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Reston Expansion Planned for Capital Bikeshare Over the Next Two Years

A little over two years after Capital Bikeshare launched in Fairfax County, the program is planning to expand across Reston. But details on where the new stations, which were proposed last year, are pending.

According to Nicole Wynands, Bicycle Program Manager for the Fairfax County Department of Transportation, the bike-share expansion is planned for late 2019 or early 2020.

“We are still working on the exact locations,” said Wynands, “but additional stations are planned to be added in both North and South Reston.”

A list of sites in Reston had been proposed last year, but Wynands said further study found some of the sites did not meet federal criteria for grant funding.

“The previously proposed stations [were] a concept proposal which [is] always subject to final engineering,” said Wynands. “We have since conducted surveys and developed preliminary design concepts. As the expansion is funded through a federal grant, each location has to meet a long list of criteria stipulated by federal requirements, state requirements and operator requirements. The surveys revealed that some of the originally proposed stations did not meet all siting criteria, so alternative sites are being considered.”

Additionally, Wynands said sites are being reconsidered based on proximity to new bike trails built through Reston over the last year.

“We will be able to announce the new station locations after we have received all needed permits,” said Wynands. “We are still planning on adding up to 11 new stations in Reston”

At its busiest, typically during June, Wynands said there were 1,861 trips starting or ending in Reston. Capital Bikeshare also recently implemented a pilot project to add new battery-operated bikes to Reston. The program will continue through the end of the month.

Wynands said the most popular stations in Reston are the ones at the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station, followed by the Reston Town Center Transit Station and the Sunset Hill Road/Isaac Newton Square Station.

“The system is designed primarily to cover the first and last mile between the origin/destination and transit,” said Wynands. “This is evident in the popularity of the bike share station at Wiehle Metro, which serves both as an origin and a destination for commuters in the morning and afternoon, as people working near Reston Town Center are arriving by Metro and continuing their trip to Reston Town Center via the W&OD, while at the same time Reston Town Center residents commute via the W&OD to the Metro station to continue their trip to Tysons, Arlington or DC.”

The station with the lowest use is at North Shore and Cameron Crescent, a station which primarily serves as an overflow to the busy Lake Anne station down the hill at North Shore and Village Road.

According to Wynands, the system is continuing to grow in ridership, with a seven percent year-over-over growth recorded thus far.

“It takes a few years for a new system to establish itself, and we expect additional growth through the expansions as we will serve additional riders and destinations.”

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Expect Long Rides On Metro This Weekend

Metro rail service will be interrupted by single tracking and rail readjustment maintenance work this weekend.

Expect Orange and Silver Line Metro trains to operate approximately every 24 minutes, according to WMATA.

Silver Line trains, however, will only operate between Wiehle Reston East and Ballston-MU Metro stations. Anyone trying to travel further along the line should transfer to the Orange or Blue lines.

However, the Orange and Blue lines will both be single tracking between Eastern Market and Stadium Armory Metro stations for maintenance.

File photo

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Pedestrian Bridge Now in Place at Future Reston Town Center Metro

If you’ve traveled down Sunset Hills Road or the Dulles Toll Road recently, you may have noticed the north-side pedestrian bridge for the future Reston Town Center Metro station has been installed.

Once construction is complete, the hulking structure will allow pedestrians to access the Silver Line station from the north side of the Dulles Toll Road and Dulles Airport Access Highway, according to information provided by the Dulles Metrorail Corridor Project.

The installation took place in the late-night hours of Oct. 13-14.

Construction work on Phase 2 of the Silver Line, which will extend the Metrorail from Reston to Ashburn, was reported earlier this month to be about two-thirds done. The line is expected to be opened to the public in 2020.

Photos courtesy Dusty Smith/Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project

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Metro Board To Discuss How To Combat Recent Decline in Ridership

Nearly a third of Metro’s ridership decline in recent years is attributed to decreasing performance, according to information that will be presented to WMATA’s Finance Committee during its meeting this week.

According to its report on ridership between 2013 to 2016, Metro says there are several factors that have contributed to the drop. In addition to the failing reliability, the named factors include the federal benefit drop in 2014 that reduced high-use SmartBenefits customers; an increase in telework that has decreased AM peak ridership on Fridays; and the popularity of ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Lyft.

The report lists four “marketing and communications efforts” that are planned in the effort to promote ridership:

  • Focus on 30 percent of riders who left because of service reliability issues
  • Encourage off-peak rail ridership through partnerships
  • Strengthen SmartBenefits program and regional employer relationships
  • Promote pass products, automatic reload and other fare products

In its latest “Back2Good” initiative report, Metro says railcar reliability was up more than 50 percent in the first seven months of 2017 when compared to that same time in 2016. It also says there were 60 percent fewer HVAC issues in July 2017 than in July 2016.

“These efforts will continue in the coming months as we hope to see sustained improvements, such as the reduction in passenger offloads and improvements in customer on-time performance,” reads the report. “However, we realize that it will take some time to regain the trust and confidence of customers needed to return to the system.”

At the end of the report, the Metro board and Metro-served jurisdictions are given examples of ways they can help increase ridership:

  • Development: Advocate for development proposals near stations/corridors
  • Access to Metrorail and Metrobus: Ensure existing jobs and housing are connected to rail stations and bus stops by investing in sidewalks, curb ramps, bus shelters, etc.
  • Congestion Relief: Advocate for on-street improvements to speed up buses, such as traffic signal prioritization and bus lanes

Metro’s next set of board and committee meetings is slated for Thursday.

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Photos: Installation of Pedestrian Bridge at Future Herndon Metro Station

As work on Phase 2 of Metro’s Silver Line project continues, a pedestrian walkway was recently set over the bus loop at the Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride facility.

The walkway, which will provide access to the Silver Line’s future Herndon Station from the south side of the Dulles Toll Road, will be integrated with existing and future infrastructure at the park and ride, according to information provided by the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project.

The pedestrian bridge from the north side of the Dulles Toll Road (westbound lanes) is scheduled to be installed this weekend.

Construction work on Phase 2 of the Silver Line, which will extend the Metrorail from Reston to Ashburn, was reported in July to be more than 60 percent done. The line is expected to be opened to the public in 2020.

Photos courtesy Dusty Smith/Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project

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Silver Line Phase 2 Construction Over 60 Percent Complete

According to a quarterly update provided Wednesday to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, construction of the Phase 2 of the Silver Line extension to Loudoun County has passed 60 percent completion.

Capital Rail Constructors reports that after nearly 4.4 million manhours of work, 61.12 percent of construction is done. They say the design process is 99.97 percent done.

The facility construction of the Reston Town Center station has continued with steel erection that started in May and will continue through August. Mechanical work projected to happen until fall 2018.

The Herndon Station will wrap up its metal decking by the end of August and start work on the roofing and skylights. The facility work of the station is estimated to be completed by this fall.

The MWAA is overseeing construction of the 11.4-mile project, which began in July 2013 and consists of six stations from the Reston Town Center station to the Ashburn station.

Despite the station construction steadily moving forward, the Silver Line extension will not be done for another three years. Construction on the cable trough is only 44 percent complete, and there are other track adjustments to make before everything is finalized.

WTOP reported earlier this week that the series of delays that pushed the opening back to 2020 will cost $95 million. The delays are being caused by a series of design changes, including safety-related work.

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Silver Line Woes Hamper Morning Metro Commuters

A power problem at the Rosslyn Metro station gummed up morning commuter transit on the Silver Line.

Metro’s official information feed reported the issue on Twitter just before 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Silver Line trains from Wiehle-Reston East were stopped at Ballston, and riders were asked to transfer to Orange Line trains to continue their commute. The problem was reported fixed within 20 minutes; however, riders continued to report delays and other issues at the Ballston, Rosslyn and Foggy Bottom stations through about 9:30 a.m.

The issue appeared to be cleared up by about 9:45 a.m.

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Be Ready to Shell Out More for Connector Rides Starting Sunday

Starting next week, be prepared to spend a little more for a ride on the Fairfax Connector.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has approved fare increases for the service that will go into effect Sunday. The fares are going up in connection with increases to Metro fares, which also go into effect Sunday.

Riders of the Fairfax Connector will need to know these numbers:

  • Regular base fare will increase from $1.75 to $2.
  • Senior and disabled base fare will increase from 85 cents to $1.
  • Bus-to-bus transfer fare will increase from $1.75 to $2 for those paying cash.
  • Metrorail-to-bus transfer fare will increase from $1.25 to $1.50 for those paying by SmarTrip card, and from $1.75 to $2 for those paying cash.
  • Senior and disabled Metrorail-to-bus transfer fare will increase from 35 cents to 50 cents for those paying by SmarTrip card, and to $1 for those paying cash.

Fares for express routes are going up as well.

For more information on fares, visit the Fairfax Connector website.

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Metro Says Work This Weekend Won’t Affect Climate March Protest

If you are planning to attend the People’s Climate Movement on Saturday in DC, traveling there by Metro may prove more difficult than expected.

Planned track work on the transit system this weekend will have the line between Foggy Bottom and Federal Triangle closed down, with work being done to replace ceiling tiles at Farragut West, McPherson Square and the lower level of Metro Center. Silver Line trains from Wiehle-Reston East will only be traveling as far as Ballston, leaving every 20 minutes.

Anyone traveling to downtown DC from Reston will need to transfer to an Orange Line train at Ballston, a Blue Line train at Rosslyn and then a Yellow Line train at the Pentagon. Stephen Cerny of Reston, a former member of Metro’s Riders’ Advisory Council who plans to attend the Climate Movement, is concerned that will cause major issues for those traveling in for the event from the area.

“Given that the march will draw hundreds of thousands, Metro is facing a public relations disaster given the disruptions it will cause and a loss of all the goodwill it earned for its excellent service during the Jan. 21 Women’s March,” Cerny said. “It’s very likely that the platforms will be severely overcrowded and will likely lead to service disruptions.”

Richard Jordan, a spokesperson for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, said it is not anticipated that there will be any problems Saturday associated with the Climate Movement.

“Yes, just as there was track work during the Science March last weekend,” Jordan said when asked if Metro was aware of the maintenance work’s timing in relation to Saturday’s event. “We believe that planned service will be more than adequate to accommodate ridership demand.”

About 15,000 people attended the March for Science on April 22 at the National Mall. Cerny and other activists are hoping for a much larger turnout for the Climate Movement protest Saturday. Attendance for the Women’s March on Washington in January was estimated at over 400,000.

Helene Shore, co-founder of locally based environmental group 350 Fairfax, will be traveling to Saturday’s event on a bus along with other Reston-area activists. She said there has been “some talk” about concerns related to Metro service, but she remains confident there will be a large turnout from Fairfax County and beyond.

“They are expecting lots of people coming,” Shore said. “Buses are coming from all over the country.”

Silver Line trains from Reston will only travel as far as Ballston beginning at 10 p.m. Friday, through the close of service Sunday.

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Metrorail Silver Line Phase 2 More Than Halfway to Completion

Silver Line construction/Photo by Jennifer Thomas Alcott, Capital Rail Constructors

Phase 2 of construction on Metro’s Silver Line is more than 56 percent complete, according to information released today by the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority is overseeing construction of the 11.4-mile Phase 2 extension of the Silver Line from Reston through Dulles Airport to Ashburn. Engineering and design work on the phase began in July 2013, and the project is expected to be complete by 2020. All told, the stretch will include six rail stations; nine entrance pavilions and pedestrian bridges; aerial guideways through Dulles Airport; and 89,000 feet of track.

Silver Line construction/Capital Rail Constructors“Bad weather never really stopped us,” project vice president Charles Stark is quoted as saying regarding construction efforts in recent months.

Station wall work is currently underway at the future Reston Town Center station, while structural steel installation for the vault roof has begun at the future Herndon station, also located in Reston. In addition, piers for pedestrian bridges are being put up. All needed pier caps have been poured, along with 76 percent of deck spans. Construction on the rail yard at Dulles Airport is 46 percent complete, according to project officials.

Work also began in December on a new Herndon Metro parking garage, a county project.

Phase 2 of the Silver Line was originally projected to be completed by late 2018; however, design modifications later pushed that date back.

Photos courtesy Capital Rail Constructors/Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project

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Metro FY2018 Budget Faces Big Challenges, Board Members Say

Wiehle-Reston East Metro/Northern Virginia Transportation Commission

Metro board members continue to probe the public for feedback as they address how to close their budget gap.

In a public forum Wednesday night in Reston, the Virginia members of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority board discussed their $3.1 billion proposed FY2018 budget.

Board members estimate $17 billion will be needed over next decade “just to maintain a state of good repair,” but also acknowledge that the impact of delays associated with the SafeTrack program are significant.

DC CFO estimates Metro delays led to:

— lost productivity between $153 million and $235 million annually in the region

— ridership declines that reduce Metrorail’s fare box recovery

Proposed investments, totaling $1.25 billion, outlined by board members to help make Metro more safe and reliable include new 7000 Series railcars; replacement buses and paratransit vehicles; rehabilitation and maintenance of existing railcar and bus fleets; rehabilitation and replacement of track and structures, rail power, radio/wireless and bus garages; and reinvestment in station escalators, elevators, lighting and platforms.

Proposed capital funding from Fairfax County for the FY2018 Metro budget is $101 million, up $66 million from FY2017. Increased contributions in FY2018 include funds to repay short-term debt projected to be used in FY2017.

WMATA FY2018 Budget Jurisdictional Contributions (proposed)

Proposed operational funding from Fairfax County in FY2018 is $138.6 million, a 17 percent increase from the current fiscal year.

WMATA FY2018 Budget Jurisdictional Operational Contributions (proposed)

The proposed budget also features fare hikes including:

  • 10 cents on rush-hour rail fares, 25 cents on non-rush-hour fares
  • 25 cents on regular and express Metrobus fares
  • $2.75 on Dulles Airport Metrobus fares

Service frequency would also be adjusted in the following ways:

  • 8-minute frequency on Silver Line during weekday rush hour (up from 6)
  • 15-minute frequency on all lines all other times (up from 12)

Metro has planned an open house Monday from 4:30-6:30 p.m. to receive feedback on the budget. In addition, feedback can be provided via an online survey.

Photo via Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, charts via Metro FY2018 budget proposal

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Metro Likely to Offer Free Rides on New Year’s Eve This Year

Metro offering free New Year's Eve rides thanks for Miller Lite/Photo: MillerCoors

Reston residents may be able to get once again take a free Metro ride on New Year’s Eve.

The transit agency is in the final stages of another partnership with MillerCoors to provide free rides between midnight and 3 a.m. on all six Metro lines this year, as it did for last year’s holiday. The agenda item was up for approval during the Dec. 15 meeting of Metro’s Board of Directors.

According to a staff report, MillerCoors paid WMATA more than $160,000 last year to subsidize all Metrorail and Metrobus rides on New Year’s Eve between midnight and 3 a.m., as part of he company’s Free Rides promotion. The amount was based on expected ridership.

This year, if approved, MillerCoors will pay just over $81,000, as ridership on New Year’s Eve was only about half of what was expected last year. However, the amount is guaranteed regardless of actual ridership, the report states.

MillerCoors has offered its Free Rides program in more than 20 major cities across the U.S. for more than a decade.

“Our partnership with Metro is part of MillerCoors’ overall commitment to help prevent drunk driving by bringing alcohol responsibility programs to more markets,” a MillerCoors spokesperson said during the inaugural promotion in 2015.

In addition to Metro, local New Year’s Eve party-goers can also call for a free taxi ride of up to $30 thanks to the local nonprofit, the Washington Regional Alcohol Program.

Photo courtesy of MillerCoors Free Rides

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POLL: How Has Your Silver Line Commute Been Lately?

Metro signMetro officials acknowledged last week that slower train speeds and added travel times for riders across the system are the new normal for the foreseeable future.

Since the Silver Line train derailment in July, the transit agency has instituted an increasing number of speed restrictions throughout the system. These mandatory slowdowns have been issued to address a multitude of problems, from worn rail ties to missing fasteners that hold rails in place.

On the Silver Line, trains have reportedly been observed going 75 mph on straightaway stretches from McLean to East Falls Church and from Wiehle-Reston East to Spring Hill. Operators of the Silver Line trains were disciplined for the speeding, according to a Washington Post article. Additionally, new software is being installed on trains that would prevent them from going over 60 mph.

With all this news about trains moving too quickly or slowly, we want to know: How has your Silver Line commute been lately? Weigh in by taking our poll below:

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Monday: Changes at Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride

 Metro signSome changes are coming to Herndon-Monroe’s Park and Ride area.

On Monday, Oct. 31, the Park and Ride surface lot will be closed for Metro construction. Due to the surface lot closure, the Kiss and Ride area along with the slugline pick-up will be temporarily relocated to the Level 1 of the parking garage.

Commuters are encouraged to consider the Reston South Park and Ride as an alternative to parking at Herndon-Monroe during construction activities.

To stay informed of the construction activities at the Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride, sign up for text and/or email “Commuter Alerts” (under the “Transportation” category) at www.fairfaxcounty.gov/alerts.

See the attached graphic below for more information.

Herndon Monroe Park and Ride by Karen Goldberg Goff on Scribd

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Metro Says ‘Never Mind,’ on Station Closure Warning

Metro potential station closure/Credit: MetroMetro recently floated the idea of possibly closing rail stations during off-peak hours as part of a wider cost-cutting measure. The proposal to shut 20 under-used stations midday and late night is part of a solution to a projected $275 million budget shortfall.

Now the transit agency is saying it was not serious. Metro now says the map was meant only to illustrate the transit agency’s dire financial situation.

The proposal, released two weeks ago in advance of Metro’s budget talks, mentioned several Silver Line locations, including Spring Hill, Greensboro, McLean, and Virginia Square-GMU, as well as several on the Prince George’s side of the line (Addison Road, Benning Road, Stadium-Armory, and Capital Heights)

The agency received criticism that the Maryland stations, which are located in lower-income neighborhoods, would affect people who needed public transportation most.

Now Metro says it was not serious, reports The Washington Post.

Metro heard from many community members during a nearly 10-hour long meeting on Thursday. Residents were livid, reports the Post:

Following the backlash, Metro said the map was meant only to illustrate the transit agency’s dire financial situation. But critics questioned the wisdom of circulating the idea if there was no formal proposal. Some said it was merely an attempt to threaten the District, Maryland and Virginia to contribute more money to close the budget gap. …

Metro board Chairman Jack Evans applauded riders for taking a stand but said he had no problem with [Metro GM Paul] Wiedefeld’s decision to use the map as a way to illustrate the budget realities facing the troubled system.

“What Paul is trying to do is say, ‘Okay, if the jurisdictions don’t put the money [to cover the budget shortfall] in, then we have to do service cuts,’ ” Evans said. “And what do service cuts mean? . . . It means no bus routes, it means no stopping trains at the lowest-attended stations. That’s service cuts. Service cuts are painful. They’re not abstract.”

Board member Leif Dormsjo said the station closure idea is “not something we are taking through a public process right now.”

“I found the map surprising at the time that it was introduced, and I think it contributes to people’s suspicion that Metro doesn’t have people’s best interests in mind,” he said. “I think that was probably a good indication of how serious the reaction would be to such a concept, if it was something that management was recommending.”

Wiedefeld is expected to release his budget proposal in November.

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