Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Expensive Bike Parking Spaces — “Metro has spent nearly $20,000 per bike parking space at three bike facilities, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) has found. Metro has spent over $5.9 million on the construction of 304 bike spaces at the three facilities… located at the College Park, East Falls Church and Vienna Metro stations.” [NBC 4]

Short Waits to Vote in Arlington — “Eager to avoid waiting in line while casting an early ballot? Try to avoid peak times and you should be fine. ‘Wait times are minimal,’ said county elections chief Gretchen Reinemeyer, with the exception of early morning and occasionally at lunchtime. Other than that, voters have been experiencing waits of 10 minutes or less, and ‘most people are just walking straight in to vote,’ she said.” [InsideNova]

Voters Flocking to Ballot Drop-Boxes — “Arlington has set up nine dropboxes for the secure collection of ballots at points across the county, representing another option for those who neither want to vote in person nor wish to trust the U.S. Postal Service with their ballots. That network has proved ‘very popular,’ Arlington elections chief Gretchen Reinemeyer said.” [InsideNova]

Biden Leads in New Va. Poll — “Former vice president Joe Biden leads President Trump 52 percent to 41 percent among likely Virginia voters, according to a new Washington Post-Schar School poll — roughly double Hillary Clinton’s margin of victory in the state in 2016. Biden’s advantage cuts across most demographic groups, with regional strength in the Northern Virginia suburbs and the Richmond area.” [Washington Post]

Local Nonprofit Featured on GMA — “Lights, camera, action! We had a wonderful experience filming with the Good Morning America team last week. The piece aired early this morning… We were thrilled by an unexpected and very generous gift from Amazon.com to help our residents weather the pandemic.” [Facebook, Vimeo]

Police Investigation Bill Signed into Law — “Gov. Northam has signed my bill (HB 5072) to empower the Atty Gen to conduct ‘pattern or practice’ investigations of police forces that appear to be violating constitutional rights, such as patterns of excessive force, illegal searches, or racially biased policing.” [@Lopez4VA/Twitter]

Pupatella Now Available for Delivery — “UBER EATS Now available at all locations – DC (Dupont Circle), both the Original Wilson Blvd spot and South Arlington, as well as Richmond too! We’ve partnered up with UberEats to bring you some of the best pizza around.” [@PupatellaPizza/Twitter]

Local Beer Biz Figure Dies — “Ben Tolkan, a popular figure in DC’s beer industry who was the subject of a Washingtonian feature story, died late Saturday night after a five-and-a half-year battle with cancer. He was 37.” Tolkan is survived by his wife, Abby, an Arlington County public school teacher. [Washingtonian]

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Morning Notes

Study: Arlington Has Safest Drivers in Va. — The insurance website Insurify says Arlington has the safest drivers in Virginia. Drivers in the county “demonstrate exceptional dedication to their own safety and to the safety of others around them,” the website says. [Insurify]

Local Toll Lanes May Be Sold — “Transurban is selling off stakes in its US toll roads because it wants to strengthen its balance sheet… Transurban owns the 95 Express Lanes, 495 Express Lanes and 395 Express Lanes toll roads near the US capital, but traffic on the motorways has been hard hit by the pandemic… The Virginia assets have the longest concession periods of Transurban’s assets with asset lives out to 2087.” [Australian Financial Review]

Police Response at Va. Square Metro — Metro Transit Police and Arlington County Police responded to the Virginia Square Metro station last night for a person who jumped on the track bed. Orange and Silver Line trains were stopped in both directions while the person was taken into custody. [Twitter]

Arrest Made in Silver Line Sexual Assault — “Metro Transit Police today arrested the individual suspected of an attempted rape Tuesday, October 6 aboard a Silver Line train in Northern Virginia. Kendrie Roberts-Monticue, 21, of Reston, was taken into custody this morning at the home of a family member in Virginia.” [WMATA]

Metro Closure Planned in Early 2021 — “Arlington Cemetery and Addison Road stations will be closed for approximately three months for full platform replacement and station renovation… [During the work] Yellow Line trains will provide all trans-Potomac service for stations Pentagon and south.” [WMATA]

APS Getting More CARES Act Funding — “More than $220 million in federal coronavirus relief is headed to Virginia schools, according to an announcement from Gov. Ralph Northam on Thursday… Arlington County schools will receive $4.7 million.” [DCist]

‘Tiger King’ Star Indicted in Va.Updated at 8:30 a.m. — “Following an investigation by Attorney General Mark R. Herring’s animal law unit, Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, the owner of Myrtle Beach Safari, has been charged with one felony count of wildlife trafficking, one felony count of conspiracy to wildlife traffic, four misdemeanor counts of conspiracy to violate the Endangered Species Act, and nine misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty” [Press Release]

Flickr pool photo by Tom Mockler

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Morning Notes

Gold’s to Open Outdoor Workout Space — “Gym goers in Arlington, Virginia, will soon take spin classes on an open air training terrace instead of peddling away indoors. Gold’s Gym will open a turf-covered outdoor promenade for classes and training sessions at a new location that’s set to open over the Rosslyn Metro station in early 2021.” [NBC 4]

Beyer Blasts Trump Stimulus Decision — Before the president seemingly reversed his reversal, Rep. Don Beyer said in a statement: “President Trump’s stunning reversal on stimulus negotiations could not have come at a worse time. Just as a bipartisan deal to support American families, boost the economy, and fight the pandemic seemed increasingly promising, the President made the bewildering decision to walk away from talks completely.” [Press Release]

Sexual Assault on Silver Line — “An attacker tried to rape a woman Tuesday on a Metro train in Northern Virginia, the transit system said. The attack occurred about 11:35 a.m. on a Silver Line train between the McLean and East Falls Church stations, Metro said.” [Washington Post]

Water Work in Rock Spring — “Emergency Water Main Break: 4953 Little Falls Rd. Crews have been dispatched to the location. Little Falls Rd b/w Old Dominion and N Columbus St will be closed until about 12pm on 8/7.” [Twitter]

Arlington Man Attempting Major Feat — “Ashley set a goal of being the first kidney donor to complete the seven summits — climbing to the highest point in every continent. He climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, but his goal remains on pause because of the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on travel.” [RunWashington]

Local Events for Domestic Violence Awareness — “October 1 marks the beginning of Domestic Violence Awareness Month… In moving our awareness into action, Project PEACE is partnering with Northern Virginia regional domestic violence agencies to #PowerUpNoVA with free awareness and educational opportunities that spotlight less commonly recognized forms of abuse.” [Arlington County]

Update on Northam’s Symptoms — “Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam said this week that he has developed ‘mild’ symptoms of covid-19 more than a week after testing positive for the novel coronavirus, but he is continuing to conduct business remotely. ‘I had a little bit of cold-like symptoms over the weekend and lost my sense of taste or smell, but other than that, I feel fine,’ Northam (D) said Monday.” [Washington Post]

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What’s Next with Nicole is a biweekly opinion column. The views expressed are solely the author’s.

At the beginning of this month, Metro took a step into the 21st Century by allowing SmarTrip to be added to Apple Wallets.

A Google spokesperson also said they plan to roll out a Google Pay version later this year. This move has significant short term benefits, some improvements that are needed to improve equity, and in the long term will provide a significant boost to the efficiency of our entire bus system.

What will be improved right now

Customers save money: Do you even know the number of times you have lost your plastic SmarTrip? I have lost hundreds of dollars from misplaced SmarTrip cards over the years. When you lose your card you lose both the money you put on the card and the cost of the new plastic card. While there is an online option to save your SmarTrip number and connect employer benefits, many do not utilize this option. Having payment functions on your phone will save Metro customers big in the long run. 

Bus efficiency: To increase funds on SmarTrip cards for bus riders, riders usually have to do so while in line to get on the bus. Every time a bus rider has to add money to their card it averages 20 seconds of time per person, slowing down the bus route significantly. As fellow columnist, Chris Slatt, has mentioned, a quarter of bus travel time is spent boarding, and if you can halve that time you have sped up bus route speed by 12%. Allowing riders to update payment on their phone will increase bus speeds on every route in the county.

How tap-and-go tech can be more equitable 

Android capabilities: The average cost of an Android is lower than an iPhone, and ensuring that an Android rollout is successful will be key to achieving equity. While Google has stated they would like to roll out by the end of the year, Metro has said “it is coming,” and that definition is sometimes loosely defined by Metro. As a community we should hold feet to the fire to get a concrete timeline on when this capability will be rolled out.

Disability, UPass, & other reduced fare cards transferable funds: Reduced fare cards are not able to be used with this function yet. Only full fare and Senior SmarTrip cards are able to be transferred at this time. The reason we give people with disabilities, students, and others reduced fares is to have a more equitable transportation system. Ensuring these cardholders can transfer their funds is an obvious oversight that I hope can be addressed in a timely fashion.

Long-term infrastructure improvements

Columbia Pike & Route 1 off-board fare collection for Bus Rapid Transit (BRT): Off-board fare collection is a significant part of how to create time-saving BRT. In 2014 off-board fare collection had an anticipated 20 hours of time savings per day just along Columbia Pike from off-board fare collection.

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(Updated at 2 p.m.) All Metro service between Foggy Bottom and Clarendon has been suspended due to smoke in a Metro tunnel near the Courthouse station.

A large fire department response is on scene in Courthouse, investigating the issue. Riders are being evacuated from the Courthouse station, where a light haze was reported in the platform area.

Firefighters are looking into a possible electrical issue between the Rosslyn and Courthouse stations.

Simultaneously, a possible communications problem in the tunnels has been reported. Firefighters and the fire liaison at Metro’s rail control center are currently communicating on Arlington’s fire department response radio channel, however.

As of 11:30 a.m., about 45 minutes after the first dispatch, firefighters and Metro emergency response personnel were still on scene, trying to determine what, if anything, is on fire. An empty train is being brought in to help with the investigation. Around 12:45 p.m., firefighters were told that the issue is believed to be a burning electrical insulator.

As of 2 p.m., service on the Blue, Orange and Silver lines had been restored, according to Metro.

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The East Falls Church and Arlington Cemetery Metro stations are scheduled to reopen this weekend, WMATA says.

The transit agency announced that its planned outdoor platform reconstruction work along the Orange Line is “well ahead of schedule,” allowing East Falls Church and other stations to return to service.

The East Falls Church station will reopen Sunday, according to WMATA. It closed in March, at the outset of the pandemic, along with the Clarendon and Virginia Square stations — which reopened in June.

The Arlington Cemetery station is also set to reopen on Sunday, as Metro works to return rail service to pre-pandemic levels.

Also available to East Falls Church commuters: a new bike parking facility at the station, which cost around $2 million and was originally slated to be completed in 2015. Cyclists need to register online before using the “Bike and Ride” facility.

More on the reopenings from a WMATA press release:

With the project to reconstruct outdoor platforms at four Orange Line stations west of Ballston proceeding well ahead of schedule, Metro today announced that East Falls Church will reopen this Sunday, August 23. The early reopening of East Falls Church will follow yesterday’s ahead-of-schedule reopening of West Falls Church and the five Silver Line stations in Virginia. Rail service has returned to near pre-pandemic levels, and Metrobus service will increase dramatically beginning Sunday, August 23.

Also today, Metro announced that Arlington Cemetery Station, closed since March due to the Covid-19 pandemic, will also reopen on Sunday, leaving only two of Metrorail’s 91 stations – Vienna and Dunn Loring – that will remain closed for a few additional weeks.

Dunn Loring and Vienna will open Tuesday, September 8, marking the first time all Metrorail stations have been open since March 19 when Metro initiated strategic station and entrance closures as part of its comprehensive response to the public health emergency.

Returning Orange Line customers may notice ongoing construction activity even after stations reopen, as Metro’s commitment is to restore service on the first day it is safe for customers, which is often weeks earlier than a project’s completion date.

East Falls Church Station customers will benefit from the station’s new secure Bike & Ride facility that offers secured bicycle parking at no charge. To access the facility, customers must use a registered SmarTrip card and must first complete the online Bike & Ride registration form, available here.

Photo courtesy Elvert Barnes

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Morning Notes

Dorsey’s Union Check ‘Lost in the Mail’ — “The $10,000 donation that cost Metro board member Christian Dorsey his position was returned to the agency’s largest union five months ago, but the check was never cashed — because it was lost in the mail, Dorsey and the union said.” [Washington Post]

Opioid Overdoses Rise in Arlington — “Since the start of the year, nine individuals have recovered from opioid overdoses following the deployment of Nasal Naloxone (also known as Narcan) by responding officers. This comes as the number of police investigated incidents involving opioids begins to rise, with fatal incidents now surpassing those reported in 2019.” [Arlington County]

Crash in Crystal City Last Night — “ACPD on scene of an overturned vehicle and downed tree on Route 1 at 20th Street S. Two people self-extricated from the vehicle, reported to be a black Mercedes.” [Twitter]

Arlington Man Facing Child Porn Charges — “An Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force investigation by federal, state and local agencies has resulted in the arrest of an Arlington man. Detectives arrested Christopher Morse, 51, and charged him with five counts of Possession of Child Pornography.” [Arlington County]

5G Antennas to Be Deployed on Light PolesUpdated at 9:10 a.m. — “We are excited to share that a new 5G streetlight pole prototype is on display in Courthouse (southwest corner of 14th Street North and North Courthouse Road) until Aug. 7. ” [Twitter, Arlington County]

Differing Views on Trail Widenings — “Some who oppose NoVA Parks’ proposed W&OD Trail widening in Arlington, support widening the northern section of the Mt. Vernon Trail. Longtime bicycle activist Allen Muchnick says the proposed Mt. Vernon Trail widening is not really comparable to NoVA Parks’ proposed W&OD widening for multiple reasons.” [Audrey Clement]

Va. Real Estate Market Heating Up — “According to the June 2020 Home Sales Report released by Virginia REALTORS, home sales in most regions of Virginia are rebounding, following spring’s slowdown due to COVID-19. There were 13,176 home sales statewide in June 2020, up 0.5% from a year ago and up nearly 30% over May 2020 sales.” [Press Release]

Flickr pool photo by Cyrus W.

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A second entrance to the Crystal City Metro station is closer to becoming a reality.

Developer JBG Smith will be performing preliminary engineering work on the planned second entrance, under a public-private partnership approved by the Arlington County Board over the weekend.

JBG will receive around $3.5 million for the work, which is expected to wrap up by May 2021. That will allow the new eastern Metro entrance — near the intersection of 18th Street and Crystal Drive — to open prior to a 2025 deadline.

More from a county staff report:

This Project has been included in four consecutive Capital Improvement Plans (CIP), including the current Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 – 2028 CIP at a cost of $90.765 million CIP. The project was also included in the Crystal City Sector Plan update, adopted in 2010. Funding includes $82.5 million of federal and state transportation grants associated with the State’s Amazon commitment for transportation infrastructure. The project also has an existing $5 million NVTA regional grant. As part of the package, the County committed to complete the Project in FY25.

Under a proposed project schedule, the new entrance could open as early as late 2023.

The Board also on Saturday approved an agreement with WMATA to support the design process for the entrance project.

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Morning Notes

‘BLM’ on Fairlington Bridge Restored — Residents of the Fairlington area used ties to restore a Black Lives Matters message on the bridge over I-395 over the weekend. The letters “BLM” had previously been placed on the bridge’s fence but later removed by an unknown party. Also this weekend, below the BLM letters someone scrawled “Trump 2020,” but that was later covered and “Black Lives Matter” written over it in chalk. [Twitter]

ACPD Details De-Escalation Training — “In response to community questions, ACPD has created this fact sheet highlighting how we train officers to de-escalate incidents and safely resolve situations.” [Twitter]

Update to Jim Pebley Obit — Per an email from former county treasurer Frank O’Leary: “You will be pleased to hear that, due to the actions of former commanders of our County’s namesake ship, it appears that Commander Pebley’s ashes will be spread at sea by the USS ARLINGTON. This is a singular honor and reflects the high respect the Navy feels for Jim. Nothing less than he deserves. There is an old adage, ‘The Navy takes care of its own.’ Perhaps, the same can be said of Arlington.”

Candidates on the Arts — “Arlington County voters will go to the polls on July 7 to determine who will fill the County Board seat of the late Erik Gutshall. In order to help voters understand each candidate’s stand on the importance of arts and culture in the County, Embracing Arlington Arts sent out a questionnaire for the three candidates to complete covering several issues pertaining to the arts in Arlington.” [Press Release, Embracing Arlington Arts]

TTT Now Serving Unlimited Weekend Brunch — “There’s a new all-you-can eat brunch in town. TTT in Clarendon, which stands for Tacos, Tortas and Tequila, has joined its Street Guys Hospitality brethren, including beloved Ambar, in offering unlimited eats on weekend mornings.” [Northern Virginia Magazine]

Reminder: Metro Stations Back Open — “Metro plans to reopen the Clarendon and Virginia Square Metro stations in Arlington, starting Sunday.” [ARLnow]

Nearby: Fairfax Teachers Revolt — “A day after one of the nation’s largest school systems announced its proposal for fall learning, teachers within Fairfax County Public Schools rose in revolt and refused to teach in-person, as the plan demands, until officials revise their strategy.” [Washington Post]

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Metro plans to reopen the Clarendon and Virginia Square Metro stations in Arlington, starting Sunday.

The stations — along with 15 others throughout the Metrorail system — closed in late March as the pandemic caused ridership to plummet and Metro started rationing cleaning supplies. Most are set to reopen this weekend.

“Metro today announced that 15 rail stations that had been closed as part of the transit agency’s Covid-19 response will reopen on Sunday, June 28,” the transit agency said in a press release. “In addition, beginning Monday, June 28, buses will be added to the system’s 14 busiest bus lines to provide more capacity and more frequent service as the region reopens.”

“After Sunday, Arlington Cemetery will be the only Metrorail station without regular service, as Arlington National Cemetery is closed to the general public,” the press release notes.

Arlington’s East Falls Church Metro station, meanwhile, will remain closed to rail service and parking due to ongoing platform reconstruction work. Shuttle buses, however, will resume serving the East Falls Church, McLean and Greensboro stations on Sunday.

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Morning Notes

Rent Protest Today — Starting at the shopping center parking lot at 5001 Columbia Pike, a caravan of cars adorned with signs will travel to local apartment complexes to support “rent cancellation during this pandemic plus two months following the ability for community members to work and pay rent,” among other aims. The protest is being organized by La ColectiVA and other groups. [Facebook]

Animal Control Rescues Turtle from I-395 — “A few days ago, we got a call about a turtle very close to traffic on I-395. When Sgt Ballena arrived, he found a young snapping turtle who’s beak was fractured and bleeding. He took the turtle to Blue Ridge Wildlife Center, who will care for him until he can be released.” [Twitter]

Arlington Officers Injured During D.C. Protests — Despite an earlier comment by the police chief that no officers were injured, “a spokesperson for Arlington County Police told us, ‘one Arlington officer suffered a concussion and several others suffered bruises and abrasions.'” [WUSA 9]

Home Sales Downs, Prices Up — “May is usually one of the best months for housing sales, but the COVID-19 pandemic and a lack of listings sidelined many potential buyers. The D.C. area had its slowest May for sales in a decade. But more sellers stepped up from April and prices continue to rise year-over-year… The median price of what sold in Arlington County was $622,500, up 1.2% from last May.” [WTOP]

Could HQ2 Be Downsized? — Amazon prizes in-person interactions among employees, but there are still questions as to whether the company will proceed with the second phase of its 4+ million square foot permanent second headquarters in Pentagon City. [Washington Business Journal]

Orange Line Platform Work Moving Along — “Two weeks into the summer shutdown, construction activity is well underway at Vienna, Dunn Loring, West Falls Church and East Falls Church stations. So far, construction crews have focused on demolition work, including the removal of all tiles from the platforms, mezzanines and pedestrian bridges.” [WMATA]

Two Recent Drownings Near Chain Bridge — While D.C. Fire and EMS warns of dangerous waters near the Chain Bridge, the department said another grim discovery was made Thursday. “There have been 2 drownings in the past 3 weeks near Chain Bridge and a body was recovered today,” DCFEMS said. [Twitter]

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