Live More, Commute LessLive More, Commute Less

Apr
28

County CVBs Offer Biking Tips for Visitors

Whether exercising, com-muting, or taking a leisurely ride, biking is a great way to explore the local area. In Northern Virginia, there are endless opportunities to explore if one knows the best places to look.

Arlington, Virginia is a great place to get around by bicycle. From scenic trails and dedicated on-street bike lanes to the chance to bike along the Potomac River for dazzling views of the Capital skyline, bicycling is an excellent op-portunity for visitors to see Arlington in a whole new way. Arlington features more than one hundred miles of multi-use trails as well as on-street bike lanes and designated bike routes to make it easy for cyclists to get where they need to go. In fact, the “Arlington Loop,” a 17-mile route around Arlington, offers the chance to see all of Arlington’s top attractions via two wheels. What’s more, visitors don’t need to worry about finding a bike, as the region’s Capital Bikeshare program offers more than 80 stations throughout Arlington (and more in the D.C. area), making it simple to hop on a bike almost anywhere. And for those looking to delve a little deeper, Arlington’s BikeArlington organization has put together a series of neighborhood bike routes to let you explore the area a little more. Whether sightseeing, shopping, or just looking to explore in a new way, biking is an excellent way to get out and discover Arlington.

For visitors who’d like to explore more of Northern Virginia, the Washington & Old Dominion Regional Park Trail is the perfect way to see it all on two wheels. The trail, affectionately known as the “skinniest park in Virginia,” starts in Arlington and runs 45 miles west through Fairfax County and into Loudoun County. Pass by horseback riders, joggers, and fellow bikers, or make a pit stop at one of the many restaurants and local breweries situated along the trail.

With more than 5,000 miles of roadway and 900 miles of trails, biking in Fairfax County is becoming an increasingly popular way to navigate the diverse terrain, from paved roadways and mountain bike courses to both paved and off-road trails. Urban areas of the County like Reston and Tysons are embracing initiatives such as Capital Bikeshare (coming this fall!) to encourage residents and visitors to try new and convenient ways of getting around. For a more scenic and leisurely route, riders can take the Mount Vernon Trail along the Potomac River to the home of America’s first President at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Alternatively, the 40-mile Cross County Trail is a beautiful way for riders to see the various stream valleys that dot Fairfax County’s eclectic landscape. Mountain bike enthusiasts can try their skills at the MTB Trail at Fountainhead Regional Park, a multi-use course that is known as one of the best in the Mid-Atlantic. For more information on trails and biking resources within Fairfax County, be sure to pick up a copy of the Fairfax Bicycle Map or get it on your mobile device.

Visit www.fxva.com and www.stayarlington.com for more destination information.

Apr
28

25th Annual Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival – An Art Experience!

The Greater Reston Arts Center (GRACE) will present the 25th annual Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival for two days, rain or shine, Saturday, May 21 and Sunday, May 22 at Reston Town Center. The streets will be transformed into an eleven-block art walk filled with more than 200 artists from across the nation with original paintings, photography, mixed-media, sculpture, jewelry and fine craft, plus dance performances, free art-making activities for families in the Pavilion, music, and more throughout the weekend.

Flynn MixedMedia 3D Art.

Flynn MixedMedia 3D Art.

As a highlight of the year in the DC region, this event offers authentic art and experiences for all tastes and ages, attracting more than 30,000 attendees over two days. The 2016 Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival is open from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. on Saturday, May 21, and 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. on Sunday, May 22 at Reston Town Center, 11900 Market Street, Reston, VA 20190. A gate donation of $5 to GRACE provides a festival program and dining certificates for local restaurants. Parking is free at Reston Town Center’s seven multi-level garages.
The Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival offers the highest quality fine art and craft to the public in the easily accessible venue of Reston Town Center. Festival artists are selected on the basis of quality, originality, and craftsmanship by a panel of expert jurors. Among this year’s selected artists are ten Award of Excellence winners from the 2015 festival. Find more festival information, including this year’s selected artists, on the GRACE website, www.restonarts.org. Connect with the event at Facebook.com/NorthernVirginiaFine
ArtsFestival, and by following GRACE on Twitter.com
@restonarts.

GRACE is a non-profit 501(c)3 organization located at 12001 Market Street, Suite 103, at Reston Town Center. In addition to its GRACE Art program that serves more than 40 schools in the DC region, GRACE offers changing exhibitions of contemporary art at its gallery, open free to the public, as well as a diverse schedule of educational programs all year round.
For more information, call GRACE at 703-471-9242, email info@restonarts.org, and visit their website, www.restonarts.org.

Apr
28

Continuity and Contingency Planning for Your Business

You are working on a major proposal for your firm, an opportunity to possibly make or break the budget for the next fiscal year.  It is due by close of business tomorrow.  You’ll need every minute to make this a winner.

In the frantic scramble to put the pieces of the proposal puzzle together, you overhear some of your co-workers discussing the weather.  You finally ask, “What’s up?”  A co-worker responds, “What the weathermen predicted to be a passing snowstorm a day or so ago, is now being deemed –SNOWMAGGEDON” “What?,” you ask.  “Yup, upwards of 18 to 20 inches coming in tonight, paralyzing the region’s road and transit networks,” the co-worker says.  A sinking feeling sets in and you realize that it looks like you’re sleeping in the office the next day or so.

But it doesn’t have to be that way if you and your company have a continuity of operations plan in place.  Such plans are developed to preserve business operations during natural or manmade events that may prevent workers from getting into the office for a day or more.

Surprisingly few businesses have examined such plans or adopted policies for implementing METRO Closescontingency/continuity plans…even when the prospects of short or long term shutdowns or slow downs can mean significant lost revenues and productivity.

DATA staff can assist you and your business in developing contingency plans, and have been doing so since the major disruptions that occurred during 9/11 and the subsequent sniper episode.  But interest has waned considerably since then – until Snowmaggedon and the recent surprise 24 hour shut down of the entire METRO system.  Without adequate preparations and contingency planning, many businesses struggled to get employees to work and thus lost important productivity during these episodes.

Although contingency/continuity plans are individualized for each particular business, most of these plans include some core elements.

Telework

Having employees who can work from home in the event of a natural or man-made emergency like the recent Metro shutdown is like your company’s electronic insurance policy.  No way to get to work…no problem!  Your employees can still fill orders, complete important projects (like our snowbound friend above) and even teleconference.  In addition, Global Workplace Analytics reports industry leaders like Dow Chemical, Best Buy and British Telecom find their teleworkers are 35-40% more productive, while a Stanford University study found teleworkers are 50% less likely to quit than employees who work strictly in the office.  Consider that statistic when it can cost you $10,000-$30,000 to replace a valuable employee!

And most teleworkers still spend more than 50% of their time in the office, so concerns about supervision, collaboration and team-building are unfounded.  Right now, the Telework!VA program offers free technical assistance to companies interested in starting or expanding a formal telework program…including helping you decide which jobs are suitable for teleworking, what kind of equipment and security you need, how to supervise your teleworkers and more.  There’s additional information on the many benefits of teleworking at www.teleworkva.org.

Transit Information

With the opening of Phase I of the Silver Line, many locations that were unserved by public transportation are now connected to the system.  Now you can take Metro from your home in Largo to your office in Tysons Corner.  But your employees may not realize how easy and economical it can be to leave their single occupant vehicle in the driveway and take transit to work.  Fairfax County now offers the Plus50 Program through which your employees can qualify for a $50 SmarTrip card to try transit if you institute the simple-to-administer Smart Benefits program.  And even though a major weather event can curtail transit service, it’s usually more reliable than trying to drive alone.

Ridesharing

When your employees share a ride to work – either in a cost-effective vanpool or a convenient carpool – you’re doing a lot more than helping reduce congestion on area roads and improve the environment.  With shared driving responsibilities, you’ll probably find your employees are late less often and arrive in a better frame of mind from not having to battle traffic each and every day.  In addition, you may be able to turn in some of those expensive parking spaces you’ve been leasing from the business next door or reduce the cost of the valet parking you currently provide!

And if one of the carpoolers has a four-wheel drive vehicle, ridesharing can become a pre-existing means of getting essential employees to work in an emergency.

Biking or Walking

Dust off your old two-wheeler or investigate Capital Bikeshare; biking to work is easier than you think…and there may be a $20 per month benefit available through your employer!

The Washington Area Bicyclist Association provides classes, seminars and events at a reasonable cost for cyclists of every skill and commitment level.  County websites can help you plan a safe route to work or to a transit terminus.  And with affordable Capital Bikeshare – soon expanding to Reston and Tysons Corner – you don’t even have to own a bike to take advantage of this efficient, environmentally conscious commuting option.

Or try hoofing it.  Walking a few days a week could replace the expensive gym membership you’re not using.  Think a mile walk to the nearest Metro stop is too time-consuming?  It can add as little as 15 minutes in beautiful spring weather to your commute!

How can DATA help keep you in business?  Making sure your employees are aware and familiar with these types of technologies can keep your business going, particularly in short term interruptions of transportation services.  DATA staff can provide insights on all of these services and conduct training, if necessary, in how to use the applications and technologies.

DATA’s experts will work with you to develop a continuity of business plan that suits your organization and your workforce.  There’s no charge for the consultation and no obligation.  We’ll probably start with a simple survey that tells us how your employees are currently commuting.  We’ll spend some time learning about your business…are you interested in green initiatives, do you like to conduct contests to motivate your employees, are your employees tech-savvy or more likely to respond to the traditional?

Then we’ll suggest the best way for you to keep doing business when you can’t conduct business as usual.  Call DATA at 703.817.1307 and get connected to Director of Employer Outreach Lynn Bostain or Director of Sales and Marketing Kelly Woodward.  We even have bi-lingual assistance available!

Think you don’t have time to talk to us?  Well, what would you rather lose?  A few minutes or a few thousand dollars?

Apr
28

Silver Line Phase II Update

As many can see, construction continues on Phase II of the Silver Line, the extension of METRO to Loudoun County.  Phase II will include six stations along 11.4 miles from the Wiehle-Reston East Station to Ashburn. Locations are:

Conceptual Drawing of Reston Station

Conceptual Drawing of Reston Station

Reston Town Center Station is in the median of the Dulles Toll Road/Dulles Airport Access Highway just west of the Reston Parkway overpass (at grade).

Herndon Station is in the median of the Dulles Toll Road/Dulles Airport Access Highway near the existing Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride lot (at grade).

Innovation Station is in the median of the Dulles Toll Road/ Dulles Airport Access Highway east of Route 28 near the Center for Innovative Technology (at grade).

Dulles Airport Station is along Saarinen Circle across from the terminal (aerial).

Route 606 Station is along Route 606 on the west side of Dulles Airport in the median of the Dulles Greenway (at grade).

Route 772 Station is in the median of the Dulles Greenway at Route 772/Ashburn Village Boulevard (at grade).

A lot of activity is happening simultaneously along the corridor, with progress being made at each of the planned METRO stops and the construction of numerous overpasses and track alignments within the corridor.

Specifically, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) re-ports that 96% of all design packages have been completed (390 out of 406), and that 87% of these have been issued for construction.  Guideway and station design-build activities include these upcoming tasks:

Reston Station – Steel piles for the foundation are being set and work continues on the tunnel for utility installation;

Herndon Station – Mass excavation continues as does the construction of the station foundation and utility drilling for the sanitary sewer lines;

Innovation Station – Foundation work continues and recast element placement;

Dulles Station – Foundation preparation for the tower crane and crane placement are underway, foundation and aerial guideway substructures are under construction as is demolition of existing walkway and the tie in to the existing pedestrian tunnel;

Aerial Guideway  – Continued construction of columns, pier caps, decks and girder installation is underway.

Construction on the Dulles Airport rail yard is also underway.  When completed the rail yard will be the largest facility in the METRO system, capable of holding more than 160 train cars.  The rail yard is being constructed near the Route 606 on the airport property.

For more information about Phase II of the METRO Silver Line construction, visit the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project website at www.dullesmetro.com.

Apr
28

A Day in the Life of Dulles

By Rob Yingling

Washington Dulles International Airport bustles with activity each day and night. Built as a high-capacity 24-hour airport, Dulles is a choreographed ballet of several ecosystems working together to power the movement of people and goods through the 12,000-acre complex on to cities around the world. A look behind the scenes provides a glimpse into the people and processes that keep the airport’s 15,000 employees busy each day ensuring that, for each passenger, “Your journey begins with us” (Dulles’s new signature tag-line).

Midnight

The stream of jumbo jets that departed earlier in the evening is already high over the Atlantic Ocean, bound for Europe and Africa, while other planes work their way toward Dulles from all points on the compass. Most ticket counters in the terminal have closed, though AeroMexico is tagging luggage and handing out boarding passes for its 1:58 a.m. departure to Mexico City. The FAA-operated control tower and three airport fire stations are fully staffed, but the workload has dropped considerably. Roads appear mostly quiet, save for the occasional shuttle bus, tractor-trailer or police patrol.

It’s a very different scene in the Airport Operations Center, a sprawling office located just beneath the B-Gates. The latest “Airport Ops” shift is hitting its stride. Some of the Duty Managers hail from the military; others have years of experience with airlines or air traffic control; all have had airports in their blood for as long as they can remember. Their mission is to act as the airport’s nerve center, monitoring and responding to situations that could slow or interrupt a passenger’s travels.

Given their broad knowledge and skill base, Airport Duty Managers can handle most routine problems without summoning extra help. Lined with maps, monitors, radios, phones of varying hues, and handbooks of all sizes, the Airport Ops Center is equipped with just about everything needed to observe, communicate and resolve an issue. Just outside the door waits a fleet of tricked-out white SUV’s, ready to zip to the far end of the property, while functioning as a mobile office topped with flashing lights. If you have a question about the airport, Ops probably has the answer, though they may be too busy to chat with each of the airport’s 22 million annual passengers. But if there is a need to find you, they can enlist the aid of an airport-wide contact database or network of more than 2000 closed-circuit security cameras.

About two dozen flights touch down overnight—mostly from the West Coast. Sleepy passengers on these “red-eyes” may pause for coffee and refreshments at one of several 24-hour shops before heading out.

Dawn at Washington Dulles International Airport – Photo Courtesy of Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.

Dawn at Washington Dulles International Airport – Photo Courtesy of Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.

6:00 a.m.

As the sky brightens, the floodgates of airport commerce open noticeably wider. People and luggage arrive by car, bus and plane. The terminal ticketing level is now abuzz with check-in activity. Breakfast aromas permeate the air as restaurants all around pour fresh coffee and warm up their grills—even restaurants that don’t serve breakfast outside the airport likely have a morning offering at Dulles.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents interview the first wave of international travelers in the James A. Wilding International Arrivals Hall – recently renamed for the first CEO of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. Between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m., thousands of passengers move through the terminal, concourses, trains and shuttles to board 60 flights. It’s the second busiest concentration of flights, or “banks,” of the day.

Within sight of the airport’s center runway are the cargo ramp and six cargo buildings, where international and domestic shipments have been offloaded from planes to be sorted and delivered.  Inside the cargo buildings, cargo pallets are being built and containers loaded and secured for their airborne journey.  Outside, cargo handlers link together dollies loaded with freight and tug them to their waiting aircraft, where they are then loaded into the belly of the aircraft while passengers board up above.  Some of the items riding beneath your next flight could include things such as fresh flowers, life-saving vaccines, high-tech electronics or hatching eggs.

11:00 a.m. 

The day’s second “bank” of flights begins. The hurried pace is most notable in the C and D-gates, where United Airlines planes unload a fresh surge of passengers into the concourse. Some head for baggage claim, while others stroll the concourse towards their next departure gate. New restaurants line the route, tempting travelers with menu delights at recently opened restaurants like Chef Geoff’s, Bar Simon and Be Right Burger. More than 60 new selections have opened at Dulles since concessions redevelopment began in late 2013.

2:00 p.m. 

Back at the Main Terminal, staff inside the International Arrivals Building are ready for their busiest time of day. Jumbo jets filled with passengers landing from cities like Paris, Beijing, Amsterdam, Frankfurt—and soon Lima and Casablanca as well—will first have to clear U. S. Customs and Border Protection before they continue. They will be guided by Airport Ambassadors and Travelers Aid volunteers, many of whom speak at least two languages and whose friendly skills come in handy when guiding passengers from more than 50 international cities to the proper line for entry in to the United States. The line moves a lot faster than it used to, thanks in part to three rows of automated passport control kiosks now installed in the arrivals hall. These self-service kiosks reduce the time spent per passenger, which makes a difference in a facility handling almost 10,000 people per day. Dulles was among the fastest major U.S. airport for processing international arrivals in January.

4:00 p.m. 

The “mega bank” has begun. The term is insider’s lingo for the next few hours, when the highest volume of passengers for the day will move through the airport. Maximum staffing is in place at ticket counters, gates and security checkpoints. All concourses are being lined with planes of all sizes from commuter props to the double-decker Airbus A380, the largest commercial aircraft in the world.

About 14 stories high above the gates, personnel in the airport Ramp Tower scan the ground traffic below. Equipped with headset radios and one of the best views at the airport, with the click of a handheld button they call out instructions to aircraft pilots and mobile lounge drivers, guiding them away from the gates and onto the airfield.

As aircraft taxi away from the ramp tower, controllers electronically hand off the pilots to their counterparts in the FAA tower for final taxi and takeoff instructions.

6:30 p.m.

One departure that draws extra attention each day is British Airways flight 216 to London. It is one of three daily flights from Dulles of the Airbus A380. Due to the aircraft’s size and 262-foot wingspan, the airport made some changes to give this plane plenty of room to move. Special lines are painted on the pavement for the plane’s wheels to follow. A second jet-bridge mates to the plane’s upper deck. And each A380 departure is closely followed by an airport operations vehicle—right down the runway. At speeds reaching 100 miles per hour, the Airport Duty Manager scans for any debris that may be kicked up on takeoff by the plane’s massive engines. A quick confirmation is radioed to the FAA tower, as operations seamlessly continue.

The sun sets as the “mega bank” begins winding down and the clock ticks back to midnight. Life at Dulles goes on, preparing anew its daily ballet for yet another encore performance.

Rob is Assistant Media Relations Program Manager for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.

 

Plane awaits departure - Photo Courtesy of Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.”

Plane awaits departure – Photo Courtesy of Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.”

More views behind the scenes at Dulles

Beneath the Terminal:  Miles of steel-lined conveyors moving checked luggage down ramps and past off-ramps that steer them through high-speed x-ray machines and past (or through) TSA-staffed ìresolution roomsî where bags are individually opened for inspection. Well over 17,000 bags pass daily through the system.

Below the airfield:  A 12-foot round tunnel leading to a gray, nondescript utility building next to the terminal that feeds pipes with a constant supply of steam or chilled water to Concourses A and B — keeping the indoor air comfortable year-round.

At the end of the train tunnel:  A collection of flat TV monitors lines a glass-enclosed room at the end of the AeroTrain tunnel, where operators work in around-the-clock shifts to monitor driverless train operations and make sure enough cars are in the system to handle the current passenger load. Any cars needing maintenance can be summoned out of service and whisked to an onsite repair shop with the press of a few buttons.

ìK-9î Unit: The airport Police Department includes 12 K-9 teams that live and work together. Officers have animal-friendly police vehicles they take home with them at the end of their shift. Each handler trains with his or her dog for several weeks at a TSA facility in Texas before beginning regular airport patrols for concealed explosives.