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County Calls Off Plans to Buy Springfield Property for New Bus Maintenance Facility, Saving Millions

Arlington officials are calling off plans to buy a two-acre site in Fairfax County for a new bus maintenance facility, a move they expect will save the county millions over the years.

The County Board voted unanimously Friday (Dec. 7) to cancel its contract to spend $4.65 million on a site along the 6700 block of Electronic Drive in Springfield, originally designated as the future home of a “heavy maintenance facility” for Arlington Transit buses.

The county agreed to the land deal in December 2016, over concerns that it wouldn’t have enough space to store and maintain its growing fleet of ART buses. ART currently leases a storage yard in the Alexandria section of Fairfax County for the purpose, but the county managed to open a new maintenance facility in Crystal City last year and buy another property in Nauck for more space this summer.

County board Chair Katie Cristol told ARLnow that the latter purchase is what convinced the Board to abandon its Springfield plans.

Initially, the county planned to use that property, located on the 2600 block of Shirlington Road, as both bus storage and the home of a new ART “operations center.” But Cristol says that, once county engineers got the chance to examine the site more closely, they felt the property would have enough room to accommodate the maintenance functions planned for the Springfield site as well.

“Locating our maintenance operations outside the county was always among the best of no good options as we looked for more space for our buses,” Cristol said. “But once we discovered that the Shirlington Road site was large enough for maintenance as well, colocating things just made so much more sense.”

In all, Cristol expects cancelling the Springfield contract will save the county $10.5 million right off the bat, counting the purchase price and site preparation costs. She also estimates that the change will do away with another $900,000 in annual upkeep costs for the new property, which certainly qualifies as “good news” during the county’s current budget crunch.

County officials had eyed the Shirlington Road site for years before finally buying it for $23.9 million in July. ART once leased a section of the site for bus storage, but made the move to buy the entire property once it earned some state grants and other regional transportation money to defray the cost.

ART already beefed up its fleet of buses with some new purchases this summer, and plans to keep adding vehicles to meet a projected increase in ridership over the next decade or so.

Photo via Google Maps

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ART Set to Run New Bus Route Connecting Ballston and Shirlington Starting This Month

Arlington Transit will start running a new bus route to better connect Ballston and Shirlington later this month.

Starting Dec. 17, the bus service will introduce a “72” route, running from N. Glebe Road’s intersection with Old Dominion Drive in Rock Spring to the intersection of S. Quincy Street and S. Randolph Street near the Village at Shirlington. Buses will run every 20 minutes during rush hours and every 30 minutes the rest of the day, according to ART’s website.

The transit agency first surveyed riders about the new route this fall, and it will use it to run buses through the Ballston Metro station, via both directions of George Mason Drive. ART also plans to run new buses along the route, some of which it acquired this summer.

The new 72 route will involve the creation of a total of eight new bus stops, including:

Northbound Bus Stops

Stop 1 – N. Glebe Road and in front of the Marymount Admissions Building
Stop 2 – N. Glebe Road and 32nd Street N.
Stop 3 – N. Glebe Road and N. Albermarle Street
Stop 4 – N. Glebe Road and N. Abingdon Street

Southbound Bus Stops

Stop 5 – N. Glebe Road and 35th Road N.
Stop 6 – N. Glebe Road and 33rd Road N.
Stop 7 – N. Glebe Road and Rock Spring Road
Stop 8 – N. Glebe Road and Old Dominion Drive

The route will run from 5:58 am to 8:37 pm every weekday.

File photo

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ART Considers Adding New Route to Better Link Ballston to Shirlington

Arlington Transit could soon add a new bus route to better connect Ballston to Shirlington, as part of a host of route and schedule changes on tap for this winter.

The county’s bus service is currently collecting community feedback on the service tweaks, with plans to finalize any changes by mid-December.

The most substantial of the proposed options would be the creation of a new ART route 72, running from N. Glebe Road’s intersection with Old Dominion Drive in Rock Spring to the intersection of S. Quincy Street and S. Randolph Street near the Village at Shirlington.

The route would run through the Ballston Metro station, via both directions of George Mason Drive, and offer buses once every 20 minutes during peak hours. ART hopes that the new route would work in conjunction with Metrobus’ 22A/C routes to “bring more frequent service between Ballston and Shirlington.”

The 72 route require the creation of eight new bus stops along N. Glebe Road, at the following intersections:

Proposed Northbound Bus Stops

Stop 1 – N. Glebe Road and in front of the Marymount Admissions Building
Stop 2 – N. Glebe Road and 32nd Street N.
Stop 3 – N. Glebe Road and N. Albermarle Street
Stop 4 – N. Glebe Road and N. Abingdon Street

Proposed Southbound Bus Stops

Stop 5 – N. Glebe Road and 35th Road N.
Stop 6 – N. Glebe Road and 33rd Road N.
Stop 7 – N. Glebe Road and Rock Spring Road
Stop 8 – N. Glebe Road and Old Dominion Drive

Other proposed service tweaks include running buses more frequently along the 45 route during peak hours, and reducing some service on the 52, 55 and 77 lines. ART would also tweak the schedules of 74, 84, and 87 routes to create better spacing between various buses and endure buses run on time more frequently.

The county is currently collecting feedback via an online survey, and will also hold a pair of public meetings on the subject this month.

One is set for this coming Tuesday, Oct. 9, at the Arlington Mill Community Center (909 S. Dinwiddie Street), while the other is scheduled for the Langston Brown Community Center (2121 N. Culpeper Street) on Oct. 11. Both will run from 6:30-8 p.m.

File photo

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Morning Notes

Arlington Police Involved in D.C. Standoff — County police are working with their counterparts in D.C. to arrest a man wanted on rape charges in Arlington. When they attempted to arrest him last night, he barricaded himself inside his home on the 3300 block of Mt. Pleasant Street N.W. [Twitter, PoPville]

ART Route Changes Start This Weekend — Riders on Arlington Transit’s 41, 42, 43 and 75 lines may notice some schedule adjustments starting Saturday. Service will become more frequent on all of the lines, and the northbound stop at the Courthouse Metro Station will become permanent. [Arlington Transit]

Arlington Planners Bring ‘Smart Growth’ Strategies to Md. — At a talk yesterday, the head of Arlington County’s planning division shared some wisdom on “Arlington’s smart growth journey” to planners in Prince George’s County, Md. “As a regional, national and international model of smart growth, Arlington, has demonstrated… how the mistakes and impacts of suburban sprawl can be corrected and avoided through a visionary and continuous commitment to innovative planning,” the event program noted. [Prince George’s County]

Valley Fest Road Closures This Weekend — S. Oakland Street will play host to the second annual Valley Fest, backed by New District Brewing and other local businesses and artists. There will be plenty of beer on tap, but police warn to watch out for some road closures. [Arlington Police]

Leaf Blowers Irk Arlingtonians — Some county residents raised a stink with the County Board over the pervasive drone of leaf blowers, now that fall is nearly here. But local officials say their hands are tied by state law and likely can’t pass any sort of ordinance to limit the noise. [Falls Church News-Press]

Head ‘Back to the Future’ with Rhodeside Grill — The Rosslyn-area restaurant is offering throwback cocktails and dishes from the 1950s and 1980s to commemorate the classic comedy. The event is set for Oct. 12. [Facebook]

Detours on Arlington-McLean Border This Week — Work to replace a culvert will result in the closure Valley Wood Road in McLean, running just near Williamsburg Middle School and Discovery Elementary School. [Tysons Reporter]

Firefighters Extinguish Bellevue Forest Blaze — County firefighters say an attic fan caught fire in a home on the 3100 block of N. Quincy Street around 6 p.m. last night. There were no injuries. [Twitter]

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Morning Notes

Arlington Names New Resident Ombudsman — “Ben Aiken has been named as Arlington’s Resident Ombudsman and Director of Constituent Services in the County Manager’s Office, effective October 8, 2018. Arlington’s Resident Ombudsman is part of the Constituent Services Team helping to ensure Arlington’s government works effectively and maintains a high degree of transparency.” [Arlington County]

Senior Alert for Man Last Seen in Arlington — “The Virginia State Police Department has issued a Senior Alert for 78-year-old James Oliver… Oliver was last seen in Arlington around 3 p.m. Sept. 19, walking near the intersection of North Wakefield [Street] and 24th Street. He was reportedly wearing a blue blazer, silver shirt, pink neck tie and blue jeans.” [WDBJ7]

It is PARK(ing) Day — Today is PARK(ing) Day, ” an annual international event where the public collaborates to temporarily transform metered parking spaces into small parks to elicit a reconsideration of the designation of public space.” There are five PARK(ing) day sites in Arlington: AECOM (2940 Clarendon Blvd), “The Bird Nest” – Communal Space (555 23rd St. S.), Bike Arlington et al (2040 15th St. N.), Solid Waste Bureau (4115 Campbell Ave.), Little Diversified Architectural Consulting (1061 N. Taylor St.). [Arlington County]

Log Cabin For Sale Near Marymount — The log cabin on 26th Street N. near Marymount University is listed for sale. Built in 1836, the home was later a favorite destination for Theodore Roosevelt, who would ride horses and eat ice cream there. [Washington Post]

Video Tour of New ART Buses — The new buses in the Arlington Transit fleet are more comfortable and feature-rich than older models, according to a video tour posted online. The 13 buses will allow ART to add new service. [YouTube]

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Morning Notes

Pentagon Declares War on Scooters — “The Pentagon hates your little scooters, too. In fact, DoD would like you and your ride-sharing company to know that if you leave your rental scooters or shared-bicycles anywhere on Pentagon property, they will be impounded, right quick.” [Defense One]

ACPD Ticketing Bike Lane Blockers — Arlington County police have been ticketing delivery truck drivers who block protected bike lanes — including the new bike lanes on N. Quincy Street in Ballston — as part of an “enforcement and education” effort. [Twitter]

Ballston Farmers Market to Extend Season — “Arlington County Board members on Sept. 22 are expected to vote to permit the Ballston Farmers’ Market to operate through the end of November each year, an extension of one month from earlier years.” [InsideNova]

Stuck Window Washer Rescues Self — A large fire department response to a report of a window washer trapped outside the sixth floor of a high-rise building in Rosslyn turned out to be for naught; the worker was able to “self-extricate” before the technical rescue team arrived. [Twitter]

Reminder: Free ART Bus Rides Today — “In celebration of ART’s 20th Anniversary, we’re letting everyone ride ART for free on Thursday, September 20! It’s our way of saying thank you to our loyal customers for riding ART and also an invitation for those who have never been on ART to give it a try.” [Arlington Transit]

Photo courtesy Dennis Dimick

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Morning Notes

Another Chase Branch Coming to Arlington — Following its purchase of the former Walgreens in Clarendon, JPMorgan Chase is now planning a second bank branch in Arlington. The new branch will reportedly be located at the northwest corner of N. Randolph Street and Wilson Boulevard in Ballston. [Washington Business Journal]

Preservationists Eye Local Log Cabin — “A retired florist, Cal Marcey is worried over possible destruction of one of Arlington’s remaining log cabins, to which his ancestors have ties. A new owner has purchased the early-19th century Birchwood cabin at N. Wakefield and 26th sts., and the plans — renovation versus teardown — are unclear.” [Falls Church News-Press]

Record Round for Arlington Startup — “Arlington safety and security startup LiveSafe Inc. has raised $11.1 million in fresh funding, according to Securities and Exchange Commission filings. It’s the company’s largest round so far and puts its total funding at about $25 million, according to a review of previous SEC filings. LiveSafe did not respond to requests for comment.” [Washington Business Journal]

Business Group Wants Better Bus Service — “A group of chief executives from the greater Washington region says deficiencies in bus service are holding back growth in the region. The region’s bus network possesses valuable assets, including more than 3,800 buses and a growing system of limited-stop service and bus rapid transit lines, but the region hasn’t fully leveraged the potential of the network to help solve its transportation challenges.” [Washington Post, Greater Greater Washington]

Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley

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Morning Notes

Ballston Mall LED Screens Nixed — Developer Forest City is, for now, withdrawing a request to install two large, high-definition LED video screens above the main entrance to its still under-construction Ballston Quarter mall. The screens do not comply with Arlington zoning rules. Attorneys for Forest City say they are still hoping that the County Board will eventually amend the zoning ordinance to allow such screens. [Washington Business Journal]

Free ART Bus Rides Thursday — “Think there’s no such thing as a free ride? Not if you take the bus in Arlington, Virginia, and you’re traveling on Sept. 20. Arlington Transit is letting passengers ride free Sept. 20 as a way to celebrate the transit agency’s 20th anniversary.” [WTOP]

Tax Delinquency List — Arlington County Treasurer Carla de la Pava has released her office’s annual list of residents and businesses that have not paid their taxes. The list includes nearly $200,000 in delinquent real estate taxes, $1.3 million in delinquent personal property taxes, $1 million in delinquent business license and property taxes, and more than $500,000 in delinquent meal (restaurant) taxes. [Arlington County]

Celebrating Community and Elders in Nauck — “Celebrating the lives and achievements of the community’s elders was a centerpiece of the 2018 Nauck Civic & Community Pride Day, which brought food, music and fellowship to Drew Model School on Sept. 15. Four community residents who had reached, or were set to reach, the centennial mark – Elizabeth Cole, Novella Cummings, Mary Lockett and Thelma Russell – were honored by the Nauck Civic Association.” [InsideNova]

Critic Praises Shirlington’s Signature — “The Tony Award-winning Signature Theatre — the Arlington troupe known for musicals — shapes up as my favorite D.C. company. I’m not saying Signature is hands-down the best theater in Washington… But Signature showcases a lot of assets, from its singular glam factor to plain old ease of use.” [Washington Post]

Late Night Storms — Thunderstorms that rumbled through Arlington around midnight last night brought a period of frequent lightning and thunder that set off car alarms and awakened some residents from their sleep. [Twitter, Twitter]

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

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ART Sees Steep Ridership Drop for Second Straight Quarter

Arlington County’s bus service saw another substantial dip in ridership this spring compared to the same time last year, new numbers provided to regional transportation planners show.

Arlington Transit recorded a 15 percent drop in riders in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2018, covering April through June, compared to the same period a year ago.

The latest figures forwarded to the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission show that the bus service recorded 745,850 passenger trips over that three month stretch, down from 874,695 a year ago.

That number is actually a 6.6 percent increase from ART’s ridership figures covering January through March. But those numbers were also disappointing ones for the bus service, as they represented a 17 percent drop from the same time period in 2017, meaning that ART has recorded ridership declines for the last two quarters in a row.

The latest ridership statistics represent an even steeper drop still from the same time period in 2016, when ART recorded 905,661 passenger trips — equivalent to a 17.6 percent decline.

These figures come as bus services nationwide cope with ridership declines, as the D.C. region as a whole struggles to convince riders to embrace public transit. The NVTC’s numbers also show that Metrobus ridership in Northern Virginia localities dipped by 9 percent this quarter compared to a year ago, though Metro ridership did tick slightly upward at most Arlington stations.

“The depth of erosion in bus ridership has been more than what we were expecting,” County Board Vice Chair Christian Dorsey previously told ARLnow. “As riders returned to Metro after SafeTrack, we would’ve expected a modest reduction, but it’s just been more substantial than we thought.”

The county has indeed previously blamed some of the decline in bus ridership on riders returning to Metro after the aforementioned intense rehab work, though the rail service has continued to deal with lengthy delays due to construction, which recently resulted in some riders embracing bus options this summer. Other potential culprits include the increasing popularity of ride-sharing or telecommuting.

Dorsey says the county’s approach to reversing that trend will remain the same as ever: “keep investing in places where people want to go.” He added that the county is also working to “refresh” some of its older ART buses, which could help lure riders back to the service.

“We’re investing in new coaches for greater comfort, which is always helpful,” Dorsey said. “When ART was introduced, one of the benefits that convinced people to move to the bus was they were cleaner and quieter. But as they’ve aged, that competitive advantage has declined. We just need to reinvest in ART a little bit.”

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August’s Metro Track Work Pushed Commuters Onto Local Buses, Not Bike Sharing

Metro’s dire warnings about the impacts of track work in the latter half of this month seem to have effectively pushed Arlington commuters onto local bus routes instead — though bike share services didn’t see a similar ridership boost.

With the rail service’s major rebuilding work on the Silver, Orange and Blue lines fading in the rearview, Arlington transportation officials say their data show that both Metrobus and Arlington Transit ridership saw substantial jumps during the construction from Aug. 11 through Aug. 26.

Metro itself recorded an 11 percent dip in ridership over that period when compared to figures from 2017, largely attributable to WMATA’s persistent urging that commuters only use rail service if they had “no other option” for the two-week period. And in Arlington, at least, it seems that commuters weren’t shy about turning to bus options instead.

The Metrobus 3Y line, which runs from stops along Lee Highway to D.C.’s Farragut Square, recorded the biggest ridership surge, according to county transportation spokesman Eric Balliet. He says the county’s initial data show a 97 percent increase in average weekday ridership compared to the weeks prior to the track work starting, shooting from an average of 413 riders each day to 815.

He added that Metrobus’ 38B line, running from Ballston to Farragut Square, recorded a 38 percent increase, with average daily ridership jumping from 3,001 people to 4,136. Balliet noted that the county requested that Metro provide additional service along those lines, as they run along the Orange and Silver stops most likely to be affected by the track work.

As for ART buses, Balliet says the 43 route (running between the Crystal City, Rosslyn and Courthouse Metro stations) recorded a 67 percent increase in average weekday riders compared to a year ago. Last August, the bus service saw an average of 1,022 people on those buses each day; this year, it jumped up to 1,706.

Similarly, he said the 42 line between Ballston and the Pentagon saw a 16 percent jump, from last year’s 1,068 riders per day to 1,241. He attributes those changes to the fact those ART lines “parallel the segment of the Blue Line that was closed during the track work.” Metro shut down service on the line between the Arlington National Cemetery stop and the line’s New Carrollton terminus.

Jim Larsen, the county’s commuter services bureau chief, pointed out that those numbers amounted to increases of anywhere from 599 to 1,000 riders each day between the two bus services.

“Now, if we can only keep them,” Larsen said.

A spokesman for the dockless electric scooter company Bird says the firm also saw “ridership grow consistently this summer as commuters sought new options to avoid delays on multiple lines,” but didn’t provide specific numbers.

The track work did not produce a similar ridership bump for bike-sharing in the county, however.

Compared to the same two-week period a year ago, the number of Capital Bikeshare trips originating in Arlington was “virtually the same, though down just a smidge,” according to Bike Arlington Director Henry Dunbar.

In all, the county’s stations recorded about 17,041 trips during the track work. From Aug. 12-27, 2017 the county saw 17,180 trips, Dunbar said.

Spokespeople for the ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft did not respond to requests for comment on any ridership changes they observed during the track work.

Anecdotally, it would seem that the Metro construction inspired some commuters to turn to their cars rather than transit options. For instance, some ARLnow commenters mentioned hefty backups on the Key Bridge and 14th Street Bridge to make it into D.C. in the first place.

In all, 73 percent of the more than 1,400 respondents to an (admittedly unscientific) ARLnow poll on the issue said the Metro track work affected their commutes in some way.

Metro was even scheduled to do a bit more work on the Silver, Orange and Blue lines this weekend, prompting single-tracking through Rosslyn. However, it announced today (Thursday) it’d be abandoning those plans.

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ART to Close Four Ballston Bus Stops This Weekend

Arlington Transit is closing several bus stops around Ballston to cope with construction this weekend.

Starting tonight (Friday) at 9 p.m. and running through Sunday (Aug. 12) at 7 p.m., the bus service plans to close the following stops along its 41 line:

  • Northbound N. Randolph Street at Wilson Blvd
  • Southbound N. Randolph Street at the Ballston Quarter mall
  • Northbound N. Glebe Road at N. Quincy Street
  • Northbound N. Glebe Road at N. Henderson Road

ART noted in a service alert that some stops along N. Glebe Road and Wilson Blvd will remain open, should riders need options along the corridor.

The construction work prompting the bus stop closures will require occasional road closures as well, as it’s largely tied to the Ballston Quarter construction and some summer paving work.

Photo via Google Maps

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County Spends $23.9 Million on Future Home for ART ‘Operations Center’

Arlington is shelling out $23.9 million to buy land that will someday become home to a new bus “operations center” in Nauck, marking an end to years-long negotiations over the property’s future.

The County Board voted Saturday (July 14) to purchase the site, located at 2629 and 2633 Shirlington Road. Arlington Transit plans to eventually store about 90 buses on the property, and eventually develop the space “as a base for ART operations,” according to a county staff report.

The county already leases about 2.5 acres of the roughly 3.5-acre property to use as bus storage, but it was paying $60,000 a year for the privilege. The remaining section of the land was once used as storage by the towing company Redman Fleet Services.

County leaders have eyed the property as an ideal site for additional bus storage for several years now, and considered acquiring it as part of a swap involving another in-demand piece of land: the Buck property near Washington-Lee High School.

The Arcland Property Company proposed trading its Shirlington Road property for a portion of the Buck site, which the county bought for $30 million several years ago, in order to build a self-storage facility on the property. But that proposal attracted pushback from the community, particularly as the county eyed the Buck site as one that could become home to a school someday.

Arlington’s budget pressures means officials still haven’t been able to plot out a long-term plan for the property, though the county did recently agree to allow some school system employees to use it for parking. The county plans to wrap a study of the property’s suitability for some sort of school building this winter.

Yet the Board was able to afford the Shirlington Road site without giving up any of the Buck property thanks to a mix of state and regional funding. Some state grants will pay for nearly $7 million of the $23.9 million price tag, with some recently awarded money from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority adding another $2.7 million or so.

The NVTA doled out $39 million to help pay for the operations center’s construction as well, in addition to a new “heavy maintenance facility” in Springfield. ART recently opened a new “light maintenance” facility in Crystal City.

Photo via Google Maps

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S. Eads Street Construction Set to Snarl Traffic Near Pentagon Parking

Construction around one of the Pentagon’s parking lots kicking off this week could produce some big headaches for drivers and bus riders alike.

Starting this morning (Monday), work will shut down the west side of S. Eads Street from Army Navy Drive to where it nears the Pentagon’s south parking lot at S. Rotary Road.

That will shift both northbound and southbound traffic to the east side of the street. In the mornings, from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m., that will cut off access to I-395’s northbound HOV lanes and Army Navy Drive from S. Rotary Road. Crews will post a detour and drivers should follow signs. In the same time period, access to northbound S. Eads Street from the right lane of S. Rotary Road will be reserved for anyone heading for I-395’s southbound HOV lanes.

Construction will include “median reconfiguration, road widening, pavement and drainage work,” according to VDOT, prompting some major traffic snarls.

“As current traffic volume along Eads Street is near capacity during peak periods, we expect significant traffic congestion and delays along Eads Street,” VDOT wrote in an advisory. “Periodic nighttime/weekend closures may also take place to complete the construction activities.”

VDOT is recommending that drivers looking to reach the I-395 HOV lanes during the construction to use the ramps near the Pentagon’s north parking lots at Boundary Channel Drive instead.

Arlington Transit is also warning bus riders looking to reach the Pentagon to expect “significant delays for ART buses entering and exiting” the facility’s lots. ART plans to issue service advisories as needed.

VDOT says work will shift to the east side of S. Eads Street sometime this fall, then last for an additional two months. The construction is included as part of the broader project focused on the I-395 express lanes.

Photo via VDOT

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ART Prepares to Roll Out 13 New Buses Over the Next Few Months

Arlington Transit is prepping 13 new buses to start picking up riders in the coming months.

County transportation spokesman Eric Balliet told ARLnow the bus service received the new vehicles a few months back, and hopes to have three making the rounds before the month is out.

He expects the rest will hit the road as the county continues to beef up bus service in the coming months, likely “later this summer/early fall,” as part of the Transit Development Plan the County Board approved in 2016. That plan is designed to bridge gaps in bus service around the county, particularly along Columbia Pike, where ART and Metrobus just started teaming up to offer enhanced service last month.

ART has also dealt with a series of mechanical issues recently, particularly on some of its older buses, but Balliet says the county is still being cautious in putting these new buses in the field.

The 40-foot-long, natural gas-powered vehicles are the first buses the county has purchased from New Flyer of America, the same company that provides vehicles to WMATA for much of its Metrobus service. Accordingly, Balliet says ART’s service contractor “has been in the process of reviewing the buses for acceptance and training operators and technicians” since the agency got its hands on the buses earlier this year.

In all, the county’s Transit Development Plan calls for ART to expand its fleet “by over 20 vehicles” in total through 2026.

The county projects that these additions and service changes will help it boost ridership by 24 percent over the same time period, though ART’s ridership figures have flagged in recent months, similar to other bus services nationwide.

Photo courtesy of Abigail Wendt

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ART’s Phone Line for Seniors, People with Disabilities Goes Down, Prompting Headaches

(Updated at 3 p.m.) Arlington Transit’s phone system to connect disabled and elderly riders to bus service has been hobbled by technical problems all week, prompting big headaches for people who rely on the program.

ART’s “Specialized Transit for Arlington Residents” service, commonly known as STAR, has been dealing with “technical difficulties” at the agency’s call center since Tuesday (June 26), according to a series of alerts sent out to riders.

The main STAR phone line hasn’t worked since then and remains down today (Friday). County transportation spokesman Eric Balliet says ART is working on the issue with service provider Verizon and even the state’s technology agency, with a temporary solution on the way.

“The temporary solution, estimated to be in place later today, will forward the main STAR number to a number provided by Red Top Cab, which dispatches service for STAR,” Balliet wrote in an email. “STAR personnel have been taking calls on this temporary line and will continue until the issue is resolved.”

The phone system is designed to connect riders who might have trouble using ART’s regular service with a scheduled, shared-ride service to take them wherever they need to go around the county. Accordingly, this week’s outages have created big problems for riders with disabilities, in particular.

ART has also dealt with a series of problems with its real-time alert service in recent weeks, not to mention a host of bus maintenance woes necessitating some service disruptions.

Photo via Facebook

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