After the public outcry, poor design and organizational problems that warranted an independent review of the $1 million S. Walter Reed Drive Super Stop, Arlington’s scaled back plan for the rest of Columbia Pike is being met with general approval.
The new plan, to build 23 more transit stations at key intersections along the Pike for a total cost of $12.4 million, was brought before the public yesterday evening at the Arlington Mill Community Center. The stations will cost an average of 40 percent less than the prototype built at Walter Reed Drive.
The transit stations are 50 percent designed and now the county’s Department of Environmental Services, which is leading the project, is looking to incorporate public feedback.
“We want to improve on what happened with the Walter Reed station,” project manager Matthew Huston told the group of about a dozen community members last night.
The designs are modular, and some of the stations will have smaller or bigger overhangs, seating areas and boarding displays, based on demand. After installation, they can be added to once ridership increases, and it likely will; Huston said the county projects bus ridership to double on the Pike in the next 20 years.
Among those in attendance yesterday was David Dickson, the transportation chair for the Mount Vernon group of the Sierra Club. He and other attendees walked among panels county staff had laid out, showing residents the choices they had regarding side panels, layout of the information signs and seating.
“I think it’s good, and they’re working out the details,” Dickson said of the new proposal. “To the layperson, the redesign seems far superior to the prototype. It’s cheaper and seems like a better design.”
Huston compared the designs to transit stations in other communities, which cost roughly $500,000 on average. The “standard” size transit station on the Pike is projected to cost $469,000, and “extended” stops coming with a $672,000 price tag.
The examples from other jurisdictions Huston gave — Norfolk, Va., Charlotte, N.C., Grand Rapids, Mich., and Eugene, Ore. — all serviced either bus rapid transit or a light rail system. Columbia Pike, for now, is planned to have neither.
Among the questions and preferences attendees expressed on the stations were: a request for side panels, handicap accessibility and debating over how much protection from the elements should be provided when sacrificing sidewalk space.
The design for the first eight transit stations — two each at the Pike’s intersections of S. Glebe Road, Oakland, Buchanan and Barton Streets — is expected to be completed by July, after which construction can begin, Huston said.
Arlington Transportation Director Dennis Leach was also on hand to give residents an update on the county’s overall transportation plan and vision for the Pike corridor. With the additional bus service coming to Arlington Rapid Transit on the weekend, the county is trying to mitigate the delays in long-term transit planning caused by the streetcar’s cancellation.
The $1 million “super stop” at Columbia Pike and S. Walter Reed Drive — the exorbitant price tag for which became national news — was so expensive because of poor communication, an independent review found.
The review, conducted by CliftonLarsonAllen, found that a “lack of clear communication between County and WMATA staff” and “poor execution of construction performance” were the main reasons the prototype took so long, and cost so much to build.
That poor execution includes the bus stop not being built to what was designed, including glass panels being produced at the wrong size; curbs being built at the wrong height and having to be redone; and a four-year delay in getting approval from the Virginia Department of Transportation.
According to the report, the initial budget of $2.15 million was supposed to cover three “super stops.” There was no communication between the county and WMATA over any change in the budget when plans for the two that were never built were ultimately scrapped. On Dec. 22, 2011, the county informed WMATA that it wanted to cease site work for the two other stops, called Dinwiddie West and Dinwiddie East.
“While it would appear the removal of site work for the two stops would result in a lower base cost… no official communication was made by the county to WMATA,” requesting the budget be lowered, the report states. “We find that the county should have requested a proposal for the deductive change order (lowering the budget), and then should have proceeded with negotiations” to change the terms of the agreement with WMATA
According to the review, $881,933 — less than the oft-cited $1 million — was spent on the prototype that still stands today, but $456,882 was sunk into the two prototypes that were never built.
“We accept the findings of this report,” County Manager Barbara Donnellan said in a press release. “They confirm concerns that we already had, and we have already addressed the issues systematically, so we can ensure that the remaining 23 transit stations will be built efficiently and cost-effectively. I asked for this review because, as I have said before, the Walter Reed prototype took too long and cost too much to build.”
The county announced in May that the remaining 23 transit stops would be redesigned with modular components, reducing the total project budget from $20.9 million to $12.4 million. Moreover, the county is now working independently of WMATA in designing and building the transit stations, which, when built, will accommodate both bus and streetcar passengers.
As opposed to the custom-built “super stop,” the transit stations have a modular design, with interchangeable parts that allow flexibility from station to station, and are significantly cheaper to build and maintain. Construction is expected to begin construction on the first eight transit stations by FY 2017.
“This project was an exception for Arlington,” Donnellan said. “We have a solid record of delivering large, complex projects in a timely, cost-effective manner… Unfortunately, work on the Walter Reed prototype began in 2007 at a time when WMATA was scaling back its capital improvement management program, and the project suffered as a result. Delivery was further complicated by the fact that several entities were involved. With the completion of this thorough review, we are confident that we are well positioned to effectively deliver the transit stations that the Pike needs, and continue to rebuild the Pike’s transportation infrastructure.”
Last week, Arlington County revealed the new design for its enhanced transit stops along Columbia Pike.
The new stops cost between $362,000 and $672,000, depending on size. They will serve riders of buses and — eventually, as currently planned — streetcars with a large, angled canopy, concrete seats and an electronic real-time arrival display.
The cost of the stops has been significantly reduced since the county put a halt to the “Super Stop” design that resulted in the infamous $1 million bus stop at the corner of the Pike and S. Walter Reed Drive.
(Updated at 3:55 p.m.) The county’s plan for “Super Stop” bus stops on Columbia Pike, which led to the much-maligned $1 million Super Stop at the corner of the Pike and S. Walter Reed Drive, has been scrapped in favor of a more affordable design.
The county announced this afternoon that the new plan calls for building the 23 additional transit centers along the Pike for about 40 percent less than the previous budget, dropping the total price from $20.9 million to $12.4 million. The cost of individual stations will be between $362,000 and $672,000.
The freshly-redesigned stops — which were designed by the county and a consultant — will feature six covered, concrete seats, as opposed to the Super Stop’s steel seats. The canopies, which on the Super Stop did little to keep out the elements, will be lowered in height from 13 feet to 10 feet and the angle reduced from 10 degrees to 1.5 degrees. The total canopy coverage will also increase from 243 to 295 square feet on standard transit centers. In addition, side windscreens will be added to enhance weather protection.
“Our goal was accountability, to pinpoint what went wrong in the project management on the Super Stop design, to account for how the money was spent and, going forward, to ensure the transit stations will be built effectively,” County Manager Barbara Donnellan said at a press conference held at the Arlington Mill Community Center on Columbia Pike. “Our new design firm has produced… a transit station with a price tag far below the Walter Reed prototype.”
The new stops, which the county is rebranding from “Super Stops” to “transit centers,” have a modular design, meaning each is built with standardized parts that can be added on to in order to create larger stations, as needed. A “single-size” station will cost $362,000, a “standard” transit center will cost $469,000, and an “extended” transit center — planned for the north side of the Pike at S. Glebe Road, for example — will cost about $672,000.
The county will soon issue a request for proposals, after which it will undergo a design phase, with hopes to start work on the first eight stops by FY 2017. The county will directly oversee construction, whereas WMATA was the construction lead on the original Super Stop — something Arlington officials blamed in part for project delays and high costs.
Donnellan said the review of why the Super Stop was so expensive and took too long to build isn’t finalized yet, but hopes to announce its findings within two months.
“I am disappointed the review is not done yet,” she said. “We are working really collaboratively with Metro to finalize the information. It’s sort of like a reconstruction of the information that’s been compiled over the last 10 years.”
The first eight stops to be built are expected to be on either sides of the Pike at S. Glebe Road, S. Oakland Street, S. Barton Street and S. Buchanan Street. As for the Walter Reed Super Stop, it won’t be torn down, said Transit Bureau Chief Stephen Del Giudice. Instead the county will “examine what can be done to improve its performance and weather protection.”
The county surveyed 732 individuals, 515 of whom were users of the Walter Reed stop, and used their input — largely complaints about the lack of weather protection — to design the new transit centers. The survey respondents all liked, however, the real-time information display and the “overall aesthetic” of the stop. Both elements have been incorporated into the new stops.
The county’s press release on the topic, after the jump.
Sweet Leaf Cafe Coming to Ballston — Sweet Leaf Cafe will be opening a second Arlington location. In addition to the existing Courthouse location, the local salad and sandwich chain will be opening a new cafe at 650 N. Quincy Street in Ballston, on the ground floor of the Residence Inn hotel. [Washington Business Journal]
Businesses Optimistic About County Ombudsman — Local businesses and developers hope that the appointment of assistant county manager Shannon Flanagan-Watson as Arlington County’s “business ombudsman” is another sign that that the county is serious about cutting red tape and being friendlier to business interests. [InsideNoVa]
GGW Blasts Streetcar Referendum Idea — Greater Greater Washington writer Canaan Merchant says that the Columbia Pike streetcar referendum proposal floated last week by Congressional candidate Del. Patrick Hope and County Board candidate Alan Howze is “pointless and possibly destructive.” [Greater Greater Washington]
TSA Opens Pre-Check Office in DCA — The Transportation Security Administration has opened a Pre-Check enrollment center at Reagan National Airport. The Pre-Check program allows “known travelers” who sign up to go through expedited screening lines at the airport. [Washington Post]
County to Provide Super Stop Update — County officials this afternoon will be holding a media briefing to provide an update into the comprehensive review into the $1 million “Super Stop” bus stop. Construction of the other 23 planned Super Stops is on hold while the county reviews cost and functionality concerns associated with the first Super Stop.
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
Opower Sets IPO Price — Courthouse-based Opower is expected to start selling shares on the New York Stock Exchange today. The company set the price for its initial public offering at $19 per share. [Washington Business Journal]
A Brief History of Fairlington — Arlington’s Fairlington neighborhood was built by the U.S. government in the 1940s in response to a housing shortage caused by World War II. It’s listed in the National Register of Historic Places. [Washington Post]
AFAC Fundraiser Tonight — The Arlington Food Assistance Center’s Young Professionals group will hold its annual Hunger Is No Joke fundraiser tonight at Cafe Asia in Rosslyn. The 90s cover band White Ford Bronco will perform. [Clarendon Nights]
Cuban Band to Perform at Artisphere Tonight — Also tonight, at Artisphere in Rosslyn, the Grammy-nominated Cuban music group Tiempo Libre will perform. Tickets to the 8:00 p.m. performance are $25 at the door. [Ode Street Tribune]
Temporary Bus Stop Relocations — A number of bus stops on N. Moore Street in front of the Rosslyn Metro station will be relocated from 8:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. tonight, tomorrow and Sunday. The relocations are necessary to allow the demolition of the Moore Street skybridge. Also, starting today, the ART 53 bus stop at Old Glebe and N. Stafford Street is closed for construction for about a week. [Arlington Transit]
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.