The update on the Transportation Master Plan Pedestrian and Bicycle Chapter wasn’t planned to coincide with a sudden uptick in bicycle ridership and walking around the city, but it could help explain why many Alexandrians exploring their local pedestrian/bike infrastructure might find it different than they remember.
An update prepared for the canceled June 17 Transportation Commission meeting shined some light on the progress the city has made since it a chapter specifically about that infrastructure was added to the city’s Transportation Master Plan in 2016. The primary goals the city laid out at the time were to improve safety, engineering, encouragement and education of bicycle and pedestrian facilities in Alexandria. The move corresponded with a push towards Vision Zero — a project that aims to eliminate all traffic deaths and serious injuries by 2028.
Data shows that crashes and fatalities for pedestrians have generally gone down over the last four years — though the numbers are low enough that it’s impossible to accurately extrapolate trends. Crashes have gone down from 69 in 2016 to 60 in 2019. Fatalities have gone from 4 to 2 in that same timeframe, though not with consistent year-after-year declines. The number of serious injuries has gone up from 6 to 8.
The city has added substantial new infrastructure, though.
“There has been a 43% increase in intersections with pedestrian countdown signals at crosswalks from 68% in 2016 to 97% as of the end of May 2020,” city staff said in the report. “Over 9,000 total linear feet of new sidewalk has been installed and over 1,600 linear feet of sidewalk have been upgraded with widened sidewalks or adjustments to provide improved access for wheelchair users since FY16. Approximately 1,300 linear feet of temporary, protected shared use path space was installed to fill the sidewalk gap on the #9 highest priority sidewalk on Seminary.”
The update also included information about progress made for off-street trails, though noting that flood damage has set back some of the city’s progress on that front.
“One additional off-street trail (a segment of Four Mile Run Trail leading to a future bridge) has been installed since plan adoption, bringing the citywide total to approximately 21 miles,” staff said in the report. “A new 150-foot pedestrian bridge was completed on the Four Mile Run trail that connects the Four Mile Run Wetlands Trail to the larger Four Mile Run trail network. The City suffered a setback with the July 2019 storms that severely damaged the trail and recent completion of a bridge connecting Holmes Run Parkway to N. Ripley Street as well as other bridges along Holmes Run. A 2021 budget request is made for the repair work.”
The report also notes the progress made for new bicycle infrastructure.
“Since 2016, 11.9 miles of shared lane mile markings and 11.4 miles of bike lane miles were installed making for a total of approximately 39 lane miles of on-street bicycle facilities,” staff said. “This is a nearly 46% increase in facilities since 2018.”
Staff photo by James Cullum
A series of new improvements to Alexandria’s Union Station — a Virginia Railway Express stop — proposed late last year are moving forward toward city approval.
The plan is to create new Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant access with a grade-separated pedestrian tunnel and elevator access. The expansion will also allow the station to take two trains at any given time, with one at each platform. The change is part of a regional effort to reduce the system’s bottleneck around the D.C. area.
According to the VRE website:
The project will provide an ADA-compliant, grade-separated pedestrian tunnel and elevator access between the two platforms at the VRE/Amtrak station in Alexandria and modify and extend the east platform at the station to accommodate eight-car trains and enable the platform to service two trains simultaneously, from a track on each side of the platform. The west platform adjacent to the station building will also be modified to raise its height relative to the top of rail as part of the project. Project funding sources include state SmartScale and Federal funds (through VDOT) to eliminate railroad grade crossings. Currently the project schedule is slightly ahead of the final year of funding allocation, which must be addressed with VRE’s funding partners through either reprogramming of funds or short-term borrowing.
The project is scheduled to go to the Planning Commission on September 1. The project was originally scheduled to be presented to the City Council in May, according to the VRE website, but the pandemic limited the scope of council meetings.
Construction on the project is estimated to start in 2022.
Staff photo by Jay Westcott
While city business has mostly been limited to pandemic related emergencies, the Alexandria City Council is moving forward with time-sensitive decisions about southwest access to the new Potomac Yard Metro station.
Southern access to Potomac Yard was a selling point for businesses and organizations moving into the parts of that area, but was cut back to save money on the project. The new plan does not include the full southern entrance as originally envisioned, and instead replaces it with a bridge that connects to the northern entrance.
Staff told council that it’s a solution staff said will fit within the project budget.
“Today, we are also letting council and the mayor know that the total cost will be covered within the $50 million of state funding along with the credit from the original ramp,” Daphne Kott, a project manager in the Department of Project Implementation, told council on Tuesday night. “[It] will be completed within the construction duration of the overall station.”
There was debate between the city and Metro contractors that a southern access could be built within the $50 million in funding provided by the state, and late last month both parties agreed the project could be accomplished under that amount.
The city’s plan for southwest access is docketed for a public hearing on Saturday, April 18.
Image via City of Alexandria
In addition to a series bus line closures due to coronavirus, Metro is suspending service of Metroway-Potomac Yard — a bus line running between Pentagon City and Braddock Road.
The Metroway runs between Arlington and Alexandria through Crystal City and the Potomac Yard Shopping Center. The move comes after a day after Metro shut down several stations, including the Eisenhower Avenue and Van Dorn stations in Alexandria.
Andrew Kierig, Vice-Chair of the Riders’ Advisory Council, said he was concerned about the bus line closures but understood the reasoning.
“The Riders’ Advisory Council is deeply concerned about the impact these service changes are having on those who have no other alternative to get to work,” Kierig said. “At the same time, we’re also concerned about the health and wellbeing of Metro’s frontline employees.”
1C/2B/3A/4B/5A/10A/10N/16G/22A/22C/22F/23B/Metroway-Potomac Yard Line Alert: Due to operational challenges, buses will not operate.
— Metrobus Info (@Metrobusinfo) March 25, 2020
Kierig said another concern surrounding bus line closures was the ability of riders living in food deserts [places without access to affordable and nutritious food] when they live far from grocery stores.
“We’re concerned about the ability of those folks to get the supplies they need to make it through this thing alright,” Kierig said.
Granted, Kierig noted that this was less of a concern for the ridership of the Metroway, which tends to be from more affluent communities in Crystal City and Potomac Yard. For many riders, though, Kierig said the line is a quick and efficient way to get to the popular Target at Potomac Yard.
(Updated 6:15 p.m.) The long squabble between the City of Alexandria and Metro over the Potomac Yard Metro station’s southwest access entrance has ended with an agreement within the initial $50 million framework.
Over the last year, the City has been in dispute with Metro over whether or not southwest access to the station could be achieved within the $50 million in funding from the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Federal Transit Administration.
“We appreciate the community’s patience as we navigate the lengthy process necessary to change the station’s construction contract,” said Mayor Justin Wilson, who serves on the Potomac Yard Metrorail Implementation Group, in a press release. “We have worked hard to incorporate community feedback while ensuring the best value for taxpayers. We are looking forward to a new station that will make everyone proud.”
Initial estimates from Metro on each of the three options presented by the City of Alexandria came back as higher than $50 million, which the city and the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation both challenged as far overpriced. According to City spokesman Craig Fifer, the two options now on the table consist of the ramp that’s in the current special use permit and the bridge and pavilion that is the least expensive of the three options.
“Now that additional discussions have been completed, all agencies agree that the contractor’s newest estimate is fair and reasonable,” the city said in a press release. “The proposed bridge and pavilion are priced within the $50 million of funding made available for enhanced southwest access by the Commonwealth of Virginia and the Federal Transit Administration. The ramp option would cost approximately $10 million to $15 million less.”
Meetings of the Potomac Yard Metro Implementation Group [PYMIG] are canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and PYMIG members have been asked to gather input from stakeholders on whether the ramp or bridge option is preferred. Staff will collect the input and the options will be considered at the April 14 City Council meeting.
Image via City of Alexandria
Alexandria’s DASH bus system announced last night that all buses will eliminate fares starting today amid coronavirus concerns.
DASH said the new changes allow people to continue riding the buses will minimizing their exposure.
“Beginning Friday, March 20, DASH will eliminate fares on all buses until further notice, and switch to rear-door boarding as we continue to work to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” DASH said on its website. “Eliminating fares and moving to rear-door boarding will reduce passenger touchpoints, prevent potential crowding at fareboxes and promote social distancing between passengers and bus operators.”
The move comes after DASH took a significant hit to ridership at the start and went to a reduced schedule.
Beginning Friday, March 20, DASH will eliminate fares on all buses until further notice, and switch to rear-door boarding as we continue to work to reduce the spread of COVID-19. https://t.co/S1cFrnDgRT pic.twitter.com/XOFUGrV2hB
— DASH Bus (@DASHBus) March 20, 2020
Staff photo by Jay Westcott
Starting Thursday, Alexandria’s DASH bus system will operate on an enhanced weekend schedule in response to the COVID-19 coronavirus.
DASH General Manager Josh Baker tells ALXnow that ridership has already decreased significantly.
“We’re estimating a 70% to 80% ridership decrease already,” Baker said. “Our new schedule reduces the frequency of buses on the routes. During the weekday we have huge spikes of buses out there and this is not needed. Nobody is riding, so we are maintaining an enhanced core service.”
Beginning on Thursday, March 19, we are implementing an Enhanced Saturday Operating Plan. For more information about how specific routes will be impacted, visit: https://t.co/S1cFrnDgRT.
— DASH Bus (@DASHBus) March 18, 2020
On any given day, DASH will have upward of 180 drivers on Alexandria’s roadways, but now that number will be closer to about 45 drivers, Baker said.
“The operations team has also scaled down, so less people are in office, and with less buses on road we’re able to spread out our maintenance department so that technicians aren’t working together,” Baker said.
The full schedule for DASH riders is below:
As part of a wider effort to protect the health and safety of the Alexandria community and DASH employees, DASH will implement an Enhanced Saturday Operating Plan on weekdays, beginning Thursday, March 19. No changes are anticipated to weekend service.
Most routes will follow their regular DASH Saturday timetables. However, the following list provides a summary of service that will be provided. Full route timetables for the Enhanced Saturday Operating Plan can be found at www.dashbus.com/covidmods.
- AT-1 Plus: Route will operate on its Saturday schedule (every 30 min.) with extra trips added to achieve 15-minute peak service. Early morning trips beginning at 5:15 a.m. will also be provided.
- AT-2: Route will operate on its Saturday schedule with additional trips to achieve all-day 30-minute service. Early morning trips will also be added, starting at 5:23 a.m.
- AT-2X: Mark Center Express route will operate during peak periods. AT-2 or AT-2X buses will run every 15 minutes between King Street Metro and the Mark Center during peak periods.
- AT-3: Route will operate every 40 minutes during peak periods from Braddock Road Metro to the Pentagon Metro. AT-3 passengers in Old Town can use alternate routes such as the AT3/4, AT-7 or Metrobus 10A/10B.
- AT-4: Route will operate every 40 minutes during peak periods from Braddock Road Metro to the Pentagon Metro. AT-4 passengers in Old Town can use alternate routes such as the AT-2, AT-3/4, AT-5, AT-8 or Metrobus 10A/10B.
- AT-3/4: Route will operate on its regular Saturday schedule.
- AT-5: Route will operate on its regular Saturday schedule with additional trips in the early morning beginning at 5:30 a.m.
- AT-6: No service. Passengers may use the AT-5 or the AT-9 alternate routes.
- AT-7: Route will operate between Eisenhower Metrorail Station and Lee Center every 30 minutes throughout the day (NOTE: Bus service along Eisenhower Avenue will be provided by the AT-5, per the regular Saturday schedule).
- AT-8: Route will operate on its Saturday schedule with additional trips during peak periods to achieve 15-minute headways between Landmark Mall and King Street Metro. Additional trips will also be added during the early morning beginning at 5:12 a.m.
- AT-9: Route will operate on its regular Saturday schedule.
- AT-10: Route will operate on its regular Saturday schedule.
- King Street Trolley: The Trolley will operate on its regular Saturday schedule.
The above service plan is subject to change without advance notice based on staffing levels and recommendations from public health officials. Please subscribe for DASH e-mail alerts (dashbus.com/dash-news) or follow us on social media (@DASHBus) for service change updates.
The news comes after a Metro Transit Police Officer tested positive for the virus on Monday.
“We are working closely with the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] and local health organizations to both monitor the individual and to take precautions to ensure that colleagues in Metro’s District II police facility near Franconia-Springfield,” Metro said in a statement.
“To be clear, Metro intends to be there to provide service for essential trips in our community — as long as it is safe and appropriate to do so,” stated Metro General Manager/CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld. “If everyone does their part and stays home whenever possible, Metro will be there for hospital staff and other heroes who need us at this unprecedented moment in our lives.”
As of Wednesday, all Metro stations will be closing an hour earlier and will be open weekdays from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m. and on weekends from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.
“Metro ridership was down nearly 70 percent across the board yesterday,” Metro announced Tuesday. “As a result, starting tomorrow, service will be further reduced – on both bus and rail – to allow even more cleaning and to reduce sharing of workspaces and vehicles for employee safety.”
Additionally, all Metro administrative employees are now teleworking, and trains are operating every 15 minutes throughout the day. All trains will run with 8 cars to “help maintain social distancing between customers.”
The system’s two rail operations control centers will also monitor platforms and trains for potential crowding. All track work has either been reduced or canceled, with the exception of emergency maintenance and inspection work. Metro is also recommending against taking trains and buses to the National Cherry Blossom Festival, which has already canceled a number of its events next month
These days, local commuter Celeste Byrd’s trip on the Metro is easy. Even though trains are operating at the King St-Old Town Metro station every 12 minutes, the trains are mostly empty.
“I really sanitize before I leave for work and I change clothes as soon as I get home,” Byrd told ALXnow while walking from the King Street station on Monday afternoon after work. “Metro is really keeping the stations clean. It feels like a hospital-type scenario.”
The 44-year-old Alexandria resident arrives at the King St-Old Town Metro station at around 9 a.m. during the week for her job as a receptionist for an Arlington psychiatrist.
“I didn’t know that the elevator doors at the Ballston Metro station were bronze. They used to be black and now they are thoroughly clean. You can smell the disinfectant all over,” Byrd said.
URGENT: METRO SERVICE FURTHER REDUCED TO SUPPORT *ESSENTIAL TRIPS ONLY* — EFFECTIVE TOMORROW (WEDNESDAY) | INFO: https://t.co/xIzpCBOjBn #WMATA #dc #md #va #coronavirus #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/kFCZXDyt3y
— Metro (@wmata) March 17, 2020
The transit system will also not be accepting job applications during the shutdown, as its MetroAccess Eligibility Center will be closed until further notice.
Metro is operating in Phase 3 of its Pandemic Flu Plan — the highest level of response that “will include all subsequent mitigation steps,” according to a Monday press release. “Metro expects to be at Phase 3 until further notice. Phase 4 is the ‘recovery phase’ of the plan that involves Metro’s return to normal operations after the situation is under control.”
Tuesday’s full release is below.
Metro’s Pandemic Task Force today announced major service reductions during the ongoing pandemic response. The changes further draw-down service to protect frontline employees, while maintaining regional mobility for essential trips taken by hospital staff, government officials, and emergency responders. The reduction takes into account the urgent public guidance from regional leaders, along with emergency orders to cancel events, close schools and offices, and limit social gatherings across the nation.
Our region is speaking with one voice: Stay home. Essential travel only.
Metro ridership was down nearly 70 percent across the board yesterday. As a result, starting tomorrow, service will be further reduced – on both bus and rail – to allow even more cleaning and to reduce sharing of workspaces and vehicles for employee safety. For the first time, the Metro Task Force will reduce rail system hours with an earlier closing time across the week.
“As members of our community stay home from work, school and social gatherings – following the critical emergency guidance of Governors Hogan and Northam and Mayor Bowser – Metro will reduce service and implement measures to reduce risk for employees and the public,” said Metro General Manager/CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld. “To be clear, Metro intends to be there to provide service for essential trips in our community – as long as it is safe and appropriate to do so. If everyone does their part and stays home whenever possible, Metro will be there for hospital staff and other heroes who need us at this unprecedented moment in our lives.”
Specifically, the Task Force is urging the public to NOT travel to the Cherry Blossom Festival to keep Metro’s limited capacity available for essential travel (e.g. doctors, nurses, essential governmental functions, etc.). Metro reserves the right to close stations near the Tidal Basin at any time to reduce the use of Metro for tourist trips.
In addition, Metro is acting urgently to further reduce the number of employees required at any time and working to create additional redundancy in Metro’s workforce to protect service continuity.
“The actions directed by the Task Force today will help Metro return to normal service when the pandemic emergency is over and our region begins to recover,” said Theresa M. Impastato, Metro’s Chief Safety Officer, who is leading Metro’s response to the pandemic and advising the General Manager.
Effective tomorrow (Wednesday, March 18)–and continuing until further notice–Metro service will operate as follows:
- Rail system hours and service levels are further reduced to support ESSENTIAL TRAVEL ONLY. DO NOT TRAVEL UNLESS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY and follow guidance from your state and local authorities.
- New hours: Weekdays 5AM-11PM, Sat/Sun 8AM-11PM
- Trains will run every 15 minutes on each line at all times, including the Red Line. All trains will operate with 8 cars, the maximum possible length, to help maintain social distancing between customers.
- Metro’s Rail Operations Control Centers (two) will actively monitor trains and station platforms for any possible crowding, something that has not been an issue at any point during the pandemic emergency response.
- Metro is reducing/cancelling track work, except emergency maintenance and inspections, to avoid unexpected delays and maintain 15-minute intervals between trains.
- Bus hours and service levels are further reduced to support ESSENTIAL TRAVEL ONLY. DO NOT TRAVEL UNLESS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY and follow guidance from your state and local authorities.
- Buses will operate on a Sunday schedule, with supplemental service on selected routes to prevent crowding and ensure areas are not cut off. Visit wmata.com for information about “supplemental” routes that will operate, in addition to Sunday routes.
- IMPORTANT: Bus operators are granted the authority to bypass bus stops to maintain safe social distancing aboard the vehicle.
- These actions reduce the number of Metro employees and buses required to maintain service by more than 60 percent.
- All subscription trips are cancelled until further notice. Customers with a critical need to travel should make a separate reservation calling 301-562-5360 (TTY 301-588-7535) or via the online reservation system.
- Customers are strongly encouraged to travel ONLY IF ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY.
IF YOU ARE NOT FEELING WELL OR HAVE ANY SYMPTOMS OF ILLNESS, YOU MUST AVOID TAKING PUBLIC TRANSPORTATION. THIS INCLUDES METROACCESS CUSTOMERS. Instead, do the following:
- CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER BEFORE LEAVING YOUR HOME. Do NOT show up without calling first. Your healthcare provider may want to send you to an alternate location.
- FOLLOW YOUR PROVIDER’S INSTRUCTIONS. DON’T USE PUBLIC TRANSIT. Let your doctor’s office know if you have transportation needs. They will provide instructions for you to get help. Again, to protect the health and safety our employees, their families, and your fellow passengers, do not use Metro if you are not feeling well.
Due to the emergency service adjustments, Metro’s online trip planner, electronic bus information displays and third-party app-based services may not immediately reflect the schedule changes taken by the Pandemic Task Force. Metro is not adjusting fares, despite service reductions.
“We want everyone to follow the guidance of state and local leaders. Stay home. Travel only if it’s essential and limit your exposure to others,” Impastato said. “The health and well-being of our employees and riders is paramount, and our team will continue to work around the clock to prioritize public health and safety in Metro’s response to this unprecedented emergency.”
Metro has already taken the following steps to protect the health and safety of its frontline employees:
- Increased Metro’s on-hand warehouse inventory of essential supplies, such as hospital-grade disinfectant, wipes, face masks, gloves, hand sanitizer, and other items used by Metro’s front-line employees.
- Allowing Station Managers to remain in kiosks at all times to minimize their public exposure. Access to kiosks–even among Metro employees–has been further restricted.
- Closed all public restroom access systemwide.
- Giving Bus Operators discretion to bypass bus stops if their vehicle is too crowded to maintain safe social distancing.
- Directed train operators to remain in operating cabs except in an emergency.
- All Metrobuses are equipped with protective safety shields for operators and are to remain closed.
- Implemented mandatory telework for most job functions.
- Banned visitors and non-essential access to buildings and worksites.
With the first confirmed cases of the coronavirus in the D.C. area, Alexandria’s DASH transit agency says it will be taking extra precautions.
In a press release Friday afternoon, DASH said it is “increasing facility and vehicle cleaning with a special focus on critical touchpoints such as door handles, handrails and other surfaces.” It is also encouraging passengers “to utilize everyday methods to prevent the spread of germs recommended by the CDC and Alexandria’s Health Department.”
More from the press release:
Alexandria Transit Company (DASH) is joining regional transit agencies and local authorities in taking steps to prepare for and prevent the spread of COVID-19 or novel coronavirus. As a public transportation agency responsible for the safety and security of thousands of passengers daily, DASH is increasing measures to maintain a safe and healthy environment for its passengers and personnel.
“We’re a public transit agency, so of course safety is always our top priority. We are taking precautions and preparing in accordance with CDC guidelines to protect both our passengers and our personnel,” said Stephanie Salzone, DASH safety and security manager.
DASH is increasing facility and vehicle cleaning with a special focus on critical touchpoints such as door handles, handrails and other surfaces. These cleanings will incorporate disinfection procedures indicated to be effective against COVID-19. These measures apply to all DASH buses and King Street Trolleys.
In addition to these efforts, DASH encourages all passengers to utilize everyday methods to prevent the spread of germs recommended by the CDC and Alexandria’s Health Department. These include frequently and effectively washing hands with soap and water or an alcohol-based hand sanitizer. Be sure to follow the CDC’s guidelines for proper handwashing.
The public is also encouraged to cover any coughing or sneezing with a tissue or sleeve. Used tissues should be immediately discarded in an appropriate garbage receptacle. Hands should be washed immediately after coughing or sneezing.
Finally, anyone experiencing fever, coughing, sneezing and shortness of breath is encouraged to stay home and avoid outside contact whenever possible.
According to the CDC, general risk among the American public outside of areas with confirmed cases of COVID-19 is low. Of the 164 of coronavirus across 19 states, none have been reported in Virginia or the district. As of March 5, three individuals in Maryland have tested positive for the virus and Governor Hogan has declared a state of emergency.
The City of Alexandria, the Alexandria Health Department, Inova Health System, and the Alexandria City Public Schools will host an online virtual information session on Thursday, March 12, from 8 to 9 p.m., to provide information and answer questions about the COVID-19 coronavirus. The session will also address how government agencies, businesses and residents can prepare. A recording of the session will be available after the session end
“The 2030 and 2022 Vision Plan Networks include the King Street Trolley with a potential extension from the King Street Metro to the Eisenhower Metro Station via the Carlyle and Eisenhower East districts,” the plan said. “This could provide a frequent connection directly between the large and dense activity center around Eisenhower Avenue Metro and Old Town.”
Proposed changes also include longer hours for the trolley. Currently, the trolley starts running at 10:30 or 11 a.m. on a 10-15 minute loop. The plan noted that this service means the trolley is not available for morning commuters, early shift workers, or others coming into Old Town before 10:30 a.m.
“The revised King Street Trolley also would operate with more traditional operating hours, including morning service,” the study said. “It should be noted, however, that due to the funding arrangement for the operation of the King Street Trolley, any potential changes to the trolley would require additional coordination and approval by City Council.”
The extension of the King Street Trolley is included in the longer-term goals for the project, with implementation planned by 2030.
The trolley is funded by hotel tax revenues from across the city, though the transit survey noted the current benefits are mostly confined to Old Town. The revised route would run through a neighborhood slated for extensive residential and commercial redevelopment.
“This raises an issue about the fairness of funding a free route in one part of the city that is paid for from hotel taxes across the entire city,” the study said. “[One option] would require fares on all routes, including the King Street Trolley. To offset the impact of this change on tourists and visitors, DASH could provide free passes to Visit Alexandria for all Alexandria hotels and other tourism entities.”
The plan does not make any recommendations for a fare policy.
The plan was adopted by the Alexandria Transit Company — which operates DASH and the King Street Trolley — in December. The Transit Vision Plan was presented to the City Council on Feb. 25 as an update. Implementation of the plan’s suggestions is scheduled to be considered next year as part of the Fiscal Year 2022 budget.
Staff photo by Jay Westcott
(Updated at 3 p.m.) Micro-mobility company Helbiz is poised to be the first company in Alexandria offering both e-scooters and e-bikes in Alexandria.
“Helbiz… has been awarded a permit to operate both its innovative e-bikes and e-scooters in Alexandria, Virginia, making it the only company to offer both transportation solutions in the market,” the company said in a press release. “This permit follows the launch of the company’s fleet of e-bikes in neighboring Washington, D.C. and highlights Helbiz’s continued commitment to offering eco-friendly micro-mobility solutions in the area.”
Gian Luca Spriano, a spokesperson for the Italian-American company, said it would be partnering with Alexandria’s Department of Transportation to ensure safety is prioritized and the company has met all the regulatory standards.
The press release noted that the company plans to operate 200 e-scooters and 200 e-bikes in Alexandria, deployed at some point “in the coming weeks.”
The e-scooters and e-bikes are accessible through the Helbiz app, in which users can locate, rent, and unlock the devices.
Photo via Helbiz/Twitter
The daily water taxi service, which begins on March 1, was first introduced to Alexandria during last summer’s Metro shutdown, and commuters will start sailing at 6 a.m.
“I’m glad we’re doing this,” said Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson. “I look forward to personally doing it. It works out really well on council meeting days, because I can leave my car here (at City Hall) and take my boat from my day job directly here.”
Potomac Riverboat Company increased its water taxi fleet last April with the addition of four new yellow boats. It also runs the Cherry Blossom, Matthew Hayes, and other named vessels. A commuter pass valid from March 1 to Dec. 31 costs $295, and a round-trip ticket costs $10.
City staff maintain that water taxi commuters will not create parking issues in Old Town — a sticking point for Councilwoman Del Pepper.
“The more ways we can find to get people off our cement streets the better,” Pepper said. “I have for about a decade opposed this, and the reason has been because of concern that our streets and our parking lots would all be filled with people getting to this destination (the waterfront). I’m going to support it with the caveat that I hope staff will be following this, and if this becomes a problem for the neighbors, I want it brought back for discussion.”