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Private Contractors Likely to Operate Silver Line’s Second Phase

Private contractors are likely to operate and maintain the six new stations that are part of the Silver Line extension project that runs from Wiehle-Reston East into Loudoun County

In an announcement on Tuesday, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority said it has issued a request for proposals in order to seek private contractors who can operate and maintain the new stations, trains, and facilities.

WMATA said the move was necessary in order to control operating and maintenance costs, including future pension costs, which it says have “grown to unsustainable levels.”

“We are leaving no stone unturned as we look for opportunities to maintain transit service for the region and protect jobs, all while living within our means in light of what our funding jurisdictions can afford,” said Metro General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Paul J. Wiedefeld. 

Bids are due on Jan. 15 and a contract will be awarded in the spring.

Officials said the move will not result in job losses for Metro’s current workforce. They also noted that transit agencies in Hong Kong, London, Melbourne, and Beijing have had success in contracting some or all rail services through public-private partnerships, resulting in “improved on-time performance, reliability, operating efficiencies and cost savings.’

The Silver Line extension project is tentatively scheduled to open in 2020.

Photo by Fatimah Waseem

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A First Look at Metro’s Next Generation of Rail Cars

Metro is offering a glimpse into its next generation of rail cars, which are similar to the stainless steel 7000-series launched three years ago.

On Tuesday (September 5), Metro announced it has begun the procurement process for the 8000-series, which will replace the 2000- and 3000-series cars, which went into service more than 10 years ago. Trains are needed to meet expanding service, especially as the expansion of the Silver Line to Dulles Airport and into Loudoun County comes closer to fruition.

Departing from previous ideas, which included open, raised platforms to reduce overcrowding, heated floors and onboard WiFi, the latest plans are similar to the 7,000-series currently in operating. New features include new digital advertising screens, support for remote PA announcements, digital system mats, 110-volt power outlets to charge electronic devices and more lighting, floor markings and signage for ADA areas.

“Today Metro is beginning the multi-year process of acquiring our next railcar fleet, which will take everything our customers love about 7000-series trains and build upon that success,” Wiedefeld said in a statement. “I would take this opportunity to again thank our local jurisdictions — Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia — for creating a dedicated capital funding source for Metro that has made this possible,” according to a statement by Metro.

Metro has issued a formal request for proposals, which will close in late January. A contract will be awarded sometime next year. The contract calls for purchasing up to 800 cars, including options to run more trains during rush hour, and retiring the 6000-series fleet. The new trains are expected to be in service in 2024.

Photos via Washington Metropolitan Area Authority

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Over Two Days, Metro Trains Travel on Wrong Tracks

Twice in the last two days, Metro trains ended up on the wrong line, with a Blue line train coming onto the Orange Line and a Silver Line train coming onto the Blue Line.

On Monday, a Silver Line train diverted to the Arlington Cemetery station on the Blue Line, a routing issue that Metro officials said was called by signal problems. The next day, a Blue line train bound for Franconia-Springfield was misdirected to the Court House station on the Orange and Silver lines.

Metro is attempting to take corrective action to prevent similar issues in the future.

Over the weekend, an eight-car Silver Line train bound for McLean completely separated into segments of five and three cars. The incident happened on Saturday at around 10:45 a.m. Roughly 70 passengers were on the train when the issue occurred. No injuries were reported.

More from social media:

File photo

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Metro Officials: “Only Use Metro If You Have No Other Option”

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority officials are encouraging riders of the Orange, Blue and Silver Lines to use Metro “only if you have no other option.” A partial Blue Line shutdown and major delays on two other Lines are planned this weekend.

Beginning tomorrow (Saturday) until August 26, Orange and Silver Line trains will run every 20 minutes and Blue Line trains will run between Franconia-Springfield and Arlington Cemetery. No Blue Line services will be available in DC or Maryland.

WMATA urges commuters to brace for major delays and crowding. Metro’s rush hour promise will not be in effect for trips on the Orange, Blue or Silver Lines.

Crews are scheduled to rebuild track infrastructure, install new rail, new fasteners and repair concrete pads that support rails. Each track will be worked on one week at a time so that single-track service can be maintained, according to WMATA.

In a statement posted to their website, WMATA posted the following information about travel alternatives:

  • Commuters between Virginia and the district should use the yellow line.
  • Use the Yellow Line and transfer to and from the Orange or Silver Lines at L’Enfant Plaza.
  • Use the Red, Yellow or Green Line stations if they’re within walking distance of your destination.
  • Consider riding select trains on the VRE Manassas Line or VRE Fredericksburg line to Crystal City, L’Enfant Plaza or Union Station
  • Take the MARC Penn Line (via New Carrollton) or the MARC Camden Line (via Greenbelt) downtown.
  • Consider bus alternatives. See breakdown online.
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Thursday Morning Notes

Take note, Metro users — Two summer capital improvement projects will disrupt service on the Red, Orange, Blue and Silver lines. During a 10-day period, riders are encouraged to use Metro only if absolutely necessary. [Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority]

If you have Verizon — An outage is affecting 911 and ten-digit dialing. County residents should text 911 from a Verizon phone as an alternate. [Fairfax County Fire & Rescue Department]

Savor the flavor — A local news outlet offers a recap of the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce’s Taste of Reston event, the largest outdoor food festival in the area. [The Connection]

And then savor this flavor — Reston Association will host a wine tasting at the Lake House on Saturday from 3:30-5 p.m. [Reston Association]

Flickr pool photo by vantagehill

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Track Work to Cause Delays on the Silver, Orange and Blue Lines This Weekend

Build some extra time into your plans if you’re planning to take the Orange, Silver or Blue line this weekend.

Trains on all three lines will travel 24 miles apart. Silver Line trains will run only between Wiehle-Reston East and Ballston, Blue Line trains will single track between Foggy Bottom and Arlington Cemetery and Orange line trains will single track between Foggy Bottom and Arlington Cemetery.

The service changes are necessary in order to allow crews to install cables and communications equipment on the Blue and Orange lines, according to the Washington Metropolitan Area Authority.

Customers should use Orange and Blue lines to complete their trip. At Ballston, customers should transfer between Silver and Orange line trains on the same platform.

Photo by Mike Heffner

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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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Emergency Repairs to Disrupt Metro Service This Weekend

Expect service reductions at Silver Line stations and some Blue Line stations this weekend from March 16 through 18 due to major problems with concrete supporting Metro’s tracks.

A slab of concrete is cracked under the rails between Benning Road and Capitol Heights stations. Metro will remove rails and fasteners to remove the existing concrete and add a new structure, a process that is expected to take three consecutive days.

Silver Line trains will run every 24 minutes during single tracking, including during rush hour. Blue Line trains will be rerouted to New Carollton instead of Largo. Service will remain unaffected between Franconia-Springfield and New Carollton.

“Unfortunately, this is a repair job that cannot wait and cannot be confined to a weekend,” said Joe Leader, Metro’s Chief Operating Officer. “To the customers at the 10 stations who will be impacted on Friday, March 16, we apologize and hope that they will consider using stations on other lines or alternate travel options that day.”

File photo

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Reports: Metro Users Struggle to Find Parking at Wiehle-Reston East Garage

Parking spaces for Metro users at the Wiehle-Reston East garage were not available earlier this morning as construction crews work in the area.

At around 9:30 a.m. today, users attempting to park at the garage indicated no non-reserved parking spots were available, forcing some to park in reserved spots in the 2,300-space garage.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority responded to complaints by telling users to notify an attendant at the parking gate about the lack of parking.

Users would be let out “with no charge,” WMATA wrote in a tweet.

See the social media roundup below:

File photo.

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Weekend Disruptions Planned for Silver Line

Silver Line Phase 2 Construction at Reston Town Center (Photo via Capital Rail Constructors)Plan for service disruptions this weekend on all Metro lines. Track work will cause especially long delays on the Red, Orange, Silver and Blue Lines.

Silver Line trains will run every 24 minutes. The last Silver Line train from Wiehle-Reston East will leave 24 minutes earlier than usual.

On Saturday, the train will leave at 11:52 p.m. and at 9:52 p.m. on Sunday.

Trains will only run between Ballston and Wiehle-Reston East. Riders traveling to or from other stations should use the Orange or Blue Line to complete their trip. At Ballston, Metro users should transfer between Silver and Orange line trains on the same platform.

For a list of all planned service adjustments, visit the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s website.

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Saturday Parking Fee at Wiehle-Reston East Draws Resistance

Fairfax County officials are pushing back against a move by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to charge for weekend parking at the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station.

Beginning Feb. 5, WMATA plans to charge a $2 fee parking for Metro users who park in the Metro garage or lot on Saturdays. Parking is currently free at the 2,300-space garage, which is owned by Fairfax County.

“Over the past several years, WMATA’s image has been significantly tarnished. Charging for parking on Saturdays, especially when there are so many reasons not to charge, will not improve WMATA’s image,” county staff wrote in a statement.

The county’s Board of Supervisors, which must approve approve parking changes before they are instituted, will consider the matter at a Jan. 23 meeting. The county currently contracts with WMATA to remotely monitor parking garage gates and fare collections while WMATA maintains equipment and processes SmarTrip and credit card payments.

County staff charging fees could decrease weekend ridership — especially when demand for parking is already low on weekends.

“WMATA may actually lose more many from lost rail fares than it gains from the new parking fee,” according to a statement.

Staff listed other reasons to oppose the parking fee:

  • Requires additional costs to maintain equipment and oversee personnel.
  • Discourages new riders, who often try Metro on weekend, from using the service.
  • Is inconsistent with the region’s goal of providing alternatives to single-occupant vehicles.
  • Discourages Metrorail trips, ultimately increasing weekend congestion and air pollution.
  • Makes an already challenging commute for weekend riders — who often deal with delays due to maintenance work on weekends — even harder.

In a statement, WMATA said charging for weekend parking will “allow Metro to maximize utilization of parking facilities without increasing the daily parking rate for Metro customers on weekdays.”

WMATA is also planning to extend the hours of parking fee collections on weekdays — a move the county officials support. Charges for parking will begin at 7:30 a.m. instead of 9:30 a.m. On Fridays, fees will continue through 2 a.m. instead of 1 a.m.

Additional fees collected through the change will generate additional revenue that will help pay off debt service payments on bolds sold to fund additional Metrorail parking. The garage was built by Comstock Partners’ through a public-private partnership with the county.

Comstock’s Reston Station development, a major mixed-use project, sits above the garage.

File photo.

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Friday Morning Notes

Chamber: Effort To Woo Amazon ‘Start of Something Great’ — Jim Corcoran, president and CEO of the Northern Virginia Chamber of Commerce, says the partnership between Loudoun and Fairfax counties to try to bring Amazon’s new headquarters to Herndon can be “a model for our economic growth,” no matter what the company decides. [Washington Business Journal]

Metro: Fare Evasion is Serious Issue — Metro says its efforts to ensure no one gets on trains without paying has helped curb serious crime on the system by 20 percent. [Metro Transit Police/Twitter]

Early Metro Hours Sunday for Marathon — Trains will begin rolling Sunday at 6 a.m. to help participants in the 42nd annual Marine Corps Marathon. Extra trains will also be running on the Blue and Yellow lines. [WMATA]

A Look at Mixed-Use Developments in Fairfax County — Earlier this week, Bisnow took a look at several large developments in the works in the county, as it says “developers are increasingly turning the county into a walkable, mixed-use environment.” Included in the profile are several Reston developments, including Reston Station and Tall Oaks. [Bisnow]

Police Warn of Criminals Targeting Garage Door Openers — Police departments in Loudoun and Prince William counties are urging residents to keep their garage door openers out of sight as criminals are stealing them from cars and using them to gain access to homes. Police in Reston have previously warned of similar crimes. [WTOP]

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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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Friday Morning Notes

Deadline for RA Board Candidacy is Today — Anyone interested in being considered to fill the At-Large seat vacated by Ray Wedell needs to submit a statement of candidacy by noon today. The remaining term on the seat runs through April. [Reston Now]

Silver Line Was Single-Tracking This Morning — An arcing insulator at the Rosslyn Metro station early this morning caused single-tracking on the Orange, Silver and Blue lines. [WUSA]

‘Safety Stand-Down’ Slowed Metro Thursday — Riders experienced woes Thursday morning on the Metro as maintenance inspections of 7000-series rail cars were temporarily suspended, raising union concerns and leaded to fewer available cars. [WTOP]

Letter: Redistricting Needed After 2020 — John Lovaas, of Reston, says residents need to get involved in the fight to end gerrymandering and “take back our democracy.” [Fairfax Times]

Full Presentation from Wednesday’s Community Meeting — The full PowerPoint presentation from Wednesday’s forum to discuss the potential ramifications of a zoning ordinance amendment that would raise the cap on population density in Reston has been made available. [Reston 20/20]

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Thursday Morning Notes

Food Collection Helps Herndon Students — Nonprofit organization Food for Neighbors collected food on a recent Saturday at Plaza America, with items collected going to students in need at several county locations, including Herndon middle and high schools. The program is working to add other schools, including South Lakes High School, to its efforts. [Fairfax County Times]

County Task Force Rides Out Maria — Virginia Task Force One, Fairfax County’s elite urban search and rescue team, has been busy this past month assisting with efforts following hurricanes Harvey and Irma. They were scheduled to go to Mexico to help following this week’s earthquake there, but instead find themselves waiting out Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico. [WJLA]

Metro Lines Slow This Weekend — Work west of Foggy Bottom means the Orange, Blue and Silver lines are only scheduled to run every 24 minutes this weekend. The Silver Line will only run between Wiehle-Reston East and Ballston. [WTOP]

New FCPS Superintendent Talks About Goals — Dr. Scott Brabrand says there’s work to be done in the district, including diversifying the workforce and scaling back demands on teachers. [Washington Post]

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