It’s October — And just like that, September is over and October has started. October has been deemed Affordable Housing Month in Arlington County.
Cool Month on Tap? — “After a fast shift to autumn in September, we anticipate the coolest October since 2015 along with a healthy dose of rainfall. Our forecast is for Washington’s average October temperature to fall within 2 degrees of normal. Remarkably, the past four Octobers have each been at least 3 degrees above normal.” [Capital Weather Gang]
Local Hotels Still Hurting — “Arlington’s hotel-occupancy rate in July was just 24 percent, with the year-to-date rate of 35 percent less than half the 76.7-percent rate recorded during the same seven-month period in 2019… For the January-to-July period, the average room rate for Arlington lodging establishments was $141.55, down nearly 18 percent from the $172.16 recorded during the same period in 2019.” [InsideNova]
Riders Steal Rideshare Driver’s Ride — “The victim was operating as a rideshare driver when he became engaged in a verbal dispute with the three passengers in his vehicle. As he stopped his vehicle to end the trip, the passengers assaulted the victim, then pulled him from the car and continued to assault him. The suspects then re-entered the vehicle, stole it, and fled prior to police arrival. Officers canvasing the area later located the vehicle nearby.” [ACPD]
Debate Watch Party in Shirlington — “Most voters who showed up to the watch party at Busboys and Poets in Shirlington neighborhood of Arlington, Virginia, said they had made up their minds before the debate — and left feeling frustrated at what they saw.” [WUSA 9]
Regional Coronavirus Cases Down — “The number of new coronavirus infections this week has fallen to levels last seen in mid-July across the Washington region, although leaders and health officials worry that the return of colder weather could reverse the trend.” [Washington Post]
A Maryland man was kicked out of a rideshare vehicle and later arrested after inappropriate sexual conduct, according to Arlington County Police.
The incident happened Saturday afternoon, around 2:30 p.m. Police were dispatched to westbound I-66 near the Rosslyn tunnel, after getting a call about a man that had exposed himself.
“Upon arrival, it was determined that the victim was operating as a rideshare driver when the suspect, a passenger, allegedly began making inappropriate comments and grabbed her arm,” according to an ACPD crime report. “The victim pulled over and forced him out of the vehicle, while he continued to touch himself inappropriately. The suspect fled on foot prior to police arrival.”
A suspect was later arrested along Lee Highway, just west of Glebe Road.
“Officers located the suspect and took him into custody without incident in the 4900 block of Lee Highway,” the crime report continued. “Demetrius Dent, 27, of Forestville, Md., was arrested and charged with Indecent Exposure and Assault and Battery.”
Taxicabs are becoming an increasingly less common sight on the streets of Arlington County.
After reaching a high of 847 in 2017, the number of authorized taxis in Arlington continues to fall precipitously. Over the past two years, the number of taxis authorized at the county’s three largest cab companies — Red Top, Yellow Cap and Blue Top — has dropped by a third.
In all, there are now 542 cabs authorized in Arlington, including 39 wheelchair-accessible cabs, as of March. That number, however, is almost certainly higher than the actual number of cabs on the road.
The taxi industry has been devastated by the popularity of ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft. In 2016, ARLnow reported that dispatched cab trips, the predominant measure of taxi activity in the county, plummeted by a third — from 2.6 million to 1.7 million annually — between 2013 and 2015.
Two local cab company, All Access Cab and Envirocab, have gone out of business since 2017.
File photo (top), table via Arlington County (bottom)
A new scooter company is now set to join the ranks of e-scooters in Arlington, months after earning approval from the county.
E-scooter company JUMP, which is now owned by Uber, announced this morning that it will be soon be rolling the vehicles into Arlington and Alexandria. Loic Amado, Uber’s East Coast General Manager of Scooters, said the company was “excited” about getting more people using scooters, but did not share when users can expect to see the vehicles on the streets.
“At Uber, we are working towards a world where residents can easily live without a car and JUMP scooters provide an affordable, environmentally friendly way to get from point A to point B,” said Amado.
“Users can find and unlock JUMP scooters within the Uber app,” the company said in a press release. “It’s simple to use — you can reserve via the Uber app or by walking up to an available scooter and scanning the QR code to unlock. When using the app, tap the mode switch at the top of your home screen, and select Scooter. JUMP scooters are free to unlock and $0.25 per minute of riding.”
The county originally granted approval for JUMP to enter the fray back in February, with the company saying at the time they expected to roll out scooters “within a few weeks.”
Since approving a “demonstration project” for the scooters, officials have allowed several companies to scoot into Arlington — including Lyft, Lime, Bird, Skip, and Bolt. Last month, the Department of Environmental Services extended the pilot program to December 31 in a bid to gather more data and public input.
The devices have prompted discussions over safety as well as how to prevent the dockless devices from crowding sidewalks. This winter, lawmakers in Richmond advanced legislation to give local jurisdictions more authority to regulate scooter use, such as banning them on sidewalks.
Photo courtesy Uber
County Board Roundup — As expected, the Arlington County Board on Saturday voted to approve a contract for Nauck Town Square, a purchase agreement to acquire Virginia Hospital Center-owned property, and a permit to convert former administrative offices next to Washington-Lee High School to classroom space for up to 600 students.
Adding Amazon Acquisitions in Arlington? — “Keep an eye on what companies Amazon.com Inc. buys next. It could be what fills HQ2. Acquisitions will likely determine what jobs and teams develop at the second headquarters in Arlington, said Holly Sullivan, Amazon’s head of worldwide economic development.” [Washington Business Journal]
Drivers Work to Inflate Prices at DCA — “Every night, several times a night, Uber and Lyft drivers at Reagan National Airport simultaneously turn off their ride share apps for a minute or two to trick the app into thinking there are no drivers available — creating a price surge. When the fare goes high enough, the drivers turn their apps back on and lock into the higher fare.” [WJLA]
Garvey Endorses Stamos — “I believe we could use a healthy debate about equity in Arlington and how our legal justice system works. However, a healthy debate means using facts about what is working and what is not… I hope you will join me in voting for Theo Stamos for Commonwealth’s Attorney on June 11.” [Libby Garvey]
Sun Gazette Endorses Favola, Lopez — “In its endorsements, the paper said neither Nicole Merlene (who is challenging Favola) nor Julius Spain (who is taking on Lopez) has reached the rather high bar set for an endorsement of challengers to sitting office-holders.” [InsideNova]
Merlene on Kojo — “On @kojoshow, @NicoleMerleneVA says a second bridge over the Potomac, perhaps in Loudoun County, is needed, especially in light of the recent Beltway closure. She also expresses support for marijuana decriminalization and medical marijuana in Va.” [Twitter]
Arlington Firms in Fortune 1000 — Four Arlington-based companies are in the new Fortune 1000 list: AES, CACI International, Graham Holdings, and AvalonBay Communities. Fairfax County, meanwhile, is home to ten Fortune 500 companies. [Fortune, Twitter]]
Man Sentenced for Threatening Ajit Pai — “Threatening to actually kill a federal official’s family because of a disagreement over policy is not only inexcusable, it is criminal. This prosecution shows not only that we take criminal threats seriously, but also that online threats of violence have real world consequences.” [Twitter, USDOJ]
Another Amazon-Adjacent Acquisition — “Amazon’s planned second headquarters continues to attract the interest of major investors to the National Landing area. Newmark Knight Frank announced Friday it brokered the sale of Presidential Tower at 2511 Jefferson Davis Highway on behalf of the seller, Beacon Capital Partners. The building sold for $123M, according to CoStar information.” [Bisnow]
Photo courtesy @zachzsnapz/Instagram.
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Ride Hailing ‘Strike’ Today — “Getting an Uber or a Lyft may be impossible — or take longer and cost more — Wednesday when drivers for both companies plan to strike in major U.S. cities to protest what they say are unfair wages and poor working conditions.” [Washington Post]
APS Poaching Fairfax Teachers — From a candidate for Fairfax County Board of Supervisors: “Today I met a veteran teacher who is leaving FCPS because Arlington County will pay her $12,000 more annually. Meanwhile, all I hear about is how we are fully funding our schools. We still have some catching up to do Fairfax County.” [Twitter]
County Employees Getting Reusable Straws — Updated at 10:10 a.m. — “This week is [Public Service Recognition Week], and Arlington County employees will be celebrating with their new, reusable steel straws, distributed… as a thank you for their hard work.” [WDVM]
Another Traffic Enforcement Push in Clarendon — Yesterday Arlington County Police conducted “high-visibility traffic enforcement” at Clarendon Boulevard and N. Danville Street,” reminding drivers to “be [street smart] and yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk.” [Twitter]
No State GOP Candidates in Arlington Yet — “Thus far, there have been no nibbles on the line among potential Republican candidates for state legislative seats. The party’s filing deadlines passed on May 2 and 5 for GOP prospects for the 47th and 49th House of Delegates districts and 31st state Senate district without any candidates formally expressing interest.” [InsideNova]
(Updated 10:05 a.m.) Arlington will soon release the results of a study on whether Uber and Lyft should replace some bus routes in certain areas of the county.
At the end of May officials are expected to conclude its “Parameters Study for Zone-Based Demand-Responsive (Flex) Transit Service,” per a county spokesman. The study will help officials weigh whether ride-hailing companies can replace some bus service in areas experiencing low bus ridership.
Ride-hailing services could connect riders heading to and from those areas with the nearest Metro station.
Taxi companies and paratransit providers are also being floated as possible service providers, county transportation spokesman Eric Balliet told ARLnow yesterday (Tuesday).
“We’re in the research phase right now, so no decisions have been made about [the] number of providers or where vehicles would pick up passengers,” Balliet said. “These would be looked at if we decide to move forward with this service concept.”
- The Douglas Park, Nauck, and Arlington Village neighborhoods which the plan aims to connect to transit along Columbia Pike.
- The Rock Spring, Williamsburg Middle School, and Dominion Hills areas, which currently see only 10 passengers per hour on the ART 53 route. Those neighborhoods would be connected to the East Falls Church Metro station.
- The Chain Bridge Forest, Rivercrest, Bellevue Forest, Gulf Branch, and Stafford-Albermarle-Glebe neighborhoods, which also only see 10 passengers per hour on the ART 53 route. Those neighborhoods would be connected to the Ballston Metro station.
“Each trip must either originate or end at that chosen destination,” the plan says. “This service will use smaller vehicles that may not be operated by or under the banner of ART and could include a separate fare system. Rides would be grouped and provided on a demand responsive basis.”
“In Arlington County there are several low-density neighborhoods which are served by low-frequency, low-ridership, costly-to-operate bus routes,” a 2018 description of the study says. “In these areas, it may be easier and cheaper to provide on-demand private-vehicle service for people needing to get to Arlington’s business and shopping districts than continuing to provide bus service.”
The county “sees this project as a potential model for other places which are facing similar issues with their bus systems,” said the study’s description.
County Manager Mark Schwartz said in a 2016 statement that the county’s “goal is to review a possible way to encourage transit ridership, increase efficiency and reduce costs,” and added that the county “must overcome many challenges and answer many questions before we could consider implementing this proposal.”
Montgomery County, Maryland is planning to test a similar transit program this summer where residents can request a shuttle pick-up using the Via app, WTOP reported.
The civic association for Aurora Highlands and Crystal City are requesting the county officials take action on traffic caused by the Uber and Lyft waiting area along S. Eads Street.
The area, sometimes called the “TNC lot,” comprises two parking lots located at 2799 S. Eads St. where Uber and Lyft drivers must park while queuing for passengers at Reagan Airport.
The associations say there have been persistent traffic problems caused by the lot, and discussions about solutions have “stalled.”
The neighborhood groups wrote a letter to Arlington Department of Environmental Services (DES) Director of Transportation Dennis Leach this week citing ongoing congestion woes caused by “7,800 additional vehicles per day” on Eads Street northbound.
That’s despite the county opening an entrance to and exit from the lot along Route 1, to ease traffic near the residential neighborhoods along Eads.
Aurora Highlands Civic Association President Scott Miles told ARLnow that as of last night (Thursday at 5 p.m.) the associations have not received a response from county officials.
Miles and Crystal City Civic Association President Carol Fuller signed the letter, which proposed two solutions for DES and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority:
- Allow ride-hailing drivers to enter, but not exit, the lot via Eads Street.
- Turn the lot into airport employee parking and make Uber and Lyft drivers wait at a new lot on airport property instead.
Today, Uber’s guide for drivers picking up at DCA features a section how vehicles should queue in the waiting area, noting that, “When exiting the lot, left turns only are permitted in an effort to reduce traffic congestion along S. Eads St.”
Before picking the Eads space for the lot, the Airport Authority had set up a temporary parking space a block northward at Crystal Drive and 26th Street S. which also caused traffic headaches.
Image via Google Maps
Free Amazon Mugs at Northside Social — Amazon is partnering with Northside Social to give out free branded to-go tumblers this morning. [Instagram]
Kojo Explores the Amazon Effect — “We’ll look back on Seattle’s history with Amazon and discuss how our local governments can navigate their relationship with the company. Plus, we’ll hear from a policy researcher on how the DMV’s housing market will shift over the next two decades as Amazon gets settled in the region.” [Kojo Nnamdi Show]
Amazon’s Tech Effect — “Within the [D.C.] area’s tech industry – the sector likely to be most affected by the [Amazon] news – leaders are either keeping mum about their reaction or publicly expressing excitement. But behind the scenes, experts say, there is a fair amount of apprehension.” [U.S. News]
Metro to Subsidize Late Night Uber Rides? — “With Metro hours due to remain limited for the foreseeable future, Metro plans to pay cabs or a company like Uber or Lyft $1 million to slightly discount trips for certain people rather than provide alternative bus or other service.” [WTOP, WMATA]
737 Max Grounded at DCA — “For people flying in and out of the Reagan National Airport, Wednesday’s grounding of all 737 MAX 8 and MAX 9 jets brought mixed reactions. Some flights were cancelled. Others were already in the air when the emergency order came down, and were grounded the moment they touched down.” [WJLA, NBC 4]
‘Poo’ at Wakefield High School — Arlington Public Schools has been slow to fix a direction sign at Wakefield High School that is missing the “L” in “pool.” [Sun Gazette]
Photo courtesy Dennis Dimick
County officials and representatives from ridesharing companies are planning another community meeting to talk through traffic headaches generated by a staging lot for Uber and Lyft drivers serving Reagan National Airport passengers.
Arlington leaders will convene another gathering on the subject next week — in tandem with Uber, Lyft and airport executives — though they hope they’ve managed to alleviate many of the issues the community raised last fall.
At the time, many people living near the lot (located at 2780 Jefferson Davis Highway in Crystal City, adjacent to S. Eads Street and a Holiday Inn hotel) said the surge of rideshare drivers in the area had snarled traffic in the neighborhood.
Airport officials only started directing drivers over that way to account for National’s massive “Project Journey” construction effort, requiring drivers to wait in the lot until would-be passengers request rides. But, back then, the lot only had one entry/exit to reach S. Eads Street, prompting big traffic backups and encouraging drivers to cut through other parking lots in the area to more easily reach the airport.
The county responded with an “interim” fix designed to make a difference in the short-term — officials opened up another entrance/exit to the lot along Route 1, installing a temporary traffic light to allow drivers to turn onto the road and jump onto an exit ramp leading directly to the airport access road.
Since then, county staff say they’ve recorded a 73 percent drop in the number of cars exiting onto S. Eads Street each day. Officials say they’ve also met with Uber, Lyft and airport executives to discuss additional steps, like “exploring the use of technology and messaging through the [rideshare] apps to reduce the volume of vehicles coming to the lot and seeking additional staging locations to reduce demand.”
The county is also mulling another, more costly change.
Officials are currently exploring the possibility of aligning the lot’s temporary exit onto Route 1 with 27th Street S., which sits directly across from the staging area. That would allow cars from the lot and 27th Street to turn at the same time, perhaps cutting down on wait times at each traffic light.
“Implementation would require relocating a traffic signal pole, replacing [the] temporary traffic signal with a permanent traffic signal pole on Route 1, and reconfiguring the [rideshare] lot to allow proper ingress flow,” county staff wrote on Arlington’s website.
That project comes with a $250,000 price tag and take at least a year to complete — plus, it requires the County Board’s approval.
Staff plan to discuss that option and others at the upcoming meeting. It will be held in the Crystal City Community Room at the Crystal City Shops (2100 Crystal Drive) on March 18, from 6-7:30 p.m.
Photo 1 via Arlington County