The Arlington County Board on Saturday approved a new 10-year transit plan that provides a vision for “more frequent bus service, more late night and weekend service, better north-south connections, and a new Premium Transit Network along Columbia Pike.”
There’s an asterisk to the Transit Development Plan’s unanimous approval and the subsequent cheery press release, however. Responding to criticism from residents and the county’s own Transportation Commission, the Board directed County Manager Mark Schwartz to report back next year on possible improvements to the post-streetcar transit plan for Columbia Pike.
The Board’s guidance to Schwartz and county staff:
This generally ambitious and robust Transit Development Plan nevertheless falls short of the urgency and innovation needed to create a transformative transit network serving Columbia Pike and to realize its potential as a thriving and dynamic residential and commercial corridor.
Therefore, in adopting the FY 2017 -FY 2026 Transit Development Plan, the County Board also gives the following guidance to the County Manager and staff:
Look and Customization of Vehicles. The current TDP phases in the most modern version of current vehicles, WMATA buses and ART buses, with no unique features beyond re-skinning the buses on WMATA routes. Recognizing the significant logistical, cost and inter-jurisdictional challenges, please provide to the Board for consideration and analysis, during Q2 2017, the details of a possible path to customized and unique vehicles.
Articulated Buses. In consultation with WMATA, provide a plan by Q2 2017 to add articulated buses to the highest-demand routes on Columbia Pike (on either a pilot or permanent basis). Continue to assess effectiveness of articulated bus service and determine sustained levels of service for these routes through FY2026.
Headways. The current TDP identifies 6-minute peak headways and 12-15 minute off-peak headways for the Metrobus Connector “trunk line.” Please provide to the Board, by Q2 2017, a cost/benefit analysis (to consider efficiency, capacity, ridership impacts) of reducing the off-peak headways and ultimately achieving a 6-minute headway for 18 hours/day.
Coordination with Other Agencies. To effectuate this guidance, the County Manager and staff will coordinate as appropriate and necessary with WMATA and other federal, state, regional and local government agencies and transportation bodies.
Most of the public comments at Saturday’s Board meeting were complimentary of the overall plan, save the plan for the so-called Premium Transit Network. That plan seemed in many ways diminished from the “TSM-2” enhanced bus plan the county and supporters originally said was inferior to its since-cancelled streetcar plan for Columbia Pike.
Among the public speakers at the Board meeting was John Snyder, member of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization and a former streetcar booster. Snyder said the plan for Pike transit presented by county staff was inadequate to support growth along the corridor.
We had a debate for several years [about] TSM-2… and the streetcar. TSM-2 won the debate. Now, when I look at the plan, what is written in the plan has disappeared. The whole idea of premium new vehicles that have higher capacity: it’s gone. This wasn’t announced and it wasn’t part of a public process. We found out about it by looking at the Capital Improvement Plan. There’s no money to buy new buses. There’s still money in the plan for the transit stations if they’re maintained at the current level but the buses have disappeared. There’s great things in the Transit Development Plan, what’s in there is great and the consensus is that the county board supports all of it. But the concern is what’s not in there. We don’t see anything that’s going to help businesses with more frequent service on the off-hours. People go out to dinner not during the commuting hour, they go out to dinner after that time and they come back after that time. The idea of six-minute intervals all the time makes it reliable, frequent, easy and simple to use. We have the simplicity, the new 16M line is great in the way that it simplifies many of these different routes but it needs to have that frequency to help our businesses and connect our residents to that so we get out of the car mentality. Seventy percent of the people on the Pike do not use transit even to get to work. The percentage on other sorts of trips is even higher. We need to change that. That’s the whole idea behind the Pike plan and it has been supported by the Board for the last 15 years.
There is no plan to increase capacity. We understand that you’re going to be coordinating with WMATA on how we can get articulated buses. I heard the same thing in 2003 at the first meeting I attended regarding transit on the Pike. WMATA has a lot on its plate. What we need in that regard is a statement that says Arlington will. Arlington will go do this, we will go get the additional buses, we will get the additional facilities needed to maintain them and we’re going to do that by a particular date.
Some were more charitable about the plan as currently conceived.
“These critics failed to appreciate that no amount of service upgrades will defeat car culture,” said perennial County Board candidate Audrey Clement, who’s running as an independent this year. “If state of the art transit technology were the solution, the Silver Line would not be running half-empty in the I-66 median with cars parked on the interstate on either side every day.”
Dennis Leach, Arlington’s Deputy Director of Transportation, said the enhanced transit stations and other amenities included in the Premium Transit Network plan will, in fact, move the needle in terms of making transit a more attractive option along the Pike.
“The premium amenities are proving those high-quality stations with near-level boarding, longer platforms and real-time information,” he said. “These stations are the front door of transit in the corridor. It is shifting this entire corridor to off-vehicle fare collection. We’ve already started work on transit signal priority and we are committed to actually implementing it in the full corridor.”
“We are actively coordinating with Metro to replace the current buses with modern low floor vehicles,” Leach added. “The intent is to implement a unified brand for this premium transit network.”
“I would say this was the most intensive and comprehensive transit update that the county has ever done,” Leach said of the overall transit plan. “I was here for 2011, this effort well exceeded that. We looked at every route and every part of this community to bring these recommendations before you.”
The full press release from Arlington County, after the jump.
The Pike Presidents’ Group
sent is sending a letter to Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey yesterday, saying that the county is not delivering on its promise to communities along the Pike to “provide services that are equivalent of the abandoned streetcar plan.”
The letter was drafted in advance of a presentation by county staff on Arlington’s 10-year Transit Development Plan and its plan for a “Premium Transit Network” along the Pike and through Pentagon City and Crystal City.
The county’s plan “does not even come close,” to providing transit service similar to the original streetcar plan, wrote the chair of the group, Adam Henderson.
“We ask that you uphold to your prior statements and instruct staff to honor the commitment to Pike… to achieve the Pike transit system we have all worked diligently to achieve,” said Henderson.
The full letter, which we’re now told was a draft and not the final version, is after the jump.
File photo (above) shows rendering of the since-canceled Columbia Pike streetcar.
To help deal with traffic congestion during the track outages that are planned as part of Metro’s SafeTrack project, Arlington County is considering a plan to implement a bus-only lane on part of Lee Highway.
The bus-only lane would be implemented on the three-lane section of Lee Highway from N. Veitch Street near Courthouse to N. Moore Street in Rosslyn, and only during the morning rush hour. That portion of Lee Highway often experiences heavy traffic congestion in the morning.
The proposal will be discussed on Wednesday, June 1, during a “community check-in” on Lee Highway transit service. That event will be held from 6:30-8 p.m. at the Langston-Brown Community Center (2121 N. Culpeper Street) and will also discuss plans for ART 55 bus service on Lee Highway, which will be getting a new timetable this summer.
Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokesman Eric Balliet says the bus lane proposal is part of a “larger effort to address increased congestion during Metro’s SafeTrack maintenance work.”
“Since Lee Highway parallels Metro’s Orange/Silver Line, we expect it to become a key transit corridor for moving people when sections of the Orange/Silver Line are disrupted,” Balliet said in an email. “Discussions are underway with VDOT about this potential change, since Lee Highway is a state road, and we expect to have more information to share at the community meeting on June 1.”
At the time of this article’s publishing, details about other aspects of the county’s SafeTrack mitigation plan were not available.
Photo via Google Maps
Marine Corps Marathon Wrap-up — Despite a soggy start, spirits were high for the 40th annual Marine Corps Marathon, which wound through Rosslyn, D.C. and Crystal City Sunday morning. The winners were a 22-year-old recent West Point grad, representing the Army team and, on the women’s side, a Costa Rica native who only started running seven years ago. [Run Washington, Stars & Stripes]
Orange Line Delays — Orange Line riders are experiencing delays of up to 25 minutes this morning due to a broken rail in Maryland. [Twitter]
School Bus Camera Tickets May Be Refunded — Arlington County is considering refunding tickets issued by stop arm cameras on public school buses, following a determination by the state Attorney General that the county doesn’t have the legal authority to issue such citations via mail. [Washington Post]
I Like This Park Because — Arlington’s Dept. of Parks and Recreation has erected two new chalkboard in Rosslyn Highlands Park, asking park users why they like the park. [Twitter]
Top Bus Lines in Arlington — The county-run transit organization Arlington Transportation Partners has a list of the top five most important bus lines in Arlington. They are: ART 43, ART 45, ART 42, Metrobus 16 series and Metrobus 38B. [Arlington Transportation Partners]
New Little Free Library in Arlington — There’s a new Little Free Library in Arlington. The resident-created library is located at 1723 N. Veitch Street, three blocks north of the Courthouse Metro station. Affordable housing developer AHC, which helped with the library’s creation, is planning a celebratory launch party tomorrow at 4 p.m.
Photo by Jennifer Currier
Meanwhile, another D.C. to NYC bus line is expected to start running from the mall later this year. Tripper Bus is scheduled to begin serving Pentagon City by the holiday season, according to Ann Bates, a PR rep for the mall.
Tripper Bus currently makes stops in Rosslyn and Bethesda before heading to Manhattan.
This week the mall, which is currently undergoing major renovations, also announced that it is adding a stop for CitySights DC double-decker “hop-on, hop-off” tour buses.
“Offering access to both CitySights DC and Tripper Bus perfectly complements Fashion Centre at Pentagon City’s status as a premier international shopping destination,” Todd Jerscheid, the Fashion Centre’s director of marketing, said in a statement.
Record for Rainfall Set — A record amount of rain fell on Arlington yesterday. Reagan National Airport recorded 2.49 inches of rainfall, overtaking the previous record of 2.20 inches in 1907. [Washington Post]
Sun Gazette Endorses Fallon, Lander — The Arlington Sun Gazette newspaper has endorsed Peter Fallon and James Lander for the Democratic County Board nomination. The paper said Fallon can be “prickly” but has the “strongest community background,” while Lander can sometimes “wing it” on important matters but has “specific and out-of-the-box proposals.” [InsideNova]
Hynes Endorses Lander, Schneider — County Board Chair Mary Hynes has endorsed James Lander and Andrew Schneider ahead of the June 9 Democratic County Board primary. Hynes said Lander, the current chair of the Arlington School Board, is “the best partner on the School Board I’ve ever had.” She said she’s been “impressed with [Schneider’s] diligence and openness to different perspectives, new ideas.” [InsideNova]
New Rooftop Deck for Rosslyn Buildings — Rosslyn’s Twin Towers office building complex is getting a new rooftop deck. Located at 1100 Wilson Blvd, the 5,000 square foot terrace will feature sweeping views of the D.C. skyline, for use by tenants of the 31-story buildings. Tenants of the complex include WJLA and Politico. The terrace is expected to be completed by next spring. [Virginia Business]
Rise in New Catholic Priests — Following a national trend, the Catholic Diocese of Arlington is seeing a rise in the ordination of new priests. Bishop Paul Loverde is scheduled to ordain seven men to the local priesthood on Saturday, bringing the number of new priests ordained since 2012 to 20. [Catholic Diocese of Arlington]
No Big Buses on the Pike, Yet — There’s a reason why there are no articulated buses running down the Columbia Pike corridor, at least not yet. For one, standard bus service is sufficient at this time. Another reason: there’s no local storage space for big articulated buses. [Greater Greater Washington]
Arlington Students to Attend Governor’s School — Twenty Arlington Public Schools students will attend the prestigious Governor’s Schools or Governor’s Foreign Language Academy this summer. [Arlington Public Schools]
Flickr pool photo by Jason OX4
New Democratic County Board Contender — A field of six has been finalized for the Democratic Arlington County Board primary. The candidates include all five who spoke before the Arlington County Democratic Committee earlier this month, plus Bruce Wiljanen, “who is largely unknown to the Democratic political establishment.” [InsideNova]
New Tenant for Fmr. Marvelous Market Space — Empty for years, the former Marvelous Market storefront at 888 N. Quincy Street in Ballston has a new tenant. The space is being built out as an office for the real estate sales and marketing firm Smith | Schnider.
Coming Soon: More Dedicated Bus Lanes — A mile of dedicated bus lanes for the new Metroway route are set to open in Arlington this summer. Another 1.3 miles of peak-hour bus lanes are also planned. The route runs from the Braddock Road Metro station in Alexandria to Crystal City. [Washington Post]
Medal of Honor Recipients in Arlington — On Tuesday, 26 living recipients of the Medal of Honor flew in to and then attended a luncheon at Reagan National Airport. The following day, on national Medal of Honor Day, they gathered for a ceremony at Arlington National Cemetery. [Army Times, Stars and Stripes]
Grant for APS Program — Arlington Public Schools has received a $25,000 grant from Rosslyn-based Graham Holdings to support the school system’s award-winning Traveling Trolley summer reading initiative. [Arlington Public Schools]
County Board Mulls Temporary Space for Schools — Arlington County Board members say they’re considering a request by the School Board to consider providing temporary spaces that can ease the school capacity crunch. [InsideNova]
Parking Appeal Change Approved — The Arlington County Board has approved a change to the appeals process for certain parking citations. Whereas previously only certain tickets issued by police officers were allowed to be appealed administratively, the Board on Saturday approved giving the County Manager the authority to set up a more streamlined administrative appeal process for a broader range of parking citations. [Arlington County]
New Bus Route Exceeds Expectations — The Metroway bus rapid transit route that runs from the Braddock Road Metro station to Crystal City is exceeding Metro’s early ridership projections. Already, the route is averaging 1,340 riders each weekday. [Alexandria Times]
Section of Bluemont Park Renamed — A forested, 6.6-acre section of Bluemont Park has been renamed Mary Carlin Woods, in honor of one of the property’s owners. Mary Carlin’s family owned the property from 1772 until her death in 1905. The new name will also make it easier for first responders to find the area in an emergency. [Arlington County]
RedRocks Adds Delivery, Opens Patio — Columbia Pike pizzeria RedRocks is now offering delivery service. For those who’d rather dine out, the restaurant has just opened its outdoor patio for the season. [Twitter]
Fire at Pentagon Metro Station — A trash fire on the tracks at the Pentagon Metro station just before 8:00 this morning caused the station to fill with smoke. The fire was quickly extinguished by Arlington firefighters, but not before it resulted in delays on the Blue, Yellow and Green lines.
Capitals to Hold Blood Drive — The Washington Capitals will hold their annual summer blood drive at Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Ballston this weekend. The event will take place from 7:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on Saturday. [Associated Press]
New Bus Route Serving Shirlington — Alexandria’s DASH will begin new service to the Shirlington Transit Center on Monday. The DASH AT9 will run from the Mark Center to Shirlington to Potomac Yard. [DASH Bus]
WJLA Sale Approved — The sale of Rosslyn-based TV station WJLA (ABC 7) has received FCC approval. Long-time owner Allbritton Communications is selling WJLA, NewsChannel 8 and seven other stations to Maryland-based Sinclair Broadcast Group. [Politico]
Flickr pool photo by Brian Allen
(Updated at 4:45 p.m.) The bus line that will eventually run on dedicated lanes in Crystal City and along Route 1 to Alexandria is expected to open to riders later this summer.
WMATA announced today that the partial bus rapid transit line will launch Aug. 24 and will be called “Metroway,” instead of the given 9X route designation that had been previously planned. The dedicated transit lane is the first of its kind in the D.C. area.
The route will go between the Crystal City and Braddock Road Metro stations at first, but WMATA is planning to expand service to the Pentagon City station by 2015. By that time, Arlington expects to finish construction on the dedicated bus lanes it has approved for the northbound route on Crystal Drive and the southbound route along S. Bell and Clark Streets.
A portion of Alexandria’s section of the Metroway route will have dedicated bus lanes when it opens, from Potomac Avenue to E. Glebe Road. There will also be expanded weekend and late night service, WMATA says. Buses will run every six minutes between Crystal City Metro and S. Glebe Road during rush hour, every 12 minutes during weekday off-peak hours and every 20 minutes over the weekend.
“We’re delighted to be partnering with Alexandria on the region’s first dedicated transitway — using separated lanes to encourage travelers up and down the Route 1 corridor to choose transit rather than their cars,” Arlington County Board Vice Chair Mary Hynes said in WMATA’s press release. “We’re proud to be working the kinks out now so that the region’s Priority Bus Corridor Network can be smoothly implemented over the next 15 years.”
Buses along the line will be new, and painted with the “Metroway” branding “that differentiates it from other transit service,” WMATA said in its release. By 2015, WMATA also plans to have off-board fare collection, real-time bus displays, all-door boarding and “traffic signal optimization” to ensure the buses run on time along the route.
The route starting in August will include the following stations:
- Braddock Rd Metro
- Fayette Street (Opening 2015)
- Potomac Avenue
- Custis Avenue
- Swann Avenue
- East Glebe Road
- Reed Avenue
- S. Glebe Road
- 33rd & Crystal Drive (Opening 2015)
- 27th & Crystal Drive
- 23rd & Crystal Drive
- 18th & Crystal Drive
- Crystal City Metro
- Crystal City Metro
- 23rd & S. Clark Street
- 26th & S. Clark Street
- 27th & Crystal Drive
- 33rd & Crystal Drive (Opening 2015)
- S. Glebe Road
- Reed Avenue
- East Glebe Road
- Swann Avenue
- Custis Avenue
- Potomac Avenue
- Fayette Street (Opening 2015)
- Braddock Rd Metro
Images courtesy WMATA
Yorktown Baseball Sets Record — Yorktown High School’s baseball team has finished the regular reason undefeated in the National District. With 14 victories, the Patriots set a National District record for wins in a single season. [Sun Gazette]
Crystal City BRT Named — The Bus Rapid Transit system that will serve Crystal City and Potomac Yard next year will be named “Metro Way” and will feature a blue bus design. The buses will travel from Pentagon City to Alexandria, and will run every 6 minutes during the rush hour. [Greater Greater Washington]
USS Arlington Fundraising $100K Short of Goal — So far, more than $390,000 has been donated or is expected to be pledged for a 9/11 “tribute room” on the USS Arlington. That leaves the ship’s commissioning committee more than $100,000 short of its $500,000 goal, however. Fundraising is continuing and committee member Frank O’Leary says he is “hoping to crack $400,000 this month.”
Colonial Invasion Comes to Ft. Myer — The annual spirit night for George Washington University basketball is coming to Ft. Myer’s Conmy Hall tonight. The event, which is usually held on the GW campus, will start at 8:00 p.m. It’s being held at Ft. Myer as a tribute to the military, and to celebrate GW’s basketball history — the team played at Conmy Hall from 1956 to 1975. GW students will be bused to the event from the school’s Foggy Bottom campus. [Colonial Hoops]
Late Night Shuttle Service Eyes Arlington — The DC Hopper, a nightlife shuttle service for bar-goers, is thinking about coming to Arlington. The service just launched in Bethesda, taking passengers from Bethesda to Georgetown to Dupont Circle and back in 30-passenger minibuses outfitted with TVs and free Red Bull energy drinks. Rides cost between $24 and $10. The owners say they would eventually like to expand the service to include Arlington, U Street NW, and H Street NE. [BethesdaNow]
Convert Quincy Park to Central Park? — Greater Greater Washington contributor Peter Harnik, director of the Center for City Park Excellence at the Trust for Public Land, has an idea for Arlington’s Quincy Park. He said the park, located adjacent to Arlington Central Library, should be converted to “a great central park” with trees, a pond, a bridge, landscaping, curving baths and “not a single chain-link fence.” [Greater Greater Washington]
Flickr pool photo by Alex
The streetcar plan has spawned a very vocal group of opponents. Many of those streetcar critics say that one of the alternatives from the analysis — articulated buses — is a cheaper and in some ways superior transportation option for Columbia Pike. Streetcar supporters disagree, however, and often point to economic development along streetcar corridors as the reason why rail is preferable.
Critics of the Columbia Pike streetcar have been pushing the idea of articulated buses as a cheaper and more flexible alternative to streetcar service.
Specifically, some critics have been citing the streetcar-like bus in the video above — which is currently in use in Las Vegas — as a way to get the increased capacity of streetcars while making bus travel more attractive to non-riders. The bus offers prepaid, level platform boarding — which makes loading and unloading passengers quicker and easier — plus a quiet and smooth ride. Since it runs on tires rather than a track, it also has the ability to get around accidents or any other obstruction.
Articulated buses are an option being studied for the Columbia Pike corridor, but a streetcar does have advantages that supporters say a bus cannot match. A streetcar line, supporters say, can attract transit-oriented development and promote economic growth. Plus, rail transit seems to have a psychological advantage over bus transit — in general, more people would be willing to ride a streetcar than they would a bus.
The cost of articulated bus service on Columbia Pike is estimated at $53 million, compared to the estimated $250 million cost of a five-mile streetcar line.
Arlington and Alexandria are jointly planning a five-mile streetcar line to run from the Pentagon City Metro station, across 12th Street to Crystal Drive, down Crystal Drive to Potomac Yard, and then down Route 1 to the Braddock Road Metro Station.
The Route 1 Corridor Streetcar Conversion Project, as it’s called, is currently in the environmental assessment, alternative analysis and conceptual engineering phase. That phase of the project should wrap up around mid-2013, we’re told. Roadwork on Crystal Drive set to begin this summer, meanwhile, will quietly begin to set the stage for what will eventually be a dedicated bus transitway along Crystal Drive, an interim step before the streetcar becomes operational.
Work on the Crystal City and Columbia Pike streetcar projects is running in parallel, meaning construction on each could theoretically take place at the same time. The projects are separate in an organizational sense, but connected physically. The streetcar lines will connect at the Pentagon City Metro station.
One big difference between the streetcar projects is financing. The $250 million Columbia Pike streetcar plan relies heavily on financing from the federal government, which is far from certain given the current budget crunch on Capitol Hill. Financing for the Crystal City streetcar, meanwhile, is more or less in place — it’s coming from the Crystal City tax increment financing area (TIF) that was approved by the County Board in 2010.
In a recent interview with ARLnow.com, Arlington County Board Chair Mary Hynes said the Crystal City streetcar could very well open before the more-publicized Columbia Pike line.
“I think it’s actually more likely that we’ll get the Crystal City segment built first, because we know how we’re paying for it.” Hynes said. “We were hoping 2016, 2017 to have that segment open.”
Arlington County Director of Transportation Dennis Leach says work on the Crystal City streetcar is moving forward, and that a project to construct certain facilities that will be used by the streetcar will be going out for bid this summer. Leach, however, refused to speculate on when the project may be completed.