STAR, Arlington’s bus service for disabled residents, will move to a new call center on Columbia Pike after County Board approval of the plan at its meeting Saturday.
Specialized Transit for Arlington Residents will move to 2301 Columbia Pike, Suite 120, near Penrose Square, after the Board agreed to rent the property from the landlord.
STAR’s existing call center is located at 2300 9th Street S. in the same neighborhood. Its lease on the property expired on June 30, and while it can be renewed on a monthly basis, the landlord plans to redevelop the office building and no longer wanted a long-term tenant.
In a report on the project, county staff noted various positives for the move.
“It is accessible and near a major transit stop with weekend service,” staff wrote. “Because it has its own separately-powered HVAC system, the call center can operate on weekends without incurring the cost of heating and cooling the entire floor. This will yield significant savings for the County in comparison with conventional office space.”
STAR is a paratransit branch of the ART bus system and provides transportation options to the disabled and handicapped who are unable to use public transportation. Those who ride with STAR call ahead to make reservations to be picked up from their home. STAR then routes the ride to pick up other residents who use the system along the way.
The Board will rent 2,337 square foot property for an initial period of 10.5 years (126 months), with a base rent of $4,944.70 per month. That rent will be free for the first six months. Staff estimate it will take three months for the office to be built out and readied to be the call center, during which time STAR will stay in its current location.
The total cost of construction for the new property is estimated at $300,000, part of which will be paid for by the landlord.
(Updated at 11:15 a.m.) A co-op child care center for Arlington Public School employees has plans to move to a new space in Ballston, possibly splitting it up from a special needs program it has long integrated with.
The Children’s School’s board of directors this week signed a letter of intent to relocate its program to 4420 N. Fairfax Drive for the 2017-2018 school year.
The relocation could separate the center from the Integration Station, a program for Pre-K children with disabilities that allows them to interact with The Children’s School students. Both the daycare and the special needs program have worked together at the Reed School building in Westover for more than 20 years.
The move comes months after a plan from APS Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy to create a new 725-seat elementary school at the site of the Reed School building. Under the proposal, both The Children’s School and the Integration Station would likely have been displaced from their current home.
“APS has consistently informed TCS that they do not have any space and are running a deficit,” TCS board member Alec Strong said in a statement. “Our ultimate goal remains keeping TCS and Integration Station together, but we need APS’s help.”
The prospect of separating the daycare and integration program has worried many parents whose kids are enrolled in them. A group of parents and supporters of the programs spoke out against the plan during a School Board meeting earlier this month.
“As a mother of a student in Integration Station, the culture of Reed is one of safety, love and value to the special needs community, and that is something you just don’t find in a lot of places,” said one parent at that meeting. “Splitting it up would be devastating, both to the teachers, their children, and the special needs community.”
In a statement given to ARLnow.com on Feb. 3, APS said the decision regarding the future of TCS and the Integration Station is a tough one to make.
“While APS will continue to explore options as we move through this process, we cannot guarantee that we will be successful with any of the available space options,” the statement reads. “APS is committed, however, to continuing to provide support for students in the Integration Station program either as a partner with The Children’s School, or integrated into existing APS programs.”
Read a release from TCS about the move below:
The Children’s School Board of Directors signed a letter of intent yesterday to relocate its program to a new location in Arlington for the 2017-2018 school year. This follows confirmation at a School Board meeting two weeks ago that Arlington Public Schools does not have any space during planned renovations of the Reed School for the non-profit program, which has served pre-school aged children of APS teachers since 1987, and special needs students in the Integration Station program for more than 20 years.
In a statement to ARLnow.com, APS said: “While APS will continue to explore options as we move through this process, we cannot guarantee that we will be successful with any of the available space options. APS is committed, however, to continuing to provide support for students in the Integration Station program either as a partner with The Children’s School, or integrated into existing APS programs.”
The TCS Board of Directors maintains that APS has never offered any space or location to TCS. “APS has consistently informed TCS that they do not have any space and are running a deficit. Our ultimate goal remains keeping TCS & Integration Station together, but we need APS’s help,” said TCS Board Member Alec Strong.
In a January 30, 2017 letter to concerned Integration Station parents, many of who spoke at the School Board meeting in support of the two programs remaining together, TCS Director Naseera Maqsood said:
“As of Friday, January 27, 2017, we were informed (by Assistant Superintendent Leslie Peterson) in very clear terms that we need to find a new location. We were informed that there is no space at the Madison Community Center (technically an Arlington County property) and that no Arlington Public School grounds have enough space for us to put relocatables (trailers). Arlington County has also indicated that there is no space for us to use relocatables.”
“We want desperately to keep all of our children together,” Maqsood added. “As educators, we are committed to having our students in integrated classrooms. We will ensure that any space we seek to lease or buy will have room for the Integration Station students. Ultimately though, the decision to keep our programs together is in the hands of Arlington Public Schools, not The Children’s School.”
“We continue to hope and work towards some miracle that will allow us to remain on APS or Arlington County grounds, and to continue providing more than 150 affordable childcare positions to Arlington teachers and parents,” Maqsood added. “We believe this aligns with our shared values, legacy and the desires of the Arlington County electorate.”
Fairfax Drive photo via Google Maps
A plan to build a new educational facility at the Reed School in Westover has some parents worried for the future of a daycare and special needs program there.
Last year, Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy announced a renovation project to create a new 725-seat elementary school at the site of the Reed School building in Westover.
The Reed School building currently houses The Children’s School , a co-op child care center for APS employees, and the Integration Station, a program for Pre-K children with disabilities that allows them to interact with The Children’s School students. Both the daycare and the special needs program have worked together for more than 20 years.
But the longtime collaboration may soon come to an end. Under the proposal, The Children’s Center and the Integration Station could be moved out of the building and separated from one another. Arlington Public Schools hasn’t yet announced a home for either one.
The possibility of separating the daycare and integration program has worried some parents whose kids are enrolled in both. A group of parents and supporters of the programs spoke out against the plan during a School Board meeting Thursday evening.
“As a mother of a student in Integration Station, the culture of Reed is one of safety, love and value to the special needs community, and that is something you just don’t find in a lot of places,” said one parent. “Splitting it up would be devastating, both to the teachers, their children, and the special needs community.”
One parent fought back tears as she urged School Board to keep the two programs under the same roof. She described how her son, who is autistic, benefitted from the Integration Station.
“Had he not received the level of special integration care from the staff, I’m sure he would not be where he is right now, which is attending a typical school surrounded by typical kids,” the parent said.
She continued: “Without TCS, the Integration Station is no longer possible and much of its value is lost… We ask that the board take concrete steps toward ensuring that the children’s school can continue to serve both the staff and the students of the Integration Station.”
— Sara Shaw (@SaraShaw7) February 3, 2017
In a statement given to ARLnow.com, APS said the decision regarding the future of TCS and the Integration Station is a tough one to make.
Everyone in Arlington knows that APS is facing a period of unprecedented enrollment growth that is creating significant demands on school capacity. Providing seats for the growing number of students in APS has stretched the capacity of our schools and our school sites. APS is working closely with the County and The Children’s School to explore viable options for relocation. To date, TCS wants to continue to pursue additional options beyond those that have been identified.
While APS will continue to explore options as we move through this process, we cannot guarantee that we will be successful with any of the available space options. APS is committed, however, to continuing to provide support for students in the Integration Station program either as a partner with The Children’s School, or integrated into existing APS programs.
Arlington Golfer Competing for Amateur Title — Psychotherapist Matthew Sughrue, an Arlington resident, has advanced to the championship match of the U.S. Senior Amateur golf tournament. Sughrue, 57, will face 62-year-old Dave Ryan, of Illinois, in a final round today. [ESPN, USGA]
Local Photographer Has Overcome Many Obstacles — Susan Bainbridge, a freelance news photographer and journalist, has a remarkable story of overcoming obstacles. Bainbridge, who also co-founded Arlington County Crime Solvers, has battled disabilities and a series of debilitating accidents from birth into adulthood. Since 2011 Bainbridge has served as an usher during Sunday evening mass at the Cathedral of St. Thomas More, even working through a torn knee ligament and a hip injury from a fall last year. [Catholic Herald]
Letter to the Editor: We Should Welcome Refugees — The closer-in suburbs of Northern Virginia, including Arlington, should be welcoming more refugees, say the writers of a letter to the editor of the Sun Gazette. In Virginia, refugees have largely been placed downstate and in outer suburbs. “They are not threats,” the letter says, addressing the fears some have of refugees. “They are the new Americans.” [InsideNova]
VDOT Holds HOT Lane Meeting — Last night VDOT gave the first formal public presentation of its plan to expand the I-395 HOV lanes and convert them to High Occupancy Toll lanes. The meeting was held at Wakefield High School and addressed issues from toll pricing to transit improvements to sound walls. [WTOP, Fox 5]
Bike-on-Bike Crashes Problematic for the Law — A new article asserts that Arlington County Police normally do not file reports for bike-on-bike crashes. “This is a bike accident. Life happens,” an officer reportedly told a victim after one recent incident. Incomplete or nonexistent police reports have frustrated victims and attorneys seeking legal redress — and led to the hiring of private investigators who try to gather evidence and find witnesses. [Washingtonian]
Disability Advocates Protest in Arlington — Disability rights advocates made their frustrations personal yesterday by protesting in front of the Arlington home of Vanita Gupta, head of the U.S. Justice Department Civil Rights Division. [Disability Scoop]
Proposal: Allow Older Cabs in Arlington — The Arlington County Board on Saturday is expected to consider a policy change that would allow older cabs on the road, among other changes. Currently, cabs entering service may be no older than two years old and then must be retired after reaching seven years old or 350,000 miles. Recognizing advances in vehicle reliability, the new policy would do away with the two year provision and set the maximum age of cabs at 10 years old. [Arlington County]
Free Donuts for Lawyers Today — It’s Be Kind to Lawyers Day and to mark the occasion Sugar Shack Donuts on Columbia Pike is offering a free “house donut” to lawyers today. Sugar Shack is also beginning a promotion that will give select customers free donuts to distribute to their favorite local teachers. “To participate, folks just need to use the hashtag #Treats4Teach to tell us on Facebook or Twitter why they should be picked to deliver donuts to their local school teachers and to which school,” said a press release.
Nice Weather at Last — After this morning’s rain, expect clearing skies and pleasant weather that should stretch into next week. [Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
Wakefield Advances to Finals — The Wakefield boys varsity basketball squad defeated Potomac Falls last night, 76-67, in the regional semifinals. The Warriors will now face Potomac in the 5A North Region final at 7 p.m. Saturday. [Washington Post, Twitter]
Hough, Laich Tip Big at Don Tito — Caps player Brooks Laich and his fiancée, dancer and actress Julianne Hough, recently left a server at Don Tito in Clarendon a $100 tip on a $24 bill. [Washington Post]
Wakefield Grad to NFL Combine — Former standout Wakefield High quarterback Drew Powell will be competing at the NFL regional Combine in Baltimore tomorrow. Powell just finished his final season as quarterback at Division II Livingstone College, where he broke six school records. [InsideNova]
Spotlight on Developmental Disabilities — The Arlington County Board has declared March 2016 “Including People with Developmental Disabilities Month.” [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by J.D. Moore
A citizen’s complaint led federal prosecutors to investigate the indoor shopping concourse, which runs along Crystal Drive and connects with the Crystal City Metro station. The complaint stated that portions of the shops are inaccessible to those with disabilities, in violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act.
As a result of the agreement, Vornado will build ramps or lifts in portions of the shopping center that were previously only accessible by stairs. New signage, accessible parking spaces and accessible restroom fixtures will also be added.
The press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, after the jump.
Local Man Wins ‘Ultimate Fighter’ — Arlington native Ryan Hall has captured the Ultimate Fighter title for his weight class after soundly defeating Artem Lobov in the Octagon on national television Friday. [Fox Sports]
New Ballston Apartments Rent Quickly — Less than a year after it opened, The Maxwell, a 163-unit luxury apartment building on N. Glebe Road in Ballston, is now 93 percent leased. [PR Newswire, Multifamily Biz]
County: Don’t Worry About Orange Tubes — Arlington County is telling residents not to worry about the orange plastic tubes they may see sprouting from the ground. The tubes are not part of a nefarious terrorist plot, they’re conduits for Arlington’s upgraded fiber optic traffic signal system. [Arlington County]
Local Nonspeaking Youth Present at Conference — Three nonspeaking Arlington students gave 10 minute TED-style talks at a disability advocacy conference in Portland, Oregon earlier this month. [Growing Kids Therapy Center]
Pet Photo Contest Cancelled — Our Dress Your Pet Like a James Bond Character photo contest has been cancelled. The contest was to promote a James Bond-themed New Years Eve event in Ballston that has since been cancelled due to a regulatory issue. Those who have already submitted photos for the contest will be contacted soon and given a consolation prize.
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
Dems Debate in Ballston — The six Democratic candidates for County Board faced off in their first debate last night, before a standing-room only crowd at the NRECA conference center in Ballston. The debate was held by Arlington Young Democrats. Though knowledgable about current issues facing Arlington, candidates were light on specifics about what should be done to address those issues. [InsideNova]
Disruption Corp. Sold to 1776 — Disruption Corp., the Crystal City-based tech investment fund and office space, has been acquired by D.C.-based tech incubator 1776. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. [Washington Post]
Caps Pep Rally at Elementary School — Third grade students at Carlin Springs Elementary School have won a contest to bring a Washington Capitals playoff pep rally to their school today. The rally will start at 12:30 p.m. “There won’t likely be any players, but it will be a great time for all,” a teacher tells ARLnow.com. “The kids will be getting prizes, pictures with Slapshot (the Caps’ mascot) and learning some hockey skills. The Caps are also donating equipment to the school.” [Washington Capitals]
Artisphere ‘Doomed from the Start’ — Artisphere, which is on the budgetary chopping block next week, was “doomed from the start,” according to the artistic director of a theatre company that was booted out of its space at the cultural center two years after it opened. An anonymous Artisphere employee said of the early, over-optimistic attendance and revenue projections: “All of those numbers were so completely false.” [Washington Post]
McAuliffe Signs Special Needs Bill in Arlington — On Tuesday, Gov. Terry McAuliffe came to Arlington to sign the ABLE Act, which will allow individuals with special needs, and their families, to set up tax-exempt accounts that will allow them to save for future living expenses. Virginia is the first state to enact such legislation, which received the blessing of the U.S. Congress in December. [WJLA]
Security of Va. Voting Machines Blasted — The touch screen voting machines now being replaced in Arlington and elsewhere in Virginia were “so easy to hack, it will take your breath away,” according to reports. [Ars Technica, The Guardian]
Flickr pool photo by Alan Kotok
The Arlington County Board voted on Saturday to approve the licenses for 60 new taxis, all wheelchair accessible. Ten of those taxis will be operated by Blue Top Cab while the other 50 licenses will be owned by new company All Access Taxi.
The Board’s unanimous decision adds 20 more taxis to the county’s fleet than County Manager Barbara Donnellan recommended, bringing the total number of licensed cabs in the county to 847, 97 of which will be accessible cabs.
“Our taxi companies, members of the disability community and riders are telling us there is a growing demand for accessible taxi service in Arlington,” Arlington County Board Chair Jay Fisette said in a press release. “We strive to be a fully welcoming community, and these additional cabs will provide more options and convenience to many people with a disability.”
County staff’s report on the licenses said people with wheelchairs have had to wait three hours for an accessible taxi and have had trouble getting taxis from Reagan National Airport. Julie Piche, the CEO of All Access Taxi, said the County Board’s approval will drastically improve the lives of disabled Arlington residents.
“This is ground-breaking because for the first time a local government has recognized that accessible and equitable service requires a fleet and a dedicated effort,” Piche told ARLnow.com today. “This is a victory for people with disabilities across the nation because their needs have been recognized and their quest for accessible, on-demand transportation has been validated. Arlington’s leadership will set the standard for the nation.”
All Access Taxi anticipates offering rides on demand — via phone, online and a mobile app — in February, Piche said, and its full fleet is expected to be operational by April.
Photo courtesy All Access Taxi
The Arlington County Board will vote on whether to approve 40 new taxi licenses — all for taxis accessible to those with disabilities — at its meeting this Saturday. County Manager Barbara Donnellan, after initially recommending no new taxi licenses be issued for 2014, changed her mind in October, pushing for the new licenses.
Thirty of the new licenses would go to new company All Access Taxi, which had requested 60 taxi licenses. Ten of the new licenses would go to Blue Top Cab, bringing the total number of accessible cabs in the county to 77, or 9.3 percent of the county’s 827-vehicle fleet.
At its Oct. 30 meeting, Arlington’s Transportation Commission recommended the County Board approve 80 new taxi licenses for accessible cabs. County staff noted that even the 40 licenses its recommending could have adverse impacts on crowding at taxi stands and could impair the ability of current drivers to earn a living.
“It is not desirable to add new vehicles to the taxi fleet if a drop in taxi utilization due to [companies like UberX and Lyft] is resulting in existing taxicabs being idled,” the county staff report states. “It is uncertain how much the size of the overall taxi consumer market would increase with the presence of additional accessible taxis and whether that market increase could offset the additional taxicabs.”
Staff also said it recognizes the challenges All Access Taxi will face as a new company with a “limited” fleet of vehicles, but added the approved 30 licenses will require a significant up-front investment and “if needed, other mechanisms, other than through Arlington County certificate process, could be pursued.” Staff also questioned both Blue Top and All Access Taxi’s ability to recruit professional drivers and train them to handle disabled customers.
The County Board is scheduled to discuss the licenses this Saturday morning as a regular hearing item.
Photo courtesy All Access Taxi
Donnellan said in a memorandum in July she would recommend issuing no new taxi licenses in the county. But when the Accessibility Subcommittee of the Transit Advisory Committee took up the issue in September, it found that there was a need the county had not adequately addressed.
“[The subcommittee] that the low level of taxi complaints reported in the 2014 Certificate Determination Report was not a meaningful measure to determine the amount of accessible taxis needed,” Donnellan’s memorandum, issued earlier this month, states. “Since taxi dispatchers are informing callers that a three-hour wait is required for an accessible taxicab ride, customers are unlikely to complain to the County or request a same-day accessible taxi trip in the future.”
All Access Taxi requested 60 accessible taxi licenses in the summer after Donnellan issued her initial recommendation. Donnellan revised her recommendation to allow All Access Taxi 30 accessible taxi licenses and 10 more licenses for Blue Top Cab, bringing the total number of accessible cabs in the county to 77. All Access CEO and Founder Julie Piché said that 30 is not the optimal number to serve the disabled population in Arlington.
“Sixty wheelchair accessible taxis in Arlington County would maximize service to this underserved population by providing 2 taxis per square mile,” Piché said in a press release. “This will allow the population of disabled individuals to receive spontaneous service for the first time in history. The days of having to call more than 24 hours ahead, or waiting over 3 hours for an accessible taxi after a spontaneous call will be a thing of the past with our 60 taxi accessible fleet.”
According to the county report, the need for accessible services is increasing in Arlington. Arlington’s STAR program and MetroAccess — two public paratransit services — have seen their registrations in Arlington increase 26 percent in the last two years, the memorandum states. Both services use cabs when they don’t have other vehicles available, and there have been more reported late pickups among Arlington STAR riders from March to June this year than during any period since March 2011.
The new taxi license recommendation will go before the county’s Transportation Commission on Thursday, and hopes to see a larger number approved by the County Board when the matter goes before them in December. If approved, accessible cabs will make up 9.3 percent of the county’s taxi fleet, up from the current level of 4.7 percent.
Photos courtesy All Access Taxi
All Access Taxi has submitted applications for 60 taxi licenses with Arlington County, which allows companies to request additional taxi licenses for two months every other year, according to county Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Shannon Whalen McDaniel.
All Access Taxi COO Rick Vogel told ARLnow.com that his company would be the first in the region to offer 100 percent of its fleet as wheelchair accessible. The former Envirocab executive claimed that the standard wait for a wheelchair-accessible cab in the D.C. area is about three hours.
“There really isn’t anything for spontaneous service,” Vogel said. “Reagan lies within our boundaries, yet there’s no accessible service there. About once a week, someone gets stuck there with no way around. There are just no taxis.”
“I think Arlington has always been a leader in disabled issues,” Vogel continued. “All our buildings are accessible, everything is, except our cabs. At first I thought of it as a business idea, but now it’s becoming a cause. It upsets me because they can’t get around town.”
Vogel said he plans for the company to be headquartered in South Arlington and to train drivers in assisting people with disabilities. He plans on purchasing vehicles like the Ford Transit Connect (pictured), the Dodge Caravan, the Honda Odyssey and others. Each cab will be equipped with a wheelchair ramp in the back, a fire extinguisher and a first aid kit.
To operate as a taxi service in Arlington, however, a company needs to own a county taxicab certificate. There are 787 certificates in the county right now, only 37 of which are wheelchair accessible. County Manager Barbara Donnellan, however, recommended in a July 1 memorandum that no new taxicab certificates be issued until 2016, specifically including accessible taxis in her recommendation.
“Based on staff’s quantitative analysis,” Donnellan wrote, “there are sufficient bases to justify maintaining the existing number of taxicabs (750 vehicles and 37 wheelchair vehicles) authorized to operate in the county.”
Donnellan and her staff will make her final recommendations by Oct. 15, the Transportation Commission will make its alternative recommendation on Nov. 15 and the County Board will decide whether to approve new certificates, if any, at its December meeting. The county issued 22 new licenses in 2012, and didn’t issue any in 2010.
According to Donnellan’s memorandum, the county’s population has increased by 3,300 since 2012, but the workforce has shrunk by 6,900 jobs. While there are roughly the same amount of cabs per person now than before the new certificates were issued, there are now 3.47 taxicabs per 1,000 employees, as opposed to 3.36 in 2012. The overall number of cabs dispatched has increased 1.1 percent over the course of the last two years.
Donnellan wrote in the memorandum, however, that a new application for a certificate might be considered if the applicant provides adequate reason or innovation. Vogel believes his company deserves to be awarded certificates to serve a chronically underserved populace.
“I think this idea’s time has come,” he said. “These people have money to spend, but they can’t get to where they want to go. I think at the end of the day, we can make people’s lives better.”
Photo via Ford
The show is called “Making Their Mark: Art Brut,” and highlights pieces from artists with disabilities from ServiceSource day centers, a non-profit disability resource organization. It is put on in partnership with Purple Art, an art therapy program that works with individuals with disabilities and with military members and their families.
“Sometimes, I feel like Van Gogh,” artist Andrew Ross told ARLnow.com. “Music and art go together with me. I enjoy making both of them, they are big part of me”.
“Art Brut” translates to “raw art” and describes works created without classical art training. It’s an opportunity for the artists to overcome challenges and to express themselves in different ways. Some of the artists created pieces with little or no assistance for the first time.
“It’s good, I did a lot of work on the art,” artist Robert “Bobby” Hoffer told ARLnow.com
Volunteers donated many of the framing materials for the exhibition, in addition to volunteering to frame, mount and curate the show pieces.
“Making Their Mark: Art Brut” runs through August 23. More information can be found on the Gallery Underground website.