Alexandria, VA

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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Alexandria’s DASH bus system is looking to improve its mobile ticketing smartphone application, but city officials want the app to be compatible with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s SmarTrip cards.

The bus system views the rollout of the app last June to be a success. Now DASH is working with the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission to understand how to improve upon the system before making those next steps.

“We eventually hope to see that merge with the future generation of SmarTrip,” DASH General Manager Josh Baker told the city council during the transit company’s annual stockholder meeting at City Hall on Tuesday. “Our system is entirely self- contained. You’re able to buy a pass on there, add money to your trips, but not on your SmartTrip card. So, eventually we hope to see that system feed into the future generations.”

Baker added, “It’s a little tricky, because of course WMATA had some stuff going on internally in that they’re trying to figure out in terms of SmartTrip in the future.”

But Alexandria Mayor Justin Wilson said that there needs to be some regional leadership around converging the technology to be compatible across multiple transportation platforms.

“You go to the San Francisco Bay area, and whether you’re riding Oakland’s bus system, whether you’re riding the ferry, the BART, whether you’re riding SFMTA, whatever, you’re using the same card, the same media, all the same system,” Wilson said. “We’ve got to be there eventually. So, not only the bus systems in Metro, but VRE and the water taxi and everyone else.”

Approximately 1,000 bus riders downloaded the app in June, and by October there were more than 5,000 users. The app was made available to accommodate riders during the summer shutdown of Alexandria’s Metro stations for platform improvements.

Last year, DASH reported more than 4 million passenger trips and logged 1.7 million miles.

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Alexandria’s DASH bus system is inviting the public to provide input on a new zero-emissions electric bus.

The 60-foot-long Xcelsior CHARGE XE60 bus can carry more than 120 people, and will be available for the public to take a test ride late this week. The event is happening on Wednesday from 4-6 p.m. at Market Square (301 King St.).

DASH has been experimenting with the bus since last week in an effort to replace its older articulated (connected by a joint) buses. The bus is also being tried out on various routes this week, including one used by Mayor Justin Wilson on Monday morning.

The bus is made by New Flyer of America, and was provided to the city free of charge during the demonstration.

Bus Features:

  • Highest battery storage capacity and range of any zero-emissions bus available in the United States.
  • Ability to serve all current or future routes within the City (navigates tighter turns than many current DASH buses due to special turning technology)
  • Nearly doubles passenger capacity for routes with overcrowding issues (carries 120-130 passengers vs. 80 on current DASH buses)
  • 3 articulated buses can replace 4 standard buses, reducing long term operating and capital costs
  • Remedies bunching issues on routes where too many buses create service reliability issues

Photo via Justin Wilson/Facebook

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Morning Notes

Petition for Lower Speeds on Duke Street — “After Sunday’s fatal traffic crash which took the life of 89-year-old Alfredo DaSilva, Alexandria, Virginia resident Grace Grant has started a petition to reduce speed along Duke Street between Quaker Lane & Jordan Street.” [Port City Wire, Change.org]

T.C. Grad Wins Grammy — “Tracy Young, a T.C. Williams alumna, became the first woman to win in the best remixed recording non-classical category at the 62nd annual Grammys Sunday. She won for her pride remix of Madonna’s ‘I Rise.'” [Patch, Twitter]

Remembering Kobe Bryant — Alexandria’s Elijah Griffin spoke to TV station ABC 7 about his personal “memories of legendary NBA star, Kobe Bryant and his 13-year old daughter, Gianna. He spoke not only about Bryant’s outstanding abilities on the court, but also about the amazing person he was off the court.” [WJLA]

DASH Bus Crash on Duke Street — “APD is on scene of a minor crash involving a DASH bus on Duke Street near S. Jordan Street. No injuries reported.” [Twitter]

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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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Parking at metered spaces will be free throughout the city on Christmas Day this week.

The police will not be enforcing parking restrictions at metered spaces, residential permit parking districts, and other areas with parking time limits on Wednesday (Dec. 25), according to the city’s website.

This only applies to restrictions on legal parking spaces, so prohibited places like loading zones or spaces for persons with disabilities will still be restricted. Temporary no-parking signs will also be enforced.

Bus riders are less lucky, though. DASH buses will not be running on Christmas.

On Tuesday (Dec. 24), the regular weekday schedule will be in effect, but service will end at 7 p.m. On Wednesday (Dec. 25) there will be no DASH service, but the free King Street Trolley will operate on its regular schedule. The trolly will run every 10-15 minutes from 11 a.m.-10:30 p.m. between the King Street-Old Town Metro station and the waterfront.

Meanwhile, most other city services in Alexandria will be closed:

  • Alexandria Library: all branches will be closed tomorrow (Tuesday) and Wednesday, (Dec. 25)
  • Recreation Facilities: all recreation facilities will be closed on tomorrow (Tuesday) and Wednesday (Dec. 25).
  •  The Torpedo Factory: the art fac ility will be open tomorrow (Tuesday) from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. but closed on Wednesday (Christmas)
  • Animal Shelter: the Vola Lawson Animal Shelter will be open from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. on Tuesday, December 24, with animal viewing beginning at noon. The Animal Shelter will be closed on Wednesday, December 25.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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When it comes to Alexandria’s transportation network, the squeaky wheel gets the grease.

After intense backlash from everyone from local residents to city officials, the Alexandria Transit Company approved a vision plan that restores some DASH bus transit through Seminary Road — for now.

A new route, N12, will replace the current AT-2 route on Seminary Road and Janneys Lane. The route connects the Mark Center in the West End to the King Street Metro station. According to the new vision plan, the route will run every 30 minutes on weekdays and will be discontinued on weekends.

AT-2 was originally cut from DASH’s vision plan, which favored moving the system towards frequent service in densely populated parts of the city at the cost of routes through more spread-out neighborhoods in the heart of Alexandria. The change was met with outcry from residents along the route who said they rely on the bus to take them to the hospital and down to Old Town.

“The N12 service is a result of input received during the outreach process and is subject to a board-adopted ridership benchmark over the next five years,” the report said.

The city’s website elaborated that DASH will set benchmarks and monitor ridership on the route to evaluate, further down the road, if the route should be maintained.

The overall aim of the new plan is to shift towards high-frequency service with buses running every 15 minutes all day, every day in areas like the West End, Potomac Yard and Old Town. DASH said the new plan will offer useful, frequent transit for 120,000, compared to the 40,000 currently served. The high-frequency lines are also designed to go through neighborhoods with a high concentration of low-income residents and minority residents.

Though approved by the DASH board, the new plan will still need to be adopted by the City Council and WMATA. If adopted, the new route would be scheduled for launch in summer 2021, with phases of the plan being implemented through 2030.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Next Saturday, the Old Town trolly will run from the Metro to the Waterfront by way of the North Pole.

On Saturday, Dec. 14, Santa is scheduled to make an appearance at a King Street Trolly parked outside City Hall (301 King Street). The trolly is a free, year-round shuttle along King Street operated by the DASH bus service.

The event is scheduled to run from 9 a.m.-12 p.m.

“Join us to celebrate the magic of the holiday season and enjoy a morning of free photos with Santa Claus aboard the King Street Trolley,” DASH said in a Facebook post.

Santa’s Trolly is an annual event, and past participants have also received DASH-related goodies like a coloring book.

Photo via DASH/Facebook

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(Updated at 10:55 a.m.) Thanksgiving is just two days away, and much of the city government will be shutting down for the holiday.

On Thursday (Nov. 28), all city facilities and the Torpedo Factory will be closed. DASH bus service will not operate, but the King Street Trolley will still be running. The Vola Lawson Animal Shelter will be closed on Thursday except for its Kongs-giving event to make treat packages for animals in the shelter.

Also Thursday, parking meters will not be enforced. However, trash and recycling will still be collected.

On Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, the Chinquapin Park Recreation Center will be open from 6 a.m.-6 p.m. The Charles Houston and Patrick Henry recreation centers will be open from 9 a.m.-6 p.m. The Torpedo Factory will also be open but all other city facilities will be closed.

Several grocery stores around Alexandria will be open on Thanksgiving Day until the afternoon.

  • Giant grocery stores throughout the D.C. region will be open until 5 p.m.
  • Harris Teeter stores, even the 24-hour locations, will close at 2 p.m.
  • Safeway stores will close at 7 p.m.

Other grocery stores, like Trader Joe’s, MOM’s Organic Market, Aldi, BJ’s, and Costco will be closed, according to WTOP.

If you’re looking to pick up a turkey at the last minute, local restaurant group Alexandria Restaurant Partners is offering Thanksgiving meal bundles to take home at various locations.

More on the planned closures, from a City of Alexandria press release, is below (after the jump).

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The squeaky wheel on the bus may get the grease, as the Alexandria Transit Company Board of Directors has directed staff to find a way of restoring or replacing a bus line through Seminary Road cut from current plans to overhaul the bus network.

DASH, the city’s bus system, is preparing to shift its bus service from a model focused on widespread coverage of the city to one that focuses on high-frequency service in densely populated corridors.

One of the casualties of this change would be the AT2 bus line. The bus line starts in Lincolnia and works up through the West End to the Mark Center before running down through the heart of Seminary Hill and into Old Town.

Steve Sindiong, an urban planner for the City of Alexandria, said that the DASH Board of Directors told staff at an earlier meeting that they need to go back and restore service in that corridor.

“That’s what we’re working on right now,” Sindiong said. “We’re looking at different approaches to service on Seminary [Road] and Janneys [Lane].”

The removal of the lines caused outrage at a meeting at the Burke Branch Library in October, where a packed room of local residents said they were concerned that they would lose access to the city’s bus service.

DASH tweeted that AT2 riders would be able to reach Old Town through a transfer at Landmark Mall or Southern Towers, but plans for the bus routes by 2022 eliminate service east of Inova Alexandria Hospital (4320 Seminary Road).

Sindiong said the replacement bus line would have, at a minimum, some weekday service.

The city is also currently in discussions with the Department of Defense, which funds the AT2x route that runs directly from the King Street Metro station to the Mark Center. It is currently an express bus, meaning it makes no stops on Seminary Road, but staff said in the October meeting that they were cautiously hopeful that it could be opened up to local residents.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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A long-planned bus rapid transit network (BRT) that would run through Alexandria’s West End is moving forward early next year, though the dedicated bus lanes featured prominently in the conceptual stage might not make it into the initial designs.

The city’s vision for the West End Transitway is a series of transit improvements to create a reliable, accessible bus line that would run from the Van Dorn Metro station to the Pentagon, hitting West End destinations that aren’t accessible by Metro, like the Mark Center, Southern Towers, and the perhaps soon-to-be-redeveloped Landmark Mall.

The goal is to make mass transit more accessible and more appealing to the car-heavy West End. After years of studies and securing funding, Steve Sindiong, project manager for the West End Transitway, says the design phase for the project is scheduled to start in early 2020.

Sindiong said the designs will include new traffic signal priority, pedestrian and bicycle-friendly streetscaping, and queue jump lanes — a short stretch of bus lane that allows a bus to easily pass through intersections.

But dedicated bus lanes, like those on the Crystal City-Potomac Yard Transitway and one of the earliest identified goals for the West End Transitway, are unlikely to make the cut in the initial phase of improvements.

“The reason we’re not proceeding with dedicated lanes at this time is a lack of funding,” Sindiong said. “We don’t have funds to do the full improvements. It would require a lot of rights-of-way which we try to get as development occurs, which hasn’t been occurring on Van Dorn as early as was anticipated.”

Some redevelopment has been occurring in the Van Dorn area, however, like the Vulcan Materials site approved for redevelopment in October. The city has also been working to push industrial uses out of the area — as in the case of the Virginia Paving Company being told to clear out — to make room for more residential and commercial uses.

With $70 million collected for the design and construction of the transitway, Sindiong said staff is ready to start moving forward with initial improvements for the West End Transitway and incorporate dedicated bus lanes later.

“The dedicated lanes are important and we are planning to eventually do the full build,” Sindiong said. “We will have to continue seeking funding and acquiring right-of-way through development. Putting in other improvements, like queue jump lanes and new bus stations — will improve the transit speed and reliability [in the meantime].”

The new transit improvements will also coincide with DASH’s plans to shift to a bus network that with a smaller coverage are but improved bus frequency in high-density areas. As a sort of proof-of-concept, Sindiong said the city has been working on improving service on AT1, a bus route that hits roughly the same areas as the eventual West End Transitway.

“We’re improving that service so people can expect ten-minute frequency during peak hours, and twenty for off-peak,” Sindiong said. “We’ve extended the service hours and added real-time bus information. This is the first step towards the West End Transitway… we want to track that to make sure the route is being productive.”

The West End Transitway also features into the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission’s plans to build a new BRT line along Route 7. The Transitway overlaps with a planned bus route that would connect Alexandria to Tysons, Pimmit Hills, Seven Corners and Bailey’s Crossroads, according to WTOP.

“The design would tie in at the Mark Center Transit Center and would use part of the city’s West End Transitway improvements,” said Sindiong. “It would turn onto Beauregard [Street] and stop at the city stops. For a small portion, there would be two overlapping transitways.”

Images via City of Alexandria

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