Palchik Takes Position at Northern Virginia Transportation Commission — Dalia Palchik, the Providence District Supervisor, was recently sworn in as the vice chair of the commission. [NVTC]
Families of Four Eligible for COVID-19 Tests –Families of four in Virginia will be eligible for free at-home COVID-19 tests under a new Biden administration rule that requires insurance companies to cover the cost of tests. [Reston Patch]
Search for Schools Superintendent Underway — Virtual town halls are coming up to gather public feedback on the search for the new superintendent of the Fairfax County Public Schools system. [Reston Patch]
Person of Interest Sought in Falls Church Unlawful Filming Incident — Local police are seeking the public’s help to identify a person of interest in the unlawful filming of a minor in a restroom at the Surf N Suds in the Falls Church of Fairfax County. [FCPD]
Local Tennis Courts Reopen — The Hook Road tennis courts have been reopened and are ready to play. [Reston Association]
Input on Sign Regulation Sought — The county is seeking input on sign regulations during virtual meetings on Jan. 18 and Jan. 27. Changes will involve signs for for-sale properties, subdivision signs, and the comprehensive sign plan process. [Fairfax County Government]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
As Silver Line Phase 2 slowly pulls into the station of completion, local officials are expressing their frustration at constant delays and missed deadlines.
In a brief update at yesterday’s (Sept. 28) Fairfax County Transportation Committee meeting, it was reiterated that Silver Line Phase 2 is expected to be substantially completed by the end of the year.
“In our discussions with [Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority], they are holding, at the moment, to the fourth quarter of 2021,” said Martha Elena Coello, special projects division chief for the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.
There are currently only two unresolved issues, according to a slideshow presented at the meeting, both of which are at the railyard and do not need to be resolved for substantial completion.
Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said he was hopeful that meant MWAA would be handing over the project to Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority [WMATA] in late October, after the planned outage at Wiehle-East Reston Metro Station to tie-in the two lines. That work was supposed to be completed in June.
Alcorn and others at the meeting showed their frustration at how Silver Line Phase 2 has been besieged by constant delays.
“This is four years overdue from the original date,” said Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay. “To not express some frustration here… would be a mistake. I think all of us are very frustrated.”
Alcorn also was noticeably exasperated at the pace of the project.
“Our next meeting of the transportation committee is December 14. We better have substantial completion by then,” he said.
In response, MWAA acknowledges the disappointment that many have about the delays.
“We understand the frustrations of everybody, elected officials and public alike,” MWAA spokesperson Marcia McAllister told Reston Now. “Our goal is to proceed with the [October] outage, evaluate the work that is done that weekend, and make decisions as soon as possible.”
McAllister also reiterated that MWAA is “holding on to fourth quarter 2021” as a timeline for substantial completion.
While MWAA said it would be completed by the end of the year, CRC said spring 2022.
But now, CRC seems to be backing off their timeline, noting that increased collaboration with the authorities have quickened the pace.
“We are working together with MWAA and WMATA on coordinating and finalizing testing to target substantial completion of the Silver Line Phase 2A in Q4,” CRC project executive Keith Couch wrote in a statement to Reston Now.
Even if Silver Line Phase 2 is substantially completed by late October, as noted in the presentation provided to the committee, WMATA will still need approximately six months to complete testing, pre-revenue preparations, and to open the system to riders.
That could mean an opening date of April or May 2022.
The $2.8 billion public transportation project will include six new stations, extending Metro from Reston to Loudoun County.
It remains a potential game changer for the region, though many with financial investment connected to the project have grown understandably impatient.
“A lot of folks have contributed substianal money to making this happen,” said McKay at the transportation committee meeting. “And they are sitting here, waiting for service.”
Regional transportation officials are considering more ways to improve transit along the I-66 corridor, led by a multi-million-dollar proposal to create a new express bus route from Reston to key Arlington County work sites.
The express bus is one of four projects now up for public comment as the Northern Virginia Transit Commission decides what to fund for the latest round of the agency’s I-66 Commuter Choice program, which has $7 million in available funds, according to NVTC senior manager Ben Owen.
These four projects are part of a supplemental fourth round for fiscal year 2022 after the NVTC approved an initial batch of projects last year that was limited by the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on I-66 toll revenue, which funds the Commuter Choice program.
The available money includes prior-year carryover that hasn’t been allocated, interest from the funds, and money released back to the commission from past projects that finished, NVTC communications and public affairs manager Matt Friedman said in a statement.
One of two projects proposed by Fairfax County, the new express bus service would connect Fairfax Connector’s Reston South Park and Ride lot with key employment destinations in Arlington County, including the Pentagon and Pentagon City and ending in Crystal City.
The county is seeking $5.1 million to cover two years of operating costs for the service as well as the purchase of six buses.
For its other project, the county has requested $154,000 to reduce Connector fares from $7.50 to $4.25 on the 599 express route from the Reston North Park and Ride to the Pentagon, Pentagon City, and Crystal City Metro stations in Arlington.
The other projects up for public comment come from OmniRide, which is seeking $85,000 to provide $200 per month incentives for new vanpools along I-66, and the Town of Vienna, which has applied for $5 million to design and construct a new Park and Ride lot at the soon-to-be-renovated Patrick Henry Library.
Staff presented a report on the proposed projects to the commission yesterday (Thursday). They recommended funding all of the projects except for the Patrick Henry Park and Ride.
For each round of Commuter Choice funding, NVTC staff give each of the submitted projects a technical score out of 100 that’s based primarily on their potential for reducing congestion, but also takes other factors into account.
The Town of Vienna’s proposal actually received a higher technical score of 56 than Fairfax County’s Reston North fare subsidy idea, which got a score of 44. However, staff said that the Patrick Henry Park and Ride would “exceed the available funding,” pushing the total cost of the projects to $10 million.
“The staff recommendation to fund Fairfax County’s fare buy-down proposal reflects the strong regional interest in fare reduction and equity initiatives,” NVTC staff wrote in their report. “It would also be a low-cost/costeffective means to help rebuild transit ridership in the I-66 Corridor.”
The OmniRide project received the highest score (62), followed by the Reston South express bus service (59).
Excluding the Vienna Park and Ride, the projects would move an additional 250 transit users through the I-66 corridor inside the Capital Beltway each morning when fully implemented, according to NVTC estimates.
The Commuter Choice program allows proposals to be resubmitted for future funding cycles if they’re not approved.
The public comment period runs through Sept. 17. People can participate by filling out a 12-step online form, providing feedback by email and phone, and joining in a virtual town hall this coming Wednesday (Sept. 8).
After the public comment period, NVTC will determine what it wants to fund, but the 17-member Commonwealth Transportation Board will have final approval over which projects are selected.
The commission is scheduled to approve its program on Oct. 7, followed by the CTB vote on Oct. 20.
“The expansion gives many more people in Reston easy access to bike share stations, like the one…at the South Gate Community Center,” Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said at the ribbon-cutting ceremony. “They especially provide more access south of the Dulles toll road where it is needed.”
The newest installation more than doubles the number of stations in Reston, which had 16 existing locations.
The Capital Bikeshare program originally launched in Reston in 2016. By 2019, the area saw 7,800 bike-share trips, though the COVID-19 pandemic led to a dip in rides in 2020, when there were only 4,400 trips.
“2021 Bikeshare trips are rebounding, and the people are already riding bikes from the newly installed locations,” according to Alcorn.
Among the new locations, the bicycles on Seahawk Drive and Ridge Heights Road have been getting the most use. The Southgate Community Center is getting lots of use as well, landing in the top four most-used of the new sites.
Alcorn did note that the program is still working on choosing ideal locations.
“This is a work in progress,” he said. “This is something we’re learning as we go, and frankly, as people in the community make their choices on where to use these things and when to use them we will adapt and support accordingly.”
Capital Bikeshare locations are chosen with specific criteria in mind. In order to host a new Bikeshare station, a site should be:
- A trip generator — a place that people will be traveling to and from
- A community center or shopping center
- In or near development density
- In proximity to transit for those who want to bike from home to their transit to work
- An equitable location to serve those who want to bike but may not have a bicycle of their own
- In a sunny spot for the solar panels
Alcorn also mentioned that most stations are put on the street in existing public parking spots to save time and money in creating the location.
Fairfax County is already working on another expansion in the Vienna and Merrifield area.
“The future is bright for Capital Bikeshare in Fairfax County,” Alcorn said. “The system throughout the National Capital region has more than 600 locations so far. We are going to continue to expand Bikeshare in the county with planned, grant-funded locations in the Providence District and building on what we have in the Merrifield area in Tysons. This program is one way that Fairfax County is innovating to find new ways for people to get around.”
Flash Flood Watch in Effect — The National Weather Service has issued a Flash Flood Watch for Fairfax County and the rest of the D.C. area through 10 p.m. today (Wednesday). Multiple rounds of heavy showers and thunderstorms could drop up to one to two inches of rain per hour, leading to rapid rises in streams, creeks, and poor drainage areas. [NWS]
Transportation Mask Mandate Extended to Next Year — “The Transportation Security Administration said Tuesday that it will extend a federal mask mandate for airline, bus and train passengers into next year, requiring the face coverings until Jan. 18, 2022…While a CDC order imposing the transportation requirement has no end date, TSA enforcement rules had been set to expire Sept. 13.” [The Washington Post]
Fairfax County Sends Out Jury Questionnaires — Approximately 60,000 Fairfax County or City of Fairfax residents might soon receive a jury duty questionnaire in the mail. The survey is the start of a screening process to determine an individual’s eligibility, which could lead to a summons and a call to report for service. The Fairfax County Courthouse has started hosting more in-person proceedings but renewed its mask requirement earlier this month. [Fairfax County Government]
NOVA Partners with AT&T on IT Training — “AT&T has created an IT apprenticeship program with Northern Virginia Community College and the Virginia Department of Labor and Industry, the company announced Tuesday. The two-year program will offer students information technology training and 2,000 hours of on-the-job training in technical, soft skills, lab work and related skills…Those selected will work as part-time AT&T employees and train at NOVA’s Reston complex and AT&T’s Oakton facility.” [Virginia Business]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
Virginia Requires Masks in Schools — Gov. Ralph Northam issued a public health order yesterday (Thursday) requiring universal mask-wearing in all K-12 schools in response to concerns about the COVID-19 Delta variant. Fairfax County Public Schools announced a mandate on July 28 that had some exemptions for fully vaccinated individuals, but the district updated its policy on Wednesday (Aug. 11) to require masks indoors for everyone. [The Washington Post]
Fairfax County Opens for Vaccine Site Requests — “Businesses and community event organizers can now request to host a vaccination team to provide COVID-19 vaccines or education/outreach services so that people can learn more about the vaccines. Requests will be reviewed and matched with an outreach or nursing team from the Fairfax County Health Department.” [FCHD]
Route 7 Traffic Changes Coming Next Week — Utterback Store Road in Great Falls will be closed from 9:30 a.m. on Monday (Aug. 16) to 2 p.m. on Friday (Aug. 20) while crews remake the intersection for the Route 7 Corridor Improvements Project. Construction, which will continue until 2024, will also require westbound Route 7 lane shifts from Reston Parkway to Reston Avenue on Aug. 17 and between Utterback Store and Springvale roads on Aug. 19. [VDOT]
Senate Infrastructure Bill Boosts D.C. Area — Metro would receive $150 million annually for capital improvements over the next eight years from the $1 trillion infrastructure funding bill that the Senate approved 69-30 on Tuesday (Aug. 10). The bill allocates more than $8 billion to Virginia for highway and bridge repairs, public transit support, and expansions of the state’s broadband and electric vehicle charging infrastructure. [DCist]
Electric scooters have arrived in Fairfax County.
The devices started appearing early last week after the county introduced the companies Bird and LINK as the first two vendors in its Shared Mobility Device program, which was established in 2019 after the Board of Supervisors approved regulations for motorized scooters and skateboards.
Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, e-scooters had overtaken docked bicycles as the most popular form of shared transportation in the U.S. They have been embraced by some as a quirky, more environmentally friendly alternative to cars, particularly for short “first mile/last mile” trips, though research suggests more work needs to be done to make them truly sustainable and accessible.
The recent explosion in dockless e-scooters around the country spurred states and localities to start regulating the devices, partly in response to complaints that they clutter up sidewalks and pose safety hazards for pedestrians, particularly people with disabilities.
In Fairfax County, vendors are limited to an initial fleet of 300 scooters with an option to expand to 600 vehicles depending on demand. The scooters must have a maximum speed of 10 miles per hour and can be prohibited on sidewalks by signage.
The county also requires vendors to pay a $5,000 bond to cover potential clean-up costs, and users that leave scooters in places that block car or foot traffic could be hit with a misdemeanor and fines.
Now that e-scooters are here, how likely are you to use one? Are you excited to have this travel option, or do they seem like more of an obstacle than a convenience?
A program that connects elderly people in Northern Virginia with volunteer drivers needs a new manager.
NV Rides manager Jennifer Kanarek left her position in mid-July, Pozez Jewish Community Center (JCC) of Northern Virginia Executive Director Jeff Dannick said yesterday (Monday).
“We started this program a little over 7 years ago, and Jennifer was our first manager,” Dannick said, crediting Kanarek for helping build the program. “The community owes a great debt to Jennifer for her years of service.”
Housed at the Pozez JCC in Fairfax, NV Rides is a network of volunteer driver programs that formed in 2014 after a Fairfax County survey identified access to safe and reliable transportation as a top concern among the county’s older residents, a population that is expected to continue growing over the next two decades.
In its 2020 demographic report, the county projects that people 65 and older will constitute its largest age group by 2025, eventually making up 17.5% of the total population in 2040.
“I have learned so much over the last seven years and knowing the impact that the NV Rides program has had on vulnerable adults in our community is what gets me out of bed in the morning,” Kanarek said in a statement. “I have thoroughly enjoyed working with our community partners, stakeholders, and my staff in building, developing, and growing this crucial program.”
Kanarek announced that she was stepping down from her position with NV Rides last week, saying on her LinkedIn page that the decision comes with “mixed emotions.”
“I am proud of all I and my partners have accomplished, and I have made the decision to pursue other opportunities,” she wrote.
NV Rides consists of 15 partner organizations, ranging from local Shepherd’s Centers and religious organizations to Reston Community Center’s RCC Rides service, which has been suspended during the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to the NV Rides website, the network has provided close to 40,000 rides since it began.
“They’re not taxi drivers. They’re coming to help you get to your appointment. They’re coming to help you shop for groceries. So, it’s really a companionship piece,” Kanarek said in a July video about the program, noting that while many elderly people can use ride-hailing apps such as Lyft or Uber, there can be varying levels of trust with a paid stranger versus a volunteer.
According to Kanarek, NV Rides has looked to recruit younger drivers because the average driver has been around 67 years old, and they may not want to return when the pandemic subsides.
After seeing ridership decline when Virginia went under a stay-at-home order in the spring of 2020, Dannick says NV Rides has now returned to “around pre-COVID levels” for volunteer drivers.
In June, NV Rides partnered with the Reston-based Dulles Airport Transportation Association on an outreach effort to provide transportation to medical appointments for veterans in Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William counties.
The Pozez JCC is currently advertising for a long-term successor to Kanarek. The job posting lists the position’s annual salary as $45,000 to $55,000.
Meanwhile, the program’s interim manager is Tom Eversole, a retired naval officer who serves on the NV Rides Advisory Council.
Hundreds of electric scooters have started popping up around Fairfax County after the county announced last week that it had approved two vendors for its shared mobility device program.
Bird and Superpedestrian’s LINK can each have up to 300 scooters in the county, but depending on usage, that number could go up to a combined 1,200 scooters for the two companies. The devices are available for rent, costing $1 to unlock with rates depending on ride time.
Bird has discounts for low-income and older residents as well as veterans and other users, and the company already listed the devices on its app. As of mid-morning Tuesday (July 27), clusters of scooters were listed in Annandale as well as West Falls Church and near Lake Barcroft.
Superpedestrian says it plans to make its scooters available this fall.
“Like bicycles, e-scooters can be used on a highway, sidewalk, shared-use path, roadway, or crosswalk,” the county said in a news release.
The only restrictions that the companies have limited the scooters to maximum speeds of 10 miles per hour, and they can’t be used on sidewalks or crosswalks with signage banning shared mobility devices.
The county said Tuesday such signage hasn’t been placed so far.
The county says users should leave scooters parked in areas that don’t impede normal car or foot traffic. People who violate the county’s rules can face a misdemeanor and fine up to $50 for the first offense and up to $500 for each subsequent offense.
“When riding an e-scooter, use the sidewalk when possible,” county transportation spokesperson Anna Nissinen said in a statement. “Remember, if you’re riding on the sidewalk, you are required to yield the right of way to pedestrians! If there is no sidewalk or other off-street path to use, you may ride a scooter on the road if the speed limit is 25 mph or less.”
She also noted that e-scooter users should stay as far to the right as practicable and use the bike lane if there is one.
The Board of Supervisors approved the devices in November 2019, placing rules on operations as it noted concerns about scooters possibly being abandoned.
To help address issues, the board is requiring $5,000 bonds from companies operating in the county. The money can be used if county staff have to remove and dispose of abandoned scooters.
“If you notice an e-scooter parked in an inappropriate place or left on private property, you can contact the device operator listed on the e-scooter and the operator must remove it,” the county said, noting that people can email [email protected] to report any issues.
Near Arlington National Cemetery, pedestrians and cyclists can at times see rideshare scooters abandoned along trails, scattered horizontally on the grass.
Bird spokesperson Courtney Black said in a statement that the company looks to educate riders with proper scooter etiquette, reminding them to not leave scooters in the public right-of-way, ensuring that sidewalks, driveways, and fire hydrants are accessible.
The company also allows members to use its Community Mode feature to report issues, which can involve things such as damaged or poorly parked scooters. Bird reviews the reports and sends someone to respond.
When asked about the county’s concerns with abandoned scooters, Superpedestrian says it has worked with cities across the U.S. with similar requirements where it operates.
“We’re proud that we’ve never been asked to leave a city or stop operation,” spokesperson Jamie Perkins said in a statement.
To address potential issues, the company has an in-house fleet team of local workers to manage operations in a timely way, using technology to make sure scooters are parked according to requirements and re-parked when needed to ensure availability and prevent them from stacking up in one place.
Superpedestrian is assessing how many scooters it will place in the area, working with Fairfax County as it scales up operations.
“We prioritize our service to areas with critical connections to public transit, areas with parking congestion and business demand, and also serve underserved areas,” Perkins wrote.
Virginia is reconsidering the future of funding for transportation infrastructure, as the rise of electric and more fuel-efficient vehicles has cut into the gas tax revenue that helps pay for those projects.
One option the Commonwealth has started pursuing is a “mileage-based user fee” that drivers would pay depending on how much or little they travel. Drivers could opt into the voluntary system in lieu of paying a mandatory highway user fee that first took effect on July 1, 2020.
State Sen. Janet Howell (D-32nd District) says the highway use fee — which applies to cars that average at least 25 miles per gallon and is calculated based on the fuels tax at the time of a vehicle’s registration and the average number of miles it travels in the state — is a precursor to Virginia’s planned mileage-based user fee program.
“For most of the past decade, Virginia, like the rest of the country, has been wrestling with the challenge of identifying the best approach to generating sufficient revenues to support transportation investments,” she said in a statement. “As cars have become more fuel efficient and electric vehicle adoption increases, it is increasingly difficult to strike the right balance of raising adequate revenues from traditional sources and adhering to a usage-based philosophy of highway financing.”
The Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles is currently fielding requests from private contractors to operate the program, which it anticipates rolling out in July 2022. Led by the DMV, a workgroup tasked with developing the program is slated to deliver an interim report to the Commonwealth this December.
The working group is identifying all requirements to Virginia’s mileage-based user fee program with “a priority on consumer privacy protection and equity,” DMV spokesperson Jessica Cowardin said in a statement.
Seeking new ways to fund road repairs and transit projects, Virginia established the mileage-based fee program in April 2020 when the General Assembly adopted a major transportation bill that also established the highway use fee and raised gas taxes for the first time in more than three decades.
The bill also lowered vehicle registration fees by $10 and repealed an annual $64 fee for electric and alternative fuel vehicles.
The changes, which include tying the gas tax rate to the Consumer Price Index to keep up with inflation starting next year, will help Virginia diversify its funding sources to offset stagnant or declining gas tax revenue, state legislators say.
The consultant KPMG previously estimated that Virginia would lose nearly 33% of its gas tax revenues by 2030 due to fuel efficiency, or approximately $260 million.
“Neither the [Highway Use Fee] nor the EV Registration fee are intended to suppress the sales of fuel efficient or electric vehicles, but simply recapture the average annual revenue from the foregone gas taxes,” Howell said.
The idea of taxing drivers based on how much they travel instead of the fuel they use has been gaining traction throughout the U.S. over the past decade.
Despite inflation, the federal gas tax rate has been locked in at 18.4 cents per gallon since it went up from 14.1 cents in 1993, meaning there’s less money to fund highway improvements.
“Many cars are not using gas at all, such as electric, so that system of highway finance has been coming apart for a long time,” said Jonathan Gifford, director of George Mason University’s Center for Transportation Public-Private Partnership Policy in Arlington.
If Virginia wants to encourage a transition to clean energy and electric vehicles, which “is absolutely essential to addressing climate change, we will need to look to other options” to pay for transportation projects, Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance President Jason Stanford says. Read More
The Fourth of July is coming up this weekend, and with Monday (July 5) as a designated federal holiday, many public facilities and services will be shaking up their schedules.
The Fairfax County Health Department announced today (Friday) that all of its COVID-19 vaccination clinics will be closed on Independence Day, but walk-in services will be available at the Fairfax County Government Center and the former Safeway at Mount Vernon Square in Alexandria on Saturday.
A vaccine site at Springfield Town Center will also be open for walk-ins on Monday.
Here are some other closures that county residents should keep in mind this holiday weekend:
Fairfax County Government
- County government offices will be closed on July 5th
Fairfax County Courts
- The Fairfax Circuit, General District, and Juvenile and Domestic Relations District courts will be closed all day on July 5.
County Libraries, Recreation Centers, Parks
- All Fairfax County library branches will be closed.
- All Fairfax County RECenters will operate at their regular hours.
- Colvin Run Mill, Sully Historic Site, Hidden Oaks, Hidden Pond, E.C. Lawrence and Huntley Meadows nature centers will be closed.
- The Riverbend Park visitor center will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
- Green Spring Garden’s horticultural center and historic house will be closed.
- Fairfax Connector buses will operate on a Saturday service schedule on Monday. Check the link for details on specific routes.
- WMATA Metrorail service will operate from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Saturday and 8 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Sunday. Details on routes and closed stations can be found on the Metro website.
- WMATA Metrobus will operate on a Saturday service schedule on Monday.
County Trash and Recycling
- There will be no change in the county’s trash and recycling collection.
- The recycling and disposal centers at the I-66 Transfer Station and I-95 Landfill Complex will be closed.
- The Reston Community Center Hunters Woods will open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m on Sunday and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday.
- Reston Community Center Lake Anne will be closed all day Sunday and Monday.
- All Reston Association offices, including the central services facility and the Walker Nature Center’s Nature House, will be closed on July 5.
Two local service groups launched an outreach initiative on Tuesday (June 22) to help transport veterans to and from medical appointments.
The free service is being managed by the Reston-based Dulles Airport Transportation Association and its longtime partner NV Rides, a network of volunteer driver programs housed at the nonprofit Pozez Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia.
With the initiative, the organizations hope to address one of the many issues that veterans face when seeking health care, exemplified by the cancellation of millions of medical appointments at Veterans Affairs medical facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Although virtual visits have surged and vaccinations are rising, medical needs persist.
“The program hopes to harness the power of the special bonds that exist between the men and women who’ve selflessly served our country,” a press release announcing the launch says.
DATA and NV Rides were already collaborating to give veterans rides through their existing Veterans Connect program. This expansion is specifically dedicated to serving elderly veterans and those with disabilities.
Targeted toward veterans in Fairfax, Loudoun, and Prince William counties, the program is currently recruiting additional volunteer drivers, who can be veterans or other community members. Drivers utilize their own vehicles.
Interested individuals can visit the Veterans Connect Facebook page or contact Luke Frazza at [email protected] or 703-819-3459, and Karla Nativi at [email protected] or 571-455-2836 to volunteer or learn more.
“While veterans have long stepped up to support their brothers and sisters in arms, elderly veterans have told us they are more likely to take advantage of a volunteer ride provided by someone with whom they have literally or even figuratively shared a foxhole,” the press release said.
Before the pandemic, the NV Rides network provided about 1,100 rides per month to non-driving adults 55 and older, primarily in Fairfax and Loudoun counties, according to the group.
With stay-at-home orders last year, ridership declined by 60%, but partners continued to provide ride services to the most critical medical care appointments. Over the past year, ridership has bounced back, with the network providing over 1,500 rides last month, the organization says.
“We think this veteran-specific expansion of our NV Rides program will underscore our belief that our network provides ‘More than just a ride,'” NV Rides Manager Jennifer Kanarek said in a statement. “…Stories of joyful moments between volunteers and passengers are far more often the rule than the exception.”
The county is now offering a free weekend shuttle to and from its vaccine clinic on Route 1 in Alexandria. Other available transportation options include free taxi rides and rides for people 55 and older from the Shepherd’s Center.
In addition to the Veterans Connect program, DATA has also partnered with the nonprofit Northern Virginia Veterans Association to provide free rides to veterans for COVID-19 vaccine appointments, WDVM reported in May. That effort is being funded by an $80,000 grant from the Federal Transit Administration.
“The feedback we’ve received from local veteran service organizations has been nothing but positive,” Veterans Connect Mobility Manager Luke Frazza said in a statement. “Support for the project has transcended those who served however, and garnered praise from across our community.”
Fairfax Connector suspended fare collections last year as a temporary health measure in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the public bus system is considering longer-term adjustments to its fare policies with support from a new state grant program.
The Fairfax County Department of Transportation is one of 12 transit agencies in Virginia that have expressed interest in the Department of Rail and Public Transportation’s new Transit Ridership Incentive Program (TRIP), which will fund projects that increase connectivity in highly populated areas or remove barriers for low-income individuals by reducing or eliminating fares.
While fare collection resumed on Jan. 4, county leaders see reducing or subsidizing trip costs as one way to encourage more people to ride the Connector, which is the largest local bus system in Northern Virginia, transporting approximately 30,000 passengers on 91 routes in ordinary times.
“Access to transit is crucial in promoting equity county-wide and for many a barrier is cost,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Jeff McKay said. “Our Department of Transportation is committed to looking into how we can provide aid to those experiencing economic hardship.”
Created by the General Assembly during its 2020 session, TRIP was conceived before the novel coronavirus arrived in the U.S., but Virginia Transportation Secretary Shannon Valentine told the Commonwealth Transportation Board during a May 18 workshop that the pandemic illustrated how vital public transportation is for essential workers, DCist reported.
“Fares turned out to be an obstacle. So we are really trying to use this as an opportunity,” Valentine said, according to DCist.
DRPT has split TRIP into two programs: one focused on regional connectivity, which could include everything from integrated fare collection systems to the creation of bus-only lanes on significant routes, and one focused on reducing the impact of fares on low-income users, which could involve eliminating fares, creating zero-fare zones, or providing subsidized or free passes.
Virginia has allocated a total of $129 million to the TRIP initiative through fiscal year 2027, including $88.4 million for the connectivity program and $39.6 million for the fare program, according to a presentation that DRPT delivered to the Commonwealth Transportation Board.
Legislators limited the fare reduction program to 25% of the initiative’s annual funding, but the General Assembly gave the program an additional $10 million in the state’s fiscal year 2022 budget, raising its total to $12.5 million for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins on July 1.
DRPT released a draft policy last week outlining how TRIP will be implemented, including how projects will be evaluated for grant funds. The resolution is open for public input through June 18, and the CTB is scheduled to vote on it on June 23.
Herndon Police Cites Drivers for Violating Cellphone Ban — The Town of Herndon Police Department says its officers issued 22 citations last week for violations of Virginia’s new law against driving while using mobile devices. The ban took effect on Jan. 1 of this year and imposes a $125 fine for a first offense, followed by $250 for a second offense. [Herndon PD/Twitter]
Northam Signs Deal to Expand Virginia’s Railroads — “Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam signed a $3.7 billion deal Tuesday with Amtrak and CSX Transportation that officials say will break loose a major East Coast chokepoint and allow for a dramatic expansion of passenger and commuter rail.” [NBC4]
Lawsuit Filed over Virginia Guidelines Supporting Transgender Students — Conservative groups are suing the Virginia Department of Education over its new policy requiring school districts to accept students’ gender identities and provide access to facilities and programs in accordance with those identities. The policy took effect on March 6 after the General Assembly passed a law last year directing the department to develop guidelines. [The Washington Post]
Reston Nonprofit to Benefit from Jersey Mike’s Purchases Today — “Jersey Mike’s Subs store at 2254 Hunters Woods Plaza in Reston is donating 100 percent of sales to Cornerstones on Wednesday…The effort is part of the sandwich franchise chain’s Month of Giving, which has raised $32 million for local charities since 2011.” [Reston Patch]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
In late November, a bridge on Reston Parkway over the Dulles Toll Road was damaged due to a tractor-trailer crash.
Several months after planning, repairs have finally begun repairs this week.
The crash happened on Nov. 20 of last year.
A spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Transportation told Reston Now that the work took some time because repairs required design and steel procurement through advertisement.
‘The steel has been fabricated, delivered, and is currently being installed now,’ the spokesperson said.
Utilities underneath the bridge were first relocated to allow the bridge to be installed.
VDOT anticipates that the project will be completed by March 27.
The bridge is jointly-owned by VDOT and the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.
Image via VDOT