Arlington, VA

Nearly a year after Metro’s “SafeTrack” maintenance blitz wrapped up, Arlingtonians still haven’t returned to the transit system, new data show.

An ARLnow analysis of figures compiled by WMATA and released to the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission shows that ridership at Arlington’s 11 Metro stations fell by about 4.1 percent in the first three months of 2018 when compared to the same time frame last year.

Back in early 2017, WMATA was right in the midst of SafeTrack, with large sections of Metro lines closed temporarily and substantial headways for passengers, even at rush hour. But the ridership numbers suggest that any Arlington riders dissuaded from hopping on Metro during the heavy maintenance work have yet to embrace the rail service once more.

ARLnow’s analysis also shows Metro ridership in the county has dropped by about 13.4 percent compared to the same time frame in 2016, before SafeTrack work began.

Metro officials and county leaders say they’re not overly disturbed by these numbers, noting that WMATA ridership as a whole only fell by 1 percent when comparing the first three months of this year to 2017. Yet they also acknowledge that other transportation options are steadily luring riders away from Metro, and that these declining ridership numbers may be a symptom of problems in the county beyond WMATA’s woes.

“This really indicates how our transportation network is being disrupted in ways not just associated with Metro,” said Christian Dorsey, the vice chair of the Arlington County Board and a member of the Metro Board of Directors, while adding that “we’re not going to overreact to the numbers we see in one quarter.”

Metro spokeswoman Sherri Ly wrote in an email that ridership in Arlington generally “reflects the ridership trends systemwide.” She says Metro has broadly found that “peak periods are performing less poorly, however off-peak (especially evening) ridership is down much more steeply,” after SafeTrack.

WMATA leaders “are confident that by providing safe, reliable service, Metro can win back riders who may have changed their travel patterns during SafeTrack,” Ly added. Yet she did acknowledge that a handful of different factors have prompted large ridership drops at several Arlington stations this year.

Metro observed one of the largest declines in riders at the Ballston station in the first three months of the year, with a more than 8 percent decline from the same period last year. Ballston also recorded a nearly 20 percent drop in ridership from 2016 to 2018, the largest of any Arlington station over the same time period.

Ly believes that’s largely due to ridership dropping on weekends, “when service is truncated from Wiehle-Reston East to Ballston for track work,” a frequent occurrence for Silver Line riders.

Along the Blue Line, however, there could be more systemic problems.

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Morning Notes

Free Donuts Today — Today, June 2, is National Donut Day. To celebrate, Dunkin’ Donuts and Duck Donuts are offering a free donut with the purchase of any beverage. Sugar Shack is offering a free donut for those who wear a Sugar Shack hat, t-shirt or other article of clothing with the company logo. [Dunkin’ Donuts, Duck Donuts, Facebook]

Stabbing on Columbia Pike — Arlington County Police are investigating a stabbing that occurred near the intersection of Columbia Pike and S. Rolfe Street early this morning. The victim suffered non-life-threatening injuries. [Fox 5, WJLA, ACPD]

Owner Wants Out of Ray’s Hell Burger Lease — Michael Landrum, owner of Ray’s the Steaks and Ray’s Hell Burger, wants out of the Hell Burger lease at 1650 Wilson Blvd in Rosslyn. The restaurant closed and went on “hiatus” last month. Landrum’s company owes the landlord just over $300,000, according to a bankruptcy filing. [Washington Business Journal]

Why Arlington and Alexandria Couldn’t Collaborate on a Pool — Sharing the costs of an indoor aquatics center seemed like a good idea in theory, but ultimately those in Alexandria did not like the idea of using their taxpayer dollars to build a pool in Arlington. Now Arlington’s planned Long Bridge aquatics center is moving forward while Alexandria’s plans to build an indoor pool are on hold. [Washington Post]

New Tenants to the Rescue in Courthouse — “Adding Reston-based VideoBlocks to its tenant roster was a good get for the owners of Courthouse Tower, but as it turns out, the lease was part of a larger plan to avoid letting about three quarters of the building’s office space go dark.” [Washington Business Journal]

Metro ‘Prepares for Life After SafeTrack’ — We’re a day and a half into June and there have been no major Metro service disruptions so far, something the transit agency hopes is the norm. From a press release: “As the yearlong SafeTrack program winds down, Metro is preparing for a new era of less disruptive preventive maintenance and planned capital work to ensure that the rail system remains in a reliable state for years to come.” [WMATA]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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Morning Notes

Hawk perched in tree (Flickr pool photo by Lisa Novak)

Lady Warriors Fall in States — The Wakefield Lady Warriors received a police escort as the team left for the state basketball tournament in Hampton on Wednesday. The team lost to three-time defending state champs Princess Anne by a score of 51-42 yesterday. [Twitter, Virginian-Pilot, Twitter]

APS Statement Affirms Welcoming Environment — Following accusations of discrimination and bullying at Yorktown High School, Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy has released a statement affirming the school system’s commitment to “a welcoming, safe and caring learning environment for each and every student.” Wrote Murphy: “The hallmark of our work is that ALL students should experience freedom from harassment, judgement or prejudice.” [Arlington Public Schools]

New SafeTrack Surge Starts Tomorrow — Metro will begin a new round of “SafeTrack” maintenance work on Saturday. The work will affect riders along the Blue and Yellow lines. [ARLnow, WMATA]

Don’t Forget to Prune Shrubs and Trees — “It’s the ideal time of the season to use your pruning tools to improve the health and growing habits of your woody plants. The effort will make your gardening easier later in the year.” [Arlington County]

Water Main Break Affects DCA Traffic — A water main break closed an access ramp to Reagan National Airport from the southbound GW Parkway this morning. [Fox 5]

Flickr pool photo by Lisa Novak

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Arlington Cemetery Metro station in the rain (Flickr pool photo by Brian Irwin)

Metro’s next SafeTrack “surge” will include a temporary shutdown of the entire Blue Line, starting Saturday.

Blue Line trains will not run at all between Feb. 11-28, according to Metro. Instead, Yellow Line “Rush Plus” trains will run all day between Franconia-Springfield and Greenbelt. Those trains will run in addition to regular Yellow Line trains between Huntingdon and Mount Vernon Square.

The Arlington Cemetery station will be closed and will be served by buses from the Pentagon during the latest round of maintenance work.

During rush hour, trains are scheduled to arrive every four minutes at stations normally served by both Blue and Yellow Line trains, Metro said. Orange and Silver Line trains will not be affected by the latest track maintenance effort.

Metro originally planned to only run Blue Line trains between the Franconia-Springfield and Reagan National Airport stops. But the transit agency updated that plan on Jan. 27 after concluding the original one wasn’t necessarily “in the interest of minimizing customer impact.”

“The new service plan means that riders from Virginia will experience less crowding and will be able to ride into D.C. without changing trains,” the agency said in a release.

Next month, track work will primarily affect riders heading to and from Alexandria. From March 4-26, Metro trains will share a single track on the Blue and Yellow lines between the Braddock Road and Huntington/Van Dorn Street stations. Blue Line trains will run every 24 minutes during that time, while the Yellow Line between National Airport and Mt. Vernon Square will run every 6-12 minutes, according to Metro.

From March 26 through April 2, only Blue Line Trains will share a single track. Then, from April 3-9, Yellow Line trains are slated for single-tracking.

Later this year, likely around May and June, a portion of the Orange Line between the Minnesota Avenue and New Carrollton stops is also scheduled to undergo maintenance and single tracking. The SafeTrack program is currently slated to wrap up in late June, though the final dates haven’t yet been announced.

Flickr pool photo by Brian Irwin

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SafeTrack logo (image via Metro)Major track work and possible delays are coming to Arlington as part of Metro’s first SafeTrack “surge” of the new year.

No trains will run on the Blue Line between Rosslyn and the Pentagon between Feb. 11-28, Metro announced earlier today. Blue Line trains will only operate between Franconia-Springfield and Reagan National Airport during the maintenance period.

Orange and Silver Line trains will not be affected by the latest SafeTrack surge, officials said.

Alexandria will bear the brunt of the next round of “surge” work. From March 4 to April 9, Metro trains will share a single track on the Blue and Yellow lines between the Braddock Road and Huntington/Van Dorn Street stations. Blue Line trains will run every 24 minutes during that time, while the Yellow Line between National Airport and Mt. Vernon Square will run every 6-12 minutes, according to Metro.

Later this year — at some point around May and June — a portion of the Orange Line between the Minnesota Avenue and New Carrollton stops is also scheduled to undergo maintenance and single tracking.

Track work was suspended this month due to the inauguration and “the potential for winter weather impacts,” according to Metro. The SafeTrack program is currently slated to wrap up in late June, though the final dates haven’t yet been announced.

SafeTrack is intended to “rehabilitate the Metrorail system to improve safety and reliability.” Two hours after Metro announced the updated SafeTrack schedule, Arlington County firefighters responded to the Rosslyn station for a report of an arcing insulator.

Track inspections did not find any significant smoke or fire, but the emergency response did have some traffic impacts in Rosslyn.

Image via Metro

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Morning Notes

Christmas tree and menorah at the Pentagon Row ice skating rink

Reminder: Metro Surge Starts Today — Metro’s SafeTrack Surge 11 starts today, bringing what officials say will be “the worst of anything our riders have experienced so far” to the Orange and Silver lines. [ARLnow]

Critical Missing Person — On Friday the Arlington County Police Department put out an alert for a missing person who is “unable to care for herself and is in need of medical attention.” The woman, Amanda Pham Pulver, is described as “5’4″, 115 lbs, black & white hair with dark eyes. Last seen in 3800 block of N. 13th St.” [Arlington County, Twitter]

Leasing Inquiries Up After Election — Arlington landlords are reportedly getting more office leasing inquiries, a trend that began shortly before the election and is continuing afterward. “Tenant tours have increased dramatically over the last 90 days,” said the head of major Rosslyn landlord Monday Properties. [Bisnow]

Behind the Scenes at DCA Lost and Found — From an interview with the lost-and-found property technician at Reagan National Airport: “We’ve had teeth, a prosthetic leg, a power saw, a dog kennel. There’s a fax machine on the shelf. Oh, and rubber butt padding — someone came back and got that.” [Arlington Magazine]

Arlingtonian Lands White House Internship — An Arlington native is among those who landed a prestigious internship at the White House this fall. Olivia Pavco-Giaccia, a member of the class of 2016 at Yale, was on a list released by the White House Press Office last week. Pavco-Giaccia has previously achieved notability and recognitions for her female-oriented science startup, LabCandy.

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Metro’s next round of SafeTrack “surge” work begins Monday and it’s expected to have a major impact on Arlington commuters.

Surge #11 is scheduled from Nov. 28 to Dec. 21. The 24-day project will involve track work and single-tracking between the West Falls Church and East Falls Church stations, on the Orange and Silver lines.

Safetrack Surge #11 (map via WMATA)The first 14 days of the work are expected to be especially disruptive as Metro will be unable to run additional trains to make up for the reduction in service. That’s due to the location of the track work and Metro’s rail signaling service, officials said.

“There will be a severe reduction in train service,” said Joe Leader, Metro’s Chief Operating Officer. “The first two weeks of this surge will be the worst of anything our riders have experienced so far since we started Safetrack.”

Riders should expect “very crowded trains and platforms.” Trains running through Arlington may be so crowded that riders will be unable to board during rush hour.

Additional ART buses and Metrobus shuttles will run along Arlington’s Rosslyn-Ballston corridor to help provide additional capacity during the surge. Arlington County is also encouraging commuters to telecommute during the project.

Ultimately, the track work is expected to result in a smoother ride and more reliable service along the Orange and Silver lines.

“It’s going to be intense for the first two weeks,” said Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey, during a press conference at the West Falls Church Metro station. “It’s short term pain for a lot of gain and it’s something that we’ve got to do.”

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Morning Notes

Statue at Marymount University (photo courtesy Noah Kaufman)

Next SafeTrack Surge Begins Tomorrow — Metro’s ninth SafeTrack maintenance “surge” will begin tomorrow and will result in single-tracking between the Vienna and West Falls Church station on the Orange Line through Oct. 26. Riders should expect longer wait times on the Orange Line; in Arlington, the East Falls Church station is expected to experience the worst delays. [DCist, NBC Washington]

Fire Dept. to Donate to AWLA — Arlington County fire stations collected more than 650 pounds of pet supplies and food during ‘Operation FirePaws.’ The items will be donated to the Animal Welfare League of Arlington. [Arlington County]

Additions for Phoenix House — Following a successful capital fundraising campaign, substance abuse rehabilitation facility Phoenix House, in Ballston, will be adding a new fitness and health center and expanding and renovating its adolescent boys program.

A History of the Balls — ‘Our Man in Arlington’ columnist recounts the history of the Ball family, local landowners since the Revolutionary War and the namesakes for Arlington’s Ballston neighborhood. [Falls Church News-Press]

Photo courtesy Noah Kaufman

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New Car2Go model that's rolling out in the D.C. area (photo courtesy Car2Go)As Metro prepares for 45 days of major service disruptions on the Orange Line due to SafeTrack Surge No. 9, the carsharing service Car2Go says business is booming in Arlington.

SafeTrack, combined with the recently-added ability to travel between Arlington and D.C., has resulted in a “a 540 percent increase in the average number of trips beginning or ending in Arlington, a 22 percent jump in overall Car2Go trips in the region, and a 63 percent increase in average weekly memberships,” according to Car2Go.

“Car2Go membership in Arlington and D.C. has passed the 57,000 member mark, making it one of the largest in North America,” the company added.

That’s a reversal from earlier this year, when Car2Go said it was struggling to gain traction in Arlington.

Car2Go is rolling out upgraded versions of its cars in the area through the end of the year. The new cars are still the same Smart Fortwo model, but with faster unlocking, Bluetooth access for wireless calls and music, seat warmers, roomier interiors, a bigger trunk, improved safety features and a faster motor.

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Metro’s fifth SafeTrack maintenance surge will cause a “severe service reduction” on portions of the Orange and Silver lines for 11 days starting tomorrow.

From Wednesday, July 20 until Sunday, July 31, Orange and Silver line trains will continuously single track between the East Falls Church and Ballston stations. This is the same area that was affected during first Metro SafeTrack surge.

On weekdays, Orange Line trains between Vienna and Ballston are expected to operate every 18 minutes. Silver Line trains will run every 18 minutes during the surge, according to Metro.

Additional Orange Line trains will operate between Ballston and New Carrollton during the maintenance period. Trains from Vienna to Ballston and Wiehle-Reston East to Ballston are likely to be extremely crowded, especially during rush-hour, Metro said.

“Customers at Ballston should consider using the additional train service that originates at Ballston and will board on the opposite platform from through-train service,” the agency advised in its latest announcement. “This may lengthen your departure time, but will give you the best opportunity to find space.”

Metro Commuters who have the ability to do so should consider alternate travel options and avoid traveling during rush hour if possible, Metro added.

An Arlington County website has the following information those affected by the latest Metro surge:

Street operations changes

Supplemental local bus service

  • Using 40-foot buses for ART 55 (East Falls Church-Lee Highway-Rosslyn) to add capacity along the affected section of the Orange/Silver line.
    • Each 40-foot bus has five more seats and room for more standees compared to the 35-foot bus normally used on this route.
  • New midday, evening and weekend service for ART 43 (Crystal City-Rosslyn-Courthouse), which started during Surge 2, continues to be available.
  • For changes to bus service operated by Metro and other jurisdictions, visit Metro’s website.

Alternate work and travel options

The County is encouraging telework/flex time, ridesharing, biking and walking – options other than driving alone:

  • Arlington Transportation Partners is reaching out to employers and building managers to urge them to encourage telework or flex schedules and provide travel option information.
  • Arlington’s Commuter Page has travel option resources for residents and businesses – for example, assistance for vanpooling and other car-free options.
  • Arlington County Commuter Services Hispanic Marketing offers comprehensive information about each surge in Spanish.
  • For teleworkers who can’t work at home, Arlington Public Libraries offer wifi, office equipment, design stations with Adobe software, and small meeting rooms.

For those who bike, these changes are continued from prior surges:

  • New Capital Bikeshare station at the East Falls Church Metrorail station, and additional capacity at Bikeshare stations at the Ballston and Rosslyn Metrorail stations.
  • Additional temporary bike parking capacity at Ballston and Rosslyn Metrorail stations.
  • Enhanced wayfinding along trails and commuter routes for bicyclists – Bike Routes – Orange/Silver Line direction
  • Custom Bike Trains arranged for County residents upon request – contact [email protected].

Video via Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority

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Metro SafeTrack Surge 4 service changes (Image via Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority)Arlington is set to lose one of its Metro stops on the Blue and Yellow lines for seven days as part of another “SafeTrack surge,” which is set to start tomorrow.

“Surge 4” track repair work is slated to begin Tuesday and will keep the station closed through the following Monday.

Until the Crystal City station’s scheduled reopening on Tuesday, July 19, Metro will have free shuttle bus service to connect the stop with the Reagan National and Pentagon City stations.

Arlington and airport officials are encouraging travelers to avoid driving near the three stations and use buses and other modes of transportation to get around.

An Arlington County website has the following information those affected by the Metro maintenance work and station closure.

Street operations changes for Surge 3 and 4

Supplemental local bus service continued from prior surges

  • The new ART service and additional ART bus capacity on routes that parallel the Blue Line will continue through Surges 3 and 4:
    • Midday, evening and weekend service for ART 43 (Crystal City-Rosslyn-Courthouse) – This route provides a direct connection from Crystal City to the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor. On weekdays, 40-foot buses will be used to add capacity.
    • 40-foot buses for ART 42 (Ballston-Pentagon) to add capacity – Each 40-foot bus has five more seats and room for more standees compared to 35-foot buses normally used on this route.
  • For changes to bus service operated by Metro and other jurisdictions, visit Metro’s website.

Alternate travel and work options

  • The County continues to encourage telework/flex time, ridesharing, biking and walking – options other than driving alone:
    • Arlington Transportation Partners is reaching out to employers and building managers to urge them to encourage telework or flex schedules and provide travel option information.
    • Arlington’s Commuter Page has travel option resources for residents and businesses – for example, assistance for vanpooling and other car-free options.
    • For teleworkers who can’t work at home, Arlington Public Libraries offer wifi, office equipment, design stations with Adobe software, and small meeting rooms.
  • For those who bike, these changes are continued from prior surges:
    • Additional capacity at Capital Bikeshare stations and bike parking around the Rosslyn and Crystal City Metro stations.
    • Custom Bike Trains arranged for County residents upon request – contact [email protected]. BikeArlington also will support promotion of Alexandria’s bike trains that will run from Braddock Road Metro station to Pentagon City.
    • Improved directional signage along bike commuter routes.
  • For those who use transit, bike or walk:
    • Ambassadors will be at Pentagon City Metro station to help travelers with their questions and trip planning.
    • Enhanced wayfinding signage at affected Metro stations will point people along safe routes to buses, shuttles, bike parking, Capital Bikeshare, station elevators, and other service locations.

Image via Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority

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