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 group Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit (AST) is responding to the county’s stated benefits of the Arlington streetcar project with a set of ads claiming a streetcar “doesn’t make any sense.”
The four ads posted on the group’s “Myth Busters Page” focus on streetcar capacity, dedicated lanes and comparisons to buses and Metro. They feature a woman and man talking about why the county says residents would benefit from a streetcar, with most of the clips ending on the man stating, “That doesn’t make any sense.”
“Streetcar supporters have tried to mislead the public into thinking that streetcars on Columbia Pike would be just like Metro, and that only streetcars have the capacity to handle ridership growth. Supporters also argue that bus rapid transit (BRT) cannot be a transit upgrade on the Pike because BRT requires a dedicated lane,” said Peter Rousselot, a leader of AST and an ARLnow.com opinion columnist. “AST’s new ads feature two AST supporters who explain succinctly why these claims by streetcar supporters are false and make no sense.”
Over the summer, the county released several videos explaining “Why Streetcar.” Last month, the County Board approved a $26 million preliminary design and engineering contract for the streetcar project. That’s 5.4 percent of the estimated $481 million total project cost.
Metro Weekend Service Adjustments — Due to work on the Metrorail system, trains on the Orange and Blue Lines will run every 24 minutes this weekend. The altered schedule begins at 10:00 p.m. on Friday, November 22, and runs through closing on Sunday, November 24. [WMATA]
Metro Sign Upgrades on the Way — By the end of the winter, Metrorail riders should notice a number of upgrades to the electronic signs announcing train arrivals. Some improvements include making the display crisper so it’s easier to read from a distance and temporarily stopping service advisories from scrolling on the screens when trains are arriving. [Washington Post]
ART System Expansion — At its meeting on Tuesday (November 19), the County Board approved a plan to expand the ART bus system within the next year. Two lines will be added and one line will have service later into the evening. [Sun Gazette]
Students Place First in Video Contest — Six students at Arlington Career Center won first place for the video they submitted to the Virginia School Boards Association student video contest. High school students were challenged to create a 30 second video for the theme “What’s Super About Public Schools.” [Arlington Public Schools]
An ART bus will be more colorful for the next year, thanks to the winner of the ARTists for PAL Bus Design Contest.
County Board Chair Walter Tejada and County Manager Barbara Donnellan joined in a ceremony on Thursday for the unveiling of the winning bus wrap. They recognized Annemarie Dougherty, who will be an 8th grader at St. Agnes Catholic School in the fall, for her winning design.
Dougherty offered the following description of her design:
“My picture on the bus incorporates the ‘Be a PAL’ theme because the cars, bikes and people are sharing the space and are aware of the street signs. This shows that it is equally important for pedestrians, bikers and drivers to watch out for each other and their surroundings. In addition the street is green reminding people to walk or bike more.”
The contest asked middle and high school students to submit designs in line with the theme “Share Our Streets — Be a PAL.” The 26 entries were narrowed down to three finalists and Arlington residents were able to vote online for their favorite.
The newly wrapped bus will be on display at the Arlington County Fair this weekend. After that, it will take to the streets and will remain decorated for about one year.
All of the other contest entries are on display inside the bus.
Starting next week, some riders of the two major bus service providers in Arlington will notice schedule changes.
Metrobus will begin its service changes this Sunday, June 30. Different schedules will go into effect on various lines throughout the metro area, but the following are the major changes in Arlington:
16A, 16B, 16D, 16E, 16J, 16P Columbia Pike
- A new time-point will be created at Columbia Pike and Orme Street due to the demolition of Navy Annex. The westbound time-point for Columbia Pike and John Marr Drive will be moved one stop east to Columbia Pike & Evergreen Lane to allow for a common time-point for all lines. Scheduled times will be adjusted one minute earlier from the times shown for the John Marr Drive time-points.
16G, 16H, 16K Columbia Heights West-Pentagon City
- A new time-point will be created at Columbia Pike and Orme Street due to the demolition of Navy Annex.
16X MetroExtra Columbia Pike-Federal Triangle
- The westbound trip leaving 11th and E Street NW to Pentagon at 6:40 p.m. will be extended to Culmore arriving at 7:23 p.m. in response to customer requests for a later limited stop trip to Culmore.
- MetroExtra designated stops will be added at Columbia Pike and Oakland Street in response to customer requests. This location is halfway between existing MetroExtra stops at Glebe Road and George Mason Drive. Scheduled trips will be adjusted by one minute to accommodate the additional stop at Oakland Street.
- Weekday peak a.m. westbound and p.m. eastbound short trips between Pentagon and Federal Triangle will be adjusted to operate every 20-35 minutes. Trips leaving Federal Triangle at 9:24 a.m. and 9:44 a.m. and Pentagon Station at 6:40 p.m. will be discontinued.
16Y MetroExtra Columbia Pike-Farragut Square
- MetroExtra designated stops will be added at Columbia Pike and Oakland Street in response to requests from customers. This is approximately halfway between existing MetroExtra stops at Glebe Road and George Mason Drive. Scheduled times will be adjusted by one minute to accommodate the additional stop at Oakland Street.
Information about all the schedule changes throughout the system can be found on WMATA’s website.
Changes to ART 45, 53 and 75 schedules will go into effect on Monday, July 1. They are as follows:
- Will no longer serve S. Greenbrier Street. Instead, from Carlin Springs Road, the route will remain on 8th Road past Greenbrier, turn right onto S. Dinwiddie St. and then turn left onto Columbia Pike. The schedule will remain the same. ART 41 will continue to serve S. Greenbrier Street.
- The following bus stops will no longer be served by ART 45: Columbia Pike EB at S. Frederick St (#75106), S. Greenbrier St SB at #835 (#45015)
- The following bus stops will be added to the ART 45 route: 8th Road S. EB at #5100 (#15041), S. Dinwiddie Street SB at 8th Road S. (#41233), S. Dinwiddie Street SB at Columbia Pike, NS (#41001)
- A new extension to Westover will be added to the route during morning and evening rush hours. The extension will go from East Falls Church Metro, down Washington Blvd. to Westover and then loop back to Washington Blvd. via Patrick Henry Drive and 16th St. N./N. Longfellow St. The extension will serve the shops at Westover, Swanson Middle School and the Westover Library.
- New eastbound bus stops will be located at: Washington Blvd and N. Quantico Street, Washington Blvd and N. Ohio Street, Washington Blvd. and N. McKinley Street
- New westbound bus stops will be located at: Patrick Henry Drive and Washington Blvd., N. Longfellow Street and Washington Blvd., Washington Blvd. and N. McKinley Road, Washington Blvd. and N. Ohio Street, Washington Blvd. and N. Quantico Street.
- Schedule frequency will be changed to every 30 minutes during morning and evening rush hours and every 45 minutes between 9:00 a.m.-2:15 p.m. and after 8:00 p.m.
More information about the ART changes, including route maps and full schedules, can be found on the Arlington Transit website.
At a Wednesday night townhall meeting, residents joined the County Board in a sometimes heated discussion about bringing streetcars to Crystal City and Columbia Pike. Two opposing local organizations are also sounding off on the issue.
Following the townhall, John Snyder, president of the pro-streetcar group Arlington Streetcar Now, issued the following statement:
“Arlingtonians strongly support moving forward with the streetcar which neighborhoods and
businesses have been working to bring about for a decade. The streetcar represents a next-generation transit solution that will increase capacity, improve ridership, and spark new investment that will enhance and revitalize our community.
“Arlingtonians acknowledge the foresight of those who supported Metro over the naysayers, and know that this generation has a similar choice to make. Tonight Arlingtonians demonstrated that they know the streetcar is an extraordinary opportunity to support an transportation investment in our future that will pay dividends for South Arlington neighborhoods and the well being of the county as a whole.”
Peter Rousselot, spokesman for Arlingtonians for Sensible Transit, issued a statement presenting an opposing viewpoint:
“We continue to be deeply concerned about the unwillingness of the County Board to fairly consider transit options for Columbia Pike, other than the fixed-rail streetcar. There is much evidence that rational and viable alternatives exist.
“Unfortunately, as the County Board has done on other occasions, it used most of the Town Hall merely to restate the same claims in favor of the streetcar proposal without allowing a full discussion of other options. As we have said, there is at least one highly attractive alternative – modern bus rapid transit (BRT) – which:
- Produces virtually the same increase in transit capacity,
- Would have the same positive impact on commercial development,
- Would have far less adverse impact on small business,
- Is far less expensive,
- And thus would preserve more scarce financial resources to support affordable housing and many other priorities.”
The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation has launched a study, called the Super NoVA Transit/Transportation Demand Management (TDM) Vision Plan, examining transit in Northern Virginia. It evaluates issues such as commuting patterns and projected travel demand for what is considered one of the most congested areas in the entire state.
The study will look at possible enhancements for transit and provide a vision for improving mobility throughout the region without increasing the number of vehicles occupied by only one person. When completed in the fall, the study will lay out short-term strategies along with long-term solutions through 2040.
Meetings are being held throughout Northern Virginia to explain the study and collect public input. DRPT will hold an open house on Tuesday at the Crystal City Shops from 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., in front of the Rite Aid Pharmacy (1671 Crystal Square Arcade).
An online survey is also available until March 1 for those who cannot attend the open house but would like to give feedback.
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.
The project will enhance bus service to accommodate recent and upcoming developments in the area. Dedicated bus lanes are planned along Crystal Drive, S. Clark Street and S. Bell Street. During the first phase, seven new stops will be added along the route, in addition to the existing one at the Crystal City Metro station. Eventually, the plan is for the project to expand to the Pentagon City Metro station and south to the Braddock Road Metro station in Alexandria.
The locations of the new stations are already set, but you can help name them. The survey allows you to vote for suggested names or fill in your own ideas. To participate in the survey, click here. It will be available until November 10.
The opening of an affordable housing community in Ballston was welcomed with much fanfare on Tuesday evening. Numerous county officials joined new residents at The Jordan (801 N. Wakefield St.) for a grand opening ceremony.
The apartments are aimed at individuals or families earning 50-60% of the area’s mean income. A key selling point of the apartments is their proximity to local businesses and public transportation. They’re about one block from Ballston Commons Mall and about four blocks from the Ballston Metro. County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman pointed out that this is important because the people who typically need public transit the most are those with lower incomes. Residents at The Jordan are also eligible for a public transit subsidy.
Zimmerman said because Arlington is becoming a more expensive place to live, it’s vital to be creative and innovative in providing housing options. He said the county is at risk of losing its diversity without such options.
“We need to make sure this is a place in which everyone can live,” Zimmerman said. “Not just those who are privileged with a high income.”
The property is owned and managed by AHC Inc., a nonprofit developer of low and moderate-income housing. They acquired the property through a land swap with The JBG Companies. It’s part of the larger mixed-use development under construction at the corner of Glebe Rd. and Wilson Blvd.
The Jordan replaces the previous affordable housing complex nearby, Jordan Manor, which was demolished nearly three years ago. Residents at Jordan Manor who wished to move into The Jordan received first pick on the apartments. The Jordan houses 90 apartments, whereas Jordan Manor had only 24.
Five of the building’s units have three bedrooms and can accomodate larger families. Nine of the units are fully accessible to residents with disabilities. Amenities include a library, business center, courtyard with fountain and community room.
The first residents moved into The Jordan about a month ago, and the building is currently two-thirds occupied.
Originally scheduled for Feb. 13 but postponed due to snow, the drill will simulate an explosion on a Metrorail train in the tunnel between the Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom stations. Arlington police and firefighters — along with emergency personnel from Metro and other jurisdictions — will test out new Mobile Emergency Response Vehicles (left), the first motorized rescue carts used by a U.S. transit organization.
The exercise will begin at 1:00 a.m. Sunday, but first responders and volunteer “victims” should arrive at the Rosslyn station around 11:00 p.m. Saturday. The exercise is expected to run until 5:00 a.m.
The Rosslyn station will remain open until the normal closing time, but after 11:00 p.m. Blue Line trains will share one track between Foggy Bottom and Arlington Cemetery and Orange Line trains will share one track between Foggy Bottom and Courthouse.
A provocative series of photographs are on display at six Washington-area Metro stations, including Rosslyn and Pentagon City.
The photographs, displayed in frames usually reserved for advertisements, show the faces of nine American soldiers photographed between tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The photograph at the Rosslyn Metro, above, went on display Thursday. It will remain there until April 4th.
It’s officially Girl Scout cookie time. Cookies will be on sale outside the following Metro stations from 3:00 to 7:00 tonight.
- Ballston Metro (Troop 2448)
- Courthouse Metro (Troop 3994)
- Crystal City Metro (Troop 3450)
- East Falls Church Metro (Troop 1245)
- Pentagon City Metro (Troop 486)
- Virginia Square/GMU Metro (Troop 5221)
More locations around Arlington can be found here.
In a stark reversal of a recent trend, the snow has caused something that was supposed to be closed to instead remain open.
The Rosslyn and Arlington Cemetery Metro stations were supposed to be closed all weekend due to track work and an emergency exercise. Instead, the exercise and the maintenance have been postponed indefinitely, and both stations will be open throughout President’s Day Weekend.
The emergency exercise was to involve 150 Arlington police officers and firefighters. It would have simulated a terrorist bombing of a Metrorail train in the tunnel between the Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom Metro stations.
“Priority number one this week is to dig out from this record snowfall and resume operations on Metrobus, Metrorail and MetroAccess,” said Dave Kubicek, Metro’s Acting Deputy General Manager of Operations, in a press release. “With additional snow in the forecast… we must focus all of our efforts on safe operations and continuing to help get people where they need to go.”
The entire Metro system is closing at 11:00 PM tonight.