Metro has has drawn up a fiscal year 2013 budget and has plans for another fare hike this summer. But before pushing forward with these two measures, the agency wants to hear your input at a series of meetings.
Meetings start tonight and will be held throughout the region, with Arlington’s taking place next Monday, March 5. An open forum will begin at 6:00 p.m. in the cafeteria at Washington-Lee High School (1301 N. Stafford St), and the public hearing will begin at 7:00 p.m.
The open forum will have several stations to provide information to the public. Tables staffed by senior workers of Metrobus, Metrorail, MetroAccess, SmarTrip and police will be set up to give specific information and answer individual questions. In another area, a video presentation will be shown regarding Metro’s rebuilding program. There will also be a station with computers where participants can take an online survey and submit comments about Metro’s priorities.
Metro’s $1.6 billion FY2013 budget is an increase of $116 million over the last fiscal year. It shows a net decrease in revenue of $3 million over last fiscal year. The proposed fare increases are expected to generate $66 million. An additional $53 million increase in funding would come from jurisdictions.
In looking at the breakdown of the $116 million increase in the budget, Metro reports that $61 million is needed for higher expenses for existing operations. Half of that is due to the higher cost of fringe benefits, such as health care and pension benefits. The other half is due to an increase in contracted labor costs. The remaining $55 million is for improvements in safety, security and reliability.
The budget would cover projects designed to bring Metro in line with some NTSB recommendations, such as upgrading the signal system and replacing the oldest rail cars. Track rehabilitation and replacement of the system’s escalators and elevators is also planned.
Along with the fare increase, Metro plans to simplify the fare structure and do away with the current “peak of the peak” pricing, which was deemed too confusing. The Metro Board is expected to act on the budget in June, and fare changes are expected to go into effect on or around July 1.
Along with detailed information about the budget and fare increases, information about registering to speak at the public hearing or submitting written comments can be found online. There’s also an online survey regarding the budget and fare increases.
A bicyclist was struck by a Metrobus at the intersection of S. Glebe Road and Lang Street this morning.
The bus was traveling eastbound around 9:15 a.m. when it apparently struck the cyclist in or near the intersection. The cyclist suffered a head injury but was conscious when he was loaded into an ambulance and brought to the hospital.
Impact damage was visible on the Metrobus’ windshield.
Arlington County police and Metro personnel were taking photos and measurements of the scene following the accident. Traffic on S. Glebe Road was snarled as police blocked blocked one and periodically both lanes during the investigation.
A video obtained by WTOP shows a Metrobus driver running a red light and nearly getting in a collision at the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. Joyce Street.
The bus is shown coming down the steep, curvy hill near the Air Force Memorial and driving right through the red light — even honking its horn as an SUV with the right-of-way drives in front of the bus’ path.
The video is one of several dozen obtained by WTOP through a public records request. Many of the videos depict collisions and near-collisions with vehicles and pedestrians, as recorded by a “Drivecam” video camera in the front of the bus.
The head of Metro’s bus operations told WTOP that the Metrobus system is safe when compared with other large bus systems across the country.
Visitors to Java Shack (2507 Franklin Rd.) in Courthouse can now pick up more than just a coffee and bakery item. A transit screen fixed near the register lets them pick up a better idea of what transit options are available in the neighborhood.
The pilot project came about when Arlington County Commuter Services offered to put up funding for creating systems that help people better understand their transit options. They collaborated with Mobility Lab to come up with some ideas, and the transit screens were born.
David Alpert is Mobility Lab’s Project Manager for the Transit Tech Initiative, and was a bit surprised by the request. He says it’s fairly unusual for a local government to push for this kind of research and development.
“We wanted to push the envelope with this technology,” Alpert says. “It’s really great that Arlington is able to provide that.”
The screens display constantly updated times and availability for a variety of transit options, including Metrobus, Metrorail, ART Bus and Capital Bikeshare. Alpert believes more people would use public transit if they realized how many options are readily available in real time. He said public transit not only helps people get around, but improves the quality of their lives.
“Arlington has had so much growth in the Rosslyn to Ballston corridor, but not a ton of traffic growth, because so many options are out there,” Alpert said. “Buses, metro, biking. It improves, of course, the environment but people’s happiness as well.”
So far the only other location to be included in the pilot program is The Red Palace in Washington, DC. Java Shack owner Dale Roberts was approached due to his previous work with ACCS. Roberts says the screen, which hangs unobtrusively from the ceiling near the cash register, doesn’t interfere with his business at all. In fact, customers are asking about it and have given a lot of positive feedback.
“The idea is to get people to be aware that there are lots of options besides just using their own car,” Roberts said. “Seeing that screen lets me know how many options are right there at the corner of the coffee shop.”
Mobility Lab is still working out how it will fund the project in order to expand it. The equipment costs about $400, and businesses will likely have to foot the bill. Alpert says the pricing structure hasn’t been formulated yet and many different ideas have been floated.
Starting Sunday, some of the local Metrobus routes will permanently change. It’s part of Metro’s plan to improve service reliability, work with current traffic conditions and relieve crowding.
Metro made the changes based on recommendations from the results of a Service Evaluation Study. The following will affect Arlington:
- New weekday and weekend running times on the 23A and 23C routes (McLean-Crystal City Line) to reflect increased passenger demand and traffic congestion.
- New weekday travel times on the 25A and 25E routes (Ballston-Bradlee-Pentagon Line). On the 25A, new afternoon peak running times will address increased traffic congestion along the line. On the 25E, westbound trips will depart the Pentagon between 8:43 a.m. and 2:45 p.m., and eastbound trips will depart Ballston Station between 9:40 a.m. and 2:38 p.m. These trips will bypass Shirlington and serve the Parkfairfax area including Gunston Rd., Valley Dr., Martha Custis Dr., and Preston Rd.
New timetables are available aboard all buses and online. To get a more in-depth view of all the Metrobus changes that start on Sunday, click here.
A three-to-four vehicle accident involving Metrobus occurred at the intersection of Army Navy Drive and S. Hayes Street, in Pentagon City, just after 3:00 this afternoon.
Two injuries were reported, but at least initially there were no injuries reported on the bus.
The accident snarled traffic at the busy intersection, adjacent to Pentagon City mall. Police and firefighters are currently on the scene.
Metro leadership and members of the Accessibility Advisory Committee will be on hand at the meeting to hear what customers believe could be improved or changed. The meeting runs from 6:30-8:00 p.m., with an informational open house beginning at 6:00 p.m.
MetroAccess is a door-to-door shuttle service for people who have a disability preventing them from using rail or buses. The current MetroAccess contract expires on June 30, 2013.
Anyone who can’t make the meeting but has constructive comments to share can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 202-962-1141.
The driver of the SUV was reported to have suffered minor injuries. No injuries were reported on the bus.
Traffic heading toward northbound Washington Boulevard squeezes by the accident scene. No HOV lanes are blocked.
On Saturday the Arlington County Board approved a number of transportation projects designed to improve the safety, appearance and accessibility of streets, sidewalks, trails and bus stops in the county.
Arlington agreed to match $935,000 in state funds — a total of $1.87 million — for four “priority transportation projects.” The projects include:
- Old Dominion Drive, Phase II — “Installation of curb, gutters, storm drains, sidewalks, upgraded traffic signals, street lights and bus stops on Old Dominion Drive between North Glebe Road and 38th Street North. The County and State will each provide $500,000 toward this project. Total funding is $4.37 million.”
- Washington Boulevard Trail Phase II — “Construction of a trail parallel to Washington Boulevard from 2nd Street South to Columbia Pike. The County and State will each provide $170,000 toward this project. Total funding is $1.6 million.”
- Five Points Intersection Improvements — “Pedestrian improvements to sidewalks and street crossings at the intersection of Old Dominion Drive, Lee Highway, Military Road, and North Quincy Street. The County and State will each provide $225,000 toward this project. Total funding is $650,000.”
- Kirkwood Road Pedestrian Improvements — “Construction of new sidewalks along the west side of Kirkwood Road from 17th Street North to Lee Highway. Work is slated to begin in the fall of 2011.The County and State will each provide $40,000 toward this project. The total funding for this project is $280,000.”
“The transportation projects that the Board is authorizing today reflect the County’s policy of building infrastructure to support many types of travel,” County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman said in a statement over the weekend.
The Board also approved five Neighborhood Conservation projects that will improve and beautiful streets, sidewalks and medians in the Tara Leeway Heights, Leeway, Glencarlyn, Ashton Heights and Yorktown neighborhoods. The projects carry a price tag of $2.8 million.
“Through Neighborhood Conservation, residents identify the projects that will improve pedestrian safety, prevent flooding, light streets and beautify public spaces in their neighborhoods,” Zimmerman said. “It is an effective way to ensure that Arlington neighborhoods remain strong, safe and attractive.”
Finally, the Board approved a nearly $400,000 contract to upgrade “31 existing, high-priority bus stops across the County.” (The stops include Metrobus and ART bus stops.) The upgrades include new bus shelters, improved street crossings, new or upgraded sidewalks, as well as new curb ramps, benches, trash receptacles and landscaping. The project is being paid for with federal and state funds.
While Columbia Pike will be getting its first of two dozen planned “Super Stop” bus shelters later this year, more modest improvements are in the works for 31 other bus shelters around the county (see map, left).
This weekend the Arlington County Board is expected to approve a nearly $400,000 contract to upgrade bus stops in various “County designated high-priority zones.”
“Improvements include improved crossings, curb ramps, the addition or replacement of bus shelters, benches and trash receptacles, the addition or upgrade of existing sidewalks, and landscaping,” according to the board report. “As the construction progresses, periodic traffic restrictions may be required upon roadways in the vicinity of the active construction zone.”
The project is being fully paid for with state and federal funds. A second, more limited phase of the project is expected to follow the current contract.
The first of the so-called “Super Stops” will be built at Walter Reed Drive and the Pike. Work on two other stops — at Columbus and Dinwiddie Streets — is also expected to begin this fall, with a fourth Super Stop expected to be built at Barton Street, near Penrose Square, during the spring of 2012. Combined, the four stops serve more than 2,000 passengers per day.
The new stops will feature heated seats, floors, new lighting, glass windscreen walls enhanced weather protection, and electronic signs that will show bus arrival and departure information. The Super Stops will accommodate 10-15 riders, compared to the six riders who can fit in current bus shelters.
“Super Stops are the bus stop of the future,” County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman said in 2008, when the stops were first announced. Plans to offer WiFi internet access at each stop has been scrapped due to advances in smartphones and other consumer technology, according to county spokeswoman Shannon Whalen McDaniel.
After the first four “pilot” stops are built, Arlington expects to construct future stops at Navy Annex, Courthouse Road, Glebe Road, Monroe Street, George Mason Drive, Taylor and Thomas Streets, Buchanan Street and Greenbrier Street. Eventually, 24 Super Stops will be built. Officials say the stops will eventually serve as stops for the planned Columbia Pike streetcar.
While the new stops are under construction, existing bus stops will be relocated to the other end of the block.
Update at 12:55 p.m. — WMATA will oversee construction of the stops, with Arlington and the federal government footing the bill, which is estimated at $2.15 million first the first
four three stops. Of that, $430,000, or 20 percent, will come from the county while the rest will come from federal highway funds, according to Whalen McDaniel. The remainder of the project will be about 90 percent funded by federal and state grants, with the rest coming from the county.
The agency says it is calling in additional support personnel, who will be “on duty throughout the weekend to respond to any situations that may arise.”
WMATA is supplying chain saws to Metro drivers, “for use in the event of downed trees.” Metrobuses and MetroAccess vehicles may be detoured around fallen trees and flooded areas, as necessary. Metro is also checking all drainage pumps and clearing out debris from drainage areas near Metro stations.
“Supervisors will monitor critical locations, such as bus garages, parking garages, and flood-prone areas throughout the weekend,” Metro said in a press release.
Metro has placed more than 2,000 sandbags around the escalators of Metrorail stations that have a history of flooding, including the Foggy Bottom and King Street stations. None of the listed stations are in Arlington.
“We’re putting all of our resources in place to address any issues that arise out of the extreme weather conditions this weekend,” said Metro General Manager and CEO Richard Sarles. “We will be updating our customers through our website, Twitter, email alerts and the media.”
See our earlier post on Arlington County’s hurricane preparations here.
Last Wednesday, according to the latest Arlington County crime report, a bus driver assaulted two women after one of the women tossed a drink at him.
ASSAULT AND BATTERY-ARREST, 07/13/10, 800 block of N. Randolph Street. On July 13 at 1:15 pm, a bus driver assaulted two women after one of the women threw a soda at him. Joseph Milliner, 40, of Temple Hills, MD, was charged with two counts of Assault and Battery. He was released on his own recognizance.
See the rest of this week’s crime report, after the jump.
Shirlington Oktoberfest Returns — A date has been set for this year’s Oktoberfest event in Shirlington. The annual celebration of all things German and beer-related will take place on Saturday, Oct. 8. Tickets are $25. [Shirlington Village Blog]
Pike Library, Career Center Renovations — A series of improvements is planned for the building on S. Walter Reed Drive that houses the Columbia Pike Branch Library and the Arlington Career Center. Over the next 9 months crews will replace the building’s windows and front doors, roof and drainage system and the entire heating and air conditioning system.
Firefighters Endorse Areizaga-Soto — The Arlington Professional Firefighters and Paramedics Association has endorsed Jaime Areizaga-Soto for state Senate. “Jaime understands the needs of Firefighters in Arlington County and across the 31st
District,” said local union president Sean O’Connell. Areizaga-Soto is facing a tough primary battle against Arlington County Board member Barbara Favola.
Don’t Blame Metrobus Drivers – County Board Chairman and former Metro board member Chris Zimmerman says overpaid drivers are not to blame for the transit agency’s troubles. Metrobus drivers make more than their counterparts at suburban bus systems like Arlington’s ART or the Fairfax Connector service. [Sun Gazette]
Flickr pool photo by Chris Rief
Update at 9:30 a.m. — The accident has been cleared and Columbia Pike has reopened.
Westbound Columbia Pike has been shut down in front of the Arlington Cinema Drafthouse due to a truck fire.
A rental truck caught fire around 8:30 this morning. Firefighters quickly extinguished the flames, but an oil leak has now reportedly been discovered.
Firefighters and police are expected to remain on the scene for about an hour — until about 10:00 a.m. — as the leak is cleaned up. Traffic is being diverted onto Walter Reed Drive.
While ARLnow.com was on the scene, a Metrobus driver decided to skip the detour and instead drive westbound in the eastbound turn lane of Columbia Pike (see photo above).