New Lyon Park Neighborhood Plan Approved — “The Arlington County Board today accepted the first update to historic Lyon Park’s Neighborhood Conservation plan since 1973. The update, spearheaded by the Lyon Park Citizens Association, seeks to address increased non-resident traffic and other challenges through 19 recommendations for improvements.” [Arlington County]
ACPD Traffic Enforcement in Crystal City — “Motor Officers conducted high visibility traffic enforcement along Crystal Drive today to curb illegal practices including stopping/parking in the bike and travel lanes. Increase roadway safety [by] being a PAL — Predictable | Alert | Lawful.” [Twitter]
How to Beat the Heat in Arlington — With a scorching weekend of dangerous heat ahead, and an Excessive Heat Watch issued, Arlington County is reminding residents of some ways they can keep cool, stay informed and help at-risk individuals. [Arlington County]
Metro Waterfall, Explained — Metro has an explanation of why a waterfall developed in the ceiling of the Virginia Square Metro station and inside a passing train during the Flash Flood Emergency last week. [DCist]
Grants for African-American Heritage Projects — “Two Arlington-based organizations are among 25 non-profits statewide that will share more than $140,000 in new grant funding from Virginia Humanities” for projects exploring local African-American heritage and history [InsideNova]
Beyer on Trump Impeachment Vote — “I strongly support an impeachment inquiry into the conduct of President Trump. I voted to table H. Res. 489 because it would effectively prevent the House from conducting such an inquiry… It would initiate an impeachment trial in the Senate solely to consider whether the President should be removed from office for his recent racist tweets.” [Twitter, Blue Virginia]
Dueling APS Letters to the Editor — On one hand, Arlington Public Schools should stick to funding only the basics, like providing textbooks and pencils, according to one letter to the editor published in the Sun Gazette. On the other hand, APS should have a comprehensive approach to sustainability, including recycling and excess cafeteria waste, according to another letter to the editor writer. [InsideNova, InsideNova]
(Updated at 9:27 a.m.) Commuters on Metro’s Orange and Silver lines faced minor delays this morning after smoke filled the tunnels of the Ballston station.
A Metro spokeswoman told ARLnow that a train suffered a brake malfunction and offloaded passengers at the station.
“The fans will be turned on and the smoke will dissipate,” said the spokesman. He added he not aware of any health concerns for those who breathed in the smoke.
As of 9 a.m. the gray smoke was still visible and smelled of burning rubber, but crowds has dissipated and first responders had left the scene.
Dozens of emergency vehicles, firefighters going down the escalator, smell of burning rubber, and smoke in the tunnels. Just another day at metro! pic.twitter.com/9t5lj7oEhO
— Baris Tezgel (@BarisTezgel1) July 2, 2019
First responders were dispatched to the scene around 8:45 a.m. this morning to reports of smoke filling the tunnel.
Metro-tracking bot Metro Hero Alerts reported that a train went out of service at the Ballston station at 8:43 a.m. this morning and that riders disembarked the train at the station.
Outside, one commuter ditched Metro and was waiting on an Uber to get to work.
“I could smell it going down,” Ashley McMahon said of the smoke as she walked down the escalator to the tunnel earlier that morning. “There was a lot of people.”
— Maggie Urbanik (@maggieurbanik) July 2, 2019
Photo courtesy of Ashley McMahon
Real Estate Smoking Hot Near HQ2 — “Since Amazon announced in November its choice of Crystal City and Pentagon City, the median home sale price in that area has increased 17.7%, leaping to $655,000, and the typical home was placed under contract in just six days, down from 10 days last year, according to fresh data from real estate brokerage Redfin.” [Washington Business Journal, Axios, WTOP]
Marymount Names Tech-Oriented Interim Business Dean — “Tech expert and entrepreneur Jonathan Aberman is the new interim dean of Marymount University’s School of Business and Technology. Aberman replaces outgoing dean Marianne Ward-Peradoza and officially takes the reins of the school July 1.” [Washington Business Journal, PRNewswire]
Missing: Firefighter’s Keys — “A firefighter left his keys on the bumper of a fire truck while rushing to an emergency! If you happened to pick up this set of keys along Wilson Blvd from Ballston to 7 Corners, kindly return them to Fire Station 2!” [Twitter]
Water Main Work in Lyon Village — “Emergency Water Main Repairs: Crews are working on an 8-inch main at the 2800 block of Key Boulevard. Some 150 water customers could be affected. The street is detoured around the work site.” [Twitter]
Metro Summer Shutdown Underway — “After long lines and packed buses shortly after opening, commuters on Metro’s Yellow and Blue lines are seeing more frequent pick-ups but some traffic delays… Tuesday is the first work day that six stations on Metro’s Blue and Yellow lines south of Reagan National Airport are closed for platform repairs and other upgrades until Sept. 8.” [WTOP]
Photo: Tomb Sentinel in Thursday’s Storm — “On Thursday, Arlington was hit hard with rain and wind with gusts up to 70mph, but that didn’t stop one man from honoring the fallen. A Tomb Sentinel withstood torrential rains and wind gusts to honor the fallen at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.” [WJLA, Facebook]
Photo courtesy Peter Golkin
Several Blue Line trains barreled through Arlington Cemetery station without picking up passengers this past month as Metro gave little to no notice to riders.
Inbound Blue Line trains have not stopped at the station several times due to repairs, transit agency spokespeople told ARLnow, but riders waiting on the platform have few ways to learn they might as well have been waiting for Godot.
The trains have stranded passengers seven times since March 13, as seen by this reporter and according to alerts from transit tracker Metro Hero.
— Phoenix Robles (@detectedbeats) March 26, 2019
The only alert for riders waiting on the platform during a March 19 incident was a loudspeaker announcement which, according to tipsters, was unintelligible on the echoing platform.
Spokespeople for the transit agency told ARLnow that trains were directed to pass through the station to arrive faster at Rosslyn, and avoid an ongoing bottleneck caused by a “signal problem” at Stadium Armory station.
“Because the issue involved the junction where three lines diverge, fewer trains could get through the area, and the delays were starting to grow as more trains arrived,” said Metro spokesman Ian Jannetta.
To decrease the number of trains headed to the junction, Jannetta said Metro’s Rail Operations Control Center (ROCC) also directed Silver Line trains to turn back at Ballston. ROCC also directed three Blue Line trains to skip Arlington Cemetery and arrive earlier to Rosslyn and avoid bottlenecking with the rescheduled Orange Line train also arriving at Rosslyn.
Three more Westbound Blue Line trains have skipped Arlington Cemetery this week, one on Tuesday and two more today (Thursday.) Trains also skipped out on the station on March 13 and 18.
Westbound BL/Franconia-Springfield Train 405 may have passed through Arlington Cemetery without picking up passengers on the track 2 platform. (7:46am) #wmata
— MetroHero Alerts 🤖 (@metroheroalerts) March 28, 2019
The transit agency did post an alert that Blue, Silver, and Orange line riders may “experience minor delays when traveling through the work area” as upgrades are made to Stadium Armory until March 29.
The alert does not mention trains passing by the station, nor were there signs posted at the station by March 19.
Jannetta said passengers on the selected train were alerted two stops from the cemetery that the train would not be stopping there. He added that the transit agency’s reimbursement for late trips applies to anyone affected.
“Arlington Cemetery ridership during the AM commute is extremely light, which factored into the decision making process,” Jannetta told ARLnow. “On the other hand, the action benefited several hundred customers aboard trains approaching Rosslyn.”
Arlington Cemetery experiences the largest ridership increase of any Metro station during the Cherry Blossom season, per Metro’s now-defunct planning blog. Earlier this month, Metro cancelled some track work in Arlington in anticipation of the arrival of the tourists.
Metro is shutting down three Arlington stations on the Blue and Yellow lines this weekend, in order to allow for some major lighting improvements set to make each station substantially brighter.
The Pentagon, Pentagon City and Crystal City stops will all be closed both Saturday and Sunday (Jan. 12-13), WMATA announced last week, work that is sure to create substantial disruptions on both lines.
Metro plans to run Blue Line trains on its regular weekend schedule between the Franconia-Springfield and Reagan National Airport stations and between Arlington Cemetery and Largo Town Center each day, with free shuttle buses providing a bridge between the closed stations. After the cemetery closes at 7 p.m. each day, Blue Line service will end at the Rosslyn station.
As for the Yellow Line, Metro expects it will only run trains between the Huntington and National Airport stations, with free shuttle buses on that line too.
The exact details for the shuttle buses are as follows, per a WMATA press release:
- Blue Line Shuttle (No stop at National Airport) – every 5-10 minutes between Braddock Rd, Crystal City, Pentagon City, Pentagon, Rosslyn
- DC-Airport Express Shuttle – every 5-10 minutes between Reagan National Airport and L’Enfant Plaza Metro Station in Downtown DC
- Pentagon-Airport Shuttle – every 15 minutes between Reagan National Airport, Crystal City, Pentagon City, Pentagon only
Metro is warning anyone hoping to use the rail service and shuttle buses to allow an extra 30 minutes of travel time to reach their destinations this weekend.
Officials chose to kick off work this weekend because they’re counting on “lighter post-holiday travel” patterns, easing demand for service reaching DCA. Metro made a similar assumption back on Veteran’s Day in closing the National Airport station, only to see huge traffic snarls as frustrated commuters turned to the roads instead.
This latest construction project is aimed at installing new LED lights in all three stations, part of a $50 million project that involves lighting upgrades at all of Metro’s 48 underground stations. WMATA says that stations generally become about six times brighter after the new lights are installed.
The station closures will also let Metro “perform additional track work, including concrete grout pad replacement, installation of radio communication cables and tunnel leak mitigation” at all three locations.
The troubled transit system remains beset by questions of how to best complete needed track work while improving service and luring riders back to its trains. Metro leaders are proposing some key rush hour service increases in WMATA’s new budget, but it remains an open question whether Arlington and other Virginia localities will be able to help pay for those changes.
Photo via WMATA
Snow Coming This Weekend — Gas up the snowblowers: accumulating snow is likely this weekend. By county ordinance, all snowfall under 6 inches must be removed from sidewalks within 24 hours of the last flakes. That gets bumped up to 36 hours for 6 or more inches of snow. [Capital Weather Gang]
New ‘Best of Arlington’ List — The 2019 “Best of Arlington” list is in. Among food-related winners, Ambar was named Best Restaurant, Barley Mac was named Best for Date Night and Matt Hill of Liberty Tavern Group and Hungry was named Best Chef. [Arlington Magazine]
AWLA Dog Featured in People Magazine — “One of our AWLA alums, Lucy, is featured in People Magazine this week! Here’s the online article about her weight loss journey after being adopted — her owner helped her go from 26 lbs to 14 lbs.” [Twitter, People]
Case of the Disintegrating Coffee Cups — On four separate occasions, a Washington Business Journal reporter had a coffee cup from Compass Coffee in Rosslyn start to disintegrate and leak in her hand. The company says they were sent a bad batch of paper cups and are working to remove all of the faulty cups from their cafes. [Washington Business Journal]
Va. Legislature to Consider Housing Bills — “A new surge in development in parts of Northern Virginia could come next year under a proposal to overhaul 2016 proffer legislation in this year’s General Assembly… Another proposal would ban discrimination by local governments through land use decisions against low-income or other specific types of development.” [WTOP]
Power Issue at Ballston Metro Station — There are reports that power was out at the Ballston Metro station this morning, meaning no working elevators, escalators or fare kiosks, and only minimal lighting. [Twitter, Twitter]
Christmas Closures in Arlington — “Arlington County Government offices, courts and libraries will be closed on Mon., Dec. 24 and Tue., Dec. 25, 2018, for Christmas and on Tue., Jan. 1, 2019, for New Year’s Day. Courts will also be closed on Dec. 31, 2018, and libraries will close at 5 p.m. on Dec. 31.” [Arlington County]
Low-Income Workers Finding Metro Alternatives — “As Metro fares have risen, hours for train service have been cut and gentrification has made it more difficult for low-income workers to live near rail stations, workers making lower wages in Washington and in Arlington have become less likely to commute by transit… down 5 percent from the previous five years.” [Washington Post]
Arlington, Alexandria Firefighters Learning Yoga — “It’s a revolutionary training course helping firefighters cope [with] stress & sleep deprivation. One firefighter who was at the Pentagon on 9/11 says it helps him deal [with] the memory of that day.” [NBC Washington, Twitter]
Holiday Wrapping Paper Alternatives — Local designer Beth Singer, whose firm designed the ARLnow logo, has penned a new blog post just in time for the holidays: “Five Reasons I Will Never Buy Wrapping Paper Again.” [Beth Singer Design]
Eclectic Estate Sale Near Clarendon — “Looking for a one-of-a-kind gift for that special person? Are you a collector of unusual paintings, furniture, or sculpture? A curious browser of all things uncommon and quirky? You won’t want to miss this special estate sale, this weekend in Ashton Heights.” [Team Cathell]
Nearby: Amazon’s Effect on Chirilagua — “Between Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood and the Crystal City neighborhood of Arlington is a swath of land home to a vibrant Hispanic community… For many Chirilagua residents, Amazon’s arrival threatens the end of the community they love, bringing increased housing costs, new residents and creeping gentrification.” [NBC Washington]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
Murder Case Advances After Court Ruling — “The Maryland man charged with brutally killing his lover’s ex-boyfriend laid in wait at his Arlington town house before strangling, shooting and stabbing the man to death, prosecutors said.” On Monday, an Arlington judge “ruled there is probable cause [Jitesh] Patel killed 40-year-old John Giandoni in March 2018.” [WTOP]
Food Safety Tips for the Holidays — Arlington’s health department has compiled a list of safety tips for those cooking holiday meals at home. Regarding turkey, which has been blamed for a recent salmonella outbreak, the department notes that “food handling errors and inadequate cooking are the most common problems that lead to poultry-associated food-borne disease outbreaks in the United States.” [Arlington County]
Car Safety Tips for the Holidays — “This Thanksgiving season, the Arlington County Police Department is partnering with the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to share an important lifesaving reminder: whether you’re traveling across the country, or across the County, Buckle Up–Every Trip. Every Time.” [Arlington County]
Airport Tips for the Holidays — Per Reagan National Airport on Twitter: “Peak holiday travel continues today. Roadway delays are likely. To avoid congested roadways, use Metrorail. Or use Terminal Garages A, B or C for pick-up/drop-off and park for up to 60 minutes.” [Twitter]
Commuters Still Angry About Veterans Day Mess — Many who were stuck in traffic or waiting in long shuttle lines on Veterans Day are still not buying “Metro’s explanation that the day’s rain, and not Metro’s own planning, was the main culprit for what the agency acknowledged on Twitter was ‘a disastrous commute.'” [Washington Post]
Amazon News Roundup — A local think tank argues that “when put in the context of the Metro region’s history, the ‘Amazon effect’ is an unimpressive flare in the region’s chronic housing crisis.” One local urban planner thinks “Amazon choosing a second-tier city could have been more destructive.” Alexandria leaders say Amazon will be an “economic boom, not traffic nightmare.” Finally, there’s more information on the Amazon-fueled deals to build a second entrance to the new Potomac Yard Metro station and open a new Virginia Tech campus in Alexandria.
Flickr pool photo by Michael Coffman
Worker Rescued from Memorial Bridge — A man working on the Memorial Bridge rehabilitation project was injured this morning and transported to the hospital via fireboat and then ambulance. The injuries were reported to be non-life-threatening. [Twitter, Twitter, Twitter]
More Worries About Real Estate Prices Post-Amazon — “Amazon’s possible arrival in Northern Virginia and Queens, New York, has already sent shockwaves through surrounding real estate markets. Mara Gemond, a longtime Arlington, Virginia, realtor… Crystal City — until news broke that Amazon might be splitting its 50,000-employee second headquarters between there and Long Island City in New York. All of a sudden, the two-bedroom condo in a 1980s-era building that had been sitting on the market for nearly three months with no offers, even after a price cut, had a flood of interest.” [CNN, Washington Post, ARLnow]
Metro Closure Causes DCA Gridlock — The closure of the Crystal City and National Airport Metro stations prior to Friday’s evening rush hour, amid a rush to get out of town for the holiday weekend, caused gridlock around the airport, the GW Parkway, Route 1 and other nearby roads. Arlington County Police were dispatched to the area to help with traffic control. [NBC 4, Twitter, Greater Greater Washington]
Chamber Welcomes Amazon — Among those welcoming Amazon to Arlington is the Arlington Chamber of Commerce. “This addition to Arlington is a significant step toward enhancing and maintaining the strength of Arlington’s commercial sector and diversifying our economic base,” the Chamber said in a statement. [Arlington Chamber]
Restrictions for West Glebe Road Bridge Traffic — “A routine inspection of the bridge on West Glebe Road at South Four Mile Run has uncovered deterioration, which will require a vehicle weight restriction of 5-tons, and closure of the sidewalks in both directions. Because safety is the priority, the restrictions are effective immediately.” [Arlington County]
Marymount U Prez Dances with Local Stars — “Dr. Irma Becerra has many accomplishments to her name. Dancing is not one of them, but D.C.’s Dancing Stars Gala could soon change that. Marymount University’s new president is one of eight local celebrities who will vie for $10,000 [this past] Saturday when the annual fundraising competition is held at The Ritz-Carlton in Tysons Corner.” [Fairfax News]
Arlington Resident Buys Airline — Sanford Rederer, a resident of North Arlington and Sarasota, Florida, has purchased Florida-based Island Air Charters. [Business Observer]
Pictured above: Crystal City as it once was — building and wayfinding sign in 2011 (Flickr pool photo by Chris Reed)
As Metro’s leaders wrestle anew with the question of how to bring riders back to the troubled transit service, Northern Virginia officials are offering their own suggestions: focus on reliability, and create new fare card plans to entice riders.
In a new report to Gov. Ralph Northam and the General Assembly set to be considered tonight (Thursday), the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission plans to urge Metro to use those strategies to boost ridership, and put WMATA on sounder financial footing in the process.
The document is the first such set of recommendations delivered to state lawmakers from the regional transportation planners at the NVTC, as part of the new oversight powers the group won through legislation to provide Metro with dedicated state funding.
Notably, however, it does not include any recommendation that Metro increase service to bring back riders. The push for service boosts, long backed by transit advocates, has become a particularly hot topic in recent days, after the Washington Post uncovered an internal Metro report insisting that service changes are the surest way for reversing WMATA’s declining ridership.
Members of Metro’s Board of Directors, including Arlington County Board Vice Chair Christian Dorsey, expressed no such certainty on a path forward when questioned by the Post, and said they had no knowledge of the internal report on service increases. But the NVTC report represents a chance for regional leaders — including NVTC commissioners like Dorsey, County Board Chair Katie Cristol and Board member Libby Garvey — to offer some of their own thoughts on the matter to Metro and its overseers.
The group’s “2018 Report on the Performance and Condition of Metro” notes that just 79 percent of trains arrived at stations “at or close” to their scheduled times in fiscal year 2017, underscoring the NVTC’s recommendation that improving reliability should be WMATA’s prime long-term focus in bringing riders back to the service. To do so, NVTC expects the system will need to devote plenty of cash to capital projects.
The report deems the $500 million in annual dedicated funding that Metro will now receive from D.C., Maryland and Virginia “an invaluable tool” in achieving its maintenance goals. Even still, the group notes that Metro reported an “unconstrained capital need” of $25 billion in projects in 2016, and will need to focus on the area for years to come to catch up on many years worth of work.
In the short term, however, the NVTC recommends developing “new fare-pass products” to “ease the transit riding experience.”
Examples could include the expansion of passes designed for college students, or new partnerships with hotels and conventions “to provide fare products directly to visitors as a part of hotel and/or convention registration.” Metro’s internal report also cites the importance of developing new fare pass options, recommending strategies like offering shorter term passes and making all passes useable on both Metro trains and buses, but those options are listed firmly below the priority of increasing service.
Yet the NVTC expects that exploring those fare pass strategies would also improve fare collection and boost Metro’s coffers, another key point of emphasis of the NVTC report. The document suggests that Metro “develop the next generation of fare collection technology” in the long term, and test methods for “off-vehicle fare collection” on Metrobus routes to juice revenues.
The report also includes recommendations on how Metro can control costs, with a special focus on labor costs. With a new Government Accountability Office analysis of WMATA’s pension liabilities igniting new debates on Metro’s relationship with its unions, the NVTC is urging Metro’s board to consider private contracting in select situations and other collective bargaining tactics to keep labor costs down.
Metro only recently cooled tensions with its largest union, which briefly threatened a strike this summer.
Photo courtesy of Metro
The Metrorail system has been “rebuilding” for years and now has a dedicated stream of funding. On top of that, its general manager just received a big vote of confidence from the Metro board: a new contract and a sizable raise.
So why does Metro still kind of suck?
We talked about Paul Wiedefeld’s new contract, his adversarial relationship with Metro’s main union, the system’s new railcars and more — and tried to arrive at an explanation for why Metro is in its current state.