County Board Roundup — As expected, the Arlington County Board on Saturday voted to approve a contract for Nauck Town Square, a purchase agreement to acquire Virginia Hospital Center-owned property, and a permit to convert former administrative offices next to Washington-Lee High School to classroom space for up to 600 students.
Adding Amazon Acquisitions in Arlington? — “Keep an eye on what companies Amazon.com Inc. buys next. It could be what fills HQ2. Acquisitions will likely determine what jobs and teams develop at the second headquarters in Arlington, said Holly Sullivan, Amazon’s head of worldwide economic development.” [Washington Business Journal]
Drivers Work to Inflate Prices at DCA — “Every night, several times a night, Uber and Lyft drivers at Reagan National Airport simultaneously turn off their ride share apps for a minute or two to trick the app into thinking there are no drivers available — creating a price surge. When the fare goes high enough, the drivers turn their apps back on and lock into the higher fare.” [WJLA]
Garvey Endorses Stamos — “I believe we could use a healthy debate about equity in Arlington and how our legal justice system works. However, a healthy debate means using facts about what is working and what is not… I hope you will join me in voting for Theo Stamos for Commonwealth’s Attorney on June 11.” [Libby Garvey]
Sun Gazette Endorses Favola, Lopez — “In its endorsements, the paper said neither Nicole Merlene (who is challenging Favola) nor Julius Spain (who is taking on Lopez) has reached the rather high bar set for an endorsement of challengers to sitting office-holders.” [InsideNova]
Merlene on Kojo — “On @kojoshow, @NicoleMerleneVA says a second bridge over the Potomac, perhaps in Loudoun County, is needed, especially in light of the recent Beltway closure. She also expresses support for marijuana decriminalization and medical marijuana in Va.” [Twitter]
Arlington Firms in Fortune 1000 — Four Arlington-based companies are in the new Fortune 1000 list: AES, CACI International, Graham Holdings, and AvalonBay Communities. Fairfax County, meanwhile, is home to ten Fortune 500 companies. [Fortune, Twitter]]
Man Sentenced for Threatening Ajit Pai — “Threatening to actually kill a federal official’s family because of a disagreement over policy is not only inexcusable, it is criminal. This prosecution shows not only that we take criminal threats seriously, but also that online threats of violence have real world consequences.” [Twitter, USDOJ]
Another Amazon-Adjacent Acquisition — “Amazon’s planned second headquarters continues to attract the interest of major investors to the National Landing area. Newmark Knight Frank announced Friday it brokered the sale of Presidential Tower at 2511 Jefferson Davis Highway on behalf of the seller, Beacon Capital Partners. The building sold for $123M, according to CoStar information.” [Bisnow]
Photo courtesy @zachzsnapz/Instagram.
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Ride Hailing ‘Strike’ Today — “Getting an Uber or a Lyft may be impossible — or take longer and cost more — Wednesday when drivers for both companies plan to strike in major U.S. cities to protest what they say are unfair wages and poor working conditions.” [Washington Post]
APS Poaching Fairfax Teachers — From a candidate for Fairfax County Board of Supervisors: “Today I met a veteran teacher who is leaving FCPS because Arlington County will pay her $12,000 more annually. Meanwhile, all I hear about is how we are fully funding our schools. We still have some catching up to do Fairfax County.” [Twitter]
County Employees Getting Reusable Straws — Updated at 10:10 a.m. — “This week is [Public Service Recognition Week], and Arlington County employees will be celebrating with their new, reusable steel straws, distributed… as a thank you for their hard work.” [WDVM]
Another Traffic Enforcement Push in Clarendon — Yesterday Arlington County Police conducted “high-visibility traffic enforcement” at Clarendon Boulevard and N. Danville Street,” reminding drivers to “be [street smart] and yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk.” [Twitter]
No State GOP Candidates in Arlington Yet — “Thus far, there have been no nibbles on the line among potential Republican candidates for state legislative seats. The party’s filing deadlines passed on May 2 and 5 for GOP prospects for the 47th and 49th House of Delegates districts and 31st state Senate district without any candidates formally expressing interest.” [InsideNova]
(Updated at 10:35 a.m.) Today, Arlington will be celebrating Earth Day 2019 with a number of events and a giveaway.
The local Sierra Club chapter will host an “Activist Happy Hour” tonight from 6:30-8:30 p.m. at the Board Room in Clarendon (925 N. Garfield Street). The event will serve hors d’oeuvres and will help participants “identify the campaign coordinators spearheading local initiatives, and figure out how they would like to devote their time and energy to the Club’s goals,” per the description in our event calendar.
The Glencarlyn Library will be hosting another of its gardening class series for kids. Today (Monday), the lesson will teach tips on growing fruits and vegetables and lead an art project for kids 4-10 years old. Sign-up is required to attend the free class which goes from 4:30-5:30 p.m at the library.
Ride-hailing company Lyft is giving away free 30-minute rides on Capital Bikeshare with the promo code EARTHDAY19.
“If you’ve never ridden Capital Bikeshare before, Earth Day 2019 is a great time to give it a try,” said said Jim Larsen, Bureau Chief of the Arlington County Commuter Services, in a statement last week. “Just download the app, enter the code, and get riding on one of the thousands of bikes across more than 530 stations throughout the metro D.C. area.”
Lyft’s ride share competitor, Via, announced last week it would be disabling the “private ride” feature on its app so passengers would take only shared rides on Earth Day.
“By moving more people with fewer cars, we reduce congestion and emissions and ensure that drivers spend less time cruising around empty,” Via’s CEO Daniel Ramot said in a statement.
Glass collected at the Quincy Park Recycling Drop-Off Center (and Trades) is used for local projects – like gussying up the Quincy site in time for Earth Day. Hats off to Larry! https://t.co/QbizSbg83v pic.twitter.com/5m0LU3EfgK
— Arlington Department of Environmental Services (@ArlingtonDES) April 18, 2019
Photo from Flickr Pool user Erinn Shirley
(Updated 10:05 a.m.) Arlington will soon release the results of a study on whether Uber and Lyft should replace some bus routes in certain areas of the county.
At the end of May officials are expected to conclude its “Parameters Study for Zone-Based Demand-Responsive (Flex) Transit Service,” per a county spokesman. The study will help officials weigh whether ride-hailing companies can replace some bus service in areas experiencing low bus ridership.
Ride-hailing services could connect riders heading to and from those areas with the nearest Metro station.
Taxi companies and paratransit providers are also being floated as possible service providers, county transportation spokesman Eric Balliet told ARLnow yesterday (Tuesday).
“We’re in the research phase right now, so no decisions have been made about [the] number of providers or where vehicles would pick up passengers,” Balliet said. “These would be looked at if we decide to move forward with this service concept.”
- The Douglas Park, Nauck, and Arlington Village neighborhoods which the plan aims to connect to transit along Columbia Pike.
- The Rock Spring, Williamsburg Middle School, and Dominion Hills areas, which currently see only 10 passengers per hour on the ART 53 route. Those neighborhoods would be connected to the East Falls Church Metro station.
- The Chain Bridge Forest, Rivercrest, Bellevue Forest, Gulf Branch, and Stafford-Albermarle-Glebe neighborhoods, which also only see 10 passengers per hour on the ART 53 route. Those neighborhoods would be connected to the Ballston Metro station.
“Each trip must either originate or end at that chosen destination,” the plan says. “This service will use smaller vehicles that may not be operated by or under the banner of ART and could include a separate fare system. Rides would be grouped and provided on a demand responsive basis.”
“In Arlington County there are several low-density neighborhoods which are served by low-frequency, low-ridership, costly-to-operate bus routes,” a 2018 description of the study says. “In these areas, it may be easier and cheaper to provide on-demand private-vehicle service for people needing to get to Arlington’s business and shopping districts than continuing to provide bus service.”
The county “sees this project as a potential model for other places which are facing similar issues with their bus systems,” said the study’s description.
County Manager Mark Schwartz said in a 2016 statement that the county’s “goal is to review a possible way to encourage transit ridership, increase efficiency and reduce costs,” and added that the county “must overcome many challenges and answer many questions before we could consider implementing this proposal.”
Montgomery County, Maryland is planning to test a similar transit program this summer where residents can request a shuttle pick-up using the Via app, WTOP reported.
The civic association for Aurora Highlands and Crystal City are requesting the county officials take action on traffic caused by the Uber and Lyft waiting area along S. Eads Street.
The area, sometimes called the “TNC lot,” comprises two parking lots located at 2799 S. Eads St. where Uber and Lyft drivers must park while queuing for passengers at Reagan Airport.
The associations say there have been persistent traffic problems caused by the lot, and discussions about solutions have “stalled.”
The neighborhood groups wrote a letter to Arlington Department of Environmental Services (DES) Director of Transportation Dennis Leach this week citing ongoing congestion woes caused by “7,800 additional vehicles per day” on Eads Street northbound.
That’s despite the county opening an entrance to and exit from the lot along Route 1, to ease traffic near the residential neighborhoods along Eads.
Aurora Highlands Civic Association President Scott Miles told ARLnow that as of last night (Thursday at 5 p.m.) the associations have not received a response from county officials.
Miles and Crystal City Civic Association President Carol Fuller signed the letter, which proposed two solutions for DES and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority:
- Allow ride-hailing drivers to enter, but not exit, the lot via Eads Street.
- Turn the lot into airport employee parking and make Uber and Lyft drivers wait at a new lot on airport property instead.
Today, Uber’s guide for drivers picking up at DCA features a section how vehicles should queue in the waiting area, noting that, “When exiting the lot, left turns only are permitted in an effort to reduce traffic congestion along S. Eads St.”
Before picking the Eads space for the lot, the Airport Authority had set up a temporary parking space a block northward at Crystal Drive and 26th Street S. which also caused traffic headaches.
Image via Google Maps
Free Amazon Mugs at Northside Social — Amazon is partnering with Northside Social to give out free branded to-go tumblers this morning. [Instagram]
Kojo Explores the Amazon Effect — “We’ll look back on Seattle’s history with Amazon and discuss how our local governments can navigate their relationship with the company. Plus, we’ll hear from a policy researcher on how the DMV’s housing market will shift over the next two decades as Amazon gets settled in the region.” [Kojo Nnamdi Show]
Amazon’s Tech Effect — “Within the [D.C.] area’s tech industry – the sector likely to be most affected by the [Amazon] news – leaders are either keeping mum about their reaction or publicly expressing excitement. But behind the scenes, experts say, there is a fair amount of apprehension.” [U.S. News]
Metro to Subsidize Late Night Uber Rides? — “With Metro hours due to remain limited for the foreseeable future, Metro plans to pay cabs or a company like Uber or Lyft $1 million to slightly discount trips for certain people rather than provide alternative bus or other service.” [WTOP, WMATA]
737 Max Grounded at DCA — “For people flying in and out of the Reagan National Airport, Wednesday’s grounding of all 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9 jets brought mixed reactions. Some flights were cancelled. Others were already in the air when the emergency order came down, and were grounded the moment they touched down.” [WJLA, NBC 4]
‘Poo’ at Wakefield High School — Arlington Public Schools has been slow to fix a direction sign at Wakefield High School that is missing the “L” in “pool.” [Sun Gazette]
Photo courtesy Dennis Dimick
County officials and representatives from ridesharing companies are planning another community meeting to talk through traffic headaches generated by a staging lot for Uber and Lyft drivers serving Reagan National Airport passengers.
Arlington leaders will convene another gathering on the subject next week — in tandem with Uber, Lyft and airport executives — though they hope they’ve managed to alleviate many of the issues the community raised last fall.
At the time, many people living near the lot (located at 2780 Jefferson Davis Highway in Crystal City, adjacent to S. Eads Street and a Holiday Inn hotel) said the surge of rideshare drivers in the area had snarled traffic in the neighborhood.
Airport officials only started directing drivers over that way to account for National’s massive “Project Journey” construction effort, requiring drivers to wait in the lot until would-be passengers request rides. But, back then, the lot only had one entry/exit to reach S. Eads Street, prompting big traffic backups and encouraging drivers to cut through other parking lots in the area to more easily reach the airport.
The county responded with an “interim” fix designed to make a difference in the short-term — officials opened up another entrance/exit to the lot along Route 1, installing a temporary traffic light to allow drivers to turn onto the road and jump onto an exit ramp leading directly to the airport access road.
Since then, county staff say they’ve recorded a 73 percent drop in the number of cars exiting onto S. Eads Street each day. Officials say they’ve also met with Uber, Lyft and airport executives to discuss additional steps, like “exploring the use of technology and messaging through the [rideshare] apps to reduce the volume of vehicles coming to the lot and seeking additional staging locations to reduce demand.”
The county is also mulling another, more costly change.
Officials are currently exploring the possibility of aligning the lot’s temporary exit onto Route 1 with 27th Street S., which sits directly across from the staging area. That would allow cars from the lot and 27th Street to turn at the same time, perhaps cutting down on wait times at each traffic light.
“Implementation would require relocating a traffic signal pole, replacing [the] temporary traffic signal with a permanent traffic signal pole on Route 1, and reconfiguring the [rideshare] lot to allow proper ingress flow,” county staff wrote on Arlington’s website.
That project comes with a $250,000 price tag and take at least a year to complete — plus, it requires the County Board’s approval.
Staff plan to discuss that option and others at the upcoming meeting. It will be held in the Crystal City Community Room at the Crystal City Shops (2100 Crystal Drive) on March 18, from 6-7:30 p.m.
Photo 1 via Arlington County
Dorsey: Safety Over Late Night Hours — “Metro Boardmember and Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey… says Metro’s first responsibility is not to run as much service as possible, but to keep the service that is being run as safe as possible. He supports more maintenance.” Meanwhile, Metro is considering a plan to subsidize late night Uber and Lyft service. [Twitter, Washington Post]
Arlington Redistricting on Kojo Show — The always-controversial redrawing of school boundaries in Arlington was the topic of a recent discussion on the Kojo Nnamdi Show, featuring APS Superintendent Patrick Murphy and community leaders. [Kojo Nnamdi Show, Twitter]
Zoning, Permitting Offices Closing Tomorrow — “Arlington’s planning and DES permitting offices are running away for a long romantic Valentine’s weekend. When they return [on Tuesday], they will live as one exclusively on the tenth floor of 2100 Clarendon Blvd.” [Arlington County, Twitter]
Snow Threats Coming This Weekend, Next Week — “In the past day, computer models have begun advertising the potential for a snow event on Saturday. And it may mark the start of a series of winter storms that streak across the Washington region.” [Washington Post]
Check Out ARLnow’s Instagram — ARLnow’s Insta currently features photography from around our fair county. Coming soon: more photos, plus contests and other exclusives. [Instagram]
Passengers arriving at Reagan National Airport can expect some more construction-related changes to the lower, baggage claim level at Terminal B/C.
Starting today (Monday), exit doors at either end of the terminal will be closed to allow for additional work, airport officials announced last week. DCA is in the midst of its massive “Project Journey,” an effort to construct a new security screening area and a new gate for regional flights, replacing the “35X” gate.
The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority says this latest work won’t affect taxi, rideshare and private vehicle pickups, which will still be available at doors four through nine.
Workers will close doors at the ends of the terminal gradually, but at the height of the work doors one through three and doors nine through 12 will be closed.
Taxi drivers, in particular, have already complained that the construction work is impacting their business, claiming the arrivals area is already a bit cramped as Ubers, Lyfts and taxis all jockey for passengers.
MWAA officials expect this latest work will take “several months,” and hope to move all construction inside the airport by sometime in the middle of the year. They don’t expect the project to wrap up in its entirety until sometime in 2021.
Photo via @Reagan_Airport
The ridesharing company Lyft is now offering its dockless electric scooters around Arlington, making it the third firm to offer the vehicles in the county.
Lyft announced that its scooters will be available in Arlington starting today (Monday), less than two months after the company brought dockless scooters to D.C. Anyone looking for a scooter rather than a driver simply needs to select the option in the bottom left corner of the Lyft app.
Chris Dattaro, market manager for Lyft Bikes and Scooters in D.C., told ARLnow that the company will start off with about 200 scooters in the county, and gradually ramp up its offerings from there. County leaders signed off on a pilot program governing dockless vehicles this fall that allows companies to operate a maximum of 350 scooters or bikes right away, then apply for 50-vehicle increases each month.
“We know Arlington is its own ecosystem, but also that people go between Arlington and D.C. all the time, so we’re excited to connect them together,” Dattaro said.
Dattaro says Lyft’s scooters will primarily be “centered around public transit and where people live, work, and go out,” following a similar strategy to the other companies already operating in Arlington: Bird and Lime.
“Our passengers will tell us if we need to add more in other locations,” Dattaro said. “It’s a continuous learning process.”
Dattaro added that the process of applying to operate in Arlington has been a relatively straightforward one thus far, and the company has been working closely with county officials for weeks now. Though the other companies in the county have chafed a bit at the 10-mile-an-hour speed limit for the scooters included as a condition of the pilot, Dattaro says Lyft has had no trouble complying with that standard.
“We want to focus on being good partners with our regulators,” Dattaro said.
Arlington officials expect that as many as 10 dockless vehicle companies could someday operate in the county. Skip has frequently expressed interest in Arlington, as has Jump, which could offer electric bikes and scooters in the area as soon as January.
The county’s pilot program is set to wrap up next summer, as officials prepare a raft of new policies and ordinances to govern the vehicles.
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.”