Alexandria, VA

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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Morning Notes

Del Ray Business Association Launches ‘I Love Del Ray’ Campaign — “Now through April, you’re going to see a lot of marketing and promotion out there about all of our wonderful small businesses — both in-home and brick-and-mortar — and how we can support them through these tough upcoming winter months.” [Zebra]

How Alexandria is Celebrating Black History Month — “Join the City in celebrating #BlackHistoryMonth with special virtual events and activities throughout February, honoring the history, culture, achievements and contributions of African Americans.” [Twitter]

City Announces CDC Order Requiring Masks on Public Transportation — “Public transportation employees must use best efforts to ensure that everyone waiting, embarking and disembarking is wearing a mask over their nose and mouth at all times, with limited exceptions. Efforts for compliance may include only boarding people wearing masks; instructing passengers of the federal law and requesting compliance; and disembarking any individual who refuses to comply. This order applies to all modes of public transportation within, to and from the United States, including airplanes, ships, ferries, subways, buses, and ride-shares.” [City of Alexandria]

City Warming Centers Open — “City warming centers are open daily 8am-5pm through February 5 to provide relief from the cold for community members who may not have access warm shelter during the day.” [Twitter]

City Says Playing Around Relieves Stress — “Play is good for you! Studies show that laughter can help adults relieve pain and even increase immunity. So do your body good and make room for joy!” [Twitter]

Today’s Weather — “Snow showers (during the day). Temps nearly steady in the mid 30s. Winds NW at 15 to 25 mph. Chance of snow 50%. Snow accumulations less than one inch. Higher wind gusts possible… Cloudy (in the evening). Low 29F. Winds NW at 15 to 25 mph. Higher wind gusts possible.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Team Member  — “Toastique is a rapidly growing company looking for passionate new talent to help create smoothies, gourmet toast & juice while giving the customers an incredible experience the minute they walk through the door.” [Indeed]

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Morning Notes

Beyer Introduces Legislation to Honor Slain Capitol Police Officer — “Officer Brian Sicknick was a hero who gave his life in service to his country. It is fitting that Congress honor his life, courage, and ideals. @RepBonnie and I just introduced bipartisan legislation to commemorate Officer Sicknick’s life and sacrifice.” [Twitter]

City Councilman John Taylor Chapman Running for Reelection — “John needs your help to appear on the ballot for the June 8 Democratic Primary for Alexandria City Council. Although we would love to have a traditional in-person event, we need to adapt for everyone’s safety. So, stop by the Beatley Library parking lot for a safe, socially distanced drive-thru Meet & Greet to sign John’s voter petition. We’ll be taking the following COVID precautions: masks, gloves, and hand sanitizer. Feel free to bring your own pen (though we’ll have some on hand).” [Facebook]

This Friday is a Teacher Work Day for ACPS — “ACPS Reminder: No School for students this Friday, Jan. 29. It is a Teacher Work Day. Food distribution this Friday will only be provided at T.C. Williams High School and Hammond Middle School. Families who need meals should pick them up from one of these two locations.” [Twitter]

Capital Bikeshare Moves to New Location in Old Town — “@Bikeshare users: the St. Asaph & Montgomery station, adjacent to Gables Old Town North is being relocated today from St. Asaph Street to Pitt St., the other side of the building. Not familiar with Bikeshare? Visit alexandriava.gov/bikesharing.” [Twitter]

Richmond Highway Bus Rapid Transit System Taking Shape — “One of the largest projects that will transform Richmond Highway in the next decade is the construction of the Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system along the corridor. Last year, Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) began to hold public meetings about the project which is still in the early days of design and right of way acquisition.” [Alexandria Living]

Here Are the 100 Posters Kids Submitted for Martin Luther King, Jr Online Exhibition — “The exhibit also allowed many of the young artists to use the opportunity to paint messages regarding social distancing, and the importance of masking up and thanking our front line workers, topics close to many hearts this year.” [Zebra]

Local Nonprofits Receive $100K in Donations — “The Community Foundation for Northern Virginia awarded four nonprofits in the region with $25,000 grants to help improve vulnerable residents’ access to food on Jan. 21, according to a news release. ALIVE!, an Alexandria nonprofit that provides food, shelter and financial support for those in need, was one of the recipients of CFNV’s grants. The Arlington Free Clinic, Capital Area Food Bank and The House, Inc. also received grants…” [Alex Times]

Free Mount Vernon Admission By Reservation Offered On 2 Dates — “George Washington’s Mount Vernon will continue the tradition of free admission days for Presidents Day and Washington’s birthday, but advanced registration will be required.” [Patch]

Alexandria/Arlington Sorority Sisters Celebrate Inauguration of Vice President Harris — “As someone who participated in the Civil Rights movement of the 60s, I get emotional just thinking about this huge accomplishment and how far we as a people have come. The idea that a woman of color, who attended an HBCU, and who was raised by a single parent is now our Vice President is mind-boggling.” [Gazette]

Today’s Weather — “Sunny along with a few clouds (during the day). High around 35F. Winds NW at 15 to 25 mph. Higher wind gusts possible… Partly cloudy skies (in the evening). Low 22F. Winds NW at 10 to 15 mph.” [Weather.com]

New Job: Front Desk Agent — “Sage Hospitality is looking for a Front Desk Agent at the Alexandrian Hotel.” [Indeed]

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Alexandria is opposed to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s plan to eliminate bus routes in the West End to the Pentagon, and has asked the transit system to reconsider its proposed service changes.

“These are difficult times for all transit agencies and Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is facing a dire financial crisis,” Mayor Justin Wilson wrote on Facebook. “While cuts are necessary, we have provided input to ensure that Alexandria’s most vulnerable populations do not lose mobility and that as ridership returns, service should return.

Wilson told Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld in an October 16 letter that “some of the bus service cuts may have too great a negative impact on our essential workers and travelers who have limited other options for getting to where they need to go.”

Earlier this month, Metro asked for public feedback on its proposed cuts.

“The pandemic has cost Metro hundreds of millions of dollars and ridership remains extremely low,” WMATA said in a public survey. “The service provided today is only possible thanks to federal funding (CARES Act) that will soon run out. Without additional federal help, Metro will have to use every option to balance the budget. This includes resuming Metrobus fare collection, limiting contractor use, furloughing employees, and deferring some capital program expenses. But service cuts and layoffs may also be needed this December.”

Specifically, Wilson said that the city is concerned about service cuts from the West End of Alexandria to the Pentagon with cuts to the 8’s and 21’s.

“WMATA is proposing $20 million more in cuts that it is budgeting will be necessary,” Wilson wrote. “Therefore, the City encourages you to consider restoring a greater level of bus service with that funding.”

Wilson continued, “While we understand that these routes may not be the most productive, they do serve a high share of low-income and households of color, who may work as janitorial or other support staff at the Pentagon, use the Pentagon to connect to other work centers in the region, and not get commuter benefits or have good alternative transportation options.”

These are difficult times for all transit agencies and Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority is facing a dire…

Posted by Justin Wilson on Thursday, October 22, 2020

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With federal funds drying up, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) is proposing a number of service reductions that will impact Alexandria.

The transit system is asking for public feedback on the proposed reduction of bus lines and other weekday service announcements in a survey and a public hearing on Tuesday, October 13.

“The pandemic has cost Metro hundreds of millions of dollars and ridership remains extremely low,” WMATA said in the survey. “The service provided today is only possible thanks to federal funding (CARES Act) that will soon run out. Without additional federal help, Metro will have to use every option to balance the budget. This includes resuming Metrobus fare collection, limiting contractor use, furloughing employees, and deferring some capital program expenses. But service cuts and layoffs may also be needed this December.”

Under the proposal, all Metro stations would close at 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and at 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. Trains would run every 12 minutes, except in Alexandria. Since the Arlington Cemetery station will be closed for renovation from mid-February until mid-May, Metro is adding trains to allow for a six minute wait time for a detour taking travelers across the 14th Street Bridge to the Le Enfant Plaza station in D.C.

Additionally, Metrobuses will continue to not operate after midnight.

Proposed weekday bus service adjustments:

  • Operating hours would continue to be reduced on the following routes: 3A, 22A, 22F, 89M, H12, T2
  • Operating hours would continue to be increased on the following routes: 7A, 7F, N6
  • Frequency would continue to be reduced on the following routes: 1C, 2A, 2B, 3A, 5A, 7Y, 16A, 16C, 16G, 16H, 22A, , 22F, 42, 43, 62, 63, 64, 74, 83, 86, C8, C11, C12, C13, C14, D2, D4, D6, D8, E2, E4, F6, F8, F12, F13, G2, H2, H3, H4, H6, H8, H9, H12, L2, L8, M6, Metroway, N6, Q1, Q2, Q4, Q6, R4, R12, U4, U5, U6, U7, V8, W2, W3, W6, W8, X8, Z2
  • Frequency would continue to be increased on the following routes: 7A, 7F, K6
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In an update to the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, Alexandria bus service DASH said it will resuming increased increased levels of service starting on Sunday, Sept. 13.

“DASH will increase service levels in Alexandria to approximately 80% of pre-COVID service on September 13,” the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission said in materials for an upcoming meeting. “Weekday service will be restored on several routes and limited service will resume on most routes that were discontinued in March.”

The move follows the Arlington and Fairfax bus lines resuming full service in late August.

DASH, which saw decreased levels of ridership early in the pandemic, had scaled down its operations in March. While service was reduced, the bus system did institute some new, long-awaited improvements like a bus tracking app in July.

The next meeting for DASH is scheduled for Wednesday, Sept. 9, at 5:30 p.m. Public comment is allowed after completing a short form.

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The Eisenhower Partnership is making a last-minute push to try to salvage a 15-minute bus service plan for Eisenhower Avenue ahead of tomorrow’s City Council meeting.

Currently buses cycle along Eisenhower Avenue every 30 minutes, as they do in much of the rest of the city. A new plan would increase the frequency of service in densely populated corridors, while cutting down or eliminating service to some less-densely populated residential areas.

After backlash from Seminary Hill residents at risk of losing the AT2 line, DASH restored some of the less dense areas but at the cost of scaling back the 15-minute cycles planned for Eisenhower.

Now, the Eisenhower Partnership — a non-profit representing the Eisenhower Valley — has set up a petition hoping to make Eisenhower Avenue one of the 15-minute bus service routes again.

“We ask Alexandria City Council and the DASH Board of Directors to amend the plan to bring more frequent service to Eisenhower by 2022 to support continued economic growth, improved livability for residents, and fewer cars on our streets,” the group said in the petition. “The Eisenhower Valley is booming in new residential and commercial construction. It is an economic engine for Alexandria, increasingly providing improvements to innovation, learning, and living.”

The petition has 118 signatures with a goal of 200.

The Eisenhower Partnership cited upcoming plans to increase density in Eisenhower, with a shift towards greater residential uses.

“DASH ridership on Eisenhower is already strong, averaging 175 riders each weekday,” the petition said. “This number will grow, since several new apartment buildings are planned or under construction along Eisenhower, including partial conversion of the Victory Center to residential. Long-awaited growth is great news, but these new residents will either ride the bus to Metro stations or add to the unmitigated traffic problem.”

The City Council is scheduled to review an update on the transit vision study at the meeting tomorrow (Tuesday).

By 2030, the plan is to have virtually every bus route in the city — including Eisenhower Avenue — at 15-minute frequency. The 2022 planned network, however, would leave the N1 route on Eisenhower avenue at 30-minute frequency.

“To support smart growth and reduce traffic for all Alexandrians, bus service on Eisenhower should be at least every 15 minutes by 2022, increasing as needed,” the petition said. “For certain, another ten years of low-frequency service on Eisenhower will leave all Alexandrians in a jam.”

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While Alexandria’s Transportation Commission endorsed a WMATA-backed plan to overhaul the region’s bus system, that approval was accompanied by concerns that the project won’t be able to achieve its lofty goals.

On paper, the plan put forward by the Washington Area Bus Transformation Project sounds ideal to any bus rider. The plan pushes for faster, more frequent, more reliable bus service that is also more affordable.

The plan would impact both regional bus lines, like Metrobus, and local bus systems, like DASH. It lays out aims for improving the bus system that frequently overlap with the city’s own plans to overhaul the DASH bus network.

The top four recommendations are vague, but the 20-page summary gives each a little more context:

  1. Provide frequent and convenient bus service that connects communities and promotes housing affordability, regional equity and economic growth
  2. Give buses priority on roadways to move people quickly and reliable
  3. Create an excellent customer experience to retain and increase ridership
  4. Empower a publicly appointed task force to transform bus and lead the implementation of a truly integrated regional system

Part of the implementation of the plan, a representative of the project said to the Transportation Commission at a meeting last week, is a regional task force that could monitor progress on the milestones and report annually on whether those are advancing.

“We didn’t go through this process to create a plan,” the representative said. “We went through this process to transform the bus over the next ten years. Such an entity would bring more accountability, more transparency in the region at a higher level.”

Melissa McMahon, chair of the Transportation Commission, said those reports will need to identify advances not just regionally, but by individual localities.

“There could be really wide gaps between one jurisdiction and another,” McMahon said. “That could really hold this up… some of the things you’re describing require everyone to move on together.”

A draft strategic plan was released last year and to an extent, the plan already includes information on individual progress within bus networks. In the section titled “advance technology and programs that improve the safety of everyone on board,” the plan notes that DASH has security cameras installed on roughly 20% of the fleet.

Overall, members of the Transportation Commission were hopeful the plan will help to reform the bus network and make it a viable supplement to rail transit.

“Buses are the historically ugly stepchildren of the transit system,” McMahon said. “They don’t have the same flash as other kinds of transit. They don’t have the same permanence that rail does… but if the Metrorail is our backbone, the bus is our nervous system and capillaries. It’s circulating everywhere in our community. So it’s really important that we get this right.”

Photo by Jay Westcott

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Alexandria’s DASH buses may look a little different this week if you ride in the West End.

The new white West End bus traveling the new AT1 Plus route will feature artwork showing the route and various destinations in Alexandria’s West End, according to DASH.

The route runs from the Van Dorn Metro station up past Landmark Mall, Lincolnia, the Mark Center and Southern Towers. In October, DASH introduced a “plus” version of the line with improved service frequency, longer hours of operation, and additional real-time bus arrival displays. The new AT1 Plus route comes every ten minutes during peak hours, every 20 minutes during off-peak weekday times, and every 30 minutes on weekends, according to DASH.

The changes are an early part of efforts to create a transitway that makes bus travel across the West End more accessible and reliable. With redevelopment planned for Landmark Mall, the city is hoping for the improved transit service to be part of a more residential and commercial West End community. Eventually, the city hopes the transitway will connect up to the Pentagon.

DASH also recently approved plans to start moving the bus service towards a focus on rapid service through high-density areas, at the cost of bus routes through some lower-density areas.

Funding for the AT1 Plus service comes from revenue on the new I-395 tolls.

Photo courtesy DASH

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As Alexandrians are getting ready to celebrate New Year’s Eve tonight, be aware that some city services will not be available on New Year’s Day.

Trash will be picked up today (Tuesday), but will not be picked up tomorrow (Wednesday). Trash collection services scheduled for Wednesday through Friday will be delayed by one day.

Libraries will close at 5 p.m. today and libraries, recreation centers, and the Torpedo Factory Art Center will all be closed on Wednesday, according to the city website.

As on Christmas, there’s no need to feed the meters on New Year’s Day. Metered parking restrictions will be lifted throughout the city, though this only applies to legal parking spaces and parking in no parking zones, loading zones, or spaces for persons with disabilities is all still prohibited.

DASH will operate its regular schedule today and will operate a special trolley service between the Durant Center (1605 Cameron Street) and the George Washington Masonic National Memorial (101 Callahan Drive) from 5:30-11 p.m. tonight for First Night activities.

DASH buses will not be operating tomorrow, but the King Street Trolley will run on its regular schedule.

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