Arlington County’s bus service has recorded a hefty drop in ridership over the course of the last year, according to figures released to regional transportation planners.
In all, Arlington Transit recorded about 696,500 passenger trips in the first three months of 2018. That’s a 17 percent drop from the same time period last year when the service registered more than 836,000 trips, according to a new report from the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission on May 3.
The numbers show riders increasingly turning away from the bus service over the past few months, as the latest ridership figures also represent a 6.2 percent decrease from ART’s numbers in the last three months of 2017.
For context, ART recorded just under 783,200 passenger trips in the first three months of 2016, according to the NVTC’s figures. That means the bus service saw an 11 percent decrease in ridership in the same time period from 2016 to 2018.
Eric Balliet, a spokesman for Arlington’s Department of Environmental Services, which manages ART, wrote in an email that ART officials believe this drop is a result of several factors. Commuters are returning to Metro “now that rail service has stabilized in Northern Virginia,” he said, and increasingly choosing ride-sharing services instead or simply telecommuting more frequently.
“We don’t have a way at this time to quantify each of the above changes,” Balliet wrote.
The Arlington County Board recently voted to cut a pair of bus routes when it passed a new budget, citing a lack of demand from riders. The county is also preparing to shutter several lightly used bus stops along Washington Boulevard, and renovate dozens more.
ART is certainly not the only bus service in the area to see a dip in passengers.
Metrobus service in Northern Virginia has also seen a decline in riders over the last year — NVTC figures show that the service recorded about 4 million passenger trips in the first quarter of 2018, compared to about 4.5 million in the same time period last year. That works out to a decline of roughly 11 percent.
The numbers track closely with a nationwide decline in bus ridership. An analysis by the New York-based TransitCenter advocacy group found that bus ridership fell by 5 percent last year across 35 major metropolitan areas.
(Updated 12:25 p.m.) Some big changes are on the way for bus stops around Arlington, as county workers kick off plans to shutter several lightly used stops and renovate dozens more.
The county is starting construction work this spring on a whole host of changes to its Metrobus and Arlington Rapid Transit stops along Washington Boulevard from Sycamore Street in East Falls Church to the intersection of Washington Boulevard and Route 50 in Lyon Park. In all, the county plans to add new amenities to busy stops and make every stop along the corridor more accessible for people with disabilities, according to a news release.
While the county is still waiting on some final approvals from local landowners, transportation officials are hoping to relocate some stops, and add new shelters, benches or trash bins to others.
In all, the county is planning on closing stops at eight locations around Arlington, due to a lack of riders:
- 3rd Street N., westbound
- N. Stuart Street, westbound and eastbound
- N. Utah Street, westbound and eastbound
- N. Frederick Street, westbound and eastbound
- N. Inglewood Street, westbound and eastbound
- N. Kenilworth Street, westbound
- N. Kentucky Street, eastbound
- N. Nottingham Street, westbound
The county expects construction work on the stops to continue through the summer of 2019. Arlington is funding the project using some of the county’s share of revenue generated by the new tolls on drivers on Interstate 66 inside the Beltway during the morning and evening rush hours.
Full details on the planned construction across the county are available on Arlington’s website.
Crystal City Tops HQ2 Poll — The combined Crystal City-Potomac Yard site is the most likely D.C. area landing spot for Amazon’s second headquarters, according to an online poll conducted by the Washington Business Journal. Meanwhile, D.C., Virginia and Maryland officials are teaming up to promote the region as the HQ2 search continues. Amazon fever has even entered the world of local business conferences: an event dubbed “HQmania” is scheduled to be held in Rosslyn next month. [Washington Business Journal, WAMU, DCA Live]
Rosslyn Lands Nonprofit HQ — “It’s been a good week for Rosslyn. First came the news that Gerber, a Nestle subsidiary, would relocate its headquarters and 150 jobs from New Jersey to 1812 N. Moore St. And Friday, we learn that a D.C.-based global nonprofit has decided to cross the Potomac into Arlington.” [Washington Business Journal]
ART Bus Stop Vandalized — Someone smashed two of the windows on an ART bus stop in the Long Branch Creek neighborhood late last week. [Twitter]
Arlington Man Charged With Statutory Rape — A 47-year-old Arlington man was arrested at his home last month and charged with the statutory rape of a minor in North Carolina. The man arranged meeting the minor in North Carolina via the messaging app Kik, which is popular with teens. [Fox 8]
Local Columbine Survivor Addresses Student Protesters — “Salli Garrigan was in music class when the sound of gunshots reverberated through the halls of her high school… Garrigan, now 35 and an Arlington resident, stood Friday before a crowd of D.C.-area students gathered on the U.S. Capitol lawn and told them when she was their age, she didn’t know how to make her voice heard.” [Washington Post]
Long Bridge Park Field Renovations Starting — Work is set to begin today on new turf for Long Bridge Park’s heavily-used Field No. 3. The field is expected to be closed for 45 days. [Arlington County]
Past and Present School Board Members Gather — On Thursday, the Arlington School Board held its last meeting at the Arlington Education Center building next to Washington-Lee High School. The board room and administrative offices are moving to the Syphax Education Center along Washington Blvd. To mark the last meeting, past and current School Board members members gathered for a photo. [Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by Duluoz Me
Slug lines at the Pentagon are being temporarily relocated as part of ongoing work that includes creating new bus-only travel lanes.
The relocation was slated to start Monday at the Pentagon’s South Parking Lot “Pork Chop.”
More from a VDOT press release:
Work to reconfigure slug lines and create new bus-only travel lanes at the Pentagon Reservation’s South Parking Lot “Pork Chop,” located east of Eads Street and north of I-395, will begin on or about Monday, March 19. Pedestrians and motorists should exercise caution while traveling in the area.
The work is part of the I-395 Express Lanes Project, a public-private partnership project between VDOT and Transurban that is extending the existing I-95/I-395 Express Lanes eight miles from Turkeycock Run near Edsall Road in Alexandria to the Washington, D.C. line.
As part of this change, crews will temporarily relocate the slug lines in the order shown in the diagram. Temporary signage will direct drivers and pedestrians.
Privately owned vehicles will no longer be able to use the exit to VA-110 and will enter and exit the “Pork Chop” from Eads Street.
In addition to the South Parking Lot work, the 395 Express Lanes Project will convert the South Rotary Road drop-off/pick-up lane to a right-turn Express Lane entrance ramp. As part of the South Rotary Road work, crews will install gates along the South Rotary turn lane, and install traffic signals on Eads Street at North and South Rotary Roads.
The I-395 Express Lanes are scheduled to open in fall 2019, while other elements of the project are expected to be completed by summer 2020. For additional information about the project, go to www.395expresslanes.com and www.virginiadot.org/395express.
Map via Virginia Department of Transportation
A bus stop, fire hydrant and sign were damaged by an errant driver in the Shirlington area this past Saturday evening.
The fire department tweeted a photo of the damage Monday, with a skull-and-crossbones above the fallen hydrant, urging drivers to “keep your wheels on the road and save our hydrants!”
Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage said the driver of the striking vehicle — a Nissan Altima — was cited for the crash.
“At approximately 7:11 p.m. on July 22, police responded to a single vehicle crash in the 2500 block of S. Arlington Mill Drive,” said Savage. “The driver was traveling eastbound on S. Arlington Mill Drive when the vehicle left the roadway and collided with a bus stop, fire hydrant and light pole. The driver was cited for failure to maintain proper control of their vehicle.”
So far, there’s no exact timeframe or cost estimate for repairs.
“The bus stop is on the schedule to be fixed as soon as possible,” said Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Jessica Baxter. “Crews will have to get in there and assess the damage to determine cost and timeline for repair.”
APS Tells Staff to Stop Paying Sales Tax — As a public institution Arlington Public Schools is exempt from paying sales tax, but the school system’s internal auditor has found that some staff members have been placing orders for APS via Amazon without sales tax exempted. APS has since requested sales tax refunds for those orders. [InsideNova]
Arlington Resident Cited for Boating Incident — An Arlington man has been cited for operating a vessel while impaired after his 28-foot boat ran aground off the eastern shore of Maryland, south of Ocean City. [WMDT]
Notable Rivercrest Property Sold — A home and an adjacent vacant lot have been sold near the intersection of Military Road and N. Glebe Road in the Rivercrest neighborhood. The lot was the site of a “national debate over property rights and conformity,” when in 1969 an architect started to build a custom home on the lot but was ultimately stopped after a legal challenge by neighbors, who thought the home was ugly and would not “retain the very pleasant, beautiful nature of Rivercrest.” [Falls Church News-Press]
Flipper: Selling Home to the County Was a Pain — A real estate investor has penned a piece for the Post in which he recounts the sale of one of his properties to Arlington County. The sale, of a house near Fire Station 8, was “neither lucrative nor convenient” and was more trouble than it was worth, he writes. However, the owner of a run-down property next to his received a much better price by holding out, the piece suggests. [Washington Post]
Mouthwash on Clarendon Bus Stop — Updating the saga of the stick of deodorant atop a Clarendon bus stop, the deodorant has now been joined by an errant bottle of Listerine mouthwash. [ARLnow]
Update on 6/27/17 — A bottle of Listerine mouthwash has joined the deodorant on top of the bus stop.
Earlier: Every once in awhile, a mystery captivates a community.
Today, those who work in the office building at 3100 Clarendon Blvd (including ARLnow.com’s staff) are wondering: under what circumstances did this stick of Old Spice High Endurance deodorant get on top of this bus stop?
The deodorant has been there, across from the Clarendon Metro plaza, for at least a week. Neither rain nor wind has knocked it from its perch. It’s unclear if anyone will ever remove it.
Some locals who spoke to ARLnow.com had theories as to how the deodorant got up 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.
“I ride this bus every day. I would’ve never looked up there, even though I’m tall I can’t see up there,” said a man waiting at the bus stop, who was previously unaware of the deodorant’s presence. “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.”
The windows on the second floor of 3100 Clarendon Blvd — home to the MakeOffices coworking space and dozens of companies — do not open, thus making it unlikely that it was tossed from an office. There is a rooftop patio on the third floor, but it would have been difficult to get a stick of deodorant to land and stay on the angled bus stop roof from that height.
Have any other guesses? Let us know in the comments.
The first phase for the upgrades on the intersection between Lee Highway and N. Glebe Road are well underway after construction began March 6.
A spokeswoman for the county’s Dept. of Environmental Services (DES) said the installation of spaces for underground utilities should be done by the end of the year.
After that is complete, utility cables will be transferred underground from the overhead poles. Each individual wooden overhead pole will then be removed and any remaining existing overhead utilities will be rearranged.
Improvements include wider sidewalks, upgraded traffic signals, enhanced left-turn lanes and the installation of left-turn lanes for N. Glebe Road. The area will also get four new bus shelters with real-time arrival information, new streetlights and crosswalk markings.
Currently the construction hours are 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday and 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Fridays.
Workers may close a single lane of traffic in one or both directions along Lee Highway, Glebe Road or both during construction. Vehicles turning left or right might also be detoured as construction moves into the intersection itself.
Additionally, some bus stops in the area will be relocated and some sidewalks will be closed or rerouted to allow for construction. Off-street parking in the area may also be reduced in the coming months.
DES says it does not expect any changes to be made to the current design plan for the project.
Wider sidewalks and new bus shelters are coming soon to the intersection of Lee Highway and N. Glebe Road.
Construction crews broke ground last month on the preliminary stages of a large improvement project that will eventually include the installation of left-turn lanes on N. Glebe Road, bigger sidewalks, four new bus shelters with real-time arrival information, and new streetlights, crosswalk markings and traffic signals. The improvements “will improve traffic flow and pedestrian and bicyclist safety,” Arlington County said.
Workers are currently installing underground equipment in parking lots near the intersection, but the larger improvements aren’t slated to arrive until sometime next year at the earliest.
“Construction began in January on the first phase, utility undergrounding. This is expected to last 18 months,” said Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokesman Eric Balliet. “The second phase, streetscape and transit stop upgrades, is still in design.”
Once the design is finalized, it will take workers about a year to finish the job, Balliet added.
In the months ahead, commuters can expect road work to start at the intersection. Construction hours within the roadway are 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday. Some night work will also occur between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. on weekdays and weekends, the county said.
Workers may close a single lane of traffic in one or both directions along Lee Highway, Glebe Road or both during construction. Vehicles turning left or right might also be detoured as construction moves into the intersection itself.
Additionally, some bus stops in the area will be relocated and some sidewalks will be closed or rerouted to allow for construction, the county said. Off-street parking in the area may also be reduced in the coming months.
It has been four years since Arlington County and WMATA opened the infamous $1 million bus stop at the corner of Columbia Pike and Walter Reed Drive. So where are the rest of the upgraded transit stations planned for the Pike?
They’re coming, starting next year, the county says.
“The County Board approved $13.3 million for the planned 23 stations in Arlington’s FY 2017-2026 Capital Improvement Plan,” says a county webpage for the project. “Construction of the transit stations is expected to begin in 2018 and proceed in phases through 2021.”
“That schedule still holds,” Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokesman Eric Balliet confirmed to ARLnow.com on Monday. “Design of site-specific improvements for the first six stations is underway. Design and construction for the remaining stations will be coordinated with the County’s plans for Columbia Pike street improvements and utility undergrounding.”
The per-station cost is still pegged around $575,000, well under the cost of the original prototype station. Originally, the stations were planned to serve the Columbia Pike streetcar, but with that project’s cancellation the stations will now serve WMATA and ART buses.
County staff is expected to present proposed revisions to its Transit Development Plan for the Pike in the second quarter of this year, with possible improvements to bus service along the corridor.
Board Holds Pike Transit Station Meeting — Updated at 10:45 a.m. — More than three-and-a-half years after it was first revealed by ARLnow.com that a prototype bus stop on Columbia Pike cost more than $1 million, the discussion of less expensive bus stop alternatives continues. The County Board last night held a work session with staff to discuss the current status of Pike transit station planning, ultimately voting to approve the County Manager’s design recommendations. [Arlington County]
APS High School Boundary Refinements — The next step in what promises to be a contentious process of adjusting Arlington’s high school boundaries will take place tomorrow. A community meeting is planned at the Washington-Lee High School cafeteria starting at 7 p.m. Thursday. [Arlington Public Schools]
Cemetery Bike Ban Starts Today — Starting today, only loved ones visiting a grave or niche will be allowed to ride a bike in Arlington National Cemetery. That nixes a commuter route through the cemetery that some cyclists used to avoid busy roads elsewhere in the county. [ARLnow]
Clement Attacks Pay Raise Proposal — Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey’s pay raise suggestion is opening her up to attacks from challenger Audrey Clement. “The problem is [the] County Board doesn’t do much work, unless you consider rubber-stamping done deals ‘work,'” Clement told supporters via email. Clement also is criticizing a plan to add an extra high-occupancy lane to I-395 and, in response to local noise complaints, calling on NASA to develop quieter helicopters. [InsideNova, Audrey Clement]
Stalled Cab Company May Retain Permits — Arlington County Manager Mark Schwartz is recommending the County Board give All Access Taxi, which specializes in providing wheelchair-accessible transportation, two more years to get its service off the ground. Currently, the company has only one cab — and 49 unused permits. [Washington Post]
Local Ghost Stories — ‘Our Man in Arlington’ columnist Charlie Clark has received recent reports of ghostly encounters from “reliable sources” at several local places: at Arlington Hall, along George Mason Drive; at the Overlee swim club and a nearby home; and at an 18th century home in McLean that was torn down last month. [Falls Church News-Press]
Pamplona May Open in December — Pamplona, a new Spanish restaurant in the former SoBe space in Clarendon, is hoping to open “by the end of the year.” James Martin, a 29-year-old rising culinary star, will be the restaurant’s executive chef. He hopes Pamplona will win the kind of critical acclaim that can “put Clarendon on the map.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]
Fundraiser for Arlington Store Owner — The owner of Maley’s Music (2499 N. Harrison Street) has been hospitalized with a rare disease, just weeks after his wife suffered a debilitating stroke. That has prompted the couple’s daughter to start an online fundraiser to help the family pay its expenses. [Facebook, GoFundMe]
Arlington’s Inaccessible Bus Stops — About two thirds of Arlington’s 1,100 bus stops are not fully compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Metro estimates that the average cost of upgrading a bus stop to ADA standards is $10,000. [Washington Post]
USS Arlington Readies for Deployment — More than two years after its commissioning, the USS Arlington is getting ready for deployment. The ship has a 40 year expected lifespan in active naval service. [InsideNova]
Photo courtesy Crystal City BID
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.
After the public outcry, poor design and organizational problems that warranted an independent review of the $1 million S. Walter Reed Drive Super Stop, Arlington’s scaled back plan for the rest of Columbia Pike is being met with general approval.
The new plan, to build 23 more transit stations at key intersections along the Pike for a total cost of $12.4 million, was brought before the public yesterday evening at the Arlington Mill Community Center. The stations will cost an average of 40 percent less than the prototype built at Walter Reed Drive.
The transit stations are 50 percent designed and now the county’s Department of Environmental Services, which is leading the project, is looking to incorporate public feedback.
“We want to improve on what happened with the Walter Reed station,” project manager Matthew Huston told the group of about a dozen community members last night.
The designs are modular, and some of the stations will have smaller or bigger overhangs, seating areas and boarding displays, based on demand. After installation, they can be added to once ridership increases, and it likely will; Huston said the county projects bus ridership to double on the Pike in the next 20 years.
Among those in attendance yesterday was David Dickson, the transportation chair for the Mount Vernon group of the Sierra Club. He and other attendees walked among panels county staff had laid out, showing residents the choices they had regarding side panels, layout of the information signs and seating.
“I think it’s good, and they’re working out the details,” Dickson said of the new proposal. “To the layperson, the redesign seems far superior to the prototype. It’s cheaper and seems like a better design.”
Huston compared the designs to transit stations in other communities, which cost roughly $500,000 on average. The “standard” size transit station on the Pike is projected to cost $469,000, and “extended” stops coming with a $672,000 price tag.
The examples from other jurisdictions Huston gave — Norfolk, Va., Charlotte, N.C., Grand Rapids, Mich., and Eugene, Ore. — all serviced either bus rapid transit or a light rail system. Columbia Pike, for now, is planned to have neither.
Among the questions and preferences attendees expressed on the stations were: a request for side panels, handicap accessibility and debating over how much protection from the elements should be provided when sacrificing sidewalk space.
The design for the first eight transit stations — two each at the Pike’s intersections of S. Glebe Road, Oakland, Buchanan and Barton Streets — is expected to be completed by July, after which construction can begin, Huston said.
Arlington Transportation Director Dennis Leach was also on hand to give residents an update on the county’s overall transportation plan and vision for the Pike corridor. With the additional bus service coming to Arlington Rapid Transit on the weekend, the county is trying to mitigate the delays in long-term transit planning caused by the streetcar’s cancellation.
The $1 million “super stop” at Columbia Pike and S. Walter Reed Drive — the exorbitant price tag for which became national news — was so expensive because of poor communication, an independent review found.
The review, conducted by CliftonLarsonAllen, found that a “lack of clear communication between County and WMATA staff” and “poor execution of construction performance” were the main reasons the prototype took so long, and cost so much to build.
That poor execution includes the bus stop not being built to what was designed, including glass panels being produced at the wrong size; curbs being built at the wrong height and having to be redone; and a four-year delay in getting approval from the Virginia Department of Transportation.
According to the report, the initial budget of $2.15 million was supposed to cover three “super stops.” There was no communication between the county and WMATA over any change in the budget when plans for the two that were never built were ultimately scrapped. On Dec. 22, 2011, the county informed WMATA that it wanted to cease site work for the two other stops, called Dinwiddie West and Dinwiddie East.
“While it would appear the removal of site work for the two stops would result in a lower base cost… no official communication was made by the county to WMATA,” requesting the budget be lowered, the report states. “We find that the county should have requested a proposal for the deductive change order (lowering the budget), and then should have proceeded with negotiations” to change the terms of the agreement with WMATA
According to the review, $881,933 — less than the oft-cited $1 million — was spent on the prototype that still stands today, but $456,882 was sunk into the two prototypes that were never built.
“We accept the findings of this report,” County Manager Barbara Donnellan said in a press release. “They confirm concerns that we already had, and we have already addressed the issues systematically, so we can ensure that the remaining 23 transit stations will be built efficiently and cost-effectively. I asked for this review because, as I have said before, the Walter Reed prototype took too long and cost too much to build.”
The county announced in May that the remaining 23 transit stops would be redesigned with modular components, reducing the total project budget from $20.9 million to $12.4 million. Moreover, the county is now working independently of WMATA in designing and building the transit stations, which, when built, will accommodate both bus and streetcar passengers.
As opposed to the custom-built “super stop,” the transit stations have a modular design, with interchangeable parts that allow flexibility from station to station, and are significantly cheaper to build and maintain. Construction is expected to begin construction on the first eight transit stations by FY 2017.
“This project was an exception for Arlington,” Donnellan said. “We have a solid record of delivering large, complex projects in a timely, cost-effective manner… Unfortunately, work on the Walter Reed prototype began in 2007 at a time when WMATA was scaling back its capital improvement management program, and the project suffered as a result. Delivery was further complicated by the fact that several entities were involved. With the completion of this thorough review, we are confident that we are well positioned to effectively deliver the transit stations that the Pike needs, and continue to rebuild the Pike’s transportation infrastructure.”