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Aug
27

Dulles Area Transportation Association Wins Regional Recognition for Onsite Ridematching Program

2019 Commuter Connections Employer Services Organization Achievement Award

On June 21st, Commuter Connections, a regional network of transportation organizations coordinated by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, awarded the Dulles Area Transportation Association its 2019 Employer Services Organization Achievement Award for its work with the Onsite Ridematching Program.  At the ceremony, held at the National Press Club, DATA President and CEO Doug Pickford accepted the 2019 Award on behalf of DATA’s bilingual Onsite Ridematching Team members, Elizabeth Darak and Karla Nativi.  Also present at the ceremony was one of DATA’s private partners in the program, Anna Lyons, General Manager of the DoubleTree by Hilton in Sterling, Virginia.

From left DATA President/CEO Doug Pickford, Anna Lyons, Elizabeth Darak, Karla Nativi and DATA Treasurer Kurt Thompson.

DATA’s Onsite Rideshare Coordinator program, which began in 2011, was conceived when a hotel human resources director lamented that losing a Spanish-speaking employee who provided transportation for a number of other well-trained staff members inevitably meant losing all employees who carpooled with the departing employee.  This scenario repeated itself all too often and was a burden for the employer on multiple levels. Carpool passengers in these types of situations were often unable to find other transportation options due to a lack of English language skills, limited computer proficiency and access, literacy challenges, and other barriers which often resulted in job loss. 

To bridge the gap and provide affected employees with the wherewithal to seek out and find alternative means of transportation, especially through ridematching, DATA was awarded a grant from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation.  The grant was for a pilot program that underwrote funds for a bilingual ridematching specialist to travel to employment sites and personally assist employees with finding reliable transportation to and from work. The program began with just eight hotels and rapidly expanded to include employers such as Airserv, Lansdowne Resort, Quest Diagnostics, and the Reston Hospital Center. With subsequent funding from a Job Access Reverse Commute (JARC) federal grant, the Onsite Rideshare Coordinator program offered bilingual ridesharing assistance for Dulles Airport employees and to members of community and faith-based organizations. 

Over 30 organizations have hosted the Onsite Rideshare Coordinator, many on a recurring basis. In 2018, there were 89 potential carpoolers entered into the Commuter Connections Ridematching database.  DATA estimates that approximately one-third of employees were successfully matched with carpools, and DATA has integrated the concept of onsite ridematching into its other outreach activities.

Aug
27

DATA Brings Stakeholders To The Transportation Roundtable

On June 12, PaceSetter Sponsor and longtime DATA supporter Oracle hosted DATA’s Annual Transportation Roundtable, a comprehensive yearly update on developments in regional transportation.  

This year’s event featured keynote speakers Jennifer Mitchell, Director – Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation and Helen Cuervo, Northern Virginia District Engineer – Virginia Department of Transportation.  Also presenting were Marty E. Nohe – Chairman, Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, Eric Teitelman – Capital Projects and Traffic Engineering Division Chief, Fairfax County Department of Transportation, and Paolo J. Belita – Regional Planning and Programming Manager, Prince William County Department
of Transportation.

Nearly 40 employers, elected officials, transportation agency executives, and representatives of citizens’ groups concerned about mobility attended the event.  As this is the area’s only all-inclusive transportation update – including infrastructure and transportation demand management (TDM) projects – DATA plans to expand the Transportation Roundtable to be even more a “one stop shop” resource for Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince
William Counties. 

Check DATA’s website at www.datatrans.org for additional information on DATA’s upcoming events and initiatives.

Aug
27

Metro Matters: MWAA Sets July 16, 2020 Goal For Silver Line Phase 2 Opening

Metro Will Pick Final Date When Final Testing in Complete

Silver Line trains could be serving Reston Town Center, Herndon, Dulles Airport and Eastern Loudoun County less than a year from now.

If there are no unexpected problems with construction or weather, rail project officials say they have a new goal for completion and opening of Phase 2, which includes six new stations: Reston Town Center, Herndon, Innovation Station, Dulles Airport, Loudoun Gateway and Ashburn.

Charles Stark, executive vice president of the project which is being built by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA), recently said the latest projected opening date is July 16, 2020. That depends on the two project construction contractors delivering their portions of the project by mid-April of 2020.

Stark concedes that date could slip a few days, either before or after the projected date, Capital Rail Constructors (CRC), led by Clark Construction, is building the main rail system including racks, stations, support facilities and electrical systems. Hensel-Phelps is building a 90-acre rail yard and maintenance facility off Route 606 that will be used not only for Silver Line trains but for trains throughout the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) system.

Hensel-Phelps has said they may not be done with the yard by then, citing track work delays and other problems.  MWAA calls that view “pessimistic.”

In early August, MWAA told Federal Transit Administration officials that both contractors have completed 96 percent of their work.

However, both still have much to do, including a vast amount of rework and resolving issues with faulty concrete and track work.  Stark said MWAA is pushing contractors to meet the projected July 16 goal.

The latest date is the result of the Airports Authority’s evaluation of estimates from both contractors, along with results of statistical analysis done by the rail team.

“We are confident at this point in time, without any unforeseen situations or problems, that we will be opening in middle of July,” Stark said.

He said the rail team thinks that both contractors can speed up their efforts to meet this goal.  He suggested that they could work simultaneously on the multiple issues and speed up filing of test reports and preparation of final documents that are necessary to attain substantial completion in April.  If that happens, the project can be turned over to WMATA for
final testing.

WMATA is expected to take several months to complete their testing.  When WMATA agrees to accept the project and the project is transferred to their control, then WMATA will determine the actual opening of rail service.

 

 

Aug
27

On The Way To Cape May

Article and photos By Jim Schlett

Great escapes from our hectic,
busy pace of life are easily reached from the Dulles region.

Within a pleasant 3-4 hour drive is one of our country’s greatest and oldest resort destinations, “America’s seashore resort,” Cape May, New Jersey.  Many folks associate getting to Cape May with a popular song from years ago, perfectly named, “On the Way to Cape May.”  This catchy song became a summer ritual on the drive to the Jersey Shore for thousands of people.   

Cape May is at the southern point of NJ, where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Delaware Bay.  From the DC area, there are two ways to make the journey by car.  One is about a 3 ½ hour drive up Interstate 95 and then along several state roads once in NJ.   The second way is a drive to Lewes, Delaware followed by a beautiful ferry ride across the Bay to Cape May.  Those arriving from northern NJ or NY would follow the NJ Parkway to the end and take Exit Zero!  Yes, there is an Exit Zero!  

Those visiting Cape May for the first time, will find a world of lodging available…from stately Victorian Bed & Breakfasts (B&Bs) to motels, historical hotels, and modern resorts.   

Cape May is a charming beach community that has attracted tens of thousands of visitors who return annually.   In fact, the summer population jumps dramatically, especially on weekends.  Spring and fall can be ideal times to visit with smaller crowds and delightful weather with less humidity.  One of the reasons for that increase of visitors is that the city has been named one of the best beach resorts on numerous occasions over the past decades, including an accolade from the Travel Channel. 

For many folks, in addition to the world-class beaches, one of the real attractions of Cape May is the outstanding historical Victorian architecture.  The architecture is so impressive that the entire city of Cape May has been designated as a National Historic Landmark due to the number of such buildings and houses.   This designation is for the continued preservation of approximately 600 houses and buildings.  These houses are often referred to as “Painted Ladies.”  The only city in the United States with more Victorian architecture is San Francisco.   

There is much history in this city.  Interestingly, there are numerous indications that Cape May was part of the “underground railroad” that assisted enslaved people on their journey to freedom.  Freedom fighter Harriet Tubman was in Cape May frequently helping others to escape slavery.  

As you approach the city, the salty smell of warm ocean breezes permeates the air.   The inviting beaches offer surfing, fishing and just time to unwind and people watch.   In the late 1800s, several US presidents vacationed there and the town for a time became known as the “President’s Playground.”  There is a world of options to explore while you are there: the Lighthouse, the Boardwalk, birding activities, biking, parasailing, ghost tours, Congress Hall, (a historical hotel that occupies an entire city block), carriage rides, golfing, music and film festivals, concerts, whale watching, wineries, boat tours, and trolley tours to name just a few.  Due to all the activities and the influx of vacationers, there is a great variety of world-class restaurants. 

To walk many of the city streets is to step back into another time, especially at dusk when the lights create a mystical glow.  There is even a special activity each evening at sunset at the southern end of the Boardwalk, where TAPS is played to honor America’s military and veterans; it is well worth your time to experience this event.  Stay for a while and enjoy the many pleasures of Cape May!

Aug
27

Northern Virginia Smart City Initiative

Smart Infrastructure Program Will Tackle Urban Challenges

Smart City Works, a next-generation business accelerator focused on improving life and infrastructure in cities, and Refraction, a leading nonprofit innovation hub, won a $750,000 federal grant to develop a regional smart infrastructure innovation program for Northern Virginia.

With the i6 Challenge grant, Smart City Works and Refraction will lead the Northern Virginia Smart City Initiative, a program designed to speed the development of startups focused on urban challenges and infrastructure, grow the region’s pool of tech talent, expedite product commercialization, and strengthen the region’s smart city technology and innovation ecosystem.

The grant is the maximum available under the U.S. Economic Development Administration’s (EDA) i6 Challenge program. Smart City Works was one of 26 awardees selected nationally from more than 140 applicants.

“This type of support is transformative,” said Robert Mazer, co-founder of Smart City Works. “The EDA’s grant allows our group to continue to lead and innovate in the emerging ecosystem of mature businesses, startups, universities and governments in the region.”

“We are excited to receive this recognition from the federal government of our mission to advance the smart city tech cluster at a time when addressing infrastructure challenges is key to the future of our region and country,” said Esther Lee, CEO of Refraction and former director of the Office of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Overall, the program gave out $17.5 million in grants, which will be matched by $20.1 million in investment from public and private sources. Three other initiatives in the greater Washington region, including Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, the Eastern Shore Entrepreneurship Center in Easton, Maryland, and the Old Dominion University Research Foundation in Norfolk, Virginia, also won grants.

The Northern Virginia Smart City Initiative will use the three-year grant to graduate more than 45 companies from the intensive 90-day business acceleration program offered by Smart City Works, launch 30 new smart city products and services, train 60 apprentices and, in five years, create over 180 new jobs.

“Our goal is to drive commercial activity that solves real-world problems,” said David Heyman, co-founder of Smart City Works. “Cities are struggling today to address significant community challenges in transportation, housing, energy, water, and long-term economic and sustainability needs. This initiative will contribute substantially to a region that is fast becoming a hub for smart city technology. It will support innovative companies, help build a trained workforce and launch much-needed products.”

In addition to Smart City Works and Refraction, which will house the Northern Virginia Smart City Initiative, the program will bring together a number of partners to support entrepreneurs and help to develop, launch and pilot new smart city products and services. Key partners include Amazon Web Services, Amazon’s massive cloud computing business; Alpha, a construction consulting firm; Cushman & Wakefield, a commercial real estate firm; the Virginia Center for Innovative Technology (CIT), a Commonwealth of Virginia organization that supports innovation and entrepreneurship; Virginia Tech; Northern Virginia Community College; Fairfax County and Arlington County.

“It’s critical that we have a vibrant and thriving innovation ecosystem if our region is going to be competitive in the 21st century,” said Fairfax County Deputy Executive Rachel Flynn.  “This initiative will help to make Northern Virginia a smart cities innovation hub, and it advances the county’s strategic efforts to grow and diversify the economy while delivering higher quality of life. We have been working with Smart City Works, Refraction and other partners for the past two years to spur innovation and entrepreneurship, and we believe this continued partnership will make our economy even more dynamic and resilient.”

“Virginia Tech is excited to be a partner in the Northern Virginia Smart Region Initiative led by Smart City Works, which furthers our commitment to work in partnership across the region to translate scholarship and education into practice. Working across jurisdictions and beyond traditional boundaries, we can help build regional resilience through entrepreneurs leveraging technology and innovation,” said Steven McKnight, Vice President for the National Capital Region at Virginia Tech.

To find out more about Smart City Works, visit smartcityworks.io or contact dheyman@smartcityworks.io.

 About Smart City Works. Smart City Works is a next generation business accelerator, called a BUSINESS ACTUATOR, that can rapidly move early stage ventures to commercialization, help bring products to market faster, and reduce investor risk. We focus on companies that improve the livability, operations and resilience of cities large and small, with special emphasis on urban tech, IoT devices and the built environment. Smart City Works offers business acceleration, innovation and commercialization programs to support government innovation, and foster rapid growth in companies of all sizes.

About Refraction. Over the last five years, Refraction has built the premier collaborative innovation hub in the greater Washington region. Nearly 100 companies have been members of the Refraction community of startups and high-growth businesses, which have collectively raised more than $250 million.