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In the next couple of months, Arlington County will launch a campaign encouraging transit use and thanking people who rode Metro and the bus during Covid.

The campaign, aimed at restoring transit ridership rates to pre-pandemic levels, should kick off later this spring or early this summer and will last at least one year, says Department of Environmental Services Director of Transportation Dennis Leach.

“This is an ongoing effort,” he said. “It’s going to take a couple of years to rebuild transit ridership.”

Metrorail use plummeted in March 2020 as large swaths of federal and private employees were directed to work from home. Since then, rail ridership has picked up in fits and starts, most recently recovering by 33% in the fall before the Omicron variant hit. Leach predicts a long recovery for Metro that will depend in large part on federal return-to-work guidelines.

Local bus ridership rates, meanwhile, fell to 50% of pre-Covid rates, as many essential workers continued to take the bus, and had also been recovering quickly before Omicron, he said.

Rates for both modes were ticking up in late February as more people seem to be out and about, as well as commuting to the office, he said. With ridership creeping up and Covid cases remaining low, Arlington County, the Northern Virginia region and the state are all embarking on efforts to further boost public transit use.

Arlington will focus on promoting bus ridership and encouraging Metro trips for accessing entertainment and cultural sites. Targeting Metrorail is paramount, he said, as the lion’s share of Arlington’s pre-pandemic transit riders used Metro, and work-from-home may be around for good.

The county will be seizing on historically high gas prices — fueled by a host of supply issues, most recently the Russian invasion of Ukraine — as a reason to choose public transit.

In Arlington, a gallon of regular gas costs an average of $4.19, up from $2.80 per gallon in 2021 and $3.05 per gallon last month, according to the pump price watch group GasBuddy.

https://twitter.com/GasBuddyGuy/status/1501920976958803969

“Any time gas prices really spike, it’s an opportunity to promote transit as an affordable way to get around,” Leach said. “The ART bus and Metrobus are $2, we offer free transfers from the bus to Metrorail and Metro has introduced a lot of discounts to promote the return to rail.”

Locals can expect to see and hear messages on social media and on Spotify — targeting commuters who listen to music and podcasts — and promotions on buses and in Metro stations.

“Spotify has been helpful in the past for Arlington Transportation Partners to localize where those listeners are and target them where they are,” DES spokeswoman Claudia Pors says. “Hopefully, people are still listening to podcasts on their commute to the living room.”

The local effort is part of a push by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission to encourage transit ridership. NVTC used a one-time, $500,000 state grant to launch a campaign and asked the jurisdictions in its borders to each contribute to a 20% match, or $100,000.

Arlington is contributing $10,000, which the Arlington County Board approved on Saturday. Other participating localities include Fairfax and Loudoun counties, the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church, and entities such as Virginia Railway Express and OmniRide.

NVTC’s effort and Arlington’s plans dovetail from a statewide transit recovery marketing initiative, for which the Commonwealth has set aside $2 million, and are geared toward an already well-connected region.

“We’re the most transit-centric part of the state — about 70% of state transit ridership is in Northern Virginia,” Leach said. “At the state level, they’re much more focused on commuting. In Arlington, that’s important, but you’re going to see us pivot to transit for lifestyle and using transit to do multiple things.”

Virginians can expect to see the state and region promoting public transit in various news outlets and on social media.

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Yellow Line Metro bridge over the Potomac (Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman)

Local officials are concerned that major work on the Yellow Line, starting in September, will cause significant problems — and are asking Metro to come up with solutions.

Last week, WMATA announced that the Yellow Line tunnel and bridge crossing the Potomac will shut down starting September 10 for up to eight months due to much-needed rehab work.

Additionally, for six weeks, rail service south of National Airport will also be shut down to continue work on the new Potomac Yard station.

The shutdown announcements were not unexpected. About a year ago Metro said its plan was to fast track the work, warning that the bridge was “beyond its useful life.” In October, Metro said riders should expect the shutdown to happen by fall 2022. At the time, though, timelines and the duration of the shutdown wasn’t entirely clear.

Now, we know that Metro is expecting seven to eight months of severely-reduced service. The Yellow Line won’t return to full operations until at least April or May 2023.

While Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) concedes that the work is very necessary, he’s concerned the long shutdown will cause major delays and disruptions for local commuters, as he wrote in a statement last week.

Announcements of the upcoming completion and opening of the Potomac Yard station and the Silver Line Extension are both good news for the region, and will bring substantial benefits to Northern Virginia.

The construction work needed to finish the Potomac Yard station and the closure of the Yellow Line tunnel over the Potomac for safety maintenance will result in major commute disruptions for many of my constituents beginning in September. I am especially concerned for those who commute through the Huntington and Eisenhower Ave. stations, and increased bus service from WMATA and its regional partners will be key to minimizing the impacts on these riders. I urge WMATA to maximize Blue Line service to the extent possible to help compensate for increased traffic as Yellow Line riders shift their commutes during this work.

Capital projects and infrastructure maintenance are important to provide safe, reliable service to the region, but especially given the recent disruptions from the pandemic and 7000 series car issues, it is vital that WMATA do everything possible to look out for riders affected by this work.

Christian Dorsey, County Board Vice-Chair and former WMATA board member, said in a statement to ARLnow that he’s asking WMATA for solutions, in particular requesting the agency to work with Arlington Transit to provide bus alternatives to train service.

WMATA’s closure of the Yellow Line between Pentagon and L’Enfant Plaza stations in September reflects both valuable and necessary investments in our transportation infrastructure and a tremendous disruption to transit riders. The shutdown will come at a most unfortunate time as our region attempts to return to our pre pandemic normal. WMATA must increase Blue Line service to the greatest extent possible, but even then, the capacity limitations of the Rosslyn crossing mean that the transit experience to the Pentagon, our National Landing activity centers, and to National Airport will be degraded. To mitigate these impacts, we need WMATA to provide sufficient increases in bus service crossing the Potomac and to work with transit providers like Arlington Transit (ART) to offer comparable alternatives to the vital service the Yellow Line provides.

Both Metro and Arlington Transit tell ARLnow that they are working together to “develop travel alternatives,” but specific plans will not be announced until the Yellow Line construction plans are finalized.

More information isn’t expected until “early summer,” according to Arlington Department of Environmental Services spokeswoman Claudia Pors.

In 2021, an average of more than 10,000 riders used one of the four Arlington Yellow Line stations (Reagan National Airport, Crystal City, Pentagon City, and Pentagon) on a daily basis, according to Metro statistics.

Arlington’s neighbor Alexandria is also preparing for the shutdowns, particularly as it relates to the new Potomac Yard station on the Yellow Line. Service is supposed to start in the fall, but Metro’s announcement noted that work to connect the tracks to the rest of the rail system will take until the end of October.

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Arlington County is requesting feedback on partial designs for expanded bus bays and pedestrian safety improvements at the East Falls Church Metro station.

The $6.6 million bus bay expansion project, a capital improvement project approved last year, is part of a handful of near-term upgrades planned at and around the Metro station, the parking lot of which was frequently packed pre-pandemic.

Project and regional transit representatives say the expansion will allow for more regional bus routes without causing traffic jams while making walking from the park-and-ride lot safer. The existing bays currently serve nine Metrobus, Arlington Transit (ART) and Fairfax Connector bus routes.

“The East Falls Church Metrorail station currently has four bus bays that are at maximum capacity,” according to the county. “The project will expand bus bay capacity by adding up to three new bus bays and replacing the existing shelters in the off-street bus loop at the East Falls Church Metrorail station.”

Arlington is leading and sponsoring the project, but Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) owns the Metro station, the bus loop and park-and-ride lot.

The county asks locals to say whether the proposed changes will make them feel safer walking, taking the bus, biking, scooting and driving. The survey, open through Sunday, March 20, includes an interactive map people can use to give location-specific feedback.

 

“What this expansion will allow us to do is get buses in and out of the bus loop more efficiently so we don’t have as much gridlock as we currently do at this time,” WMATA planner André Stafford said in a meeting Tuesday.

It may be awhile before more bus routes are added, county transit planner Paul Mounier said in the same meeting.

The county will install seven new bus shelters and is considering adding a new signal and crosswalk at the Washington Blvd entrance to the park-and-ride lot.

Arlington County staff identified this expansion project back in 2011. Four years later, staff found the biggest needs were increasing the capacity of the bus bays, adding refuges to the 150-foot crosswalk that passes in front of the bus loop, replacing the aging, hazardous cement and adding ramps accessible to people with disabilities.

After the expansion work, Arlington will make streetscape and signal upgrades to N. Sycamore Street, Arlington County project manager Kenex Sevilla said Tuesday. The street forms the eastern edge of the Metro parking lot and bus bays.

Meanwhile, both Arlington and the City of Falls Church are expanding Capital Bikeshare stations nearby. The station was once a popular station to ride to that is still recovering from the pandemic-era hit to commuting. A new $2 million, 92-spot bike facility to accommodate cyclists made its debut in August 2020.

This area is poised to see other development in the future, too. WMATA is studying the site for future transit developments while the Department of Community, Planning and Housing Development is studying it as part of the Plan Langston Blvd initiative. A second entrance to the station was put on hold in 2018.

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Arlington County government headquarters in Courthouse (file photo)

Many county services and operations will be shuttered on Monday (Feb. 21) for Presidents Day, which is officially called George Washington Day in Virginia.

County government, the courts and libraries are all closed on Monday. This also includes county vaccine clinics and COVID-19 testing sites. The test positivity rate in Arlington has dropped below 5% as demand for tests has slowed considerably since earlier this winter.

All community centers, including the Long Bridge Aquatics and Fitness Center, will also be closed on Monday.

Arlington Public Schools are not in session on the federal holiday, but trash and recycling collection will happen as scheduled on Monday.

Seven ART bus lines will continue to run, but on a Saturday schedule. The remainder of the ART bus lines will not operate on Monday.

Metro trains will operate on a Saturday schedule, meaning stations open at 5 a.m. and close at midnight with Blue, Orange, Yellow and Silver line trains running every 24 minutes. Metro buses will be on a Saturday supplement schedule with a few additional routes than a normal weekend.

All parking will be free at Metro-owned parking facilities. And for those free parking fans, all county parking meters will not be enforced in honor of America’s first president.

While in most other states the third Monday in February is known as “Presidents Day,” in Virginia, the official state holiday is called George Washington Day.

America’s first president’s birthday is actually Feb. 22 and that’s the day the federal government first designated as a national holiday starting in 1885. Nearly a century later, in 1971, the holiday was shifted to the third Monday in February to also celebrate the birthday of Abraham Lincoln, who was born Feb. 12. Hence, the rise of “Presidents Day.”

But here in Virginia, the federal holiday and free parking is specifically in honor of the Commonwealth’s native son, George Washington.

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An ART bus and driver (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated 6:15 p.m. on 02/16/22) For the next 18 months, bus fare will be free or reduced-price for thousands of income-eligible residents and students.

The fare reductions began this month as part of the Low-Income Fare Assistance and the APS Student Fare-Less pilot programs, which are intended to target residents most impacted by the pandemic.

The Arlington County Board signed off on these programs in November as part of a spending plan for $29.5 million in American Rescue Plan Act dollars that apportioned funding for a host of new equity initiatives. These two programs will use about $2.8 million in ARPA funds.

The first provides free transit to work for residents currently enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (SNAP) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) programs, run by the Department of Human Services. The department will distribute pre-paid SmarTrip cards worth $150, or 75 rides, to about 7,200 pre-identified residents.

This program is expected to cost $1.2 million in this fiscal year, ending in June, and $250,000 next year.

Meanwhile, the student pilot program subsidizes the currently discounted, $1-a-trip student iRide card for certain students traveling to and from school.

Arlington Public Schools will distribute these cards to up to 2,400 middle and high school students who aren’t well-served by school bus services — such as kids who live at the edges of a large walk zone or attend programs far from home. These cards will be loaded with $10 a week over the course of 18 months.

The program will cost $479,000 in this fiscal year and $878,000 next year. It continues and expands on a pilot program that began in 2019 but was suspended during the pandemic.

Participants in both programs have 18 months to use their cards, which also work on Metrobus and Metrorail lines.

Department of Environmental Services staff will use data from these pilots to inform possible expansions or changes to these programs long term. This work could be funded by a Virginia Department of Rail & Public Transportation’s TRIP grant, intended to increase regional connectivity and reduce barriers to transit by supporting low-income and free fare programs.

“The County is interested in applying for a TRIP grant in the future, and would use the data collected from the 18-month pilot programs and results from the fare study to support such an application,” DES spokesman Nate Graham said.

Meanwhile, transportation staff are taking steps now to understand how existing free and reduced-fare policies at peer transportation departments impact ridership, operations and regional services such as Metrobus, he said.

Last week, the county requested funding from DPRT for a study that would analyze these questions, as well as equity concerns and stakeholder feedback, he said. The county should know if it received the grant in June.

Arlington promoted these new initiatives on Friday, Rosa Parks’ birthday and “Transit Equity Day.” It honors her legacy as a Civil Rights activist. Parks, who took a stand for desegregated bus seating, sparked the Montgomery bus boycott and a U.S. Supreme Court decision declaring segregation on buses unconstitutional.

“These two pilot programs help to further the mission of Realizing Arlington’s Commitment to Equity (RACE), which includes advancing racial equity to reduce and prevent disparities in our service to the community,” said Chief Race and Equity Officer Samia Byrd in a statement. “Even though no longer unequal by law, systemic barriers still exist.”

“Our review of transit through an equity lens is to consider access based on need (meeting people where they are) and work to remove those barriers,” Byrd continued. “Through this we aim to honor the legacy of Rosa Parks — equal treatment and equitable access to public transportation for everyone.”

ART bus fare was suspended for all users from March 2020 until January 2021 due to the pandemic.

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Morning Notes

Runners at Washington-Liberty High School in the mist and fog (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

APS Test-to-Stay Date Set — “Arlington County Public Schools, in Virginia, is planning to launch its test-to-stay program Feb. 14, a school spokesman said. The coronavirus testing will initially be offered to students only, for free, at Syphax Education Center from 2:30 p.m. to 7 p.m. on school days.” [WTOP]

Police Probe Particularly Problematic Pothole — “Scanner: Police responding to intersection of Washington Blvd and N. Sycamore Street in East Falls Church for multiple reports of a large pothole damaging passing cars.” [Twitter]

Another Guy Arrested With Gun at DCA — “A Transportation Security Administration (TSA) officer stopped a West Virginia man from bringing a loaded handgun onto a flight leaving from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) early Tuesday morning, according to a TSA release. The TSA officer detected the .40 caliber gun while searching the Bunker Hill, West Virginia man’s carry-on items at a DCA checkpoint.” [Patch]

ART Performance Is Best in Region — From MetroHero: “Our January 2022 regional bus performance reports are now live! ART: B. DASH: B-. Fairfax Connector: B-. MTA Local Bus: C. Metrobus: C-. Ride On: D+.” [Twitter]

Marymount to Host National Event — “Marymount University has been selected by the Center for Excellence in Education to host the national finals of the 2022 USA Biolympiad, to be held on campus May 28 to June 9. The USA Biolympiad is the nation’s largest cost-free biology-education testing and training program for high-school students in the U.S.” [Sun Gazette]

Photos: Church’s Lunar New Year Celebration — “Bishop Michael F. Burbidge celebrated Mass in honor of the Vietnamese New Year at Holy Martyrs of Vietnam Church in Arlington Jan. 30. Tet, or Vietnamese New Year, is celebrated Feb. 1 this year. Following Mass, Bishop Burbidge blessed a shrine to Our Lady of La Vang in a courtyard outside Holy Martyrs.” [Arlington Catholic Herald]

It’s Groundhog Day — Patchy fog today before 8 a.m. Otherwise, Groundhog Day will be mostly cloudy, with a high near 46. Sunrise at 7:12 a.m. and sunset at 5:31 p.m. Rain likely Thursday, mainly before 1 p.m. Otherwise cloudy, with a high near 56. [Weather.gov]

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Snow on the Yorktown High School sign announcing winter break (Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann)

Update at 12:45 p.m. — Roughly half or more of Arlington’s neighborhood streets have been cleared, according to the county’s snow removal map. ART bus routes are returning to normal service levels.

Earlier: It’s a snow day in Arlington, but getting around is not quite as treacherous as on Monday.

A smaller storm and more time to prepare have contributed to a much different situation on the roads.

About three inches of snow accumulation has been reported in Arlington — officially, 2.6 inches at National Airport — but cold temperatures have kept the snow light and fluffy. That compares to the 6.5-10 inches of snow from Monday’s storm, which started as rain and left a heavy wet layer of snow at the bottom.

Most primary and secondary routes seen on traffic cameras were clear as of 8:30 a.m.

Since 8 a.m., few significant traffic-related issues have been reported on police and fire radios.

Arlington County’s snow response remain in Phase 2 at last check, meaning crews are currently focusing on primary and secondary roads, leaving local roads snow-covered. Traffic cameras show visible pavement on most primary and secondary routes.

Bus service is running this morning, but on severe weather schedules. Both Arlington Transit and Metro have suspended a number of routes. The ART routes suspended as of publication include 53, 61, 62, 74, 75 and 84.

Arlington Public Schools are closed today for the fifth day in a row, joining other major local school systems in declaring Friday a snow day, while Arlington County government facilities will open today on a delay, at 10 a.m.

The rest of Friday is expected to be cold and windy, with a high near 30 and gusts up to 33 mph, according to the National Weather Service.

Flickr pool photo by Wolfkann

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Morning Notes

Four Mile Run and trail in the snow (Photo courtesy Niranjan Konduri)

New Restaurant Coming to Arlington Ridge — “Chef Seng Luangrath, the Laotian chef who has been recognized by Michelin and the James Beard Foundation, plans to open a new restaurant at a grocery-anchored retail center in South Arlington. Luangrath, whose restaurants include Thip Khao in Columbia Heights, has signed a lease with Edens for a roughly 3,500-square-foot space at the Arlington Ridge shopping center, according to marketing material and a source familiar with the situation.” [Washington Business Journal]

De Ferranti Looks Back at 2021 — “[Arlington County Board Chair Matt] de Ferranti’s year as chair began in early January 2021, and the surprises started early. ‘I did not expect to need to impose a curfew on my second full day as chair due to the rioting and insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6,’ he noted. But addressing COVID and its myriad implications was the issue that was at the top of the to-do list for much of the year.” [Sun Gazette]

Metro Temporarily Reducing Bus Service — “Metro’s Pandemic Taskforce is taking swift actions to protect the health and safety of its customers and employees against the recent surge in COVID-19 variants. Due to growing absenteeism rates across service areas related to COVID illness and exposures, Metro is reducing service schedules and implementing new workforce actions effective Monday, January 10.” [WMATA, Twitter]

Ebbin, Favola Unscathed from Redistricting — “Forget hand-knitted sweaters, gift cards or stale fruit-based confections: Two state senators whose districts include Arlington may have gotten the best holiday gifts of them all. State Sens. Barbara Favola and Adam Ebbin have emerged from the redistricting sausage-making process with districts that they likely are pleased with.” [Sun Gazette]

ART Bus Changes Today — “On Wednesday, January 5, ART will operate *Severe* service on *Saturday* schedules due to unsafe road conditions. Routes 41, 45, 51, 55, 77, and 87 will operate with detours and possible delays. Route 87 will terminate at Pentagon City Metro, not at Pentagon. All other ART routes, including 42, will not operate. In addition to the ‘Severe’ detour, there will be no 77 service between Walter Reed/Columbia Pike and S. Courthouse/2nd St S due to unsafe road conditions.” [Arlington Transit]

Hope for History Museum Boosters — “The new year will not bring the beginning of the end of renovation of the Arlington Historical Museum. It won’t even bring the end of the beginning. But, Arlington Historical Society leaders fervently hope, 2022 will go down as the beginning of the beginning. Historical Society officials for the past year have been taking a two-pronged approach to renovating and possibly expanding the museum, located in the former Hume School in Arlington Ridge.” [Sun Gazette]

It’s Wednesday — Today there is a chance of rain or freezing rain before 8 a.m., then a chance of rain between 8-11 a.m. Mostly cloudy otherwise, with a high near 44 and a low of 26. South wind 8 to 11 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph. Sunrise at 7:27 a.m. and sunset at 5 p.m. Tomorrow will be partly sunny, with a high near 41 and a low of 30. Snow developing Thursday night into Friday. [Weather.gov]

Photo courtesy Niranjan Konduri

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Morning Notes

Air Force Memorial on a snowy night (Flickr pool photo by Nathan Jones)

Local Closures Due to Winter Storm — In addition to Arlington Public Schools being closed due to today’s winter storm, Arlington County government has shifted to virtual operations, recreation centers and libraries are closed, and ART buses are operating on a severe service plan.

Federal Offices Are Closed, Too — From the U.S. Office of Personnel Management: “Federal offices in the DC area are CLOSED. Emergency and telework-ready employees must follow their agency’s policies.” [Twitter]

Metro on ‘Severe Snow Service Plan’ — “Metrobus will operate on a severe snow service plan [on] Monday, January 3. Bus service will be limited to major roads only. Delays and increased wait times are likely, and travel is strongly discouraged unless absolutely necessary.  Customers traveling when a severe snow service plan is in place should be aware that Metrobus may have to suspend all service if road and weather conditions worsen and travel becomes unsafe. Consider Metrorail as an alternative when possible.  No weather-related impacts to Metrorail are anticipated at this time.”  [WMATA]

ACFD Asks for Help With Hydrants — “Ahead of our first anticipated snowfall of 2022 (didn’t take long) we are asking for your help this season to keep fire hydrants clear. When seconds count, having a clear hydrant allows our firefighters to quickly get additional water to the scene.” [Twitter]

Big Response to NYE Chain Bridge Standoff — From Alan Henney, early Saturday morning: “Person threatening to jump from bridge being held by father. Lots of police, fire and EMS on scene, boats and Eagle helicopter. Negotiations in progress… update: The person threatening to jump is safely in custody. Bridge should be reopened to traffic.” [Twitter, Twitter]

Amazon Building New Tech Team at HQ2 — “Amazon.com Inc. is recruiting a new software and tech development team to its second headquarters to flesh out the technical backbone for its global delivery operations. The new team, dubbed Project Nazaré, will build systems to manage the financial processes for Amazon’s Global Engineering Service, which oversees its global network of fulfillment-related facilities, according to a job posting for the team’s senior product manager, set to be based in the company’s HQ2 campus in Arlington.” [Washington Business Journal]

Barcroft Apartment Purchase Complete — “Jair Lynch Real Estate Partners, a leading owner and developer of mixed-use properties and attainable housing in the DC metro area, today announced the acquisition of Barcroft Apartments, the 1,334-unit, garden style apartment complex located along Columbia Pike in Arlington, VA. Jair Lynch purchased the 60-acre site, including two commercial parcels with 34,000 square feet of retail from the DeLashmutt family who built the complex in 1939 and have owned it since.” [PRNewswire]

It’s 2022 — The first weekday of the new year will also be first snow day of the season. The storm, which started out as rain, will transition to snow, possibly mixed with sleet after 5 a.m. Low around 30. Any mixed precipitation should become all snow after 7 a.m. The snow could be heavy at times, before tapering off in the late morning to afternoon. High near 35, with a north wind 10 to 14 mph, and gusts as high as 28 mph. Snow and sleet accumulation of 3 to 7 inches is expected today. Sunrise at 7:27 a.m. and sunset at 4:58 p.m. Tomorrow it will be sunny, with a high near 37. [Weather.gov]

Flickr pool photo by Nathan Jones

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Arlington County government headquarters in Courthouse

Nearly all county operations and services, including COVID-19 testing sites and vaccine clinics, are set to be closed during the Christmas and New Years holidays.

County government offices, courts, community centers, and libraries, will all be closed on Friday, Dec. 24 (Christmas Eve), Saturday, Dec. 25 (Christmas Day), Friday, Dec. 31 (New Year’s Eve), and Saturday, Jan. 1 (New Year’s Day).

The new Long Bridge Aquatics Center will reopen on Sunday, Jan. 2, though other community centers will remain closed that day.

For those looking for a booster shoot, county COVID-19 vaccine clinics will be closed Dec. 24 through Dec. 26 and Dec. 31 through Jan. 3.

The three Curative testing sites in Arlington will also be closed Dec. 24, Dec. 25, and Jan. 1 — and will close early at 2 p.m. on Dec. 31, even as lines to get tested remain long amid the current surger in Covid cases.

The sites will be open normal hours (9 a.m. to 7 p.m.) on Dec. 26 and Jan. 2, however.

Arlington Public Schools closed on Monday, Dec. 20 for the winter holiday break. The school system is currently set to reopen for classes Monday, Jan 3.

Trash, recycling, and yard waste collection will happen as scheduled on Dec. 24 and Dec. 31,

As for some good news, parking meters will not be enforced on Dec. 24, Dec. 25, Dec. 31, and Jan. 1.

WMATA and ART buses are also revising schedules for the holidays. On Christmas Eve, Metrorail is operating from 7 a.m. to 12 a.m., scaling back by three hours from a normal Friday. Metrobus will be operating on a Sunday schedule. Metrorail is reducing service by an hour on Christmas Day while keeping a normal Saturday schedule.

A select number of ART bus routes will operate on a Sunday schedule on Christmas Day, with the rest not operating.

New Year’s Eve will be different than in years past, with Metrorail staying open only until 1 a.m. as opposed to 2 a.m. Metrobus will operate on a Sunday schedule on that day and, on New Year’s Day, Metrorail will close an hour earlier than a normal Saturday.

ART buses will run its normal route schedule on New Year’s Eve, but a Sunday schedule on New Year’s Day.

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(Updated 2:15 p.m.) The county has crystallized plans for temporarily storing and dispatching Arlington Transit (ART) buses near Washington-Liberty High School while a new bus facility in Green Valley is built.

Nearly 30 ART buses will come and go from the site, on the 1400 block of N. Quincy Street, where the county currently parks some fire and police vehicles, as well as a portion of the Arlington Public Schools vehicle fleet. The site also has warehouse storage for Covid-related supplies and serves as the drop-off center for E-CARE recycling events.

In 2015, the county agreed to pay $30 million to acquire the six-acre property, which is across from W-L to the west, I-66 to the north and houses to the south and east.

Meanwhile, construction on the Shirlington Road facility in Green Valley — intended to address the need for more space to park and maintain Arlington’s growing fleet of ART buses — is expected to start in the summer of 2022, Department of Environmental Services Director Greg Emanuel told the County Board during its recessed meeting yesterday (Tuesday). The county bought that site, along the 2600 block of Shirlington Road, for $24 million in 2018.

Ahead of construction, DES says it has to move 41 buses, including 12 to a bus site on S. Eads Street, which opened in 2017 near Crystal City. The other 29 are going to the N. Quincy Street site because it’s the only available and affordable site zoned for vehicle storage, Emanuel says.

Buses will be parked at and dispatched from the N. Quincy Street site on weekdays, with a majority of movement happening between 5 a.m. and midnight, he said. Weekend operations will be run out of the Crystal City facility.

Although the facility neighbors the high school, DES says traffic related to school pickup and drop-off should not pose a problem.

“We don’t anticipate conflict with W-L traffic across the street because the peaks are outside the normal peaks here,” Emanuel said.

Expected activity for the temporary bus facility on N. Quincy Street (via Arlington County)

Still, the news is not exactly welcome among some neighbors, who told the County Board and county staff their concerns about noise during quiet hours, as well as how this decision was communicated. Residents previously opposed the relocation of APS bus parking to the Virginia Square site, also known as the Buck site.

Board members indicated support for the temporarily relocation but said they were sensitive to residents’ concerns.

A noise study conducted earlier this year concluded that the new bus activity will increase noise levels upwards of three decibels, with overall noise “still in the comfortable range,” Emanuel says. Currently, a row of trees lines the southern edge of the property, but additional noise mitigation measures are a possibility down the road.

Arlington County Board Vice-Chair Katie Cristol said the county needs to make long-range plans for building attractive, landscaped noise buffers, as the site will continue to support other “back-of-house functions” for northern parts of Arlington.

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