Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Listing Prices Around HQ2 Skyrocket — “From June 2018 to June 2019, the median asking price for a single-family home in Zip code 22202, home to Amazon’s planned Northern Virginia headquarters, skyrocketed a whopping 99.9 percent–essentially doubling over that period–according to a new report from listings service Bright MLS.” [Curbed, Bloomberg]

Board OKs Child Care Parking Changes — “The Arlington County Board today voted to reduce the parking requirements for child care centers, in keeping with the County’s Child Care Initiative to promote the expansion of accessible, available, high-quality child care throughout the County.” [Arlington County]

New Pizzeria Open on Lee HighwayChicago’s Pizza With A Twist opened a couple of weeks ago on Lee Highway, next to Maya Bistro. The Indian-Italian fusion restaurant serves unique dishes like a chicken tikka masala pizza. [Instagram]

New Pike Bus Stops Approved — “The Arlington County Board today approved a $1.6 million contract with Sagres Construction Corporation to build the first four of 23 transit stations planned for Columbia Pike. Construction is expected to begin this fall and be completed by fall 2020.” [Arlington County]

Arlington GOP Sitting Out County Races — “For the most part, Arlington Republicans will be sitting out the November general election – the party did not field candidates for the County Board, School Board and most legislative races on the ballot, although there are several non-Democrats who are running that might attract GOP support.” [InsideNova]

Swanson Middle School Teacher Honored — “Congratulations to @SwansonAdmirals teacher Mary Beth Donnelly who was named the 2019 Virginia History Teacher of the Year.” [Twitter]

Injured D.C. Fire K-9 Stops GW Parkway Traffic Updated at 9 a.m. — “Traffic stopped on the George Washington Parkway near Reagan National Airport Tuesday afternoon so a medevac helicopter could land, but the patient wasn’t human — it was a very special dog. The 6-year-old German shepherd named Kylie works for D.C. Fire and EMS as a cadaver dog… [she] seriously hurt one of her hind legs while helping another law enforcement agency conduct a search.” [WTOP]

Flickr pool photo by Brian Allen

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The county is hoping to move past the “million-dollar bus stop” by building four less expensive stops along Columbia Pike.

A network of new transit stops along Columbia Pike were originally supposed to serve both buses and streetcars, before the streetcar project was cancelled. The latest turn in the Pike transit saga, the County Board is scheduled to discuss awarding a $1.64 million contract to build four out of 23 planned bus stops along the Pike.

“This project is key to the revitalization of the entire Columbia Pike corridor,” county staff wrote in a report to the Board.

The original construction plans were scrapped six years ago after the more than $1 million in costs for the prototype Walter Reed Drive stop, first reported by ARLnow, drew outrage from the public and international press attention.

After the streetcar project folded in 2014, officials morphed the idea of the transit stations into cheaper bus stops. Since then, the county approved $13.3 million for the planned 23 stations in Arlington’s FY 2017-2026 Capital Improvement Plan.

At its Tuesday meeting, the County Board is expected to award a contract to build four of the bus stops to Alexandria-based Sagres Construction Corporation. The same contractor was previously tapped for roadwork on Wilson Blvd and other infrastructure projects.

The four bus stops would be located near the intersections of:

  • Columbia Pike and S. Buchanan Street
  • Columbia Pike and S. Four Mile Run Drive
  • Columbia Pike and S. Oakland Street
  • Columbia Pike and S. Glebe Road

If the Board members approve the contract, the county is poised to pay Sagres $1,372,250.70 for the work with the possibility of an additional $274,450.14 for unexpected costs.

Sagres was the least expensive bidder for the project by more than a million dollars, per a staff report to the Board.

“The four new transit stations coming to the Pike are the critical first step in the larger multi-modal project that will enhance transit along the Pike, and bring us one step closer to providing connectivity between the Columbia Pike Corridor, Crystal City and the new Amazon HQ2,” Kim Klingler, the new Executive Director of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, told the Sun Gazette.

County staff will attend 10 community events like the Pike’s farmer market, movie nights at Arlington Mill, and the Blues Festival to talk with residents about the project, per the report.

“The feedback received from the public thus far has been generally positive,” the staff report notes. “However, concerns about disruption to vehicular and pedestrian traffic during construction have been expressed. Other concerns noted include sun and weather protection.”

Construction on the four bus stops could finish as early as spring 2020, but officials have not yet shared when they expect contracts to be awarded for the remaining stations.

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After over a year of work, the new bus and slug lanes are finally open at the Pentagon’s south parking lot.

Yesterday (Tuesday), the new configuration opened with bus-only travel lanes, reconfigured commuter lanes and slug lanes — lanes designed for High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) carpooling.

The new, dedicated bus loop is designed to distance passenger vehicles and buses to make the lot safer and increase mobility.

“The changes to the South Parking Lot are going to have a positive impact on the thousands of commuters traveling to and from the Pentagon Reservation each day,” said Susan Shaw, megaprojects director for the Virginia Department of Transportation, in a press release. “This important feature of the 395 Express Lanes project reinforces VDOT‘s commitment to support travel choices and alternative travel modes throughout our roadway network in Northern Virginia.”

An average of 25,000 employees use the Pentagon lots, with more than 1,800 buses and 3,400 “sluggers” passing through the lot each day, according to the press release.

Other improvements include new pedestrian sidewalks, new signage, and new lighting.

Image via National Capital Planning Commission

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Arlington Transit’s real-time bus tracking service has been plagued by more technical difficulties this week, and county officials say they’re still unsure when they’ll find a permanent fix.

ART notified riders Wednesday morning (Jan. 16) that it was experiencing “intermittent problems” with the service, which is designed to let riders know how long they need to wait for another bus to arrive.

The county’s bus service sent out a similar advisory on Jan. 7, and on two different occasions in October as well. Last April, the bus service even saw several days-long outages of the system.

County transportation spokesman Eric Balliet told ARLnow that Arlington’s Transit Bureau is currently in contact with the vendor who manages the software, California-based Connexionz. Balliet said the company is currently investigating the “GPS communication system,” which it believes to be the source of the problems, but there’s no end in sight at the moment.

“Our Transit Bureau is pressing the vendor to come up with a permanent solution to the problem, but we don’t have a timeline on when the issue will be resolved,” Balliet wrote in an email.

As of Friday afternoon, however, ART’s real-time arrivals web page was generally working as intended.

ART has also dealt with some problems with its phone system to connect disabled and elderly riders to bus service this past summer, not to mention a host of bus maintenance woes necessitating some service disruptions.

File photo

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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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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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(Updated at 5 p.m.) Metrobus has added real-time bus tracking displays to a bevy of its stops along Columbia Pike, one of many changes coming to the corridor’s bus service in the coming months.

The California-based company Connectpoint announced earlier this month that it’s working with WMATA to install the devices, which will display wait times for various buses, route maps and even alerts about service disruptions.

The new screens will be available at stops along the pike at the highway’s intersections with the following roads:

  • S. Barton Street
  • S. Carlin Springs Road
  • S. Courthouse Road
  • S. Four Mile Run Drive
  • S. George Mason Drive
  • S. Glebe Road
  • S. Greenbrier Street
  • S. Oakland Street
  • S. Veitch Street
  • S. Walter Reed Drive

The company says it will also install the displays at several stops around Annandale as well, for a total of 24 in all. Metro spokesman Ron Holzer told ARLnow four are already in place as part of a “pilot program” the transit agency is running, with the remaining displays to be installed “in the next two weeks.”

“If the pilot is successful, we hope to deploy signs at all Metrobus stops,” Holzer said.

Arlington transportation spokesman Eric Balliet added that WMATA first installed the technology as part of some long-awaited work to beef up bus service on the pike this summer.

For now, Balliet expects the devices will only display “next bus arrival times” for the Metrobus 16 line, the primary focus of service changes that started in late June.

However, Balliet added that the county “anticipates removing” the devices when it can finalize plans for new bus shelters on the pike. Those have been the subject of plenty of scrutiny over the years, particularly after one stop was revealed to have a price tag north of $1 million.

“The transit stations will include electronic information displays showing all bus services and multimodal options,” Balliet said.

The county put out a request for proposals for those pike bus stops in June, with the goal of starting work on five sometime this winter. Arlington hopes to eventually install 23 of the “transit stations” along the pike.

Photo courtesy of Connectpoint

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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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Morning Notes

Power Outage in Clarendon — A small power outage affected several businesses in Clarendon yesterday evening, including Arlington Independent Media and Galaxy Hut.

County to Expand Citizenship Aid — “Arlington government officials plan to expand a subsidy program that helps prospective U.S. citizens pay the costs associated with their efforts. County Board members on July 14 are expected to increase the subsidy amount and expand the ranks of those eligible to participate in the subsidy program, which is funded by private donations.” [InsideNova]

Local Couple Helps Seniors to Downsize — “Bill and Betty Ubbens, realtors with Weichert Realty and parishioners of St. Ann Church in Arlington, assist seniors with downsizing… The Ubbens have found the biggest resistance to decluttering is the ‘sheer amount of stuff to go through and the time to complete the inventory and planned disposition of the property.'” [Arlington Catholic Herald]

Arlington Man Wins Big in Poker Tourney — Arlington resident Yaser Al-Keliddar won more than $150,000 and a World Series of Poker bracelet in a $3,000 limit hold’em tournament in Las Vegas earlier this week. [World Series of Poker]

Monitor Broken at ‘Super Stop’ — As seems to happen every so often, the electronic display at the Walter Reed Drive “Super Stop” along Columbia Pike — also known as the “million dollar bus stop” — is broken. A sign on the monitor, which is supposed to show real-time bus arrival information, says a replacement is planned. [Twitter]

It’s Friday the 13th — Be careful out there. But then again, only 27.4 percent of you are superstitious.

Photo courtesy @thelastfc

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Bus riders along Columbia Pike will see significant service changes starting Sunday (June 24), as part of the long-awaited “premium transit network” planned for the corridor.

Metrobus will soon offer five streamlined routes along the Pike, down from 11, and offer more frequent service across all of those routes, Arlington transportation officials told the County Board Tuesday (June 19).

The changes will move in tandem with some other Metrobus service alterations recently approved by WMATA’s governing board, and bring the county closer to delivering on its promise to improve transit options along the Pike after abandoning the contentious streetcar project four years ago.

“You may not necessarily move through the corridor faster, but you won’t have to wait as long for a bus to take you somewhere, particularly during the peak hours,” said Board Vice Chair Christian Dorsey.

Lynn Rivers, the county’s transit bureau chief, noted that Metrobus will offer 30 additional hours of service across all the different routes on the 16 line, with the ultimate goal of running buses once every six minutes along the most crowded stops on the Pike.

The county has also kicked off the process of finding a contractor to build 20 new bus shelters along the Pike.

Dennis Leach, the county’s transportation director, told the Board that the county started soliciting bids for the project last Wednesday (June 13). By July, he expects the county will know how much each shelter will cost, a key point of interest for Board members after the Pike’s “$1 million bus stops” prompted community outcry years ago.

Yet Rivers believes the more noticeable change for riders right away will be the alteration to Metrobus routes along the Pike. She noted that buses won’t be changing where they drop off and pick up riders, but Metrobus will be tweaking how it describes its various routes to be less confusing.

“The idea was to streamline that to make it easier not just for those who are using it, but also bring more people onto the system,” Rivers said.

Moving forward, the five routes on Columbia Pike will be known as 16A, 16C, 16E, 16G and 16H. Rivers added that 16Y service will still be available as well during peak hours, though only to Farragut Square, and service along the 16X route to Federal Triangle will still be available during peak times as well.

While these changes came as good news to Board members, John Vihstadt did point out that “our communities have been frustrated with the pace” of the county’s work to implement bus service changes along the Pike. Rivers believes this first phase of improvements is the equivalent of starting off “with a bang,” but she did acknowledge there’s lots of work left to be done.

Eventually, the county and Metro plan to offer nonstop bus service between the Pike and Crystal City, and extend the Transitway, or dedicated lane bus service, out to Pentagon City — the latter effort just won some new regional funding as well.

“This is just the beginning of many more phases,” Rivers said.

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One year ago today, a mystery captivated the Arlington community.

Why, we asked, was there a stick of Old Spice deodorant on top of a Clarendon bus stop? We sent an intern to interview passersby to see if anyone had any idea how it got there.

“People get drunk on the weekends, that would be my best guess,” said a man who works at a local bar.

“I assume somebody just threw it and didn’t expect it to land up there,” said another passerby.

[…] “Maybe somebody was upset with the deodorant’s performance and threw it up there out of anger. Or, more often than not, people throw things up there to see how often they stay up there.”

A few weeks later, the deodorant was joined by a bottle of mouthwash.

We may never know the real explanation of why either personal care product went astray. The deodorant spent a few months on top of the bus stop, looking no worse the wear despite plenty of wind, rain and other inclement weather. Then, one fateful day, we arrived at our office and it was gone without a trace.

On this one year anniversary, we again photographed the bus stop. The roof was sans deodorant, but you can see a new addition in the zoomed-out photo: stray shopping carts from a local Giant grocery store.

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