(Updated at 5 p.m.) Metrobus has added real-time bus tracking displays to a bevy of its stops along Columbia Pike, one of many changes coming to the corridor’s bus service in the coming months.
The California-based company Connectpoint announced earlier this month that it’s working with WMATA to install the devices, which will display wait times for various buses, route maps and even alerts about service disruptions.
The new screens will be available at stops along the pike at the highway’s intersections with the following roads:
- S. Barton Street
- S. Carlin Springs Road
- S. Courthouse Road
- S. Four Mile Run Drive
- S. George Mason Drive
- S. Glebe Road
- S. Greenbrier Street
- S. Oakland Street
- S. Veitch Street
- S. Walter Reed Drive
The company says it will also install the displays at several stops around Annandale as well, for a total of 24 in all. Metro spokesman Ron Holzer told ARLnow four are already in place as part of a “pilot program” the transit agency is running, with the remaining displays to be installed “in the next two weeks.”
“If the pilot is successful, we hope to deploy signs at all Metrobus stops,” Holzer said.
Arlington transportation spokesman Eric Balliet added that WMATA first installed the technology as part of some long-awaited work to beef up bus service on the pike this summer.
For now, Balliet expects the devices will only display “next bus arrival times” for the Metrobus 16 line, the primary focus of service changes that started in late June.
However, Balliet added that the county “anticipates removing” the devices when it can finalize plans for new bus shelters on the pike. Those have been the subject of plenty of scrutiny over the years, particularly after one stop was revealed to have a price tag north of $1 million.
“The transit stations will include electronic information displays showing all bus services and multimodal options,” Balliet said.
The county put out a request for proposals for those pike bus stops in June, with the goal of starting work on five sometime this winter. Arlington hopes to eventually install 23 of the “transit stations” along the pike.
Photo courtesy of Connectpoint
Arlington County’s bus service saw another substantial dip in ridership this spring compared to the same time last year, new numbers provided to regional transportation planners show.
Arlington Transit recorded a 15 percent drop in riders in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2018, covering April through June, compared to the same period a year ago.
The latest figures forwarded to the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission show that the bus service recorded 745,850 passenger trips over that three month stretch, down from 874,695 a year ago.
That number is actually a 6.6 percent increase from ART’s ridership figures covering January through March. But those numbers were also disappointing ones for the bus service, as they represented a 17 percent drop from the same time period in 2017, meaning that ART has recorded ridership declines for the last two quarters in a row.
The latest ridership statistics represent an even steeper drop still from the same time period in 2016, when ART recorded 905,661 passenger trips — equivalent to a 17.6 percent decline.
These figures come as bus services nationwide cope with ridership declines, as the D.C. region as a whole struggles to convince riders to embrace public transit. The NVTC’s numbers also show that Metrobus ridership in Northern Virginia localities dipped by 9 percent this quarter compared to a year ago, though Metro ridership did tick slightly upward at most Arlington stations.
“The depth of erosion in bus ridership has been more than what we were expecting,” County Board Vice Chair Christian Dorsey previously told ARLnow. “As riders returned to Metro after SafeTrack, we would’ve expected a modest reduction, but it’s just been more substantial than we thought.”
The county has indeed previously blamed some of the decline in bus ridership on riders returning to Metro after the aforementioned intense rehab work, though the rail service has continued to deal with lengthy delays due to construction, which recently resulted in some riders embracing bus options this summer. Other potential culprits include the increasing popularity of ride-sharing or telecommuting.
Dorsey says the county’s approach to reversing that trend will remain the same as ever: “keep investing in places where people want to go.” He added that the county is also working to “refresh” some of its older ART buses, which could help lure riders back to the service.
“We’re investing in new coaches for greater comfort, which is always helpful,” Dorsey said. “When ART was introduced, one of the benefits that convinced people to move to the bus was they were cleaner and quieter. But as they’ve aged, that competitive advantage has declined. We just need to reinvest in ART a little bit.”
Vida Fitness Eyeing Second Arlington Gym — Vida Fitness has signed a letter of intent to open a gym and a “Sweatbox” boutique fitness studio in western Rosslyn, likely by the end of 2020. The company is expected to open its first Arlington location in Ballston in late 2019. [Washington Business Journal]
Beyer: If Impeachment Comes, It Must Be Bipartisan — “U.S. Rep. Don Beyer is no fan of Donald Trump. But he’s against moving forward with impeachment of the president unless it becomes a true bipartisan effort. ‘I don’t believe impeachment should ever be partisan – it should be done together,’ Beyer (D-8th) said at a campaign forum.” [InsideNova]
Warning About Swollen Streams — After an almost disastrous incident yesterday, the Arlington County Fire Department tweeted: “Remember, even a few inches of rushing water can be deceivingly powerful.” [Twitter]
Cemetery to Hold Expansion Dedication — “Arlington National Cemetery on Sept. 6 will formally dedicate a 27-acre expansion that will provide more than 27,000 additional burial spaces… The expansion will provide for 10,882 in-ground burial spaces and 16,400 above-ground niche spaces for cremated remains.” [InsideNova]
Mongolian School Fights Fee Increase Proposal — “The Arlington school system’s proposal to vastly increase rental fees charged to the non-profit Mongolian School of the National Capital Area has outraged supporters of the school and led to predictions it might have to close if the increase isn’t reduced or rescinded… The proposal to jump the facility-use charge to $28,000 a year would be ‘devastating to our children and hard-working families,’ said Jane Batsukh, president of the Mongolian School Parents Association.” [InsideNova]
New Metrorail Cars Coming — Metro has kicked off the procurement process for its next-generation 8000 series rail cars. The transit agency plans to purchase hundreds of such cars and to put them into service as soon as 2024. [WMATA]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
Metro’s dire warnings about the impacts of track work in the latter half of this month seem to have effectively pushed Arlington commuters onto local bus routes instead — though bike share services didn’t see a similar ridership boost.
With the rail service’s major rebuilding work on the Silver, Orange and Blue lines fading in the rearview, Arlington transportation officials say their data show that both Metrobus and Arlington Transit ridership saw substantial jumps during the construction from Aug. 11 through Aug. 26.
Metro itself recorded an 11 percent dip in ridership over that period when compared to figures from 2017, largely attributable to WMATA’s persistent urging that commuters only use rail service if they had “no other option” for the two-week period. And in Arlington, at least, it seems that commuters weren’t shy about turning to bus options instead.
The Metrobus 3Y line, which runs from stops along Lee Highway to D.C.’s Farragut Square, recorded the biggest ridership surge, according to county transportation spokesman Eric Balliet. He says the county’s initial data show a 97 percent increase in average weekday ridership compared to the weeks prior to the track work starting, shooting from an average of 413 riders each day to 815.
He added that Metrobus’ 38B line, running from Ballston to Farragut Square, recorded a 38 percent increase, with average daily ridership jumping from 3,001 people to 4,136. Balliet noted that the county requested that Metro provide additional service along those lines, as they run along the Orange and Silver stops most likely to be affected by the track work.
As for ART buses, Balliet says the 43 route (running between the Crystal City, Rosslyn and Courthouse Metro stations) recorded a 67 percent increase in average weekday riders compared to a year ago. Last August, the bus service saw an average of 1,022 people on those buses each day; this year, it jumped up to 1,706.
Similarly, he said the 42 line between Ballston and the Pentagon saw a 16 percent jump, from last year’s 1,068 riders per day to 1,241. He attributes those changes to the fact those ART lines “parallel the segment of the Blue Line that was closed during the track work.” Metro shut down service on the line between the Arlington National Cemetery stop and the line’s New Carrollton terminus.
Jim Larsen, the county’s commuter services bureau chief, pointed out that those numbers amounted to increases of anywhere from 599 to 1,000 riders each day between the two bus services.
“Now, if we can only keep them,” Larsen said.
A spokesman for the dockless electric scooter company Bird says the firm also saw “ridership grow consistently this summer as commuters sought new options to avoid delays on multiple lines,” but didn’t provide specific numbers.
The track work did not produce a similar ridership bump for bike-sharing in the county, however.
Compared to the same two-week period a year ago, the number of Capital Bikeshare trips originating in Arlington was “virtually the same, though down just a smidge,” according to Bike Arlington Director Henry Dunbar.
In all, the county’s stations recorded about 17,041 trips during the track work. From Aug. 12-27, 2017 the county saw 17,180 trips, Dunbar said.
Spokespeople for the ride-sharing companies Uber and Lyft did not respond to requests for comment on any ridership changes they observed during the track work.
Anecdotally, it would seem that the Metro construction inspired some commuters to turn to their cars rather than transit options. For instance, some ARLnow commenters mentioned hefty backups on the Key Bridge and 14th Street Bridge to make it into D.C. in the first place.
In all, 73 percent of the more than 1,400 respondents to an (admittedly unscientific) ARLnow poll on the issue said the Metro track work affected their commutes in some way.
Metro was even scheduled to do a bit more work on the Silver, Orange and Blue lines this weekend, prompting single-tracking through Rosslyn. However, it announced today (Thursday) it’d be abandoning those plans.
Metro Trains Misrouted in Arlington — “It’s been a rough few days for Metro and its customers. Riders on a Springfield-bound Blue Line train ended up at the Court House station on the Orange and Silver lines on Tuesday morning after the train took the wrong route. It wasn’t the first time. On Monday, a Silver Line train ended up at the Arlington Cemetery station on the Blue Line.” [Washington Post, NBC Washington]
Another Heat Advisory — Arlington is again under a heat advisory today, from noon to 8 p.m. “The heat and humidity may cause heat stress during outdoor exertion or extended exposure,” forecasters warn. [Weather.gov]
Remembering 9/11 — Firefighters “started preparing for this year’s remembrance of September 11th by putting up flags on the I-66 overpasses and the tower at the Fire Training Academy.” [Twitter]
Flickr pool photo by Rob Pegoraro
Road Closed Due to Downed Tree — Williamsburg Blvd is closed at N. Westmoreland Street due to a tree that fell overnight and took down several utility lines with it. Arlington’s emergency management office says the closure “may last through evening rush hour.” [Twitter]
Reminder: DUI Checkpoint Tonight — The Arlington County Police Department will conduct a sobriety checkpoint in an undisclosed location tonight. “Officers will stop all vehicles passing through the checkpoint and ask to see the licenses of drivers. Any driver suspected of operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol will be directed to a safe area off the roadway for further observation.” [Arlington County]
Metro Could Become Larger Financial Burden — “Metro expects to turn to state and local governments across the region to cover the costs of pay raises for workers an arbitration panel ordered last week, but the Metro Board chairman is warning of a more significant fiscal ‘ticking time bomb’ just over the horizon.” [WTOP]
Annual CivFed Candidate Forum Scheduled — “The unofficial kickoff to Arlington’s fall election season begins on Tuesday, Sept. 4, when the Arlington County Civic Federation holds its annual candidate forum. Candidates for 8th District U.S. House of Representatives, County Board and School Board have been invited to participate.” [InsideNova]
Basketball Player Punched at Gym — A man who plays professional basketball for LaVar Ball’s Junior Basketball Association says he was sucker punched while playing a pickup game at a Crystal City gym. [Fox 5]
One Hurt in Lee Highway Apartment Fire — A resident of a Lee Highway apartment building suffered burn injuries after a fire broke out in an apartment kitchen Wednesday morning. The fire was out by the time firefighters arrived on the scene. [Patch]
Flickr pool photo by Arlington VA
Flyover Planned Today — A flyover of Arlington National Cemetery, in support of a funeral, is scheduled for 3:15 p.m. today. [Twitter]
More Buses for Rosslyn Commuters — “After initially providing no additional backup options for riders during the Blue Line shutdown and major Orange and Silver Line work that began Aug. 11, Metro is now making some changes… Without much fanfare or notification to riders, Metro said this week it will add four additional Route 5A buses between Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride and Rosslyn and L’Enfant Plaza each morning.” [WTOP]
Rep. Jim Jordan Coming to Arlington Fundraiser — Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) will be the special guest at a fundraiser for Rep. Dave Brat (R-Va.) in Arlington next month. The fundraiser is being held Sept. 7 at Washington Golf and Country Club. Jordan has been in the news this summer over accusations that he turned a blind eye to the sexual abuse of wrestlers while an assistant coach at Ohio State. [TrailBlazer]
Ballston Apartment Building Sold — “The Ballston Place transaction… has closed with Akelius Residential AB buying the 382-unit apartment complex for $170 million, or $445,026 per unit.” [Globe St.]
Photo courtesy Patricia Kime
In the days leading up to Metro’s latest round of major track construction work, officials rolled out a series of grim warnings about what the work would mean for commuters on the Silver, Orange and Blue lines.
With the Blue Line completely shut down between Arlington Cemetery and D.C., and huge delays on the other two lines, Metro warned commuters to only choose the service if they didn’t have any other option. County Board Vice Chair Christian Dorsey even predicted “extreme crowding” and “incredible chaos” at station platforms along D.C.’s urban core.
Now, with the major track work set to last several more days yet before wrapping up Sunday, the question becomes: how accurate were those gloomy predictions?
Whether you’re a Metro rider braving those conditions, or looking to avoid them on a bus or in a car, we want to know: has the track work meaningfully impacted your commute since last Saturday (Aug. 11)?
Top Chef Alum Opening Clarendon Restaurant — “Former ‘Top Chef’ contestant Katsuji Tanabe, best known for his kosher taco spot MexiKosher in New York, will open his first restaurant in the D.C. area in Clarendon in September. Le Kon, whose name comes from the Japanese word for corn, is taking over the space previously occupied by Park Lane Tavern at 3227 Washington Blvd.” [Washington Business Journal]
Progress on Child Care Initiative — “The county government’s child-care initiative has been under way for a little over a year, focusing in large part on the existing barriers to increasing the supply of day-care providers in the county. Hurdles run the gamut from zoning and parking issues to qualifications and pay of teachers and other staff… Using the most recent data available, county officials estimate there were about 13,500 children under age 5 in Arlington in 2015, but only about half that number of available slots in day care.” [InsideNova]
Flyover Planned Today — A flyover of Arlington National Cemetery is planned to take place at 9:15 a.m. today. [Twitter]
White Supremacist Train Runs Through Arlington — A small group of white supremacists rode Metro from the Vienna station, through Arlington, before arriving in D.C. for a rally. Police tried to keep the group separated from a much larger group of anti-hate protesters, prompting some complaints about the white supremacists having their own “private” Metrorail car, though a reporter was able to board their train car at Clarendon without issue. [Twitter, Twitter]
W&OD Railroad Stopped Running 50 Years Ago — The Washington & Old Dominion Railroad stopped running 50 years ago this month, after 130 years of service. The former rail line was later acquired by the regional park authority and converted into the current W&OD Trail, which runs from Arlington to rural Loudoun County. [InsideNova]
Reminder: Major Metro Work — “Starting Saturday (Aug. 11) and running through Aug. 26, Metro will shut down the Blue Line completely starting at the Arlington Cemetery station, and single-track between the McPherson Square and Smithsonian stations. Officials expect that will result in 20-minute headways on the Orange and Silver lines ‘at all times,’ and it’s urging riders to ‘only use Metrorail if you have no other option.'” [ARLnow, Twitter]
County Twitter Account Pokes Fun at Metro — Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services tweeted yesterday: “As a courtesy, the C&O Canal-Alexandria Canal system will be reopen to traffic. Note: two-mule minimum per team.” [Twitter]
Photo courtesy Jeremy Galliani
As white supremacists prepare to march through D.C. this weekend, on the first anniversary of last year’s violent rally in Charlottesville, an Arlington college student hopes to match every step they take through the city by raising money to push back on hate.
Allison Herrity, a Washington-Lee graduate and a rising junior at George Washington University, kicked off the “Stomp Out Hate Walk-A-Thon” ahead of the “Unite the Right 2” rally coming to the city Saturday (Aug. 11).
While the white nationalists participating in the event, led by many of the organizers of the deadly demonstration in Charlottesville, may very well be outnumbered by counter-protesters, Herrity and fellow GW student Kendall Keelen say they wanted to find some way for people across the region to show their opposition to “Unite the Right” without actually heading into D.C. this weekend.
“We see this as a way for individuals who are unable to protest physically for a variety of reasons to make it clear that the actions of these white nationalists are not okay, and will not be accepted here or anywhere,” Herrity told ARLnow via email.
Herrity, who grew up in Ashton Heights and still lives in Arlington, says the proceeds of the fundraiser will go to the Southern Poverty Law Center, a legal advocacy organization dedicated to monitoring hate groups across the country. Herrity and Keelen will accept donations of any size, but the online fundraising site they’ve set up gives people the option to donate “per step” that the rally-goers take through D.C.
They estimate that the group will take roughly 1,700 steps if all goes according to plan and they march from the Foggy Bottom Metro station to Lafayette Park. Herrity said she was inspired by people in the German town of Wunsiedel, who similarly donated money to an anti-extremist organization for every meter neo-Nazi demonstrators marched through the town.
“We would have done a per mile pledge, but the protesters will not even be walking a mile,” Herrity and Keelen wrote on the fundraising page. “But hey, carrying around all that hate must be exhausting.”
So far, the pair have managed to raise just under $1,000, and they’ve set a $5,000 goal for the effort.
Photo via MightyCause
Local Leaders Brace for White Supremacist Rally Sunday — “Unite the Right 2,” stemming from last year’s violent demonstration in Charlottesville, comes to D.C. this weekend. Counter-protesters are are set to greet participants, who plan to march from the Foggy Bottom Metro station to Lafayette Park. D.C. and Virginia officials alike have heightened emergency precautions, particularly around Metro stations, as rally participants plan to ride from Vienna into the city. [WTOP]
Federal Court Rejects Airplane Noise Appeal — Some D.C. residents suing over noise generated by Reagan National Airport, a contentious issue among Arlingtonians as well, now have only the U.S. Supreme Court to turn to, after an appeals court tossed out their case last month. Maryland’s attorney general is pursuing a similar case, targeting noise from BWI. [Washington Post]
El Salvadorian Residents Face an Uncertain Future — The Trump administration’s decision to rescind “temporary protected status” for immigrants from El Salvador means that many who’ve settled around Northern Virginia and D.C. are left wondering what comes next. [Washington City Paper]
Korean War Veteran’s Belongings Return to Arlington — Nearly 68 years after an Army medic disappeared in North Korea, the Pentagon arranged an emotional reunion with some of his possessions for his family at a Crystal City hotel. [Washington Post]
Photo via @thelastfc
Metro officials are sending an unusual, and perhaps alarming, message to commuters ahead of two weeks of major construction on the Silver, Orange and Blue lines: stay away, if you can.
Starting Saturday (Aug. 11) and running through Aug. 26, Metro will shut down the Blue Line completely starting at the Arlington Cemetery station, and single-track between the McPherson Square and Smithsonian stations. Officials expect that will result in 20-minute headways on the Orange and Silver lines “at all times,” and it’s urging riders to “only use Metrorail if you have no other option.”
That’s sure to create huge headaches for commuters all over Arlington, but county officials say there just isn’t much they can do to mitigate the impact of the track work.
“There’s just no way we can replace the capacity that’s going to be lost,” County Board Vice Chair Christian Dorsey, who also serves on Metro’s Board of Directors, told ARLnow. “There are alternatives, but the only way this is really going to work is if people who can and are able to find alternatives, do so.”
Dorsey suggested that some commuters could turn to Metrobus, or perhaps to Arlington Transit — Metro recommends ART’s 42 line between Ballston and the Pentagon and the 43 line between Courthouse and Crystal City, as both could help commuters transfer to the Yellow Line, which will have some enhanced service.
Dorsey added that the county will be able to bump up service on some ART routes reaching the city, but only slightly, noting “we just don’t have enough buses to be deployed” to fully compensate for the construction work.
Fundamentally, however, Dorsey expects “extreme crowding” and “incredible chaos” at Metro stations in D.C.’s urban core, particularly during the first few days of the track work before commuters fully adjust. That’s why he’d rather see people turn to teleworking, if possible, or adjust their commutes to arrive in D.C. a bit later than normal.
“We want to make sure to level-set expectations, and let them know that getting them there within an acceptable time frame not going to be possible,” Dorsey said. “But this is being done with the expectation, too, that fewer people will be affected at this time of the year.”
Yet some of Metro’s (many) critics suggest that WMATA isn’t doing all it could to make life easier for commuters as the work gets going. Stephen Repetski, a close Metro observer and contributor at Greater Greater Washington, has suggested that WMATA could “turn back” trains at select Silver, Orange and Blue stations, in order to ease the pain at stations outside of the work zone.
In particular, Repetski believes Metro could reverse trains at Arlington stations like Ballston or Clarendon, which would be a boon for county commuters. He argues that failing to do so “will result in severe, and unnecessary, service cuts for riders.”
Places where #wmata could turn Orange/Silver trains to provide more service outside of the single-tracking area:
– Foggy Bottom
– Eastern Market
– Stadium Armory
Not all are desirable locations, but all are feasible.
— Metro Reasons (@MetroReasons) August 5, 2018
But Metro spokeswoman Sherri Ly wrote in an email that turning back trains at Ballston, Clarendon, Foggy Bottom or stations in the eastern half of the city “would not address the capacity issues in the downtown core, requiring customers traveling to/from downtown D.C. to offload and board already crowded trains.”
“In this scenario, it could create dangerous crowding conditions on platforms as trains would likely be too crowded for customers to board,” Ly wrote.
As for McPherson Square and Smithsonian, Ly says “the location of the work zone” makes turning trains around at the stations a real challenge.
“The work zone…extends beyond the platform at both McPherson Square and Federal Triangle,” Ly wrote. “Turning a train would block trains coming through the single track, while a train offloads and turns back. For service efficiency, we would need both platforms to turn trains back.”
All those specifics aside, Dorsey reiterates that two solutions remain the simplest for commuters: “Either don’t ride, or temper your expectations.”
“If you’re able to do one or both, then you’ll be fine,” Dorsey said.
Police are searching the area around the Courthouse Metro station for a suspect who reportedly threatened another rider on a Metro train with a weapon.
The incident happened around 1:30 p.m. Arlington County Police and Metro Transit Police are on the scene, trying to get to the bottom of what happened. According to initial reports, the suspect was armed with either a gun or a knife and is still at large.
A photo (below) shared by a Twitter user and retweeted by the account Unsuck DC Metro shows a police officer with a gun drawn and a woman with her hands in the air at the station.
— Kyle Cotner (@kylecotner) August 1, 2018
Flash Flood Watch Remains, Though Rain is Subsiding — Weather watchers warn that a risk of floods remains through this afternoon, but things are set to get steadily dryer as Thursday and Friday get closer. [NWS]
Are Tolls Worth It on Virginia’s HOT Lanes? — A new study shows it’s a bit of a mixed bag for commuters, though anyone hopping on I-66 instead of Route 29 or Route 50 is probably getting their money’s worth. Researchers don’t see those arterial roads as viable alternatives, given the time savings 66 still offers during rush hour. [WTOP]
Metro Remains Less-Than-Ideal for Blind Riders — Months after a blind woman fell off a platform due to problems with Metro’s new 7000-series trains, the transit service is still scrambling to improve conditions for the visually impaired. [Washington Post]
Nearby: A Tornado Touched Down Near Thomas Jefferson High School — Officials believe a twister made a roughly one-minute-long appearance near the school, around the border of Alexandria and Annandale. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo via wolfkann
Weekend Rain Intensifies, Prompts Flood Watch — As if this weekend’s downpours weren’t enough, there’s now a flash flood watch in effect for Arlington and much of the rest of the D.C. region through late tonight. That seems to be the theme for much of the upcoming week’s forecast. [Twitter, Washington Post]
Amazon HQ2 Contest Sparks New Levels of Regional Cooperation — That’s what economic development officials from Arlington, D.C. and Montgomery County, Maryland say. The Metro funding deal, negotiated across three different governments, represents some of that cooperation, but will that spirit last if Amazon doesn’t pick the D.C. region? [Washington Business Journal]
Yorktown Alum Bound for South Africa — Drew Kiser will make the trip with some help from a Fulbright U.S. Student Program English Teaching Assistant award and the State Department. He’ll teach English at a high school “as part of a project to promote literacy among developing nations, as well as educating youth about LGBT identity.” [InsideNova]