Rain will turn to snow Tuesday afternoon, just in time to potentially cause problems for the drive home.
The National Weather Service has issued a Winter Weather Advisory ahead of the wintry precipitation, warning of “hazardous conditions” during the evening commute. The snow will be followed by plummeting temperatures that will turn wet spots into icy patches for the Wednesday morning commute.
More from the National Weather Service:
…WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY IN EFFECT FROM 3 PM TUESDAY TO MIDNIGHT EST TUESDAY NIGHT… * WHAT…ANY RAIN WILL CHANGE TO SNOW DURING THE LATE AFTERNOON AND EARLY EVENING HOURS. TOTAL SNOW ACCUMULATIONS OF 1 TO 2 INCHES EXPECTED. * WHERE…THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, AND PORTIONS OF CENTRAL AND SOUTHERN MARYLAND AND CENTRAL AND NORTHERN VIRGINIA. * WHEN…FROM 3 PM TUESDAY TO MIDNIGHT EST TUESDAY NIGHT. * ADDITIONAL DETAILS…PLAN ON SLIPPERY ROAD CONDITIONS. THE HAZARDOUS CONDITIONS WILL IMPACT THE EVENING COMMUTE. TEMPERATURES WILL FALL BELOW FREEZING DURING THE EVENING, CAUSING ANY MOISTURE OR SLUSH TO FREEZE ON UNTREATED SURFACES. PRECAUTIONARY/PREPAREDNESS ACTIONS… A WINTER WEATHER ADVISORY FOR SNOW MEANS PERIODS OF SNOW WILL CAUSE PRIMARILY TRAVEL DIFFICULTIES. EXPECT SNOW COVERED ROADS AND LIMITED VISIBILITIES, AND USE CAUTION WHILE DRIVING. THE LATEST ROAD CONDITIONS FOR THE STATE YOU ARE CALLING FROM CAN BE OBTAINED BY CALLING 5 1 1. &&
— NWS DC/Baltimore (@NWS_BaltWash) January 28, 2019
More from VDOT and Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services:
Forecast temperatures for much of tomorrow afternoon make rain likely at the start of the expected storm. Pretreatment at this point would likely wash away. Crews will be ready with salt for when temps drop. Plowing requires 2 inches of snowfall. #ArlWX https://t.co/JnvPU3tlvu pic.twitter.com/ikyOAtmLBP
— Arlington Department of Environmental Services (@ArlingtonDES) January 28, 2019
Be prepared for an impacted Tues PM commute. Snow is forecast to hit around that time. Be aware that temps will drop (freezing) and the winds will pick up. Pls plan to leave work or be home a little early. Clear the roads so we can clear the roads. #teamwork pic.twitter.com/TuDjXbw29S
— VDOT Northern VA (@VaDOTNOVA) January 28, 2019
Spike Mendelsohn Planning New Restaurants in Crystal City — “Already in National Landing with Good Stuff Eatery and We, The Pizza, Mendelsohn has a letter of interest out for two new spaces. One will bring his Mexican taco shop already on Capitol Hill, Santa Rosa, to Virginia. Another is a new concept: fried chicken.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]
Shutdown May Fry Local Economy — “Come February — perhaps by the beginning of the month, probably the middle and definitely by the end — the financial, occupational and psychological impact of this now-record government shutdown will go from the theoretical to the very, very real.” [Washington Business Journal]
Trump Signs Shutdown Backpay Bill — President Trump has signed a bill championed by Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) that will provide backpay to federal employees affected by the government shutdown. Now Virginia Sens. Tim Kaine and Mark Warner are working to provide a similar guarantee for low-wage federal contractors. [Federal News Network]
JBG’s ‘Brutally Honest’ Amazon Pitch — A quote attributed to JBG Smith Chief Development Officer Kai Reynolds, talking about his pitch to Amazon’s HQ2 team: “So we literally sat down at 8 in the morning, and I started the presentation by saying ‘I’ve lived [in this region] a number of years, I had never been [to Crystal City]. While it’s better than I thought, it’s kind of a shithole.'” [Bisnow]
Snow May Disrupt Evening Commute — “The main band of snow is likely to come through during the evening and overnight hours. As the onset of snow may coincide with the evening commute, especially in our western areas, build in extra time to get home or consider leaving a little early to beat the rush. Some slick spots could develop, especially on untreated roads.” [Capital Weather Gang, Twitter]
Nearby: Attempted Kidnapping in Georgetown — “As she neared her front door about 5 p.m. Tuesday, a woman grabbed the child from behind and tried to abduct her, D.C. police said. The girl fought back and broke free. The nanny in the car screamed, and the woman ran.” [Washington Post]
Amazon says it will offer “transit benefits” to its thousands of employees bound for Arlington, in a bid to incentivize workers to rely on the county’s public transportation options once they arrive.
The tech giant has long worked to help employees at its Seattle headquarters afford train and bus rides and ease their commutes, but Amazon officials didn’t initially detail similar plans for the new offices it plans to set up in Crystal City and Pentagon City.
Yet county officials have said recently that they’ve received assurances from Amazon that the company would indeed offer similar benefits in Arlington, and the tech firm has confirmed that plan to ARLnow.
“Consistent with our other corporate offices, Amazon will provide transit benefits for our employees at our new headquarters in Virginia,” Amazon spokesperson Jill Kerr told ARLnow. “Last year alone, we provided $63 million in transit fares for our employees in Seattle.”
Kerr added that “more than half of our employees in Seattle bike, walk or take public transportation to work,” and she expects that the new “National Landing” campus will “allow for similar commuting.”
The move is quite welcome news for county leaders and transit advocates alike, who are anxious to see the tech giant embrace public transportation in the area. Though Metro’s rail service may well have its problems, many around Arlington hope Amazon’s 25,000 workers embrace transit to ease pressure on the county’s congested roads.
“Ideally, Amazon employees here will be like those in Seattle where a significant number live within walking distance of the headquarters,” said Stewart Schwartz, executive director of the transit advocacy-focused Coalition for Smarter Growth. “But for the rest, offering essentially free transit passes is basically the single most powerful thing they could do to make a difference.”
Kerr declined to provide specifics on how the transit benefits will be structured for future Arlington employees. But posts on the crowdsourced employer review site Glassdoor suggest that the company offers free “ORCA” passes for its Seattle workers, giving them unlimited access to public transit options in the city and its surrounding suburbs.
Schwartz hopes that the company pursues a similar strategy in Arlington, considering that Amazon’s new offices in Crystal City and Pentagon City will sit adjacent to a variety of different transit options.
While the area’s Metro stations are the more obvious options for employees, giving them access to the Blue and Yellow lines, the county also operates a bus-rapid transit system between Crystal City and Potomac Yard (which it will soon expand to Pentagon City).
The neighborhood’s Virginia Railway Express station is also located just a few minutes’ walk up Crystal Drive from the company’s planned office space, and the VRE is even weighing an expansion of the station in the coming years. That could put an entrance to the station directly across from a new entrance for the Crystal City Metro station, a project set to be funded largely with state money as part of the proposed Amazon deal that will sit just under one of the company’s buildings.
“They have a very high preference among their employees for multimodal transportation, public transportation, biking, walking, being part of an integrated place that you can get around in a number of ways,” Alex Iams, assistant director of Arlington Economic Development, said during a Dec. 6 question-and-answer session on Amazon. “Pentagon City-Crystal City fits the bill perfectly. You can get on a plane, a train, an automobile, a scooter, all of the amenities.”
But officials do acknowledge that for any drivers glad to see Amazon employees pushed onto public transit, there are also nervous Metro riders who fear crowds of new arrivals. After all, the service already suffers from fairly regular meltdowns leaving huge crowds on platforms during rush hours.
Yet Arlington planners are optimistic that crowds in Crystal City and Pentagon City have died down enough over the years, particularly as military and federal agencies fled the neighborhoods, that there should be plenty of room at the Metro stations near the new headquarters. Metro officials also point to proposals to increase the size of all trains and ramp up rush-hour service as reason for optimism, though Arlington leaders may not be able to find enough cash to afford those improvements just yet.
Of course, county leaders acknowledge that not everyone headed for Amazon HQ can ride Metro. That’s where they hope their work to, eventually, bring Route 1 down to the same grade as other streets in the neighborhood will expand other commuting options as well.
“That’s the desire of the company too, to make it more walkable, bikeable and more connected,” county transportation director Dennis Leach said during the Dec. 6 Q&A.
Renewed HQ2 Buzz — The New York Times has published a lengthy look at Crystal City, which is being discussed as a frontrunner to land Amazon’s second headquarters. “All of the signs are pointing to Crystal City,” one of the people quoted in the article said. Separately, the Wall Street Journal reports that only some of the 20 HQ2 finalist cities — including New York City, Newark, N.J., Chicago and the D.C. area — have received second visits from Amazon officials. [New York Times, Wall Street Journal]
Former Wizard Selling Home in Arlington — Former Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat has listed his house in Arlington’s Cherrydale neighborhood for $1.9 million. [Real House Life of Arlington]
Upton Hill Park Caught in Complaint Crossfire — After acceding to demands of tree advocates and scrapping plans for a 17-space parking lot at Upton Hill Park, the Northern Virginia Regional Park Authority is now facing opposition to its proposed park upgrades from nearby residents worried that the lack of additional parking will cause more vehicles to be parked in the neighborhood. [InsideNova]
New Option for Commuting to Arlington — “Sameride, a ridesharing app that allows drivers and passengers to offer and request rides, has launched a new route from Herndon, Reston and Loudoun County to Arlington and the District.” [Reston Now]
Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman
Judge Dismisses Dewey Horse Punch Case — A man who was accused of punching a police horse in Dewey Beach is now trying to clear his name after the case was dismissed. Surveillance video reportedly exonerated the man, who might not actually be from Arlington as originally reported. [Cape Gazette]
Rosslyn Transportation Meeting Tonight — “Join Arlington County and the Rosslyn BID to provide feedback at this public meeting that will focus on the Core of Rosslyn Transportation Study. This study will examine the feasibility and potential impacts of permanent changes to the street network in the core of Rosslyn, with the goals of improving safety and accessibility for all users, including those walking, biking, using transit and driving.” [Rosslyn]
Another Commute Alternative: Running — As Metro continues on a downward ridership spiral, some are finding running to be an attractive commuting alternative, providing exercise and fresh air while eliminating costs and unpredictable delays. [Runners World]
Angels of the Battlefield Gala Tonight — The Armed Services YMCA will present its annual Angels of the Battlefield awards tonight during a gala at the Ritz-Carlton in Pentagon City. Among the 2018 recipients of the prestigious awards are Senior Airman Linda Wilson, who helped save lives during the Las Vegas mass shooting last year. [ASYMCA, Air Force Times]
New Film Fest Coming to Clarendon — “Georgetown’s Halcyon and Arlington’s Clarendon Ballroom will be the venues for a new film festival – Flicks4Change — that links the entertainment world with charitable activism. The film festival first started in Los Angeles, expanded to Australia and now comes to the DC area.” [Georgetown Dish]
Nearby: Pete’s Apizza Closes in Md. — Pete’s New Haven Style Apizza has closed its Silver Spring location. The D.C. and Clarendon locations remain open. [Bethesda Beat]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Civic Federation Holds Candidate Forum — The unofficial kickoff to the local fall campaign season took place on Tuesday: the Arlington County Civic Federation candidate forum. Contenders for County Board, School Board and Congress squared off in front of a standing-room-only audience at Virginia Hospital Center’s auditorium. [InsideNova, InsideNova, Blue Virginia]
Drug Take-Back Boxes Deemed a Success — “In June, Arlington County installed three permanent drug take-back boxes to address a crucial public safety and public health crisis facing communities across the country – prescription drug abuse. In the first three months of the program, the public safely disposed of 407 pounds of unused, unwanted or expired prescription medications. Due to the success of the program, the police department is exploring expanding the program.” [Arlington County]
New Commuter Store Opens — A new Arlington Commuter Store opened at the Pentagon on Tuesday, near bus bays 7 and 8. [Commuter Page]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
(Updated at 10 a.m.) Arlington Public Schools is indefinitely suspending its incentive program to push employees out of their cars, after the effort proved to be a bit too successful — and expensive.
The school system’s Transportation Demand Management (TDM) Commuter Program provides stipends to employees for turning to public transit, walking, bicycling, carpooling and other options to limit the number of cars going to and from schools.
It was budgeted for $222,600 last year, but School Board spokeswoman Linda Erdos said actual expenses were over $389,000. While the difference was covered in last year’s budget, Erdos said the budget for the program remained the same for FY 2019 without the same flexibility.
“No one wanted to make any changes, but we also had to find a way to reduce the growing deficit,” said Erdos in an email. “Carpoolers and transit users also receive stipends, and staff believed that maintaining those programs was important because it immediately reduces an employee’s direct costs for commuting (fares, toll fees and fuel) and keeps the number of cars in school parking lots lower.”
Erdos said the school system looked at reducing the stipend for walkers and bicyclists, but were still left with a $50,000 deficit.
At last Thursday’s School Board meeting (Aug. 30), Assistant Superintendent of Facilities and Operations John Chadwick stated that part of the reason the bicyclists’ and pedestrians’ incentives were targeted was because the data showed they’d be more likely to continue using those methods to get to school.
“Looking at numbers and usage, those members of staff who used to bike and walk would be most likely to continue using walking and biking to school,” said Chadwick. “If we applied the benefit to users of the carpool, we would likely get more people returning to single use cars and have more cars around our schools, more congestion, which causes safety concerns and issues of air quality. Faced with a difficult decision, we determined it would be most useful to suspend bike [and] walk benefits.”
Teachers at the Aug. 30 meeting said they dismayed by the decision.
“Two years ago, the incentive program helped me change my habits,” said Aaron Schuetz, a physics teacher at Yorktown High School. “Now, biking to work is my primary mode of transportation… [it was] disappointing to get email that it was cancelled.”
The suspension of the motor-free benefits was effective Sept. 1, which some teachers noted was an abrupt change.
“I was surprised to see benefits eliminated with three days notice,” said Jeffrey Bunting, an english teacher at Yorktown High School. “I found the process maybe a little cynical how it was eliminated… I fully agree there are probably improvements that can be done, but I encourage the Board and Mr. Chadwick not to throw the baby out with the bathwater.”
Erdos said the Office of Multimodal Transportation Planning in the Department of Facilities & Operations will continue to work on reorganizing the program and will release more information later this year about the changes.
Photo via Arlington Public Schools
The new tolls on I-66 inside the Beltway may be steep, but new data suggest they have yet to convince people to turn to Arlington’s public transit options instead of driving.
The rush hour tolls have been in place on I-66 between Rosslyn and the Beltway since December, but a new report by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission does not show any substantial increase in Metrorail or local bus ridership around Arlington.
The regional transportation planning group’s researchers did find some upticks in express bus ridership in Fairfax and Prince William counties, which benefits from fewer rush hour traffic delays on I-66 post-tolling. Yet NVTC staff stresses that there is currently no clear evidence that the tolls, designed to convince commuters to carpool or turn to public transit to ease congestion on the highway, are having their desired effect broadly.
“While public transportation systems transport significant numbers of commuters from the Washington, D.C. suburbs to downtown, overall transit ridership in Northern Virginia has shown a gradual decline, which is influenced by employer transit benefits, transit service reliability, telework, and real estate development, among others,” the NVTC report reads. “However, new commuter and express bus services supported by the I-66 Commuter Choice [tolling] program have demonstrated stable demand and are expected to grow.”
The group examined ridership data on Metro’s Orange and Silver lines, running between stations west of the Ballston stop and Ballston itself, as well as between Ballston and stations east of it. For the month of February, the NVTC found that ridership increased by about 4 percent from the same month in 2017.
However, staff noted that could be due to the transit system’s recovery from its “SafeTrack” maintenance program, noting that “it is difficult to discern the influence of I-66 tolling from these statistics.”
The NVTC also found that bus ridership in the I-66 corridor declined from a similar time period a year ago, particularly in Arlington. Staff found that Arlington Transit routes along the corridor dropped by a total of 12 percent when comparing February 2018 to the same month last year, and Metrobus ridership in the area fell by 10 percent.
The new tolls helped local bus services run some buses more frequently along the corridor, but the group found declines in ridership on those routes too. For instance, ART started running buses on its 55 route once every 12 minutes during rush hour starting in June 2017, yet ridership fell by 7 percent when comparing February 2018 to February 2017.
Similarly, 2A Metrobuses now run every 10 minutes instead of every 15 during periods of peak ridership — and the route saw a 10 percent drop in riders, the report found.
However, the NVTC noted that bus ridership “declines persist before and after the I-66 tolling,” not only in Arlington in recent years, but also across the region and even the country.
They’re also hopeful that commuters are still taking time to adjust to the beefed up transit options, and are merely taking time to adjust their schedules accordingly.
“The public transportation service capacity added in FY2017 through the I-66 Commuter Choice program has met with stable demand,” staff wrote. “A ramp-up in demand is expected in the coming years.”
File photo. Charts via NVTC.
The contentious I-66 toll rollout only began about three months ago, but it appears that some non-HOV commuters have already found a way around the tolls.
Videos sent to ARLnow.com from a Rosslyn resident show commuters idling along the I-66 shoulder. It’s unclear whether or not the drivers are waiting for the toll to lower or if they are waiting for the tolling period to end all together. The evening tolling period is from 3-7 p.m., and our tipster tells us that this happens frequently just before 7 p.m.
A spokeswoman for Virginia State Police, which is responsible for enforcement on the highway, told ARLnow.com that “this has been an ongoing issue on Interstate 395” as well.
“State police take this issue very seriously and continue to enforce the law, but we are limited due to an ongoing shortage of troopers,” said the spokeswoman. Emergency calls take priority over tolling enforcement, she added.
Virginia law states that drivers cannot stop on the highway except in case of an emergency, accident, or mechanical breakdown.
Tolls as high as $40-50 have been reported on I-66 inside the Beltway since the HOT lane launch, despite initial predictions of tolls closer to the $7-9 range.
Alexandria Absent from Short Bridge Park Plans — “While plans for the border-spanning park are underway on the Arlington side, one frustration expressed at the County Board was that Alexandria has no plans to develop its side of the park… ‘That’s a little disappointing,’ County Board member John Vihstadt said. ‘I am concerned we’re going to be spending significant amounts of money for improvements on the Alexandria side.'” [Arlington Connection]
Review of Columbia Pike’s Brickhaus — Brickhaus, which opened last year at the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. Walter Reed Drive, is like a miniature, “year-round, indoor beer garden [that] serves German-inspired fare.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]
Commuting Satisfaction in Arlington — According to data from Arlington County’s Mobility Lab, Arlington residents commute to work by means other than driving alone 60 percent of the time. Those who walk or bike have the highest rate of satisfaction with their commute, while those who take a train have the lowest satisfaction rate. [Mobility Lab]
Fmr. Clarendon Restaurant Owners Like Falls Church — David and Rebecca Tax, the founders behind classic Clarendon restaurants like Big Belly Deli, Lazy Sundae, Clare and Don’s and Mexicali Blues, are happy with their decision to move Lazy Sundae and Clare and Don’s to Falls Church more than a decade ago. “Falls Church is a lot like what Clarendon was like in 1996 when we opened Lazy Sundae,” said David, while Rebecca remembered the Clarendon of the mid-to-late 90s as “more family oriented, fewer singles.” [Eater]
Mobile Phones Could Be Banned at Pentagon — A military review of personal electronics policies, ordered by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, could result in non-military cell phones being banned at the Pentagon. About 30,000 servicemembers, civilians and contractors work at the Pentagon. [Stars and Stripes]
Japanese Embassy Lauds New Arlington Decal — Via a tweet from the Embassy of Japan in D.C.: “As this year’s @CherryBlossFest nears, we’re excited to hear that the blooming cherry trees along the Potomac River will soon be displayed on windshields in Arlington County. Congratulations to @OConnellHS’s Schuyler Workmaster for winning @ArlingtonVA’s decal contest!” [Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
Arlington County and the rest of the D.C. region could be in for more snow, starting early tomorrow morning and lasting through rush hour.
The Capital Weather Gang reported that Arlington and the rest of the area could receive up to 1 inch of snow early Tuesday, between roughly 3 and 10 a.m.
A period of snow expected late tonight into Tuesday. See image for more details. pic.twitter.com/skR7mqNaS8
— NWS DC/Baltimore (@NWS_BaltWash) January 29, 2018
County road crews will be out with their colleagues from the Virginia Department of Transportation pre-treating roads through rush hour today. VDOT asked drivers to give tanker trucks and trailing safety vehicles room to work.
In a press release, VDOT further asked drivers to:
- Stay closely tuned to weather forecasts (see National Weather Service) overnight and through the day tomorrow
- Consider teleworking or adjusting trips around the forecast. If conditions are icy, delay trips for safety.
- Assume any “wet” pavement to be icy. Bridges, ramps, overpasses and lower-volume roads may ice first, and even previously treated roads will become slick quickly with the low pavement temperatures.
- Ensure gas and wiper fluid tanks are full, and have a good emergency kit. Here’s how: http://www.ready.gov/car.