A 22-story apartment building has the go-ahead to start construction in Crystal City after the Arlington County Board unanimously approved the project at its Saturday meeting.
The building, with the address of 2351 Jefferson Davis Highway but located at the intersection of Crystal Drive and 23rd Street S., is set for 302 apartments on top of a podium of the existing two-story retail space. The building is part of the larger Century Center office and retail complex.
The existing ground-floor retail includes Buffalo Wild Wings and Mezeh Mediterranean Grill. The existing retail tenants are expected to stay in the property after the project is complete.
The building would have more than 330,000 square feet of floor space and be 270 feet tall, with a total of 242 parking spaces provided for residents. An existing shared garage with a nearby office building will provide another 100 spaces for retail customers.
“This is the sort of mixed-use project that has become an Arlington signature,” said County Board chair Jay Fisette in a statement. “This building will accomplish one of our key goals — to bring more residents to the heart of Crystal City and provide an even better balance of jobs and residents in this neighborhood. This is a very attractive building, putting state-of-the-art new apartments above upgraded retail space that will enhance the neighborhood’s vibrancy.”
And while the project itself received broad support among County Board members and local residents who testified at the meeting, several raised concerns at the effectiveness of the county’s Transportation Impact Analysis.
The TIA is a requirement for new projects that assesses how many new vehicles and users of public transportation will be added, but some residents said it failed to take into account the community’s traffic concerns.
In their own recommendations of the project in Crystal City, both the Planning Commission and Transportation Commission said said staff must engage in a “community conversation” and receive feedback on where TIA studies can be improved.
“What we’re asking is for staff to reach out broader and more deliberately to the community, because they’re currently not feeling heard,” said Planning Commission member Stephen Hughes at the meeting.
County transportation director Dennis Leach said staff in the county’s Department of Environmental Services are already looking at updating the TIA, and that they will look to the community for input on how it can be changed before presenting any updates at a public meeting, as well as to the Planning and Transportation Commissions.
Leach said the county already asks far more of developers to show impacts on traffic and transit than many other jurisdictions. In its announcement of the Board’s approval, county officials said the analysis for this project was more stringent than most:
The applicant conducted a more extensive traffic impact analysis than usually conducted for such a project. The analysis included the effects of the project on multiple modes of transportation, not just vehicle trips. It assessed the development’s projected impact on the adjacent street, sidewalk, transit, and bicycle network and took into account additional traffic generated by approved, but not yet built, projects within the study area, and their associated transportation network improvements. The analysis evaluated 14 intersections along Crystal Drive, South Clark Street, 23rd Street South and 26th Street South and concluded that future intersection level of service will remain the same regardless of the development, due to sufficient capacity within the existing Metrorail and bus system for the additional trips generated by the site, and a high-quality environment that exists adjacent to the site for pedestrians and bicyclists.
There is no specific timeline on when the TIA regulations will be updated and presented to the community, although Leach said it is already in staff’s work plan. Fisette said he hoped to see progress in the “near term,” possibly as early as September.
The new “Premium Transit Network” on Columbia Pike is being greeted with cautious optimism by some community members after years of discussion and delays.
But some raised questions about what will mark the new bus system as “premium,” considering it will not run in dedicated lanes due to the layout of Columbia Pike and will have a fleet of standard buses, at least for now.
The mood appears to be more positive than previously, when a group of civic association leaders derided the service for a lack of ambition in a letter last year.
“A bus is a bus,” said Ric Birch, president of the Arlington Mill Civic Association, one of several along the Pike. “You can dress it up, you can paint it a different color, use different fabric on the seats, it’s a bus. I’m not sure what the real drive is for a premium bus.”
Staff explained at a work session about the network last month that the standard buses are being used for cost reasons, as electric vehicles or ones powered by alternative fuels would be too expensive at this stage.
County Board vice chair Katie Cristol, a Pike resident, said that most important for the new service beyond the buses themselves will be the frequency, which she said she hopes to see at six-minute intervals for at least a large portion of the day.
“I think it’ll be more incremental, but I do think once the system is operational and its component pieces are in place, Pike residents will feel something different, we’ll experience something different,” she said.
Residents did give staff credit for looking at ways to keep costs down when constructing the 23 “premium transit stations” along the Pike. The successor to the nixed $1 million “Super Stop,” the new stations will be factory assembled to save money, and include features like electronic arrival boards and the option to pay a fare before getting on the bus.
However, some questioned the need for the technology in the bus stops, given the proliferation of smartphones and bus tracking apps.
“Adopting all the technology, I’m a little ambivalent about it,” said Maria “Pete” Durgan, president of the Penrose Neighborhood Association. “I know they put a lot of effort in coming up with a design and they want it to be distinctive but that’s a lot of money for something that doesn’t have to be quite so elaborate.”
“I don’t know that they’re making that same mistake there [with the $1 million bus stop],” said Birch. “The county learned to watch the price on it. But I do think it’s tying a bow on it and calling it something that it already is. It’s a bus stop. They don’t really shield you from the elements that well, and I don’t understand all the need for all the electronic connectivity in the bus stops.”
With the new network set to begin operations next summer, Cristol said she hoped it would help spark more economic development and revitalization along the Pike, as businesses look to capitalize on more regular service. Cecilia Cassidy, executive director of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization, did not respond to requests for comment.
But Birch said he would like to go further, and see long-term planning for Columbia Pike include a long-range goal of an elevated light rail system, as well as maintaining good bus service. Durgan said plenty of people were “totally bummed” when the streetcar project was cancelled in 2014, as it would have been something different for the Pike.
“You’ve got to get the transit out of the lanes of Columbia Pike,” Birch said. “[In] today’s political climate, I don’t think it’s likely, but it’s a long-range plan that even if the county were to start today, we’re talking 15 years. I think someone needs to be courageous and start doing that.”
Arlington County Board members wrestled last night with a plan to substitute car parking spaces for spots for bike and car-sharing at new apartment and condo buildings near Metro stations.
The proposal, put together by county staff as part of a number of changes to parking policy under discussion at a Tuesday work session, is meant to encourage developers to contribute to other transit options.
Staff recommended that a developer providing a Capital Bikeshare station could substitute that for for up to four car parking spaces, depending on its size, or bike parking could be exchanged for two parking spaces. One car-sharing space, provided for a private company like Zipcar, could be in place of five spots.
But Board members questioned why the provision for different transit means is tied to reducing car parking spaces, especially near Metro stations, as adding such amenities is becoming a more standard practice in developments across the region.
“It bothers me that going to suggest that we’re not going to get these things until we go down to the minimum [parking ratio],” said Board chair Jay Fisette. “These are things that should be part of every site plan.”
Among the other recommendations put forward by staff, developers could request fewer parking spaces the closer a property is to a Metro station, with some committed affordable housing units not being required to have any parking spaces if they are within an eighth of a mile of a station.
Board member John Vihstadt argued that orienting the changes in parking policy around Metro, which would allow developers to provide fewer spaces at new buildings if they are close to a station, might be misguided given the drop in ridership due to the system’s ongoing safety concerns and year-long SafeTrack rebuilding program.
Vihstadt said that drop in ridership was “casting a pall” over the discussion, but county transportation director Dennis Leach said it was important to attract residents to such buildings who “build a lifestyle” around Metro. Vihstadt requested further data on the county’s declining ridership, which Leach said has also been hampered by more teleworking and other factors.
A major addition by staff to a report in March, by a residential parking working group on the new parking policy, is a requirement that developers provide for dedicated visitor parking.
Stephen Crim, a parking planner in the county’s Department of Environmental Services, said that change came after concerns from nearby residents that cars would park on their residential streets, especially those of visitors who have few options.
Leach noted that the parking garages in neighborhoods like Crystal City and Pentagon City are under-utilized, especially by visitors, and that DES could do even more to promote use of those spaces alongside the various Business Improvement Districts in the county.
Staff and County Board members agreed that while the policy still needs work before approval, it is aspirational and designed to attract residents who would prefer to have minimal, if any, car use.
“We are all seeking to hasten a future that we are interested in, which is a more multimodal corridor especially with fewer cars and more people taking alternatives to the extent that it suits them and choices that allow them to do so,” said Board vice chair Katie Cristol.
(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
Staff from the county’s Department of Environmental Services studied the feasibility of dedicated lanes along the Pike, but at a work session on Tuesday said they would likely not work.
Transportation director Dennis Leach described Columbia Pike as a “challenging corridor” for dedicated lanes and priority traffic signals for buses, like the Transitway between the Braddock Road and Pentagon City Metro stations. He said that the configuration of the road would not work for dedicated lanes, while they may also violate form based code that regulates development on Columbia Pike to make the area more walkable.
“There are no easy solutions. there are lots of tradeoffs, and some options would make things far worse,” Leach said. He added that giving traffic signal priority to buses might cause problems at some cross streets with Columbia Pike, especially those with heavy traffic.
Board members said they would like to see further study, and that such plans should not be ruled out even if in just one area of the Pike if it provides a benefit.
But the buses could be in for a unique look like the Transitway, which would mark them as separate from the other Metrobus and ART services along the Pike. Staff recommended pursuing a distinctive bus appearance, while using Metro’s standard stock of buses rather than ones powered purely by electricity or hydrogen due to cost.
Arlington’s buses could also be set for more advertising after staff issued a Request for Information last week. Responses are due from vendors by July 13 as staff gathers information about what could be done to generate additional transit revenue.
A separate suggestion by the Board to have buses arrive every six minutes on the Pike even in off-peak hours comes with a heavy price tag, as DES staff said it would cost an extra $2.5 million and require buying another bus. Staff also said demand might not be enough to help defray those costs.
But Board members said providing more service could help encourage more people to take the bus. Vice chair Katie Cristol said the idea is “also trying to induce demand,” especially when considering statistics provided by staff that show many bus riders in the area go to points along the Pike rather than beyond it.
“The objective here is not simply to meet current demand, but to create a transit system in which people can go to their bus stop, get on their bus and know they will be able to ride to where they want to go at some point,” Cristol said.
Board chair Jay Fisette agreed, noting that there is an “expectation” among Columbia Pike residents that transit improve. When the proposed streetcar was cancelled in 2014, Board members promised a system that would be just as good, if not better.
Cristol agreed, and asked why the county needed to wait for increased demand, or could “make a stretch, or place a bet?”
The new bus service is on track to open next summer. The county will engage in meetings with Fairfax County on the project, and is set to submit a version of it to WMATA’s Board of Directors to vote on ahead of finalizing a service plan later this year.
Also delayed but moving forward: the construction of 23 “premium transit stations,” along the Pike. The successor to the nixed $1 million “Super Stop,” the new stations will be factory assembled to save money.
The county will be issuing a Request for Proposals for the stations later this year, according to a staff presentation, with the goal of wrapping up installation by the second quarter of 2021 in coordination with multimodal improvements along the Pike.
(Updated at 11:50 a.m.) Those who live and work along Columbia Pike will have to wait another year for the implementation of a “Premium Transit Network” along the corridor.
ARLnow.com has learned that the plan for enhanced bus service along the Pike has been pushed back from 2018 to 2019 due to “WMATA’s focus on SafeTrack and core operations.”
Arlington’s Dept. of Environmental Services issued the following statement on the delay.
Originally proposed for summer 2018, implementation of the Columbia Pike Premium Transit Network is now planned for summer 2019. Much of the new service for this network depends on Metrobus, but Metrobus service improvements have been hampered by Metro’s SafeTrack program and the need for Metrobus to focus efforts on moving passengers around rail disruptions. The County is still working to improve local ART service on the original schedule, and we’ve started the purchase process for new buses needed for future service improvements.
Arlington’s Transit Bureau is working with WMATA and Fairfax County to develop an implementation plan for Columbia Pike service improvements. Metrobus has executed a contract to begin the planning and combine improvements included in both Arlington and Fairfax County’s Transit Development Plans.
The Premium Transit Network was criticized as not ambitious enough when it was approved last year, especially compared to the Columbia Pike streetcar plan it essentially replaced. County staff was directed to consider other enhancements to transit along the corridor to supplement it.
The streetcar project was cancelled in 2014. At the time, Arlington County Board member and streetcar critic Libby Garvey promised a transit replacement that “will do everything the streetcar could and more.”
The transit network is intended be “fast, frequent, reliable and easy to use, with features including simplified routes, increased weekday and weekend service, and a new one-seat bus ride from Skyline to Pentagon City-Crystal City,” according to a county press release last year. “In addition to new service, the Premium Transit Network includes new transit stations along Columbia Pike that will provide near-level boarding, longer platforms, real-time bus arrival information and off-vehicle fare collection.”
Although the transit network implementation has been delayed, Arlington County and WMATA have already implemented a number of planned enhancements to bus service along Columbia Pike and elsewhere in Arlington, according to slides from a Dept. of Environmental Services budget presentation that were posted online.
County to Continue Westover Study — Arlington County’s Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board has asked county staff to study garden apartments in the Westover neighborhood. The study is expected to take 6-12 months, after which the board will consider whether to recommend a historic designation. Some residents want Westover designated as historic in order to prevent redevelopment. The study limits the historic designation to the garden apartments and not to other parts of Westover. [InsideNova, Arlington County]
Donations Needed for ANC Wreaths — The nonprofit Wreaths Across America is seeking donations to help sponsor wreaths for the gravestones at Arlington National Cemetery. Without additional donations, nearly half of the graves at the cemetery may be bare for the holidays. [Washington Examiner, WTOP]
New Name for New Street — A new street that will be built as part of a planned apartment development along Columbia Pike may be getting a new name. Originally set to be called S. Smythe Street, the short connector road behind the Wellington apartments may instead be named S. Ross Street. [InsideNova]
High School Boundary Change Approved — Despite some resident complaints, the Arlington School Board on Dec. 1 approved a series of high school boundary changes that will move students, starting with high school freshmen next year, from overcrowded Washington-Lee High School to Wakefield and Yorktown. [Arlington Public Schools, InsideNova]
The Arlington County Board has approved adding pedestrian-only streets and low-speed “shared streets” to its transportation repertoire.
The amendments to the county’s Master Transportation Plan were approved unanimously at the Board’s meeting on Saturday.
As we reported in September, the county’s long-term plan for Rosslyn includes a multi-block, pedestrian-only stretch of 18th Street to replace Rosslyn’s skywalk system. Additionally, sections of 14th and 15th streets in Courthouse are slated to become shared streets.
Before the Board’s vote on Saturday, the Master Transportation Plan did not permit either street type.
More information, from an Arlington County press release:
The Arlington County Board adopted today proposed amendments to the Master Transportation Plan Street Element, incorporating two innovative changes: a new pedestrian priority street type — a car-free street that provides pedestrians access to adjacent buildings — and “shared streets” — for pedestrians, bicyclists and low speed vehicular traffic. These amendments will accommodate street variations as envisioned in the Rosslyn and Courthouse Sector Plans and provide guidance for potential use in other parts of the County.
In the Rosslyn area, nine block-length pedestrian priority street segments are planned to replace the remaining skywalk segments, break up north-south blocks and enhance access to the Rosslyn Metro Station. Segments of 18th Street North (from North Lynn Street to North Oak Street) will accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists only, without regular motor vehicle access. Implementation of the pedestrian priority street segments are expected to occur over time as private properties on those blocks are redeveloped.
In the Courthouse Square area, segments of 14th and 15th Streets North (between North Uhle Street and Courthouse Road) will be prioritized as low-speed “shared streets,” emphasizing needs of both pedestrians and bicyclists through use of distinctive paving materials and level travel areas. These streets will be primarily intended for pedestrians, but open to slow-speed vehicle traffic.
“Arlington is a varied community that puts an emphasis on various modes of travel – be it walking, biking, taking transit or driving,” said Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey. “These street variations are very exciting and an important step in improving access and safety for the many residents, visitors and commuters that walk and bike around Arlington each and every day.”
The Board voted 5 to 0 to approve the amendments.
In July 2015, the Board adopted an update to the Rosslyn Sector Plan that called for eventual development of several new street segments. In September 2015, the Board adopted the Courthouse Square sector plan update and its proposal of creating sections of shared streets.
The idea of new street types is the result of considerable public involvement. The two new street types were initially envisioned during the development of the sector plan updates, with the names and definitions further refined in hearings by the Arlington Planning and Transportation commissions.
Now that these changes have been accepted, the new street types can be applied elsewhere in the County when approved through a community planning process and action by the County Board.
Balcony Fire in Arlington View — Arlington County firefighters battled a small fire on an apartment balcony in the Arlington View neighborhood yesterday afternoon, following reports of an “explosion” sound. The fire was quickly extinguished and no injuries were reported. [Twitter]
Carpool’s New Owner Trying to Sell — The fate of Carpool is once again uncertain. The Ballston-area bar was supposed to close later this fall to make way for a new high-rise residential development. Despite County Board approval of the project, and the just-completed sale of the bar, developer Penzance is now reportedly trying to sell the site. [Washington Business Journal]
Student Population Growth Lower Than Estimate — The student population at Arlington Public Schools grew 3.6 percent from last school year to the beginning of this school year. That’s an increase of 914 students, the equivalent of a new middle school, but it is 262 students below APS projections. [InsideNova]
Pedestrian-Only Streets on County Board Agenda — The Arlington County Board on Saturday is slated to consider allowing pedestrian-only streets in Arlington. Currently such streets are not part of the county’s Master Transportation Plan. Pedestrian-only streets are being discussed for parts of Rosslyn and Courthouse. [Arlington County]
White Squirrel Hit By Car? — A commenter says an albino squirrel that was often seen in neighborhoods near Columbia Pike has been hit by a car and killed. [ARLnow]
The Board is set to consider a request to advertise hearings on the change at a meeting later this month, according to a draft proposal.
The proposal would add “Pedestrian Street” to the MTP’s existing four defined street types. A pedestrian street is described as “a car-free travel corridor that provides public pedestrian access to adjacent buildings and properties fronting the street and serves as a public meeting place and location for commerce, communication and other community activities.”
“A pedestrian street is [predominantly] paved with a hard surface suitable for walking and includes physical measures that prevent regular access by motor vehicles,” the proposal says.
There are currently no pedestrian-only streets in Arlington, but a few are proposed, including a new 18th Street corridor in Rosslyn that would replace the neighborhood’s aging skywalk system with a several blocks of a new pedestrian-only street between N. Oak Street and N. Lynn Street, with the Rosslyn Metro station in between.
In addition to pedestrian-only streets, the proposal updates the definition of an existing street type — a pedestrian and bicycle priority street. The newly-defined “shared streets” are intended to “allow people to comfortably walk within the roadway” thanks to “implicitly slow traffic speeds through the mixing of travel paths, physical measures and visual cues.”
A recently-approved plan for the Courthouse neighborhood calls for portions of 14th and 15th streets to be shared streets, primarily intended for pedestrians but open to slow-speed vehicular traffic.
If the request to advertise the changes is approved in September, the Planning Commission and the County Board are likely to hold hearing on the change in October.
Hat tip to Jim Hurysz
APS Testing for Lead in Pipes — Arlington Public Schools has been testing systemwide for lead in pipes. Already, the school system has replaced a water fountain in Jamestown Elementary School found to have lead levels above a level considered safe by the state health department. [InsideNova]
Bayou Bakery Raising Money for Flooding Victims — Bayou Bakery in Courthouse is raising money for Louisiana flooding victims. The restaurant is offering a special Shrimp Creole appetizer for $9 this week; half the proceeds from that dish will benefit flood victims, including chef/owner David Guas’ own aunt, whose home in Abbeville, LA flooded with two feet of water. [Bayou Bakery]
Arlington Names New Communications Director — Dr. Bryna Helfer has been named Arlington County’s new Director of Communications and Public Engagement. She joins county government from the federal government. “Helfer currently serves as Deputy Assistant Secretary for Public Engagement at the U.S. Department of Transportation and also serves as Senior Advisor to the Secretary on Accessibility and Workforce,” a press release notes. [Arlington County]
Crystal City Boxing Recap — It was a nine-bout, nine-knockout night at the Crystal City Hilton Friday night. [Fight News]
Transport Nerds ‘Playing With Traffic’ — A big group of “transportation techies” gathered recently at WeWork in Crystal City to discuss creative and tech-based solutions to transportation problems. The group is sponsored by Mobility Lab, the research arm of Arlington County Commuter Services. [Washington Post]
Flickr pool photo by Kevin Wolf
As part of its latest Capital Improvement Plan, the Arlington County Board last night approved a new slate of bond referenda that will appear on the ballot this fall.
The county has proposed four bonds for voters to consider. In total the bonds add up to some $315.8 million.
- Metro and Transportation — $58,785,000
- Local Parks and Recreation — $19,310,000
- Community Infrastructure — $98,850,000
- Arlington Public Schools — $138,830,000
In a board report, county staff detailed the planned use of funds for each bond.
Metro and Transportation:
This proposal will fund a variety of transportation, road, pedestrian enhancement and transit projects across the County. The largest components of this proposal are $30 million for Arlington County’s share of WMATA / Metro’s capital improvement program, and $24 million to fund a portion of the costs for paving local streets and roadways. Proceeds of this proposal will also fund bridge renovation, street lights, transportation systems & traffic signals, as well as the WALKArlington, BikeArlington, Safe Routes to Schools, and Curb & Gutter Missing Links programs. The County Board may reallocate bond funds among the various projects to the extent necessary or desirable.
Local Parks and Recreation:
This proposal will fund various parks improvements and enhancements, as well as $3 million for the Land Acquisition and Open Space Program for strategic park acquisitions. This proposal would also fund the Trail Modernization program, design and planning at Jennie Dean Park and construction at Tyrol Hills Park, and maintenance capital improvements such as playground, courts and other parks infrastructure improvements. The County Board may reallocate bond funds among the various projects to the extent necessary or desirable.
This proposal will fund a variety of County infrastructure projects. The largest component of this proposal is $46.46 million for the Lubber Run Community Center project. Also included is $12 million of funding for Neighborhood Conservation projects, as well as funding for the Nauck Town Square, planning & design of the Fire Station 8 replacement, renovations & improvements to government facilities in the Court House Complex, renovation of the Barcroft Sports & Fitness Center for additional gymnastics, and a County childcare facility. The Neighborhood Conservation Program provides funding for a variety of neighborhood-identified capital improvement projects including street improvements (sidewalk, curb and gutter, drainage, paving), traffic management and pedestrian enhancements, park improvements, street lighting, recreational facilities, landscaping, and beautification.
It also includes funding of a joint County & Schools parking deck and other improvements at the Thomas Jefferson middle school site due to the construction of a new elementary school, critical systems infrastructure upgrades to 24×7 hour facilities; and facilities maintenance capital improvements, including design and construction of projects including but not limited to roofs, electrical and heating / cooling systems and other facilities infrastructure. The County Board may reallocate bond funds among the various projects to the extent necessary or desirable.
Arlington Public Schools:
This proposal will make funds available for the Arlington Public Schools’ capital improvement program. The proposed bonds will fund the following projects:
- The new middle school at the Stratford site ($26,030,000)
- The new school at the Wilson site ($78,400,000)
- Addition and renovation at the Career Center/Arlington Tech ($12,000,000)
- Planning for secondary seats at location(s) to be determined ($10,000,000), and
- Infrastructure capital projects such as HVAC, roofing, etc. ($12,400,000)
The School Board may reallocate bond funds among the various projects to the extent necessary or desirable.
The Board also approved its $3.3 billion 2017-2026 Capital Improvement Plan Tuesday night. A county press release on the plan, after the jump.
The Arlington County Board on Saturday approved a new 10-year transit plan that provides a vision for “more frequent bus service, more late night and weekend service, better north-south connections, and a new Premium Transit Network along Columbia Pike.”
There’s an asterisk to the Transit Development Plan’s unanimous approval and the subsequent cheery press release, however. Responding to criticism from residents and the county’s own Transportation Commission, the Board directed County Manager Mark Schwartz to report back next year on possible improvements to the post-streetcar transit plan for Columbia Pike.
The Board’s guidance to Schwartz and county staff:
This generally ambitious and robust Transit Development Plan nevertheless falls short of the urgency and innovation needed to create a transformative transit network serving Columbia Pike and to realize its potential as a thriving and dynamic residential and commercial corridor.
Therefore, in adopting the FY 2017 -FY 2026 Transit Development Plan, the County Board also gives the following guidance to the County Manager and staff:
Look and Customization of Vehicles. The current TDP phases in the most modern version of current vehicles, WMATA buses and ART buses, with no unique features beyond re-skinning the buses on WMATA routes. Recognizing the significant logistical, cost and inter-jurisdictional challenges, please provide to the Board for consideration and analysis, during Q2 2017, the details of a possible path to customized and unique vehicles.
Articulated Buses. In consultation with WMATA, provide a plan by Q2 2017 to add articulated buses to the highest-demand routes on Columbia Pike (on either a pilot or permanent basis). Continue to assess effectiveness of articulated bus service and determine sustained levels of service for these routes through FY2026.
Headways. The current TDP identifies 6-minute peak headways and 12-15 minute off-peak headways for the Metrobus Connector “trunk line.” Please provide to the Board, by Q2 2017, a cost/benefit analysis (to consider efficiency, capacity, ridership impacts) of reducing the off-peak headways and ultimately achieving a 6-minute headway for 18 hours/day.
Coordination with Other Agencies. To effectuate this guidance, the County Manager and staff will coordinate as appropriate and necessary with WMATA and other federal, state, regional and local government agencies and transportation bodies.
Most of the public comments at Saturday’s Board meeting were complimentary of the overall plan, save the plan for the so-called Premium Transit Network. That plan seemed in many ways diminished from the “TSM-2” enhanced bus plan the county and supporters originally said was inferior to its since-cancelled streetcar plan for Columbia Pike.
Among the public speakers at the Board meeting was John Snyder, member of the Columbia Pike Revitalization Organization and a former streetcar booster. Snyder said the plan for Pike transit presented by county staff was inadequate to support growth along the corridor.
We had a debate for several years [about] TSM-2… and the streetcar. TSM-2 won the debate. Now, when I look at the plan, what is written in the plan has disappeared. The whole idea of premium new vehicles that have higher capacity: it’s gone. This wasn’t announced and it wasn’t part of a public process. We found out about it by looking at the Capital Improvement Plan. There’s no money to buy new buses. There’s still money in the plan for the transit stations if they’re maintained at the current level but the buses have disappeared. There’s great things in the Transit Development Plan, what’s in there is great and the consensus is that the county board supports all of it. But the concern is what’s not in there. We don’t see anything that’s going to help businesses with more frequent service on the off-hours. People go out to dinner not during the commuting hour, they go out to dinner after that time and they come back after that time. The idea of six-minute intervals all the time makes it reliable, frequent, easy and simple to use. We have the simplicity, the new 16M line is great in the way that it simplifies many of these different routes but it needs to have that frequency to help our businesses and connect our residents to that so we get out of the car mentality. Seventy percent of the people on the Pike do not use transit even to get to work. The percentage on other sorts of trips is even higher. We need to change that. That’s the whole idea behind the Pike plan and it has been supported by the Board for the last 15 years.
There is no plan to increase capacity. We understand that you’re going to be coordinating with WMATA on how we can get articulated buses. I heard the same thing in 2003 at the first meeting I attended regarding transit on the Pike. WMATA has a lot on its plate. What we need in that regard is a statement that says Arlington will. Arlington will go do this, we will go get the additional buses, we will get the additional facilities needed to maintain them and we’re going to do that by a particular date.
Some were more charitable about the plan as currently conceived.
“These critics failed to appreciate that no amount of service upgrades will defeat car culture,” said perennial County Board candidate Audrey Clement, who’s running as an independent this year. “If state of the art transit technology were the solution, the Silver Line would not be running half-empty in the I-66 median with cars parked on the interstate on either side every day.”
Dennis Leach, Arlington’s Deputy Director of Transportation, said the enhanced transit stations and other amenities included in the Premium Transit Network plan will, in fact, move the needle in terms of making transit a more attractive option along the Pike.
“The premium amenities are proving those high-quality stations with near-level boarding, longer platforms and real-time information,” he said. “These stations are the front door of transit in the corridor. It is shifting this entire corridor to off-vehicle fare collection. We’ve already started work on transit signal priority and we are committed to actually implementing it in the full corridor.”
“We are actively coordinating with Metro to replace the current buses with modern low floor vehicles,” Leach added. “The intent is to implement a unified brand for this premium transit network.”
“I would say this was the most intensive and comprehensive transit update that the county has ever done,” Leach said of the overall transit plan. “I was here for 2011, this effort well exceeded that. We looked at every route and every part of this community to bring these recommendations before you.”
The full press release from Arlington County, after the jump.
Long Bridge Project Coming — Virginia’s new Atlantic Gateway transportation plan includes the reconstruction of Long Bridge, the rail bridge that runs parallel to the 14th Street Bridge. As proposed, the new bridge would carry four rail tracks instead of two. Local elected officials expressed support for the project at a press conference with Gov. Terry McAuliffe in Alexandria last week. [Arlington Connection]
Kids Attend ‘Peace Camp’ — A group of local children attended a week-long camp that was all about promoting peace through music, art and games. The event was held at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington and organized by the group Little Friends for Peace. [WUSA 9]
Sugar Shack Debuts ‘Donut Lab’ — Sugar Shack Donuts on Columbia Pike will be debuting new flavors every Wednesday as part of a social media competition with its sister store in Alexandria. Each week customers will vote on their favorite flavor. This week’s new flavor at the Arlington store is “Cannoli,” with cannoli cream filling and chocolate glaze. [Patch]
Community Zika Meeting — The Fairlington neighborhood will be holding a community meeting on the threat of the Zika virus tonight. [Twitter]
Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey addressed transportation and affordable housing on Columbia Pike at her State of the County address Tuesday morning.
Garvey said the county needs to “fix the transportation” on the Pike, “not that it’s too bad now.” She referenced the Transit Development Plan for enhanced bus service on Columbia Pike, which the Board is expected to consider at its July meeting.
Garvey noted that there has been continued development along the Columbia Pike corridor. The cancellation of the streetcar project — Garvey led the charge against it — “hasn’t affected people as much as some would suggest,” she said.
Garvey also said the county needs to “slow down a bit” the pace of affordable housing development along Arlington’s western end of Columbia Pike, to avoid an over-concentration of affordable housing in one place.
“It’s great what we’re doing, but I think we have to be aware that you don’t want to concentrate it too much,” she said.
That should be welcome news to the Coalition of Arlingtonians for Responsible Development (CARD), a particularly vocal civic group formed last year in opposition to what it views as a clustering of affordable housing on Columbia Pike. The group says it favors a more even geographic distribution of affordable housing throughout Arlington.