Arlington, VA

Morning Notes

Dorsey: Safety Over Late Night Hours — “Metro Boardmember and Arlington County Board Chair Christian Dorsey… says Metro’s first responsibility is not to run as much service as possible, but to keep the service that is being run as safe as possible. He supports more maintenance.” Meanwhile, Metro is considering a plan to subsidize late night Uber and Lyft service. [Twitter, Washington Post]

Arlington Redistricting on Kojo Show — The always-controversial redrawing of school boundaries in Arlington was the topic of a recent discussion on the Kojo Nnamdi Show, featuring APS Superintendent Patrick Murphy and community leaders. [Kojo Nnamdi Show, Twitter]

Zoning, Permitting Offices Closing Tomorrow — “Arlington’s planning and DES permitting offices are running away for a long romantic Valentine’s weekend. When they return [on Tuesday], they will live as one exclusively on the tenth floor of 2100 Clarendon Blvd.” [Arlington County, Twitter]

Snow Threats Coming This Weekend, Next Week — “In the past day, computer models have begun advertising the potential for a snow event on Saturday. And it may mark the start of a series of winter storms that streak across the Washington region.” [Washington Post]

Check Out ARLnow’s Instagram — ARLnow’s Insta currently features photography from around our fair county. Coming soon: more photos, plus contests and other exclusives. [Instagram]

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Morning Notes

Kevin Spacey Pulled Over at DCA — “After appearing in court Monday morning to address sexual assault allegations in Massachusetts, actor Kevin Spacey had yet another brush with law enforcement in the afternoon, this time around Reagan National Airport.” [TMZ, WTOP]

Family Trio All Serves on ACPD — “33 years ago, Corporal Diane Guenther swore she’d never date another police officer. Police Lieutenant Mark Guenther persuaded her otherwise, and they married a year after they started dating. Their daughter, Harley, just celebrated two years as an Arlington County police officer.” [WDVM]

Police Holding Outreach Meetings — The Arlington County Police Department’s latest quarterly outreach meetings will be held at the Fairlington Community Center on Thursday, Jan. 24 and at Arlington Central Library on Tuesday, Jan. 29. Both meetings start at 7 p.m. [Twitter]

Group to Hold Forum on Entrepreneurship — “The Arlington branch of the American Association of University Women (AAUW) will feature a program on starting a business, led by the founders of Amazing Women Entrepreneurs. The meeting is slated for Monday, Jan. 14 at 7:30 p.m. in Room 527 of Arlington Mill Community Center. The community is invited.” [InsideNova]

Federal Workers Driving for Uber to Make Ends Meet — “‘With the government shutdown, you have more people working for the government doing Uber, and for the full-time Uber drivers, that is really affecting us too, and our money,’ said rideshare driver Nate Murrell.” [WJLA]

Flickr pool photo by Michael Coffman

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Passengers arriving at Reagan National Airport can expect some more construction-related changes to the lower, baggage claim level at Terminal B/C.

Starting today (Monday), exit doors at either end of the terminal will be closed to allow for additional work, airport officials announced last week. DCA is in the midst of its massive “Project Journey,” an effort to construct a new security screening area and a new gate for regional flights, replacing the “35X” gate.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority says this latest work won’t affect taxi, rideshare and private vehicle pickups, which will still be available at doors four through nine.

Workers will close doors at the ends of the terminal gradually, but at the height of the work doors one through three and doors nine through 12 will be closed.

Taxi drivers, in particular, have already complained that the construction work is impacting their business, claiming the arrivals area is already a bit cramped as Ubers, Lyfts and taxis all jockey for passengers.

MWAA officials expect this latest work will take “several months,” and hope to move all construction inside the airport by sometime in the middle of the year. They don’t expect the project to wrap up in its entirety until sometime in 2021.

Photo via @Reagan_Airport

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Uber is mapping streets around Arlington.

A reader spotted an Uber mapping vehicle parked outside of Arrowine at the Lee Heights Shops on Lee Highway around lunchtime today. The driver was nowhere to be seen but might have been getting lunch at a nearby restaurant.

Uber says its mapping operation helps the company produce accurate estimated times of arrival and helps select optimal pick-up spots. More from Uber’s website:

Behind every successful Uber ride is a technology many of us take for granted: maps. Mobile maps and GPS allow us to match you with the closest available driver, navigate the fastest path to your destination, and give you an accurate ETA. Accurate maps are at the heart of our service and the backbone of our business. The ongoing need for maps tailored to the Uber experience is why we’re doubling down on our investment in mapping. You can read more about these efforts on our blog.†

The street imagery captured by our mapping cameras will help us improve core elements of the Uber experience, like ideal pick-up and drop-off points and the best routes for riders and drivers. We are not collecting this imagery to post it online or otherwise make it available to the public.

To the extent that any personally identifiable information is collected by our mapping cars or cameras, such information will be treated under our Mapping Privacy Statement.

Uber says it is actively mapping areas in Virginia and 13 other states, along with the District of Columbia.

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Arlington is getting a new ridesharing service that will offer “virtual bus stops” to encourage more efficient trips.

Via announced yesterday (Monday) that it plans to expand from D.C. into Arlington. The company says that for now it will not offer service to Reagan National Airport as part of its Arlington expansion, but it plans to do so “in the coming months.”

Via first launched in the District in 2016, in a bid to take advantage of commuters abandoning Metro during the height of the “SafeTrack” maintenance work. But unlike its more prominent competitors, Uber and Lyft, Via encourages multiple passengers to split each ride by default.

Once a would-be rider enters their destination, the Via app directs them to a nearby street corner, dubbed a “virtual bus stop” by the company, in order to offer “quick and efficient shared trips without lengthy detours that take riders out of their way,” according to a press release.

The company hopes this cuts down on the number of car trips and vehicles used by other taxi and ridesharing services, which it believes “reduces congestion and emissions, providing an inexpensive, eco-friendly, and convenient transportation alternative.”

“Via’s powerful technology is seamlessly integrating with public transit infrastructure around the globe, redefining the way people get around cities,” Daniel Ramot, co-founder and CEO of Via, wrote in a statement. “We’re delighted to be expanding into Arlington, extending our convenient, affordable and congestion-reducing service to residents of Virginia.”

The company also plans to briefly cap the cost of shared rides at $4 to entice riders to try the service, and will operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Via launched in New York City in 2013, and also operates in the Chicago area as well. Other ridesharing alternatives to Uber and Lyft like Split and Sidecar have briefly operated in D.C. before shutting down, while local Arlington option Sprynt also seems to have ceased offering rides.

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Morning Notes

Everyday Heroes in Our Midst — On Wednesday morning, a grounds crew working outside the Clarendon Metro took some time out to help a disabled man to the bus stop. “Hey @ArlingtonDES @ArlingtonVA, a little late here but please forgive your grounds crew working near the #Clarendon metro this morning if they were running a little late,” said the Twitter user who witnessed the encounter and snapped a photo. [Twitter]

Body Found in Water Near Memorial Bridge — “D.C. police have recovered a body found Thursday morning in the Potomac River near Arlington Memorial Bridge, near the Lincoln Memorial, according to a department spokeswoman.” [Washington Post]

Glass to Be Removed from Recycling List? — “The county government appears on the verge of eliminating collection of glass as recyclable material and directing residents to instead dump it in their regular trash bins… currently, there is a ‘negative market value’ for glass, County Manager Mark Schwartz told board members, and because it’s difficult for processors to recycle glass products, most of it ends up being destroyed like regular trash anyway – either to a landfill or to be incinerated.” [InsideNova]

County May Reopen Exit for DCA Rideshare Drivers — “Arlington County officials have offered a solution to the gridlock caused by rideshare drivers moved to a parking lot between Jefferson Davis Highway and South Eads Street: Reopening an exit at 27th Street, which would allow rideshare drivers accepting passengers to quickly leave the lot and turn onto the nearby airport access road.” [WTOP]

Cosplay Event at Library — “Join Maker and cosplayer Dylan Smith as he discusses how he’s incorporated 3D printing into cosplay, what materials he’s used, and how you can get started. This event is designed for adults and teens in grades 6+.” [Arlington County]

Mobile Posse Launches New Product Line — Arlington-based Mobile Posse has “announced the release of Firstly Mobile… the company’s latest next-gen content discovery platform, [which] creates a smarter smartphone experience for consumers, a safer brand experience for advertisers and a bigger revenue opportunity for carriers and OEMs.” [Globe Newswire]

Hungry Donates Thousands of MealsHUNGRY, an Arlington-based food startup, “has donated funds equivalent to more than 70,000 meals to Washington, D.C.-area and Philadelphia-area food assistance centers, including Feeding America and the Arlington Food Assistance Center (AFAC). HUNGRY donates funds equivalent to one meal for every two purchased to those in need via its ‘Fight Against Hunger’ program.” [PRWeb]

Photo via @USArmyOldGuard

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People living in neighborhoods around Reagan National Airport say a staging lot for Uber and Lyft drivers is snarling traffic in the area, and Arlington officials are taking new steps to work out some sort of fix.

The county is convening a public meeting on the issue Thursday (Sept. 27) after hearing persistent complaints about the lot (located at 2780 Jefferson Davis Highway and adjacent to S. Eads Street and a Holiday Inn hotel) over the last few months.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) started routing rideshare drivers to the lot in April, in order to account for construction as part of the airport’s massive improvement project known as “Project Journey,” and required drivers to wait there until would-be passengers request rides at the airport. Since then, neighbors have grown particularly concerned with the congestion the change has caused on S. Eads Street, with the Arlington Ridge, Aurora Highlands and Crystal City civic associations all mentioning it in recent community newsletters.

“Although there is no objection to the parking lot itself, the single entry/exit on S. Eads Street is causing considerable traffic problems and dangerous driving conditions,” the Crystal City Civic Association wrote in its September newsletter. “Plus, drivers in a hurry are [cutting] through the CVS and McDonald’s parking lots to get to the airport ramp on Route 1.”

The Arlington Ridge Civic Association added that the number of drivers cutting through those lots has “reached epic proportions,” and that “the police are now monitoring both.”

The civic associations noted in their missives that they’re pressing the county to reopen the lot’s access to Route 1, in a bid to ease traffic on S. Eads Street. But VDOT has jurisdiction over Route 1, meaning state officials would have to approve any change to the traffic pattern in the area.

“The county estimates the design work and construction to provide ingress and egress from the staging area onto Route 1 may take up to 14 months to complete and cost upwards of $250,000, which is not currently included in the county’s budget,” the Crystal City Civic Association wrote. “While undertaking this engineering work, the county says it is also exploring interim measures and/or options for phased implementation, which will also require coordination with and actions taken by both VDOT and MWAA.”

To that end, the county says it’s invited officials from both MWAA and VDOT to Thursday’s meeting. That gathering is set to be held at the Aurora Hills Community Center (735 18th Street S.) from 7-8:30 p.m.

Photo 1 via Google Maps

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Construction-related changes at one Reagan National Airport arrivals terminal have local taxi drivers fuming, and they argue airport officials are ignoring their complaints while catering to ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft.

Dozens of drivers serving the airport have begun leading protests outside Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority meetings in Crystal City, with the most recent demonstration coming last week, in order to force attention on the issue.

Backed by the National Airport Taxi Drivers Association and progressive organizers with New Virginia Majority, the drivers are urging the airport to change how it’s managing construction work that’s necessitated lane closures at its arrivals area for Terminals B/C. With less curb space available, they say taxis are getting squeezed out by Uber and Lyft drivers, with cabs unable to leave their taxi stands in a timely fashion due to the increased traffic.

“That’s not good for passengers or drivers, because we’re just sitting there with the meter running for 10, 15 minutes at a time,” said Tibebu Ergete, a longtime taxi driver and one of the organizers of the protests. “This is destroying our business.”

Ergete estimates that some drivers have seen as much as a 40 percent dip in earnings as they increasingly jockey for curb space with rideshare drivers, though he would concede that taxis have seen ridership declines for years now as Uber and Lyft have gained popularity.

Still, he’d rather see rideshare customers shuttled off the premises to meet their drivers, who already have to stage in a nearby parking lot as they wait to accept rides.

“We’ve given [the MWAA] plenty of options to deal with the construction,” Ergete said. “But they won’t listen to us. They only put Uber’s interests first.”

Christina Saull, a spokeswoman for the MWAA, said airport officials are trying to balance the competing demands of everyone impacted by the construction, and said the “dialogue is ongoing” about how to improve arrival conditions. However, she would say that the MWAA does not see shuttling rideshare users elsewhere as a workable solution, arguing that “we don’t see that as providing good customer service for anyone.”

“We’ve considered everything they’ve suggested,” Saull said. “But we have to weigh a multitude of preferences in this case. We’re moving a large volume of traffic through a really small area.”

Uber spokesman Colin Tooze wrote in a statement that the construction means “the pickup experience at DCA is not an ideal one right now” but said his company in “regular dialogue” with the MWAA to ensure “ensure a smooth experience for riders and drivers.” Lyft spokeswoman Campbell Matthews wrote in a statement that “we are glad to work with officials at the airport on a pickup and drop off arrangement that works well for passengers, drivers and the airport.”

Saull also pointed out that taxi drivers already have double the curbside pickup space at the arrival terminal compared to rideshare drivers, and that the MWAA levies a higher fee on airport trips by Uber and Lyft than it does for taxis.

But Ergete believes the MWAA is still overly deferential to the companies, as demonstrated by the refusal by its Board of Directors to discuss these complaints at any of its meetings.

Saull is urging drivers and passengers alike to simply “hang with us until the middle of next year,” when construction work at National will move inside, and the arrival lanes will reopen. Yet Ergete fears the damage inflicted by the current setup may prove to be irreversible.

“Our concern is our future,” Ergete said. “If they destroy the taxi industry, what is going to happen to the public? What is going to happen to the drivers who have been there for 40, 50 years?”

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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.

Read More

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Morning Notes

Sexual Assault Suspect Was Maintenance Worker — The man arrested and charged with sexually assaulting a woman in her apartment in Rosslyn last year worked as a maintenance worker for an apartment building in D.C. Police say he posed as a maintenance worker in the Rosslyn building to get the victim to open her door, before forcing his way into the apartment. [NBC Washington]

New Uber Pickup at DCA — “If you are planning to take an Uber, Lyft or other ride-share service from Reagan National Airport, you’ll need to head to a new spot to be picked up. Airport officials have moved the pick up zone to the ticketing level (upstairs) at Terminals B and C.” [Washington Post]

Spotted: M.J. Stewart at NFL Combine — Former Yorktown football star M.J. Stewart, who was also a standout defensive back at the University of North Carolina, was among those working out at the NFL Scouting Combine over the past week. [Twitter]

Rosslyn Hyatt Sold — The Hyatt Centric hotel in Rosslyn has been sold to a subsidiary of publicly-traded hotel operator Sotherly Hotels for $79.7 million. The hotel was recently renovated. [Seeking Alpha]

LiveSafe Helping to Keep SXSW Safe — The South by Southwest festival is utilizing the mobile safety app produced by Arlington-based LiveSafe to help with event security this year. SXSW kicks off on Friday in Austin, Texas. [DC Inno]

Nearby: Alexandria Residents Oppose Beer Garden — “Residents of a townhouse development next to a proposed beer garden in Del Ray are opposing the business, saying it will create ‘noise and safety issues’ and ‘negatively affect our community.'” [Washington Business Journal]

Flickr pool photo by Duluoz Me

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Arlington County Police are investigating a sexual battery against a female driver for a ride-hailing app.

The woman was driving a male passenger in the Bluemont area early Sunday morning when the man touched her inappropriately and then got out of the car and fled on foot.

More on the incident and the suspect from Monday’s daily ACPD crime report:

SEXUAL BATTERY, 2017-09240025, 5200 block of Wilson Boulevard. At approximately 1:12 a.m. on September 24, police were dispatched to the report of a sexual assault that had just occurred. Upon arrival, it was determined that while operating as a rideshare driver, the female victim was inappropriately touched by a male passenger. Following the assault, the male suspect exited the vehicle and fled the scene on foot in an unknown direction. Officers canvassed the area with negative results. The suspect is described as a white male, approximately 5’7-5’8 tall with a thin build. He has blonde hair, a red beard and was last seen wearing a white shirt and light colored shorts. The investigation is ongoing.

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