County: Pike Super Stop Project on Track

by ARLnow.com March 20, 2013 at 5:20 pm 1,397 40 Comments

New Super Stop at Columbia Pike and Walter Reed DriveNow 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.”

New Super Stop at Columbia Pike and Walter Reed DriveThe Walter Reed stop took nearly a year and a half of on-again, off-again construction to complete. Leach hinted that replacing WMATA as the construction manager of the project may improve matters.

“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.”

  • Mary-Austin

    Yep over a year beyond schedule and costing a million dollars…you guys really deserve a pat on the back! You go Zimmerman!

    What’s that? Room for refining? tell me more…

  • Greg

    The great thing is that once Arlington removes its daycare regulations, each one of these can double as a legal daycare for up to 5 infants.

    • I was going to make a snarky comment, but you said it, sir.

    • speonjosh

      I don’t know if comments like this are symptomatic of the decline of civic engagement, or are the root of them.

  • S.

    This can only be a good thing. If WMATA did oversee this, we’d all be dead before it was done.

    • Ballstonian

      Agreed. And though I don’t always associate Arlington County with ” quicker, smoother and more cost-efficient,” compared to WMATA, yes, it is indeed, if only because that is such a low bar to clear.

      Good for Libby Garvey for asking the obvious question about whether the shelter actually offers shelter from the rain. I find myself wishing I had voted for her – more and more, she seems to be the voice of common sense on the Board.

      • SteveP

        I haven’t checked out the shelter in person, but am curious about the complaints that it serves as a poor rain shelter and wind shelter. The positives in the physical design that I see from the photos are that it will allow more people to get out of the sun during the hottest months of the year due to the size and that it probably won’t be as much of an oven as the 3 sided stops usually are (the glass/plexi ones amplify that), though this will partly depend on how much heat is reflected rather than absorbed.

        I wonder if a differently shaped or lower roof and partial walls would help with the rain/wind issues while maintaining possible sun/heat protection elements…

        • The stop has advantages as real-time bus arrival info. It definitely needs refinement as the metal bench gets wet by the rain. Yes, the original design wasn’t up to snuff, And I am surprised at that, and expect that to be fixed.

          Per the cost, $200,000 out of ArlCo pockets for the first stop, is not very expensive for a structure of this type. Hopefully, getting METRO out of the program can only improve things.

        • sunnydays

          yup. if its raining, you can, you know, carry an umbrella. If its hot, you can, what, carry a parasol? Take your clothes off?

        • speonjosh

          It appears that you if measured the square footage actually protected from the elements at this stop, it would be no different than a regular, cheap stop. It seems obvious that somewhere along the line, protecting people from the elements slid way down the list of priorities for these things. Which is too bad because I think that is always the primary purpose of a bus shelter.

          • SteveP

            According to the some early reporting: “The stops will accommodate 15 to 20 people, Smith said; the typical bus shelter fits six.”

            I’ve seen recent descriptions of this shelter as accommodating 15-20 people, though perhaps it’s less for rain protection. I know that the stops I use most often for the #4 buses wouldn’t hold nearly that many – six probably assumes 4 sitting and 2 standing and seems about right though I never really see more than 4 sit/stand inside it at once. As for how many are protected from the elements, it depends on which way the wind is blowing. How many do you think are protected from rain (or wind, sun) in the new shelter? More or less than 6?

          • Josh S

            Well, the bench under the roof can seat 3, 4 if you want to be real cozy. After that, it’s a matter of how people organize themselves and how cozy they are willing to be. I guess if it were actually raining, you could squeeze another 7-8 people under the roof. But that means standing right in front of the bench, etc. It’s not comfortable.

            As far as protection from the wind, I’d say it was largely zero. If it’s coming from the south, then I guess everyone who is sitting would have some protection. But minimal.

            What’s amazing is that the footprint of the whole thing is quite big. If they had simply built a shed/barn-type structure that big, with three walls, a roof (preferably a foot or so deeper), and one long bench against the back wall, you could easily keep a lot more people comfortable.

            As you’ve probably noticed, I rarely jump on the complaining and second-guessing bandwagon that rolls through here on a daily basis, but this is one instance where I think WMATA and the county simply did not do a good job. One hopes they will do a better job elsewhere.

  • novasteve

    Why not make the signs on it in Czech so we can more easily pretend we are in Prague?

    • Arlington Chris

      They do have no smoking signs, thankfully 😉

  • DCBuff

    “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.”

    “refining the design”=$2 million super stop
    “input from residents”=AECOM staff in Pheonix

  • novasteve

    How about set up wind turbines on them and composting stations? we can really save the planet with our super $1 million busstops!

  • OX4

    Something tells me that some residents wouldn’t be happy with anything, anywhere, at any time, with any money spent or not spent on some thing or other.

    • Arlington Chris

      Welcome to Arlnow.com! 🙂

    • speonjosh

      Well, at least not the ARLnow commenters.

  • Garden City

    I have to say that getting WMATA out of the drivers’ seat on this is undoubtedly a good thing.


    If Libby Garvey thought that shelter was an inadequate shelter she should take a good long look at the existing shelters. Better yet, all she need to do is look directly across the street to find that here is no shelter at all and that’s typical.

    • Paul

      They put in some new shelters along Washington Boulevard in Westover. They are much more enclosed than this. Lower roof, and three sides protected. I’d like to see what they cost. As someone else said, this thing is form over function. It’s a failure at being anything other than a visual oddity.

    • stova

      I don’t think Libby Garvey is necessarily saying that it is inadequate compared to existing shelters, or to no shelter at all; she is saying that if you are going to spend that much money, and take that much time constructing it, you ought to make sure that it serves its purpose well.

  • Hugh Jass

    One. Million. Dollars! Bwahahahahahahaha!

  • Let_Them_Eat_Cake

    Ahhhhh, I am very appy zat Mssr. Zimmerman is pleased with zee Super Stops. Soon all of zee Pike will look like the 4th Arrondissement! Allons-y!!!

  • Board Member

    But these shelters are attractive and in turn will make the poor people who ride the bus feel better about themselves! At least when they get rained on it will help clean them up a bit!

  • bobbytiger

    $ 1,000,000,00. For a bus stop. The new “Arlington Way”.

  • fedworker

    I bet that the Playground Coming to Long Bridge Park (approved for $186,000) will be more attractive and functional than the Super Stops for a fraction of the price.

    • Chuck

      Do you REALLY believe that the park will only cost $186K? You must me new to Arlington County. That will only be the down payment for the consultant that chooses the consultant for the primary site location plan. You might want to ad a couple or three more zeros.

      • fedworker

        Yeah you’re probably right!

  • JimPB

    — It doesn’t matter that $800,000 of the 1 million came from the Commonwealth and the Federal government, all taxpayer money should be carefully used.

    — Oh course, the shelters should be attractive rather than ugly, but first, and above all, they should shelter transit riders effectively from rain, sun, blazing sun and searing wind. I wonder, how often does Zimmerman and other County Board members and the officials who oversee these projects use public bus transit. Frequent users would probably be attentive to shelters sheltering rather than as architectural beautifiers.

    One of the things I learned from many years in the Federal government dealing with a number of potentially controversial matters was to always consider how what you did would look if should reported in a front page Washington Post story. ArlCo folks need to learn this lesson.

    • QTR

      Jim, it’s all taxpayer money, no matter if it comes from feds or state. But your other points are spot on. This fails the “news test”.

      • confused

        “it’s all taxpayer money, no matter if it comes from feds or state.”
        I think that is exactly what JimPB said in the first sentence of his post – it’s not clear what your disagreement is or why you only agree with his “other points”.

        • QTR

          I thought he was making the point that the cost didn’t come from Arlington county, and thus it should be looked at somehow differently. But reading his post again, I think you’re right. I misread it.

  • Only 200,000 in county money? For a million dollar project? This is funny, seeing as the 5% sales tax you pay on goods in VA is technically 4% to Richmond and 1% to Arlington.

  • villager

    I’ve been there, it is just laughably stupid. No protection from the wind and rain.

  • Bus Boy

    “…which, he reminded the room, was chosen during a public process, with extensive input from residents.”
    Most people don’t have 2 hours on a weeknight to go to some meeting at the County government building to weigh in on the design of a bus stop. We pay the County staff to use our dollars wisely. Sadly, this thing looks to be almost completely ineffective. I’ve seen shelters built on “Dual Survival” that would offer more rain protection. I think they chose what they thought would look most “upscale” in keeping with their vision of a high-rent Columbia Pike.
    I get it that there would be a higher risk of people getting mugged and raped if shelters were completely enclosed and not visible to the street–but you could easily have a real (peaked) roof and glass walls on three sides. Or partial walls.

  • meh…

    The key to these bus stops is to position yourself strategically within. Note that the gentleman with the headphones has chosen perhaps the worst seating location for protection from the elements. The gentleman with the blue jacket has curated the most optimal spot within the structure as he is flanked by the stainless steel walls on both sides of his person.

  • G Clifford Prout

    Hey Mr. Zimmerman. Come meet me at the bus stop. At night. I’ve got something for you.

  • Crit

    Part of the cost problem is probably that it is way too overdesigned just for the sake of trying to look busy. Look at the roof support framing. This is not wood construction anymore, we have steel, ever heard of the industrial revolution? It’s trying to be modern, but emulating 18th century construction techniques. It looks like you could park the bus ON TOP of the roof with all that steel. That equals an inflated bill of materials; fluff just for the sake of fluff. Ponderous and superfluous. First heavy storm with wind gusts are going to lift that potato chip roof right off.


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