Newsletter
Envision Route 7 BRT concept, photo via NVTC

A proposed bus rapid transit (BRT) route that could connect Alexandria to Tysons is moving into a new phase of study that will assess options through the Seven Corners area.

The plan is eventually to have the Envision Route 7 BRT line run from the Spring Hill Metro station in Tysons down to the Mark Center, where redevelopment could help turn the area into a hub that connects with other BRT lines. In May, Fairfax County chose a route through Tysons for the BRT line.

At a Northern Virginia Transportation Commission meeting last night, the Commission voted to approve a contract for the next phase of the study.

“As we look to the corridor in segments, Fairfax has done a lot of work from Tysons to the border of Falls Church,” staff said. “This picks up on the analysis they’ve done and continues down to Seven Corners.”

The study is expected to take up to 18 months (ending in April 2023) and will be followed by environmental and preliminary engineering design before staff comes back with a strategic framework for the plan. The contract was approved with a $516,800 cap.

According to a report prepared for the meeting:

The Envision Route 7 Phase IV-1 Mobility Study will evaluate and determine the mobility benefits and impacts resulting from the proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) from Tysons to Seven Corners. The overall study objectives for this effort for the section of Route 7 from Tysons to Seven Corners are:

  • To determine the mobility benefits of BRT along Route 7;
  • To gain a better appreciation of the traffic impacts of BRT along Route 7;
  • To gain an understanding of the traffic operational issues with a BRT operating along
    Route 7; and,
  • To facilitate the public understanding of how a BRT would operate along Route 7.

With the 11-mile Route 7 corridor expected to see a 35% growth in population and jobs by 2040, NVTC anticipates that the planned BRT will generate about 30,000 boardings per day, two-thirds of which will be for shopping and recreation, according to the project webpage.

Photo via Northern Virginia Transportation Commission

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If you ever feel bad about getting on the bus in Alexandria and realizing too late you’re on the wrong one, don’t fret. Apparently some of the people who run the city’s bus system do the same thing.

The new DASH bus network launched on Sept. 5, but city leaders and transit administrators met last week to celebrate.

“The first time I rode the new network was the night of our DASH board meeting,” said David Kaplan, chair of the Alexandria Transit Company Board of Directors. “There are two routes that come down King Street to the Metro Station and I needed the 30. I boarded the first bus that came to Market Square which happened to be a 31.”

Kaplan said he rode the bus to the King Street Metro station and the ride was going smoothly until the bus took a left where his should have gone right and Kaplan realized his mistake.

“I very sheepishly went up to the driver and asked if I could get off so I could run back to King Street and get onto the correct bus,” Kaplan admitted.

Kaplan’s error was one example of the adjustment needed as city bus service DASH works to implement its biggest change since the system launched in 1982. Josh Baker, CEO of the Alexandria Transit Company said the goal of the project is to modernize the transit network. The new system enhances the frequency of service in high-density parts of the city. Some adjustments were made to the plan after local residents having their routes scrapped expressed concerns, and some parts of the city hoping for high-frequency service aren’t getting it.

Along with the change in transit structure, the new program made headlines for going fare free and the city is currently seeking more state funding to implement that change on a longer-term basis.

“This is a long time coming,” Wilson said. “I know this has been a long process of getting public input and getting consensus of the community to ultimately make DASH more successful for riders. When riders are surveyed on what they want, they want transit to go to more places they want to go to and that arrives and leaves more frequently. Today, we’re improving the accessibility of transit by doing exactly that… providing that service more frequently than we did before throughout the day.”

Wilson also said that one of the bizarre windfalls of the pandemic has been giving the city not only a chance to restructure the bus system, but watch patterns of usage as bus ridership steadily goes up as the city works toward recover.

“We’ve been conducting a massive, unplanned experiment about transportation behavior over the last year and a half,” Wilson said. “That data has been very constructive about who rides transit and when. Look right now at how different modes have recovered. Look at how people are getting back on buses and back on Metrorail. You see an object lesson in who rides transit and where.”

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Morning Notes

Local school systems face bus driver shortages, but say they’re ready to roll — “ACPS recognizes there is a national shortage of school bus drivers, making it challenging to recruit and fill bus driver positions. ACPS has about 90% of our drivers available and 100% of bus monitor positions filled…” [Alexandria Living]

Alexandria recommends cooling centers during heatwave — “The next few days are going to be hot and humid. The City offers several locations as options to those without cooling in their homes, including rec centers and libraries, as well as assistance for adults 60+ and some low-income households. Learn more at alexandriava.gov/122602.” [Twitter]

Mayor conducting town hall meeting on the run — “This Thursday night I am bringing back my ‘Running Town Hall!’ Lace up your running shoes and meet us at Pacers Running at 1301 King Street at 7 PM. We’ll run and discuss the issues facing our City. See you there!” [Facebook]

Virginia liquor store sales hit record — “The Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Authority reported revenue of $1.4 billion during the 2021 fiscal year that ended June 30, an increase of $163 million from the previous year, the Virginia ABC announced Tuesday.” [Patch]

Anticipating fall, Visit Alexandria releases deets for events thru November — “Visit Alexandria, the city’s tourism bureau, has released details for local events into November. Take a look. There are plenty of things to do.” [Zebra]

Today’s weather — “Sunny, along with a few afternoon clouds. Hot and humid. High around 95F. Winds SE at 5 to 10 mph… Partly cloudy. Low 74F. Winds S at 5 to 10 mph.” [Weather.com]

New job: Server at Chadwicks — “Chadwicks Restaurant is currently looking to fill FULL- and PART-TIME server positions. Must be honest, hardworking, and capable of working well with others. Experience not a priority. We currently have more business than we can handle! Following a brief training regimen, you may pick up as many hours as you can handle. Start making very competitive server pay ASAP!” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

Bowl America agrees to sale — “Shareholders of Bowl America Inc. voted Wednesday to approve its $44 million sale to Bowlero Corp., which in turn, plans to go public through its own marriage with a blank-check company that values the larger company at about $2.6 billion. Bowl America (NYSE: BWL-A), the Alexandria-based operator of 17 bowling centers in the Greater Washington, Baltimore, Richmond and Jacksonville, Florida, areas, said it expects its sale to close Monday.” [Washington Business Journal]

McAuliffe and DNC Chair visit Alexandria — “Great event this morning at Port City Brewing Company with Terry McAuliffe and DNC Chairman Jaime Harrison! It’s clear that if we want to see Virginia’s economy continue to rebound we need Democratic leadership to build on President Biden’s Build Back Better Plan.” [Facebook]

DASH launching new bus network, going fare-free Sept. 5 — “The network changes include the implementation of frequent, all-day service on major transit corridors across the city – in Old Town, Arlandria, Potomac Yard, Parkfairfax, the West End and the King Street corridor. These improvements mean buses will run every 15 minutes or less, throughout the day, seven days a week.” [Zebra]

Homegrown Restaurant Group honored by Beautification Commission — “CONGRATULATIONS to the winners of this year’s special Beautification Awards celebrating businesses that creatively embraced their outdoor environment during unprecedented times. These businesses represent the best of beautification by bringing the indoors outdoors in Alexandria during COVID-19. The combined presence of Tequila & Taco and Sweet Fire Donna’s has helped bring the Carlyle neighborhood to life this year.” [Facebook]

The Rainbow Rock Band is playing at the upcoming Sidewalk Sale — “We are SO EXCITED that Rainbow Rock Band will be back in Del Ray for a live outdoor show on Saturday at 10:30am outside the Mt. Vernon Rec Center… After a morning of fun, visit The Purple Goose and Bellies & Babies Consignment Boutique for back-to-school shopping at bargain prices — the Alexandria Sidewalk Sale in Del Ray takes place August 14-15!” [Facebook]

Today’s weather — “Partly cloudy skies (during the day). A stray shower or thunderstorm is possible. High 97F. Winds WSW at 5 to 10 mph… Partly to mostly cloudy skies with scattered thunderstorms before midnight. Low 74F. Winds SW at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 60%.” [Weather.com]

New job: Entry level maintenance technician ($3,000 signing bonus) — “The Mechanic C is an entry level position with the Hertz Corporation and is the launching point for our maintenance team. In this role you will be performing preventative maintenance, with a focus on Oil and Tire Changes. Must be a quick learner, and have an assortment of tools, including oil filter wrenches, socket set, and a toolbox to keep them in.” [Indeed]

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The long-awaited return of Old Town’s King Street Trolley is scheduled for next Monday, July 5.

According to a press release from the City of Alexandria, the trolley will resume daily operation on Monday, with a few modifications.

For starters, the trolley will run from the King Street Metro station to Market Square, outside of City Hall, with the 100 block of King Street converted into a pedestrian zone. A new stop will be added at the southeast corner of Market Square for better access to the Potomac River waterfront.

The trolley will run every 15 minutes from 11 a.m.-11 p.m., seven days per-week including holidays. The city said the simplified schedule will help make the trolley more accessible.

Trolley service has been suspended for a little over a year due to the pandemic. Face masks will be required for anyone riding the trolley.

The free trolley is a popular service in Alexandria, and extensions down Eisenhower Avenue have been considered. Later this year, DASH is scheduled to follow the trolley’s example and convert the entire bus network into a free service.

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Morning Notes

Sheriff Dana Lawhorne to receive Lifetime Valor Award — “In recognition of his retirement, we are pleased to honor Sheriff Dana Lawhorne with a Lifetime Valor Award at this year’s Valor Awards. Join us virtually, on June 22nd, to honor Sheriff Lawhorne’s 43 years of law enforcement service to Alexandria.” [Chamber ALX]

West End Business Association hosting 1 p.m. conversation with Mayor — “Take this opportunity to ask questions and connect with Mayor Justin Wilson about how he would continue to serve the city of Alexandria.” [WEBA]

Chinquapin Recreation Center closing for improvements June 26 — “The City of Alexandria’s Chinquapin Park Recreation Center and Aquatics Facility (3210 King St.) will close Saturday, June 26 through Monday, Sept. 6, for several planned facility improvements and annual cleaning.” [Zebra]

Vaccine Equity Clinic on Route 1 in Fairfax County offering free transportation — “The Health Department and Fairfax Connector have partnered to offer free transportation to those who want to get vaccinated at the clinic, located in the former Safeway site at 7451 Mount Vernon Square Center in Alexandria. Fairfax Connector’s Free Vaccine Shuttle will run along Fairfax Connector’s line in that region.” [Fairfax County]

Annual Waterfront Commission walk is today — “The walk will be in person starting at (5 p.m. at) the intersection of Oronoco and South Union Streets and will proceed south to Robinson Landing. The walk is anticipated to end at 6:30 p.m.” [City of Alexandria]

Fire Department conducting community meeting on restructuring today — “The Alexandria Fire Department (AFD) will implement an organizational restructure, effective Saturday, June 12, 2021. The goals of the changes are to improve service efficiency and response times across the City; reduce cost; increase safety on the roadways; and improve response preparedness for specialty teams such as the Technical Rescue, Hazardous Materials, and Inland Water Rescue teams. AFD Representatives will present the upcoming changes to the community and answer questions.” [City of Alexandria]

Today’s weather — “Rain showers in the morning with numerous thunderstorms developing in the afternoon. High 81F. Winds ENE at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 90%… Thunderstorms in the evening, then variable clouds overnight with still a chance of showers. Low around 65F. Winds E at 5 to 10 mph. Chance of rain 70%.” [Weather.com]

New job: Ghost tour guide — “US Ghost Adventures, a national tour operation is seeking energetic storytellers to lead 90-minute walking tour groups downtown. This part-time position is ideal for self-motivated candidates looking for a fun way to make extra income in the evenings.” [Indeed]

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The final touches are being made on the King Street-Old Town Metro Access Improvement Project.

On-site bus route testing will begin later this month, and bus service to new shelters will start in early June, according to the city. Contractor Fort Myer Construction Corporation was supposed to have finished the project last spring.

“There is no date for a ribbon cutting yet, but we are making progress,” Camila Olivares, a communications associate with the city’s Department of Transportation & Environmental Services, told ALXnow. “Staff is increasingly confident the project will be substantially complete this summer.”

Olivares said that the city will provide additional updates on the project this week.

Rendering via City of Alexandria

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After years of public outreach, a new planned overhaul of the DASH but network is scheduled to launch this fall.

At a meeting last night, DASH representatives said the phased replacement of the current coverage-focused network — a design with a focus on ensuring all Alexandrians have access to some level of bus service — to a service focused model — one that decreases coverage but increases frequency and reliability of its bus lines.

The first phase of the overhaul is scheduled to launch in September, staff said.

Tristan Cunningham, senior planner with DASH, said the new bus lines will offer “more useful transit where people can use it” and better mobility midday and on evenings and weekends.

During the meeting, DASH highlighted a few of the new routes that will provide better access to the incoming Potomac Yard Metro station and nearby redevelopment.

  • Line 36 A/B, replacing AT 9, will run from the Mark Center to Potomac Yard by way of Alexandria High School.
  • Line 34 will run from the Lee Center and the Braddock Road Metro station up to Potomac Yard

DASH emphasized that the new routes will dramatically increase access to all-day service for low-income residents, minority residents, and seniors.

The tradeoff is some routes through less densely populated areas could have reduced service or be cut entirely. There has been some back-and-forth over which lines will be axed, with DASH eventually restoring a replacement for the AT2 line through Seminary Hill. Two routes through North Ridge, the 103 and 104, will only operate during peak service hours.

DASH is accepting feedback on the plan through April 16.

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You’ll need $2 per trip and a face mask if you want to take the DASH bus now.

For the first time in more than a year, today (Monday, March 15), DASH brought back collecting fares and front door boarding,

“This policy change brings us closer to resuming a ‘new normal’ of transit service while continuing to prioritize the safety of our employees, riders and community,” said Josh Baker, DASH CEO/General Manager.

In response to the pandemic, DASH discouraged city residents against traveling from home, suspended fare collection, moved to rear-door boarding and added face mask requirements. The King Street Trolley has been completely suspended since last March and will stay shut down until further notice.

DASH has made enhancements to its DASHbus app, which allows passengers to recharge their their bus fare on their phones. The app is available on Google Play and at the Apple Store.

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Alexandria’s DASH bus service is at 40% of pre-pandemic ridership, and near-term changes include bringing back fare collection and adding a partition protecting drivers from passengers, according to an annual presentation given to City Council by the transit system on Tuesday night.

“We have some exciting things going on,” DASH Board Chair David Kaplan told Council. “We have been creative, we have worked together with other departments, with the health department and others to ensure that it is safe to use transit.”

In response to the pandemic, DASH discouraged city residents against traveling from home, suspended fare collection, moved to rear-door boarding and introduced face mask requirements. Additionally, the King Street Trolley has been completely suspended since last March. Now, however, DASH is working on expanding its mobile ticketing app.

“We are getting ready to move back to fare collection here hopefully in the coming months,” DASH General Manager Josh Baker told Council.And that is contingent upon our board’s approval at their upcoming meeting, as well as the completion of the installation of driver barriers, which will create a partition between the passengers who are boarding… and when they’re paying their fares.”

Baker said that in addition to the three electric buses it got last year, that DASH will get eight new electric buses this year and then a dozen more in 2022. At that point, he said, Alexandria will have the largest fleet of electric buses in region.

The pandemic also pushed back the implementation of the Alexandria Transit Vision plan from July to September. The plan adds weekday-only N12 bus service on Seminary Road and Janneys Lane, replacing the current AT-2 route segment. It will also expand off-peak weekend service by 50%, with buses arriving every 15-30 minutes all day.

“We have seen our largest drop in ridership on our commuter routes, but we continue to see people… who need to move around Alexandria,” Baker said. “Essential workers, people who don’t have other options, they need to ride transit and you see them riding throughout the day all hours and all times.”

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