair — County Board Vice Chair Jay Fisette was sworn in to a fifth four-year term on Tuesday. He will serve as County Board chairman in 2014. [Arlington County]
Research Firm Moving to Arlington — Research firm Hanover Research is moving its main office from the District to 4401 Wilson Blvd in Ballston this month. “The company’s extremely skilled staff, 61% of which hold advanced degrees, will help Ballston grow its reputation as a knowledge hub and significantly contribute to the area’s entrepreneurial spirit,” Hanover said in a press release. Arlington Public Schools is one of the company’s clients. [Hanover Research]
Flickr pool photo by jordanhiggins
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
A new bus shelter has been installed on Columbia Pike at the corner of S. Barton Street.
The shelter was installed Aug. 22 and replaced the previous structure, which was removed by WMATA Aug. 1. The shelter is only a temporary replacement until a long-term “Super Stop” is installed at the location, according to Arlington Department of Environmental Services spokeswoman Laura G. Smith,
“The old shelter was removed because the sidewall panel was missing and the structure itself was rusting,” Smith wrote in an email. “The deteriorated condition is due to age of the shelter (at least 20 years), which is well beyond its useful life.”
Smith said the new shelter is only temporary because it cannot serve multiple buses at one time and does not have real-time passenger information. Nearly a dozen bus lines service the stop.
“With 300+ average daily boardings at this bus stop, the new shelter has a very limited waiting area and does not meet maximum passenger demand, especially during peak hours,” she said.
The cost to install the bus shelter was about $12,500, according to Smith, or 1.25 percent of the $1 million Walter Reed Super Stop. Barton Street is one of the 23 locations where future Super Stops are planned, but the whole project is under review following the controversy surrounding the cost of the first Super Stop, which drew national media attention.
“The permanent transit station is on hold while the county conducts the community consultation, technical design and financial/performance assessment portions of the Columbia Pike Super Stop Review,” Smith said.
The screen is currently out of service, with a large note apologizing for the problem.
“Due to the extreme temperatures, our monitor displaying bus arrivals is not operational,” the sign says. “We are working on the problem.”
Arlington County spokeswoman Laura G. Smith says technicians have ordered a new cooling fan for the display.
“It should be fixed within the next two weeks,” she said. In the meantime, the sign has instructions telling bus riders how to look up bus arrival times on their smartphone.
(Updated at 2:45 p.m.) Arlington County has launched an independent review of the $1 million Walter Reed Super Stop on Columbia Pike.
One topic that’s likely to come up during the review: the electronic information board that displays bus arrivals times.
The display is undoubtedly useful, but is it accurate? At least one tipster says no.
“The ‘Next Bus’ information that is posted is often incorrect,” we were told. “You may wish to look into that.”
A brief point-in-time test of bus arrival times, however, showed that the display was actually fairly accurate. Over the course of an hour and a half during an evening rush hour last week, ARLnow.com wrote down predicted bus arrival times and compared it to actual arrival times.
We kept track of 15 buses, noting posted arrival times an average of 25 minutes ahead of the projected arrival. The result: an average variance of just 2 minutes and 40 seconds between projected arrival and actual arrival. The biggest gap between projection and arrival: 9 minutes.
If you catch the bus at the Walter Reed stop, how has your experience been with the electronic display and its bus arrival times?
In a press release, the county says contractors will be conducting a “comprehensive review of the performance, cost, design and construction” of the bus stop. The review will include three primary components: interviews with bus stop users, a design review, and a financial and performance assessment.
Clarendon-based NeoNiche Strategies has been tapped to survey Super Stop users, per a $7,500 contract, while Arlington is still in negotiations with firms for the other two contracts, according to county spokeswoman Laura G. Smith. She declined to estimate the cost of the remaining two contracts, citing the ongoing negotiations.
“The goal of the review… is to facilitate the construction of the remaining planned stops faster, at lower cost and with improved functionality where necessary,” said the press release.
Completed in March, the bus stop features shelter for some 15 passengers, lighting, heating, and an electronic display that shows when the next buses are coming, but at a construction cost of more than $1 million.
The cost of the stop, and some of its perceived shortfalls — like lack of shelter from the elements — sparked a controversy that became national news and prompted the county to announce a “reassessment” of its design and cost within just two weeks of its opening. Twenty-three other planned Super Stops on the Pike, expected to cost around $900,000 apiece, were put on hold.
County Manager Barbara Donnellan says the project will proceed once the review is complete and an acceptable, lower-cost alternative is found.
“Arlington is committed to investing in the Columbia Pike corridor and providing quality transportation options to meet the community’s current and future transit needs,” Donnellan said in a statement. “We look forward to the findings of these reviews and will take steps necessary to ensure the construction of future stops at a significantly lower cost while maintaining functionality and the amenities needed for a high-capacity station.”
The review process is expected to wrap up in late fall 2013.
“The County Manager, after consulting with Arlington County Board Members and WMATA (Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority), will announce her decision later this year,” according to the press release, which blamed the high cost of the first stop on a number of factors.
The Walter Reed Super Stop was a first-of-its-kind, high capacity transit stop. The Super Stop was designed to serve the growing number of riders along this heavily utilized transit corridor and to handle the projected increase in future riders expected with Columbia Pike streetcar. The completed prototype features a design to attract new riders, and includes expanded shelter and seating, lights, real-time electronic arrival displays, level boarding for bus passengers, transit maps, signage and more.
Over the course of the construction of Walter Reed Drive prototype stop, set-up costs, construction challenges and delays, and design refinements increased the total cost of the project. Due to the higher-than-expected cost and functionality concerns, the County Manager placed construction of the future 23 Super Stops on hold pending completion of the review.
Earlier this year, county officials directed blame for the extra costs and delays on WMATA, which managed the construction of the first stop.
A new t-shirt pokes fun at the $1 million bus stop on Columbia Pike and the often tongue-in-cheek rivalry between north and south Arlington.
The t-shirt was created by PikeBuzz.com, a new website that offers deals and events at Columbia Pike “town center” businesses, and will be given away at the site’s launch party Wednesday night. The first 100 attendees at the event will receive the shirt for free.
(Disclosure: PikeBuzz is an ARLnow.com advertiser.)
“We were looking for something funny to put on a shirt,” he said. “The national level attention that the bus stop got in our neighborhood made for an easy target. We also see the Columbia Pike neighborhood changing significantly for the better and thought it would be funny to use the bus stop as a silly measurement of that improvement.”
The shirt takes a jab at the northern half of the county with a scoreboard that shows “South Arlington 1, North Arlington 0.”
“The reference to the scoreboard is to make light of the home grown competitiveness between the two sections of Arlington,” Godbout explained. He continued:
Prior to moving to South Arlington 13 years ago, I would not have been able to tell you the difference between North Arlington and South Arlington, except that one is south of Rt. 50 and the other north of Rt. 50. But after meeting people in the neighborhood, the general belief shared by some is that “North Arlington” has it better… better schools, more funding, more representation on the County Board, etc. So for some in South Arlington, the feeling is that we don’t have it as good. The reality is quite the opposite. I live in the Penrose neighborhood of South Arlington and love it here. My daughter goes to Patrick Henry which is exceptional. My business is in South Arlington and has enjoyed a resurgence in recent years. I love the advantages that South Arlington offers.
Godbout described PikeBuzz as a site that “promotes local businesses and allows us to increase the number of events offered on the Pike” by bringing more people to the area.
The site’s launch party will be held Wednesday from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. at the Drafthouse (2903 Columbia Pike). In addition to the free t-shirt, the event will feature free food, Karaoke and live acoustic music.
Arlington County and WMATA are launching a “full independent review” of the process and the expenses that led to the $1 million Walter Reed “Super Stop” on Columbia Pike.
The county announced the review in a press release this afternoon, after announcing last week that it was “reassessing” the design and cost of the controversial new bus stop. The stop was designed by Arlington after a two-year community process, then built by WMATA at a cost of more than $1 million.
The county and WMATA have not yet determined who will conduct the independent review of the stop, according to Arlington County spokeswoman Mary Curtius. The findings will be released to the public.
The county press release, after the jump.
Update on 4/2/13 — The CNN video is now online.
A CNN crew was on Columbia Pike today, shooting a news report on the controversial “Super Stop” bus stop at Walter Reed Drive.
The enhanced bus stop, one of 24 planned along the Pike, has attracted scrutiny since ARLnow.com first reported that its construction cost exceeded $1 million. On Friday, Arlington County said it was putting construction of additional Super Stops on hold pending a review of the project’s design and cost.
The bus stop features amenities like lighting, heating and an electronic display that shows when the next buses are coming, though some have complained that it does not offer adequate shelter from the elements.
The CNN report on the Super Stop is expected to air in the network’s 5:00 p.m. hour today (Monday), we’re told. It will be reported by CNN National Correspondent Rene Marsh.
The announcement comes following a public outcry about the cost of the first Super Stop, at the corner of Columbia Pike and Walter Reed Drive. As first reported by ARLnow.com, the prototype bus stop — which offers amenities like lighting, heating and an electronic display that shows when the next buses are coming — cost more than $1 million to build.
While county officials blamed the high cost and construction delays on various factors — it was the first of its kind, its construction was managed by WMATA, etc. — the amount budgeted for the remaining 23 stops in the planned Columbia Pike Super Stop network suggests a still-high per-stop cost of around $900,000.
Other criticism of the stops, which will eventually serve the Columbia Pike streetcar system, includes the lack of shelter from wind and rain.
In a press release, Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan calls the Super Stops a “key long-term transit investment.” But the county says it has cancelled bidding for the next planned Super Stop, in front of Penrose Square, pending a review of the design, timing and cost of the stops.
Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan said today that the County is reassessing the design and timing of the roll out of its planned Columbia Pike Super Stops in the wake of public concern about the recently opened Walter Reed Super Stop.
“Super Stops are a key long-term transit investment for our County,” Donnellan said. “They are integral to our efforts to transform Columbia Pike to a more transit-oriented Main Street. We have to get them right. Although our Walter Reed Super Stop is a prototype, and has only been operating for about a week, I’ve heard the community’s concerns about its design and cost. I have asked staff to pause the program while we look for ways to improve the design and reduce costs of future Super Stops.”
“This project took longer and cost more than it should have,” Donnellan said. “We have an obligation to the taxpayers of Arlington, the Commonwealth and the nation to ensure that our infrastructure projects are delivered in a timely, cost-effective manner. We will do better.”
Arlington built the Walter Reed prototype Super Stop under a project agreement with the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority (WMATA) that put Metro in charge of the stop’s construction. More than six months ago, the County deleted two other planned stops from its agreement with WMATA and will build all future Super Stops on its own. This week, the County rescinded an invitation to bid on the planned Penrose Square Super Stop pending the Super Stop design and cost reassessment.
“I ask riders to keep in touch with us about their experiences with the Walter Reed Super Stop,” Donnellan said. “Our goal is to build stops that are safe, comfortable and encourage more people to use transit.” Comments and suggestions should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org, with “Super Stop” in the subject line.
Long-term transit investment
Arlington plans to build 24 Super Stops along Columbia Pike, one of the most heavily travelled corridors in Northern Virginia. Each stop is meant to last for 30 years or more. Much more than a traditional bus stop, the Super Stops will shelter up to 15 riders and will serve both buses and the planned streetcar. Arlington’s Super Stops were designed with extensive input from riders and other community members during a multi-year public design process.
Now that a prototype has been built, and now that Arlington will be replacing WMATA as the project manager, the Columbia Pike Super Stop project should proceed in a much quicker, smoother and more cost-efficient manner, county officials said Tuesday.
The project will ultimately construct a network of 24 enhanced “Super Stop” bus stops along Columbia Pike, featuring real-time bus arrival screens, lighting, heating and a modern design. Arlington County officials briefed the County Board on the status of the project at its meeting yesterday (Tuesday) afternoon, following a minor public outcry about the over $1 million construction cost of the first stop.
(The county funded just over $200,000 of the construction budget, with the rest coming from state and federal sources.)
“This is perhaps the first of its type in the Commonwealth,” Arlington County Director of Transportation Dennis Leach said of the newly-completed Super Stop, at the corner of Columbia Pike and S. Walter Reed Drive. “In any new endeavor, you end up paying more in soft costs for the prototype. When you actually get the efficiency is… when you refine it and go out replicate the facilities.”
“This was a project that was a partnership between Arlington and WMATA,” he said. “Moving forward we are going to make a shift where these are going to be Arlington-managed construction projects. We hope to dramatically reduce the construction time, and we have already fine tuned the design… to make it easier to construct in the future.”
County Board member Chris Zimmerman said WMATA’s ability to run construction projects has been reduced over the past few years.
“Its capacity having been greatly diminished undoubtedly affected their ability to deal with a small project like this one,” he said.
Zimmerman said he believes the project is on track. Crews are expected to begin work this spring on a “Barton West” Super Stop near Penrose Square, followed by work on new stops at Columbus and Dinwiddie Streets later this summer.
“I’m a lot more confident going forward that we’ll be able to deliver these things on a reasonable basis in terms of time, budget and schedule,” he said.
Libby Garvey, a critic of the proposed Columbia Pike streetcar system (which will utilize the new stops, when built), asked a few tough questions about the project. She said she was still awaiting a breakdown of the costs of the project, and was skeptical that the open-air design would serve riders in bad weather.
“I did see the stop and it’s pretty, but I was struck by the fact that if it’s pouring rain i’m going to get wet, and if it’s cold the wind is going to be blowing on me,” she said. “It doesn’t seem to be much of a shelter.”
Zimmerman suggested there might be room for refining the design to provide more shelter in the rain, but said he was otherwise pleased with the distinctive design — which, he reminded the room, was chosen during a public process, with extensive input from residents.
“I personally think they’re extremely attractive,” he said. “Part of making people confident and comfortable using transit is creating places that they feel like they want to be, even in the dark.”
A new bus stop on Columbia Pike cost more than $1 million to build, according to a county spokeswoman.
The new prototype “Super Stop” at the corner of Columbia Pike and Walter Reed Drive cost $575,000 for construction and fabrication and $440,000 for construction management and special inspections, according to Arlington County Department of Environmental Services spokeswoman Shannon Whalen McDaniel.
Of the $1 million cost, just over $200,000 was paid for by the county, with the rest coming from VDOT, Whalen McDaniel said.
Much of the hefty cost can be attributed to the fact that the enhanced bus stop was a prototype for what will eventually be a network of 24 “Super Stops” up and down Columbia Pike, according to Whalen McDaniel. The stops will serve the future Columbia Pike streetcar system.
“Since this stop is the first of its kind, the cost is higher than your typical off-the-shelf bus shelter,” she said. “The costs will be greatly reduced with future stops moving forward, as the construction costs for this prototype included a number of first time design and set-up costs.”
“It’s too early to provide a cost estimate for the future stops, but it will be much less,” Whalen McDaniel said.
The Walter Reed stop features shelter for some 15 passengers, lighting, an electronic display that shows when the next buses are coming, and a number of unbranded newspaper boxes. It opened last week after nearly a year and a half of on-again, off-again construction activity.
Crews are expected to begin work this spring on a “Barton West” Super Stop near Penrose Square, followed by work on new stops at Columbus and Dinwiddie Streets later this summer.
The first of 24 planned “Super Stop” bus stops on Columbia Pike opened this morning.
The stop, on Columbia Pike at the intersection with Walter Reed Drive, offers riders a brighter, more open and attractive take on the traditional sheltered bus stop. The stop features lighting, an electronic display that shows when the next buses are coming, and a number of unbranded newspaper boxes (not yet filled).
At any given time some 15 passengers can use the stop, which serves Metro 16 and ART 45 buses.
Completion of the stop was long delayed, hampered by “a number of unexpected issues regarding construction and new materials,” according to a project rep. The project was first approved in 2011.
Crews are expected to begin work this spring on a “Barton West” Super Stop near Penrose Square, followed by work on new stops at Columbus and Dinwiddie Streets later this summer.
Delayed by “unexpected issues,” the first of the Columbia Pike “Super Stops” is finally expected to wrap up construction next month.
The new deluxe bus stop in front of the Rite Aid at the corner of Columbia Pike and Walter Reed Drive will offer shelter to 10-15 passengers with seating and lighting, real time electronic schedule information and other enhancements. It’s one of 24 planned Super Stops on the Pike.
“The Walter Reed Super Stop is the prototype for this project and the first bus stop of its kind in the region,” said project representative Corey Cranmer. “Given that, there have been a number of unexpected issues regarding construction and new materials that we have had to work through with WMATA during the project.”
Cranmer said the stop is “slated for completion in late February.” This spring, crews are expected to start work on the “Barton West” stop near Penrose Square. Construction on a pair of stops at Columbus and Dinwiddie Street will start at some point after July 1, following the completion of road work in the area.