Saturday, August 23, 2014

"Metroway"--Bus Rapid Transit--launches in Alexandria, Arlington (August 24, 2014)

Alexandria and Arlington officials cut the ribbon today (August 23, 2014) that opens the Washington region's first BRT (Bus Rapid Transit) system. Buses will run on dedicated, bus-only lanes without competition from automobiles and trucks.

The line actually opens to the public at 0730 tomorrow (Sunday, August 24).

In planning for over a decade and with construction begun in 2012, the 4.5-mile line connects Alexandria's Braddock Road Metro station with the Crystal City (Arlington) Metro station (see route map in the pamphlet below). The project is an effort, of course, to stem increasing automobile congestion in Northern Virginia, especially as Potomac Yard development brings significantly more population into the area.

Given sufficient funding and a resolution of political differences, the Crystal City-Potomac yard Transitway, more simply branded "Metroway," could give way one day to (or share the route with) streetcars. Arlington's government has been debating a Columbia Pike streetcar for years and, once built, hopes to extend it into Crystal City, where it could link into Alexandria's--if built. Alexandria officials, however, have focused on constructing a costly new Metro station to service Potomac Yard residents, although selecting a design has proven difficult. Until the fate of that project is determined, a streetcar system will remain on the back bench.

Funding for the BRT project came from federal, state and local coffers. The federal portion, said Matthew Welbes of the FTA, was one of 51 projects (nationwide) the agency chose to fund out of some 1,100 proposals.

Among those offering remarks at the "Swann Avenue" bus shelter on US1 in Alexandria, where the ceremony was held, were Alexandria Mayor Bill Euille; Mary Hughes Hynes, Vice Chair, Arlington County Board; Timothy Lovain, Vice Chair, Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments; Matthew Welbes, Executive Director, Federal Transit Administration; Jennifer Mitchell, Director, Virginia Department of Rail & Public Transportation; and Jack Requa, Ass't General Manager, Bus Services, Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority.

And now for photos from today's dedication and ribbon-cutting. Also included: a pamphlet with route map and explanation of the Metroway service.  Following all this you'll see a selection of construction photos from start (2012) to finish.

Ribbon Cutting for the
Crystal City-Potomac Yard Transitway
Saturday, August 23, 2014

(Click any photograph to enlarge it)

Before the ceremony, public and politicians dive into tables loaded with breakfast pastries and coffee. The location is in Alexandria, adjacent to Potomac Yard on US1 at the intersection with Swann Avenue. This bus stop, in fact, is named "Swann."

The ceremony took place directly in the middle of the new busway. Several buses were placed within it for inspection.

News cameras were in abundance.

A Metro employee demonstrates the new bus's ramp that folds down onto the street (not visible in this shot) to accommodate the disabled.

For a fleeting moment, the sun appeared. After that, threatening skies--but (whew) no rain.

Alexandria Mayor William "Bill" Euille was master of ceremonies and who remarked on the  transitway project's success.

To the mayor's left are guest speakers. To his right, members of the city council.

First to follow the mayor was Mary Hughes Hynes of the Arlington County Board, who fervently hoped Arlington's streetcar system would one day be united with Alexandria's.

Timothy Lovain of the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments' Transportation Planning Board. Mr. Lovain is also a member of the Alexandria City Council.

The Federal Transit Administration's Matthew Welbes, who pointed out how pleased he was with the leading role played by Alexandria's BRT project, a good investment by the federal government.

Jennifer Mitchell, Director of the Virginia Department of Rail & Public Transportation, wryly wished federal money would one day make its way into Richmond for their own transportation projects.

Jack Requa of WMATA (Bus Services) believes they must work with all the area's jurisdictions in launching faster, more convenient transportation from point A to point B. As he told the Washington Post recently, "we would like to get them there faster than we do today."

The ceremony ended, and I wondered where the ribbon-cutting would take place. Then a spotted this guy with his obvious, oversized prop, tapped him on the shoulder, and learned they were about to hold a ribbon across the front of a nearby Metroway bus so the VIPs could cut it. I headed down the transitway for the front of that bus.

 Cameramen were scampering for position when I arrived. It wasn't long before a huge "huddle" formed around the VIPs. You had to fight for a place, many spots quickly grabbed by local people with cell phone cameras hoisted in the air, their elbows jutting left and right (in my way, of course).

 And with that, the transitway was open! (Well, not really; it opens at 0730 August 24.)

After the ribbon-cutting I trotted back to the souvenir table for these trophies. One can never have too many tote-bags or cardboard fans ;-)

Below is a helpful pamphlet on Metroway. Under it: a gallery of construction photographs.

Construction of the Crystal City-Potomac Yard Transitway
US Highway 1 from Potomac Avenue to East Glebe Road, Alexandria

July 11, 2012--it begins

May 31, 2013
 Northward view from the US1 bridge across the railroad.

  Where the ribbon-cutting ceremony took place!

February 25, 2014
Looking north along the transitway. Washington Cathedral is visible in the distance.

Intersection with East Glebe Road. Still a work in progress.

August 14, 2014--It is finished!
 We begin our tour of the completed transitway at the south end, proceeding north from the US1 railroad overpass.

 Here's where the dedicated bus lanes begin. First stop: "Potomac Avenue."

The "Swann Avenue" bus stop, where the dedication ceremony took place.

 The "East Glebe Road" bus stop, north end of the dedicated bus lanes. At this point the buses will turn right into Potomac Yard, thread their way behind the "big box" stores, then emerge again onto US1 at the Four Mile Run bridge. Once across the bridge, the buses will veer right onto Crystal Drive and into Crystal City (Arlington county).

I included this shot north of the "East Glebe" bus stop as proof "There's no [BRT] there there." No dedicated bus lanes. The bus has already turned east into Potomac Yard.

When the bus exits Potomac Yard and crosses Four Mile Run, it heads north a short distance and then diverges right onto Crystal Drive on its way to the Crystal City Metro station. Note the sign.

To conclude, we return to the dedicated bus lanes on US1 near the "East Glebe" bus stop and head south . . .

South view through the Potomac bus stop toward the US1 railroad overpass, the current end point of the dedicated bus lanes.

 August 24, 2014--First day of service

This concludes my tour of the new Metroway. It was great fun to photograph as it grew; I hope you enjoyed seeing the transitway's progress, too.

1 comment:

  1. Is there an email where I can contact you about using these pictures in marketing materials, pricing, etc.?