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More Scooter Companies Coming to Arlington As Safety Concerns Linger

Arlington officials say the first month of the county’s dockless vehicle pilot program has largely gone smoothly, though enforcing rules about where to ride the pervasive electric scooters remains a challenge.

Two companies — Lime and Bird — have been offering their dockless scooters around Arlington ever since the County Board signed off on a “demonstration project” for the vehicles in late September. Though Bird previously operated in the county without any explicit government involvement, the Board’s pilot program was designed to set some standards for dockless vehicles and allow companies to operate hundreds in the county at a time.

County commuter services bureau chief Jim Larsen told the Transportation Commission last Thursday (Nov. 1) that two more scooter companies could soon enter Arlington as well: Skip and Lyft, which only recently began offering scooters in addition to its ridesharing service.

Then, by January, Larsen expects that Jump could also make the move from D.C. into Arlington and offer both electric bikes and scooters in the county.

“The dynamics of this change weekly, if not daily,” Larsen told the commission.

Larsen added that, since Oct. 1, county police have responded to a total of nine crashes involving scooter riders, though he noted that there’s been “nothing major” among the accidents so far.

Still, one of those incidents did involve a student riding a scooter who was struck while in a crosswalk, Larsen said. The scooter companies generally ban anyone under the age of 18 from riding the vehicles, and Larsen said the county is working closely with the school system to make that clear to students.

Larsen also noted that the top public complaints the county has received about the program relate to “illegal sidewalk and train riding, improper parking, unsafe riding, underage riders and speed.”

Those were concerns echoed by Transportation Commissioner Audrey Clement, who noted that she’s seen teenagers riding scooters without helmets on the Custis Trail in the past, which would make for three violations of the county’s policies.

“There’s no way you could even ask Arlington Police to monitor the length of the Custis Trail or any of the trails in this county,” said Clement, who is also mounting an independent bid for School Board this year. “Absent a realistic enforcement policy, this pilot program is both reckless and irresponsible.”

Larsen conceded Clement’s point, but did stress that county staff are working closely with both the dockless companies and police to ensure the safety of riders and drivers alike.

County police, meanwhile, also trying to spread the word about scooter safety as part of a broader traffic safety campaign this fall, and have even started using electronic signs reminding scooter riders to stay off sidewalks.

Others on the commission were less willing than Clement to attack the program’s legitimacy. Commissioner Jim Lantelme was interested in comparing the number of scooter-involved crashes to those involving bikes, noting that they “might actually be safer than bicycles or other methods” of getting around. Larsen, however, didn’t have such data available.

By and large, commissioners said they were satisfied with the program’s early results, and Larsen agreed. He noted that Bird and Lime have both done a “pretty good job” of balancing the number of scooters available in D.C., which has its own dockless pilot program, and Arlington.

Larsen praised Lime, in particular, for employing 21 people to monitor the scooters around the county and operating its own warehouse in Arlington.

“They’re really trying to go around and self-police,” Larsen said. “We’re really trying to push the operators to emphasize safety themselves.”

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Ridesharing Service Via Expands into Arlington, Offering ‘Virtual Bus Stops’ for Riders

Arlington is getting a new ridesharing service that will offer “virtual bus stops” to encourage more efficient trips.

Via announced yesterday (Monday) that it plans to expand from D.C. into Arlington. The company says that for now it will not offer service to Reagan National Airport as part of its Arlington expansion, but it plans to do so “in the coming months.”

Via first launched in the District in 2016, in a bid to take advantage of commuters abandoning Metro during the height of the “SafeTrack” maintenance work. But unlike its more prominent competitors, Uber and Lyft, Via encourages multiple passengers to split each ride by default.

Once a would-be rider enters their destination, the Via app directs them to a nearby street corner, dubbed a “virtual bus stop” by the company, in order to offer “quick and efficient shared trips without lengthy detours that take riders out of their way,” according to a press release.

The company hopes this cuts down on the number of car trips and vehicles used by other taxi and ridesharing services, which it believes “reduces congestion and emissions, providing an inexpensive, eco-friendly, and convenient transportation alternative.”

“Via’s powerful technology is seamlessly integrating with public transit infrastructure around the globe, redefining the way people get around cities,” Daniel Ramot, co-founder and CEO of Via, wrote in a statement. “We’re delighted to be expanding into Arlington, extending our convenient, affordable and congestion-reducing service to residents of Virginia.”

The company also plans to briefly cap the cost of shared rides at $4 to entice riders to try the service, and will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Via launched in New York City in 2013, and also operates in the Chicago area as well. Other ridesharing alternatives to Uber and Lyft like Split and Sidecar have briefly operated in D.C. before shutting down, while local Arlington option Sprynt also seems to have ceased offering rides.

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Morning Notes

Everyday Heroes in Our Midst — On Wednesday morning, a grounds crew working outside the Clarendon Metro took some time out to help a disabled man to the bus stop. “Hey @ArlingtonDES @ArlingtonVA, a little late here but please forgive your grounds crew working near the #Clarendon metro this morning if they were running a little late,” said the Twitter user who witnessed the encounter and snapped a photo. [Twitter]

Body Found in Water Near Memorial Bridge — “D.C. police have recovered a body found Thursday morning in the Potomac River near Arlington Memorial Bridge, near the Lincoln Memorial, according to a department spokeswoman.” [Washington Post]

Glass to Be Removed from Recycling List? — “The county government appears on the verge of eliminating collection of glass as recyclable material and directing residents to instead dump it in their regular trash bins… currently, there is a ‘negative market value’ for glass, County Manager Mark Schwartz told board members, and because it’s difficult for processors to recycle glass products, most of it ends up being destroyed like regular trash anyway – either to a landfill or to be incinerated.” [InsideNova]

County May Reopen Exit for DCA Rideshare Drivers — “Arlington County officials have offered a solution to the gridlock caused by rideshare drivers moved to a parking lot between Jefferson Davis Highway and South Eads Street: Reopening an exit at 27th Street, which would allow rideshare drivers accepting passengers to quickly leave the lot and turn onto the nearby airport access road.” [WTOP]

Cosplay Event at Library — “Join Maker and cosplayer Dylan Smith as he discusses how he’s incorporated 3D printing into cosplay, what materials he’s used, and how you can get started. This event is designed for adults and teens in grades 6+.” [Arlington County]

Mobile Posse Launches New Product Line — Arlington-based Mobile Posse has “announced the release of Firstly Mobile… the company’s latest next-gen content discovery platform, [which] creates a smarter smartphone experience for consumers, a safer brand experience for advertisers and a bigger revenue opportunity for carriers and OEMs.” [Globe Newswire]

Hungry Donates Thousands of MealsHUNGRY, an Arlington-based food startup, “has donated funds equivalent to more than 70,000 meals to Washington, D.C.-area and Philadelphia-area food assistance centers, including Feeding America and the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC). HUNGRY donates funds equivalent to one meal for every two purchased to those in need via its ‘Fight Against Hunger’ program.” [PRWeb]

Photo via @USArmyOldGuard

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DCA Staging Lot for Rideshare Drivers Prompts Community Outcry Over Traffic Snarls

People living in neighborhoods around Reagan National Airport say a staging lot for Uber and Lyft drivers is snarling traffic in the area, and Arlington officials are taking new steps to work out some sort of fix.

The county is convening a public meeting on the issue Thursday (Sept. 27) after hearing persistent complaints about the lot (located at 2780 Jefferson Davis Highway and adjacent to S. Eads Street and a Holiday Inn hotel) over the last few months.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) started routing rideshare drivers to the lot in April, in order to account for construction as part of the airport’s massive improvement project known as “Project Journey,” and required drivers to wait there until would-be passengers request rides at the airport. Since then, neighbors have grown particularly concerned with the congestion the change has caused on S. Eads Street, with the Arlington Ridge, Aurora Highlands and Crystal City civic associations all mentioning it in recent community newsletters.

“Although there is no objection to the parking lot itself, the single entry/exit on S. Eads Street is causing considerable traffic problems and dangerous driving conditions,” the Crystal City Civic Association wrote in its September newsletter. “Plus, drivers in a hurry are [cutting] through the CVS and McDonald’s parking lots to get to the airport ramp on Route 1.”

The Arlington Ridge Civic Association added that the number of drivers cutting through those lots has “reached epic proportions,” and that “the police are now monitoring both.”

The civic associations noted in their missives that they’re pressing the county to reopen the lot’s access to Route 1, in a bid to ease traffic on S. Eads Street. But VDOT has jurisdiction over Route 1, meaning state officials would have to approve any change to the traffic pattern in the area.

“The county estimates the design work and construction to provide ingress and egress from the staging area onto Route 1 may take up to 14 months to complete and cost upwards of $250,000, which is not currently included in the county’s budget,” the Crystal City Civic Association wrote. “While undertaking this engineering work, the county says it is also exploring interim measures and/or options for phased implementation, which will also require coordination with and actions taken by both VDOT and MWAA.”

To that end, the county says it’s invited officials from both MWAA and VDOT to Thursday’s meeting. That gathering is set to be held at the Aurora Hills Community Center (735 18th Street S.) from 7-8:30 p.m.

Photo 1 via Google Maps

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Taxi Drivers Argue DCA Construction is ‘Destroying Our Business’

Construction-related changes at one Reagan National Airport arrivals terminal have local taxi drivers fuming, and they argue airport officials are ignoring their complaints while catering to ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft.

Dozens of drivers serving the airport have begun leading protests outside Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority meetings in Crystal City, with the most recent demonstration coming last week, in order to force attention on the issue.

Backed by the National Airport Taxi Drivers Association and progressive organizers with New Virginia Majority, the drivers are urging the airport to change how it’s managing construction work that’s necessitated lane closures at its arrivals area for Terminals B/C. With less curb space available, they say taxis are getting squeezed out by Uber and Lyft drivers, with cabs unable to leave their taxi stands in a timely fashion due to the increased traffic.

“That’s not good for passengers or drivers, because we’re just sitting there with the meter running for 10, 15 minutes at a time,” said Tibebu Ergete, a longtime taxi driver and one of the organizers of the protests. “This is destroying our business.”

Ergete estimates that some drivers have seen as much as a 40 percent dip in earnings as they increasingly jockey for curb space with rideshare drivers, though he would concede that taxis have seen ridership declines for years now as Uber and Lyft have gained popularity.

Still, he’d rather see rideshare customers shuttled off the premises to meet their drivers, who already have to stage in a nearby parking lot as they wait to accept rides.

“We’ve given [the MWAA] plenty of options to deal with the construction,” Ergete said. “But they won’t listen to us. They only put Uber’s interests first.”

Christina Saull, a spokeswoman for the MWAA, said airport officials are trying to balance the competing demands of everyone impacted by the construction, and said the “dialogue is ongoing” about how to improve arrival conditions. However, she would say that the MWAA does not see shuttling rideshare users elsewhere as a workable solution, arguing that “we don’t see that as providing good customer service for anyone.”

“We’ve considered everything they’ve suggested,” Saull said. “But we have to weigh a multitude of preferences in this case. We’re moving a large volume of traffic through a really small area.”

Uber spokesman Colin Tooze wrote in a statement that the construction means “the pickup experience at DCA is not an ideal one right now” but said his company in “regular dialogue” with the MWAA to ensure “ensure a smooth experience for riders and drivers.” Lyft spokeswoman Campbell Matthews wrote in a statement that “we are glad to work with officials at the airport on a pickup and drop off arrangement that works well for passengers, drivers and the airport.”

Saull also pointed out that taxi drivers already have double the curbside pickup space at the arrival terminal compared to rideshare drivers, and that the MWAA levies a higher fee on airport trips by Uber and Lyft than it does for taxis.

But Ergete believes the MWAA is still overly deferential to the companies, as demonstrated by the refusal by its Board of Directors to discuss these complaints at any of its meetings.

Saull is urging drivers and passengers alike to simply “hang with us until the middle of next year,” when construction work at National will move inside, and the arrival lanes will reopen. Yet Ergete fears the damage inflicted by the current setup may prove to be irreversible.

“Our concern is our future,” Ergete said. “If they destroy the taxi industry, what is going to happen to the public? What is going to happen to the drivers who have been there for 40, 50 years?”

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Arlington Metro Ridership Drops in Early 2018, As Riders Fail to Return After SafeTrack

Nearly a year after Metro’s “SafeTrack” maintenance blitz wrapped up, Arlingtonians still haven’t returned to the transit system, new data show.

An ARLnow analysis of figures compiled by WMATA and released to the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission shows that ridership at Arlington’s 11 Metro stations fell by about 4.1 percent in the first three months of 2018 when compared to the same time frame last year.

Back in early 2017, WMATA was right in the midst of SafeTrack, with large sections of Metro lines closed temporarily and substantial headways for passengers, even at rush hour. But the ridership numbers suggest that any Arlington riders dissuaded from hopping on Metro during the heavy maintenance work have yet to embrace the rail service once more.

ARLnow’s analysis also shows Metro ridership in the county has dropped by about 13.4 percent compared to the same time frame in 2016, before SafeTrack work began.

Metro officials and county leaders say they’re not overly disturbed by these numbers, noting that WMATA ridership as a whole only fell by 1 percent when comparing the first three months of this year to 2017. Yet they also acknowledge that other transportation options are steadily luring riders away from Metro, and that these declining ridership numbers may be a symptom of problems in the county beyond WMATA’s woes.

“This really indicates how our transportation network is being disrupted in ways not just associated with Metro,” said Christian Dorsey, the vice chair of the Arlington County Board and a member of the Metro Board of Directors, while adding that “we’re not going to overreact to the numbers we see in one quarter.”

Metro spokeswoman Sherri Ly wrote in an email that ridership in Arlington generally “reflects the ridership trends systemwide.” She says Metro has broadly found that “peak periods are performing less poorly, however off-peak (especially evening) ridership is down much more steeply,” after SafeTrack.

WMATA leaders “are confident that by providing safe, reliable service, Metro can win back riders who may have changed their travel patterns during SafeTrack,” Ly added. Yet she did acknowledge that a handful of different factors have prompted large ridership drops at several Arlington stations this year.

Metro observed one of the largest declines in riders at the Ballston station in the first three months of the year, with a more than 8 percent decline from the same period last year. Ballston also recorded a nearly 20 percent drop in ridership from 2016 to 2018, the largest of any Arlington station over the same time period.

Ly believes that’s largely due to ridership dropping on weekends, “when service is truncated from Wiehle-Reston East to Ballston for track work,” a frequent occurrence for Silver Line riders.

Along the Blue Line, however, there could be more systemic problems.

The station at Reagan National Airport recorded the largest drop of any Arlington location from 2017 to 2018, with a roughly 10.8 percent decrease. Ridership there also declined by 17.5 percent there since 2016, the second largest drop in the county.

Other nearby stations like Crystal City and Pentagon City also have recorded large drops since 2016, to the tune of 12.9 percent and 13.8 percent, respectively.

Ly believes SafeTrack encouraged riders along the Blue and Yellow lines in the area to “permanently switch to Metroway, other local buses and [Virginia Railway Express], where ridership on these routes have stayed up post-SafeTrack.”

But Arlington officials believe their trouble attracting, and keeping, businesses in Crystal City has also contributed to the problem.

“We’ve had a 20 percent office vacancy rate in Crystal City, so it makes sense,” said County Board Chair Katie Cristol. “Part of the reason traffic hasn’t increased and Metro ridership is falling is there are fewer people going to jobs there… Having less density than we planned for can be just as detrimental as having more density than we planned for.”

Dorsey agrees that “underemployment” in the area is cause for concern for county leaders — Arlington’s falling tax revenues are due in no small part to problems building up the commercial property tax base, after all. Cristol even floated the possibility of revisiting the area’s sector plan to have a better county framework for solving this particular problem.

But Dorsey stressed that simply bringing more business to Crystal City won’t address all of Metro’s problems, as he feels the “station-to-station dynamics don’t tell the larger narrative of Metro, per se.”

“Some of the overall circumstances surrounding ride-sharing, the increasing use of telework… it’s causing a lot of churn,” Dorsey said.

Ly believes companies like Uber and Lyft are “negatively impacting ridership, especially during off-peak times,” when maintenance work is most likely to cause long headways.

That’s why Dorsey believes following the course outlined by Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld, and putting a special focus on improving WMATA’s infrastructure, is the surest path to getting the system back on track. Metro will have an extra $500 million in dedicated annual funding from Virginia, Maryland and D.C. to work with, after all, and Dorsey is willing to be patient to see what that money means for WMATA.

“We know making Metro incredibly safe, easy to find and attractive once you’ve gotten there, are the things you need to do to attract riders,” Dorsey said. “Not everybody has come back yet, but we’re working on it.”

File photo (top). Charts via NVTC.

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Free Lyft Rides This Weekend for Cinco de Mayo

A local nonprofit is again partnering with Lyft to offer free rides for Cinco de Mayo.

As it does for other holidays, the Washington Regional Alcohol Program (WRAP) is sponsoring the free rides to prevent drunk driving by revelers who may have had a few too many beers or margaritas.

The service will be available from 7 p.m. on Saturday (May 5) until 4 a.m. on Sunday for trips worth up to $15. The promo code for the complimentary rides will be available on WRAP’s website starting at 5 p.m. on Saturday.

WRAP says that 676 people across the D.C. region took advantage of its Cinco de Mayo Lyft partnership last year.

WRAP routinely offers free or discounted Lyft and taxi rides on other drinking-heavy holidays like St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween, and Independence Day.

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Nonprofit To Offer Free Lyft Rides on St. Patrick’s Day

Free Lyft rides will be available to those looking for a safe ride home on St. Patrick’s Day this weekend.

The promotion is being offered by the Washington Regional Alcohol Program, a local nonprofit, and will run from Saturday, March 17 at 4 p.m. through March 18 at 4 a.m..

“During this twelve-hour period, area residents age 21 and older celebrating with alcohol may download Lyft to their phones, then enter a SoberRide code in the app’s ‘Promo’ section to receive their no cost (up to $15) safe transportation home,” the organization said in a press release. “WRAP’s St. Patrick’s Day SoberRide promo code will be posted at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday, March 17 on www.SoberRide.com.”

Last year, 460 people used WRAP’s SoberRide Lyft services on St. Patrick’s Day in the D.C. area.

“Almost three-fourths (69%) of all U.S. traffic deaths occurring during the six evening hours following St. Patrick’s Day [in 2016] involved alcohol-impaired drivers,” noted WRAP President Kurt Gregory Erickson.

Courtesy photo

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SoberRide Offering Free Lyft Rides for Halloween

Anyone out and about in Arlington County or elsewhere in the D.C. area on the Saturday night before Halloween can get a free ride home thanks to a regional nonprofit.

The Washington Regional Alcohol Program will offer free rides with car-hailing app Lyft from 10 p.m. on Saturday, October 28 until 4 a.m. on Sunday, October 29, as part of its 2017 Halloween SoberRide program.

During this six-hour period, area residents over the age of 21 celebrating with alcohol may open the Lyft app and enter the code DCHALLOWEEN in the “Promo” section to receive their no cost (up to $15) safe transportation home. The SoberRide code is valid for the first 1,500 Lyft users who enter it.

SoberRide’s goal is to discourage drunk driving and to try to keep local roads safe from impaired drivers on or around certain holidays in which drunk driving crashes increase.

“In 2015 and according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 45 percent of all U.S. traffic fatalities during Halloween involved drunk drivers,” Kurt Gregory Erickson, WRAP’s president, said in a statement. “Compounding matters, 21-to-35-year-olds account for nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of U.S. traffic deaths on Halloween night 2015.”

The SoberRide program is offered on St. Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo and Independence Day. It will also be available during the winter holidays from December 15 through New Year’s Eve. In March, WRAP announced it would partner with Lyft for the service, switching from local taxicabs.

“Lyft is proud of the role ridesharing has played in reducing impaired driving across the nation,” Steve Taylor, general manager of Lyft Washington, D.C., said in a statement. “Here in the D.C. area, partnering with the Washington Regional Alcohol Program allows us to take our commitment to providing safe, convenient, and affordable transportation a step further, particularly during times of the year when people are out celebrating and in need of a ride home.”

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Police: Female Rideshare Driver Touched Inappropriately

Arlington County Police are investigating a sexual battery against a female driver for a ride-hailing app.

The woman was driving a male passenger in the Bluemont area early Sunday morning when the man touched her inappropriately and then got out of the car and fled on foot.

More on the incident and the suspect from Monday’s daily ACPD crime report:

SEXUAL BATTERY, 2017-09240025, 5200 block of Wilson Boulevard. At approximately 1:12 a.m. on September 24, police were dispatched to the report of a sexual assault that had just occurred. Upon arrival, it was determined that while operating as a rideshare driver, the female victim was inappropriately touched by a male passenger. Following the assault, the male suspect exited the vehicle and fled the scene on foot in an unknown direction. Officers canvassed the area with negative results. The suspect is described as a white male, approximately 5’7-5’8 tall with a thin build. He has blonde hair, a red beard and was last seen wearing a white shirt and light colored shorts. The investigation is ongoing.

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Police: Man in Rideshare Pool Masturbated in Front of Female Passenger

(Updated at 5:30 p.m.) Arlington County Police are investigating an indecent exposure incident that happened in a rideshare vehicle Thursday morning.

A man exposed himself and masturbated during the “pool” ride, in view of a female passenger, around 9 a.m., according to an ACPD crime report. It was not immediately clear with which ride-hailing service the vehicle was associated; scanner traffic referred to it as both an Uber and a Lyft ride.

The driver stopped near the intersection of Lee Highway and Spout Run Parkway, and police were called, after the female passenger witnessed the suspect in the act. After the ride stopped the male passenger then got out of the car and fled the scene, police say.

The suspect is described as an Asian man “in his mid-20’s, with a partially grown out buzz cut, wearing a black t-shirt, dark blue shorts, with a black backpack.” Police searched the area but were unable to find him.

“The investigation is ongoing,” police said.

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Morning Notes

Advanced Towing Lobbied Hard for Bill — Advanced Towing spent $10,000 on lobbyists and made a $1,500 donation to state Sen. Barbara Favola while successfully pushing for a state bill to override Arlington’s second-signature towing requirement. Supporters of the bill say it passed and McAuliffe ultimately signed it because it had the support of the business community. Advanced is one of the largest towing companies in Northern Virginia and has drawn the ire of many local residents for its ruthless efficiency at trespass towing from private lots. [NBC Washington]

Russian Military Jet Flies Over Arlington — Yesterday an unarmed Russian military jet flew over the Pentagon, CIA headquarters, and the U.S. Capitol “as part of a longstanding treaty that allows the militaries of the United States and Russia to observe the other from the air.” [CNN, Axios]

Arlington Still Hiring Teachers — Arlington Public Schools is still hiring teachers for the upcoming school year. “A total of 280 full- and part-time contract positions were unfilled as of Aug. 1… as the school system continues to process applicants,” the Sun Gazette reported. [InsideNova]

Uber, Lyft Make Mark on Local Restaurant Biz — Although readers were skeptical in a poll late last year, the Washington City Paper reports that Uber and Lyft are having a significant impact on the local restaurant industry, drawing customers from a wider area geographically than would have visited before the ride hailing services existed. It’s also bringing more customers to hot non-Metro-accessible restaurants. And it’s not just hipster-y D.C. restaurants drawing customers from around the region: Lyft said Clarendon’s Don Tito was its most visited bar in the D.C. area in 2016. [Washington City Paper]

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Report Suggests Uber and Lyft Could Help Boost County’s Transit

A new report says Arlington County should use ride-hailing services like Uber and Lyft to supplement under-performing ART bus routes and better connect residents with Metro stations.

Graduate students at George Mason University’s Schar School of Government and Policy compiled strategies to improve transit in the county, and concluded that using ride-hailing is one way to do so.

The report says the current fixed ART bus system is a disadvantage to some areas that are highly populated due to overcrowding, while there are service gaps for areas that are less densely populated. Based on their research, the ART 41 route from Columbia Pike to Courthouse is the busiest, while the 53, 62, 74 and 92 are all underused and failed to recoup much of their operating costs through fares.

The solution of using the likes of Uber and Lyft to supplement buses on routes that are underutilized is based on a similar program in Pinellas County, Florida called Direct Connect. Through the program, the county pays for half of a commuter’s Uber fare if it begins and ends at certain points and stays within a specific area.

A similar partnership can improve connections to the county’s Metro stations, GMU students concluded. While the report gives Arlington credit for the use of car- and bike-sharing with the likes of Capital Bikeshare and Car2Go, it says partnering with ride-hailing companies could be helpful for those who right now struggle to integrate Metro into their commutes.

The report also said the county could improve how it provides information about its transit services. Currently, mobile applications do not support real-time tracking for ART buses.

“Mobile networks play a vital role in day-to-day life and real-time tracking of services has become a necessity for busy commuters,” the report says. “Developing this tool as a mobile application would create greater convenience for commuters.”

The report also said that the county could benefit from talking to the community. It suggests facilitating a two-way dialogue between riders and county staff, and using strategies like surveying riders at Metro stations and other major transit hubs.

“Arlington County, if it were to embrace advances in information technology and extend its history of community engagement even further, could implement cost-effective yet innovative transportation solutions in its neighborhoods,” the report says.

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Morning Notes

It’s Bike and Walk to School Day — Expect additional pedestrians on local roads this morning as parents, students and teachers participate in Bike and Walk to School Day. [Twitter, Twitter]

Sun Gazette’s County Board Endorsement — The Arlington Sun Gazette newspaper has endorsed Erik Gutshall in the Democratic County Board caucuses, which are happening this week. At the same time, the paper urged readers to also consider Kim Klingler, thanks in part to her background on public safety issues. [InsideNova]

SoberRide Triples Cinco de Mayo Usage — Having switched from offering free taxi rides to free Lyft rides, the regional SoberRide anti-DUI program reported that its ridership on Cinco de Mayo tripled this year: 676 riders compared to 225 last year. [Washington Regional Alcohol Program]

Hurricane Hunters at DCA — Government officials and members of the public were on hand at Reagan National Airport yesterday to tour the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s hurricane hunter aircraft. Among those on hand were acting FEMA director Bob Fenton and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross. The director of the National Hurricane Center called it “the biggest, baddest hurricane awareness tour stop we have ever had.” [Roll Call, Capital Weather Gang]

TV Station Visits Local School — WJLA (ABC 7) and meteorologist Brian van de Graaff broadcast live from Hoffman-Boston Elementary School, near Columbia Pike and I-395, yesterday as part of the station’s “lunchbox weather” program. [WJLA]

Activists Target FCC Chair’s Arlington Neighbors — In their fight to retain net neutrality policies, activists have been leaving advocacy materials for and knocking on the doors of FCC Chair Ajit Pai’s neighbors in Arlington. Pai has suggested such policies should be rolled back. [Silicon Beat, DSL Reports, Popular Resistance]

Arlington Water Quality Report Posted — The results of Arlington County’s annual water quality testing have been published online. Per a press release: “Based on sampling data taken throughout the year at our treatment plant and distribution system, the report confirms that Arlington’s high-quality drinking water meets and exceeds all federal and state requirements.” [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by John Sonderman

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SoberRide Offering Free Lyft Rides For Cinco De Mayo

Revelers enjoying Arlington’s Cinco De Mayo celebrations this weekend will be able to take a free ride home as part of a regional effort to combat drink driving.

The nonprofit Washington Regional Alcohol Program has partnered with ride-hailing service Lyft to provide free rides home from 7 p.m. Friday until 4 a.m. Saturday.

During that time, area residents aged 21 and older celebrating with alcohol can download Lyft to their phones, then enter the code CINCODC in the app’s “Promo” section to receive a ride worth up to $15. The code is valid for the first 1,500 Lyft users who enter it.

The program, known as SoberRide, made the switch in March from using local taxicabs to Lyft, a competitor of market leader Uber.

“In 2015 and according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, nearly a third of all U.S. traffic fatalities during Cinco de Mayo involved drunk drivers,” said WRAP president Kurt Erickson in a statement. “Worse, 51-percent of male drivers ages 21-to-34 killed in U.S. Cinco de Mayo crashes over the last half-decade were drunk.”

WRAP said that 225 people participated in its Cinco de Mayo SoberRide program. The charity also offers SoberRide on St. Patrick’s Day, Independence Day, Halloween and from December 15 through and including New Year’s Eve.

That same day, the Arlington County Police and Fire Departments will host a joint interactive event to highlight the dangers of drink driving. The event will take place at the intersection of N. Hudson Street and Wilson Blvd in Clarendon beginning at 6 p.m. and is free.

Police will close N. Hudson Street from Wilson Blvd to 1200 N. Herndon Street in front of The Clarendon apartment building from 5 p.m. Friday to 3 a.m. Saturday to accommodate the event. Temporary “No Parking” signs will be in the area, and illegally parked cars may be ticketed or towed.

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