(Updated 2 p.m.) Some changes are coming to several Metrobus routes through Arlington County next year, as the county prepares for the Columbia Pike “Premium Transit Network.”
At a work session with the Arlington County Board on Thursday, county staff put forward a plan that would end seven lines that run through Arlington in FY 2019, which begins on July 1, 2018, and save the county $5.8 million:
- The 4A between Seven Corners and Rosslyn
- The 16B, E and P along Columbia Pike
- The 16G, H, K along Columbia Pike
A spokesman for the county’s Department of Environmental Services said the changes along the Pike would help make way for the so-called “Premium Transit Network,” which is projected to cost $6.9 million and launch next summer after delays. The various routes would be consolidated under that network, which the spokesman said would “result in more bus service in the county, not less.”
The new bus system was put together after the Columbia Pike Streetcar project was cancelled in 2014, with Board members at the time promising a system that would be just as good, if not better.
To try and lessen the impact of the service cuts, staff proposed improving the frequency and hours of the 4B that largely overlaps the 4A, and similar efforts for the 16A on Columbia Pike. Those improvements would cost just under $850,000.
The 4B would then be discontinued as a Metrobus route in FY 2020, saving the county $1.7 million, and made an ART route.
The 16X service from Columbia Pike to Federal Triangle in D.C. via the Pentagon would have its hours improved, at a cost of $3.2 million to county coffers. The 15K and 15L routes between the East Falls Church and Rosslyn Metro stations would also be realigned.
All told, the various service reductions and increases will cost the county just over $2.6 million more in its Metrobus subsidy, bringing that figure to $40.5 million in FY 2019.
The possibility also exists that the 22A, B and C routes through Barcroft and South Fairlington could be converted into locally-run ART routes. That would save $2.4 million in the county’s Metrobus subsidy, but would require funds to be made available through ART instead.
Cuts had been planned for FY 2018 under the county’s Transit Development Plan approved last year, but were pushed off to FY 2019. The county did not cut any Metrobus routes for FY 2018, and improved the frequency of the 2A route between the Ballston and Dunn Loring Metro stations.
That came in part due to funding from the Virginia Department of Transportation’s “Transform 66” project to widen I-66 from the Dulles Connector Road to the Fairfax Drive exit in Ballston.
Metro staff will analyze the actual costs and savings from the various changes, and bring forward a proposal to the agency’s board of directors. The board would then take public comment on any proposed changes region-wide before making a decision next year.
Image via county staff presentation
County residents will see their electricity and gas bills rise slightly as of July, while next month fares will increase on both Arlington Transit and Specialized Transportation for Arlington Residents.
And the County Board denied a request that the Education Center and adjacent planetarium be designated as a historic district, so that Arlington Public Schools can continue to keep the site as a contender for a fourth high school.
ART and STAR Fares To Go Up
Fares on ART and STAR will go up on June 25 to keep up with similar hikes for Metrobus and MetroAccess.
The ART adult bus fare will rise from $1.75 to $2 and the ART discount fare for seniors, students and people with disabilities goes from 85 cents to $1.
Local STAR trips will increase in cost from $3.50 to $4, while trips inside the Capital Beltway and trips beyond increase 50 cents each, from $5 to $5.50 and from $9 to $9.50, respectively.
ART’s iRide program offering discounts for teens would be extended to elementary school students, while the program allowing free use of ART by personal care attendants accompanying MetroAccess-certified riders would also be extended.
Board members said they have heard several complaints about the cleanliness and reliability of buses in the county, and urged transportation staff to keep on top of any problems. Board member Christian Dorsey, who also represents Arlington on Metro’s Board of Directors, drew a comparison between STAR and MetroAccess.
“I do think it’s essential with STAR that Arlington not accept the mediocrity that Metro has dealt with with MetroAccess,” he said. “It was once considered a shining star in the paratransit world, it needs to continue to do so.”
Education Center Historic District Denied
The Board voted to deny designating the Education Center and the adjacent David M. Brown Planetarium at 1426 N. Quincy Street as a historic district, in agreement with staff’s recommendation.
County Board member John Vihstadt said that while he appreciates the 1960s-era architecture, Arlington Public Schools should not have its options cut down when it faces capacity issues.
The board asked staff to work with their APS counterparts to look at possible adaptive reuses of buildings built in the “New Formalist” style, which the center is an example of.
“The school system, I believe, needs certainty and clarity now,” Vihstadt said. “If we defer, it leaves a cloud over the building, it leaves doubt, it leaves conjecture. If we recommend designation, it potentially hamstrings APS as to cost, as to timeframe, as to process.”
Gas and Electricity Bills Set For Slight Hike
Residents will see a slight uptick in their gas and electricity bills, a plan county staff said will generate more than $650,000.
The electricity tax rate will increase to $0.005115 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) from $0.00341 per kWh, with the first 400 kWh per month excluded from taxation. The natural gas tax rate will increase to $0.045 per 100 cubic feet (CCF) from $0.030 per CCF, with the first 20 CCF per month excluded from taxation. The hike will be most keenly felt by those residents who use a lot gas and electricity.
A staff report on the plan notes that Arlington’s would still be among the lowest utility tax rates in Northern Virginia.
From the extra revenue, factored into the FY 2018 budget approved in April by the County Board, the cost of a full-time staff member will shift from the county’s General Fund to the Arlington Initiative to Rethink Energy, consultant costs are covered and more than $400,000 will go towards energy efficiency in county and APS buildings.
County Board chair Jay Fisette said the extra tax money is “all to do good things to move the community energy plan forward and meet the goals of that master plan.”
Fares for Arlington Transit and Specialized Transportation for Arlington Residents could increase next month, subject to County Board approval.
The plan would raise the ART adult bus fare from $1.75 to $2 and the ART discount fare for seniors, students and people with disabilities from 85 cents to $1.
Local STAR trips would increase in cost from $3.50 to $4, while trips inside the Capital Beltway and trips beyond would increase 50 cents each, from $5 to $5.50 and from $9 to $9.50, respectively.
All fare increases would go into effect on June 25.
Under the proposal, ART’s iRide program offering discounts for teens would be extended to elementary school students, while the program allowing free use of ART by personal care attendants accompanying MetroAccess-certified riders would also be extended. ART adult fare tokens would also be withdrawn from circulation, and could then be exchanged for Metrobus tokens or added to a SmarTrip card.
The fare rise would be in line with Metro’s decision to hike its Metrobus fares at the same level, and would offset increased operating costs of 6 percent for ART and 5 percent for STAR.
Staff recommended the County Board adopt the proposed change at its recessed meeting on Tuesday.
Police temporarily closed roads near the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City this afternoon after a Metrobus collided with a tour bus on S. Hayes Street.
The Metrobus’ front windshield was smashed by the collision just after 12:30 p.m. at the intersection of S. Hayes Street and 15th Street S., while the tour bus had some damage near its back right tire.
One driver complained of neck pain after the crash, according to scanner traffic. There were no other injuries, and both buses were empty.
Police directed traffic around the incident but did not close any additional lanes, with the Metrobus blocking 15th Street S. for a time until it moved out of the roadway under its own steam. Some debris was left near the scene after the accident, but was cleared by officers.
Officers reopened 15th Street S. by 1:30 p.m., with the Metrobus moved out of the intersection into the right-hand southbound lane of S. Hayes Street. Traffic could get by in the other lanes.
World of Beer Gets Rebranded — The Ballston location of World of Beer is no longer part of the chain and has instead been rebranded as “Crafthouse.” The restaurant — along with former WoB locations in Fairfax and Reston — is now offering a full menu of American craft fare and a drink menu that includes local beers, bourbons, whiskey, wine and other spirits. [Reston Now]
County’s Stance on Rising Homeless Population — Via an Arlington County press release: “We believe that the increase in Arlington’s numbers this year do not reflect the long-term trend in our County,” said Arlington County Board Vice Chair Katie Cristol. “Since 2008, when we launched the 10 Year Plan to End Homelessness, Arlington has cut its number of homeless persons by more than half. We’ve made great strides in housing veterans and chronically homeless individuals and families.” [Arlington County]
Metro Changes Next Month — Starting June 25, Metrorail’s operating hours are being shortened while rail and bus fares are increasing, rush hour rail frequency is decreasing and some bus routes are being discontinued. [WMATA]
Freddie’s Named Top Brunch Spot — Freddie’s Beach Bar and Restaurant, a gay bar in Crystal City that hosts a Broadway brunch on Saturdays and a Champagne brunch on Sundays, has been named one of the 100 best brunch spots in America by OpenTable. [OpenTable]
Flickr pool photo by Erinn Shirley
Pupatella Expanding to Richmond — Beloved Bluemont pizzeria Pupatella is expanding via franchising. One of the first places getting new Pupatellas: Richmond, where a local franchisee is opening four new locations. [Richmond Times-Dispatch]
McAuliffe to Talk Self-Driving Cars in Arlington — On Thursday, Gov. Terry McAuliffe will be in Arlington to “give remarks at [a] workshop hosted by the Secretary of Transportation on autonomous vehicles,” according to the governor’s public schedule. The workshop is taking place at 1776 in Crystal City (2231 Crystal Drive).
People Are Increasingly Leaving the D.C. Region — All of the D.C. region’s population growth in the latest U.S. Census estimates were from births and international immigration. The region’s domestic migration is negative and increasingly so, with more people moving from D.C. than to D.C. Writes the WBJ: “The challenge for Greater Washington is there are other metro areas that offer jobs and high quality of life, and are also far less expensive — driving people away for what they see as greener pastures.” [Washington Business Journal]
Does Our Site Seem Faster? — We were working Saturday, moving ARLnow and our sister site Reston Now to a powerful cloud-based server from a traditional dedicated server. Things should be faster today, but if you notice any glitches please let us know. [Twitter]
Photo courtesy Erinn Shirley
A refreeze overnight will turn what melted following this morning’s snow and sleet storm into a hazard on roads and sidewalks.
Despite efforts to plow and salt the streets, VDOT is warning that barely-visible black ice could cause accidents during the Wednesday morning commute.
Metro, meanwhile, says Metrobuses will start the day on a “moderate” snow service plan due to anticipated slippery conditions. Service will be upgraded “as conditions permit.”
More from VDOT:
Road conditions across northern Virginia are improving as Virginia Department of Transportation crews plowed and treated roads around the clock. This evening though, snow and slush that melted through the day will refreeze.
Overnight, crews will focus on retreating icy areas with salt and sand, clearing shoulders, ramps and drainage areas, and continue to make passes through neighborhood streets as needed.
Drivers should limit any unnecessary travel tonight to avoid black ice, and give crews room to make their rounds. Make plans now for a cautious Wednesday commute.
If you must drive this evening and tomorrow morning:
- Stay focused and drive defensively.
- Reduce speeds significantly. Give yourself more than enough time to get to where you’re going.
- Brake gently to avoid skidding and hydroplaning.
Local roads remain partially snow and slush covered, though traffic is very light. ART buses are operating on a “severe” service schedule, while Metrobuses are operating on a “moderate” snow plan. The Metrorail system is open and operating on a Saturday schedule.
APS announced just after 4 a.m. that it would be closed today.
All APS schools and offices will be closed today. Essential personnel should report to work at their scheduled time. All custodians report at 6 a.m. regardless of your regular shift. Extracurricular activities, interscholastic games, team practices, field trips, adult education classes, and programs in schools and on school grounds are canceled. For updates about Pool Operations, go to www.apsva.us/aquatics. For information about Arlington County programs and operations go to www.arlingtonva.us.
Arlington County announced that it was closed for the day just after 5 a.m.
Arlington County government offices, programs, courts, & facilities are closed today, Tuesday, March 14, 2017. If possible, stay off the roads while snow and ice removal efforts continue throughout the day.
VDOT is asking drivers to stay off the roads if at all possible.
Crews and almost 4,500 pieces of equipment worked through the night and continue to treat roads with salt and sand, and to plow in areas where there is enough accumulation.
Interstates and primary roads have stretches of slush and ice as snow and sleet continue to accumulate between plow passes.
Secondary roads and neighborhood streets remain mostly snow-covered.
HOV restrictions are lifted this morning on I-66, I-395 and the Dulles Toll Road.
Drivers are advised to continue to stay off the roads. If you absolutely must go out this morning, reduce speeds, use extreme caution and be alert to icy and inclement conditions. Road temperatures are expected to remain below freezing all day with potential for continued refreeze.
Virginia State Police say they’re dealing with a number of crashes in Northern Virginia.
Virginia State Police are currently on the scene of 10 traffic crashes throughout Northern Virginia. Only two involve injuries – minor – and the remainder of them involve damage to vehicles. From midnight Tuesday through 7 a.m., Virginia State Police have responded to 15 traffic crashes – all of which involved damage to vehicles only and no injuries.
Motorists are reminded to give extra time for travel, slow their speed for conditions, not to tailgate – to provide additional stopping distance in slick conditions, and to always buckle up.
The federal government, meanwhile, will be opening today on a three-hour delay. From the Office of Personnel Management:
Federal agencies in the Washington, DC area are OPEN under 3 hours DELAYED ARRIVAL and employees have the OPTION FOR UNSCHEDULED LEAVE OR UNSCHEDULED TELEWORK. Employees should plan to arrive for work no more than 3 hours later than they would be expected to arrive.
The incident happened around 10 a.m. on S. Eads Street at 22nd Street S.
“The lid of a trash dumpster that was being pushed down the street was blown open by the wind striking the windshield of a Metrobus,” a Metro spokesman told ARLnow.com. “The bus operator was treated on site for minor injuries due to broken glass.”
The bus was not in service at the time and no other passengers were reported to be on the bus.
Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld last year announced a $3.1 billion “reality check” budget that includes fare hikes, longer wait times and cuts to bus routes throughout the D.C. area.
Among other changes in the 2018 fiscal year budget, riders would have to pay an additional 10 to 25 cents more for train and bus trips.
Metro would also consider eliminating the following routes that run through Arlington:
- 5A D.C.-Dulles
- 13Y Arlington-Union Station
- 15K, L Chain Bridge Road
- 17 A, B, F, M Kings Park
- 18 P, R, S Burke Centre
- 28X Leesburg Pike
The proposal would also modify the 16H Columbia Heights West-Pentagon City route to “provide two-way service 7 days a week between 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. with service every 10 minutes during weekday rush hours and service every 20 minutes at other times,” Metro said. The 16G and 16K would be eliminated.
Additionally, the proposed budget could shorten the 16X Columbia Pike-Federal Triangle route by eliminating service between between the Pentagon Transit Center and the Federal Triangle Metro Station.
Metro riders gathered at the transit agency’s headquarters last night to weigh in on the proposed cuts. Some daily commuters pleaded with Metro officials not to cut their stops, according to WAMU.
Still, the agency must plug a budget gap of about $290 million, a number it said was “larger than recent years due to growing expenses to operate and maintain the system, and declining ridership.”
Riders who want to weigh in on the proposed changes have until 9:00 a.m. on Monday, Feb. 6 to do so. Those interested can also fill out a survey to tell the agency how they feel about the budget.
It has been four years since Arlington County and WMATA opened the infamous $1 million bus stop at the corner of Columbia Pike and Walter Reed Drive. So where are the rest of the upgraded transit stations planned for the Pike?
They’re coming, starting next year, the county says.
“The County Board approved $13.3 million for the planned 23 stations in Arlington’s FY 2017-2026 Capital Improvement Plan,” says a county webpage for the project. “Construction of the transit stations is expected to begin in 2018 and proceed in phases through 2021.”
“That schedule still holds,” Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokesman Eric Balliet confirmed to ARLnow.com on Monday. “Design of site-specific improvements for the first six stations is underway. Design and construction for the remaining stations will be coordinated with the County’s plans for Columbia Pike street improvements and utility undergrounding.”
The per-station cost is still pegged around $575,000, well under the cost of the original prototype station. Originally, the stations were planned to serve the Columbia Pike streetcar, but with that project’s cancellation the stations will now serve WMATA and ART buses.
County staff is expected to present proposed revisions to its Transit Development Plan for the Pike in the second quarter of this year, with possible improvements to bus service along the corridor.
Teardown Business Booming — Arlington is one of the Northern Virginia areas that continue to see significant home teardown rates following the recession. The high land values make it more economical for many builders to tear down old homes and construct new ones rather than renovating existing structures. [Wall Street Journal]
Tech Company Moving to Arlington — Online stock video business VideoBlocks says it is moving from its long-time home in Reston to Arlington in 2017. The tech company’s growth is making the current 7,500-square-foot space too cramped, so the goal is to find an approximately 20,000-square-foot space in Arlington. [DC Inno]
Ninja Moves Prompt Police Call — Police responded to Paisano’s on N. Pershing Drive yesterday afternoon for a report of a man performing “ninja moves” outside the restaurant. There were no reports of anyone being harmed or of any arrests. [Twitter]
Free NYE Metro Rides — Metrorail and Metrobus rides will be free after midnight on New Year’s Eve (Saturday), courtesy of a sponsor: Miller Lite. Metro will stay open until 3:00 a.m. on New Year’s Day (Sunday). [WMATA]
Free Cab Rides Through Sunday — SoberRide will continue its seasonal free taxi service through Sunday. Users can call 1-800-200-TAXI for a free ride home, up to a $30 fare.
County Facilities Closed Monday — Like the federal the government, Arlington County will close its facilities on Monday in observance of Sunday’s holiday. Parking meters will not be enforced but trash and recycling collection will continue as usual.
Northern Virginia Transit Ridership Down — Amid Metro’s woes, transit ridership across Northern Virginia has dropped significantly. Metrorail ridership was down 6.7 percent for the one year period ending June 30, while Metrobus ridership is down 4.6 percent. Arlington Transit bus ridership, however, was up 13.8 percent. [InsideNova]
Arlington Family Gets Lost Cat Back — A new Arlington family whose cat jumped out of their moving van and ran away at a Michigan Welcome Center has been reunited with their wayward feline. The welcome center’s employees managed to safely trap the cat five days after it escaped. [NBC Washington]
Free Chips and Queso Today — California Tortilla restaurants are offering free chips and queso today, to commemorate the impending end of summer. Customers must say the password “easy cheesy” and make another purchase to get the free stuff. [Facebook]
CIA’s Local VC Firm Profiled — Courthouse-based In-Q-Tel, which functions as the Central Intelligence Agency’s venture capital arm, “operates in the shadows.” The firm is run as a taxpayer-funded nonprofit, investing in companies whose technology could benefit the CIA or the military. [Wall Street Journal]
Carlee Takes University Job — Former Arlington County Manager Ron Carlee, who most recently served as Charlotte, N.C.’s city manager, has taken an assistant professor position at Old Dominion University’s Strome College of Business in Norfolk. [Charlotte Observer]
Next month the Arlington County Board will consider the county’s final Transit Development Plan, which includes the post-streetcar plans for transit on Columbia Pike.
The Transit Development Plan includes provisions for “premium bus service” along the Pike, but “premium” refers more to the usability and frequency of the bus service than the vehicle itself.
“The premium network would offer bus service that is fast, frequent, reliable and easy to use, with features including simplified bus routes, increased weekday and weekend service, and a new one-seat ride from Skyline to Pentagon City-Crystal City,” said a county press release.
The plan does include a series of 23 enhanced bus stops along the Pike, with a price tag north of half a million dollars apiece, providing “near-level boarding, longer platforms, real-time bus arrival information and off-vehicle fare collection.”
It will also call for larger, articulated buses on some heavily-used routes, but those will be operated by Metro and won’t be put into service until Metro and the county can establish the infrastructure needed for such buses.
“Higher capacity (articulated) buses will be addressed in the 10-year Transit Development Plan,” said Marti Reinfeld, Arlington’s interim Transit Bureau Chief. “The routes that will need the additional capacity are Metro-operated; therefore, we are coordinating with Metro to include articulated buses in their fleet expansion plan and to address how an articulated fleet will be stored and maintained in Virginia.”
(Here’s more information on the articulated buses currently in use by Metro.)
“As maintenance and storage details for articulated buses are worked out, we will revise the TDP in an annual update, as needed,” said Reinfeld.
“To be clear, no plans for any especially fancy ART buses or anything like that, besides the eventual possibility of articulated buses?” asked ARLnow.com.
“Correct,” said a county spokesman.
Photo (top) of a bus in Las Vegas via Twitter. Photo (bottom) by M. Ortiz via Wikipedia.
The crash happened around 4:30 p.m. at the intersection of Lee Highway and N. Nash Street, near the Key Bridge Marriott hotel. Police say the bus driver was at fault.
“A Metrobus was traveling westbound on Lee Highway when the driver of the Metrobus proceeded through a red light and struck a pedestrian in the crosswalk,” said Arlington County Police Department spokeswoman Ashley Savage. “The pedestrian was taken to George Washington University Hospital in critical but stable condition. The driver of the Metrobus was issued a summons for failure to obey a traffic light.”
A Metro spokesman has thus far not responded to a request for comment.