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National Landing-Potomac Yard Metroway (image via Google Maps)

One of the many frustrations facing Alexandria commuters during the Metro shutdown has been buses stuck in traffic next to dedicated bus lanes, but WMATA says adding shuttles would overload the existing transitway.

Among the many frustrations, which included long lines for shuttles, commuters were left wondering why their buses traveling up Route 1 were stuck in mixed traffic next to the mostly empty bus lanes.

While Metro and the City of Alexandria worked together on Metro replacement plans, Sherri Ly, media relations manager for WMATA, said that adding shuttles to the Crystal City Potomac Yard Transitway’s dedicated bus lanes would have overloaded and broken that system.

“Metro worked with the City of Alexandria to come up with a traffic management strategy that would not impede on Metroway and other transit services that use the transitway,” Ly said. “The signal timing on the transitway is designed to balance the existing bus routes and traffic on Route 1. Adding shuttle buses to the transitway would quadruple the number of vehicles on the roadway, well beyond the capacity.”

Ly said the additional buses would have added congestion to the transitway, which is also being pushed as an (albeit more local) Metro alternative.

“Adjusting the signal timing to accommodate four times the number of buses would create extensive back-ups on Route 1 and the additional buses would add congestion to the transitway, impacting routes like Metroway which are an important travel alternative for customers during the shutdown,” Ly said. “Additionally, the transitway does not extend the length of the shuttle bus routes which operate to/from Crystal City.”

The Yellow Line shutdown as the Potomac Yard Metro station is brought into the system is expected to last until Oct. 22, though it’s unclear when the station itself will open. A longer shutdown, which will close the connection between the Pentagon and L’Enfant Plaza stations for repairs, is expected to continue until spring 2023.

The City of Alexandria worked with transit organizations to put together alternatives to the Metro for commuters, from buses to boats. Some of those have hit snags, however. The city’s bus network, DASH, lacks the manpower to take over additional bus routes to make up for the loss of Metro service.

The Virginia Railway Express offered a fare-free September for commuters around the region, but the entire system could be paralyzed by a potential freight rail strike. As of Thursday afternoon, however, it seems the strike has likely been averted.

Photo via Google Maps

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The City of Alexandria is eyeing three basic concepts for a Duke Street transitway to help boost bus service along the arterial road.

The three options presented at a meeting of the Duke Street Transitway Advisory Group last month ranged from the buses in the center of the street to mixed in with traffic. The options are:

  • Center-running buses: buses would have a dedicated center lane in the middle of Duke Street, similar to the transitway at Potomac Yard.
  • Curb-running buses: the buses would have lanes at the edge of the street, though these would also double as turn lanes for cars
  • Mixed traffic: buses are mixed in with regular car traffic
Options for the Duke Street Transitway (image via City of Alexandria)

In a presentation, staff said each option had its own benefits and drawbacks.

Center-running buses optimize corridor safety and create an increased transit time for buses, but they take up the most space on the road of any of the three options. Center-running buses also drew some concerns from the group who said they would force pedestrians on the bus to cross Duke Street to leave the bus stations.

Curb-running buses, staff said, are better on corridors with lower volumes of right turns. Roads with significant amounts of driveways or high turn volumes can chip away at the efficiency of a dedicated curb lane for the buses. The curb-running bus option, staff said, is the most flexible of the three, though it still requires taking space either from the roadway or the curb.

The last option is mixed traffic, which staff admitted doesn’t offer much by way of transit benefits since that is, fundamentally, how buses along Duke Street operate today.

The group is scheduled to meet again on Thursday, Sept. 15, at 6:30 p.m. at Alexandria Police Department headquarters (3600 Wheeler Ave.), Room 106.

“The advisory group is providing input on these concepts before the City solicits input from the community in October to help the Advisory Group narrow concepts under consideration,” a city release said. “The Advisory Group is anticipated to recommend a preferred concept by the summer of 2023.”

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Construction work at Potomac Yard Metro station, photo via City of Alexandria

Like waiting for a Yellow Line train to Huntington, Alexandria’s Metrorail riders are bracing for a ride to disappointment.

Early next month, the first of two Metro shutdowns affecting Alexandria is scheduled to hit the city. All told, the city will have some level of suspended service until next spring.

The first hit will be from Sept. 10 to Oct. 22, when Metro will suspend all rail service south of National Airport to connect the new Potomac Yard station with the rest of the Metro system.

The second will run from September through spring 2023, when Metro will suspend Yellow Line service between Pentagon and L’Enfant Plaza stations for the Yellow Line Tunnel and Bridge Rehabilitation project. Alexandrians will still be able to get to D.C. and the rest of the Metro system but will have to go through Arlington.

Alexandria and other localities have been planning around the changes for months. Today, the City of Alexandria put out a quick guide for how to get around the shutdown:

Residents and visitors are encouraged to take advantage of the following alternatives:

  • Seven free shuttles that will be available to rail riders, including local and express shuttles replacing Blue and Yellow line service in Virginia, and three limited-stop shuttles crossing the Potomac River.
  • Free parking at the Van Dorn Street, Franconia-Springfield, and Huntington Metrorail station garages and lots during the rail service suspension.
  • Alternate transit service, including free DASH bus service, the Metroway-Potomac Yard Bus Rapid Transit Line (offering free service between Braddock Road, Crystal City, and Pentagon City stations through October), and Virginia Railway Express (VRE), which is offering free rides in September.
  • Travel alternatives, including free Capital Bikeshare, water taxi, ridesharing, and dockless mobility devices such as scooters. To learn more about traveling in and around Alexandria, visit alexandriava.gov/GOAlex.

As noted above, the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) is planning to offer free rides in September to coincide with the Metro station. The VRE train stops at King Street and continues up into D.C. and down to Manassas and Spotsylvania.

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The City of Alexandria could be rolling out a new kind of bus stop with some substantial improvements over the current one.

It’s no hoity-toity $1 million Arlington bus stop, but the new shelters have modifications designed to make them more durable.

“Once approved, this bus shelter model will be used as the primary bus shelter to be installed by the City CIP projects and Developers throughout the City moving forward,” the city said in a project application.

The application laid out a few of the improvements over the current design approved in 2015.

“The modified bus shelter design is substantially similar to the current design and offers improvements that would make it more durable,” the application said. “Improvements include a more impact resistant roof, compact solar panels, framed wall panels,

New bus stop design (image via City of Alexandria)

handrails, and better mounting system for light fixture and location sign.”

The City of Alexandria is sending the new bus stop design through its approval process starting with a stop at the Board of Architectural Review on Wednesday, Sept. 7.

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There was a crash in the area of N. patrick and Montgomery Streets in the Braddock area on July 29, 2022. (Via Google Maps)

A 27-year-old Washington, D.C. man is being held without bond after allegedly crashing his car into a Metro Bus in the Braddock area and ditching a “ghost gun.”

The incident occurred at around 4:45 p.m. on July 29 (Friday) in the area of N. Patrick and Montgomery Streets — just a few blocks from the Braddock Road Metro station. No one was injured in the crash.

The Metro Bus Driver told police that the driver of a black Nissan was driving “extremely fast” westbound on Montgomery Street and “blew through an intersection hitting the Metro Bus,” according to a search warrant affidavit.

“”There was significant damage done to the Nissan showing a crash at a dangerous speed,” police said in the search warrant affidavit. “(The driver) admitted to driving the vehicle when it crashed at a dangerous speed… consuming alcohol, and smoking marijuana approximately 30 minutes before operating the vehicle. (The driver) stated he was coming from D.C. to go to his girlfriend’s house.”

A witness then told police that the driver of the Nissan took a gun from his glove compartment and threw it in a bush in the 900 block of N. Patrick Street.

“I was able to recover that firearm, which is not serialized,” police said in the search warrant affidavit. “(The driver) denied knowledge of the firearm, but admitted to me he is on probation for firearms.”

The driver was charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, driving without a license, intent to distribute marijuana and driving while intoxicated. He goes to court on August 31.

Via Google Maps

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A 43-year-old Alexandria man was put on supervised probation after stealing a juvenile girl’s phone at a bus stop in the West End.

The incident occurred on June 7 (Tuesday) at around 7:45 a.m. at a bus stop located at 5600 Rayburn Avenue — near the intersection with N. Beauregard Street.

“This offense was committed by the suspect grabbing, with force, a cellphone from the hands of the victim, with the intent of permanently depriving her of her property,” police said in a search warrant affidavit.

Torrance Green was arrested for the offense on June 16, released the same day, and went to court on July 11. The court deferred its disposition for a year, during which time Green will undergo supervised probation.

Via Google Maps

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Glebe Road and Potomac Avenue intersection (image via Google Maps)

With bus activity likely to see a significant uptick with the opening of the Potomac Yard Metro station, the city is looking at converting a turn lane on Glebe Road into a bus lane (item 5, page 8).

The plan has the dual purpose of benefitting buses and reducing the number of general-purpose lanes pedestrians have to cross.

“To support expanded bus operations and reduce the number of general purpose lanes pedestrians must cross, staff recommend converting the existing eastbound right-turn-only lane to a bus only-lane,” the report said, “and converting the existing eastbound left-turn-only lane to a left-turn and right-turn lane.”

The area has a higher-than-average number of blind pedestrians as well. The staff report said reducing the number of lanes for those pedestrians to cross could improve safety at the site.

“Currently, pedestrians must cross five lanes with limited protection from motor vehicles at the intersection of Potomac Avenue and Glebe Road,” the report said. “There is also a higher-than-average proportion of pedestrians with limited or no sight due to the proximity of the National Industries for the Blind.”

Glebe Road and Potomac Avenue intersection plans (image via City of Alexandria)

Staff said in a report that a traffic analysis estimated no change in traffic delays but could lead to more blocking of the intersection.

“Based on staff findings, there is no significant change in delay for the E. Glebe approach, and the overall intersection performs at an acceptable Level of Service grade B,” the report said. “However, it is important to note, given the proposed shared general-purpose lane on E. Glebe, the queue of vehicles stopped at the intersection is projected to extend just past the adjacent intersection at Dogue Street. This may lead to more occurrences in which vehicles block the intersection, impeding Dogue Street users.”

One of the alternatives considered included a shared bus-bike lane, but staff said adding bikes into the mix could lead to more crashes.

“Because of the expected potential conflicts between people biking, buses, and other motor vehicles as people biking inevitably attempt to maneuver around stopped buses, staff believed this option had a higher risk of crashes than other options,” the report said.

A dedicated bike lane was considered, but ultimately staff said the greater benefit would come from better transit infrastructure.

“Staff strongly considered the needs of people biking on Glebe Road but ultimately decided that the safest option, given the scope of the project, was to maintain consistent expectations for bicyclists based on conditions along the rest of the Glebe Road corridor (two shared motor vehicle/bicycle lanes),” the report said. “The staff recommendation provides a simple, single-file line for people both driving and biking, which would require no last-minute lane-changes or other maneuvering that could lead to collisions.”

The item is scheduled for review at the Monday, June 27 meeting of the Traffic and Parking Board.

Image via Google Maps

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While DASH won’t be able to cover the service gap from the upcoming Metro closures, WMATA announced some new measures yesterday that will attempt to replace Alexandria’s upcoming loss of Metro service.

There are two Metro shutdowns coming to Alexandria that will, together, eliminate or reduce Metro service in Alexandria from September to next May. The first is a shutdown of all stations south of the new Potomac Yard Metro station. The Potomac Yard closure is expected to last from Sept. 10 to Oct. 22. The Potomac Yard closure overlaps with the start of work on the Yellow Line Bridge from Sept. 10 to May. During the much longer Yellow Line Bridge closure, riders will have to take the Blue Line to Rosslyn to cross over into D.C.

During the Potomac Yard shutdown, Metro said in a release that it will be operating additional Blue Line trains, running every seven to nine minutes, from National Airport to New Carrollton stations. At the same time, Metro said customers traveling between Pentagon and L’Enfant Plaza stations should plan for approximately 15 minutes of extra travel time.

Metro also notes that if the 7000-series trains remain out of service the trains will operate less frequently.

During this first phase, WMATA said that free shuttle service will be offered in Virginia with three shuttles crossing the Potomac.

Local shuttles will be available during all Metrorail operating hours.

  • Blue Line Local: Local service between Franconia-Springfield, Van Dorn St, King St-Old Town, Braddock Rd, and Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport stations every 10-20 minutes
  • Yellow Line Local: Local service between Huntington, Eisenhower Ave, King St-Old Town, Braddock Rd, and Crystal City stations every 10-15 minutes. Yellow Line shuttles do not stop at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport Station

Express shuttles will be available most of the day (from 4:30 a.m. to 9:00 p.m., 6:30 am to 9:00 p.m weekends).

  • Blue Line Express: Franconia-Pentagon Express service between Franconia-Springfield and Pentagon stations every 6 minutes
  • Yellow Line Express: Huntington-Pentagon Express service between Huntington and Pentagon stations every 6 minutes

Limited shuttles will be available during weekday rush hours only.

  • VA-DC Shuttle 1: Crystal City-L’Enfant Service between Crystal City, Pentagon City, Smithsonian, and L’Enfant Plaza stations every 12 minutes. Shuttle does not stop at Pentagon Station
  • VA-DC Shuttle 2: Pentagon-Archives Service between Pentagon, Smithsonian, and Archives stations every 12 minutes
  • VA-DC Shuttle 3: Mt. Vernon-Potomac Park (11Y Route) Service between Mt. Vernon, Alexandria, and Potomac Park every 20 minutes. Peak direction service only

Meanwhile, during Phase 2, the Potomac Yard Metro station will be reopened but the bridge will remain closed. All Yellow Line stations will be served by the Blue or Green Lines. Blue Line trains will run every 12 minutes between Largo Town Center and Franconia-Springfield stations and every 12 minutes between Huntington and New Carrollton stations. The Green Line trains will operate every eight minutes.

Metro said there will continue to be a limited rush hour shuttle service during this time.

  • VA-DC Shuttle 1: Crystal City-L’Enfant: Service between Crystal City, Pentagon City, Smithsonian, and L’Enfant Plaza stations every 12 minutes. Shuttle does not stop at Pentagon Station
  • VA-DC Shuttle 2: Pentagon-Archives: Service between Pentagon, Smithsonian, and Archives stations every 12 minutes
  • VA-DC Shuttle 3: Mt. Vernon-Potomac Park (11Y Route): Service between Mt. Vernon, Alexandria, and Potomac Park every 20 minutes. Peak direction service only

Additionally, Metro said riders could opt to take the 16Y Columbia Pike-Farragut Square Line, Metroway, or ride the Virginia Railway Express.

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Starting today (Monday), Alexandria’s DASH bus network is going through some changes to how riders board buses and how strollers can be used.

While passengers before could only enter buses through the front doors, DASH is changing its policy for riders to be able to use either door.

“When it is safe to do so, riders may board using the front or rear doors,” the bus service said in a release. “Passengers with limited mobility are encouraged to continue using the front of the bus which can be lowered for easier boarding.”

Riders had earlier been encouraged to board using either door as a Covid precaution during the first year of the pandemic, though it changed back to front-boarding last year. Now, with bus fares eliminated, DASH said it’s returning to all-door boarding on all buses.

“The benefits of all-door boarding include easier passenger boarding and reduced dwell time at bus stops, which provides faster, more reliable service,” the release said. “As with the front door, passengers boarding at the rear door are encouraged to allow others to step off the bus before attempting to board. Passengers with mobility devices, or who have difficulty boarding the bus are encouraged to continue using the front of the bus, which has a ramp and can be lowered.”

Another change is allowing strollers to be used on the bus if the ADA-accessible space is not in use. Previously, all strollers had to be folded and stowed upon boarding. Under the new guidelines:

If ADA accessible seating is not in use, strollers are permitted in this space without being folded or stowed as long as the wheels are locked, the child is properly secured in the stroller seat, the parent or guardian maintains control of the stroller, and the aisle is not blocked.

The release said the change was guided by input from riders.

“It’s important that DASH service continues evolving to meet the needs of our community,” DASH Planning and Marketing Director Martin Barna said in the release. “Allowing strollers to be used during trips and opening all doors for boarding will improve our riders’ overall experience and encourage more people to consider using DASH.”

The changes come as DASH is starting to see ridership rebound from low figures during Covid and an omicron-related slump in January.

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DASH has been on a roll recently with a variety of factors conspiring to push the bus service up to 300,000 total boardings in March, a 73% increase over ridership last fall.

Some of that’s thanks to changes within the DASH bus system: like eliminating fares and shifting toward a system that prioritizes frequent service in high-density corridors.

Some factors outside of DASH’s control have been windfalls for bus ridership as well, like a recent spike in gas prices at the start of the war in Ukraine and declining Covid cases.

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