Arlington to Hold Online Snow Chat — Dave Hundelt, Arlington County’s Streets Manager, will be answering questions about snow removal online today (Thursday). The discussion is scheduled from noon to 1:00 p.m. [Facebook]
Metrobus Driver Arrested at Pentagon — A Metrobus driver was arrested by U.S. Marshals at the Pentagon Wednesday morning. The driver, of the 9E Pentagon-Huntington line bus, was wanted in connection with a 2010 murder. [Washington Examiner]
Joe Allbritton Dies — Joe L. Allbritton, owner of Arlington-based WJLA (ABC 7), NewsChannel 8 and Politico, has died. Allbrittion, whose initials are the call letters of WJLA, was 87. [Politico]
Arlington Ranks Sixth in Household Income — Arlington County had a median household income of $98,060 in 2011, which was 5.1 percent higher than a year prior, according to new census figures. Arlington’s 2011 median income is the sixth-highest of all counties in the United States. [Sun Gazette]
Off-peak rail fares are increasing from $1.60-$2.75, depending on the length of your trip, to $1.70-$3.50. Peak fares are increasing from $1.95-$5.20 to $2.10-$5.75.
In order to encourage riders to utilize SmartTrip cards, there will also be new a $1 surcharge for riders using paper fare cards.
Metrobus fares are increasing from $1.50 to $1.60 for SmartTrip users, and from $1.70 to $1.80 for riders using cash.
As part of the changes, WMATA is eliminating its 20 cent “peak-of-the-peak” Metrorail surcharge. More information, including the fares for seniors and people with disabilities, is available on the Metro website.
Arlington Transit (ART) bus fares, meanwhile, will remain $1.50 for adults and $0.75 for seniors, people with disabilities, and teens with student ID. Due to the Metro fare increases, however, ART will be imposing a 5 to 10 cent transfer fee for those transferring to Metrobus.
Rush+ will be in effect Monday through Friday, from 6:30-9:00 a.m. and 3:30-6:00 p.m.
Orange Line customers who use stations west of Rosslyn should notice three more trains per hour in each direction. Metro estimates the change will allow for an 18 percent increase in capacity on the Orange Line, which would benefit more than 46,000 customers.
Blue and Yellow line customers who use the stations from Pentagon through Reagan National Airport will see the same amount of trains. However, during rush hour there will be three more Yellow trains per hour, and three fewer Blue. Metro estimates Blue Line riders in Virginia could have to wait up to six minutes longer for a train. More than 33,000 customers are expected to benefit from that change.
To accommodate for fewer Blue Line trains, the 9E and 10E Metrobus routes will be tweaked. During rush periods, the buses will offer express service between Rosslyn and Crystal City.
Riders will have to pay attention to the listed end point on each train, because the Orange and Yellow lines will now split during rush hour. Some Orange Line trains will now terminate at Largo Town Center instead of New Carrollton, and some Yellow Line trains will terminate at Greenbelt instead of Fort Totten. In the other direction, some Yellow Line trains will now terminate at Franconia-Springfield instead of Huntington. Dashed lines on the map indicate the altered routes that will be in place during rush hours.
The rail changes are also supposed to benefit the Silver Line, once it goes into service. That line is already listed on the new Metro map.
Metro has set up videos and an interactive map on its website to explain Rush+. The map lets customers click on the sections they travel to see how their commutes will be affected.
The incident happened around 3:45 p.m. near Courthouse Plaza, on the 38B bus from Ballston to Farragut Square.
“An adult male passenger reported that the bus operator of the 38B bus physically removed him from the bus in the 2300 block of Clarendon Boulevard, following an altercation,” Metro spokeswoman Cathy Asato told ARLnow.com. The passenger suffered a broken arm and was taken to a local hospital.
“The bus operator continued on his route and reported the incident to his supervisor. He was asked to hold his bus at the Pentagon, where he was arrested,” Asato said. “The operator has been with Metro since Sept. 2000. He is currently on paid administrative leave.”
No word yet on whether charges have been formally filed against the bus driver.
“This purpose of this outreach is to let people know that it’s not okay to sexually harass people on Metro,” said Metro General Manager and CEO Richard Sarles on WMATA’s website. “We are encouraging anyone who may be harassed to report the incident to Metro Transit Police.”
Phase one included this week’s launch of an online reporting system. Victims have the option of remaining anonymous, but all reports will be sent directly to Metro Transit Police. An email address, [email protected], has also been set up to allow customers to send photos or video to assist in an investigation.
According to the website, reportable behavior includes “extended leering, sexual comments, indecent exposure, stalking and groping.” Even if an incident doesn’t seem like a crime, victims are asked to still report what happened so Metro can spot trends and try to prevent future crimes from occurring. Right now, WMATA does not track such statistics.
“Prior to this initiative, we were not collecting data on reported harassment that did not rise to the level of a crime,” said WMATA spokesman Dan Stessel. “Over the next few months, we will track the data, develop a baseline for future comparisons, and report statistics publicly on a quarterly basis.”
A number of Arlington incidents of harassment on Metro have been made public over the last couple of years. An apparent repeat offender at the Courthouse station was reported to police by at least one woman whom he grabbed after taking a cell phone photo up her skirt. Another apparent repeat offender has been reported at the Pentagon stop in posts on the advocacy website Collective Action for Safe Spaces.
“The changes that Metro is making to address public sexual harassment and assault is a testament to the hundreds of stories we received on our site,” Collective Action for Safe Spaces Co-founder Chai Shenoy said on WMATA’s website. “We see this partnership as a step in the right direction and a model for other transit agencies around the world to follow.”
As part of the anti-harassment initiative, soon customers will see posters for the campaign displayed on buses and in train stations. Materials will be handed out throughout the system. Metro is also working on enhancing training for its employees on the front lines.
Faith-Based Advocates Seek More Affordable Housing — A coalition of local churches and community advocates is asking Arlington County to quadruple the amount of tax support it devotes to affordable housing. At a large gathering on Saturday, Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement (VOICE) also expressed support for Arlington refocusing its affordable housing efforts to benefit those in the lowest income brackets. [Sun Gazette]
New Metrobus Service Coming — To help make up for a forthcoming service change that will mean six additional minutes of waiting time for trains between the Pentagon and Rosslyn, Metro is expanding bus service between Crystal City and Rosslyn. [Dr. Gridlock]
Freeze Watch Tonight — The National Weather Service has issued a freeze watch for tonight. Gardeners should take extra precautions to protect plants should temperatures dip below 32 degrees as forecast. [Capital Weather Gang]
Arlington Educators Honored — Updated at 10:10 a.m. — Patrick Henry Elementary School principal Dr. Lisa Piehota and Wakefield High School teacher Dr. Laurrell Wiersma have been named the Arlington Public Schools principal and teacher of the year. In addition, Drs. Piehota and Wiersma have been honored with the Distinguished Educational Leadership and Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher awards by the Washington Post. A total of 39 teachers and principals from throughout the region were honored by the Post.
Photo courtesy Derek Heiss
Metro has has drawn up a fiscal year 2013 budget and has plans for another fare hike this summer. But before pushing forward with these two measures, the agency wants to hear your input at a series of meetings.
Meetings start tonight and will be held throughout the region, with Arlington’s taking place next Monday, March 5. An open forum will begin at 6:00 p.m. in the cafeteria at Washington-Lee High School (1301 N. Stafford St), and the public hearing will begin at 7:00 p.m.
The open forum will have several stations to provide information to the public. Tables staffed by senior workers of Metrobus, Metrorail, MetroAccess, SmarTrip and police will be set up to give specific information and answer individual questions. In another area, a video presentation will be shown regarding Metro’s rebuilding program. There will also be a station with computers where participants can take an online survey and submit comments about Metro’s priorities.
Metro’s $1.6 billion FY2013 budget is an increase of $116 million over the last fiscal year. It shows a net decrease in revenue of $3 million over last fiscal year. The proposed fare increases are expected to generate $66 million. An additional $53 million increase in funding would come from jurisdictions.
In looking at the breakdown of the $116 million increase in the budget, Metro reports that $61 million is needed for higher expenses for existing operations. Half of that is due to the higher cost of fringe benefits, such as health care and pension benefits. The other half is due to an increase in contracted labor costs. The remaining $55 million is for improvements in safety, security and reliability.
The budget would cover projects designed to bring Metro in line with some NTSB recommendations, such as upgrading the signal system and replacing the oldest rail cars. Track rehabilitation and replacement of the system’s escalators and elevators is also planned.
Along with the fare increase, Metro plans to simplify the fare structure and do away with the current “peak of the peak” pricing, which was deemed too confusing. The Metro Board is expected to act on the budget in June, and fare changes are expected to go into effect on or around July 1.
Along with detailed information about the budget and fare increases, information about registering to speak at the public hearing or submitting written comments can be found online. There’s also an online survey regarding the budget and fare increases.
A bicyclist was struck by a Metrobus at the intersection of S. Glebe Road and Lang Street this morning.
The bus was traveling eastbound around 9:15 a.m. when it apparently struck the cyclist in or near the intersection. The cyclist suffered a head injury but was conscious when he was loaded into an ambulance and brought to the hospital.
Impact damage was visible on the Metrobus’ windshield.
Arlington County police and Metro personnel were taking photos and measurements of the scene following the accident. Traffic on S. Glebe Road was snarled as police blocked blocked one and periodically both lanes during the investigation.
A video obtained by WTOP shows a Metrobus driver running a red light and nearly getting in a collision at the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. Joyce Street.
The bus is shown coming down the steep, curvy hill near the Air Force Memorial and driving right through the red light — even honking its horn as an SUV with the right-of-way drives in front of the bus’ path.
The video is one of several dozen obtained by WTOP through a public records request. Many of the videos depict collisions and near-collisions with vehicles and pedestrians, as recorded by a “Drivecam” video camera in the front of the bus.
The head of Metro’s bus operations told WTOP that the Metrobus system is safe when compared with other large bus systems across the country.
Visitors to Java Shack (2507 Franklin Rd.) in Courthouse can now pick up more than just a coffee and bakery item. A transit screen fixed near the register lets them pick up a better idea of what transit options are available in the neighborhood.
The pilot project came about when Arlington County Commuter Services offered to put up funding for creating systems that help people better understand their transit options. They collaborated with Mobility Lab to come up with some ideas, and the transit screens were born.
David Alpert is Mobility Lab’s Project Manager for the Transit Tech Initiative, and was a bit surprised by the request. He says it’s fairly unusual for a local government to push for this kind of research and development.
“We wanted to push the envelope with this technology,” Alpert says. “It’s really great that Arlington is able to provide that.”
The screens display constantly updated times and availability for a variety of transit options, including Metrobus, Metrorail, ART Bus and Capital Bikeshare. Alpert believes more people would use public transit if they realized how many options are readily available in real time. He said public transit not only helps people get around, but improves the quality of their lives.
“Arlington has had so much growth in the Rosslyn to Ballston corridor, but not a ton of traffic growth, because so many options are out there,” Alpert said. “Buses, metro, biking. It improves, of course, the environment but people’s happiness as well.”
So far the only other location to be included in the pilot program is The Red Palace in Washington, DC. Java Shack owner Dale Roberts was approached due to his previous work with ACCS. Roberts says the screen, which hangs unobtrusively from the ceiling near the cash register, doesn’t interfere with his business at all. In fact, customers are asking about it and have given a lot of positive feedback.
“The idea is to get people to be aware that there are lots of options besides just using their own car,” Roberts said. “Seeing that screen lets me know how many options are right there at the corner of the coffee shop.”
Mobility Lab is still working out how it will fund the project in order to expand it. The equipment costs about $400, and businesses will likely have to foot the bill. Alpert says the pricing structure hasn’t been formulated yet and many different ideas have been floated.
Starting Sunday, some of the local Metrobus routes will permanently change. It’s part of Metro’s plan to improve service reliability, work with current traffic conditions and relieve crowding.
Metro made the changes based on recommendations from the results of a Service Evaluation Study. The following will affect Arlington:
- New weekday and weekend running times on the 23A and 23C routes (McLean-Crystal City Line) to reflect increased passenger demand and traffic congestion.
- New weekday travel times on the 25A and 25E routes (Ballston-Bradlee-Pentagon Line). On the 25A, new afternoon peak running times will address increased traffic congestion along the line. On the 25E, westbound trips will depart the Pentagon between 8:43 a.m. and 2:45 p.m., and eastbound trips will depart Ballston Station between 9:40 a.m. and 2:38 p.m. These trips will bypass Shirlington and serve the Parkfairfax area including Gunston Rd., Valley Dr., Martha Custis Dr., and Preston Rd.
New timetables are available aboard all buses and online. To get a more in-depth view of all the Metrobus changes that start on Sunday, click here.
A three-to-four vehicle accident involving Metrobus occurred at the intersection of Army Navy Drive and S. Hayes Street, in Pentagon City, just after 3:00 this afternoon.
Two injuries were reported, but at least initially there were no injuries reported on the bus.
The accident snarled traffic at the busy intersection, adjacent to Pentagon City mall. Police and firefighters are currently on the scene.
Metro leadership and members of the Accessibility Advisory Committee will be on hand at the meeting to hear what customers believe could be improved or changed. The meeting runs from 6:30-8:00 p.m., with an informational open house beginning at 6:00 p.m.
MetroAccess is a door-to-door shuttle service for people who have a disability preventing them from using rail or buses. The current MetroAccess contract expires on June 30, 2013.
Anyone who can’t make the meeting but has constructive comments to share can send an email to [email protected] or call 202-962-1141.
The driver of the SUV was reported to have suffered minor injuries. No injuries were reported on the bus.
Traffic heading toward northbound Washington Boulevard squeezes by the accident scene. No HOV lanes are blocked.
On Saturday the Arlington County Board approved a number of transportation projects designed to improve the safety, appearance and accessibility of streets, sidewalks, trails and bus stops in the county.
Arlington agreed to match $935,000 in state funds — a total of $1.87 million — for four “priority transportation projects.” The projects include:
- Old Dominion Drive, Phase II — “Installation of curb, gutters, storm drains, sidewalks, upgraded traffic signals, street lights and bus stops on Old Dominion Drive between North Glebe Road and 38th Street North. The County and State will each provide $500,000 toward this project. Total funding is $4.37 million.”
- Washington Boulevard Trail Phase II — “Construction of a trail parallel to Washington Boulevard from 2nd Street South to Columbia Pike. The County and State will each provide $170,000 toward this project. Total funding is $1.6 million.”
- Five Points Intersection Improvements — “Pedestrian improvements to sidewalks and street crossings at the intersection of Old Dominion Drive, Lee Highway, Military Road, and North Quincy Street. The County and State will each provide $225,000 toward this project. Total funding is $650,000.”
- Kirkwood Road Pedestrian Improvements — “Construction of new sidewalks along the west side of Kirkwood Road from 17th Street North to Lee Highway. Work is slated to begin in the fall of 2011.The County and State will each provide $40,000 toward this project. The total funding for this project is $280,000.”
“The transportation projects that the Board is authorizing today reflect the County’s policy of building infrastructure to support many types of travel,” County Board Chairman Chris Zimmerman said in a statement over the weekend.
The Board also approved five Neighborhood Conservation projects that will improve and beautiful streets, sidewalks and medians in the Tara Leeway Heights, Leeway, Glencarlyn, Ashton Heights and Yorktown neighborhoods. The projects carry a price tag of $2.8 million.
“Through Neighborhood Conservation, residents identify the projects that will improve pedestrian safety, prevent flooding, light streets and beautify public spaces in their neighborhoods,” Zimmerman said. “It is an effective way to ensure that Arlington neighborhoods remain strong, safe and attractive.”
Finally, the Board approved a nearly $400,000 contract to upgrade “31 existing, high-priority bus stops across the County.” (The stops include Metrobus and ART bus stops.) The upgrades include new bus shelters, improved street crossings, new or upgraded sidewalks, as well as new curb ramps, benches, trash receptacles and landscaping. The project is being paid for with federal and state funds.