Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Construction Underway on Hospital Expansion — “Shovels are in the ground and buildings are coming down as Virginia Hospital Center embarks on the nitty-gritty of a three-year, quarter-billion-dollar expansion effort.” [InsideNova]

Marymount Launches Intrapreneurship Initiative — “Marymount University’s School of Business and Technology (SBT) has launched an initiative to address one of the most significant talent gaps in the greater Washington region – a shortage of graduates who are prepared to use entrepreneurial skills to help employers grow and meet the challenges of an ever-changing world.” [Press Release]

Courthouse Office Building Sold — “Another Arlington office building has traded hands with the buyer citing Amazon HQ2 as a reason for optimism.  American Real Estate Partners, in partnership with Rockwood Capital, announced Tuesday it acquired the Arlington Plaza office building at 2000 15th St. North.” [Bisnow]

Metro Seeking Feedback on Bus Changes — “Metro is proposing service changes to selected bus routes based on input from customers and local governments, to increase on-time performance and ridership, and respond to planning studies and market changes.” Changes are proposed for the 3Y, 7F and 7Y routes. [WMATA]

Why Hoskins Left for Fairfax — “Victor Hoskins may be done working on Amazon HQ2 in Arlington County, but he’s certainly not done talking about it. The former head of Arlington Economic Development, in an interview with Bisnow, cited post-Amazon fatigue as one of the reasons he decided to leave and take a new job as CEO of the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority. ” [Bisnow]

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(Updated at 5:25 p.m.) The Arlington County Fire Department is urging Metro to keep its Metrobuses from blocking fire hydrants in Pentagon City.

The call came after retired reporter, former volunteer firefighter, and fire service consultant Dave Statter tweeted videos and pictures for weeks of Metrobuses blocking two hydrants on S. Hayes Street outside the Pentagon City Metro station.

Blocking fire hydrants carries a $50 penalty in Virginia because getting around vehicles can delay firefighters in an emergency, as well as make it harder to ferry water to the fire.

“The best way to get water to a fire is a straight line from the hose,” Statter told ARLnow. “When it being blocked the pumper can’t get a good angle to the hydrant, or get can’t get to the hydrant.”

In response to Statter’s dogged chronicling of blocked hydrants, ACFD replied on Friday that “we are working with WMATA to address this issue of unattended buses in front of hydrants. Our Fire Marshals will be stepping up patrol and enforcement.”

ACFD spokesman Capt. Justin Tirelli told ARLnow today (Tuesday) that one of the hydrants was scheduled to be removed but was delayed due to construction. In the meantime, he said the fire department gave Metro permission for Metrobuses to load and unload passengers at the stop — provided the buses don’t stop in front of the hydrant for too long.

“At some point that message got lost in translations,” Tirelli noted.

Pictures Statter snapped at the hydrant last week showed two Metro supervisor SUVs parked in front of the bus.

“The worst part of today’s blocked hydrant was when the bus finally pulled away after at least 20 minutes,” he wrote. “The electronic sign showed the mission it was on — ‘Driver Training.'”

“At no time should buses block fire hydrants,” Metro spokesman Ian Jannetta told ARLnow.

“This policy is being reiterated to every Metrobus operator, and field supervisors are increasing their focus on Pentagon City to ensure proper procedures are being followed in bus layover areas,” said Jannetta in an email Tuesday afternoon. “Metro’s bus operators are trained and expected to comply with all traffic laws. We appreciate this matter being brought to our attention to ensure everyone’s safety.”

Statter also tweeted out a video of an out of service bus parked at the hydrant for 10 minutes back in August, writing that, “WMATA workers need breaks. They need to pee. They need to eat. But it shouldn’t be at the expense of safety.”

At the time, a spokeswoman for the transit agency told the Washington Post that its drivers should not be parking in front of hydrants.

“At bus terminals, operators are expected to use the proper layover bay and at no time should buses block fire hydrants,” spokeswoman Sherri Ly said. “If someone does see this we would ask that they report it.”

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Morning Notes

Water Main Break Near CourthouseUpdated at 8:10 a.m. — “Emergency Water Main Repairs: Crews working on a 3-inch main at 2000 N. Adams St. The area includes high-rise buildings and some 100 customers could be affected. Traffic is detoured around the work site.” [Twitter]

Gun, Drug Arrest at Pentagon City Metro — A man is facing a litany of gun and drug-related charges after being arrested by Metro Transit Police officers for alleged fare evasion at the Pentagon City station this past Thursday. [Twitter]

APS Hits Full Bus Driver Staffing — “The school year began with full staffing of drivers and bus attendants, who serve 18,000 eligible students over 154 routes, using 200 buses.” [InsideNova]

DCA Starbucks Closing Permanently — “Beginning on or about Monday, September 9, Starbucks on the Ticketing level of Terminal B/C will close to make way for construction of a steel-framed glass divider.” [Reagan National Airport]

New Permitting System Launches Today — “Arlington County is launching the first phase of Permit Arlington, a new online permitting system, on Sept. 9, 2019.” [Arlington County]

Nearby: Alexandria Metro Stations Reopening — “Alexandria Metrorail stations will reopen at 5 a.m. on September 9, with full service following Metro’s summer Platform Improvement Project. Metro closed all four Metrorail stations in Alexandria (as well as two in Fairfax County) for safety repairs on May 25.” [City of Alexandria]

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Morning Notes

Road Closures for 9/11 5K — “The 18th annual Arlington Police, Fire & Sheriff Memorial 9/11 5K race will take place on the evening of Saturday, September 7, 2019. The Arlington County Police Department will close several roadways around the Pentagon and in Crystal City to accommodate the event.” [Arlington County]

Pentagon, Rosslyn Rank Among Busiest Stations — “In Virginia, the Pentagon [Metro] station averages around 14,000 entries and exits each weekday, ranking it and Rosslyn ahead of Pentagon City, Crystal City, Ballston, Vienna and Wiehle-Reston East.” [WTOP]

Hotel Occupancy Rate Going Down — “Arlington’s year-over-year hotel-occupancy rate is down from 2017 for the first seven months of the year, but the average room rate is higher, according to new data.” [InsideNova]

Even Shirlington Feeling Amazon Glow — “It might be a bit of a stretch to call it proximate to the e-commerce and cloud computing company’s second home in Arlington County, but a Shirlington office building with future ‘Amazon HQ2 upside’ is being offered for sale.” [Washington Business Journal]

Startup Moving After Big Funding Round — After raising a new $51 million funding round, Arlington-based Federated Wireless is moving its 80-person team to a new 20,000+ square foot space at 4075 Wilson Blvd in Ballston. [Washington Business Journal]

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Morning Notes

‘American Idol’ Bus Spotted in Arlington — The “American Idol” audition tour bus was spotted near Crystal City yesterday morning. The bus is in the area for auditions in D.C. today. [Twitter]

State Change Affecting Arlington Teacher Union — “Arlington School Board members could be gearing up to battle the state government’s powerful Virginia Retirement System (VRS) on a new ruling that impacts the way benefits are calculated for presidents of the Arlington Education Association.” [InsideNova]

Planetarium Closing Next Year — “In September, the David M. Brown Planetarium will once again offer three shows a day for students, plus weekend and select weekday programs for the general public. In January, it will temporarily shut down for more than a year while an adjacent construction project converts the Arlington Education Center into classroom space.” [Arlington Magazine]

Arlington Startup Serving D.C. Schools — “The administration of Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) announced in August that the city would spend $26,400 to partner with LiveSafe, an Arlington, Va., tech company. The move comes in response to students’ repeated pleas to the city to make their commutes safer.” [Washington Post]

Ballston Bar’s Pricey Booze-Free Drinks — “The new Punch Bowl Social in Ballston Quarter mall was designed to cater to millennials (hello photo booths, corn hole, and karaoke). Now they’re jumping on the ‘sober-curious’ trend with a $19 zero-proof punch bowl.” [Washingtonian]

Local Courts Dropping Fare Evasion Cases — “When a rider is cited for not paying the fare to board a bus or train in Northern Virginia, the ticket is more likely to be dropped in the courts than paid. Only 278 of the 1,306 fare evasion citations handled by the Arlington, Fairfax and Alexandria general district courts between July 1, 2017, and June 30, 2019, were paid, according to court records. In those districts, roughly $38,000 in fare evasion fines have gone unpaid in the past two years.” [Washington Post]

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Morning Notes

Metro’s Fire Hydrant Problem — “A fire safety advocate and a D.C. firefighter took to social media Tuesday to criticize the transit agency after a Metrobus was spotted parked in front of a hydrant in Pentagon City for about 10 minutes. They also said it’s a chronic problem.” [Washington Post]

Va. Was Amazon Oasis After NYC Debacle — “In late January, Holly Sullivan, the head of world-wide development at Amazon, returned to Washington, D.C., where she and some colleagues dined with executives from JBG Smith, the real-estate firm managing the Arlington County site.. A JBG Smith official remarked that Amazon’s team looked like it had come from a war zone. ‘How much more space can we get in Virginia?’ one of the Amazon executives joked.” [Wall Street Journal, Twitter]

Ballston Office Building Sold — “Hines Interests LP has acquired Ballston’s Two Liberty Center” — where ARLnow has its offices — “from New York-based real estate investment management company Westbrook Partners for $93.2 million. Jones Lang LaSalle Inc. (NYSE: JLL) brokered the Aug. 20 sale of the 178,000-square foot, nine-story building.” [Washington Business Journal]

APS Expanding Healthy Lunch Options — “In 2017, Café + Teria was originally introduced to high school students attending Arlington, Virginia’s three public high schools, Wakefield, Yorktown and Washington-Lee. Due to the success at these schools in Arlington it will also expand to The Heights (the new home of H-B Woodlawn) and the Arlington… Career Center on September 3.” [Press Release]

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(Updated on 09/09/19) A Metrobus with a chemical leak that caused first responders to hospitalize the driver last week sickened a second driver after being placed back in service prematurely, union officials say.

An Arlington County Fire Department hazmat team responded to the Pentagon bus bay Thursday morning after the driver on Metrobus number 6360 reporting feeling sick and smelling a chemical odor.

“I proceeded on to 395 taking the Seminary Road exit to the HOV. As I proceeded that’s when the smell got stronger,” wrote the driver in a statement obtained by ARLnow. “As I am nearing the Pentagon, the smell continues to get stronger and a passenger begins coughing.”

The driver reported that passengers ran off the bus at Pentagon due to the “awful smell” and that she had a headache and was feeling a pain in her chest. When first responders arrived, she wrote, “I tried to explain the situation and then passed out.”

First responders said at the time they didn’t find anything hazardous on the bus, but did transport the driver to Virginia Hospital Center. A Metro spokesperson told ARLnow that they were not aware of a second problem after the morning incident.

“The bus was immediately shut off and taken out of service,” said WMATA spokeswoman Sherri Ly. “Upon inspection, an exhaust leak was identified and repairs made before the bus returned to service that evening. Metro did not receive any additional complaints that night and no further health issues have been substantiated.”

However, the union representing Metro employees, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 689, says a contracted bus garage in Lorton released the bus later that afternoon without fixing the problem — causing a second bus driver to feel ill.

“When leaving the yard I was coughing hard off fumes, and during the route passengers were also coughing,” the second driver said, according to a copy of the report obtained by ARLnow. (On Monday, a WMATA spokeswoman said they had not received a copy of the report.)

Union spokesman Brian Wivell said the afternoon driver is seeing a doctor and the morning driver visited the hospital again Monday for “follow-up work.” Another union representative said the morning driver “wasn’t in good condition at all” on Thursday and Friday and remained out of work Monday.

“We demand that Transdev respond to the safety concerns of its workers,” ATU Local 689 President Raymond Jackson said of the French company, to which Metro outsourced the management of the garage last year.

The union, which also bid on the contract, disputed Metro’s assertion that the garage contract saved money, and accused the transit agency of union busting. Since then, ATU has been locked in a bitter battle with Transdev over pay and working conditions, which recently boiled as members voted to authorize a strike.

“They’ve been raising alarm bells for months, flagging buses that have issues, and now a worker has gone to the hospital,” Jackson said of the Lorton garage. “This is the human cost of this company’s profits.”

Transdev did not respond to requests for comment.

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The majority of local leaders agree that Northern Virginia needs more affordable housing and bus transit — though they differ on the details.

Local leaders discussed issues ranging from housing to the area’s overall economic health during the Northern Virginia Regional Elected Leaders Summit co-hosted by several local chambers of commerce at George Mason University’s Arlington campus earlier today (Monday).

Affordable Housing

Arlington Board Chair Christian Dorsey said he was working with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments to develop a “policy overlay” to help guide affordable housing across the region.

“We have one,” said Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson. “It’s just entirely not deliberate, not coordinated, and not successful.”

Wilson and Dorsey both said that each jurisdiction has its own issues — like zoning for accessory dwelling units — but a guiding document could help align governments’ goals to fill the region’s growing housing need. One problem leaders believe is better solved together is how to build affordable housing that’s accessible to public transportation.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Vice Chair Penelope Gross said the skyrocketing price of housing near Metro stations bars the people who most need access to Metro from living nearby. Dorsey agreed that building affordable, transit-accessible housing was an important regional priority, and a better idea than building housing away from transit.

“We can’t just continue to grow housing and then try and build the supports with transportation infrastructure to meet where we built the housing,” said Dorsey. “That’s stupid.”

Phyllis Randall, Chair at Large of the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors, said she has tried to explain to constituents with kids that the people who benefit from affordable housing includes recent college graduates.

“I want them in the area,” she joked of her own children. “Not in my basement.”

Outgoing Prince William Board of County Supervisors Chair Corey Stewart, the only Republican on the stage Monday, was also the lone dissenter in that conversation. He pointed out that Prince William held a “disproportionate” share of affordable housing in the region, but still could not build enough because of restrictions on breaking up large, multi-acre lots that local leaders refused to amend.

“We need to let the private sector solve this problem,” he said.

Metro, Buses, and Shutdowns

Dorsey, who also sits on the WMATA Board of Directors, told the audience that the transit agency expects to conclude its Blue and Yellow line shutdown in Alexandria on time. That was welcome news for Alexandria’s leaders.

“It has been a difficult summer,” noted Wilson, who said that the silver lining of businesses hit hard by the shutdown is that more residents have been using the public bus system than ever.

Due to growing ridership this summer, the mayor announced Alexandria will extend its water taxi service to the Wharf through the December. The water, he said, was the region’s largest “untapped resource” when it came to transit development.

Gross and Dorsey both echoed support for more bus transit to help move more people and alleviate the region’s traffic woes, with Dorsey saying he wants “to see the attention to Metro’s buses that is paid to rail.”

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Metro removed a bus stop, citing Amazon’s planned HQ2 construction, but it’s not clear whether the transit agency told riders first.

Metro’s website now lists the stop at S. Eads Street and 15th Street S. as being out of service for the 7Y route, as well as the 7A and 7F Lincolnia lines, and the 10N line to Reagan National Airport. However, as of Thursday afternoon, the transit agency’s website still listed arrival times at the stop for buses with the Barcroft-South Fairlington Line (22A.)

The stop was reporting missing last week by rider Scudder Waag, who told ARLnow he rode his usual 7Y route from Alexandria to Pentagon last week with no problems.

“But on Thursday I pulled the cord because we’re going to get off the bus, but the driver just get going and I hollered, and other riders were hollering,” he said.

Ultimately,  the driver was able to drop passengers off on the entrance ramp to the newly renamed Richmond Highway, before the bus continued on into D.C.  Waag he said the new stop is further from his office, and while he can walk longer distances, not everyone has the ability to do so.

The transit agency initially told Waag it would replace the missing sign. Five days later, Metro replied replied that the “bus planning team informed us that the bus stop… has been temporarily abolished due to the construction of a new office building, which is expected to take 6-9 months.”

The Eads Street stop is located right where Amazon is currently constructing the two, 22-story office towers that make up the first phase of its new headquarters in Pentagon City — though the project is still early in the county’s approval process and months away from starting construction.

“As the WMATA RAC’s Virginia Co-Chair, it’s distressing to see this happening in the middle of the BL/YL shutdown in Alexandria,” said WMATA Riders’ Advisory Council (RAC) member Andrew Kierig, referring to the ongoing Metrorail shutdown. “The best solution would be to have temporarily relocate the stop instead of ‘abolishing’ it without warning.”

Waag, a senior associate for a private transit planning firm, has worked with Alexandria’s DASH bus service, as well as Richmond’s GRTC. He told ARLnow that changing schedules and alerts for bus stops is “phenomenally complicated and takes a ridiculous amount of time.”

“Overall my experience riding with WMATA most days is quite nice, and quite good,” said Waag. “That day was certainly strange.”

Making the matter more complicated is Metro’s own confusing communications with riders. The transit agency shared an advisory alert about the project this week that stated the station, “has been permanently closed, effective immediately” — contradicting their earlier tweet about the station only closing temporarily.

It’s also not clear when Metro posted that alert to the website. The alert is listed as being effective from July 15, however an archived copy of Metro’s website from July 17 shows no alerts regarding the staton.

Metro also deleted its Wednesday tweet which shared the advisory alert.

The transit agency did not respond for requests for more information in time for publication.

“As someone who works with APIs and is also personally interested in transit service schedule data APIs like this, I’m concerned that this continues to be an issue that WMATA isn’t making a priority,” said Kierig. “I’ve raised this question at multiple RAC meetings with bus planning staff in regards to the replacement shuttles on the Metrorail shutdown. I’ll continue to do whatever I can to get them to fix this particular thing.”

“Winning back ridership means fixing the service and reliability side but also having the communications infrastructure and quality to make people aware that WMATA is truly #Back2Good,” Kierig added.

Map via Google Maps

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Update at 9:55 a.m. — The issue has been resolved and Blue Line service resolved, Metro says, though residual delays remain.

Earlier: Metro riders are facing delays this morning due to a reported signal problem at the Rosslyn station.

Currently, Metro says the Blue Line is no longer running to Largo and shuttle buses are being requested to run from Rosslyn to the Pentagon. Service at Arlington Cemetery station is said to be suspended.

Delays have also been reported on the Orange, Silver and Blue lines since the problem was first reported around 8 a.m.

More via social media:

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Morning Notes

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]

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