Starting Sunday at 7 a.m., Metro will stop accepting paper farecards at turnstiles and will only accept SmarTrip cards.
It’s one of the final steps in Metro’s phasing out of paper farecards, which the agency stopped selling Dec. 31. The very last step will happen this summer, when Metro stops accepting paper cards as trade-ins.
“If you still have a paper farecard or a Metrochek after June 30, 2016, congratulations, you have a Metro souvenir,” Metro said on its website.
In addition to online reminders, signs have been placed in local Metro stations informing riders of the changes.
More Cars on Local Streets Due to I-66 Plans? — Will plans to toll I-66 inside the Beltway during rush hour send cars spilling onto local streets in Arlington? Not exactly. Traffic studies suggest the opposite will happen: more cars will use the highway rather than seek alternate routes through Arlington. [Washington Post]
Metro Begins Installation of Cable for Cell Service — Metro has begun the process of installing 100 miles of cable in Metrorail tunnels in order to allow mobile phone and better emergency radio coverage. [WMATA]
Optimism from Arlington’s New Metro Board Member — Freshman Arlington County Board member Christian Dorsey is serving as the county’s representative on the WMATA board. Though he says the agency is facing “a fair number of problems,” he says Metro expects “to see some significant improvements” in 2016. [InsideNova]
Potholes on GW Parkway — The northbound lanes of the GW Parkway had to be closed from Spout Run to the Beltway for pothole repair last night. This morning, crews were dispatched to fill potholes in the southbound lanes. [Twitter]
County Combines Budget Hearings — In previous years, Arlington held separate budget hearings to discuss proposed expenditures and the tax rate. This year, those topics are being combined and members of the public can weigh in on either at two budget hearings: one on Tuesday, March 29 and another on Thursday, March 31. The county is also accepting online budget feedback. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
You know a top executive’s gig is tough when an entire room applauds after someone gets up and says, “thank you for taking the job.”
Wiedefeld started the night by telling the crowd he has been fighting a cold since the January blizzard, when Metro shut down for a couple days, and will be taking a decidedly unglamorous trip to Lincoln, Nebraska later this month to check on the manufacturer of Metro’s problematic 7000-series railcars.
Turning around Metro is an exhausting job and Wiedefeld sounded, well, a bit exhausted.
During the audience question-and-answer session, he was asked whether Metro should lower the expectations of riders for the reliability of a two-track system built in the 1970s for a sleepier capital city
“I do think we need to be more realistic about what’s achievable and what’s not,” Wiedefeld said. “You can only fit so much through a small tube, that’s just reality. We need to do a better job of educating the public, for sure.”
Despite that, Wiedefeld acknowledged Metro’s problems, took responsibility for rider frustration and promised change.
“I don’t think we’re doing the best we can do,” he continued. “We’re not putting out the service the best we could, and that’s the first thing we need to do.”
Under Wiedefeld, who was formerly the CEO of BWI Airport in Maryland, Metro has three main priorities: improve safety, improve basic service reliability, and get its fiscal house in order.
Wiedefeld is approaching the challenge from the bottom up: he’s been trying to spend as much time as possible with Metro’s front-line employees: those maintaining the rails, driving the buses and cleaning the trains. He said Metro’s headquarters and leaders have been too removed from its day-to-day operations on the ground, something he wants to improve.
Wiedefeld has also been making an effort to be a more visible leader in the region. That’s what brought him to the Committee of 100. At the meeting, Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey marveled that Wiedefeld was the first Metro general manager she had actually met in person in all of her years of public service.
The realities of Metrorail’s maintenance needs may require some fundamental changes in the way Metro operates. Poor maintenance, after all, is what’s causing much of Metro’s current unreliability. The agency doesn’t even have enough working rail cars to meet its promises about eight-car trains. The delivery of the new 7000-series cars — only 80 are in service so far — will help, but they must be maintained, in addition to track and the myriad other components of the Metro system.
“We need to take a hard look at how we’re doing things, particularly on the maintenance side,” Wiedefeld said. “These are big, complex systems.”
(Updated at 8:20 p.m.) Firefighters were dispatched to the Pentagon City Metro station for a report of smoke in a Metro tunnel earlier this evening.
Emergency crews found an insulator fire on the inbound side of the tunnel. Trains bypassed the station while firefighters investigated the problem, according to ACFD. By 8:10 p.m., the fire had been extinguished and firefighters began leaving the scene.
Trash fire at the Pentagon City Metro is extinguished. ACFD units are clearing the scene. WMATA will be reopening station shortly.
— Arlington Fire (@ACFDPIO) February 5, 2016
According to Metro, trains are running as usual but “residual delays” may continue in both directions.
— @wmata (@wmata) January 25, 2016
Metro restored some aboveground service on several of its train lines today.
The transit authority reopened aboveground stations between Ballston and New Carrollton on the Orange Line, Union Station and Glenmont on the Red Line and Fort Totten and Branch Avenue on the Green Line at 11 a.m.
Though Metro announced yesterday its plans to reopen some stations that were closed during the blizzard, those plans did not originally include aboveground service restorations.
The stations between East Falls Church and Vienna and along the Silver Line are still currently closed. More stations may open throughout the day, according to Metro spokesman Richard Jordan. Though Jordan did not say which stations might be reopened next, he said to expect an update later this afternoon.
Fares will not be charged today, and trains will run every 20-25 minutes until midnight.
Metro will also restore service to the 5A bus route between L’Enfant Plaza and Dulles Airport at noon today.
Metro today announced it will reopen its stations for limited — but free — Metrorail and Metrobus service tomorrow.
Red, Orange and Green line trains only will run between 7 a.m. tomorrow and midnight.
Service on these lines will be limited to underground stops and trains will run every 20-25 minutes, Metro said.
Orange Line trains will run between Ballston and Eastern Market, Red Line trains will run between Medical Center and Union Station and Green Line trains will run between Fort Totten and Anacostia.
Buses will operate every 30 minutes on just 22 routes between 12 and 5 p.m. tomorrow. According to Metro, “many of these routes will operate on snow emergency routes only to keep vehicles off hilly terrain, narrow side streets and other problem areas.”
The following bus routes will have service tomorrow:
- D.C.: 32, 33, 36, 53, 70, 90, A6, A8, P12, S4, U8, X2
- Maryland: C4, D12, K6, Q2, V4, Y2, Z8
- Virginia: 16A, 16E, 28A
Nathaniel Moone, 45, was taken into custody this past Friday evening by Metro Transit Police, at the Eastern Market Metro station in D.C.
Police say Moone was the man who tried to rob a Wells Fargo bank in Rosslyn on Dec. 30, but fled before receiving any money. He later successfully robbed the Wells Fargo across from Costco in Pentagon City this past Thursday, Jan. 7.
Moone was identified by detectives following the Jan. 7 robbery and arrested the next day.
The full press release from the Arlington County Police Department:
A bank robbery suspect was taken into custody by the Metro Transit Police Department. Nathaniel Howard Moone, 45, of no fixed address, was arrested during the evening of January 8, 2015 as he exited the Eastern Market Metro station. Moone was charged with bank robbery and attempted bank robbery and is currently being held pending extradition.
At approximately 4:48 pm on December 30, 2015, the Arlington County Emergency Communications Center was alerted of an attempted bank robbery that had just taken place at the Wells Fargo, located in the 1300 block of N. Wilson Boulevard. The subject attempted to rob the bank by passing a note to the teller but became frustrated and fled the scene on foot.
At approximately 10:10 am on January 7, 2016, the Arlington County Emergency Communications Center was alerted of a bank robbery that had just taken place at the Wells Fargo, located in the 1400 block of S. Fern Street. The subjected entered the bank and handed a teller a note that demanded money. The teller gave the suspect an undisclosed amount of money and the subject fled on foot. The suspect remained at-large for a little over twenty-four hours.
“Our detectives were able to identify this suspect in a timely manner as a direct result of our outstanding relationship and the ability to share resources with our partners at Metro Transit Police Department,” comments Daniel J. Murray, Deputy Chief of Criminal Investigations Division for Arlington County Police Department.
Violent Attack at Pentagon City Metro — A seemingly random act of violence at the Pentagon City Metro station injured a man late last month. Details of the attack were just released: a 19-year-old man collapsed on the platform after being sucker-punched. Witnesses took cell phone photos of the attacker, who fled. The incident is one of a string of recent violent incidents at Metro stations. [Fox 5 DC]
GGW Questions Garvey’s Leadership — Will new County Board Chair Libby Garvey move Arlington forward with smart infrastructure investments, or pull back and scale down the county’s ambitions? That’s the question being posed by urbanist blog Greater Greater Washington, which has been critical of Garvey’s anti-streetcar stance. [Greater Greater Washington]
Garvey Announces Reelection Bid — Thought she has positioned herself as a somewhat anti-establishment figure in the local party, Libby Garvey detailed her Democratic bonafides while announcing her reelection bid at the Arlington County Democratic Committee meeting earlier this week. Garvey is facing a primary challenge on her left, from small business owner Erik Gutshall. [Libby Garvey]
Grant for ‘Little Saigon’ History — A $9,000 grant will allow Arlington County to produce a full-color booklet preserving the history of Arlington’s “Little Saigon” — a concentration of Vietnamese immigrants and businesses in Clarendon in the 1970s, before the opening of Metro. [Arlington County]
Flickr pool photo by Dennis Dimick
Yesterday’s evening commute for Ballston resident Andrea Gagliardi was following the normal routine, until she found herself helping a disabled man find his way home.
The man — who Gagliardi described as approximately 50 years old, mute and mentally disabled — was being helped by another woman when she arrived at the Courthouse Metro station. That woman was visibly upset, saying someone had dropped him off at the station, leaving him to figure out how to get to an address written on the back of a business card.
“I couldn’t believe someone had just left him,” Gagliardi told ARLnow.com this morning. “The other woman was truly an angel for finding him and initiating the help because I might not have noticed him if she hadn’t called me over.”
The woman asked Gagliardi if she recognized the address. Though she didn’t, she thought she recognized the ZIP code and confirmed it was also in Ballston.
“I offered to take him on the train since I was going that direction, hoping there would be police at my station,” she said. “I wasn’t going to try and take him to the address. It could’ve been any place that wasn’t safe for him or me to be.”
“I didn’t feel threatened by the man at all,” Gagliardi added. “He was pleasant and friendly throughout the trip. I just think he was embarrassed, so I kept ensuring him we would figure it out together.”
Gagliardi was surprised to find a lack of police presence at the Ballston station and decided to get the attention of the station manager, who at first thought the man couldn’t speak English. Once he realized the man couldn’t speak at all, that’s when Gagliardi said he understood the gravity of the situation and Metro officials took over.
“The manager led him away from the crowds, so I left the station looking for a police officer, but no such luck,” she said. “I knew I had done the right thing, but I started feeling guilty thinking I should’ve stayed and made sure he was okay. If I could do it again, I would’ve stayed.”
The incident Monday was the third time in a little over the year Gagliardi has come to the assistance of someone in need at an Arlington Metro station. The first was an intoxicated man who almost fell onto the tracks, and last month a woman was stuck on an elevator.
“At first I thought why does this always happen to me,” she said. “But in each of the three scenarios I’ve been involved in, there have been other people also helping.”
Garvey Named 2016 Arlington County Board Chair — Libby Garvey, who is facing a challenge in this year’s Democratic primary, has been named the Chair of the Arlington County Board. Articles to follow.
Update: Family Given Lease Extension — An Arlington family with a disabled son has been given a 30-day lease extension, after they went to the media to protest the landlord’s reported refusal to renew their lease. The family said the manager of Columbia Pike apartment complex complained about them making too much noise. [Washington Post]
Dorsey to Serve on Metro Board — Christian Dorsey, who along with Katie Cristol began his first County Board term on Jan. 1, has been chosen to serve as Arlington’s non-voting representative on the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board of directors. [InsideNova]
Reminder: Arlington Is the Smallest Governing County — Arlington County is the smallest self-governing county in the United States. Kalawao County in Hawaii, New York County in Manhattan and Bristol County in Rhode Island are smaller, but don’t have their own separate county governments. [Arlington County]
Favola Proposes Allowing Cigarette Tax Hike — State Sen. Barbara Favola (D) has proposed a bill that would allow Arlington and Fairfax counties to double local cigarette taxes. The extra funds would be used to support education. [InsideNova]
Free Breakfast at Northside Social — It’s unclear whether the promotion is still going on as of publication time, but Northside Social this morning was giving away free breakfasts and coffee courtesy of the new CBS show Angel from Hell, starring Jane Lynch. [Twitter, Twitter]
Christmas Tree Collection Starts Today — Christmas tree collection in Arlington County starts today and runs through Friday, Jan. 15. Trees will be collected curbside on regular trash collection days. Those who live in apartments or condos without county trash collection can bring their trees to the Solid Waste Bureau near Shirlington. [ARLnow]
Arlington’s members of Congress are touting wins for federal workers, veterans, Metro and the Virginia economy in a new federal spending bill.
The bill, a rare bipartisan budget compromise, passed both houses of Congress this morning. It includes a raise for the federal workforce, $150 million for WMATA, $30 million for Arlington National Cemetery, and billions for the Dept. of Veterans Affairs and various other military spending priorities.
The office of Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.) described it as “good news for federal employees” in a press release.
There is finally some good news for federal employees in the omnibus spending bill passed by Congress this morning. The $1.1 trillion spending package included a pay raise for federal employees and service members, as well as significant additional funding for the Office of Personnel Management (OPM), some of which is earmarked for cybersecurity.
“Federal employees suffered through enough with years of wage stagnation, furloughs and shutdowns, and, perhaps most egregiously, the theft of their personal information as a result of the OPM hacks,” said Rep. Beyer. “In addition to cybersecurity investments to prevent future breaches, this deal gives our federal workforce a modest 1.3 percent pay raise for the second year in a row.”
“These efforts will help improve the recruitment and retention of federal employees to help our government grow the new American economy,” Beyer added.
The agreement provides $272 million for OPM and the OPM Inspector General, a $132 million increase over the previous year. The legislation also provides $21 million for critical upgrades to OPM’s cybersecurity infrastructure and to ensure protections to prevent similar security breaches are installed. Individuals affected by the OPM data breaches will be provided with identity protection coverage for 10 years — much more than the previous commitment — and identity theft insurance in the amount of $5,000,000.
After the jump, a joint press release from Virginia Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, including details of specific spending and tax provisions of note for Virginia residents, businesses and federal workers.
Metro announced yesterday that Paul Wiedefeld, the former CEO of BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport, has been selected as the agency’s next General Manager and CEO.
Following a lengthy search process, the WMATA Board of Directors is expected to make Wiedefeld’s appointment official on Nov. 19.
With Metro in turmoil due to ongoing rail service reliability problems and financial challenges, state officials and lawmakers welcomed the appointment of an experienced executive to Metro’s top post.
From Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.):
“Today’s news concludes a period of uncertainty for Metro. Paul Wiedefeld’s transportation and executive experience gives him the tools to provide WMATA with the leadership a first class transit system needs. I look forward to working with him to ensure a safe, reliable future for Metro as a critical part of the national capitol area’s transportation infrastructure.”
From Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe:
“I am pleased to see that the WMATA Board has unanimously chosen Paul Wiedefeld to lead the agency as its General Manager and Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Wiedefeld’s significant experience in managing safety and operations in the transit industry will surely serve him well as he steps into his role with Metro. I am hopeful that this appointment, though overdue, will give WMATA the stability and expertise it needs to produce meaningful change across the agency. I look forward to Mr. Wiedefeld’s formal confirmation by the Board on November 19th.”
A joint statement from U.S. Sens. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.), Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.), Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Ben Cardin (D-Md.):
“We’re pleased to finally see this progress in bringing on new management for Metro after a year-long search.
“As federal lawmakers, we have been strong advocates and effective partners for Metro. In his years of service to BWI, Mr. Wiedefeld has proven himself to be a creative and successful infrastructure manager in the public sector. We are eager to meet with him to emphasize our shared commitment and steady focus on turning-around the troubled Metro system.
“We’re prepared to work with Mr. Wiedefeld as he accepts the challenge of improving the safety and reliability of this pivotal regional investment for Metro passengers and visitors to the national capital region.”
After a jump, a press release from the recently-formed WMATA Riders’ Union.
If there’s one lesson to take away from Arlington’s Metro Safety Seminar Wednesday night, it’s don’t evacuate a train until told to do so. Even though a woman died after not being able to evacuate a disabled, smoke-filled train outside of the L’Enfant Plaza Metro station earlier this year.
In the case of smoke in a tunnel, Arlington County Fire Department and Metro will work together to figure out the source of the smoke and decide if evacuation is necessary, officials said Wednesday at the seminar in Ballston.
Self-evacuating early often leads to injuries and more trouble, said Robert Joy of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority during a panel on Metro safety hosted by the county’s Emergency Preparedness Advisory Commission (EPAC).
There’s also the problem of the third rail, which is a major electrocution hazard, running at more than 700 volts, Joy said.
Joy was joined by ACFD Captain David Santini and ART Director Stephen Yaffee to speak about how to be a safe rider on public transit, including Metrobus, Metro or ART bus. The panel spoke to a small audience, mostly consisting of older Arlington residents, many of whom identified themselves as members of EPAC.
For the most part, audience members were concerned about smoke filling Metro cars, noting the L’Enfant Plaza incident in January.
Smoke in Metro tunnels is not an unusual occurrence, Sanitini said.
“We report to smoke on the Metro several times a month,” he said, adding that most are “minor in nature” usually resulting from trash burning on the rails or small insulator fires.
In the case of smoke filling the cars, passengers should listen to the intercoms, Joy said, as the conductors will tell people when to evacuate.
“Just because the trains stop doesn’t mean it’s an emergency,” he said. “And we’ve had some people self-evacuate a perfectly good train.”
If a train needs to be evacuated, firefighters will come to the train to help passengers evacuate, Santini said. Metro also posts instructions for opening the doors in emergencies and how to evacuate.
Evacuation should be the last resort as walking in the tunnels and jumping from the train can result in injuries, such as broken ankles or legs, he said.
Joy acknowledged that there were problems with understanding the intercoms, which can make emergency situations more stressful. Dust often gets in the speakers, which make them hard to hear.
“We understand that the intercom system isn’t always up to snuff,” Joy said. “I sometimes wonder what they are saying.”
Fixing the intercoms by making sure they are cleaned is an easy step that Metro can do to make riding safer, said John Brown, director of Arlington County Office of Emergency Management.
“I don’t think we can wait for a federal report. There’s low hanging fruit that we know we can fix,” Brown said.
Throughout the discussion, audience members offered suggestions that Metro can implement to improve passenger safety, including more information on car walls. These suggestions will be compiled in a letter and brought before the Arlington County Board, said Board member Libby Garvey.
Garvey and Brown also took a couple of minutes to talk about emergency preparedness in general, telling the audience they should know what to do for everyday emergencies, like weather-related events, or in the case of a decidedly not-everyday emergency: a nuclear attack.
“We really all need to be prepared, not just for these events that happen pretty regularly but also when the unimaginable happens,” Brown said.
In the case of a nuclear attack, people should “shelter in place” and put as much concrete between them and outside, Garvey said.
The last thing people should do is go outside and see what happened, she said. Instead, people should “camp inside” until its safe to go outside.
“We all need to be prepared for camping for three days,” Garvey said.
Fire Station 8 Task Force — At its Tuesday meeting, the Arlington County Board approved a charge for its new Fire Station No. 8 task force. The task force will review viable sites for the fire station, will seek a location that will improve fire and EMS response signs, and will seek to balance costs with service needs. [Arlington County]
More Metro Delays This Morning — Delays and overcrowded trains made for “another miserable day” on the Orange Line during this morning’s commute. Metro says it’s hoping to have full service restored on the Silver, Orange and Blue lines by the end of the year, following a catastrophic fire at an electrical substation in D.C. [WMATA, Twitter, Twitter]
Old Growth Forest in Arlington Recognized — A 24-acre portion of Glencarlyn Park, just south of Route 50, has been recognized by the Old Growth Forest Network. The park has trees that were likely saplings while the British burned the White House across the river during the War of 1812. [Arlington County]
GW Parkway Repaving Nearly Complete — Crews are starting to wrap up a repaving project on the GW Parkway that has prompted lane and ramp closures over the past few weeks. The formerly pockmarked section of the Parkway north of Reagan National Airport now has a smooth coating of asphalt. [WTOP]
Lee Highway Streetlight Upgrade Approved — The Arlington County Board last night approved a $2.2 million project to replace 1.5 miles of aging streetlights along Lee Highway with new, energy efficient LED streetlights. Some residents have previously complained of an “ugly” blue tint from the county’s LED streetlights. [Arlington County]
Ballston IHOP is Turning 50 — The IHOP restaurant in Ballston will turn 50 years old early next year. Reportedly, it was the first Virginia location for the chain. [InsideNova]
Arlington Hosting Metro Safety Seminar Tonight — Officials from Arlington County and WMATA will be participating in a Metro Safety and Preparedness Seminar tonight in Ballston. A panel of officials will discuss Arlington’s response to Metro incidents and emergency preparedness tips for Metro riders. [Arlington County]
Photo by Justin Funkhouser
In 2004, Metro Chief Richard White predicted a “death spiral” for the Metrorail system due to chronic underfunding.
Federal and state budget disputes were preventing Metro from getting the $1.5 billion in maintenance investment it needed, leading White to warn of “a systemic service meltdown.”
Eleven years later, White’s prediction seems to be coming true. And he wasn’t the only one to see it coming.
“Right now, there’s no money for transportation funding in anyone’s budget,” Chris Zimmerman, who at the time served on both the Arlington County Board and the Metro board, told the Washington Post in 2004. “I’ve got a state government that’s happy to let everything fall into the toilet. And we’ve got local governments that have limited means to raise money. We’ve got nothing to work with.”
Zimmerman resigned from the Metro board in 2010, and stepped down from the County Board in 2014. Now serving as Vice President for Economic Development for the group Smart Growth America, Zimmerman shared some thoughts on Metro’s current woes during a phone interview with ARLnow.com.
In 2002, Zimmerman and the Metro Board were actively seeking additional capital funding for Metro from Maryland, Virginia and the federal government — but to little avail. With inadequate funding, Metro wouldn’t be able to afford the track and station maintenance and new trains needed to keep the system running smoothly.
“It was foreseeable and it was foreseen,” he said of Metro’s problems today.
What would it take to fix the chronic system breakdowns that are causing long, frustrating commutes and chasing away riders? Zimmerman said it would take a lot more than that $1.5 billion figure sought in 2004 — and would likely require intervention by the federal government in the form of increased annual funding.
“What would actually make a difference is if [the federal government] would partner with our system… we have federal folks on the board but we don’t really have a federal funding partner,” he said. The feds have been providing funds to Metro for capital improvements, but Zimmerman argues that the level of funding doesn’t reflect Metro’s critical importance in helping the federal workforce in D.C. get to their jobs.