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Morning Notes

Proposed HQ2 ‘Helix’ Tower Is Too Tall — “Amazon.com Inc. may need to lop off the tip of its proposed drill-bit-like structure, the Helix, at its PenPlace development to ensure the safety of flights coming into and out of Reagan National Airport. Engineers working for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority determined the 15-story building is roughly 13 feet taller than the maximum allowable height for structures that close to the airport.” [Washington Business Journal, WJLA]

Homeless Population Down This Year — “The number of individuals counted as homeless across Arlington [this year] was down 14 percent from 2020 and declined by 26 percent since 2017, according to new figures from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments (COG). A total of 171 individuals were counted as homeless – either in shelters or living on the street – in the annual ‘Point in Time’ survey.” [Sun Gazette]

Update on Arlington Policing Practices — “Our Police Department has created an internal workgroup to review current policies and ensure they are aligned with best practices. Although excessive use of force has never been tolerated and our officers have been providing emergency medical treatment for years, additional language was added to our Use of Force policy to formalize current practices.” [Arlington County]

Arlington Man Has Big TikTok Following — “Tri Phan of Arlington, Virginia, has amassed 1.5 million followers since he began posting workout and healthy cooking videos in November. The 23-year-old, who is working on his master’s degree in data and business analytics at American University, often does two versions of his content, one in English and one in Vietnamese; about 60 percent of his followers are Vietnamese, he says.” [Associated Press]

Vets to Hike to Arlington from Connecticut — “On Tuesday, June 1, Will Reese will set out on “Ruck to Remember (R2R) – a 380-mile trek from Avon, CT, to Arlington, VA, to raise awareness and funds for APK Charities. Reese, who launched R2R in 2019, this time will be joined by hundreds of active and retired Military from all around the world who will all don “ruck-sacks” – military backpacks – for the 7-day march, which will culminate on Tuesday, June 8.” [We-ha.com]

Soon: No Tour Bus Parking at AF Memorial — “The removal of motorcoach parking at the entrance to the Air Force Memorial will present mobility issues, she said. “‘It will ultimately limit the number of people visiting the memorial,’ added [Guild of Professional Tour Guides] colleague Maribeth Oakes. Walking from the main cemetery entrance to the Air Force Memorial is a round trip of three miles and the trams, which cost $15 for adults, can fill up before the group of 58 could board. The guild would like a southern expansion with short-term parking for motorcoaches.” [Falls Church News-Press]

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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.

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Morning Notes

Biker pooch during Rolling Thunder 2015 (Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf)

Honoring War Dead at ANC — At the annual Memorial Day service in Arlington National Cemetery on Monday, President Obama said the country should “never stop trying to fully repay” Americans who have died in battle. It was the first Memorial Day in 14 years without a major American ground war — the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan ended in December. Over the weekend, Boy Scouts and other volunteers placed some 88,000 roses on the graves at the cemetery. [Associated Press, Stars and Stripes]

Post Endorses Cristol, Fallon — The Washington Post’s Editorial Board has endorsed Katie Cristol and Peter Fallon in the upcoming Democratic Arlington County Board primary. The Post lauded Cristol’s “drive and intelligence” and Fallon’s “command of policy.” The political action committee that represents Arlington public school teachers, meanwhile, has endorsed Fallon and Christian Dorsey. [Washington Post, InsideNova]

Bus Fire on I-395 — A tour bus caught fire on I-395 Saturday evening, near the 14th Street Bridge and the Pentagon. No injuries were reported. [InstagramNBC Washington]

County’s Bond Rating Reaffirmed — The three major credit rating agencies have reaffirmed Arlington’s triple-A bond rating, the highest rating possible. There are only 39 counties, including Arlington, that have a perfect triple-triple-A rating. “Retaining the County’s AAA ratings is critical to ensuring the absolute lowest interest rates on our General Obligation bonds,” County Manager Barbara Donnellan said in a press release. [Arlington County]

Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf

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2013 NAIOP bus tour (photo via @RosslynVA)A bus tour of commercial real estate in Northern Virginia alarmed Arlington residents and workers who didn’t know what to make of the large police escort winding its way through local neighborhoods.

The annual tour is organized by NAIOP, a commercial real estate development association. This year the NAIOP Northern Virginia Bus Tour made stops in Arlington, Alexandria, and parts of Fairfax County including Tysons Corner.

“Considered to be one of the premier commercial real estate Bus Tours in the United States, NAIOP Northern Virginia’s 2013 Tour…  is a full day of information and news about our market,” said NAIOP’s website.

2013 NAIOP bus tour police escort (photo via @josephgruber)The tour involves multiple buses full of real estate professionals and local officials, and a sizable police motorcycle escort. Since it’s not very well publicized outside of the real estate community, locals didn’t seem to know what to make of it when it rolled by in Ballston, Clarendon, Rosslyn, Crystal City and elsewhere.

“Something weird is going on in Rosslyn,” said one reader, in a voicemail left for ARLnow.com. “There are cops everywhere.”

“A dozen or so ACPD motocycles, with sirens blaring, just escorted a number of buses, maybe 4 or 5, through Ballston,” said an email. “Any idea who was in the buses?”

“11 tour buses led by 30 cops on motorcycles riding through Clarendon… um what?” said a reader via Twitter.

“@ArlingtonVA PD has practically shut down Crystal Dr for the NAACP (sic) 2013 Bus Tour,” said another tweet.

The tour was scheduled to start at 7:30 a.m. and end at 3:00 p.m.

Photos via @RosslynVA and @josephgruber

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The Arlington County Department of Parks and Recreation will hold a ribbon-cutting ceremony for a new motor coach later this month.

The disability-accessible, 41 seat bus was purchased by the county for use with DPR’s 55+ travel program, which conducts more than a dozen day trips per month for senior citizens who reside in Arlington. (October and November destinations include a tour of Philadelphia, a trip to the Graves Mountain Apple Harvest Festival in Syria, Va., and an outing to Hokkaido Seafood Buffet in Falls Church.)

The senior travel program has seen an uptick in demand over the past few years, the Sun Gazette reported this summer.

The bus has been in operation since August, but the parks department has planned a ribbon-cutting ceremony for 9:30 a.m. on Oct. 25, at the Thomas Jefferson Community Center (3501 2nd Street S.). The new bus replaced a retrofitted school bus that had been plagued with problems, according a county press release.

Department of Parks and Recreation has upgraded their transportation fleet with the addition of a Glaval coach bus. While the bus has been in operation since August, the County will celebrate its arrival with a short ceremony on October 25 at 9:30am at Thomas Jefferson Community Center, 3501 2nd Street South, Arlington. This new opportunity allows the County to enhance the quality of its programs, attract new clientele and produce a high level of satisfaction for participants.

The ADA-equipped bus features seating for 41 passengers plus one secured wheelchair seat or 37 passenger seats with two wheelchair secured seats. Other amenities include a wheelchair lift, aisle track lighting, DVD/CD with 6 viewing screens, comfortable seating with lap seatbelts, air conditioning with individual overhead controls, PA system, individual reading lights and under carriage luggage compartment.

“We are pleased to provide our program participants with this new transportation option,” said Department of Parks and Recreation Acting Director, Shannon Flanagan-Watson. “The ability to provide reliable and accessible transportation in support of our programs is key; this vehicle will help us greatly with this effort.”

After experiencing numerous problems and complaints related to the previous retro-fitted school bus it was decided to upgrade to a coach style bus. The new bus allows for more comfort, reliability, and accessibility for those with disabilities, as well as an expansion of trip destinations. The Glaval Coach bus, which will be managed by the Department of Parks and Recreation, was purchased by Arlington County and supplemented by the Arlington Senior Recreation and Community Engagement Fund, a part of the Arlington Community Foundation.

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Police impounded five unregistered tour buses at Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday.

The Hartford Courant reports that the buses, which took 250 eighth-graders from Connecticut to D.C. for a school trip, were operating without insurance or registration. One of the buses had a pair of bald tires, according to the paper.

The buses were impounded in the cemetery’s parking lot by U.S. Park Police and Arlington County police. School officials were eventually able to find other buses to pick the stranded students up from the cemetery.

File photo

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Firefighters are on the scene of a tour bus fire on southbound I-395, just after the 14th Street Bridge.

Heavy smoke can be seen on traffic cameras.

Only one lane of traffic is getting by the scene. Firefighters report that everybody that was on the bus made it out safely.

Update at 10:40 p.m. — The fire appears to be out.

Update at 10:50 p.m. — A witness, Josh Wright, tells us via Twitter: “[I] saw 40 foot flames coming out the back the bus. Firefighters were on the scene fast and put it out.”

Update at 12:35 a.m. — Wright supplied the video below, shot shortly after the flames were extinguished.

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Vamoose, a bus service that runs between Rosslyn, Bethesda, Md. and New York City, has just introduced a new “Gold Bus” to cater to riders who want upscale accommodations.

The bus has 36 seats as opposed to the normal 56. That allows for reclining leather seats that are 25 percent wider and provide a claimed 50 percent more leg room. Vamoose says the seats are larger than first-class seats on airliners.

The “technology-friendly” bus features power outlets at every seat and complimentary internet access.

“We’re the only one on the market that currently has this bus,” Vamoose regional manager Yvonne Brooks-Little said in a video touting the bus’ amenities. “This is a revolutionary new concept… it’s a 21st century bus.”

Tickets for the Vamoose Gold Bus are a revolutionary $50 each way, as opposed to the normal $30.

By comparison, the DC2NY bus, which was the first such “luxury” bus to include free internet, costs $30 each way or $55 round-trip.

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Officials said a proposal to install new tour bus parking meters could net Arlington thousands in fees and could help the county bring in $1 million in new visitor spending.

County officials have proposed installing the meters at popular tourist spots such as the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City, the Village at Shirlington, Crystal City, and Ballston. Bus operators would have to cough up $3 per hour to park along curbs, where they currently park in designated spots for free.

County officials said the parking meters alone would generate an estimated $90,000 per year. But a private research firm and the Arlington Economic Development Commission Tourism Committee said a growing tour bus industry could bring in new revenue to local restaurants that cater to large groups, netting the county over $37,000 in combined new sales, meals and transient occupancy taxes, according to county documents.

“It’s just time that we do this,” said Arlington parking manager Sarah Stott. “In a recent parking review, the county board said we should look at every space available and make sure that it’s used properly, and this is just part of that effort.”

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