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Restoration of Late-Night Metro Hours Delayed

A proposal to restore late-night Metro hours, cut three years ago to allow for more evening maintenance, was delayed last night (Thursday) at the end of a rough week for the Silver Line.

Prior to 2016, Metro closed at midnight on weekdays and 3 a.m. on weekends, but in 2016 the evening hours were reduced as part of the “SafeTrack” maintenance project to an 11:30 p.m. closing time Monday-Thursday, 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays, and 11 p.m. on Sundays. But those changes had only been scheduled to last one year, and in 2017 the reduced service hours were renewed for another two years.

While there had been talk of restoring the earlier service hours, the Metro Board of Directors deferred a vote over restoring late hours until early 2019 to allow for greater study on how the hours would impact track maintenance.

Track maintenance is a particularly pertinent issue for those who live along the Silver Line. On Tuesday, service on the Silver Line was reduced from the Wiehle station to Ballston after a cracked rail forced trains to single-track in the middle of the afternoon rush.

D.C. Council members have repeatedly stated concerns that the lack of late-night Metro service left hospitality and restaurant workers without a means of getting home.

Frank Shafroth, the director of the Center for State and Local Leadership at George Mason University, said ensuring reliability is currently a higher priority for the Metro than restoring late night hours.

“The difficult challenge is the recognition that the growth of Uber et al has created pricing challenges for Metro, so Metro’s key issue in order to remain fiscally fit is to ensure riders of its reliability,” said Shafroth in an email. “Currently, whenever I go to [the George Washington University Hospital], it is 15 minutes by walking and Metro: there is no way I could do that, find parking competitively. [The Board] is focused precisely on the critical issue of making reliability its priority. Once that is certain, then it can build on that to restore late night hours.”

In other Silver Line news, the already behind-schedule expansion project also faces further delays as hundreds of rail ties installed along the second phase of the project were discovered to be flawed.

A man who faked records to hide faulty Silver Line concrete panels was convicted, and sentenced to one year in prison and required to pay $700,567.11 in restitution.

Despite this, Metro ridership is still on the rise in Tysons despite downward trends for the rest of the system.

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New Sidewalks, Improvements Planned Near Chesterbrook in McLean

The latest in a series of proposed sidewalks to make McLean more walkable is a pair of quarter-mile long sidewalks along Kirby Road near Chesterbrook.

One project, north of Chesterbrook, is planned to add a roughly 5-6 feet wide sidewalk with a curb and gutter along the south/east side of Kirby Road between Chesterbrook Road and Mori Street. A crude path currently exists along the roadside, though in parts it blends with the right shoulder lane.

A community meeting on the northern extension is scheduled for Tuesday, Dec. 11, at 7 p.m. in the Chesterbrook Elementary School cafeteria. The meeting will feature a presentation of the project’s preliminary design and offer the public a chance to ask questions and provide input.

The new sidewalk improvements will also include a pedestrian crossing and median refuge at the intersection with Mori Street, connecting the sidewalk to the shared use trail on the west side of Kirby Road.

To the south, the sidewalk will connect with an existing path separated from the road that leads into Chesterbrook neighborhood and shopping center along Old Dominion Drive. To the north, the new sidewalk won’t quite reach the Marie Butler Leven Preserve, but the park is accessible from the trail on the west side of the street.

A new sidewalk is also currently planned for Kirby Road on the other side of Chesterbrook, connecting Chesterbrook Elementary School to Halsey Road. Like the northern sidewalk, the southern extension covers a quarter-mile with a proposed 5-6 foot width.

At a Nov. 9 meeting on the southern Kirby Road sidewalk improvements, the Fairfax County Department of Transportation presented a plan that would include new concrete infrastructure improvements along the roadside. The white painted fences along Kirby Road may be removed and replaced during the construction.

The construction schedule for the north project is unknown, but the southern sidewalk extension is scheduled for final design in early 2019 and construction later that year.

Photo via Google Maps

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Vienna Considers Bringing In Capital Bikeshare

Fairfax is eyeing bikeshare expansion along Route 123 from Tysons to Fairfax City, and Vienna is right in the middle.

At last night’s (Monday) Vienna Town Council meeting, Zan Frackelton, a transportation planner with Toole Design, updated the Town Council on an ongoing feasibility study considering whether bikeshare will work for Vienna and other localities along the corridor. The study is a collaboration between the Town of Vienna, George Mason University, and both Fairfax County and City.

Frackelton said Vienna’s relatively flat topography and a sprinkling of bike infrastructure make it a conducive to hosting a bikeshare system.

“We believe bikeshare is feasible in this area, but it requires some supporting actions,” said Frackelton, “such as ongoing improvements to the bicycle network to ensure people using this system have safe places to ride and reviewing policies as needed related to bicycling.”

While the red and gold Capital Bikeshare is the leading contender to fill the Vienna gap, Frackelton said it was also worth noting that the bikeshare market is becoming increasingly crowded with options, including the increasingly popular electric scooters.

“[Capital Bikeshare] is ideal for short, one-way trips,” said Frackelton. “But other systems are coming onto the scene, like dockless bikeshare and scooters, where you start your trip using an app and end where you want.”

However, Frackelton said Capital Bikeshare was the most logical choice for Vienna. With the expansion of the Capital Bikeshare in surrounding localities like Tysons and Reston, Frackelton also said Vienna was a logical next step for the Capital Bikeshare.

If Vienna does decide to go with electric scooters or e-bikes, which Capital Bikeshare is beginning to offer, Frackelton said the town will also have to consider new policies governing use of such devices. While Frackelton said the town could consider moving to dockless vehicles in the future, Frackelton said there’s not enough space on local roads to support that yet.

Among concerns raised by the Town Council was speeding on trails, which is not typically a concern for bicyclists but a potential problem if local bicycle trails become saturated with electric bicycles and scooters.

Town Council members also noted concerns that many of the late-night scootering in Washington, D.C. was done without lights or reflective gear that makes them difficult to see for cars. Frackelton said the study would look into these concerns as the study continues.

Frackelton said Fairfax County is planning to move forward with grant applications for funding for Capital Bikeshare stations and begin finalizing locations in 2019.

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New Bus Line Running Cheap Trips from Tysons to NYC

Local residents looking to catch a bus to New York City no longer have to take the trip to Union Station or Chinatown.

OurBus, a bus service founded in 2016 offering intercity and commuter routes, will run a new route from Tysons to New York City starting this Sunday (Nov. 18).

“We saw a terrific opportunity to provide local Tyson’s residents a more efficient, less stressful travel option to NYC,” said Axel Hellman, co-founder of OurBus, in a press release.  “Rather than traveling to a city center such as Arlington or D.C., and paying for parking, our customers can board our buses close to their home and work.”

Tickets for the maiden voyage from Tysons to New York are $25. The bus picks up on Dolley Madison Boulevard in front of the McLean Metro Station at 1 p.m. and will drop off at Park Avenue S. between 26th and 27th Streets in New York at 5:40 p.m.

Hellman said the bus tickets are more affordable than flying or other forms of travel, which is true, although it’s worth noting that tickets from Washington, D.C. earlier that morning are notably cheaper with a 7 a.m. trip for $15 and an 8:30 a.m. trip for $10.

The company also offers full refunds if the booking is canceled up to 25 hours prior to departure time and can exchange tickets for different departure times within 24 hours.

Photo via Facebook

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New Stretch of Sidewalk Open Near Downtown McLean

McLean may not be as fully walkable as residents would like, but one stretch of road is stepping in the right direction.

According to a Twitter post by District Supervisor John Foust, construction finished last week on a new sidewalk along Dolly Madison Highway (Route 123) near downtown McLean.

The sidewalk construction is part of a broader effort to install new walkways across McLean.

Foust said the new sidewalks are part of an effort to complete a missing link and provide safer pedestrian access to the bus stop near Kurtz Road.

According to Foust, the construction will continue with new sidewalks on Dolly Madison Highway between Old Dominion. A Sept. 25 update on transportation projects estimated the Kurtz Road area sidewalks to be fully completed next spring and cost $450,000.

Additional sidewalks further along Dolly Madison Boulevard will be completed later that summer, also costing $450,000.

Photo via Twitter

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Ridership is Up but Tysons Residents Remain Metro Averse

While the Silver Line may be bringing new market tenants to Reston and Tysons, so far it’s had little impact on changing commutes.

According to a new study by JLL, an investment management company, 1.1 million square feet of new office space has emerged in Tysons within a half-mile of a Metrorail station. Rents for higher-end office space on-Metro in Tysons also comes at a 16% premium compared to off-Metro locations.

But while Metro ridership has continued to increase in Tysons, the study notes that nearby residents using the Metro to commute has increased less than 10 percent since the Metro opened. Some of this can likely be attributed to a lack of parking at the stations, which Fairfax County Supervisor John Foust, who represents McLean, said keeps many residents in his districts from using the Metro to commute.

Further west, Reston has seen a similar impact on office markets. According to the study:

“In the Wiehle micromarket, average Class A rents have increased 30% since 2012, and Reston also saw the delivery of its first Trophy building on-Metro — 1900 Reston Metro Plaza — with asking rents in the $50 p.s.f. range, a rate not seen before in the Toll Road market outside Reston Town Center.”

Like their neighbors in Tysons, Reston residents have been slow to give up their cars. Of commuters, less than 10 percent coming from Reston use the Metro.

More residential developments planned over the next few years near the Metro in both Reston and Tysons which will likely result in a gradually increasing amount of Metro ridership in both locations.

The study also notes that companies moving to and growing in the area, particularly in the tech sector, could also bring more Metro ridership to the area by reverse commuters: people living in Washington, D.C. or Arlington and traveling out to Tysons.

Image via JLL

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New Sameride Routes to Tysons

Sameride, a rideshare app that connects commuters on the same route, has opened up new lines running through Tysons.

With Sameride, app users can either drive or sign up as passengers along a commuter route. Multiple passengers means free access to HOV / HOT express lanes that would otherwise be tolled. App users input their home or office zip codes and can browse commuting route options.

One line runs from Stafford and Fredericksburg to Tysons. There are commuter lot locations throughout Stafford and Fredericksburg for pickup, while any destination inside Tysons can be selected. According to Samride, riders save an estimated $230 each month on the trip compared to train or bus fares and $1,450 per month in potential tolls compared to driving solo.

The other route runs from Woodbridge to Tysons. Like the first route, there are lot locations throughout Woodbridge for pickup and any destination in Tysons can be selected. Average cost per month for train or bus fare would be $280 or $1,110 in tolled express lanes.

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Metro Ridership Increases in Tysons

Metro ridership in Tysons has been increasing, bucking the transit system’s overall downward trend.

According to a recent county report, from April 2017-2018 ridership increased across Tysons stations by eight percent, from 7,142 to 7,723 riders per weekday.

According to the report, the most active Metrorail station within Tysons is Tysons Corner, which averages over 3,400 passengers per day (total entries) on weekdays and over 2,500 for Saturdays, exceeding the ridership at the other three stations.

The only station to show a decrease in ridership has been the Spring Hill station, which declined from 1,220 riders to 1,188, a three percent decrease.

The same report also showed that morning and evening peak period traffic to and from Tysons in single-occupancy vehicles had decreased after years of mostly trending upward. Morning trips for single-occupancy vehicles decreased over the last year from 106,389 to 99,472, while evening trips decreased from 108,604 to 104,596.

Professor Frank Shafroth, director of the Center for State and Local Leadership at George Mason University, said the two numbers are likely rooted in traffic and tolling along I-66.

“I think the uptick reflects how terrible I-66 traffic is — and, increasingly, how expensive it is,” said Shafroth. “I know when I go out to Tysons, I do not even think of driving, even though it is almost a straight shot, when I can, instead, relax, read, and prep for whatever meeting I am headed to.”

Graph via Fairfax County

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Map: Planned and Ongoing Transportation Projects in McLean

Tysons Reporter has put together a map and list of planned and ongoing transportation projects in McLean.

During their Sept. 25 meeting, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a status report on transportation projects throughout the County. Included in the report is an updated list of all ongoing and planned transportation projects.

McLean, part of the Dranesville District, begins on page 443. Most of the projects planned for McLean are new sidewalks, aligning with Fairfax County’s goals of making McLean more walkable.

Projects in the pre-construction phase are marked in blue. Projects currently undergoing construction or scheduled to begin in October are marked in red. Projects that have not begun their design process were not included.

In Pre-Construction:

  • Intersection of Balls Hill Road and Old Dominion Drive: A project is currently being designed to make intersection improvements, including a potential roundabout and pedestrian facilities. The design process is expected to end in December. Land aquisition activities are underway to secure the land at the intersection for development. Current funding for the project is $200,000.
  • Chesterbrook Road Sidewalks: Three small sidewalk extensions are planned along Chesterbrook Road in McLean. Project scoping and initial coordination for these projects are expected for summer 2019. Each walkway extension is priced at $1 million.
  • Sidewalk on Georgetown Pike: 700 feet of a ten-foot wide sidewalk is planned for the east side of Georgetown Pike south of Colonial Farm Road. An additional 350 feet of five-foot wide sidewalk is planned for the east side of Route 123 and Potomac School Road. The project is currently undergoing land acquisition with construction beginning in April 2020. Current estimate of project cost is $1.3 million.
  • Sidewalk on Idylwood Road: 200 feet of five-foot wide sidewalk is planned for Idylwood Road near Falls Church between Norwalk Street and Eastman Drive. Final design for the sidewalk is underway and expected to be completed by July 2019. Construction is scheduled to begin April 2020 and continue through October 2020. Current estimated cost of the project is $300,000.
  • Kirby Avenue Sidewalks: 520 feet of sidewalk connecting Chesterbrook Elementary School to Halsey Road along the south side of Kirby Road. The project is currently in land acquisition with construction scheduled to begin in March 2019 and finish in December 2019. Three additional sidewalk projects are planned along Kirby Avenue.  The total project cost is estimated at $925,000.
  • Lewinsville Road and Spring Hill Road Intersection: Improvements to the intersection in design and expected to be completed in December. The aim is to improve traffic flow and safety and add pedestrian crosswalks. All construction dates are still to be determined. The total project cost is estimated at $15.8 million.
  • Magarity Road Sidewalk and Crosswalk: A new eight-foot wide sidewalk is planned for the south side Magarity Road near Tysons between Lusby Place and Peabody Drive and one new crosswalk. The project is still in design until November 2020. Total project cost is estimated at $2.3 million.
  • Westmoreland Street and Rosemont Drive Bike Lanes: A 400-foot widening of Westmoreland Street to add bike lanes is currently in the design. Construction is expected to begin in November 2019 and finish in August 2020.

Under Construction:

  • Baron Road Walkway from Dead Run Park Trailhead to Douglass Drive: Construction of a new sidewalk is underway along Douglass Drive where it insects the Dead Run Park Trailhead, including a new curb and gutter. Construction is expected to be finished this month. The project budget is $700,000.
  • Birch Street Sidewalk: 700 feet of new sidewalk construction is planned for the west side of Birch Street from Grove Avenue to an existing sidewalk. Construction began in September and will continue until June 2019. The total funding the the project is currently $1 million, with an estimated total cost of $1.8 million.
  • Chesterbrook Road Sidewalk: Utility relocation is currently ongoing for a five-foot concrete sidewalk on the south side of Chesterbrook Road. Construction on the project is expected to finish in April 2019.
  • Sidewalks on Dolly Madison Boulevard: Construction started in September for two five-foot sidewalks along the south side of Dolly Madison Boulevard. The first length, from Chain Bridge Road to Kurtz Road, is estimated to be completed by May 2019 and cost $450,000. The second, from Old Dominion Drive to Beverly Avenue, is scheduled for completion in June 2019  and will cost $450,000.
  • Kirby Road Sidewalk: A six-foot sidewalk on the north side of Kirby Road is beginning construction this month and is scheduled to finish August 2019. The total estimated cost is $1.75 million.

Photo via Fairfax County. Map via Google Maps

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Bicycle Improvements Around Vienna Metro Station Deferred

Improvements to bicycle routes near the Vienna Metro station may have to wait.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors deferred a vote on an agreement to move forward on the Vienna Metro Bike Connection Improvement Project. The agreement with VDOT was brought forward as an action item at the Sept. 25 Board of Supervisors meeting but was deferred without explanation.

The project aims to enhance bike access to the Vienna Metro station and Metro West Town Center, as well as other roads and bridges in the surrounding area. The project includes bike wayfinding signage and shared lane markings.

The improvements follow a 2016 study of bicycle accessibility to the Vienna Metro station.

The project was first endorsed by the Board of Supervisors on Oct. 24, 2017, as part of a transportation alternatives package. If approved by the board, it will be funded with $800,000 in grants from VDOT, with a local match requirement of $200,000. The funds were identified in the County budget but requires Board of Supervisors approval.

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