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Morning Notes

Apartment Rents Bounce Back — “It took a little while, but average rents for Arlington apartments have now shot past pre-pandemic levels, according to new data. With median rent prices of $2,013 for a one-bedroom unit and $2,437 for two bedrooms, Arlington is among 92 of the nation’s 100 largest urban communities that has seen rents return to, or exceed, levels of March 2020, when the pandemic hit.” [Sun Gazette]

Ballston Resident Creates Bourbon Brand — “I Bourbon is one Arlingtonian’s ode to this classic American whiskey. Now, if he could just get it on store shelves.” [Washington Business Journal]

Reston to Crystal City Bus Proposed — “One of two projects proposed by Fairfax County, the new express bus service would connect Fairfax Connector’s Reston South Park and Ride lot with key employment destinations in Arlington County, including the Pentagon and Pentagon City and ending in Crystal City. The county is seeking $5.1 million to cover two years of operating costs for the service as well as the purchase of six buses.” [Reston Now]

AWLA Takes in Louisiana Pets — “A special delivery arrived Wednesday afternoon at Manassas Regional Airport: a plane carrying more than 100 pets that were evacuated from the Louisiana hurricane zone ahead of Ida’s arrival earlier this week. As the plane landed, rescue organizations from throughout the D.C. area were standing by to take the animals in. ‘There were mostly dogs, but also a few cats in the mix,’ said Samantha Snow with the Animal Welfare League of Arlington.” [WJLA]

Student Housing May Become Hotel — “Marymount University is moving to convert some of its recently acquired student housing in Ballston into hotel rooms, giving its hospitality program a boost in the process. The Arlington university filed documents with county planners Tuesday seeking permission to convert as much as half of the 267-unit residential building at 1008 N. Glebe Road into a hotel. Marymount has operated the building, dubbed The Rixey, as housing for students, faculty and staff since buying it back in 2019.” [Washington Business Journal]

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An ART bus (via Arlington Transit Facebook)

(Updated at 11:55 a.m.) Arlington Transit buses will return to full service after Labor Day weekend, the county-run transit agency says.

Rush-hour-only ART buses 53, 61, 62 and 74 will run again starting Tuesday, Sept. 7, after being out of service since March 2020 due to the pandemic. Once these buses resume operation, Arlington Transit will largely be back at full service. ART 72 will continue on a modified weekday schedule, however.

With construction ongoing around the Ballston Metro station, ART 53 and 62 bus stops will be relocated near the Metro elevator on Fairfax Drive.

While seating restrictions were lifted on Aug. 1, riders will still be required to wear masks as per a federal mask mandate for passengers on planes, trains and buses from the Transportation Security Administration, effective until January 2022.

Meanwhile, Metrobus is set to implement some changes after Sunday, Sept. 5, adding more buses and trains and extending Metrorail’s weekend hours.

Notably, bus 16Y from Columbia Pike to Farragut Square will resume operation, going both directions during weekday rush hours. The limited-stop service route, which once connected Columbia Pike stops to McPherson Square in D.C., was halted during the pandemic and was absent from when a number of routes were restored earlier this summer.

Buses 16A, 16C and 16E in Columbia Pike and 16G and 16H between Columbia Pike and Pentagon City will get service upgrades as well.

“Service will operate every 12 minutes or better from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily between Columbia Pike & South Joyce Street and Columbia Pike & South Dinwiddie Street at stops served by all routes,” WMATA said.

Bus 25B from the old Landmark Mall in Alexandria to Ballston will see some changes, with Alexandria working to overhaul its own DASH bus network. 25B will travel between Ballston, Southern Towers and Mark Center every day except Sunday, and between Ballston and Southern Towers on Sundays.

Metrorail trains will be available until 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, an hour later than was previously offered. Trains will also start running earlier on Sundays, with riders able to board at 7 a.m. rather than 8 a.m.

More on the planned Metro changes from a press release, below.

Read More

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Folks wanting a weekend trip to Virginia Beach can now catch a luxury motor coach — with leather seats and hot towels — that has regular departures from Fashion Centre at Pentagon City.

Rides with the bus company, ROX, started July 1, 2020, and ended 90 days later as coronavirus cases rose in the fall. Service between Arlington and Virginia Beach started back up in July, and the company is set to bring a Charlottesville-Virginia Beach route online in September.

Today, the Virginia Beach-based company has three motor coaches that seat up to 23 passengers (a normal bus has 56 seats). Buses leave Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday.

Each ROX bus has WiFi, individual charging outlets and chargers available on-demand. Riders can choose from a digital library of books, movies and TV shows, and are served a complimentary meal, snacks and soft drinks, with the option to buy alcohol.

“It’s better than any first class flight you’ve been on,” said ROX founder Jeff McWaters, a businessman and former Virginia state senator, who represented part of Virginia Beach.

McWaters, who founded the health insurance company Amerigroup, got the idea from his personal experience traveling for work between Virginia Beach and D.C.

If all the employees drove, “no one could work, it was dangerous, and we had issues,” he said, while flying was a hassle with frequent delays, and trains had poor WiFi and food.

With ROX, the former senator is looking to invigorate the commercial connection between the two hubs while taking advantage of a growing preference for remote work, with occasional trips to the office.

“We learned during the pandemic, you can work from home, you can work from the park, you can work with a glass of wine, but you can’t work on I-66, working on trains is spotty, and you can’t work on airplane,” he said. “You can work on the ROX.”

So far, most riders are using the bus for leisure, but McWaters predicts business travel will return.

ROX stops at Fashion Centre because it is well-connected and offers shopping and dining, he said. The mall, which offers luggage storage, alos has an Avis rental car outpost, and riders can catch the Metro or a car to get to other parts of Arlington, D.C. or the airport.

“It’s got everything,” he said.

While the bus service was shut down, the company earned income from private charters of a fourth bus. That coach features reclining seats, a kitchen, a sofa and eight televisions, including one outside for tailgating.

The bus has been to “some fun places,” and is set to embark on a 10-day hunting trip to Wyoming this fall, said Janice Tuckman, a sales representative for ROX.

“We picked up group at the The Greenbrier and drove them on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail, where they visited distilleries and stayed at an Airbnb. They had a whoopin’ good time, and after four days, headed back to Greenbrier.”

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Langston Blvd, formerly Lee Highway, at N. Veitch Street (via Google Maps)

The Arlington County Board took a step toward converting one lane of the newly renamed Langston Blvd into a bus- and HOV-only lane.

On Saturday, the Board accepted and appropriated a $710,000 grant from the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission to pay for the transit project, which will run through parts of Rosslyn. Last year, Arlington County applied for funding from the Commuter Choice program, which helps pay for transit upgrades using toll revenue from I-66 inside the Beltway.

“This is an area where we are continuing to work toward multi-modal,” said Board Chair Matt de Ferranti during the regular County Board meeting on Saturday. “On Lee Highway, soon to be Langston Blvd, we will have a bus-only lane so that more residents can move more quickly to work, through our community, and home as well.”

This grant will cover pavement treatment, restriping, and signage for the new bus lane. The lane will run eastbound from N. Veitch Street, near Courthouse, to N. Lynn Street in Rosslyn during peak morning hours.It will run westbound from N. Oak Street to N. Veitch Street during the evening peak period.

At other times, the lane will continue as a general-purpose travel lane.

This segment of Route 29 in Rosslyn “is very heavily congested and sharply degrades bus performance and reliability, which will be improved by the lane conversion,” a staff report said.

Pre-pandemic, that section of Lee Highway carried around 25 loaded buses per hour, according to the report.

The project could take two years to complete, according to Eric Balliet, a spokesman for Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services.

“The County Board’s acceptance and appropriation of the funds signals the start of the project,” he tells ARLnow. “The schedule included with the NVTC funding application was 26 months from project start to end of construction.”

The funding is less than the full $1 million that the county applied for, but staff are not earmarking more for it.

“We will work to deliver the project within this funding amount,” Balliet said.

The county mulled this project over before, even seeking funding — unsuccessfully — in 2019.

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Arlington County has received a $710,000 grant to convert an outside lane of Lee Highway to bus- and HOV-only.

The lane will run eastbound from N. Veitch Street to N. Lynn Street during peak morning hours and westbound from N. Oak Street to N. Veitch Street during the evening peak period. During these times, roughly 25 loaded buses travel that stretch per hour, staff said in a report this January.

At other times, it will continue as a general-purpose travel lane.

The project is one of six “low-cost, low-risk” projects to receive a grant through the Commuter Choice program, which funds transit projects with toll revenue from I-66 inside the Beltway. On Wednesday, the Commonwealth Transportation Board authorized the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission to award $3.5 million in grants, NVTC announced.

“We’re expanding the transportation network now using a conservative strategy focused on low-cost projects and longstanding assets to ensure access to convenient, safe and reliable choices whenever people are ready to commute,” NVTC Executive Director Kate Mattice said in a statement.

The scope and timeline of the program are limited this year after revenue plummeted due to COVID-19. Pre-pandemic, Commuter Choice on the I-66 corridor anticipated $25 million in grant funding for the 2021-22 fiscal year. Instead, tolled trips dropped by nearly 50%, the 2020 Commuter Choice report found.

“Given the lower revenues and increased competition for this round of I-66 Commuter Choice, we’re pleased that NVTC and the CTB selected this project for funding,” said Eric Balliet, a spokesman for Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services.

The funding, less than the full $1 million the County applied for, will be used to cover pavement treatment, restriping, and signage for the new bus lane.

“We anticipate fully implementing the project but have not yet had discussions about adjustments to the project scope based on the lower funding amount,” Balliet said.

The County Board will be need to accept and appropriate the funds and execute an agreement with NVTC, he said. Staff have up to two years to dedicate the money to the project, and up to five years to spend it.

The county mulled this project over before, even seeking funding — unsuccessfully — in 2019.

The county was also denied a request $10 million to help add a second entrance to the Ballston Metro station at N. Fairfax Drive and N. Vermont Street.

Other funded projects include three “existing, high-performing express bus services” and $1 million towards a second entrance to the McLean Metro station, the announcement said.

These projects minimize “the risk around the uncertainty of a return to pre-pandemic traffic volumes and (make) the best use of the minimal available toll revenues,” the announcement said.

Since the Commonwealth of Virginia and NVTC established the program in 2017, it has provided more than $60 million grant funding to 36 projects in Northern Virginia.

Photo via Google Maps

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(Updated at noon) Metro’s “barebones” Fiscal Year 2022 budget proposal threatens to eliminate service on a number of bus lines running through Arlington.

Among the proposed cuts is the Metroway route between Pentagon City and the Braddock Road Metro stations.

Arlington and Alexandria have spent millions building the Crystal City/Potomac Yard Transitway that the Metroway line serves, with more than a dozen stops, primarily in the Crystal City and Potomac Yard area. An $27.7 million expansion of the Transitway to Pentagon City is in the works and set for construction.

The revenue-starved Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority shut Metroway down at the beginning of the pandemic in March, and has since experienced a system-wide 90% decline in ridership. The budget, as proposed, would extend the closure at least to mid-2022.

With Amazon’s choice of National Landing for its HQ2 headquarters in Pentagon City and Virginia Tech’s new Innovation Campus to be situated next door in Alexandria, the budget moves have caused concern for many, including Tracy Sayegh Gabriel, president and executive director of the National Landing Business Improvement District.

“Transit access is at the center of National Landing’s vibrant future and is a critical component of keeping our community competitive, equitable and sustainable,” Gabriel told ARLnow. “Public transit is more essential today than ever before as it enables our region’s frontline workers to access their jobs and continue serving the community during the pandemic. As the backbone of our transportation network and the most efficient means of reaching our commercial centers, our economic recovery will similarly depend on the continued funding, reliability and effectiveness of WMATA.”

Metro, which has sought a second injection of federal relief funding since May, is also proposing to shutter 19 Metrorail stations — including Arlington Cemetery, Clarendon, East Falls Church and Virginia Square — as well as eliminate weekend rail service and reduce weekday hours to 5 a.m.-9 p.m.

Metro is proposing the elimination of the following bus lines in Arlington and Alexandria:

  • 4A and 4B from Pershing Avenue to the Pentagon
  • 7F and 7Y from Lincolnia to North Fairlington
  • 10A from Alexandria to the Pentagon
  • 16A, 16E, 16G and 16H on Columbia Pike
  • 22A, 22F from Barcroft to South Fairlington
  • 25B from Landmark to Ballston
  • 38B from Ballston to Farragut Square
  • 7M from Mark Center to the Pentagon

Other lines are set for reductions or modifications in service.

In neighboring Alexandria, Mayor Justin Wilson said the changes would harm those who most rely on Metro service.

“My hope is that the federal government enacts new COVID-relief legislation that provides support to transit agencies and local and state governments so that we do not need to inflict these cuts on transit and city services,” Wilson said. “If that doesn’t happen, this will very detrimental to our community. Many of our residents rely on these transit services to get to places of work, healthcare services and essential trips. It has taken generations to develop our transit system and dismantling it will be tragic.”

On Tuesday night, members of Metro’s Rider Advisory Council (RAC) said that the bus cuts were “dramatic” and “draconian.”

“I’m just really sad and scared about this,” RAC Member Rebekah Mason said. “It just seems really highly prejudicial and really not a way to treat riders who have jobs, other than white collar jobs.”

Doris Ray, a member of the WMATA Accessibility Advisory Committee, wants the agency to instead enhance bus service in light of potential rail cuts.

“I am concerned as many in the community about the ability of people who do not drive, particularly essential workers, but for everyone who doesn’t drive and rely on transit to be able to get around,” Ray said.

Photo via Donna Gouse

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Morning Notes

Frederick-to-Arlington Transit Proposal — “Proposed transit service connecting Arlington to Frederick (Md.) and points in between remains on the table, but barely, after scoring low in a recent cost-benefit analysis conducted by the Virginia and Maryland state governments… As envisioned, the transit route would start at Frederick six times each workday morning and terminate an hour later at the Pentagon, with intermediate stops at Monocacy, Urbana, Germantown, Gaithersburg, Montgomery Mall and Rosslyn.” [InsideNova]

Women Groped in Aurora Highlands — “At approximately 7:18 p.m. on November 3, police were dispatched to the late report of an assault. Upon arrival, it was determined that at approximately 6:30 p.m., the victim was running in the area when the suspect approached her from behind and grabbed her buttocks. The victim yelled, and the suspect fled on foot, then entered the passenger side of a vehicle and left the area.” [ACPD]

Data Breach Affecting Hospital — “Virginia Hospital Center (VHC), a community-based hospital providing medical services to the Washington, DC metropolitan area for 75 years, has recently learned of an information security incident experienced by one of its vendors… [an] unauthorized party may have acquired a backup of the database that compromises certain limited elements of VHC’s donor and fundraising information, as may be the case with other nonprofits affected by this incident worldwide.” [Press Release]

Grand Opening for New BusinessPaint Nail Bar (1520 Clarendon Blvd) is holding its grand opening celebration this weekend, from 5-8 p.m. on Saturday. “Champagne and light bites will be served and all attendees will receive a goody bag,” the business says. [Facebook]

Tea Returns to the Ritz — “The Ritz-Carlton Pentagon City is now offering Afternoon Tea, bringing a time-honored tradition at an affordable price – all with safety and the health of guests in mind. Offered in their fyve restaurant, featuring globally inspired dishes, the hotel’s Afternoon Tea service is available at three price points, perfect for adults and children celebrating a special occasion or looking for a weekend respite from the day-to-day.” [Press Release]

More Nice Weather on Tap — “Quite a stretch of tranquil weather ahead of us as high pressure dominates into early next week, resulting in dry conditions and temperatures running 5 to 10 degrees above normal for early November.” [@NWS_BaltWash/Twitter, Capital Weather Gang]

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Morning Notes

ACLU Suit Names ACPD Captain — Arlington County Police Department Captain Wayne Vincent has been added, in his personal capacity, to the ACLU lawsuit over the actions by police to clear protesters from Lafayette Square ahead of President Trump walking from the White House to St. John’s Episcopal Church. Some twenty ACPD officers, who are not named, are also being sued over the use of force and chemical irritants. [WTOP, ACLU]

Where APS Students Are Going to College — “The following is a list of the colleges and universities where Arlington Public Schools high school graduates (Class of 2020) applied and where they were accepted.” [Arlington Magazine]

Sen. Kaine in Arlington Today — “On Thursday, September 3, U.S. Senator Tim Kaine will host a socially distant conversation in Arlington with local leaders to discuss the work being done to support the Latino community in Northern Virginia, as reports show Latino communities have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19.” The closed event is taking place at an apartment building near Columbia Pike this afternoon. [Press Release]

Bus Project Likely to Be Funded — “A project submitted by the Arlington County government remains in contention for Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) funding, even as a number of other regional projects have been delayed for consideration due to sharp dropoffs in available funding. As a result, the Arlington project — an HOV- and bus-only lane on Route 29 in Rosslyn during rush hour — is likely to receive the $710,000 in regional funds being sought to help with the overall project cost.” [InsideNova]

Local Group Supports Eviction Moratorium — “Leaders of VOICE (Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement) cautiously welcomed the announcement by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention of a nationwide eviction moratorium through Dec. 31, but noted that Congress and the Administration still need to work together to provide significant funding to prevent huge rental housing market instability after the ban expires.” [Press Release]

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Arlington is once again planning to convert an outside lane on Lee Highway to bus and HOV only.

The Transportation Commission unanimously approved staff’s request to seek $1 million in funding from the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission for pavement treatment, restriping, and signage for a new bus lanes.

The lanes would operate eastbound from N. Veitch Street to N. Lynn Street in Rosslyn during morning peak period, and westbound from N. Oak Street to N. Veitch Street during evening peak periods, staff said in the application. The lane would otherwise be open to general-purpose travel.

The sections with a bus lane are three lanes in each direction, and during peak periods roughly 25 loaded buses travel down that stretch of Lee Highway per hour, according to county documents.

“The section between North Veitch Street and Rosslyn is very heavily congested and sharply degrades bus performance and reliability, which will be improved by the lane conversion,” staff said.

An application for the project was submitted last year, but staff said at the Transportation Commission that funding was not approved because the designs had not advanced enough and were too broad in scope.

“The FY 2021-2022 application has been re-scoped to focus on the portion of Lee Highway with the greatest need,” staff said in a request to file the applications. “That has in turn reduced the estimated cost by one-third compared with the previous application.”

Staff said the deadline for grant submission is the end of January and the county would hear back in the spring. If approved, funding would include a feasibility test and the project could be incorporated into ongoing plans to reshape Lee Highway.

Photo via Google Maps

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A bus driver was sprayed with pepper spray by a woman who tried to ride the bus without paying over the weekend, police say.

The incident happened Friday night in Clarendon.

According to Arlington County Police, the woman and several other people boarded a bus without paying shortly after 7 p.m. at the intersection of Clarendon Blvd and N. Highland Street. When the driver said they would have to pay the fare or get off, the woman pepper sprayed him, police say.

The driver was treated by medics at the scene.No arrests had been reported as of Monday afternoon.

More from an ACPD crime report:

MALICIOUS WOUNDING, 2019-11010270, Clarendon Boulevard at N. Highland Street. At approximately 7:12 p.m. on November 1, police were dispatched to the report of an assault with a weapon just occurred. Upon arrival, it was determined that the suspect attempted to board a bus with a group of individuals without paying. When the bus driver informed them they would need to pay the fare or exit the bus, the suspect assaulted the driver and sprayed him with pepper spray. The suspect exited the bus and fled prior to police arrival. The driver was treated by medics on scene for minor injuries. The suspect is described as a black female, 18-25 years old, 5’0″-5’4″, 100-120 lbs., regular build, wearing a gray hoodie and a bandanna. The investigation is ongoing.

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New projects approved by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) could improve some bus offerings around Arlington.

The Commonwealth Transportation Board voted yesterday (Wednesday) to use nearly $20 million in toll revenue to fund commuter projects along I-66.

“We [will] fund 13 projects that will provide connections to places people want to go, add options for commuter and local bus riders, encourage ridesharing and make it easier to choose transit,” said NVTC Executive Director Kate Mattice in a press release. “The projects funded through I-66 Commuter Choice will save Northern Virginia commuters approximately 485,000 hours of travel delay each year and move over 3,000 additional people through the corridor during rush hour.”

Additional bus trips are funded for some of Arlington’s major commuter destinations:

  • Metrobus 3Y: Lee Highway-Farragut Square — The $1 million project will increase the frequency of Metrobus 3Y, a peak-direction route that operates between the East Falls Church Metro and downtown D.C. via Lee Highway (I-66).
  • OmniRide Express: Gainesville-Pentagon — The $4.7 million project will add  three new buses and eight total trips to the route from Gainesville to the Pentagon. The route averages 300 riders daily, according to the project description, and connects riders to multiple Metro lines.
  • OmniRide Express: Haymarket-Rosslyn — The $776,700 project would add a new express bus between Haymarket Park and Ride lot to the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor. The lot was built in December and offers 230 parking spaces.
  • New Bus: Stone Ridge-Pentagon — The $1.3 million project would fund a new bus line running from Stone Ridge II Park near Dulles to the Pentagon. The route will feature two morning and two evening peak-direction trips.

Five other bus routes enhanced or newly funded would pass from the outlying suburbs into D.C. along I-66.

The NVTC also agreed to spend $1.4 million to support I-66 marketing and outreach efforts of Arlington County Commuter Services — an agency that works to reduce traffic congestion and parking demand through programs like BikeArlington and The Commuter Store. The project will be continued for another three years.

“The approved projects for the FY 2020 Commuter Choice program provide connections to key destinations, address the needs of commuter and local bus riders and encourage commuters to use transit, carpools and vanpools,” the NVTC said in a report.

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