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by Dave Emke — March 7, 2017 at 2:45 pm 9 Comments

METRO Wiehle-Reston EastThe Metro board is set to vote Thursday to approve an FY2018 budget that includes 10-cent fare increases on rush-hour rides and 25-cent hikes at other times. Regular and express bus fares will also go up by 25 cents, while the rate for the bus to Dulles Airport will jump from $7 to $9.75.

The increases in fares are expected to raise $21 million for Metro as the transportation system works to shore up a projected $125 million shortfall in its budget.

Ridership on Metro plummeted from 2015 to 2016, with stations in Virginia seeing a decrease in users of more than 12 percent when comparing the fourth quarters of each year. Wiehle-Reston East’s decrease was 13.4 percent, the greatest drop among Virginia stations on the Silver Line, which had a 9 percent decrease overall.

Service frequency during rush hour outside of DC will also be decreased as part of the plan. For the Silver Line, trains will run every eight minutes instead of the current six-minute interval. The original proposal had called for off-peak frequency to be decreased as well, from 12 minutes to 15; however, that has been dropped from the final plan.

Virginia representatives on the Metro board discussed the proposed changes, as well as increased local contributions to the budget, during a January public forum in Reston.

The new rates are expected to go into effect around July 1.

by Dave Emke — March 1, 2017 at 9:00 am 2 Comments

Morning Notes

Strong Storms Possible Later Today — Temperatures in the 70s are again predicted for this afternoon. However, showers and thunderstorms are possible into the evening, with damaging winds and large hail also possible. [Capital Weather Gang]

More Craft Beer on the Way? — New zoning regulations approved Tuesday by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors may open the door for more small breweries in Reston. There are currently seven licensed craft breweries in the county. [Fairfax County]

Rider: Metro Worst System He’s Used — David Ballard, of Reston, compares his experience on the Metro to public transportation systems in Denver, Salt Lake City, Portland, Dallas and Mexico City. He says the DC system not only is “by far” worse than the others, it’s more expensive. [Washington Post]

Metro Ridership Down Dramatically — At the Wiehle-Reston East station, ridership was down 13.4 percent in the last quarter of 2016. Ridership on the Silver Line as a whole was down 9 percent. [WTOP]

by Dave Emke — February 10, 2017 at 2:45 pm 7 Comments

The Fairfax County Planning Commission will hold a public hearing Feb. 23 as the approval process for the Reston Town Center Metro station continues.

The special exemption application for the south entrance pavilion of the station calls for modifying a zoning ordinance that requires 15 percent open space to require only 5 percent. According to the site plan:

“The applicants state that the boundary for the SE area is highly constrained in order to avoid adverse impact to future development of adjacent properties and to ensure that the development of the proposed mass transit facilities remain in harmony with the adjacent development. The site design and layout is consistent with the design of the other entrance pavilion areas along the Silver Line.”

The new station’s entrance pavilion is slated to look nearly identical to the pavilion at the Wiehle-Reston East station.

The Metro station was approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors last year. It is part of Metro’s Silver Line Phase 2, with a projected opening date in 2020.

If recommended, the Board of Supervisors will hear the special exemption application on March 14.

Graphics via project site plan

by Dave Emke — January 26, 2017 at 2:45 pm 11 Comments

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

by Dave Emke — January 19, 2017 at 9:00 am 5 Comments

Lake Anne - Jan. 18, 2017

Reston Orthopedic Practice Honored for Community Work — Ortho Virginia was recently recognized by Shepherd’s Center of Oakton-Vienna for its continued support of the nonprofit, volunteer-based organization. [Reston Connection]

Yoga Studio Organizes Buses for Women’s March on D.C. — Maryam Ovissi, the owner of Beloved Yoga (12001 Sunrise Valley Drive), has booked transportation for 57 people to the event Saturday on the National Mall. [Patch]

Silver Line Progress ‘Steady,’ Project Officials Say — In recent weeks, the project’s design-­build contractor has reported “significant progress” on the aerial guideways that will carry the tracks through Washington Dulles International Airport. Engineers also say at-­grade track work on Phase 2 of the project, which recently began, is “a very important milestone.” [Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project]

by Dave Emke — January 9, 2017 at 11:30 am 5 Comments

Sunset Valley Drive project, via Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project

Work will soon begin on Sunrise Valley Drive to widen westbound lanes, as part of the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project.

The construction effort was scheduled to begin Monday. But Marcia McAllister, spokesperson for the project, said Mother Nature had other plans.

“It’s just too cold” for work to start as planned, McAllister said. She said they envision getting workers on the ground later this week.

Roadway improvements near the Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride will require the closing of Sunrise Valley Drive westbound lanes between 9:30 a.m. and 3 p.m. each day; as well as the closure of the sidewalk on the north side of the street, between the Arboretum and Thunder Chase Drive.

We don’t yet have specific dates for all the lane closures and sidewalk closures, because it’s an unfolding process,” McAllister said. “We’ll be sending out frequent alerts to tell people in the neighborhood and the general public.”

Once it gets underway, the work will include the clearing of trees along the street, the installation of erosion and sediment controls, utility relocations, and the construction of a new entrance road to the existing parking garage. Work on this project is expected to continue through the end of 2018.

There will be times when the work is more intense and other times when it’s not,” McAllister said. “We wanted to give the public a general idea of how much work is going to be done there.”

Ground was broken in November on a new parking garage for the Herndon Metro Station. That project is under the guidance of Fairfax County.

With what we’re going to be adding in that area… it’s necessary that we do some improvements to Sunrise Valley, to improve the access to the station,” McAllister said.

The future Herndon Metro Silver Line Station will serve riders at ground level in the median on the Dulles Toll Road and will serve the existing Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride, with access from both sides of the road. Phase 1 of construction on the Metro station is already underway, and Phase 2 is expected to wind up at some point in the next five years, according to Metro officials.

Image courtesy Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project

by Andrew Ramonas — December 15, 2016 at 3:45 pm 5 Comments

Metro signA half dozen Metro employees are without jobs after the transit agency investigated a derailment near the East Falls Church Metro station earlier this year and found “flagrant misconduct,” general manager Paul Wiedefeld said today.

Metro fired the four inspectors and two supervisors in connection with the July 29 incident, which sent a Silver Line train with 75 riders off the rails about 100 feet from the stop. An internal investigation found that workers falsified track inspection records, according to Wiedefeld.

The transit agency also has taken or is considering taking disciplinary action against almost two dozen other employees, he said.

Metro has demoted a superintendent and an assistant general superintendent. The transit agency also is in the process of terminating another supervisor and deciding how, or if, it will discipline two other supervisors and 16 track inspectors. An assistant superintendent, who faced possible disciplinary action, left Metro, too.

The 28 employees make up almost half of Metro’s track inspection department.

“I want the Board, our employees and our customers to know that this review revealed a disturbing level of indifference, lack of accountability, and flagrant misconduct in a portion of Metro’s track department which is completely intolerable,” Wiedefeld said in a statement. “Further, it is reprehensible that any supervisor or mid-level manager would tolerate or encourage this behavior, or seek to retaliate against those who objected. It is also entirely unacceptable to me that any employee went along with this activity, rather than exercise a safety challenge, or any of the multiple avenues available to protect themselves, their coworkers, and the riding public.”

by RestonNow.com — December 13, 2016 at 2:50 pm 11 Comments

Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld and Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) ride the Silver Line (Photo via Twitter/Tim Kaine)

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) took a trip with Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld on the Silver Line today to check on the progress of its construction, WTOP reported.

The senator got on a train at Tysons Corner and rode it to the Wiehle-Reston East station. He then took a bus to Dulles International Airport, which is one of six future Silver Line stops.

“I’m very excited to see it,” Kaine said, according to WTOP. “It’s just a necessary project to keep up with the growth of Northern Virginia.”

Photo via Twitter/Tim Kaine

by Jennifer van der Kleut — December 6, 2016 at 9:00 am 5 Comments

Reston from Make Offices Window

A Winter Wonderland for Reston’s Young Ones — The Reston Association plans to welcome little ones to its annual Winter Wonderland celebration on Wednesday, Dec. 14, from 10:30 to 11:30 a.m. Kids can enjoy holiday arts and crafts, games and a festive snack. Registration is $8 for RA members and $12 for non-members and must be made in advance. [Reston Association]

Reminder: GRACE to Unveil New Art Exhibition This Week — The Greater Reston Arts Center is slated to debut a new art show featuring the work of six visual artists this Friday. During the new art show, six artists will showcase work that explores “spirituality, modern life, and ecological concerns through a variety of delicate and precisely crafted cut paper.” [Reston Now]

Members of Congress Slammed Metro Board Friday  Members of the Metro Board appeared before Congress Friday and were not met with a warm welcome. In particular, Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) called board member Corbett Price’s suggestion to cancel Virginia’s Silver Line extension “parochial theater,” and labeled some board members’ comments as “cheap and reckless.” [Washington Post]

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by Andrew Ramonas — December 1, 2016 at 2:45 pm 9 Comments

Wiehle Reston-East Metro/Credit: Mike HeffnerA proposal that would keep the Metro system open until 1 a.m. on weekends, but close it before midnight on other nights, cleared a key hurdle today.

A Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority panel this morning endorsed new Metro operating hours to allow for more repair and maintenance time, NBC Washington reported. The new hours, which still need the support of WMATA’s full board, would go into effect July 1, 2017, and last for two years.

Under the plan, Metro would have service on the Sliver Line and its other lines:

  • Mondays to Thursdays from 5 a.m. to 11:30 p.m.
  • Fridays from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m.
  • Saturdays from 7 a.m. to 1 a.m.
  • Sundays from 8 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Since SafeTrack repairs began earlier this year, the system has closed at midnight every day and opened at 5 a.m. on weekdays and 7 a.m. on weekends. Trains previously operated from 5 a.m. to midnight Monday through Thursday, 5 a.m. to 3 a.m. Friday, 7 a.m. to 3 a.m. Saturday and 7 a.m. to midnight Sunday.

Do you back WMATA’s plan? You can weigh in through the poll and in the comments.

Photo courtesy of Mike Heffner

by Jennifer van der Kleut — December 1, 2016 at 12:00 pm 2 Comments

Herndon Metro station garage groundbreaking (Photo courtesy of Fairfax County Department of Transportation)

A groundbreaking ceremony was held Wednesday to kick off construction of a new parking garage at the Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride, which will service the forthcoming Herndon Metro Station as part of the Silver Line extension.

Several local elected officials were on hand with shovels to make the first ceremonial dig, including Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova.

“As we celebrate the ground-breaking of this new multi-modal parking facility, we reaffirm our efforts to provide alternatives to single-occupancy vehicles, to improve mobility, and to provide greater opportunities for people to connect with the entire metro region and the rest of the world,” Bulova said in a statement.

The new garage will have spaces for 2,007 cars, as well as feature a pedestrian bridge leading from the new garage to the future Metro station, and connections for both cars and pedestrians to the existing Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride lot, which contains 1,745 parking spaces.

The new garage also will have secure bicycle storage facilities, a spot for bus pick-offs and drop-offs and a “kiss-and-ride” area.

Construction of the garage, done by Manhattan Construction Co., will cost $44.5 million, and is expected to wrap up in the spring 2019, Fairfax County officials said.

Though officially named the Herndon Metro station, the stop is technically located at 12530 Sunrise Valley Dr. in Reston, just across the street from the border with Herndon.

Photo courtesy of Fairfax County Department of Transportation

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by Jennifer van der Kleut — November 30, 2016 at 9:35 am 2 Comments

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Metro Board Member Suggests Canceling Silver Line Extension — Metro Board Member Corbett Price plans to pressure the agency to scrap the $5.8 billion Silver Line extension in an apparent attempt to push Virginia to pony up more money for the cash-strapped rail system. [Washington Post]

Reston Holiday Parade Coming in 5th in Nation — Reston Town Center’s annual Holiday Parade is heating up the charts in USA Today’s list of the best in the nation. Previously ranked sixth, the parade is now in the fifth spot, coming in only one slot behind Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Online voting is open through Monday at noon, and the winner will be announced Dec. 9. [USA Today]

Man Arrested After Assaulting Bus Driver, Biting Cops — A 31-year-old man was apprehended outside the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station yesterday morning after police said he assaulted a bus driver and a security officer before biting cops who detained him. [Reston Now]

Photo of ballet performance at Reston Town Center tree lighting on Friday courtesy of Reston Town Center

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by Jennifer van der Kleut — November 17, 2016 at 11:10 am 8 Comments

Rendering of future Herndon Metro Station parking garage (Image courtesy of Fairfax County)Fairfax County officials later this month are slated to officially break ground for a $44.5 million parking garage for the future Herndon Metro station.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Sharon Bulova and other local officials are slated to join in the groundbreaking ceremony at Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride Lot (12530 Sunrise Valley Drive) Wednesday, Nov. 30, at 1 p.m. Construction is expected to end by spring 2019.

“The 2,007-space parking facility is designed to assist in reducing congestion on Northern Virginia roadways by creating additional opportunities for ridesharing and the use of public transit,” county officials said in an announcement Tuesday.

The future Herndon Metro Silver Line Station will serve riders at ground level in the median on the Dulles Toll Road and will serve the existing Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride, with access from both sides of the road. Phase 1 of construction on the Metro station is already underway, and Phase 2 is expected to wind up at some point in the next five years, according to Metro officials.Location of future Herndon Metro station parking garage (Photo courtesy of Google Maps/Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project)

Key features of the project will include a pedestrian bridge leading from the new garage to the future Metro station, as well as connections for both cars and pedestrians to the existing Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride lot, which contains 1,745 parking spaces.

The new garage also will have secure bicycle storage facilities, a spot for bus pick-offs and drop-offs and a “kiss-and-ride” area.

Herndon Mayor Lisa Merkel said the town is excited to see progress on the future Metro station and parking facilities. Merkel, just re-elected for a third term as mayor this month, said the town has worked hard with state and county officials to prepare for the Silver Line to come to Herndon.

“Herndon will benefit greatly from Metro’s arrival and [the town] is working on infrastructure improvements necessary within the town limits for the Herndon Station,” Merkel said on Thursday. “And we are proud of the work we’ve done to secure funding from the state and other sources so that the burden doesn’t fall solely on our taxpayers.”

Images courtesy of Fairfax County and Google Maps/Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project

by RestonNow.com — November 8, 2016 at 2:45 pm 7 Comments

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:

by Karen Goff — October 24, 2016 at 4:30 pm 11 Comments

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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