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Pike ‘Super Stops’ Redesigned, Cost Nearly Cut in Half

(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.

Arlington County Manager Barbara Donnellan today announced plans to substantially reduce the cost of new transit stations along Columbia Pike and improve their functionality. The new station design will cost significantly less to build and maintain than the prototype at Columbia Pike and South Walter Reed Drive, which opened in March 2013. The total project cost has been reduced 40 percent, from $20.9 million to $12.4 million.

Donnellan launched a comprehensive review of the project last year after declaring that the Walter Reed station, formerly called a “Super Stop,” had cost too much, taken too long to build, and had some functional problems, including poor weather protection.

“I said that we would only proceed with this project when I was satisfied that we had a functional design that would cost substantially less than the prototype to build. Staff has accomplished those goals,” Donnellan said. “These stations will serve Arlingtonians for decades to come, at a cost comparable to stations serving similar transit needs.”

“People ask – why won’t a simple bus stop do. The answer is a bus stop cannot give us what we need on Columbia Pike. To transform the Pike into a walkable, transit-oriented Main Street, we need transit that entices more people to use it. These stations will be well-lit, comfortable and provide real-time arrival information. They will take the guesswork out of using transit on the Pike,” added Donnellan

New design based on rider feedback

The County enlisted Parsons Transportation Group to review the prototype’s functionality and develop recommendations for future stations. Parsons incorporated the results of an extensive community consultation process that included users of the Walter Reed prototype, those who ride transit along Columbia Pike, neighbors and businesses. The community and riders said clearly that they want a more functional and lower-cost transit station.

The new design concept developed by Parsons includes several key improvements:

  • Larger canopy and side windscreens to enhance coverage area and weather protection.
  • Reduced footprint to improve pedestrian circulation and ADA accessibility.
  • Seating that is more comfortable, covered and flexible.

Substantially reduced project cost

The new station design reduces costs in two ways: (1) use of standardized components reduces complexity, lowers construction costs and offers better control over long-term maintenance costs; and (2) a modular design allows the option of creating smaller or larger stations based on conditions and ridership demands at individual sites.

Taking advantage of this modular approach, County staff determined the optimal station size for each location along Columbia Pike. The new mix of station sizes, which includes single and standard (or double) units as well as a constrained version for narrower sites and an extended version for higher ridership locations, reduced the total cost for the Columbia Pike Transit Stations Project from $20.9 million to $12.4 million.

Transit Stations:Cost estimate for new design

Single-size station

Standard-size station

(comparable to Walter Reed prototype)

Construction

$279,000 *

$361,000 *

Site design and project management

$83,000

$108,000

Total

$362,000

$469,000

Construction estimate includes 30 percent contingency due to conceptual nature of the design.

The estimated costs for the redesigned transit stations are comparable to stations for the Crystal City Potomac Yard Transitway and other light rail, streetcar and bus rapid transit systems across the nation.

County will implement stronger project management

CliftonLarsonAllen, an independent accounting and consulting firm, has been assessing the delivery of the Walter Reed prototype and reviewing project costs. This assessment is not yet complete, due to difficulties in documenting a project that spanned a decade and involved multiple agencies, including the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA).

It is clear from the review to date that many factors contributed to increased project costs and delays. As a result, Arlington plans to implement several project management changes. For future Columbia Pike transit stations, the County will:

  • Directly oversee construction – All consultants and contractors will work directly for the County. In comparison, Arlington designed the Super Stop prototype and WMATA managed its construction.
  • Control costs throughout design and construction – This includes identifying risks early in project development, and enhanced monitoring and management of costs.

Encouraging people to use transit

New transit stations along Columbia Pike will serve two purposes: accommodate riders on what is the busiest bus transit corridor in Virginia, and serve the planning vision of transforming the Pike into a more transit-oriented, pedestrian-friendly “Main Street.”

Arlington will move forward with the transit stations project in phases, starting with the next increment of eight, located where the County has improved Columbia Pike as part of its utility undergrounding and streetscape project.

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