Arlington, VA

(Updated at noon) New scooter docks have been added to Crystal City in an effort to curb intrusive sidewalk scooter parking.

Four new docks from the electric scooter company Spin were placed throughout Crystal City last week after their debut in D.C., with five more expected to be added sometime in the next week.

“Spin is one of the operators that has been participating in Arlington’s [scooter] pilot,” said Rob Mandle, chief operating officer of the Crystal City BID. “They reached out to us about a pilot that they had initiated, rolling out in D.C. to provide a dock solution.”

Mandle said the BID is working on getting locations spread out across Crystal City, Pentagon City and Arlington’s portion of Potomac Yard.

“Our goal is to enhance connectivity in the core areas,” Mandle said.

The current docks are located at:

  • 251 18th Street S.
  • 220 20th Street S.
  • 520 12th Street S.
  • 1901 S. Bell Street

Though the docks are branded by Spin, Mandle said any scooters will be able to park in them. They also charge the scooter batteries while they’re docked.

“We see it as an interesting approach to addressing how to park scooters throughout the neighborhood without losing the value of dockless scooters,” Mandle said. “We’re a year from when these things first hit the streets, maybe not even, and the industry continues to evolve. The number one concern in any downtown area is ‘how do you manage the parking of the scooters in the downtown core?'”

There’s currently nothing to encourage scooter riders to use the docks outside of good civic values, but Mandle said incentives could be on the way.

“There are other ways to incentivize users to park in those facilities,” Mandle said. “I don’t think anybody’s seen that yet, but that’s where it’s going.”

Photo courtesy Rob Mandle/Crystal City BID

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Next week, Arlington will participate in two transit and environmental events: PARK(ing) Day and Try Transit Week.

PARK(ing) Day will transform 13 parking spaces around the county into pop-up parks, while Try Transit Week encourages residents to use public transit.

For Try Transit Week — which runs from Sept. 16-20 — the “ART Prize Patrol” will ride various ART routes to surprise passengers with giveaway items. Additionally, the ART bus fare will be free for all passengers on Thursday, Sept. 19.

On Friday, Sept. 20, Arlington will  — as in years past — celebrate PARK(ing) Day, described as an “annual international event where the public collaborates to temporarily transform parking spaces into small parks to elicit a reconsideration of the designation of public space.”

Participants this year include a “Sit Up to Climate Change” pop-up park at Ballston Quarter mall, presented by the Ballston Business Improvement District’s charity arm, BallstonGives, and the urban planning firm LandDesign. From 9 a.m.-3 p.m., trainers from OneLife Fitness will be onsite guiding park guests through a series of sit ups. For every sit up completed, five cents will be donated to the Arlington Friends of Urban Agriculture.

Additional pop-ups include a “Mind and Body Oasis” from the Crystal City BID with a yoga area and chair massages, plus a “Water Theme Park” from the Department of Environmental Services near Columbia Pike.

The full list of PARK(ing) Day sites can is listed below.

  • AECOM — 2940 Clarendon Blvd — “Park and Ride.”
  • Arlington Art — 2099 15th Street N. — “Celebrate the Mural,” featuring local artist Marc Pekala.
  • Ballston BID & OneLife Fitness — 4238 Wilson Blvd — “Sit-Up Challenge,” raising money for AFUA.
  • Bike Arlington & Walk Arlington — 1735 N. Lynn Street — “Relax and Engage,” with massage area, games, and outreach.
  • Crystal City BID & March of Dimes — 2200 Crystal Drive — “Lounge Area” with smoothies and healthy snacks, focusing on well-being for mothers.
  • Crystal City BID & Freddie’s — 500 23rd Street S. — “Beach Oasis” with games and relaxation.
  • Crystal City BID & Mind and Body Oasis — 2200 Crystal Drive — “Zen Garden,” with yoga area and chair massages.
  • Crystal City BID & GW Sustainable Urban Planning Student Organization — 2200 Crystal City, “Learn and Play,” urban heat island effect and climate change.
  • Dept. of Environmental Services, Public Engagement — 100 S. Walter Reed Drive — “Water Theme Park,” children’s pool with inflatables and water education table.
  • Dept. of Environmental Services, Solid Waste Bureau — 4115 Campbell Drive — “Back to the Future II,” kitchen display showcasing how to reduce waste.
  • Dept. of Environmental Services, Traffic Engineering & Operations, Commuter Services/Dept. of Parks & Recreation — 2300 Clarendon Blvd — “Obstacle Course,” scooter safety set-up, DES outreach, relax area.
  • HDR Architecture & Animal Welfare League of Arlington — 1109/1101 N. Highland Street — “Dog Training,” hourly dog behavior and training demonstrations
  • Little Diversified Architectural Consulting — 1046 N. Taylor Street — “Relax Lounge.”

“Events like PARK(ing) Day enrich our community life by creating an inviting streetscape and by promoting activities that allow for social exchange, fun, creativity and critical thinking,” the county said on its website. “PARK(ing) Day in particular can furthermore promote a rethinking of the usage of the public-right-of-way and may motivate the public to more actively participate in the civic processes which shape our urban environment.”

PARK(ing) Day began in 2005 when San Francisco art studio Rebar transformed a metered parking space into a temporary park. Since then, parking day has grown into an annual nationwide event.

Photo via Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services

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(Updated at 3:15 p.m.) A portion of the Custis Trail in Arlington will be soon detoured for the next year as crews continue to work on the widening of Interstate 66.

Starting Monday, September 16, trail riders and walkers will not be able to follow the Custis under I-66 where the trail now passes near Bon Air Park until fall 2020, per the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). Instead, the department will detour people over the highway via an existing pedestrian bridge about 750 feet from the underpass.

“Extensive work will occur on the I-66 bridge that runs above the trail, which requires the underpass to be closed for safety,” VDOT officials wrote in a statement yesterday (Wednesday.) “As part of the construction, the Custis Trail alignment will be modified to improve safety for trail users.”

The pedestrian bridge travelers will be re-routed to is paved and connects the Custis Trail to Fairfax Drive near Kensington Street.

The trail closure itself was previously expected to start this past May.

“Construction schedules can be fluid with design built projects, but overall we are still on track and schedule,” VDOT spokeswoman Michelle Holland told ARLnow today (Thursday.)

The $85.7 million highway widening project also closed a section of the W&OD Trail between Little Falls Street and Lee Highway. That trail section will remain closed until next fall as crews build a new bridge over Lee Highway.

Holland said while construction crews work on widening the I-66 overpass near Bon Air Park, crews will also add a rotary to the south side of the Custis passage underneath. The new roundabout is designed to eliminate the sharp right turn into the tunnel that currently causes conflicts between those entering versus exiting the passageway. She added that current plans call for no trees to be cut down in the park.

As part of the I-66 project, officials have pledged to make several improvements to county’s trails, including new park benches, bike shelters, fencing, and trail signage.

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After serving as a local fixture and punchline for nearly a month, the Arlington Transit bus lodged into the side of a truck depot on Columbia Pike has been removed.

On Aug. 5, a bus carrying roughly 10 passengers lost control and careened through the Pike and S. George Mason Drive intersection, veering over the curb and smashing into the side of the Penske Truck Rental building at 4110 Columbia Pike.

When it crashed into the building, pushing another truck into the side of the structure along with it, the bus became load-bearing — meaning extraction was impossible until a temporary structure could be built to support the building while the bus was removed.

The bus was removed this past Friday, Aug. 30, according to county transportation spokesman Eric Balliet.

A wooden wall is now in place, supporting the side of the building where the bus had crashed. A sign on the side of the building says the building is still considered unsafe and the Penske phone line said the location is currently closed.

Penske couldn’t be reached for comment and a security guard working outside the building said he wasn’t sure when it would be open again.

Balliet noted that the contractor that runs the ART service, National Express, will be responsible for the cost to repair the building.

“National Express’ insurance company will assess and determine the estimate for repairs,” Balliet said.

The investigation into the crash is being conducted by Arlington County Police, Balliet said, declining to comment on what might have caused the wreck. As for the bus itself?

“The bus will be put back into service,” Balliet said. “It’s currently being inspected by National Express’ maintenance team to determine how to address repairs.”

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Cyclists can now ride e-bikes around national parks, including the Mt. Vernon Trail along the GW Parkway, thanks to a recent policy change from the National Park Service.

“We think this is a very positive development, and we are hopeful that this serves as a push for Arlington’s parks department to allow e-bikes everywhere,” said Henry Dunbar, director of active transportation for Bike Arlington.

According to the NPS e-bike policy, bike speeds of up to 28 mph will be allowed in all national parks. However, similar to traditional bicycles, e-bikes will not be permitted in designated wilderness areas.

“They make bicycle travel easier and more efficient, and they provide an option for people who want to ride a bicycle but might not otherwise do so because of physical fitness, age, disability, or convenience, especially at high altitudes or in hilly or strenuous terrain,” said National Park Service Deputy Director P. Daniel Smith in a statement from NPS.

The scenic trail is now the second bike trail in Arlington where people can ride the motor-assisted bicycle, after the W&OD Trail go-ahead from NOVA Parks in March.

“The only downside would be managing trail safety and congestion, which we already have issues with,” Dunbar said.

Recently officials have discussed plans to widen the W&OD Trail to ease bike-pedestrian conflicts, along with improving lighting, crossings, and signage.

The news pleased actor William Shatner, of Star Trek fame, who has since become an e-bike enthusiast (and the face of Pedego Electric Bikes, albeit not available in Arlington). Shatner butted heads with Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services in November for its “barbaric” e-bike ban.

“A regular bicyclist can easily travel 25mph!” Shatner tweeted Tuesday. “So if they allow bikes what would be the additional impact of an e-bike?”

 

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Local governments officials are hoping a new  trip planning app with cash rewards will incentivize more environmentally-friendly commutes.

The app, called incenTrip, uses real-time data to plot quick routes, and uses artificial intelligence to customize those routes for an individual over time. Regional officials said they’re hopeful the app’s built-in reward system will encourage more commuters to help reduce traffic and carbon emissions by ditching their cars.

“The end goal is to provide the most cost effective tool for our agencies, our community and our employees, to incentivize behavioral changes,” said Dr. Lei Zhang, who was in charge of creating the app as director of the University of Maryland’s Transportation Institute.

A pilot version of incepTrip first hit the app stores last year after being by developed by Commuter Connections, a Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments initiative, and the Transportation Institute.

The app features a reward system that gives users “points” when they choose a transportation mode that reduces carbon emissions — like the bus or biking — and gives $10 cash awards once users accumulate at least 1,000 points. At 2,000 points users can receive a check for $25, and at 3,500 points they can receive $50.

The incentives are funded through state and federal transportation departments.

VDOT transportation planner Heidi Mitter said the department “has a big emphasis on multi-modal transportation” that pairs with the app’s mission.

“Arlington is dense and has a lot options,” Mitter said of transit in the county, telling ARLnow that hopefully that meant this app would benefit the county’s residents and commuters. 

The app could also help Arlington’s employers, many of which have workers commuting in from other jurisdictions, said Nicholas Ramfos, Director of MWCOG’s Transportation Operations Programs.

“Particularly for employers if they’re having parking issues or other types of recruitment retention issues this is a great way to offer these travel options tho those employees and help reduce some of the congestion that coming into that area,” he said.

When asked, Ramfos added he “absolutely” believed the app could help ease the expected increase in traffic from Amazon’s HQ2, which has started the hiring process for the 25,000 jobs the company promised the county.

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(Updated on 09/09/19) A Metrobus with a chemical leak that caused first responders to hospitalize the driver last week sickened a second driver after being placed back in service prematurely, union officials say.

An Arlington County Fire Department hazmat team responded to the Pentagon bus bay Thursday morning after the driver on Metrobus number 6360 reporting feeling sick and smelling a chemical odor.

“I proceeded on to 395 taking the Seminary Road exit to the HOV. As I proceeded that’s when the smell got stronger,” wrote the driver in a statement obtained by ARLnow. “As I am nearing the Pentagon, the smell continues to get stronger and a passenger begins coughing.”

The driver reported that passengers ran off the bus at Pentagon due to the “awful smell” and that she had a headache and was feeling a pain in her chest. When first responders arrived, she wrote, “I tried to explain the situation and then passed out.”

First responders said at the time they didn’t find anything hazardous on the bus, but did transport the driver to Virginia Hospital Center. A Metro spokesperson told ARLnow that they were not aware of a second problem after the morning incident.

“The bus was immediately shut off and taken out of service,” said WMATA spokeswoman Sherri Ly. “Upon inspection, an exhaust leak was identified and repairs made before the bus returned to service that evening. Metro did not receive any additional complaints that night and no further health issues have been substantiated.”

However, the union representing Metro employees, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, says a contracted bus garage in Lorton released the bus later that afternoon without fixing the problem — causing a second bus driver to feel ill.

“When leaving the yard I was coughing hard off fumes, and during the route passengers were also coughing,” the second driver said, according to a copy of the report obtained by ARLnow. (On Monday, a WMATA spokeswoman said they had not received a copy of the report.)

Union spokesman Brian Wivell said the afternoon driver is seeing a doctor and the morning driver visited the hospital again Monday for “follow-up work.” Another union representative said the morning driver “wasn’t in good condition at all” on Thursday and Friday and remained out of work Monday.

“We demand that Transdev respond to the safety concerns of its workers,” ATU Local 689 President Raymond Jackson said of the French company, to which Metro outsourced the management of the garage last year.

The union, which also bid on the contract, disputed Metro’s assertion that the garage contract saved money, and accused the transit agency of union busting. Since then, ATU has been locked in a bitter battle with Transdev over pay and working conditions, which recently boiled as members voted to authorize a strike.

“They’ve been raising alarm bells for months, flagging buses that have issues, and now a worker has gone to the hospital,” Jackson said of the Lorton garage. “This is the human cost of this company’s profits.”

Transdev did not respond to requests for comment.

File photo

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A little over two weeks after an ART bus made an unexpected detour into the side of a truck depot at the corner of Columbia Pike and S. George Mason Drive, the wayward bus is still there.

The Arlington Transit bus is sitting exactly where it was when first responders arrived to the scene, face planted against the side of the concrete wall.

Eight days into the bus’ tenure at the crash scene, ABC 7 reported that structural concerns for the building are keeping the bus in place. Officials confirmed to ARLnow this week that that is the reason it’s still there and will remain in place indefinitely.

“We are not able to move the vehicle at Columbia Pike and George Mason Drive until the building structure is stabilized,” county transportation spokesman Eric Balliet told ARLnow. “Because columns were displaced and damaged, the roof must be properly shored up by a professional shoring contractor before removing the bus.”

ART’s service contractor National Express has been attempting to work with the property owner on the repairs, Balliet said, but there is no estimate for when those repairs will be done and the bus can be moved.

“Once repairs are complete and deemed safe by building authorities, the bus and the other vehicle pushed into the building will be moved and County police will finalize their investigation,” Balliet said.

In the meantime, the bus remains out of service.

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Advocates want Amazon to help build a protected bike lane in Pentagon City as part of the development of its second headquarters.

Advocacy group Sustainable Mobility for Arlington County wants Amazon pay for the new protected bike lane in exchange for added density for the two office towers the company is planning for the Metropolitan Park site along S. Eads Street. The group is asking the county to consider the request as part of the site plan process for this first phase of HQ2.

“The thought is that we expect major development to mitigate its impacts to the extent possible,” said the organization’s founder and Arlington Transportation Commission chair Chris Slatt.

“They are going to be doing construction there anyway, and doing additional construction is much cheaper than mobilizing a contractor from scratch,” he said. “As long as they are pouring concrete and moving dirt and making changes to the streetscape anyway, we think part of it should be upgrading that bike lane to a protected bike lane.”

Currently, the stretch of 15th Street S. bordering the future headquarters features an unprotected bike lane, meaning there are no buffers between vehicles and bikes except the line of paint demarking the lane. Slatt said this is especially dangerous on 15th Street considering Virginia Department of Transportation estimates that an average of 16,000 cars drive along the street every weekday.

Sustainable Mobility is also calling for upgrades to the existing protected bike lane on S. Eads Street, and for the county to install floating bus stop “islands” on 15th Street to prevent buses from pulling into the bike lane to pick up riders.

“What we mean by protected is something that will slow down or stop a car… and eliminate bus-bike conflict,” said Slatt.

Last month, the Arlington County Board approved a street safety resolution to end bicycle and pedestrian deaths — although some criticized the measure for lacking a specific plan.

Eric Balliet, a spokesman for the Department of Environmental Services, declined to comment on the bike lane proposal, citing the ongoing review of the site plan. A spokeswoman for Amazon also declined to comment.

“Members of the community who are interested in the Met Park proposal should continue to provide comments as part of the upcoming Site Plan Review Committee meetings on Sept. 23 and Oct. 14, or submit them to Mr. Schulz,” Balliet said, referring to county planner Peter Schulz.

Amazon is expected to eventually hire some 25,000 employees for HQ2, prompting some fears of Arlington experiencing Seattle’s traffic woes. Virginia and Arlington wooed Amazon with the promise of millions in nearby transportation updates, but Slatt says a protected bike lane outside HQ2 could also encourage bike commuting, thus reducing the number of car trips and helping to ease traffic.

“It will help,” he said. “The tough thing about building a network is the impact of each little piece is often small, but without each little piece the overall [bike] network isn’t enticing.”

Earlier this year, the county called for 75 miles of bike infrastructure to be added to Arlington over the next 20 years, however only 2.5 miles of that is currently slated to become protected bike lanes.

“I think the new bike plan is very clear that our goal for every part of our bike network is that it be low stress and for all ages and abilities,” Slatt said, “and that the new bike plan is very clear that we look for an opportunity to make that happen with every new development.”

Images via Google Maps

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A new Capital Bikeshare station is slated to arrive at Reagan National Airport sometime next year, officials say.

County and airport officials say they’ve agreed on a site adjacent to a parking garage, near Terminal B, for the Bikeshare station. The plan is now awaiting final approval from the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT).

Officials scouted the location for its proximity to the Mt. Vernon Trail, which they hope will make connecting to the airport easier for cyclists.

“I know it’s been on the books since 2014 when I joined BikeArlington,” said Henry Dunbar, who heads the organization in charge of local Capital Bikeshare stations. “So it’s always been on the back burner, but we’re now really committed to it.”

Dunbar said Arlington is currently home to 92 Capital Bikeshare stations. The new station is part of Bike Arlington’s plan to add six more stations countywide, as well as a few dozen new bikes.

Funding for all the new stations comes from a 2014 grant from the Federal Highway Administration’s Federal Lands Access Program. Dunbar says VDOT needs to approve the final equipment purchases this year, which he hopes will allow construction to begin in 2020.

“The approvals for this project’s award are being worked through this month,” said VDOT spokeswoman Jenni McCord, who added that the state agency is working with eh county to ensure that the station complies with federal standards like environmental requirements.

The project already has the greenlight from the airport itself.

“We have been pursuing the establishment of a bike facility for quite some time,” said MWAA spokesman Robert Yingling. “The only thing left to do is establish an agreement on how the site is constructed.”

The airport has several racks for people to park privately-owned bikes. But some racks are currently inaccessible due to the on-going construction replacing the dreaded 35X gate and adding a new security screening area.

It’s not clear how many people would use the future Bikeshare station. Yingling pointed out many travelers have luggage which wouldn’t fit on a bike. But Dunbar is optimistic that light-packing travelers will want take advantage of a cheap commute that avoids the area’s frequent traffic headaches.

“There are also thousands of people who go to the airport every day who work there,” he said.

Yingling added that, “for most airports it’s not practical to have a bicycle station on campus.” But he noted DCA is special: the Arlington airport is located in an urban area, with connections to nearby trails.

“As far as I know, it’s the first one for a U.S. airport,” said Dunbar of the upcoming station.

Map via Google Maps/Bike Arlington

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A “block party” style event with a transportation theme is set for later this month along Columbia Pike.

Arlington County is hosting its third annualOur Shared Street Pop-Up” on Thursday, August 22, in the parking lot at the intersection of S. Four Mile Run Drive and the Pike. The event will run from 5-7 p.m. that night, and will feature booths from transportation organizations with activities and answers to transportation questions.

“Our Shared Street is a block party where you can get to know your neighbors and local transportation options,” says the event’s website. “There are also tons of great giveaways happening and fun activities.”‘

The goal of the event is to share information about commuting by bike, rail, bus, car, or feet in the county. The county-run Arlington Transportation Partners is organizing the event along with Capital Bikeshare, BikeArlington, and WalkArlington, and Arlington’s Car-Free Diet.

What’s not yet certain is whether ride-hailing or e-scooter companies like Uber and Lyft will be present during the late August event — as they were for last year’s event. (The county’s e-scooter program was recently extended, but has seen a slight uptick in crashes and injuries.)

Tickets to the pop-up event are free, but attendees are encouraged to register in advance online.

Image via Twitter/Arlington Transportation Partners

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