Press Club

Morning Notes

The sky is reflected off glass office windows in Ballston (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

It’s Bike to Work Day — “Bike to Work Day is back… This free event is open to everyone. Arlington will have ten pit stops and BikeArlington will host five pit stops in Rosslyn, Ballston, Columbia Pike, Shirlington, and Clarendon.” [BikeArlington]

Unleashed Dog Leads to Bluemont Brandishing — “At approximately 4:45 p.m. on May 18, police were dispatched to a report of a person with a gun. Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was walking in the area when an unleashed dog ran towards him while barking. A verbal dispute ensued between the victim and dog owner, during which the suspect, who is known to the dog owner, became involved. The victim continued on his route, during which the suspect reapproached and allegedly brandished a firearm and threatened the victim.” [ACPD]

Metro Restoring Some 7000-Series Cars — “A seven-month train shortage that has brought lengthy waits for commuters is closer to ending after Metrorail’s oversight agency approved a request to reinstate some rail cars that were pulled from service because of a rare wheel defect. Transit officials submitted a plan to the Washington Metrorail Safety Commission to restore a limited number of 7000-series cars.” [Washington Post, WMATA]

Slight Increase in Homeless Population — “Though down by more than half compared to a decade ago, Arlington’s homeless total rose from 2021 to 2022, according to new data. ‘There’s work to do,’ said Arlington County Board member Matt de Ferranti, parsing the new data during the May 17 board meeting. The… homeless count (conducted Jan. 26 with data recently released) revealed a total of 182 people living in shelters and on the streets in Arlington, up 6 percent from 171 a year before.” [Sun Gazette]

Op-Ed: Arlington Could Be National Model — “Arlington’s Missing Middle draft framework is extremely ambitious and might serve as a model for the entire country if the county board gets the policy details right to enable new construction.” [GGWash]

Group: ‘Missing Middle’ is ‘War’ — “With the release of the Missing Middle Phase Two Report on April 28, and the accompanying consultant analysis, the county is declaring war on single-family areas of Arlington… Developers, who have essentially run out of room among our 26 square miles, have pushed for Missing Middle up-zoning that will be politically and legally impossible to unwind, even if it falls short of stated goals or produces negative results.” [Arlingtonians for Our Sustainable Future]

Big Development Kicks Off in F.C. — “West Falls, a major mixed-use development near the West Falls Church Metro station, broke ground Thursday, less than a week after the development team closed on $391 million of financing. In this first phase of its long-planned development, the project, spearheaded by D.C.-based Hoffman & Associates and joined by real estate giant Trammell Crow Co., will comprise five buildings totaling about 1.2 million square feet.” [Washington Business Journal, Patch]y

Veep Coming to Falls Church — “Kamala Harris coming to [Meridian High School in Falls Church] tomorrow to talk electric school buses? The school didn’t name Harris in an email to parents about the event tomorrow, but they said it will stream live at [whitehouse.gov].” The event is scheduled for 3:40 p.m., which means motorcades through Arlington are likely this afternoon. [Twitter]

Plan for Yellow Line Bridge Work — “The City of Alexandria is preparing for a Yellow Line shutdown in Alexandria later this year due to bridge and tunnel rehabilitation and bringing the Potomac Yard Metro station into the system… Blue Line trains will be running frequently from the airport with a replacement ‘Yellow Line’ route running to New Carrollton during the September-October.” [ALXnow]

It’s Friday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 90 and low of 65. Sunrise at 5:53 am and sunset at 8:20 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Arlington County staff present the details of County Manager Mark Schwartz’s $3.9 billion CIP for 2023-32 (via Arlington County)

From a new Columbia Pike library to a dedicated pickleball court, County Manager Mark Schwartz’s proposed 10-year $3.9 billion capital improvement plan would fund projects across Arlington.

The first 10-year plan for capital projects in four years would budget for infrastructure projects between 2023 and 2032. The CIP proposal, slated for adoption in July, is a 40% increase from the plan approved four years ago, Schwartz said in his presentation to the County Board Tuesday.

“This CIP proposal aims to address current and future capital needs in Arlington County as we emerge from the financial setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Schwartz said in a statement. “We want to focus on key planned investments in addition to following through on commitments from prior plans to benefit county residents and businesses long-term.”

Stormwater projects would receive $331.3 million in funding, including $77 million for Spout Run, $14.7 million for Torreyson Run, $28.5 million for Crossman Run and $49.5 million for Lubber Run — all flood mitigation efforts. Streams and water quality funding is proposed at $52.1 million and maintenance at $50.2 million.

A slideshow outlining what Arlington’s investment in environmental goals looks like in the 2023-32 CIP (via Arlington County)

While Metro remains one of the largest investments in the CIP, at $356.4 million, the proposal also outlines $1.8 billion in non-Metro transportation funding. This includes $16 million for Vision Zero street safety improvements program, $64 million for bridge replacements and renovations, and $89 million for bike and walk programs.

Other highlights include:

The proposed CIP includes new park programs that focus on emerging needs and natural resiliency, a new fire station on the west end of Columbia Pike, and facilities consolidation to enable remote work for county staff.

Schwartz said the needs of the county have changed since the last 10-year CIP, as the county is in “a world shaped by the pandemic where we do our business differently.”

Michelle Cowan, deputy county manager overseeing the Department of Management and Finance, noted during the presentation that the finance department works entirely remotely now, potentially a harbinger of a money-saving reduction in the county’s office footprint.

“We have reduced our footprint which… allows us then to do some really strategic consolidations that you’ll hear about in other county buildings that could get us out of some aging assets,” Cowan said.

The CIP will continue to fund debt service obligations for the investment in housing at Barcroft Apartments, construction of Fire Station 8, which is scheduled to be completed in fall 2023, and the design and planning process for the proposed Arlington boathouse.

Preliminary construction funding for the lower boathouse site is included in the later years of the CIP.

This CIP returns funding levels for the Arlington Neighborhoods Program, formerly the Neighborhood Conservation Program, which are projects identified by individual neighborhoods and include street improvements, streetlights, parks, beautification and sidewalks. The program had steep cuts in previous CIPs.

The 2023-32 CIP proposal would provide $85.2 million in funding to the program. That includes $4 million of funding for projects in fiscal years 2023 and 2024, and would increase to $9 million in 2030 and 2031, Director of Management and Finance Maria Meredith said.

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Morning Notes

The U.S. Air Force Memorial and surrounding construction at twilight (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Cristol Calls Out Displacement ‘Lie’ — “Time will tell, as it always does, but Arlington elected officials say the public and some activists are mistaken if they believe there will be wholesale displacement of residents of the Barcroft Apartments complex in South Arlington. At a May 14 meeting, County Board Chairman Katie Cristol – not one normally known for getting rattled while on the dais – decried as a ‘lie’ the displacement rumors at the sprawling, 1,334-unit apartment complex.” [Sun Gazette]

Crash Last Night on GW Parkway — From Alan Henney: “Another auto went over the wall on the northbound side of the GW Pky prior to the Key Bridge in Arlington. Amazingly driver is out uninjured after his auto slid down the embankment.” [Twitter]

Marymount University Commencement — From Princess Reema bint Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S.: “It was my tremendous privilege to give the commencement at @marymountu, a university that like many around the U.S. hosts Saudi students. It was my absolute honor to receive an honorary doctorate, thank you to the faculty and Dr. Becerra for this special day.” [Twitter, Sun Gazette]

Metro CEO and COO Resign — “The WMATA Board of Directors has accepted Paul Wiedefeld’s decision to make his retirement effective today. In addition, Chief Operating Officer Joe Leader has resigned, effective immediately.” [WMATA, DCist]

New Skyline Development Proposal — “Madison Marquette has filed plans to convert two Baileys Crossroads office building into live/work lofts, advancing a vision to resuscitate the huge multibuilding cluster known as Skyline Center. By repurposing the mostly emptied office spaces — which meet planning and code requirements to serve as apartments and/or offices for small firms — Skyline can once again become ‘the gravitational center for the area.'” [Washington Business Journal]

Body Cams for Falls Church Police — “Police officers with the City of Falls Church will now be equipped with body-worn cameras beginning this month.” [WJLA, City of Falls Church]

It’s Tuesday — Clear throughout the day. High of 77 and low of 59. Sunrise at 5:55 am and sunset at 8:17 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

Metro Delays Due to Safety Snafu — “Metro’s Chief Safety Officer reports that nearly half of Metro’s 500 rail operators have lapsed recertification… In consultation with the Board of Directors, Metro management is taking immediate corrective action to remove from service 72 train operators who became out of compliance prior to May 2021. This will result in a temporary reduction in Green and Yellow line service from every 15 minutes to every 20 minutes due to an operator shortage.” [WMATA]

APS Changes Bell Schedules — “The School Board in Arlington, Virginia, voted to lengthen the school day by a little less than 10 minutes and to rearrange school start and end times in the first change to the county school system’s bell schedule in more than two decades. At its Thursday meeting, the board unanimously voted in favor of the adjustments.” [WTOP]

Psaki Spat With Arlington GOP — Outgoing White House Press Secretary (and Arlington resident) Jen Psaki “acknowledged that there have been instances in which she shared information with the Secret Service about threats… She said that no one has physically come to her home, but added, ‘There is a circulation of my address among the Arlington Republican Party.’ The Arlington GOP in a statement to The Hill said it ‘has not publicly disseminated any Biden Administration official’s home address.'” [The Hill]

Rosslyn Tunnel Congestion Revisited — “The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) is pressing leadership of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority not to forget about congestion at the Rosslyn tunnel. In a May 6 letter to (outgoing) Metro general manager Paul Wiedefeld, NVTC chair Carek Aguirre urged the transit agency to ‘recognize the strategic importance of moving swiftly to design a solution to relieve train congestion’ at the tunnel.” [Sun Gazette]

Wakefield Rowing Storms State Tourney — “At Saturday’s regatta… the Warriors stood just as deep as any other school on the Occoquan River and stepped into the dynasty conversation themselves, with the boys’ and girls’ top varsity eight boats each rowing to titles.” [Washington Post, Twitter]

Trucker Protest Returning — “The People’s Convoy is slated to be in D.C. by Tuesday, as they’re currently in Ohio. Further, a convoy leader tonight took to the microphone to try and squash fear over being hit with eggs in the city, saying: ‘I happen to like eggs.'” [Twitter]

DCA Using UV to Zap Covid — “Reagan National and Dulles International airports now have ultraviolet disinfection technology to combat the spread of viruses including Covid… The airports authority’s statement of work specifically called for the technology to disinfect the air in 39 spaces at National and 73 spaces at Dulles, including ticketing and baggage claim areas, security checkpoints, transit platforms and gate hold rooms.” [Washington Business Journal]

Local Real Estate is Really Expensive — “There may be an end in sight at some point for rising single-family home values in Arlington. But so far, it hasn’t been reached. The average sales price of the 100 single-family properties that went to closing in April was $1,348,813. That’s up 14.5 percent from a year before.” [Sun Gazette]

Missing Falls Church Teen — “City of Falls Church Police seek information to help a teen return home. Abigail… is 16 years old and was last seen at her home in the City at about 3 a.m. on Sunday after an argument with family. Abigail is about 5 feet tall, has black brown hair and a nose ring.” [City of Falls Church]

It’s Monday — Rain and storms, some severe, in the afternoon and evening. High of 77 and low of 64. Sunrise at 5:56 am and sunset at 8:16 pm. [Weather.gov]

Photos courtesy Will Wiard, Geoff Collins, Dave Statter and Kelly Harrington

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Morning Notes

Pigeons hanging out in Rosslyn’s Freedom Park (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Bus Crash in Front of Hospital  — “At approximately 1:52 p.m., police were dispatched to the report of a two vehicle crash involving an ART bus in the 1600 block of N. George Mason Drive. The driver of the other involved vehicle has been transported to the hospital for medical evaluation. Police remain on scene investigating the cause of the crash.” [Twitter]

Civ Fed Proposes Board Changes — “A task force empaneled by the Arlington County Civic Federation has proposed a somewhat radical reconfiguration of County Board and School Board elections… The TiGER proposal, which seeks to expand membership on each body to seven, would have four County Board members and three School Board members elected in a given year, followed by a gap year, followed by three County Board members and four School Board members elected. After another gap year, the process would repeat.” [Sun Gazette]

New Lounge Arriving at DCA — An American Express Centurion Lounge is under construction at Reagan National Airport. [Twitter]

Free Soccer Programming Pilot — “The Arlington Soccer Association is teaming up with the Arlington Partnership for Affordable Housing (APAH) to provide free soccer programming. The eight-week pilot program recently kicked off and brings soccer programming to families who live in APAH’s more than 2,000 affordable apartments throughout Arlington County. The programming is offered once a week at local parks and elementary schools for children as young as 3 years old.” [Press Release]

Throwback to Metro Groundbreaking — “We recently rediscovered a scrapbook from the early days of NVTC. June 18, 1971: Ceremonies to mark construction of the Rosslyn Metro station, ‘first in the D.C. suburbs.'” [Twitter]

Buses Gone Wild on I-395 — From Dave Statter: “I’ve shown you lots of amateur drivers trying to navigate I-395S Exit 8C/Route 1. Let’s see how the pros handle it.” [Twitter]

Car vs. Bakery Near Fairlington — “No one was injured after a car smashed through a front window of Great Harvest Bread (1711 Centre Plaza) in Fairlington Centre on Tuesday night (May 10). The incident occurred at around 7 p.m., which is after the bakery is closed.” [ALXnow]

It’s Friday — Overcast throughout the day with some patchy fog. Showers likely, with thunderstorms also possible after 2 p.m. High of 70 and low of 59. Sunrise at 5:59 am and sunset at 8:13 pm. [Weather.gov]

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Morning Notes

Clouds over Rosslyn (Flickr pool photo by Jeff Vincent)

New Bikeshare Station Near Shirlington — “Hey Arlington! We’ve installed a new station at S Wakefield St & 28th Rd S, and it’s a perfect day to stop by and take a ride.” [Twitter]

Data Centers Coming to Nat’l Landing — “The plan to establish 5G connectivity in Crystal City, Pentagon City and Potomac Yard, reshaping the larger community into a technological hub, includes a new addition: data centers. JBG Smith Properties, the area’s dominant property owner, will set up two “urban edge” data centers to serve as hubs for carriers and data aggregation.” [Washington Business Journal]

Clement Blasts Board Raises — “An independent candidate for Arlington County Board says she’d be OK with a major pay raise for County Board members, if they were providing adequate oversight duties. But they’re not, Audrey Clement contends. ‘Where is the hard work in avoiding hard decisions by kowtowing to staff?’ Clement asked in a recent campaign missive to supporters.” [Sun Gazette]

Metro Announces New CEO — “WMATA’s Board of Directors is excited to announce the selection of its new General Manager/CEO who will transform the agency and redefine how Metro continues to be an integrated part of the region’s success. Randy Clarke, the current President and CEO of Capital Metro (CapMetro) in Austin, TX, will begin his new position at WMATA late summer and was selected following an exhaustive nationwide search, which included important stakeholder and public input.” [WMATA]

It’s Wednesday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 70 and low of 51. Sunrise at 6:01 am and sunset at 8:12 pm. [Weather.gov]

Flickr pool photo by Jeff Vincent

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Morning Notes

Blooming trees and the dog park at Gateway Park in Rosslyn (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Animal Shelter at Capacity — “Our dog kennels are at capacity (every single kennel is occupied)… but what about your home? That extra seat on your couch sure would be a lot cuter with a furry friend curled up on it.” [Animal Welfare League of Arlington, Fox 5]

Parents Peeved at Teacher Transfer — From an online petition with nearly 500 signatures: “Dr. Sharon Gaston has worked at Taylor Elementary school for 12 years as the lead reading specialist. For the past 11 years she was appointed under 2 different principals as their designee. This past school year she applied to be the principal and unfortunately was passed over. The new principal… is transferring her to a high school. Why? We want answers.” [Change.org]

APS Announces New Principals — “So happy and proud to announce that Ms. Frances Lee has been appointed as the next principal of Ashlawn Elementary! She is currently assistant principal of Escuela Key.” “At the April 28 School Board meeting, the School Board appointed Ms. Bridget Loft as the new Swanson principal. Her appointment is effective May 3.” [Twitter, Arlington Public Schools]

New Japanese Eatery at Mall Food Court — “Sarku Japan… The largest and most successful Japanese Quick Service Restaurant chain in the US is coming! Come celebrate the grand opening of Sarku Japan at Fashion Centre at Pentagon City. Sample their famous signature chicken teriyaki at the food court.” [Twitter]

Arlington Man Sentenced for Bias Attack — “A man from Arlington, Virginia, was found guilty and sentenced Friday for a hate crime attack on two Latino construction workers back in 2019. A judge sentenced Kurt Madsen, 53, to 540 days — nearly a year and a half — in jail, but suspended his term to time served as long as he completes two years of probation. Before his trial, Madsen spent 160 days in jail.” [WTOP, U.S. DOJ]

Police Memorial Ceremony Planned — “The annual Arlington County Peace Officers Memorial Day Ceremony will be held on Tuesday, May 10 at 8 a.m. at the Arlington County Justice Center, 1425 North Courthouse Road… The public is invited; the event also will be live streamed through the county government’s Facebook page.” [Sun Gazette]

Metro Starting to Buy Electric Buses — “New details of Metro’s Zero-Emission Bus Transition Plan, presented at this week’s meeting of the Board of Directors, outlines how the agency will transition to a zero-emission bus fleet including testing and evaluation, infrastructure and facility upgrades, and procurement efforts.” [WMATA]

It’s Monday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. High of 76 and low of 61. Sunrise at 6:10 am and sunset at 8:03 pm. [Weather.gov]

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A discarded mask in Fairlington (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Masks are now optional on Metro, on Amtrak and on many airlines.

The announcements were made last night after a judge struck down the federal transportation mask mandate. Some cheered the end of the mandates, while others urged travelers to remain masked regardless.

For Metro, the end of the mask mandate extends to both riders and employees.  From a press release:

Effective immediately, Metro will make masks optional on Metrorail, Metrobus and MetroAccess for its customers. Masks also will be optional for Metro employees. This change comes as a result of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) suspending enforcement, while the Biden Administration reviews a federal judge’s ruling.

“Our mask mandate has been based on federal guidance,” said General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Paul J. Wiedefeld. “We will continue to monitor this situation as it unfolds, but masks will be optional on Metro property until further notice.”

Metro encourages its customers to make decisions that are in their best interests. Updates will be provided as new information becomes available.

So far, there’s no word from Arlington Transit about the status of masks on ART buses. In New York City, the subway system has, for now, continued to require masks.

In general, what do you think of the decision to end mask mandates on public transportation? Also, do you plan on continuing to wear masks regardless?

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Morning Notes

Cranes above construction between 18th and 20th St. S. in Crystal City (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Police Looking for Missing Teen — “MISSING: ACPD is seeking assistance locating 14-year-old Anahi… Described as a [Hispanic] female, 5’4″ tall with brown hair, brown eyes and a nose piercing. She was last seen at approximately 12:30 p.m. today in the 400 block of S. George Mason Drive.” [Twitter]

Amazon Banana Stand in Crystal City — “Amazon has operated a stand in front of 1770 Crystal Drive, one of the office buildings it occupies in Crystal City, since July. The banistas give away bananas, individually or by the bunch, every weekday between 7:30 a.m. and 3 p.m., Anderson said. And anyone can take them, from Amazon employees to residents to passers-by. The stands have dog treats, too.” [Washington Business Journal]

Reports of Strange Sounds Last Night — “Locals: anyone know what that annoying chime / doorbell thing is that goes off every 10 minutes? I’ve seen reports of hearing it from Arlington to Alexandria.” [Twitter, Twitter]

Power Outage Last Night — “Just over 600 Dominion customers are without power tonight in the Columbia Forest and Claremont neighborhoods. Restoration expected within a few hours.” [Twitter]

Metro Wants to Develop Housing — “Metro has released a 10-year joint development plan that’s chock-full of big projects to extend the agency’s reach and increase ridership… The agency says it could produce 26,000 new housing units and 31 million square feet of new development through joint development projects at 40 stations. This could create a projected $50 million in yearly lease revenue.” [Axios]

It’s Tuesday — Partly cloudy throughout the day. Breezy, with wind gusts of up to 31 mph. High of 50 and low of 40. Sunrise at 6:27 am and sunset at 7:50 pm. [Weather.gov]

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A detached garage stands just across the street from the East Falls Church Metro station and a stone’s throw from an I-66 entrance and the Washington & Old Dominion Trail.

Elsewhere in the county, developers would be champing at the bit to turn this transit-accessible carport into an apartment building with ground-floor retail.

Instead, the garage prevails as just one example of prime real estate near the station that could support the walkable development some residents and county leaders have envisioned there, but which has yet to materialize. (The garage, it should be noted, is on a parcel of land zoned only for single-family homes, preventing such development.)

Arlington has encouraged transit-oriented growth along other Metro corridors and is even seeing it along Columbia Pike, where affordable prices and the form-based code are driving and guiding significant redevelopment, connected by bus but not by rail — and only sporadically by trail.

The lingering presence of the garage — and the continued teardowns of older homes to make way for larger single-family homes, just a block or two from the station —  encapsulates how little the East Falls Church Metro-area landscape has changed, despite a plan approved in 2011 to guide future development, the opening of the Silver Line to Tysons and Reston, and the billions invested in the Metrorail system each year.

There is little evidence here of the transit-oriented development, known as “smart growth,” that has borne fruit elsewhere in Arlington, save perhaps a single block of N. Westmoreland Street featuring newer apartment buildings and some hip restaurants, a bookstore and a barre studio. (The block is located between a self-storage facility and a quiet neighborhood of single-family homes, which stands between it and the Metro station.)

After a decade of being focused on other pursuits near the station, like a $2 million bike facility and bus bay expansions, Arlington County and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority are taking a second look at the 2011 plan and how it could be updated to encourage transportation and public space improvements. This work is happening as the county wades deeper into an effort to plan future development along Langston Blvd, which runs right by the station.

Ultimately, these planning efforts will still hinge on developers pitching projects.

“There’s got to be an incentive for there to be redevelopment and improvements to the corridor,” says Natasha Alfonso, a county planner. “We’re going to be relying on the private sector to achieve improvements to this corridor… There’s just a lot and the county doesn’t have money to pay for all that.”

Hurdles to redevelopment 

Currently, there are a host of obstacles to transit-oriented development near the station, according to WMATA spokesman Ian Jannetta.

One of the chief reasons he cited is residential zoning.

The plan approved by the Arlington County Board in 2011 only identified two single-family homes — across the street from the “Kiss and Ride” lot — as slated for potential redevelopment, and emphasized that any such efforts would have to be balanced with “preserving and protecting the nearby existing single-family residential areas.”

Still, it faced strong opposition from some community members who said it encouraged too much development.

Two homes across the street from a Metro station parking lot, possibly slated for redevelopment in East Falls Church (via Google Maps)

The final report recommended building heights of three to nine stories tall, with shorter buildings easing the transition to existing residences from taller buildings near I-66 and other locations “where they will have a minimal impact on surrounding single-family areas.” Read More

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In the next couple of months, Arlington County will launch a campaign encouraging transit use and thanking people who rode Metro and the bus during Covid.

The campaign, aimed at restoring transit ridership rates to pre-pandemic levels, should kick off later this spring or early this summer and will last at least one year, says Department of Environmental Services Director of Transportation Dennis Leach.

“This is an ongoing effort,” he said. “It’s going to take a couple of years to rebuild transit ridership.”

Metrorail use plummeted in March 2020 as large swaths of federal and private employees were directed to work from home. Since then, rail ridership has picked up in fits and starts, most recently recovering by 33% in the fall before the Omicron variant hit. Leach predicts a long recovery for Metro that will depend in large part on federal return-to-work guidelines.

Local bus ridership rates, meanwhile, fell to 50% of pre-Covid rates, as many essential workers continued to take the bus, and had also been recovering quickly before Omicron, he said.

Rates for both modes were ticking up in late February as more people seem to be out and about, as well as commuting to the office, he said. With ridership creeping up and Covid cases remaining low, Arlington County, the Northern Virginia region and the state are all embarking on efforts to further boost public transit use.

Arlington will focus on promoting bus ridership and encouraging Metro trips for accessing entertainment and cultural sites. Targeting Metrorail is paramount, he said, as the lion’s share of Arlington’s pre-pandemic transit riders used Metro, and work-from-home may be around for good.

The county will be seizing on historically high gas prices — fueled by a host of supply issues, most recently the Russian invasion of Ukraine — as a reason to choose public transit.

In Arlington, a gallon of regular gas costs an average of $4.19, up from $2.80 per gallon in 2021 and $3.05 per gallon last month, according to the pump price watch group GasBuddy.

https://twitter.com/GasBuddyGuy/status/1501920976958803969

“Any time gas prices really spike, it’s an opportunity to promote transit as an affordable way to get around,” Leach said. “The ART bus and Metrobus are $2, we offer free transfers from the bus to Metrorail and Metro has introduced a lot of discounts to promote the return to rail.”

Locals can expect to see and hear messages on social media and on Spotify — targeting commuters who listen to music and podcasts — and promotions on buses and in Metro stations.

“Spotify has been helpful in the past for Arlington Transportation Partners to localize where those listeners are and target them where they are,” DES spokeswoman Claudia Pors says. “Hopefully, people are still listening to podcasts on their commute to the living room.”

The local effort is part of a push by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission to encourage transit ridership. NVTC used a one-time, $500,000 state grant to launch a campaign and asked the jurisdictions in its borders to each contribute to a 20% match, or $100,000.

Arlington is contributing $10,000, which the Arlington County Board approved on Saturday. Other participating localities include Fairfax and Loudoun counties, the cities of Alexandria and Falls Church, and entities such as Virginia Railway Express and OmniRide.

NVTC’s effort and Arlington’s plans dovetail from a statewide transit recovery marketing initiative, for which the Commonwealth has set aside $2 million, and are geared toward an already well-connected region.

“We’re the most transit-centric part of the state — about 70% of state transit ridership is in Northern Virginia,” Leach said. “At the state level, they’re much more focused on commuting. In Arlington, that’s important, but you’re going to see us pivot to transit for lifestyle and using transit to do multiple things.”

Virginians can expect to see the state and region promoting public transit in various news outlets and on social media.

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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