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]
With Metro’s Silver Line soon to open, WMATA is considering eliminating a Metrobus route that stops in Rosslyn on the way to Dulles International Airport.
The agency held a public hearing this week on changes to dozens of bus routes, during which it presented three options for the future of the 5A route: eliminating it completely, only running it between Dulles and the Wiehle-Reston East Metro stop (the end of the Silver Line when it opens in early 2014), or only running it before and after Metrorail’s hours.
Rob Stern, an Arlington-based vacation planner, spoke out against the proposed changes to bus service at the public hearing Tuesday night.
“Metrobus 5A provides fast, affordable transportation for local residents, visitors, students, airport employees and commuters,” he said in an email. “Alternatives like the Washington Flyer and the Fairfax Connector would require a change and paying an additional fare, as well as taking more travel time. This is a burden for those with heavy baggage, and in bad weather. Taxi service from the airport can cost $60, 10 times more than the 5A’s $6 one-way fare.”
“The heavy use of both the Orange line and Silver line rail service at evening rush hour would make the rail option difficult for many travelers, as Dulles Airport’s peak travel time is in the evenings,” he continued. “As a travel agent I mentioned that many of my clients choose the airport to fly from based on ease of access, and while Washington National Airport has direct rail service, and BWI Airport has both Marc Train and Express Metro Bus Service, on the B30, this change would put Dulles Airport at a competitive disadvantage. ”
Those interested in giving input to WMATA’s community outreach can fill out a survey by Tuesday, Sept. 24 at 5:00 p.m. After the public comment period closes, the WMATA Board Customer Service and Operations Committee will consider the feedback and proposed changes at their meeting in November, according to WMATA spokeswoman Morgan Dye.
If any of the options are approved, they would go into affect soon after the Silver Line opens, which is expected January or early February 2014. Phase 2 of the Dulles Corridor Metro Rail Project, which will extend the Silver Line to the airport and beyond, is not expected to be completed until July 2018.
The changes to the 5A route were first proposed by the District Department of Transportation.
Four Arlington transportation projects were approved for funding in Fiscal Year 2014 last night by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority.
The authority approved funding for the Columbia Pike Multimodal Improvement Project, the Crystal City Multimodal Center, four additional ART buses and improvements to the Boundary Channel Drive/I-395 interchange; a total of $18.835 million.
In addition, the NVTA approved $5 million for the design of WMATA traction power improvements on the Orange Line, and $7 million for 10 new buses on Virginia Metrobus routes.
The package approved was the first to be directly allocated funding from the controversial transportation bill, HB 2313, passed by the General Assembly in the spring. About $270 million is estimated to come to Northern Virginia in funding this fiscal year, $190 million of which was available to be allocated by the NVTA.
The other $80 million will be distributed directly to localities. Arlington is projected to receive $11 million in direct funding, which it expects to direct to its Transportation Capital Fund.
The NVTA voted unanimously to approve $116 million in pay-as-you-go funding and more than $93 million in bond funding, pending a bond validation. Of Arlington’s approved projects, only $4.3 million for the Boundary Channel Drive/I-395 interchange will go through the bond process.
The state began collecting funds for the projects July 1 when a series of tax increases and other funding measures took effect. Over the next six years, HB 2313 is expected to raise more than $1.5 billion total for the region and close to $200 million for Arlington alone.
Other projects that were approved for funding that could have an impact for Arlington residents include $838,000 to the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission for the study of transit alternatives on the Route 7 corridor between King Street and Tysons Corner and five new DASH buses in Alexandria.
Two projects that impact Arlington — a $4 million VRE Crystal City platform extension and $5 million for upgrades to interlocking and platform girders at the Reagan National Airport Metro stop — were denied funding by unanimous vote.
One project that did not come up in the discussion was the Columbia Pike Streetcar project. Critics of the streetcar were calling the lack of funding another loss for the controversial project, but Arlington officials did not submit it for consideration.
In Virginia alone, nearly 72,000 DoD employees are affected by furloughs, which require one unpaid day off per week for 11 weeks. The state is expected to be particularly hard hit by the cuts due to the Pentagon being housed in Arlington.
It’s too early to definitively claim furloughs will ease traffic congestion, but AAA believes fewer people on the road could lead to less gridlock and fewer accidents. In fact, the organization suggests commutes could resemble those of July and August, when the region experiences its lowest traffic volume and rate of accidents.
“For all other workers, the morning and evening commutes to the daily grind could look like it does on any of the ten federal holidays in the Washington metro area or on Fridays, when federal workers use their flex-time schedules or compressed work weeks (AWS) to take time off,” said John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s Manager of Public and Government Affairs.
AAA predicts Metrorail and Metrobus ridership may be affected as well. According to WMATA, nearly half of peak period commuters are federal employees and 35 Metrorail stations serve federal facilities, including the Pentagon in Arlington.
Rep. Jim Moran (D) took to Twitter earlier today to express his displeasure with the furloughs. He also sent the following statement to ARLnow.com:
“Due to sequestration, today marked the first of 11 furlough days for 650,000 DOD civilian employees. This 20 percent pay cut is the unfortunate and shameful result of Congress’ failure to work together to find an appropriate way to reduce the federal debt and deficit. I voted against the Budget Control Act that set up sequestration not only because it focused solely on cutting discretionary spending at the expense of increased revenues, but I feared that the Supercommittee could not find compromise. Congress must make tough choices, but we cannot balance the budget on the backs of our federal workers.”
The Columbia Pike Multimodal Improvement Project, the purchase of four additional ART buses, the Crystal City Multimodal Center, and Boundary Channel Drive- I-395 interchange improvements — which include construction of two roundabouts as well as safety and aesthetic improvements — are under consideration by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority to receive funding under the bill, HB2313.
In Fiscal Year 2014, the NVTA is expected to have $190 million to spend, and the authority is considering 32 projects across the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Loudoun and Prince William and the cities of Alexandria, Fairfax, Falls Church, Manassas and Manassas Park. Arlington’s four projects on the list that cost a combined $18.835 million.
County Board member Chris Zimmerman is Arlington’s representative on the NVTA, which is responsible for allocating 70 percent of the expected $1.6 billion in funds the region will receive from HB2313. The remaining 30 percent will be given directly to the localities.
The proposed list, culled by the Project Implementation working group that Zimmerman chairs, costs a total of $186.99 million. The NVTA has indicated in its recent meetings that it will decide to allocate significantly less than that because the $190 million is a projection and no actual revenues have been raised. Even if all four Arlington projects make the final cut, however, the money Arlington is expected to raise will be less than it receives in regional funding, Zimmerman said.
Arlington’s return on investment “is meant to [even out] over time,” Zimmerman clarified when reached by phone earlier this week. “I think all four projects for Arlington are strong regional projects.”
The statute dictates that each locality must receive approximately equal benefit to what it puts in, but that doesn’t necessarily mean a dollar in and a dollar out, said Regional Transportation Planning Coordinator Jennifer Fioretti, who has worked closely with Zimmerman for the NVTA.
(Updated at 3:40 p.m.) Track work will close Metro stations along the Orange Line this weekend, for the third time in the past month. This time the Ballston and Virginia Square stations will be out of service.
The closures begin at 10:00 p.m. on Friday, May 17, and run through closing on Sunday, May 19. Trains are expected to operate at normal weekend intervals even though service will be split into two segments — between Vienna and East Falls Church and between Clarendon and New Carrollton.
Free shuttle buses will replace trains between East Falls Church and Clarendon. Customers using shuttle bus service should add up to 25 minutes to their travel time.
The last trains of the night from Vienna to East Falls Church will depart 28 minutes earlier than normal — at 1:57 a.m. on Friday and Saturday nights, and at 10:57 p.m. on Sunday.
The Orange Line closures are to allow for track circuit module replacement. There will also be work on the Red and Green lines this weekend. Information regarding those closures can be found on WMATA’s website.
The Ballston Business Improvement District expressed concern about the timing of the Ballston Metro station closure, considering the Taste of Arlington festival is expected to bring around 20,000 people to that area on Sunday.
Members of the BID have worked out a deal with WMATA. The station closures will remain in effect and passengers will still need to take shuttles between East Falls Church and Clarendon. However, starting around 11:00 a.m. on Sunday, additional shuttles will be put into service to accommodate the heavier flow of passengers expected to travel to Taste of Arlington, which begins at noon.
“They will add a whole crew of buses to the schedule for Sunday so they can ensure that nobody is waiting too long and can get to their destination in a timely fashion,” said Ballston BID CEO Tina Leone. “We’re not the first group this has happened to. They’ve assured us they will monitor the buses in making sure they’re arriving and leaving at a rapid rate. We’re just thrilled they were so responsive and so accommodating.”
Leone added that the bus trip is only about 10 minutes, so hopefully festival attendees won’t experience too many delays. Those who prefer to drive to the event should note that the cost is only one dollar for three hours to park at the Ballston garage.
Disclosure: Ballston BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser
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.”
Low Attendance at Tax Rate Hearing — At a public hearing last night, it only took half an hour for the County Board to hear all the speakers for and against raising Arlington’s real estate tax rate. In the end, those in favor of raising the tax rate to pay for additional government services outnumbered those who wanted less spending. [Sun Gazette]
Frida Kahlo Exhibit Closes Sunday — Arlington’s exclusive and much-publicized exhibit of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo’s personal photos will come to a close this weekend. Hours have now been extended on Sunday, the last day of the exhibit at Artisphere (1101 Wilson Blvd). The remaining hours are: Friday 4:00 to 11:00 p.m., Saturday 12:00 to 11:00 p.m., Sunday 12:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Zimmerman: Metro Needs More Support — Arlington County Board member and former Metro Board member Chris Zimmerman says Metro needs more funding from governments, especially from the Commonwealth of Virginia and the federal government. Zimmerman also recommends keeping any potential fare increase small and making sure it doesn’t “punish the folks who take the shortest trips.” [Greater Greater Washington]
Crystal City Apartment Building Sold — The 442-unit Buchanan apartment building in Crystal City has changed hands for $175 million. The property was sold by Archstone to Dweck Properties, the same firm that bought the Crystal Plaza Apartments from Archstone last year. [CoStar]
Green Games Saved Some Green — Forget the Hunger Games, Arlington County says its “Green Games” competition was a blockbuster in terms of savings. The sustainability challenge saved $2 million in avoided energy and water costs, the county announced at an awards ceremony on Thursday. [Arlington County]
Marine Corps Marathon Sets Registration Record — The Marine Corps Marathon has recorded the fastest sellout of any U.S. marathon, ever. Registration for this year’s marathon, which starts and ends in Arlington, opened at 3:00 p.m. yesterday. It ended 2 hours and 41 minutes later, after selling all 30,000 of available online entries. “The MCM staff and U.S. Marine Corps sincerely thank each of the 30,000 participants for such an enthusiastic start to this year’s events,” marathon director Rick Nealis said in a statement. [Marine Corps Marathon]
New Apartment Building Coming to Ballston — Funding has been secured for the residential component of the new Founders Square development in Ballston, across from Ballston Common Mall. A $71.1 million construction loan will help build The Place, a 17-story, 257-unit luxury apartment building at 4000 Wilson Boulevard. The Place, which is expected to open in 2013, will feature “studio, one- and two-bedroom units with open floor plans and floor-to-ceiling windows offering views of Washington, D.C.” [Citybiz Real Estate]
Metro Complaints Include Employee Harassment — During a public forum in Arlington about proposed service changes and fare hikes, Metro customers got a chance to express their gripes about WMATA. In general, riders complained the fares were going up at a time when service seems to be deteriorating. Among the more specific complaints: long wait times for trains, confusing bus schedules, rude Metro employees, and even “regular occurrences of sexual harassment by Metro employees and other riders.” [Arlington Mercury]
Flickr pool photo by Christaki
Efforts by residents to reduce traffic headaches in the Barcroft neighborhood appear to have paid off. Residents report that the increase in shuttle buses for government workers affected by BRAC has diminished the number of cars clogging the neighborhood.
In July, we reported about resident concerns over an additional 1,200 workers flooding the Barcroft neighborhood due to the Base Realignment and Closure Act. People living in the area were concerned about workers parking on the streets and dangerous traffic congestion on George Mason Drive. They appealed to Rep. Jim Moran for help.
Moran asked that the plan for shuttle buses between Arlington Hall and the Pentagon Center be expedited to ease the traffic burden, and shuttles started running on September 6. Now, residents report this action has helped improve traffic conditions and safety over the past few months.
“I believe the diligent work by Congressman Moran’s office and the determination of our neighbors to make clear boundaries really paid off,” said Barcroft School and Civic League President Pat Williamson.
Williamson says although there’s still some congestion along George Mason during the morning rush, the situation is much improved and she hasn’t received any new complaints from neighbors.
“The new Arlington Hall shuttle bus service is a testament to the impact of an engaged, active community,” Moran said. “I look forward to continuing to work with the Barcroft residents, Arlington Hall employees and the Defense Department to smooth out any wrinkles caused by BRAC.”
Also being credited is the increase in Metrobus service along the route. WMATA had previously promised to increase the frequency of 22A buses, and as of this week, added additional stops to the route.
Starting mid-2012, six additional Orange Line trains will be put in service each peak hour, three in each direction. Those trains will run from West Falls Church to Largo Town Center, which is normally a Blue Line station. To allow that to happen — the Orange Line tunnel between Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom operates at capacity during peak hours — six Blue Line trains will be diverted over the Yellow Line Bridge.
Those “former Blue Line trains” will operate between Franconia-Springfield and Greenbelt, a Green Line station. The trains — three in each direction during peak hours — will be identified as Yellow Line trains.
The so-called “Blue Line split” will serve to relieve passenger congestion between Rosslyn and Courthouse, identified as the most crowded section of the entire Metro system. It will also free up some capacity for the future Silver Line to Tysons Corner and Dulles Airport.
From a Metro press release:
During peak periods, more than 46,000 Orange Line customers will benefit from six additional trains per hour — three in each direction — resulting in 18 percent more capacity on the line, or approximately 2,600 seats per hour. The new trains will operate between West Falls Church and Largo Town Center.
The Orange Line is Metro’s second busiest, carrying approximately 180,000 passenger trips on a typical weekday. In a phenomenon known as Orange Crush, peak trains on the Orange Line between Courthouse and Rosslyn carry more passengers per car than anywhere else on the system.
During peak periods, the tunnel between Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom is at capacity, with 26 trains per hour in each direction. The additional “slots” in the schedule will be made possible by routing three Blue Line trains in each direction over the Yellow Line bridge each peak hour. Trains following this service pattern will travel between Franconia-Springfield and Greenbelt and will be considered Yellow Line trains.
For 33,500 Blue and Yellow Line customers in Virginia, the realignment will mean more trains providing faster access to downtown via the Yellow Line bridge. A smaller number (about 16,000) weekday peak-period customers who travel on Blue Line trains via Arlington Cemetery will experience a maximum of six-minutes additional waiting time for a train.
In addition, stations on the northern segments of the Green/Yellow lines will see additional trains during weekday peak periods. Stations from Shaw-Howard to Greenbelt will benefit from six additional Yellow Line trains each peak hour — three in each direction — between Greenbelt and Franconia-Springfield. For the first time, a customer can travel from Greenbelt to Franconia-Springfield without transferring. More than 28,000 customers will benefit from the change.
Members of the Metro board gave the plan “preliminary approval” at a meeting yesterday. They also approved a new Metro system map (above). The service changes are expected to take effect in June.
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.
The Columbia Pike Transit Initiative is planning a series of public meetings do discuss the proposed Columbia Pike streetcar.
One of the meeting will be held at the Walter Reed Community Center at 2909 16th Street South, from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 18. The other meeting will be held in Falls Church on Monday, Nov. 15.
The schedule of the Arlington meeting is as follows:
- Presentation and Question/Answer Session 7:00 – 7:45 p.m.
- Break-Out Discussions on Alignment, Station Stops, Facilities 7:45 – 8:45 p.m.
- Reconvene and Recap 8:45 – 9:00 p.m.
Here’s a letter that’s being sent to area Civic Associations:
Arlington County and Fairfax County are proposing a streetcar line in the Columbia Pike corridor. The two counties have engaged the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (also known as Metro) to prepare a combined Environmental Assessment/Alternatives Analysis and are in coordination with the Federal Transit Administration for Federal environmental procedures and capital funding.
The project, known as the Columbia Pike Transit Initiative, would extend along Columbia Pike (Route 244) from the Bailey’s Crossroads/Skyline area in Fairfax County to Pentagon City in Arlington County. Alignment and yard options extend to the Northern Virginia Community College within the City of Alexandria, which is participating in the project.
We want to inform you about the Initiative and receive your input. Please plan on attending one of these important meetings! For more information, visit www.piketransit.com. Spanish translation will be provided at the meetings. For special assistance for persons with disabilities, please call me at (202) 962-1027, at least 10 days prior to the meetings. Feel free to share this invitation (see enclosed bilingual flyer) with your family, friends, and neighbors. We sincerely appreciate your participation and look forward to seeing you soon!
John M. Dittmeier, Project Manager, Metro
You can now place a call and find out exactly when the next Metrorail train is expected to arrive. Today Metro is rolling out its ‘Next Train’ phone service, to complement the existing internet and mobile web-based services.
To access the real-time system, riders call Metro’s customer service line at 202-637-7000, say “Next Train,” then say the station name after the prompt. The automated system utilizes voice recognition technology.
“Up-to-the-minute information is key to the convenience of transit; the easier it is to know when your train is coming, the easier it is to manage your schedule,” said Arlington County board member Chris Zimmerman, who also sits on the Metro Board of Directors.
After the jump: Metro released a video demonstrating how the system works.