Arlington, VA

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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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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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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Morning Notes

Arlington Is Top Destination for Young Adults — Arlington County is one of “the 40 places where young people are moving… based on the number of 18 to 34 year-olds who moved there in 2017 as a share of the total county population.” [USA Today]

Local Team Notches ‘World Series’ Win — “With their bats coming alive, the Arlington Senior Babe Ruth All-Stars improved to 1-2 in pool play Aug. 10 to win for the first time in the 15-under Babe Ruth World Series in Bismarck, N.D.” [InsideNova]

Arlington Firm Fined — “A military contractor has agreed to pay $4 million to settle an overbilling case. The U.S. attorney’s office in New Jersey announced the settlement with Mission1st Group on Friday. The Arlington, Virginia-based company specializes in systems engineering, information technology and telecommunications.” [Associated Press]

Why the Crashed ART Bus is Still ThereUpdated at 9:25 a.m. — “The vehicle at Columbia Pike and George Mason Drive can’t be moved until the building structure is stabilized. Once repairs are made to the structure, the bus & the other vehicle pushed into the building will be moved and County Police will finalize their investigation.” [Twitter]

Photo courtesy @netforceone/Instagram

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Morning Notes

County Releases Statement on ART Crashes — “We are incredibly thankful that no one was seriously injured in these incidents, which the County and ART take very seriously. ART’s number one priority is the safety of our riders and others on the road.” [Arlington County]

More I-395 Nighttime Closures — “Motorists should expect significant lane closures on the general purpose lanes along I-395 North this weekend, August 9-11, from Duke Street (Exit 3) to past Pentagon City/Crystal City (Exit 8C) for bridge rehabilitation work along the I-395 corridor.” [Press Release]

Arlington Opening Local Recovery Center — “Arlington County is opening a Local Recovery Center (LRC) to assist residents and businesses affected by the July 8, 2019 flood. This is in conjunction with the governor’s announcement that low-interest federal loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) are available to help homeowners, renters and businesses rebuild from storm damage.” [Arlington County]

Facts About Arlington Resident Chuck Todd — Meet the Press host Chuck Todd, who lives in Arlington, shared some facts about himself in a new local magazine profile. Todd says he does not drink beer, prefers his coffee black, sleeps five hours “on a good night,” and thinks Lost Dog Cafe serves the best pizza in town. [Arlington Magazine]

Kudos for Quarter Market in Ballston — “The big top of dining options can generate a major case of FOMO, even when the meal in front of you satisfies all your conscious needs. This is particularly true at Quarter Market, where mall operators spent years seeking out and negotiating with a smartly curated collection of local chefs, restaurateurs and producers.” [Washington Post]

Escape Room Open in Clarendon — “Bond’s Escape Room has opened a second location at Market Common Clarendon… Located just above Sephora, it offers six escape room games with a wide variety of themes.” [Press Release]

Photo courtesy @clarendonalliance/Instagram

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(Updated at 4:20 p.m.) An Arlington Transit bus has careened into the Barton Street community garden after a crash near Courthouse.

The crash happened around 3:05 p.m. at the intersection of 10th Street N. and N. Barton Street.

At least two vehicles were involved: a sedan, which suffered heavy front-end damage, and an ART bus, which knocked over a light pole and street signs before coming to rest in the middle of the garden.

A passenger told ARLnow that the bus had a green light and was coming down the hill on Barton when it was struck by the sedan. The sedan’s driver was cited by officers for running a red light, Arlington County Police spokeswoman Ashley Savage said.

Passengers could be heard comforting the bus driver after the crash, saying it “could have happened to anyone.”

No serious injuries were reported, though one female passenger said her arm hurt. Drivers should expect lane closures on 10th Street and slow traffic in the area while crews work to clean up the crash scene.

The crash follows an incident on Tuesday in which an ART bus crashed into a building after rolling through a rental truck depot.

Vernon Miles contributed to this report.

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(Updated at 2:20 p.m.) An out-of-control Arlington Transit bus rolled into a number of parked vehicles and into a building along Columbia Pike.

The crash happened around noon today at the intersection of the Pike and S. George Mason Drive.

Around 10 passengers were on the bus, according to a fire department spokesman, when it rolled through a rental truck depot on the southeastern side of the intersection, near a 7-Eleven store. The bus struck several trucks and a car, which was pushed into a small building on the lot.

The bus passengers were evaluated by medics on scene. One person suffered a minor injury and was taken to the hospital, according to Arlington County Fire Department spokesman Capt. Ben O’Bryant.

Three witnesses told ARLnow that the bus started rolling downhill after the driver exited the bus at a bus stop. Two of those witnesses, who were on the bus at the time, said one of the passengers jumped into the driver’s seat and steered the bus off to the side, away from traffic, thus running into the parking lot and the building.

The person who was injured was inside the building at the time of the crash, the witnesses said.

Police were unable to immediately corroborate the witness accounts provided to ARLnow. Officers remain on scene investigating the cause, an ACPD spokeswoman said, and a building inspector has been called to “evaluate structural integrity of the building.”

ART buses have been involved in a series of significant crashes over the past few years, including:

In January of this year ART blamed a shortage of drivers and persistent maintenance issues for a series of service disruptions.

Vernon Miles contributed to this report.

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Morning Notes

Incubator Leaving Crystal City — “Startup incubator 1776 plans to open its new D.C. location this year and will ultimately shut down its Crystal City location. 1776 spokesman Lucas McCanna said the company will relocate to ‘the general McPherson Square area,’ but declined to give a specific address.” [Washington Business Journal]

AAA: Worst Times for Independence Day Travel — “Holiday travelers hailing from the area will face absolute gridlock along key freeway segments starting [today], July 3. Topping the list of the worst corridors for those departing Wednesday, July 3, is Interstate 270 northbound.” [Press Release]

Arlington County Holiday Closures — All Arlington County government offices, courts, libraries and facilities will be closed Thursday for the Independence Day holiday, though trash and recycling will still be collected. Also, “metered parking is not enforced but street parking near the US Marine Corps War Memorial (Iwo Jima), Long Bridge Park, and the Air Force Memorial will be restricted. Motorists should look for temporary ‘No Parking’ signs.” [Arlington County]

Memorial Bridge Closed to Pedestrians — In addition to other July 4 road closures around Arlington, Memorial Bridge will be closed to both vehicles and pedestrians throughout the day Thursday. [Twitter, National Park Service]

ART Bus Holiday Schedule — “ART will operate holiday service on Thursday, July 4, 2019, in observance of Independence Day. ART 41, 42, 45, 51, 55 and 87 will operate on Sunday schedules. All other ART routes will not operate and the ART customer call center will be closed.” [Arlington Transit]

Superintendent Search May Be Drawn Out — “Arlington’s new School Board chair, who will be focused in coming months on the selection of a new superintendent, asked for patience in the community as the process plays out. ‘Finding the right leader and the best fit for our community will take time,’ Tannia Talento said July 1 as she rotated in as chair of the School Board for the coming year.” [InsideNova]

Flickr pool photo by Lisa Novak

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(Updated on 05/17/19) A new bus will arrive tomorrow in Ballston, but the only place it’s going is to the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC).

Arlington Transit (ART) is organizing a “food drive” for AFAC by building a 10’x10′ bus sculpture from canned food to celebrate the transit agency’s 20th anniversary, per a press release. ART will then donate the food to AFAC after disassembling the sculpture.

ART staff and volunteers will start building tomorrow at 1 p.m. inside Ballston Quarter mall, nearly the newly-opened, health food-focused True Food Kitchen.

The construction is part of AFAC’s annual slew of “Canstruction” food drives. In the past, architecture groups have built elaborate sculptures from thousands of dollars worth of canned goods at the Dulles and Reagan National airports as part of a national movement of donation-by-can-sculpture.

In 2016, the American Institute of Architects Northern Virginia Chapter built a lighthouse out of soup and bean cans in the Ballston mall for one of the building competitions.

Image via Twitter

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A recently-released report recommends that Arlington County improve its delivery of real-time transit information.

The Department of Environmental Services’ Mobility Lab released a 245-page report calling for changes to the way the county shares real-time arrival information. Respondents to a survey said the information was valuable, but they wanted additional updates and more data.

“People are overwhelmingly turning to personal technology as a source of real-time information,” the report notes. “Google Maps, WMATA Trip Planner, and Twitter were all mentioned in the focus groups as useful websites.”

Researchers first convened 14 focus groups of up to 12 participants each to design the survey last July. Afterward, the survey was published online and 346 responses were collected between September and October.

A Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation grant funded the work.

The survey and the focus groups indicate that people in Arlington use information about the “cost, time, and convenience” of trips to choose which mode of travel to take.

Eighty-one percent of the people who responded to the survey said it was important that information be available in “real-time.” Seventy-three percent said having real-time information helped them “relax” when using public transportation.

Mobility Lab suggested several improvements to the county’s real-time systems based on the feedback, which Research Manager Dr. Lama Bou Mjahed summarized in a blog post:

  • Re-evaluate transit phone systems — go straight to the information avoiding lengthy automated messages
  • Implement highly customizable or on-demand text message updates avoiding texting “spam”
  • Modernize BusFinder — add features and information like routes and schedules
  • Continue providing real-time transit information through the county’s website and LED displays
  • Diversify the locations of dynamic message boards.

Currently, the county utilizes several real-time transit information systems: online and phone-based bus and rail predictions; the BusFinder at ART bus stops; and LED signs or LCD monitors at bus stops and rail stations.

But the Mobility Lab noted that, “there is limited research into how users perceive these technologies, how well it meets their needs, and how it affects their transit use.”

For example, a majority of survey respondents said that the phone system was “valuable,” but many said the service was “a hassle” and was used as “a last resort.”

Nine out of 10 respondents said the green “Bus Finder” boxes at bus stops were a good service, but some reported they were confusing to use or didn’t work.

“A recurring theme for all technologies stationed at the physical stop or station is that this information is provided too late in the travel process,” the study said. “By the time a rider has access to that information, they’ve already committed to taking that mode of transportation, and are essentially ‘stuck.'”

Users also reported some transit apps were confusing and offered too many options.

“The key takeaway was that respondents do not want yet another app on their phone that only provides a piece of the puzzle,” the Mobility Lab wrote. “Instead, they would like one single or centralized app that works to combine all available information in one place.”

Image via Mobility Lab

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(Updated 10:05 a.m.) Arlington will soon release the results of a study on whether Uber and Lyft should replace some bus routes in certain areas of the county.

At the end of May officials are expected to conclude its “Parameters Study for Zone-Based Demand-Responsive (Flex) Transit Service,” per a county spokesman. The study will help officials weigh whether ride-hailing companies can replace some bus service in areas experiencing low bus ridership.

Ride-hailing services could connect riders heading to and from those areas with the nearest Metro station.

Taxi companies and paratransit providers are also being floated as possible service providers, county transportation spokesman Eric Balliet told ARLnow yesterday (Tuesday).

“We’re in the research phase right now, so no decisions have been made about [the] number of providers or where vehicles would pick up passengers,” Balliet said. “These would be looked at if we decide to move forward with this service concept.”

The areas being considered for this are identified in the county’s Transit Development Plan, which was approved in 2016:

  • The Douglas Park, Nauck, and Arlington Village neighborhoods which the plan aims to connect to transit along Columbia Pike.
  • The Rock Spring, Williamsburg Middle School, and Dominion Hills areas, which currently see only 10 passengers per hour on the ART 53 route. Those neighborhoods would be connected to the East Falls Church Metro station.
  • The Chain Bridge Forest, Rivercrest, Bellevue Forest, Gulf Branch, and Stafford-Albermarle-Glebe neighborhoods, which also only see 10 passengers per hour on the ART 53 route. Those neighborhoods would be connected to the Ballston Metro station.

“Each trip must either originate or end at that chosen destination,” the plan says. “This service will use smaller vehicles that may not be operated by or under the banner of ART and could include a separate fare system. Rides would be grouped and provided on a demand responsive basis.”

“In Arlington County there are several low-density neighborhoods which are served by low-frequency, low-ridership, costly-to-operate bus routes,” a 2018 description of the study says. “In these areas, it may be easier and cheaper to provide on-demand private-vehicle service for people needing to get to Arlington’s business and shopping districts than continuing to provide bus service.”

The county “sees this project as a potential model for other places which are facing similar issues with their bus systems,” said the study’s description.

County Manager Mark Schwartz said in a 2016 statement that the county’s “goal is to review a possible way to encourage transit ridership, increase efficiency and reduce costs,” and added that the county “must overcome many challenges and answer many questions before we could consider implementing this proposal.”

Montgomery County, Maryland is planning to test a similar transit program this summer where residents can request a shuttle pick-up using the Via app, WTOP reported.

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