A new scooter company is now set to join the ranks of e-scooters in Arlington, months after earning approval from the county.
E-scooter company JUMP, which is now owned by Uber, announced this morning that it will be soon be rolling the vehicles into Arlington and Alexandria. Loic Amado, Uber’s East Coast General Manager of Scooters, said the company was “excited” about getting more people using scooters, but did not share when users can expect to see the vehicles on the streets.
“At Uber, we are working towards a world where residents can easily live without a car and JUMP scooters provide an affordable, environmentally friendly way to get from point A to point B,” said Amado.
“Users can find and unlock JUMP scooters within the Uber app,” the company said in a press release. “It’s simple to use — you can reserve via the Uber app or by walking up to an available scooter and scanning the QR code to unlock. When using the app, tap the mode switch at the top of your home screen, and select Scooter. JUMP scooters are free to unlock and $0.25 per minute of riding.”
The county originally granted approval for JUMP to enter the fray back in February, with the company saying at the time they expected to roll out scooters “within a few weeks.”
Since approving a “demonstration project” for the scooters, officials have allowed several companies to scoot into Arlington — including Lyft, Lime, Bird, Skip, and Bolt. Last month, the Department of Environmental Services extended the pilot program to December 31 in a bid to gather more data and public input.
The devices have prompted discussions over safety as well as how to prevent the dockless devices from crowding sidewalks. This winter, lawmakers in Richmond advanced legislation to give local jurisdictions more authority to regulate scooter use, such as banning them on sidewalks.
Photo courtesy Uber
(Updated at 9:27 a.m.) Commuters on Metro’s Orange and Silver lines faced minor delays this morning after smoke filled the tunnels of the Ballston station.
A Metro spokeswoman told ARLnow that a train suffered a brake malfunction and offloaded passengers at the station.
“The fans will be turned on and the smoke will dissipate,” said the spokesman. He added he not aware of any health concerns for those who breathed in the smoke.
As of 9 a.m. the gray smoke was still visible and smelled of burning rubber, but crowds has dissipated and first responders had left the scene.
Dozens of emergency vehicles, firefighters going down the escalator, smell of burning rubber, and smoke in the tunnels. Just another day at metro! pic.twitter.com/9t5lj7oEhO
— Baris Tezgel (@BarisTezgel1) July 2, 2019
First responders were dispatched to the scene around 8:45 a.m. this morning to reports of smoke filling the tunnel.
Metro-tracking bot Metro Hero Alerts reported that a train went out of service at the Ballston station at 8:43 a.m. this morning and that riders disembarked the train at the station.
Outside, one commuter ditched Metro and was waiting on an Uber to get to work.
“I could smell it going down,” Ashley McMahon said of the smoke as she walked down the escalator to the tunnel earlier that morning. “There was a lot of people.”
— Maggie Urbanik (@maggieurbanik) July 2, 2019
Photo courtesy of Ashley McMahon
Proposed changes could help transform a major street in the Pentagon City and Crystal City area into a more pedestrian and bicycle friendly corridor, though it might make traffic a little more congested.
The Army Navy Drive Complete Street project would provide a physically-separated, two-way protected bicycle lane along the south side of Army Navy Drive from S. Joyce Street to 12th Street S. Changes would also make pedestrian crossings shorter and safer, with options to build dedicated transit lanes in the future.
According to the project website:
The project will rebuild Army Navy Drive within the existing right-of-way as a multimodal complete street featuring enhanced bicycle, transit, environmental and pedestrian facilities. The goal of the project is to improve the local connections between the Pentagon and the commercial, residential and retail services in Pentagon City and Crystal City.
The tradeoff for keeping all of this within the right of way is reduced motor vehicle lanes, with slowing traffic through the area billed as a feature rather than a detriment. For most of the route, traffic in each direction is at least two lanes wide, though east of S. Eads Street the plans call for it to narrow from two lanes to one in each direction.
At an open house yesterday (Tuesday) at the Aurora Hills Branch Library (735 18th Street S.), most of those in attendance were local cyclists expressing enthusiasm for the project.
“This is an unspeakably huge improvement for cycling,” said Chris Slatt, chair of the Transportation Commission. “This is a critical piece for connecting bicycle infrastructure.”
Cyclists at the meeting also took the opportunity to note that the improvements planned here were still a stark contrast to plans to realign Columbia Pike near the Air Force Memorial. Cycling advocates at the open house said the Pike plans would turn the nearby intersection of S. Joyce Street and Columbia Pike, which feeds into Army Navy Drive and is already not ideal for bicycling, into a “death trap.”
Photo (3) via Google Maps, project map via Arlington County Department of Environmental Services
New projects approved by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) could improve some bus offerings around Arlington.
The Commonwealth Transportation Board voted yesterday (Wednesday) to use nearly $20 million in toll revenue to fund commuter projects along I-66.
“We [will] fund 13 projects that will provide connections to places people want to go, add options for commuter and local bus riders, encourage ridesharing and make it easier to choose transit,” said NVTC Executive Director Kate Mattice in a press release. “The projects funded through I-66 Commuter Choice will save Northern Virginia commuters approximately 485,000 hours of travel delay each year and move over 3,000 additional people through the corridor during rush hour.”
Additional bus trips are funded for some of Arlington’s major commuter destinations:
- Metrobus 3Y: Lee Highway-Farragut Square — The $1 million project will increase the frequency of Metrobus 3Y, a peak-direction route that operates between the East Falls Church Metro and downtown D.C. via Lee Highway (I-66).
- OmniRide Express: Gainesville-Pentagon — The $4.7 million project will add three new buses and eight total trips to the route from Gainesville to the Pentagon. The route averages 300 riders daily, according to the project description, and connects riders to multiple Metro lines.
- OmniRide Express: Haymarket-Rosslyn — The $776,700 project would add a new express bus between Haymarket Park and Ride lot to the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor. The lot was built in December and offers 230 parking spaces.
- New Bus: Stone Ridge-Pentagon — The $1.3 million project would fund a new bus line running from Stone Ridge II Park near Dulles to the Pentagon. The route will feature two morning and two evening peak-direction trips.
Five other bus routes enhanced or newly funded would pass from the outlying suburbs into D.C. along I-66.
The NVTC also agreed to spend $1.4 million to support I-66 marketing and outreach efforts of Arlington County Commuter Services — an agency that works to reduce traffic congestion and parking demand through programs like BikeArlington and The Commuter Store. The project will be continued for another three years.
“The approved projects for the FY 2020 Commuter Choice program provide connections to key destinations, address the needs of commuter and local bus riders and encourage commuters to use transit, carpools and vanpools,” the NVTC said in a report.
The Arlington County Board needs a little more time to see how it likes e-scooters and e-bikes.
At a County Board meeting yesterday (Tuesday), the Board voted to extend the e-scooter and e-bike pilot project through Dec. 31. to allow for continued public comment and additional time for analysis.
More than 300,000 trips have been taken on e-scooters and e-bikes since the pilot launched last October, according to a press release, with 21 reported injuries during scooter-related incidents. A total of 307,243 miles have been traveled through April, with the average trip length at little over 1 mile.
The extension will allow county staff to collect data for warmer months, showing year-round usage numbers.
Meanwhile, the County Board is weighing how to regulate the devices, after legislation signed by Gov. Ralph Northam in March authorized local governments to do so. The legislation also authorizes scooter use on sidewalks unless otherwise prohibited, though riding on the sidewalk is currently prohibited under the terms of Arlington’s pilot program.
“Great transportation options are an important feature of life in Arlington County,” County Board Chair Christian Dorsey said in the press release. “On a day-to-day basis, we are learning a lot about what’s working and what isn’t working with dockless scooters and bikes. Before this Board considers how to permanently regulate these devices in Arlington, we need a complete analysis from staff of information from operators, staff experience, adopted plans and policies, and feedback from our community.”
Seven companies have participated in the pilot program, each paying an $8,000 fee per mode of transit to assist with the cost of program administration. Scooters are capped at 10 miles-per-hour while e-bikes are capped at 20 miles-per-hour.
According to the press release, most trips have been in the Rosslyn-Ballston and Route 1 corridors, though some ambitious riders have taken the scooters out to Columbia Pike and other sites outside of the main transit corridors.
The county has received over 600 emails about the pilot so far, with complaints centering on use of the scooters on sidewalks, scooter parking that blocks pedestrian or vehicle traffic, erratic behavior and riders under 18-years old. Feedback can be submitted via email to [email protected] or by filling out an online form.
“Through June 30, the County is conducting a formal public feedback process for the demonstration project,” the press release notes. “Those who live, work and visit in Arlington are invited to complete the online feedback form to help the County gauge interest, issues and concerns around dockless e-bikes and e-scooters. All feedback is welcome, even if you have never used shared mobility devices in Arlington.”
In October, the analysis of the pilot and a recommendation is scheduled to be presented to the County Board. Ordinance changes are scheduled for November, with potential adoption in December.
(Updated on 04/14/19) A European company’s car-sharing service will expand into Arlington in July after rolling into D.C. last October.
The service, Free2Move, allows users to pay a flat fee per the minute, hour, or day that they rent a car and allows users to drive anywhere as long as vehicles are returned to a legal parking spot in the District of Columbia. With the new expansion, users will be able to pick and park vehicles in Arlington, too.
A company spokeswoman said the latest expansion means that the app’s 15,000 users in the Greater Washington area “can now start and end their trip within D.C. or Arlington city limits.”
Free2Move’s parent company is French car manufacturer Groupe PSA, which makes Opel, Citroen, Vauxhall, and Peugeot.
Groupe PSA’s decision to open Free2Move in the D.C. area is part of the company’s first foray back into the North American market since leaving in 1991, per the business news site Global Atlanta.
Free2Move currently uses a mix of 200 Chevrolet Equinox SUVs and 400 Chevrolet Cruze sedans in D.C., per the spokeswoman.
The company has said it operates in 11 other countries and has served 1.3 million customers in total, according to an April press release.
Images via Free2Move
(Updated at 4:05 p.m.) The co-creator of the popular car violation tracking app “How’s My Driving?” is eyeing an expansion across the Potomac.
Mark Sussman is the data scientist behind the app, along with his partner and co-creator Daniel Schep, a software engineer. Sussman told ARLnow today that he’s considering expanding the service from D.C. to Arlington because of the demand he’s seen over the past few months.
“It’s almost been an aggressive demand from some Arlington folks,” he said, laughing. “We obviously have folks who live in Arlington and work in D.C. and have been wanting to use it.”
— How's My Driving (@hmdappio) June 6, 2019
Sussman and Schep built a Twitter bot last July that lets Twitter users tweet problems like vehicles parked in bike lanes or blocking sidewalks. If a user tweets a moving or parking violation at the bot with the vehicle’s license plate number, the bot fetches data from the D.C. DMV on how many outstanding citations or violations the driver has racked up on that vehicle.
The developers later announced they’d be beta-testing a smartphone app version of the service. Since then Sussman says about 1,200 people have volunteered to test it. The app automatically tweets the citation information that results from people’s reports to D.C. parking enforcement authorities in an effort to encourage enforcement.
Several Arlingtonians have joined the beta-testing group, despite the fact that “How’s My Driving?” isn’t yet connected to any Arlington database that could show the number of violations.
This summer, Sussman said he and Schep are planning to start talking to authorities in Arlington about whether the app can help with traffic enforcement in the county, and whether they can integrate it with the current record-keeping systems for citations. Parking citations are publicly available with license plate numbers in Arlington. But unlike D.C., Arlington app users need a citation number in order to look up moving violations, such as speeding.
The record amount for the most outstanding fines accrued by a single vehicle in D.C. flagged by the bot so far is $36,594. The majority of the fines for the Virginia-registered vehicle were from speeding violations.
“If that information was provided to officers on the front end instead of having them have to look it up, then they’d be much more likely to do the right thing,” said Sussman. “While it may seem like a benign to some [to report] standing in a bike lane, it’s a proxy for more dangerous behavior.”
🚨 @HeadwaysMatter set a new high score with VA:VSN2190: $36594.00 in unpaid tickets! 🚨
— How's My Driving DC 🚨🤖 (@HowsMyDrivingDC) June 4, 2019
So far, users have reported 74 parking and moving violations in Arlington, with the majority clustered in Clarendon and around Reagan National Airport.
The locations made sense to Sussman. “A third of these violations are for bike lane violations,” he said. “These are notoriously abused bike lanes.”
Due to a dedicated community of pedestrians and cyclists who report violations spotted around town, the bot has exploded in popularity since starting last year. “Currently, we’ve had a little over 7,000 submissions that represent over $2 million in the District of Columbia,” Sussman said, of the total fines reported.
In the future, Sussman said he and Schep are considering doing away with the Twitter bot altogether to avoid gaining a reputation as “vigilante social media shamers” and focus more on integration with government systems, to help with their main goal of improving enforcement.
Twitter users would, of course, still be able to tweet about what they find out from the app on their own.
“We just don’t want it to be the main vehicle that people use for enforcement,” he said.
Image via Marc Sussman/Twitter
VDOT has officially kicked off construction on the new Washington & Old Dominion Trail bridge over Lee Highway.
A new county video, above, shows renderings of the white bridge with decorative safety walls over the highway. The bridge is expected to accommodate the approximately 2,000 daily trail users.
The construction is part of the project to widen I-66 eastbound between Exits 67 and 71, which began last year. As part of the construction, some disruptions are expected for trail users and drivers in the area.
Per Arlington County:
Bicyclists and pedestrians should expect a temporary trail realignment and detours during construction. The first trail detour has closed the W&OD Trail between Little Falls Street and Lee Highway (near mile marker 5.5) and for a short portion on the east side of Lee Highway. In addition, Fairfax Drive will be closed to traffic, Lee Highway will have short traffic stoppages at night, and there may be lane closures on side streets.
“Once the project is complete, cyclists and pedestrians can expect a much-improved experience on this portion of the W&OD Trail,” the county said in a press release.
Within the next decade, a new transit group wants to make the bus the go-to transit option in the D.C. area
Earlier this year, the Washington Area Bus Transformation Project — which is backed by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority — released a draft strategic plan with a variety of short and long-term goals and strategies for improving the D.C. region’s bus network.
“The national capital region is adding 40,000-60,000 jobs and households each year,” the group said in its strategic plan. “But its transportation system is struggling to keep pace, leading to some of the longest commutes and worst traffic congestion in the nation.”
Potential ways to improve D.C. area buses and thus help alleviate traffic issues were broken into six categories, ranging in complexity and potential cost.
- Ease of use: make simpler, consistent maps, naming conventions, and pricing. Another recommendation would be free transfers between Metrorail service and local bus lines.
- Prioritizing buses on roads: potentially with bus-only lanes and traffic signal priority, though regional coordination will be needed.
- Frequent, reliable, convenient service: overhaul existing routes to create a more efficient system and provide flexible, on-demand transit services for areas not well served by conventional buses.
- Balance regional and local bus systems: develop a 10-year plan to allocate services between bus systems and applicable routes. The plan also includes a recommendation to “revise the cost local jurisdictions pay WMATA for local service to better match the actual cost to provide service.”
- Streamline back-office functions: most of the recommendations in this category are behind-the-scenes improvements, like consolidating support functions and developing regional standards for bus data collection and analysis.
- Centralizing regional bus networks: form a regional coalition of jurisdictional representatives with authority to implement strategy recommendations.
The bus system has a long way to go if it wants to turn its image around. Since 2012, bus ridership has fallen 13 percent across the region. The project will also require cooperation from the region’s nine bus service providers.
Much of the project also depends on local jurisdictions to implement strategies like restricting parking to facilitate better bus transit. This is why representatives from Arlington Transit and several Arlington County departments are in the group’s technical team and strategy advisory panel.
Meanwhile, most of the technical team and all of the leadership team are WMATA employees.
So far there are no cost estimates for the plan’s recommendations. Allison Davis, a member of the project team, said the price tag will come later in the process.
The project started in September. The group is currently in the middle of a public outreach campaign to sell the public on the idea and gather feedback. At an open house yesterday at George Mason University’s Arlington campus, the room was covered with boards for collecting thoughts on the project and the direction it should take. A survey is also available online.
The plan goes to the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority and the WMATA board this summer for review, with a roadmap planned for development in the fall.
“We’re trying to look at this from a customer perspective,” Davis said. “This [plan] is a tool we have to make better [transit] choices.”
The Arlington County Board voted to fund several transportation projects this weekend that officials had used to woo Amazon during the tech giant’s search for its second headquarters.
On Saturday, County Board members approved using $33,850,000 in state funds on the projects. The vote comes after Board members and state legislators pledged millions in transportation upgrades near Amazon’s HQ2 site as long as the company meets certain job creation and space occupancy benchmarks.
Per a staff report to the Board, the projects include:
- $18,850,000 to expand the Crystal City-Potomac Yard Transitway to the Pentagon City, adding 1.1 miles of dedicated bus lanes. The state previously pledged $46.6 million for the project.
- $10,000,000 for the Army-Navy Drive Complete Street project, which aims to redesign the roadway for easier bike and pedestrian access between the Pentagon, Pentagon City, and Crystal City.
- $5,000,000 to help build an east entrance at Crystal City Metro station, a project the county has postponed before for lack of funds.
The Board’s vote authorizes the Department of Environmental Services to receive the $33,850,000 from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority (NVTA) and apply it to the county’s fund for transportation capital projects. The matter was passed as part of the Board’s consent agenda for the Saturday meeting.
Metro stations and transit featured prominently on the maps that developer JBG Smith used to pitch Arlington on building its headquarters in the area. Officials are hoping an eastern Metro entrance could also better connect passengers using the Crystal City VRE station, which itself is set for upgrades.
(Updated at 3:20 p.m.) A summer of headaches for Blue and Yellow line riders will kick off this weekend with changes along the Blue Line — and more Metro closures ahead.
Arlington Cemetery will close this Saturday and Sunday while crews install a grade crossing. Because of the construction, Blue Line trains will run as Yellow Line trains going to Greenbelt, and riders heading toward or returning from Largo Town Center will need to catch the Silver Line, Metro says.
Free shuttle buses running every 10-15 minutes will ferry passengers between the Pentagon and Arlington National Cemetery.
“To get to Rosslyn from the Pentagon (and stops south) customers should travel across the Yellow Line bridge and transfer at L’Enfant to an Orange or Silver Line train,” Metro spokesman Ian Jannetta told ARLnow.
Jannetta said the station’s shutdown will not affect the opening hours of Arlington Cemetery itself, and is for crews to build a way for rail inspection vehicles to access the tracks.
“This will be especially useful during the summer platform work, which will cut off hi-rail vehicle access to the system from the Alexandria rail yard,” he said.
The summer shutdown referred to will begin next Saturday, May 25, Metro will close the following six stations in Alexandria, below Reagan National Airport, until September 8 for planned reconstruction of the station’s crumbling platforms:
- Van Dorn Street
- King Street-Old Town
- Braddock Road
The airport’s own Metrorail station will remain open during the “summer shutdown,” and passengers who can travel there by rail are encouraged to do so to curb the worsening traffic from ride-hailing cars and ongoing construction that’s expected to last until 2021.
“It’s very key to our success that folks continue using public transit — the normal train service going north and free shuttle buses going south for the summer to be successful,” a spokesman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority told WTOP yesterday (Thursday.)
Arlington Transportation Partners (ATP), a division of Arlington County Commuter Services (ACCS), is advising commuters to “add at least 30 minutes to their commute times during the shutdown” and consider alternative transportation options like biking or carpooling.
During rush hour, free shuttle buses will run every five minutes between the affected stations and direct shuttles will run to the Pentagon. The shuttles will run every 10 minutes during non-rush hours.
Metro will also be making parking free at Franconia-Springfield, Huntington, and Van Dorn stations during the shutdown.
Arlington did not receive grant money, but has said ART may add bus service during the shutdown.