Bridges maintained by Arlington County are “generally in good shape.”
That’s according to Ramzi Awwad, the county’s Engineering Bureau Chief, in a county-produced “Street Beat” video segment (above).
Talking about bridge inspections that are currently underway in Arlington, Awwad said that routine inspections and maintenance help to keep overall infrastructure costs down.
“Our bridges are generally in good shape,” said Awwad. “Because that’s the case, we can focus on performing minor repairs before they become major problems. As bridge condition deteriorates further and further, the cost to make the repairs increases exponentially, so we want to make sure we get ahead of everything while we still can.”
(Updated at 5:55 p.m.) About 4,600 businesses in Arlington County are newly subject to stringent recycling requirements this year.
Putting the changes and goals into action, on Jan. 1 the county began requiring that businesses, in addition to property owners, create and implement recycling plans. Like commercial and multifamily properties — those who manage office buildings and apartments — local businesses are also now subject to an annual inspection by an “Arlington County Recycling Outreach Specialist” and a $66 fee to pay for that inspection.
Including the property owners that were previously subject to the requirements, some 6,000 businesses total in Arlington are now required to:
- Register and submit a trash and recycling plan.
- Establish a recycling program to collect and dispose of recyclable items separately from trash.
- Place a recycling container next to every trash container.
- Clearly label recycling containers.
- Provide educational materials to employees (or tenants), telling them about the recycling program.
The requirements are far from onerous for large companies, but for some smaller companies, where every minute and every dollar counts, it’s producing some confusion and consternation.
The owner of a five-employee non-profit organization told ARLnow.com that she had to go back and forth with the county before getting a letter that finally explained the requirements and the fact that her organization was, in fact, subject to the new rules.
“Over the last month, I’ve spent a ton of my time dealing with the new recycling rules — mostly because Arlington County has been terrible at planning for and implementing their rules changes,” she said. “It’s been a very frustrating thing during [a time that is] normally busy anyway, and I’m sure [it is] for others too.”
The $66 fee, we’re told, can only be paid by check or by paying via credit card in person at county government headquarters — not online. An online payment system is in the works, the business owner was told.
Phil Bresee, manager of Arlington’s Environmental Management Office, said the inspections are new but the recycling requirement is not.
“All businesses have been required to recycle since 1994 — just not all have been subject to the fee and inspections,” he explained. “The changes to the Code apply the requirements to all businesses in the County.”
“Until this year, the code focused on and placed the responsibility for ensuring compliance on property managers and owners,” Bresee continued. “While most properties had recycling systems in place, we found that a large percentage of individual businesses or commercial tenants were not participating in those systems. Addressing that disconnect was the key driver for the Code changes.”
Bresee said the county intends to inspect all 6,000 businesses this year, though county code “does allow us to consider exemptions on a case-by-case basis.”
“In these unique situations, we mainly focus on ensuring that an overall recycling system is in place,” Bresee said. “Coworking spaces and virtual offices are usually covered under the recycling plans filed by the property manager or owner.”
The letter sent to businesses notes that two-thirds of all solid waste in Arlington is generated by commercial and multi-family properties. Business participation in recycling programs, the letter says, it key to meeting the county’s “zero waste” goals.
“Arlington County strives to be a world-class urban community and maintaining a clean and environmentally sustainable city is a top priority,” the letter said.
(Updated at 3:30 p.m.) Arlington County has stepped up to play a bigger role in this year’s Marine Corps Marathon after Metro’s SafeTrack work prompted big changes.
As a result of SafeTrack, Metro has stopped extending its hours for special events. Whereas the Metrorail system previously opened at 5 a.m. on marathon day, this year it will open at 7 a.m., less than an hour before runners are set to cross the starting line near Rosslyn.
At a press conference this afternoon at Rosslyn’s Spectrum Theater, marathon officials said this presented a major challenge. Metro has been a primary means for runners getting to the marathon, but due to “strict and unchanged timelines, dictated from the various jurisdictions through which the course runs,” officials were unable to push the start time back.
Those in Arlington or driving to Arlington will now be able to park at the Ballston mall garage and take an ART 42 bus to the runners village area near the Pentagon; the buses will start running at 5 a.m. More options: free parking in the garage at 23rd and Crystal Drive in Crystal City, with shuttles running to the runners village, or paid parking in Pentagon City.
Shuttles will also run from the Reagan building in D.C. and from the Gaylord, the official Marine Corps Marathon hotel at National Harbor. Officials encouraged runners to stay at hotels in National Harbor or Arlington, if possible.
Should runners arrive late and not make it through security until a bit after the 7:55 a.m. start, they won’t have to rush: the starting line will be kept open until 8:55 a.m. this year, about 40 minutes longer than usual, according to MCM marketing manager Marc Goldman.
To make sure runners can “beat the bridge” — make a mid-race cut-off point in time — the course is being extended in Arlington. At the beginning of the race, there will be an extra portion of course along N. Kirkwood Road, before runners head down the Spout Run Parkway. Later in the race, three extra blocks have been added to the Crystal Drive stretch through Crystal City, and an additional portion has been added around the Pentagon south parking lot, Goldman said.
The long stretch up and down the Rock Creek Parkway in D.C., meanwhile, has been shortened.
Additionally, the start of the MCM 10K race has been moved from the National Mall to the Pentagon parking lot. The 10K will now take place entirely in Arlington, to keep 10K runners from coming into conflict with marathoners.
Metro, for its part, says it will add extra 8-car trains to the Blue and Yellow lines when it does open on marathon day.
Marathon officials thanked Arlington County for helping to accommodate the changes to this year’s race. They also thanked race participants.
“Thank you to the runners for their patience while we untangle and address these challenges,” Goldman said.
The Marine Corps Marathon will take place on Sunday, Oct. 30; as usual, it will start and end near Rosslyn. The full press release about the changes is available here.
— Adam Tuss (@AdamTuss) August 31, 2016
Arlington County courts, human services, libraries, recreation centers and administrative offices will be closed this coming Monday, Sept. 5, for the Labor Day holiday.
Parking meters will not be enforced on Labor Day and only ART bus routes 41, 45, 51, 55 and 87 will be running. Those routes will operate on a Sunday schedule. Metro will operate on a holiday schedule, with extra delays due to track work.
The Wakefield and Washington-Lee high school pools will be open, but the Yorktown pool will be closed.
Trash and recycling will be collected as normal, and Arlington’s special collection service will also operate as normal. A paper shredding and inert material drop-off event that would have otherwise taken place on Sept. 5 has been rescheduled for Sept. 10.
APS Testing for Lead in Pipes — Arlington Public Schools has been testing systemwide for lead in pipes. Already, the school system has replaced a water fountain in Jamestown Elementary School found to have lead levels above a level considered safe by the state health department. [InsideNova]
Bayou Bakery Raising Money for Flooding Victims — Bayou Bakery in Courthouse is raising money for Louisiana flooding victims. The restaurant is offering a special Shrimp Creole appetizer for $9 this week; half the proceeds from that dish will benefit flood victims, including chef/owner David Guas’ own aunt, whose home in Abbeville, LA flooded with two feet of water. [Bayou Bakery]
Arlington Names New Communications Director — Dr. Bryna Helfer has been named Arlington County’s new Director of Communications and Public Engagement. She joins county government from the federal government. “Helfer currently serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Engagement at the U.S. Department of Transportation and also serves as Senior Advisor to the Secretary on Accessibility and Workforce,” a press release notes. [Arlington County]
Crystal City Boxing Recap — It was a nine-bout, nine-knockout night at the Crystal City Hilton Friday night. [Fight News]
Transport Nerds ‘Playing With Traffic’ — A big group of “transportation techies” gathered recently at WeWork in Crystal City to discuss creative and tech-based solutions to transportation problems. The group is sponsored by Mobility Lab, the research arm of Arlington County Commuter Services. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
County Backtracks on Uber Story — Arlington County is in the early stages of considering a plan to replace low-ridership ART service with some sort of partnership with ridesharing services, like Uber. However, the county is backtracking on an official’s statement that the service would be subsidized. “A recent press account quoted a County staff person as saying, incorrectly, that we will be subsidizing this service,” said County Manager Mark Schwartz. “No such decision has been made at this preliminary stage of analysis.” [Arlington County]
Advisory Group: Change Name of Jeff Davis Highway — An advisory group appointed by the City of Alexandria has recommended changing the name of Jefferson Davis Highway. Alexandria’s “Ad Hoc Advisory Group on Confederate Memorials and Street Names” says the Confederate president’s name should be removed from Route 1 in the city. [Patch]
Ultimate Frisbee Vote — Arlington Public Schools is now the first school system in Virginia to make ultimate frisbee an official school sport. The Arlington School Board voted Thursday night to implement ultimate as a sport in middle and high schools, on an initial countywide budget of $90,000. [WTOP]
New ART Bus Route Launching Monday — The new ART 54 bus route will begin serving Dominion Hills, Madison Manor and East Falls Church on Monday. The new bus will run every 24 minutes on weekdays, during the morning and evening rush hours. [Arlington Transit]
Medicine Dispensing Exercise — Arlington residents are being encouraged to participate in the county health department’s mass medication dispensing exercise on Saturday. Volunteers are needed to form a crowd seeking medication (the county will be dispensing two types of candy during the exercise.) [ARLnow]
United Bank Purchasing Cardinal Bank — Two regional banks are coming together to form what may be the “most dominant community bank” in the D.C. area. United Bank, which has four Arlington branches, is purchasing Cardinal Bank, which has five Arlington branches. [Washington Business Journal]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
Arlington residents are now able to check the status of road work, look at traffic conditions and access information on local real estate development projects on the County’s mobile app.
The county this week added these and a few other new features to My Arlington, the app for iPhone and Android devices that launched in February.
Users can now use the app to access real-time information on paving and milling operations on county-owned streets, view traffic camera feeds and get traffic updates using data from Google Waze, said Shannon Whalen McDaniel, a communications manager for Arlington County.
“County staff enters data into Waze daily, noting if a street is partially or fully closed, along with an estimated time of completion,” Whalen McDaniel added.
Other recent additions to the My Arlington app include:
- Voting information, with Arlington polling and precinct locations.
- A county staff search directory.
- Information on development projects with county site plans.
- Notices about stop work orders and unsafe buildings.
Screenshot via Arlington County
Diana Sun is set to retire from her post as Arlington County’s chief spokeswoman this summer after 13 years on the job.
Sun, who joined the county as director of communications and assistant county manager in 2003, is slated to step down in the next couple of weeks. Her last day will be Friday, Sept. 2.
County Manager Mark Schwartz, who announced Sun’s retirement at a County Board meeting last month, said her communications department had “excellent relationships” with journalists and was available at all times to help with media relations.
“She’s held our communications efforts to the highest ethical standards and she has enhanced our reputation as a national leader,” he said.
Prior to working for the county, Sun served as the vice president of corporate communications at Capital One. The experience she brought with her had an immediate effect on the county government, her co-workers said.
“She joined us when we had at best a rudimentary public information office structure and she was bought in to professionalize and modernize the effort and she succeeded brilliantly at the task,” said Schwartz. “She built what I think is one of the best communications teams of any jurisdiction in the commonwealth and perhaps the United States. We are regarded as leaders and innovators in so many areas.”
During her time in the county government, Sun helped oversee the building and rebuilding of the county’s website, led the county’s expansion into social media, redesigned its Citizen newspaper and tracked down the history of the county seal, eventually getting it trademarked.
“The length of time you’ve been here, there’s been an enormous evolution of the communications function here in the county and a professionalization of that,” County Board member Jay Fisette said.
Photo via Arlington County
Wahlburgers Coming to Ballston — Wahlburgers, the burger chain founded by the show biz Wahlbergs (Mark, Donnie, Paul), is coming to Ballston next year. The eatery will be located near the intersection of Wilson Blvd and N. Glebe Road. [Washington Post]
SER Expanding to Capitol Hill? — The team behind SER restaurant in Ballston — or, at least, part of the team — is opening a new restaurant on Capitol Hill in the former Sona Creamery and Wine Bar space. [Washington Business Journal]
Metro Releases Cause of Derailment — What caused a Metro train to derail near the East Falls Church station on Friday? The transit agency says it was a deteriorated section of track in which the rails became too wide. [Washington Post]
Dark Star Park Day — Yesterday Arlington County held its annual observance of Dark Star Park Day in Rosslyn. The public park, built in 1984, is designed to have its shadows line up once a year, on Aug. 1. [Storify]
County Touts Innovation Recognition — Three Arlington County programs have been recognized for innovation from the Virginia Association of Counties. [Arlington County]
Road Rage on a Bike Trail — Road rage isn’t something that only happens with motorists. Occasionally, it happens among cyclists as well, as this story from an incident on the Mt. Vernon Trail demonstrates. [Storify]
Visitors Gathering at Khan Grave — The grave of an Army Captain who died in Iraq in 2004 has become something of a destination for visitors at Arlington National Cemetery. Flowers and American flags are being left on the grave of Capt. Humayun Khan, whose parents spoke out at the Democratic National Convention against GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump’s stance on Muslim immigration. [WJLA]
What’s Next for County Parcel Near Marymount? — Officials are beginning the process of deciding the future of a county-owned parcel of land near Marymount University, after the County Board nixed a plan to permanently move Fire Station 8 there. Possibilities for the seven-acre parcel at Old Dominion Drive and 26th Street include a small park, a new salt dome, a large mulch pile, a fueling station and a temporary home for the fire station. [InsideNova]
Richard Thompson Dies — Longtime Arlington resident and “Cul de Sac” comic strip creator Richard Thompson has died at the age of 58 after a battle with Parkinson’s Disease. [Washington Post]
Body of Missing Maryland Man Found — The GW Parkway was shut down for a period of time after a body was found in the area of Donaldson Run. Police say the body was that of a missing Maryland man. [WJLA]
Charles Hernick AMA — The Republican challenging Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) in November’s congressional race recently conducted an “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit. Charles Hernick sparked a vigorous debate among users after saying he supports a cap and trade system to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and “clean coal” regulations. [Reddit]
What Is Old Is New Again — A 1965 issue of the Northern Virginia Sun newspaper included two hot topics of the day that should sound familiar to anyone following local news over the past couple of years: a “crisis in low-cost housing” in Arlington and complaints about aircraft noise from National Airport. [InsideNova]
It’s August — Today is the first day of August. Summer doesn’t officially end until Sept. 22, but get ready for plenty of indicators that fall is around the corner: back to school sales, Oktoberfest beers on store shelves and pre-season NFL games.
Minor Charges for Man Who Ran from Cops — The man who ran from police Tuesday in Ballston did so, apparently, to avoid being charged with driving on a suspended license and improper registration. He’s now also facing eluding and failure to I.D. charges. The passenger in the car did not flee and is being charged with identity theft and possession of drug paraphernalia. [Arlington County]
I-395 HOT Lanes ‘Pretty Close to a Done Deal’ — A plan to convert the I-395 HOV lanes to High Occupancy Toll lanes appears to be proceeding. Thanks to promises to use toll revenue to enhance carpooling and express bus service, Arlington officials have been generally supportive of the plan so far. That, after the county sued to block a previous I-395 HOT lane plan. [Washington Post]
Arlington Names New Zoning Administrator — Arlova Vonhm, the county’s Acting Zoning Administrator, has been appointed to the position on a permanent basis. “Vonhm, who joined the County in 2012 as a principal planner, leads a team of 30 Zoning staff. Her team collaborates with Inspection Services and other County staff to process and approve building permits, while actively enforcing the County’s Zoning Ordinance,” notes a press release. In the past few years, Arlington’s zoning administrators have drawn the ire of many in the business community for a heavy-handed approach to enforcing Arlington’s zoning rules. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
That’s according to the Center for Digital Government and the National Association of Counties, which gave Arlington high marks for its tech related to “open government, transparency, citizen engagement, security and operations.”
This is the first time Arlington has achieved the honor.
“We’re proud of this award and for the work that was done this year to help create a more streamlined, responsive and inclusive government using technology,” Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey said in a press release (below). “Arlington will continue to innovate and explore new technology tools with the goal of creating the best possible experience for residents and businesses when they interact with the County.”
The county is ahead of the curve in tech in a number of ways. In the past couple of years Arlington has launched a dark fiber network that’s open to businesses, a data-driven smartphone app, online streaming of commission meetings and an “open data portal.”
The full press release from Arlington County, after the jump.
In 2012 and again in 2014, a number of local firms were vying for new allocations of taxicab certificates from Arlington County. Both established companies and fledgling startups presented their case to county staff and to the County Board, arguing that Arlington needed to add to its taxi fleet.
That is a scene that may never repeat itself again.
A memo sent by County Manager Mark Schwartz earlier this month shows just how precarious of a drop in business Arlington cab companies are experiencing, thanks largely to competition from ride hailing firms Uber and Lyft.
Dispatched cab trips, the predominant measure of taxi activity in the county, plummeted by a third — from 2.6 million to 1.7 million annually — between 2013 and 2015, according to the memo.
The memo suggests that cab activity at Reagan National Airport and local hotels is likely up, due to more passengers and hotel check-ins, but says that there are fewer hail-based trips than dispatched trips among local taxi companies.
Schwartz says there’s currently no way to measure Uber and Lyft activity in Arlington, but concluded that the two companies are not only taking passenger business away but are also making it harder to recruit drivers and collect “stand dues.” Uber and Lyft have operated legally in Virginia since 2014.
From the memo:
Based on information gathered during these exchanges and the data collected as outlined above, staff has concluded that the amount of available taxicabs seems sufficient to support passenger business within Arlington County in general. The Arlington County Police Department has experienced fewer drivers coming to take the required exam than in previous years. For the past two years, the industry has been facing the existence of Transportation Network Companies (TNCs) that operate in Arlington under Virginia’s Department of Motor Vehicles authority. Currently, there are two companies Lyft and Uber. These companies provide service
on demand through a mobile application to individuals.
TNCs are creating a change in market conditions and impacts on the taxicab industry. There is no data available to quantify the number of providers although it is believe[d] to be significant. One thing the industry has brought up numerous times is the shortage of available drivers. This is impacting the industry which has dropped significantly the stand dues in order to attract drivers from other companies. The recent 60 wheelchair certificates that were awarded to Blue Top and All Access in 2014, most of these have not been filled with drivers. Other companies are reporting additional vacancies at the moment. The Arlington County Code provide steps in order to address this issue that will take into consideration during the Allocation Certificate Report due this fall.
As the Washington Post reported today, the last company to receive a large allocation of taxi licenses — All Access Taxi — has only one of its promised fleet of 50 wheelchair-accessible cabs in operation. The company blames problems with driver recruitment.
Von Pelot, marketing director for Red Top Cab, Arlington’s largest cab company, said “there is more at stake for our community than the amount of business we have lost to Uber and Lyft.”
“We provide wheelchair accessible service with the most wheelchair-accessible taxicabs, both in number and as a percentage of our fleet in Northern Virginia,” Pelot told ARLnow.com. “The evidence from San Francisco is that the loss of drivers to Uber has resulted in a reduction of wheelchair accessible service.”
Pelot said that Red Top offers “regulated, predictable and affordable pricing along with a discount program for seniors and persons with disabilities” whereas “Uber offers surge pricing.” He added that Red Top drivers regularly go through fingerprint-driven police background checks and receive special screening and training, a more rigorous process than that offered by Uber.
“As a locally owned and operated company, we contribute in numerous way to the community we serve,” he said. “We are NOT, a huge multinational organization without community ties.”
Taxis, meanwhile, aren’t the only transportation option that have suffered drops in ridership in Arlington over the past couple of years. The memo reveals that annual ridership of both Metrorail and Metrobus in Arlington is down nearly 3 percent from Fiscal Year 2014 to FY 2016. MetroAccess ridership is down 6 percent.
Arlington County has 847 taxi certificates currently approved — almost 4 for every 1,000 residents. The memo concludes with Schwartz’s recommendation that no additional certificates be approved this year.
Based on all the information presented in this report, I recommend that there be no increase in the current number of taxicabs authorized by certificates. If an applicant applies for a certificate, the issuance of which would authorize an increase in the number of taxicabs for such applicant or certificate-holder, and which increase would exceed the number of taxicabs determined by the County Manager, then the application must include relevant facts indicating the reasons that the applicant contends that the market change, industry performance, certificate-holder performance, competition, innovation and other specified factors other than those determined by the County Manager.
Katherine E. Young, who has lived in Arlington for three decades, is an award-winning poet and literary translator. She will serve at our local Poet Laureate for two years, receiving an annual honorarium of $1,500.
In a press release sent at 3 p.m. Friday, the county said a ceremony will be held for Young at a County Board meeting next month.
“The new Poet Laureate will work with Cultural Affairs and Library staff to develop and facilitate public programs to engage Arlingtonians of all ages and backgrounds and bring poetry to a wider audience,” notes the press release (after the jump).
Beyer Participates in House Sit-In — Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) was among the Democratic members of the House of Representatives participating in a sit-in for gun control. Beyer gave a speech on the House floor at 4:15 this morning. [C-SPAN, Twitter]
Arlington’s 11-Year-Old Police Chief — Carlin Springs Elementary student Nathnael Abraham, 11, served as Arlington’s Police Chief-for-the-Day on Tuesday. As chief Nathnael was especially concerned about bank robberies. “I think the most important crime problem would be robberies — bank robberies, because they’re taking money that belongs to other people, and that’s not OK,” he told NBC4’s Pat Collins. [NBC Washington]
Garvey: Vacancy Rate Still Too High — Even though it’s come down by 1 percent in the past year, Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey says Arlington’s 20.2 percent office vacancy rate is way too high. The county has been actively working to attract businesses and bring the rate down. Each 1 percent of vacancy costs the county about $3.4 million in tax revenue. [Arlington County]
Whistleblower Hotline to Be Expanded — Arlington County will be expanding its recently-implemented waste, fraud and abuse hotline this fall. The hotline, currently only available for county employees, will be opened to the general public. In its first year, the hotline received 13 complaints, one of which resulted in a policy change and two of which are still under review. No widespread waste or fraud was uncovered, the county says. [InsideNova]
New Agreement With JBMHH — On June 15 Arlington County and Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall signed a new memorandum of agreement for a partnership that will provide services and cost savings to the base. [Pentagram]
Flickr pool photo by Brian Irwin