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by Chris Teale September 13, 2017 at 4:45 pm 0

Its sightings last month left many baffled, and now, car company Ford has explained why and how it sent a “driverless” car through the streets of Courthouse and Clarendon.

In a Medium post today (Wednesday), John Shutko, Ford’s Human Factors Technical Specialist for Self-Driving Vehicles, said the company was working with Virginia Tech to test ways for driverless cars to more effectively show its intentions to pedestrians and other road users.

Ford joined with the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute to test the technology — an animated light bar in the windshield of the video — and to see how those around reacted when they saw a car with no one in the driver’s seat.

“Anyone who has crossed a busy street likely knows the informal language between pedestrians and drivers,” Shutko wrote. “A driver might wave her hand to indicate to the pedestrian it’s okay to cross, or a pedestrian could throw up his hand like a stop sign to signal he plans to cross first. But what happens in the future, when self-driving vehicles operate without drivers – and in some cases, without anyone even in the vehicle itself?”

After being first reported by ARLnow.com, and famously further investigated by NBC4 reporter Adam Tuss — who was startled to discover a person in a seat costume inside — VT admitted it was behind the driverless car.

Ford said people are put in the cars — and dressed as car seats — for safety reasons, as self-driving technology is still in the early stages of testing and development.

The vehicle, a Ford Transit Connect van, had a light bar on top of its windshield. The bar pulsed white light back and forth when yielding, blinked rapidly before accelerating after a stop, or stayed solid when driving normally.

“Virtual reality testing with customers shows it takes a couple of exposures to signals like these before people truly understand what they mean,” Chutko wrote. “It takes even longer for signals to become ingrained in people’s brains  –  second nature, if you will. Through our testing, we believe these signals have the chance to become an accepted visual language that helps address an important societal issue in how self-driving vehicles interact with humans.”

Ford said it has logged more than 150 hours and around 1,800 miles in its tests in dense urban areas. Chutko said the time is right to create an industry standard for autonomous vehicle communications and to start to educate the public.

by Chris Teale September 13, 2017 at 3:50 pm 0

Arlington County drivers will have been feeling the effects of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma at the pump, with gas prices spiking by up to 30 cents a gallon or more locally.

Harvey hit oil refineries throughout Texas, with about one-quarter of oil refining capacity on the Gulf Coast being temporarily shut down, according to AAA. And in Arlington and elsewhere in the U.S., prices have spiked as the refineries get back up and running and damage to their systems and pipelines is assessed.

As of Wednesday, prices at the Shell and Speedway stations near Clarendon were $2.69 a gallon for unleaded gas, up from the former price of around $2.30 a gallon.

Despite a spike of around $0.30 cents since the hurricanes, Virginia remains one of the least expensive states to buy gas, at just over $2.50 a gallon on average, according to GasBuddy.com.

“As in any national or local state of emergency, AAA expects gas prices to be held in check up and down the gasoline supply chain, including prices set by refiners, distributors and dealers unless there is a clearly justifiable reason for an increase,” Jeanette Casselano, a AAA spokeswoman, said.

AAA is also warning anyone looking to buy a car to be careful of buying a flood-damaged used car. When major storms trigger flooding, thousands of totaled cars are shipped out of the affected area and can end up on the used car market elsewhere in the country. As many as a million vehicles may have been submerged by Harvey, AAA said last week.

Sometimes, buyers can be unaware a car has been repaired after being damaged by floodwater. Cars are meticulously dried out, scoured and scrubbed, then the title is “washed,” where it is moved from state to state until it is branded as repairable. They are then sold on by what AAA described as “unscrupulous sellers and fly-by-night operators.”

In a statement, John B. Townsend II, AAA Mid-Atlantic’s manager of public and government affairs, said:

“Use your five senses to detect telltale signs a vehicle has been flooded. Then use your sixth sense. Look for a waterline under the hood, undercarriage and bumpers; for mud and debris inside the cabin and trunk; for signs of rust, and for fogging inside the headlights and taillights. Use your sense of smell to detect the scent of disinfectants or cleansing agents used to cloak musty smells or mold or mildew. Touch the carpet or floor mats for residual traces of wetness or for signs that the carpets, seats and interiors were recently shampooed.

“Listen to the engine to check if it runs smoothly, or runs rough, or makes abnormal noises as it runs. Also listen to the sound system, to check if the electronics are working properly, because some mechanical and electronic components don’t survive flooding. Curiously, the term ‘lemon,’ a slang first used to describe a ‘worthless thing’ and then ‘a defective car,’ stems from a metaphor for ‘something that leaves a foul or bad taste in your mouth.’ That could happen to you if you buy a flood-damaged vehicle.

“Then rely upon your intuition, instincts, and ‘mother wit.’ Flooded cars are not always totaled and 50 percent are eventually resold. But most of all, use your common sense, and always purchase a vehicle history report or obtain a free VIN report for any vehicle suspected of having a watery past.”

by ARLnow.com September 13, 2017 at 3:40 pm 0

Update at 4:40 p.m. — Most fire department units are picking up and returning to their stations as Metro crews work to resolve the track issue.

Earlier: A platoon of Arlington County Fire Department units are on scene at the Rosslyn Metro station for a report of a fire on the tracks.

Initial reports suggest that the fire is an arcing insulator somewhere between Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom, and that trains are turning around to avoid it. No smoke has been reported in the Rosslyn station.

Metro riders should expect delays on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines. Police are closing N. Moore Street to traffic due to the fire response.

by Chris Teale September 13, 2017 at 2:30 pm 0

A battle between residents and youth sports advocates will go before the Arlington County Board on Saturday (September 16) as Board members discuss adding lights to two synthetic turf fields.

County Manager Mark Schwartz announced in June he is recommending lights for the fields near Williamsburg Middle School and Discovery Elementary School in Rock Spring.

Schwartz recommended that the two fields be lit with shielded LED lights that could be dimmed during evening play, and that lights be left on no later than 9:45 p.m. Eighty-four lights would be installed on six 80-foot poles to light the fields.

And county staff is recommending the Board move his plan along, saying that it would allow for extended usage and neighbors’ worries can be mitigated.

Opponents say lights are incompatible with the residential neighborhood, would create more traffic and light pollution while damaging wildlife and trees.

And Saturday’s meeting could see neighborhood opponents come up against those in the youth sports community who say the lights will increase usage of the fields.

Neighbors of the fields delivered a petition with more than 550 signatures against lights on the fields to the County Board before Schwartz’s announcement. Several also sat on the Williamsburg Field Site Evaluation Work Group to study the effects of lights and propose options.

In their report, county staffers note that the group “did not come to a consensus” on lighting the fields.

“The neighborhood civic association has stressed going back to at least 2009 or before that, its intention to try to preserve the neighborhood in its natural condition, to minimize traffic, to protect wildlife habitat and the tree canopy,” Gail Harrison, a member of the work group and a neighborhood opponent of lighting the fields, said at the time of Schwartz’s announcement. “The proposal would be inconsistent with all of those neighborhood goals.”

But youth sports boosters said the lights will be necessary as participation has increased, and fields in Arlington are growing overcrowded and struggling to keep pace with demand. According to county data, youth participation in sports has increased by 56 percent in the past five years, from just over 15,000 in 2011 to just over 24,000 in 2017.

By sport, soccer, baseball, softball, flag football, lacrosse and ultimate Frisbee all saw large increases in participation from 2011 to 2016, according to an infographic sent by a coalition of local youth sports organizations.

Soccer leads the way with more than 16,000 who play in the county, followed by baseball with just over 4,000. Those in favor of the lights are likely to have a strong presence too on Saturday.

“I suspect Arlington Soccer Association will have folks there and I plan to be there for Arlington Babe Ruth [baseball], as all youth sports leagues face the same problem: increased participation… and a limited number of fields,” said George Thompson of the Arlington Babe Ruth baseball organization. “Lighting will add hundreds of hours of annual playing time for the teams that use these fields for practice and games.”

Schwartz’s plan is not yet permitted under the site’s current zoning, nor is funding available for the lights. Staff recommended the Board approve funding new lights as part of the FY 2019 capital budget, and that Schwartz initiate studies on amending the county’s Zoning Ordinance to permit light poles above their current limit of 68 feet. Staff also recommended amending the site’s use permit to allow light poles to be installed.

by ARLnow.com September 13, 2017 at 1:15 pm 0

A woman, wanted with a rap sheet, was arrested last week for a failed burglary along Columbia Pike.

Police say the suspect broke into a business on the 4600 block of Columbia Pike — home to a restaurant, a gas station, a market and an auto shop — but then “was unsuccessful in removing items.”

Police arrested her after responding to a call about a suspicious person around 1 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 7.

More from this week’s Arlington County Police Department crime report:

BURGLARY, 2017-09070016, 4600 block of Columbia Pike. At approximately 1:00 a.m. on September 7, officers responded to the report of a suspicious person. Upon arrival, officers located a female suspect on the property in possession of burglarous tools. During the course of the investigation, it was determined the suspect forced entry into the business but was unsuccessful in removing items. Talisha Braxton, 24, of no fixed address, was arrested and charged with Burglary, Possession of Burglarous Tools, Destruction of Property, Carrying a Concealed Weapon, and Fugitive from Justice. She was held on no bond.

The rest of this past week’s crime report highlights, after the jump.

(more…)

by ARLnow.com September 13, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

This week’s Arlington Pet of the Week is Scarlett, a senior cat and proven hunter.

Here is what her owner Pat had to say about her:

Scarlett got a second chance at a normal life four years ago after finding her forever home when she was 11 years old. She immediately found her spot with her new family, and quickly claimed her territory between her owners on the couch and on the bed.

Her big bright eyes and sweet demeanor are what first attracted us to Scarlett. If you inspect her a little closer, you will discover her special markings: black spots on her paw pads, a brown patch (her “nougat”) on her otherwise white belly, and a white-tipped tail.

Despite her domestic and indoor lifestyle, Scarlett is a proven hunter. She has caught cockroaches and a mouse, and diligently stands guard waiting for the next intruder.

Also a scavenger, Scarlett is undeterred when trying to steal chicken, cheese, popcorn, crackers, or tortilla chips from anyone who lets their guard down. She is very chatty, and demands treats whenever someone enters the apartment or picks up their keys to leave.

Last October, Scarlett skeptically welcomed a baby girl into our home. She was the perfect furry buddy during the pregnancy and our first months at home with the baby.

She expertly stays just out of arm’s reach, and found that baby gear can offer a great place for a catnap. We are so happy that we adopted this senior cat, and hope that more people consider adopting older cats to give them a good home for their golden years.

Want your pet to be considered for the Arlington Pet of the Week? Email [email protected] with a 2-3 paragraph bio and at least 3-4 horizontally-oriented photos of your pet. Please don’t send vertical photos, they don’t fit in our photo galleries!

Each week’s winner receives a sample of dog or cat treats from our sponsor, Becky’s Pet Care, along with $100 in Becky’s Bucks. Becky’s Pet Care is the winner of six consecutive Angie’s List Super Service Awards, the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters’ 2013 Business of the Year and a proud supporter of the Arlington County Pawsitively Prepared Campaign.

Becky’s Pet Care provides professional dog walking and pet sitting in Arlington and all of Northern Virginia, as well as PetPrep training courses for Pet Care, CPR and emergency preparedness.

by Chris Teale September 13, 2017 at 11:00 am 0

Virginia Hospital Center (1701 N. George Mason Drive) is looking to add a major expansion on land it will acquire in a land-swap agreement with Arlington County.

Under a preliminary site plan filed with the county, VHC is proposing a more-than 230,000-square-foot, seven-story outpatient pavilion for walk-in patients.

The plans would also convert around 120,000 square feet of existing outpatient space to 101 hospital beds and build a 10-story parking garage with just over 2,000 spaces. Of those 10 stories, two would be below-grade. VHC would also make improvements to the streets around its campus so pedestrian facilities like sidewalks and crosswalks are better connected.

The extension to its campus would replace the county-owned Edison Center on the 1800 block of N. Edison Street, to the north of VHC’s main site. The Edison Center is currently home to some county offices and an Arlington County Refugee Services location.

The County Board voted in July that it wants to acquire the hospital’s property at 601 S. Carlin Springs Road and use the site on N. Edison Street as part of the purchase price.

A letter dated August 7 from land-use attorney Nan E. Walsh of the Walsh, Colucci, Lubeley & Walsh law firm that represents VHC said it has been undergoing a “comprehensive study” of its services with medical professionals as well as neighbors, and has determined it has to fill several gaps.

“These discussions have helped the applicant identify several critical needs which must be addressed as the hospital complex evolves and grows,” Walsh wrote. “These needs include, among others, adding new hospital beds, creating new spaces for hospital services and outpatient care, creating new parking and improving access to the hospital complex.”

In a further letter on June 16, Walsh said community members will benefit from the increased capacity for medical care and improved service for patients and visitors, as well as utility improvements, provided bicycle parking and a green building design, among others.

An amendment to the county’s overall General Land Use Plan will be required to integrate the Edison site into VHC, as well as rezoning the property, site plan and use permit amendments.

by ARLnow.com September 13, 2017 at 10:15 am 0

It’s the end of an era: IOTA Club and Cafe in Clarendon will close at the end of the month.

In its nearly 24 years in business, IOTA has hosted countless live music performances. Among those who have performed there, according to a list published by the club, are numerous well-known artists.

Below is a list of some of the notable acts.

  • Colin Hay (Men at Work)
  • Crash Test Dummies
  • Frank Black (The Pixies)
  • Franz Ferdinand
  • Graham Parker
  • Great Big Sea
  • Handsome Family
  • J. Roddy Walston & The Business
  • Jack Johnson
  • Jason Mraz
  • Jeff Pinkus (Butthole Surfers)
  • Jimmie’s Chicken Shack
  • John Mayer
  • Marky Ramone (The Ramones)
  • Norah Jones
  • Ok Go
  • Rufus Wainwright
  • Silversun Pickups
  • SOJA
  • Tegan & Sara
  • Tim Reynolds (Dave Matthews Band)
  • Tristan Prettyman

Performances at IOTA this week include an open mic night tonight, a DJ spinning vinyl records Thursday, Big Sandy and His Fly-Rite Boys on Friday and Parsonsfield on Sunday.

by ARLnow.com September 13, 2017 at 9:30 am 0

Apple announced its highly-anticipated new line of iPhones yesterday: the next-generation iPhone 8 and higher-end iPhone X.

The latter, with its facial recognition, advanced camera technology and “Super Retina” screen, reaches the $1,000 price mark, something that has raised the eyebrows of more than a few Apple critics.

Walk around Clarendon or other Arlington environs and it’s clear that the iPhone is king here, disproportionately more popular in Arlington than it is in other parts of the country, where Android has the market share lead.

Given that Arlington is an Apple town, we thought we’d see how many are planning to take the $1,000 iPhone X plunge.

Photo via Apple

by Chris Teale September 13, 2017 at 7:10 am 0

(Updated 8:25 a.m.) Columbia Pike’s eastbound lanes have reopened. Those nearby can expect residual delays.

Earlier: The eastbound lanes of Columbia Pike between S. Courthouse Road and Washington Blvd closed this morning after a traffic crash.

Arlington County Police said the crash happened at S. Scott Street. They closed the Pike around 6:50 a.m.

Drivers heading east can expect significant delays, and are encouraged to seek alternate routes.

Metro’s 16A, 16B, 16G, 16H, 16J and 16X routes all are experiencing delays on the Pike, as well as ART’s 42 and 74 routes, which also run through the area.

by ARLnow.com Sponsor September 13, 2017 at 6:00 am 0

Just Reduced banner

Each week, “Just Reduced” spotlights properties in Arlington County whose price have been cut over the previous week. The market summary is crafted by licensed broker Aaron Seekford of Arlington Realty, Inc. GET MORE out of your real estate investment with Aaron and his team by visiting www.arlingtonrealtyinc.com or calling 703-836-6116 today!

Please note: While Aaron Seekford provides this information for the community, he is not the listing agent of these homes. 

Before we dive in to real estate here, it’s been an emotional week or so for so many Americans. Our thoughts continue to be with Houston, the Southeast United States and our friends in the Caribbean. Additionally, the 16th anniversary of 9/11 was on Monday – a day I certainly will never forget.

Everyone impacted has been at the top of my thoughts.

As we enter the peak of hurricane season, it is important to be prepared — perhaps not specifically for a hurricane (though we’ve been impacted in times past) — but a disaster in general. Many of the same disaster preparedness items you’d buy to prep for a hurricane may be used for any type of situation.

A good starting point to build your own preparedness kit is at Ready.gov.

In addition to helping you find a home, I’m always here to help you make the most of living here in Arlington. And having some emergency items on-hand for you, your family and home certainly can’t hurt.

As of September 11 there are 245 detached homes, 69 townhouses and 292 condos for sale throughout Arlington County. In total, 64 homes experienced a price reduction in the past week.

Here is this week’s selection of Just Reduced properties:

Please note that this is solely a selection of Just Reduced properties available in Arlington County. For a complete list of properties within your target budget and specifications, contact Aaron Seekford.

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