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by ARLnow.com — November 23, 2016 at 10:00 am 0

Metro’s next round of SafeTrack “surge” work begins Monday and it’s expected to have a major impact on Arlington commuters.

Surge #11 is scheduled from Nov. 28 to Dec. 21. The 24-day project will involve track work and single-tracking between the West Falls Church and East Falls Church stations, on the Orange and Silver lines.

Safetrack Surge #11 (map via WMATA)The first 14 days of the work are expected to be especially disruptive as Metro will be unable to run additional trains to make up for the reduction in service. That’s due to the location of the track work and Metro’s rail signaling service, officials said.

“There will be a severe reduction in train service,” said Joe Leader, Metro’s Chief Operating Officer. “The first two weeks of this surge will be the worst of anything our riders have experienced so far since we started Safetrack.”

Riders should expect “very crowded trains and platforms.” Trains running through Arlington may be so crowded that riders will be unable to board during rush hour.

Additional ART buses and Metrobus shuttles will run along Arlington’s Rosslyn-Ballston corridor to help provide additional capacity during the surge. Arlington County is also encouraging commuters to telecommute during the project.

Ultimately, the track work is expected to result in a smoother ride and more reliable service along the Orange and Silver lines.

“It’s going to be intense for the first two weeks,” said Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey, during a press conference at the West Falls Church Metro station. “It’s short term pain for a lot of gain and it’s something that we’ve got to do.”

by ARLnow.com — November 15, 2016 at 11:15 am 0

The driver of an Arlington Transit bus has been cited by police after a crash in north Arlington this morning.

The crash happened just after 8:30 a.m. near the intersection of Little Falls Road, Yorktown Blvd and N. Kensington Street.

“The ART bus veered off the roadway and struck two vehicles,” said Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage. “The driver was cited with failure to maintain proper control.”

There were several people on board the bus at the time but no injuries were reported, Savage said. The two cars that were struck were parked at the time.

Photos by Samantha Moore

by ARLnow.com — October 11, 2016 at 6:50 pm 0

Tonight’s evening commute was much worse than usual for many local residents.

A combination of factors — track problems on multiple Metrorail lines and a fuel spill that blocked the Outer Loop of the Beltway in Maryland — led to very crowded Metro stations and trains and very heavy traffic, particularly on I-395.

The latest Metro woes come as WMATA is reportedly considering raising fares to close a big anticipated budget shortfall.

by Tim Regan — September 29, 2016 at 11:15 am 0

Traffic on I-395 near ShirlingtonLocals will have a chance to learn about future travel choices along the I-395 corridor during a public meeting tonight.

The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (DRPT) is scheduled to hold an open house prior to the Arlington Transportation Commission meeting at 2100 Clarendon Blvd from 6:30-7:30 p.m. this evening.

The purpose of the open house is to discuss an ongoing DRPT study designed to come up with a list of projects eligible for funding from revenue generated by the plan to extend the 395 Express Lanes to Eads Street in Arlington.

Those projects could include better bus or rail service, more carpooling options and other ways to “support mobility, economic development, and sustainability goals for communities along the corridor,” officials said. Virginia has committed at least $15 million per year to funding possible projects.

Locals can weigh in on the study before the meeting by completing this DRPT survey.

by Tim Regan — August 18, 2016 at 2:30 pm 0

Derailed Metro train at the East Falls Church station (photo courtesy John Sonderman)

Metro Transit Police are opening an investigation into the cause of July’s train derailment at the East Falls Church Metro station.

About 75 passengers were on an Orange Line train on July 29 when it derailed around 6:30 a.m. The passengers were able to offload “without further incident,” Metro said the day of the derailment.

Though Metro’s safety department was investigating the cause of the incident, Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld asked Metro Transit Police to open a parallel inquiry “following a briefing in which investigators advised him of concerns arising from employee interviews, inspection reports, rail defect tracking, and video recordings,” according to a press release.

“The administrative review uncovered information that warrants further investigation by Metro Transit Police,” Wiedefeld said in a statement.  “While Safety Department investigations determine cause and accountability, it is even more important to understand if other issues must be addressed with the way track inspections and maintenance have been conducted.”

Wiedefeld added that the transit agency uncovered information that “raises potentially serious concerns” in the cause of the derailment.

More about the investigation from a Metro press release:

Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld announced today that the investigation into the East Falls Church derailment, which began as an administrative review by the Safety Department, has been expanded to include an investigation by Metro Transit Police.

Wiedefeld directed the Metro Transit Police Department to open a parallel investigation into the matter following a briefing in which investigators advised him of concerns arising from employee interviews, inspection reports, rail defect tracking, and video recordings.

“The administrative review uncovered information that warrants further investigation by Metro Transit Police,” Wiedefeld said.  “While Safety Department investigations determine cause and accountability, it is even more important to understand if other issues must be addressed with the way track inspections and maintenance have been conducted.”

Metro’s General Counsel, Patricia Y. Lee, has engaged two former Assistant U.S. Attorneys as Special Investigators to support the internal administrative review. Adam Hoffinger, a former AUSA for the Southern District of New York, and Peter White, a former AUSA for the Eastern District of Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia, will work closely with Lee on this matter.  Both have extensive prosecutorial experience with complex cases.

“The public has a right to know that the tracks on which their trains run are being properly inspected,” said Wiedefeld. “The information uncovered to date raises potentially serious concerns, and we will take all actions necessary to get answers and hold people accountable.”

Wiedefeld assured riders today that the SafeTrack program underway (in which Metro tracks are being inspected and repaired) has been and will continue to be subject to quality controls from multiple internal and external groups to ensure all track work meets Metro’s high standards. (At the time of the derailment, East Falls Church interlocking had not yet been addressed as part of SafeTrack.)  Metro is engaging an outside engineering firm to conduct a comprehensive review of its track inspection program.

“While we continue the due diligence to identify the cause of any conditions that may have contributed to this incident, Metro is simultaneously repairing the system and providing better rules, training, quality control and line management,” said Wiedefeld.

Photo courtesy John Sonderman

by ARLnow.com — August 15, 2016 at 9:00 am 0

Google traffic map on 8/15/16Both drivers and Metro riders are finding a slow go on their way to work this morning.

The trouble started tragically this morning just before 5 a.m., when motorcyclist crashed on the Roosevelt Bridge. The motorcyclist was pronounced dead at a local hospital and the bridge was closed to traffic for a crash investigation.

Route 110 and the GW Parkway have been backed up all morning as a result of the closure. Lanes have since reopened, but residual delays remain.

As of 8:30 a.m., there was also heavy traffic on I-395, Washington Blvd, and on Route 50 and I-66 from Glebe Road to D.C.

Meanwhile, on Metro, as of 9 a.m. the Yellow Line was only running from Huntington to the Pentagon due to a switch problem causing heavy congestion on the Green Line. Yellow Line riders heading into D.C. are being forced to continue their commute either via the Blue Line or buses.

Metrobuses in Arlington are also experiencing delays, due to the heavy traffic.

by Adrian Cruz — August 1, 2016 at 1:45 pm 0

(Updated at 3:45 p.m.) Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D) held a special ceremony this morning announcing the construction of equipment that would allow for new high occupancy toll (HOT) lanes on I-66.

McAuliffe hosted the event at Washington-Lee High School — which overlooks the highway — and was joined by Va. Secretary of Transportation Aubrey Layne and Arlington County Board chair Libby Garvey.

“Since the beginning of our administration, we made it our top transportation priority to improve Virginia’s infrastructure and unclog the bottlenecks on our most congested highways,” McAuliffe said during the ceremony. “This initiative, coupled with Virginia’s new SMARTSCALE transportation prioritization process, will unlock Northern Virginia from the traffic congestion that was strangling this region’s economic potential.”

Workers will soon begin the $60 million project to install tolling equipment along the interstate from the Beltway to the Lee Highway exit in Rosslyn, according to a press release from McAuliffe’s office.

The new equipment will allow drivers to pay a toll of about $5-6 on average to bypass traffic during morning and afternoon rush hours, according to VDOT. Vehicles with two or more occupants, buses and motorcycles will be exempt from paying the toll.

Toll revenues will go toward funding alternative forms of transportation, McAuliffe said.

“The toll revenues will now fund travel options like ridesharing and enhanced commuter bus service, making those choices more attractive and much more user friendly so more people will leave their cars in the garage to get to work,” McAuliffe explained in his remarks. “We are committed to creating a carpool culture for I-66 travelers.”

Additionally, the Commonwealth Transportation Board will commit nearly $10 million toward projects such as improving commuter buses from Loudoun, Prince William County and Fairfax, local buses in Arlington and Fairfax, new carpool incentives and new bikeshare programs, according to McAuliffe’s office.

Along with the new tolling equipment, I-66 will also be partially widened. The plan calls for an extra lane to be built within the existing eastbound right-of-way from the Dulles Connector Road to the Fairfax Drive exit in Ballston.

The new HOT lanes are expected to open some time next summer.

by ARLnow.com — July 29, 2016 at 9:30 am 0

Derailed Metro train at the East Falls Church station (photo courtesy John Sonderman)

Update at 2:45 p.m. — Orange and Silver line service will remain suspended between Ballston and West Falls Church through at least Saturday, Metro said this afternoon.

(Updated at 10:35 a.m.) Two people were evaluated for injuries after a “minor” train derailment at the East Falls Church Metro station.

Orange and Silver Line service remains shut down between West Falls Church and Ballston as a result of the derailment, and will remain shut down through Friday evening, according to Metro. Shuttle buses are running between the stations.

About 75 passengers were on the train when the derailment happened, around 6:30 a.m. Train cars remained upright and the passengers were able to offload “without further incident,” according to Metro.

The derailment happened as Metro’s “SafeTrack” maintenance work was being performed on one of the tracks between Ballston and East Falls Church.

Photo (top) courtesy John Sonderman

by Tim Regan — July 19, 2016 at 4:15 pm 0

Metro’s fifth SafeTrack maintenance surge will cause a “severe service reduction” on portions of the Orange and Silver lines for 11 days starting tomorrow.

From Wednesday, July 20 until Sunday, July 31, Orange and Silver line trains will continuously single track between the East Falls Church and Ballston stations. This is the same area that was affected during first Metro SafeTrack surge.

On weekdays, Orange Line trains between Vienna and Ballston are expected to operate every 18 minutes. Silver Line trains will run every 18 minutes during the surge, according to Metro.

Additional Orange Line trains will operate between Ballston and New Carrollton during the maintenance period. Trains from Vienna to Ballston and Wiehle-Reston East to Ballston are likely to be extremely crowded, especially during rush-hour, Metro said.

“Customers at Ballston should consider using the additional train service that originates at Ballston and will board on the opposite platform from through-train service,” the agency advised in its latest announcement. “This may lengthen your departure time, but will give you the best opportunity to find space.”

Metro Commuters who have the ability to do so should consider alternate travel options and avoid traveling during rush hour if possible, Metro added.

An Arlington County website has the following information those affected by the latest Metro surge:

Street operations changes

Supplemental local bus service

  • Using 40-foot buses for ART 55 (East Falls Church-Lee Highway-Rosslyn) to add capacity along the affected section of the Orange/Silver line.
    • Each 40-foot bus has five more seats and room for more standees compared to the 35-foot bus normally used on this route.
  • New midday, evening and weekend service for ART 43 (Crystal City-Rosslyn-Courthouse), which started during Surge 2, continues to be available.
  • For changes to bus service operated by Metro and other jurisdictions, visit Metro’s website.

Alternate work and travel options

The County is encouraging telework/flex time, ridesharing, biking and walking – options other than driving alone:

  • Arlington Transportation Partners is reaching out to employers and building managers to urge them to encourage telework or flex schedules and provide travel option information.
  • Arlington’s Commuter Page has travel option resources for residents and businesses – for example, assistance for vanpooling and other car-free options.
  • Arlington County Commuter Services Hispanic Marketing offers comprehensive information about each surge in Spanish.
  • For teleworkers who can’t work at home, Arlington Public Libraries offer wifi, office equipment, design stations with Adobe software, and small meeting rooms.

For those who bike, these changes are continued from prior surges:

Video via Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

by ARLnow.com — July 18, 2016 at 5:00 pm 0

16G Metrobus (photo courtesy WMATA)The Arlington County Board on Saturday approved a new 10-year transit plan that provides a vision for “more frequent bus service, more late night and weekend service, better north-south connections, and a new Premium Transit Network along Columbia Pike.”

There’s an asterisk to the Transit Development Plan’s unanimous approval and the subsequent cheery press release, however. Responding to criticism from residents and the county’s own Transportation Commission, the Board directed County Manager Mark Schwartz to report back next year on possible improvements to the post-streetcar transit plan for Columbia Pike.

The Board’s guidance to Schwartz and county staff:

This generally ambitious and robust Transit Development Plan nevertheless falls short of the urgency and innovation needed to create a transformative transit network serving Columbia Pike and to realize its potential as a thriving and dynamic residential and commercial corridor.

Therefore, in adopting the FY 2017 -FY 2026 Transit Development Plan, the County Board also gives the following guidance to the County Manager and staff:

Look and Customization of Vehicles. The current TDP phases in the most modern version of current vehicles, WMATA buses and ART buses, with no unique features beyond re-skinning the buses on WMATA routes. Recognizing the significant logistical, cost and inter-jurisdictional challenges, please provide to the Board for consideration and analysis, during Q2 2017, the details of a possible path to customized and unique vehicles.

Articulated Buses. In consultation with WMATA, provide a plan by Q2 2017 to add articulated buses to the highest-demand routes on Columbia Pike (on either a pilot or permanent basis). Continue to assess effectiveness of articulated bus service and determine sustained levels of service for these routes through FY2026.

Headways. The current TDP identifies 6-minute peak headways and 12-15 minute off-peak headways for the Metrobus Connector “trunk line.” Please provide to the Board, by Q2 2017, a cost/benefit analysis (to consider efficiency, capacity, ridership impacts) of reducing the off-peak headways and ultimately achieving a 6-minute headway for 18 hours/day.

Coordination with Other Agencies. To effectuate this guidance, the County Manager and staff will coordinate as appropriate and necessary with WMATA and other federal, state, regional and local government agencies and transportation bodies.

Most of the public comments at Saturday’s Board meeting were complimentary of the overall plan, save the plan for the so-called Premium Transit Network. That plan seemed in many ways diminished from the “TSM-2” enhanced bus plan the county and supporters originally said was inferior to its since-cancelled streetcar plan for Columbia Pike.

Among the public speakers at the Board meeting was John Snyder, member of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization and a former streetcar booster. Snyder said the plan for Pike transit presented by county staff was inadequate to support growth along the corridor.

We had a debate for several years [about] TSM-2… and the streetcar. TSM-2 won the debate. Now, when I look at the plan, what is written in the plan has disappeared. The whole idea of premium new vehicles that have higher capacity: it’s gone. This wasn’t announced and it wasn’t part of a public process. We found out about it by looking at the Capital Improvement Plan. There’s no money to buy new buses. There’s still money in the plan for the transit stations if they’re maintained at the current level but the buses have disappeared. There’s great things in the Transit Development Plan, what’s in there is great and the consensus is that the county board supports all of it. But the concern is what’s not in there. We don’t see anything that’s going to help businesses with more frequent service on the off-hours. People go out to dinner not during the commuting hour, they go out to dinner after that time and they come back after that time. The idea of six-minute intervals all the time makes it reliable, frequent, easy and simple to use. We have the simplicity, the new 16M line is great in the way that it simplifies many of these different routes but it needs to have that frequency to help our businesses and connect our residents to that so we get out of the car mentality. Seventy percent of the people on the Pike do not use transit even to get to work. The percentage on other sorts of trips is even higher. We need to change that. That’s the whole idea behind the Pike plan and it has been supported by the Board for the last 15 years.

There is no plan to increase capacity. We understand that you’re going to be coordinating with WMATA on how we can get articulated buses. I heard the same thing in 2003 at the first meeting I attended regarding transit on the Pike. WMATA has a lot on its plate. What we need in that regard is a statement that says Arlington will. Arlington will go do this, we will go get the additional buses, we will get the additional facilities needed to maintain them and we’re going to do that by a particular date.

Some were more charitable about the plan as currently conceived.

“These critics failed to appreciate that no amount of service upgrades will defeat car culture,” said perennial County Board candidate Audrey Clement, who’s running as an independent this year. “If state of the art transit technology were the solution, the Silver Line would not be running half-empty in the I-66 median with cars parked on the interstate on either side every day.”

Dennis Leach, Arlington’s Deputy Director of Transportation, said the enhanced transit stations and other amenities included in the Premium Transit Network plan will, in fact, move the needle in terms of making transit a more attractive option along the Pike.

“The premium amenities are proving those high-quality stations with near-level boarding, longer platforms and real-time information,” he said. “These stations are the front door of transit in the corridor. It is shifting this entire corridor to off-vehicle fare collection. We’ve already started work on transit signal priority and we are committed to actually implementing it in the full corridor.”

“We are actively coordinating with Metro to replace the current buses with modern low floor vehicles,” Leach added. “The intent is to implement a unified brand for this premium transit network.”

“I would say this was the most intensive and comprehensive transit update that the county has ever done,” Leach said of the overall transit plan. “I was here for 2011, this effort well exceeded that. We looked at every route and every part of this community to bring these recommendations before you.”

The full press release from Arlington County, after the jump.

(more…)

by Andrew Ramonas — July 11, 2016 at 4:45 pm 0

Metro SafeTrack Surge 4 service changes (Image via Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority)Arlington is set to lose one of its Metro stops on the Blue and Yellow lines for seven days as part of another “SafeTrack surge,” which is set to start tomorrow.

“Surge 4” track repair work is slated to begin Tuesday and will keep the station closed through the following Monday.

Until the Crystal City station’s scheduled reopening on Tuesday, July 19, Metro will have free shuttle bus service to connect the stop with the Reagan National and Pentagon City stations.

Arlington and airport officials are encouraging travelers to avoid driving near the three stations and use buses and other modes of transportation to get around.

An Arlington County website has the following information those affected by the Metro maintenance work and station closure.

Street operations changes for Surge 3 and 4

Supplemental local bus service continued from prior surges

  • The new ART service and additional ART bus capacity on routes that parallel the Blue Line will continue through Surges 3 and 4:
    • Midday, evening and weekend service for ART 43 (Crystal City-Rosslyn-Courthouse) – This route provides a direct connection from Crystal City to the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor. On weekdays, 40-foot buses will be used to add capacity.
    • 40-foot buses for ART 42 (Ballston-Pentagon) to add capacity – Each 40-foot bus has five more seats and room for more standees compared to 35-foot buses normally used on this route.
  • For changes to bus service operated by Metro and other jurisdictions, visit Metro’s website.

Alternate travel and work options

Image via Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority

by Adrian Cruz — July 5, 2016 at 9:15 am 0

Starting today, the third stage of Metro’s SafeTrack maintenance plan begins, affecting Blue and Yellow line service in Arlington.

The third stage will begin at 8 p.m. on July 5, continuing until July 11 and it will involve the Blue and Yellow lines being completely shut down between National Airport and Braddock Road, in Alexandria.

Blue Line trains will run every 15 minutes between Franconia-Springfield and Braddock Road and every 12 minutes between National Airport and Largo Town Center.

Yellow Line trains will run every 12 minutes between Huntington and Braddock Road and every 12 minutes between National Airport and Greenbelt.

Riders will be able to take Metroway BRT buses for free, between Pentagon City and Braddock Road, to bypass the closure. For airport customers coming from stations below Braddock Road, shuttle bus service will run between the station and the airport.

The fourth SafeTrack stage will run from July 12-18 and the same lines will be shut down between National Airport and Pentagon City. That includes a closure of the busy Crystal City station.

Blue Line trains will run every 12 minutes between Franconia-Springfield and National Airport and every 12 minutes between Pentagon City and Largo Town Center.

Yellow Line trains will run every 12 minutes between Huntington and Braddock Road and every 12 minutes between Pentagon City and Greenbelt.

Shuttle bus service will run to National Airport from Braddock Road and Pentagon City. Metroway shuttle service will also be available for free during this stage.

For its part, Arlington County will continue to run the expanded bus service implemented for SafeTrack’s second stage. That includes expanded midday, evening and weekend service on the ART 43 between Rosslyn and Crystal City and additional 4o-foot buses to increase capacity on the ART 42, which runs from Ballston to Pentagon.

Arlington County is encouraging alternative commute options during the surge, such as teleworking, ridesharing, biking and walking if possible.

Video Courtesy WMATA

by ARLnow.com — June 28, 2016 at 6:00 pm 0

Updated at 7:10 p.m. — There were 10 passengers in the stalled elevator, we’re told. They were freed after about 40 minutes on the elevator.

Earlier: A large number of fire department vehicles have responded to the Courthouse Metro station for a possible elevator issue.

Initial, unconfirmed reports suggest a number of people are stuck on an elevator that’s filling with smoke due to an electrical or mechanical malfunction. There’s also a report of light smoke in an elevator service room.

Firefighters and Metro elevator technicians are working to safely get the elevator to ground level, where the passengers can be evaluated by paramedics, according to scanner traffic.

There is thus far no indication that Metrorail service has been affected.

by ARLnow.com — June 24, 2016 at 10:30 am 0

Streetcar-like bus in Las Vegas (photo via Twitter)

Next month the Arlington County Board will consider the county’s final Transit Development Plan, which includes the post-streetcar plans for transit on Columbia Pike.

Just don’t hold your breath for the aesthetically-pleasing “streetcar-like” buses mentioned occasionally by streetcar opponents before the project was cancelled.

The Transit Development Plan includes provisions for “premium bus service” along the Pike, but “premium” refers more to the usability and frequency of the bus service than the vehicle itself.

“The premium network would offer bus service that is fast, frequent, reliable and easy to use, with features including simplified bus routes, increased weekday and weekend service, and a new one-seat ride from Skyline to Pentagon City-Crystal City,” said a county press release.

The plan does include a series of 23 enhanced bus stops along the Pike, with a price tag north of half a million dollars apiece, providing “near-level boarding, longer platforms, real-time bus arrival information and off-vehicle fare collection.”

Articulated Metrobus, downtown Washington, DC (photo by M. Ortiz via Wikipedia)It will also call for larger, articulated buses on some heavily-used routes, but those will be operated by Metro and won’t be put into service until Metro and the county can establish the infrastructure needed for such buses.

“Higher capacity (articulated) buses will be addressed in the 10-year Transit Development Plan,” said Marti Reinfeld, Arlington’s interim Transit Bureau Chief. “The routes that will need the additional capacity are Metro-operated; therefore, we are coordinating with Metro to include articulated buses in their fleet expansion plan and to address how an articulated fleet will be stored and maintained in Virginia.”

(Here’s more information on the articulated buses currently in use by Metro.)

“As maintenance and storage details for articulated buses are worked out, we will revise the TDP in an annual update, as needed,” said Reinfeld.

“To be clear, no plans for any especially fancy ART buses or anything like that, besides the eventual possibility of articulated buses?” asked ARLnow.com.

“Correct,” said a county spokesman.

Photo (top) of a bus in Las Vegas via Twitter. Photo (bottom) by M. Ortiz via Wikipedia.

by Adrian Cruz — June 18, 2016 at 9:00 am 0

The second round of closures related to Metro’s yearlong SafeTrack maintenance plan is slated to take effect today, with big impacts to Blue Line service in Arlington.

Maintenance crews will work on portions of the Orange, Silver and Blue lines until July 3, according to a service advisory.

On the Orange Line, trains will not run between Eastern Market and Minnesota Ave/Benning Road. Orange and Silver line trains will run every 10 minutes between Vienna/Wiehle-Reston and Eastern Market.

Metro shutdown graphicOn the Blue Line, trains will not run between between Arlington Cemetery and Rosslyn. Trains will, however, run between Franconia-Springfield and Arlington Cemetery each weekday until 10 p.m. Yellow Line trains will run on a Rush+ schedule all day on weekdays to compensate for the loss of Blue Line service.

Metro will provide shuttle service for riders traveling to and from affected stations. Arlington County has also expanded ART 43 service, which runs between Rosslyn and Crystal City, on middays, evenings and weekends until Aug. 20.

Trains may be extremely crowded, especially during rush hour, Metro officials said. Regular riders are encouraged to use commuting alternatives such as carpooling or telecommuting.

Video Courtesy WMATA

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