As we approach the third month of METRO’s SafeTrack initiative, the
visions of gloom and doom – that the region would be thrown into complete and
utter gridlock – do not seem to be taking hold. Kudos and credit go out to our local and regional transit and transportation demand managers, who have been attempting to take up the “slack” during the roving shut/slow downs that have occurred during Surges 1-4. Credit should also be given to our region’s commuters and employers who have adapted some new commuting patterns and are proving to be pretty saavy users of our transportation network.
Now, there have been some significant bumps along the way, particularly on July 29th when an Orange line train derailed at the East Falls Church station, creating havoc on both the Orange and Silver line commutes for three days. Even the most patient commuters on those two lines had a tough time navigating around the closed lines.
So, what has been the impact on commuting during these first four SafeTrack surges? The regional transportation providers provided a glimpse of the situation on July 20th in a report to the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board. Highlights of the Northern Virginia provider’s approaches and lessons learned are below. Long and short of the situation – communication, communication, and more communication!
Regionally the local providers discuss and coordinate strategies on a weekly basis through the coordination of the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission. This communication among providers is critical with the
“roving” nature of the Surges.
City of Alexandria – As previously mentioned, the main lessoned learned is to be in constant communication with the public. In addition, the City also included:
- Free service on the DASH’s AT3 and AT4 bus lines;
- Added Capital Bikeshare capacity at Braddock Road METRO;
- Added variable messaging signs to alert drivers; and
- Increased staff and used a flat taxi fare of $15 from King Street in Old Town to the National Airport.
Arlington County –
- Added transit capacity to bus routes around affected closures;
- Installed temporary Bikeshare station at East Falls Church METRO
- (Capital Bikeshare trips increased by about 32%, Bikeshare annual memberships purchased in Arlington were up 45% from last year, Bike ridership was up 40 to 90% at counters across the County);
- Arlington County Commuter Services icreased outreach to employers urging telework options and Libraries offered work stations;
- Provided ambassadors at affected stations to help travelers and enhanced wayfinding signage;
- Ambassador teams assisted 450 in Surge 1 and 150 in the first week of Surge 2; and
- Handed out about 10,000 brochures at Metro rail stations.
Fairfax County –
- Provided express shuttle between the I-66 Corridor and the core and supplemental Rt. 599 express service between the Dulles Corridor and the core;
- Peak period bi-directional express shuttle service between Franconia-Springfield and Pentagon;
- Supplemental I-95/395 express service between Saratoga Park & Ride and Pentagon; and
- Promote park and ride lots and Metro/VRE stations with available parking capacity and promote other bus wwand VRE alternatives.
Loudoun County –
- Diverting service for the Potomac Falls bus line to Ballston-MU from West Falls Church during
- these surges;
- Increasing the number of buses in high use areas;
- Providing bus schedules that highlight trips that match reduced train service arrivals; and
- Promoting Van pools, Car pools, telework and other commuting alternatives.
Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation
Commission (PRTC) –
- Delayed departures (additional 15 minutes) on last trips for buses serving Metro stations (Tysons or Franconia/ Springfield) to accommodate longer rail commutes depending on which line was affected by the surge;
- Promoted OmniMatch for carpool/vanpool services;
- Suggested possible alternate OmniRide services, such as taking bus to Pentagon or Mark Center and transferring to other PRTC buses or other regional providers to bypass single tracking/segment closures; and
- Promoted VRE during Blue/Yellow line surges.
- All of the affected Virginia localities sought reimburse-ment from Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) an extra $1 million for additional services provided during this phase of SafeTrack. The CTB approved this
- request in June.
For up-to-date information on the SafeTrack initiative, go to www.http://wmata.com/rail/safetrack.cfm.
Summer Travel at Dulles International
By Rob Yingling
Travelers beginning their journey this summer at Dulles International will enjoy new airlines, destinations and amenities at the airport. From the moment they arrive, passengers will notice the Metrorail construction is making visible progress right across from the terminal parking lot, which offers a new daily parking option. Inside, LATAM and Air Canada have joined the airline offerings with new flights to Lima and Toronto. United Airlines, which recently celebrated 30 years as a hub airline at Dulles, added Lisbon and Barcelona to its summer routes. And Royal Air Maroc begins flights this fall to its Casablanca hub with con-nections to many European and North African airports.
Along with all of this good news comes the airport’s top advice: Come early and stay “in the know.” Dulles has seen its surge of travelers, but without the significant waits that made recent headlines at other major airports. Still, summer is a popular season for air travel, so a quick check of the airport’s live wait time display at www.flydulles.com is worthwhile. The latest airport news and specials are also posted there. Beyond the security checkpoint, several new shopping and dining options will keep passengers delighted before their flight departs. Just a few of the offerings include Erwin Pearl, Tumi and Thomas Pink (for shopping) and Bracket Room, DC-3 Hot Dog Joint, and The Kitchen by Wolfgang Puck (for dining). Be Relax spa is also open near Gate B64 for the ultimate in travel pampering. Bon voyage!
In 1986, “Top Gun” flew right into the danger zone, Halley’s Comet streaked our solar system, and “DA Bears” won the Super Bowl.
Which makes 2016 the year we celebrated a Tomcat dogfight, a celestial bright light, awesome gridiron might and DATA’s 30th Anniversary night!
DATA President John Martin and Executive Director Jim Larsen welcomed elected officials, business leaders, and transportation professionals to the Dulles Area Transportation Association 30th Anniversary Celebration and Awards Ceremony, held April 28 at the Hilton Washington Dulles Airport Hotel. Joining DATA’s keynote speaker J. Douglas Koelemay (Director of Virginia Office of Public-Private Partnerships) in addressing attendees was popular Washington Post columnist Robert Thomson, “Dr. Gridlock.”
David R. Gehr, Senior Vice President, Highway Market Leader/Virginia Business Manager, WSP | Parsons Brinckerhoff, was recognized as the fourteenth recipient
of the Dr. Sidney Steel Founder’s Award for Transportation Leadership.
The Metropolitan Wash-ington Airports Authority’s State and Local Government Affairs Manager Michael Cooper received the President’s Award for Career Achievement.
The evening culminated with the presentation of the DATAs, the Dulles Area Transportation Association’s version of the Oscars, to Business Partner Bill Keech, Jr., President of the Westfields Business Owner Association and Trans-portation Professional Tom Biesiadny, Director of the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.
A survey of residents in the greater Washington, D.C. region demonstrates what most of us already knew – Washingtonians utilize a lot of public transportation and would like to see AND pay for better services. The survey, conducted in May by WBA Research, a Crofton Maryland based firm, looked into public transportation use and support, views on road maintenance, use of new transportation oriented apps and airport usage. This article will explore the finding of public transportation use; subsequent articles will address other findings in the report.
In summary the survey found that:
Three-fourths (75%) of all Washington, DC area residents have either used public transportation in the past month (47%) or are likely to consider doing so in the future (28%).
Satisfaction with the region’s transportation system shows room for improvement. Only 29% of area residents are satisfied (rated 8-10 on a 0-10 scale), while 52% gave more neutral ratings.
Support for increased government funding of public transportation is high—78% of Washington, DC area residents say they would be very or somewhat likely to support an increase. Support is most pronounced among District of Columbia residents (58% very likely to support vs. 28%-38% of suburban residents). And, while it might not be surprising that transit users are more likely than non-users to be very likely to support increased public transportation funding (50% vs. 24%), even the majority of non-users (72%) would at least be somewhat likely to support an increase.
Maintaining existing roads and bridges (82% rated 8-10), as well as reducing traffic congestion by improving public transportation (73% rated 8-10), are rated as the most important types of projects in which the region could invest.
These findings are notable, considering some of the problems that have faced the METRO rail system recently. In short, residents/commuters use METRO a lot (as well as METRO bus service) and they are willing to pay more to improve services. When asked “Which public transportation services have you used in the past month?” survey respondents indicated that “Close to one-half of the Washington, DC area residents surveyed have used any of the region’s public transportation services in the past month, most often citing Metrorail.” Source: WBA Research
When asked how likely they are to use public transportation in the future, the survey found “More than one-half of those who have not used public transportation in the past month (55%) say they are likely to consider doing so in the future. This proportion is almost twice as high among 18-34 year olds as compared to those age 55 and older.” Source: WBA Research
A high level of usage doesn’t necessarily mean that users are satisfied with the services. The reports notes that “Nearly three in ten Washington, DC area residents are satisfied with the region’s transportation system. More than one-half, however, gave more neutral ratings.” Note that this survey was conducted prior to SafeTrak and the current Safety Surges.
Source: WBA Research
Perhaps the general disappointment in the quality of services has, or can be translated into support for increasing funding for public transportation. Over 75% of the respondents support increased federal, state and local funding. In short, the report states “Overall, more than three-fourths of Washington, DC area residents would be very or somewhat likely to support increased government funding for public transportation.” Source: WBA Research
In fact, almost six in ten District of Columbia residents say they would be very likely to support such funding. Likewise, those who have used the area’s public transportation in the past month are significantly more likely than non-users to say they would be very likely to support increased public transportation funding. Still, more than seven in ten non-users would be at least somewhat likely to support an increase.” Source: WBA Research
Lastly, respondents do want the region’s leaders to figure out how to reduce congestion both through new roads and road maintenance, but also improving public transportation services. The report notes “Maintaining existing roads and bridges, as well as reducing traffic congestion by improving public transportation, are rated as the most important types of projects that the region could invest in.”
Virginiaís Longest Running Wine Festival is Back at Bull Run Park!
TasteUSA and The Atlantic Seaboard Wine Association (ASWA) will present the 41st Annual Virginia Wine Festival® for two days, rain or shine, Saturday, September 17th and Sunday, September 18th at Bull Run Regional Park, Centreville, Virginia. The beautiful outdoor venue will be transformed into an entertaining array filled with more than 40 wineries from across Virginia with truly world-class Virginia wines, the best food trucks and food vendors, fine crafts, plus live music performances, and something completely new to the Festival this year – the Virginia Oyster Pavilion, an epic experience where Virginia’s succulent briny bi-valves can be sucked down with your choice of Virginia wines or Virginia craft beers!
Attracting more than 10,000 attendees over two days, the 2016 Virginia Wine Festival® is open from 12:00 p.m. until 6:00 p.m. both days with early access at 11 a.m. for VIP ticket purchasers, all at Bull Run Regional Park, 7700 Bull Run Drive, Centreville, Virginia 20121. Tickets start at $29 for General Admission which includes unlimited wine sampling from over 40 wineries. VIP tickets are $59 which includes early access, private tent, private bathrooms and the Reserve Wine Tasting each day from 1-4 pm, a chance to be seated and have an expert speaker cover the nuances of Virginia’s award-winning rare wine examples. Parking is free.
More information and tickets can be purchased at www.virginiawinefest.com, or find more information on facebook at www.facebook.com/VirginiaWineFest, on Twitter at twitter.com/VAWineFest.
TasteUSA is the U.S.’s premier site for consumers who love food and drink events – if it’s taste, it’s listed. Visit www.tasteusa.com/ for more information.
The Atlantic Seaboard Wine Association (ASWA) is one of the oldest wine organizations located on the East Coast. Established in 1973 as the Vinifera Wine Growers Association (VWGA), it was an early supporter of planting world-class Vinifera wine grapes, the production of quality commercial wines, and the building of a wine industry along the Eastern seaboard. Today, the ASWA is a national and international wine trade association that works with state and national legislatures to resolve issues that challenge the U.S. wine.