Tuesday, June 30, 2009

NextBus Launched! Know When the Bus is Coming

NextBus was unofficially launched today (link). Here's a description of the service from an article announcing tomorrow's official launch:
"With a cell phone or an Internet connection, now you can find out when your bus is coming -- at any of Metro's 12,000 bus stops," said Metro Board Member Christopher Zimmerman of Arlington.
With the phone service, you can call (202) 637-7000 and enter the ID number of your stop, as shown by the sign located at each stop. In the online version, you choose a bus line in the WMATA system, which stop you're interested in, and which way you're going, and the service will tell you roughly when the next bus or couple of buses will be at that stop. Assume there could be a bit of variation between the NextBus time and the actual arrival time as you never know what could happen (red/green lights, construction, etc) that might slow the bus down a couple of minutes or cause it to get there a couple of minutes early.

Click here to see an example (10A bus at Mt. Vernon and Reed Ave headed northbound). You can also bookmark your stops and view the whole bus line on a map. In map view, you can click on any stop on a line and it will tell you when the next bus will be there and will actually show you where the buses are and which way they're going right now.

If you're not sure which bus you need to get where you're going, you can enter your departure and destination into WMATA's trip planner or look at the bus maps online.

NextBus should make it much easier and less frustrating to take the bus since you will know when to expect it and you waste less time standing by the curb.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Federal Funding Approved for Four Mile Run Restoration

An AlexandriaNews.org article reported that Congressman Jim Moran announced $500K towards the first phase of the Four Mile Run stream restoration project in the FY10 Interior and Environment Appropriations bill. It's not clear in the article if this money is intended towards actual work on stream restoration or finishing design work.

The image above is the demonstration project as defined in Chapter 6 of the Four Mile Run Master Plan. It consists of a removal of gabions on both sides of the stream, restoration of the banks, creation of a tidal bar, and the addition of project information signage. In the diagram, a table shows the price of the restoration work of the demonstration project is estimated at $1 million. The other $5.9 million of the $6.9 million estimate for the demonstration project is for a pedestrian and cyclist bridge connecting Commonwealth Ave and S. Eads St.

It is possible that the $500K will be matched by Alexandria and Arlington ($250K, apiece) and the $1 million stream restoration work will begin soon. Many such funding allocations are done as a funding match to the locality. The bridge was on a list of potential stimulus projects, but did not make the final cut. No word on how that might be funded, yet.

According to the article, $9.1 million has been appropriated for the stream Restoration project so far (mostly planning and design work for the huge project). More about the project, including the Master Plan and draft design guidelines, can be found here.

Update: This funding has only passed the house. It still has to go through the Senate and could still be cut from the final bill. Contact Senators Warner and Webb and tell them this funding is an important step towards building our community.

Ready to Begin Four Mile Run Park Expansion Planning

Among the properties located at 4109, 4115, 4121 & 4125 Mt. Vernon Avenue once stood a retail paint store, a gas station, and a dry cleaner. These uses led to a number of environmental issues that had to be resolved before the site could be converted to parkland. The Voluntary Remediation Program public notice stated:
Site investigations found reportable concentrations of lead, petroleum hydrocarbons and chlorinated solvents in the groundwater and reportable levels of arsenic in the soil. A total of 55 tons of impacted soil was excavated and disposed of off-site. Air testing at [the old Duron Paint building] confirmed no adverse impacts to indoor air quality. A groundwater deed restriction will be placed on the properties to prohibit use of groundwater.
No other restrictions are placed on the site, and groundwater was never planned to be used. The whole report is located here.

The important thing is the properties can be used for just about anything park-related. The 3 demolished properties can be converted to parkland and the remaining building could be used for a number of purposes (administrative office, satellite police station, community facility, etc.). Here is a past post on park expansion.

The planning process will kick-off on July 7th at the site of the demolished properties. An official release on the meeting has yet to be made, but we will post an announcement when a time is provided and the location is confirmed.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

MOM's Help Make Recycling Easy in Arlandria

Alexandria's recycling program is ever expanding. The City accepts a large number of items at curbside; the list has increased substantially in the past year.

The City's Residential Curbside Program Accepts:

  • Mixed Paper (White/Color paper, newspaper, junk mail, magazines, phone books, paperback/hardcovered books, cereal/tissue/cracker boxes, etc.)
  • Cardboard Does not need to be flattened, please remove styrofoam, plastic packaging or other contents!
  • Glass Bottles & Jars
  • All Plastic Bottles, Jugs, Jars, Tubs, Pails, and Buckets (The number on the bottom does not determine recyclability)
  • Plastic Bags (Bags in a Bag, tied shut.)
  • Metal Food & Beverage Containers
  • Wire Hangers

Please view the City’s "Yes/No List" for more information on what is recyclable.

But even so, there are a few things that the City can't take at curb-side and the collection facility is across town on Wheeler Avenue. Luckily, Arlandrians have a businesses that helps serve to fill the gaps.
A little over a month ago, we blogged about some of the things that can be conveniently recycled at MOM's/My Organic Market here in Arlandria (Recycle Denim Jeans at MOM's).

The fringe benefit of having a great store like MOM's (aka My Organic Market) in Arlandria is the great set of services that they provide the community. I've found the store an incredibly handy place to take some of my more pesky recycling.
Well, here's the full list from a release MOM's published today:

MOM's accepts the following items to be recycled, re-purposed or reused:

  • Fluorescent light bulbs

  • Batteries (with one end taped securely for shipping)

  • Plastic bottle tops

  • Cell phones

  • Toner cartridges (household printers)

  • #5 plastic containers

  • Sorry! We are no longer accepting plastic bags, cellophane or saran-wrap.

  • Thank you for helping us live MOM's mission: To Protect and Restore the Environment.
    MOM's Alexandria
    3831 Mt. Vernon Ave.
    Alexandria, VA 22305

    Friday, June 19, 2009

    We're #5! We're #5!

    At the June 9 City Council meeting, Council approved a set of "priorities, staffing levels and funding for the Department of Planning and Zoning" for Fiscal Year 2010 (link to PDF). Not surprisingly, actions currently underway were at the top of the list, including the completion of Potomac Yard and Waterfront plans and beginning the implementation of Landmark/Van Dorn plans. At #4 on the priority list is the completion of the city's Wayfinding design guidelines that have been a lengthy work in process, eating up P&Z resources for quite some time.

    However, at #5, for the first time since the city wrapped up Arlandria's small area plan in 2003, we're back on the priority list and at a position where it is unlikely to get pushed aside. However, the language is fairly non-committal: "Prioritize support for implementation of the Arlandria Action Plan". Does that mean we are a priority to get prioritized? I'm hoping this is not a brush off, but a commitment to actually implement major pieces of the Arlandria Action Plan and re-look the rest.

    My journey of increased civic participation began with nagging City Council back in January to update the moribund Arlandria Implementation Schedule so I could figure out the status of various actions. As it turns out, that, along with a few follow-up e-mails, was enough to get the attention of council members Justin Wilson and Rob Krupicka. They dug in and told P&Z to get Arlandria back on the schedule, resources be damned. P&Z staff was not able to dust off the implementation schedule that had not been touched in 2-plus years, but they at least got it on the schedule for this coming fall. We'll see where this leads.

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    June 30 - Attend an Expert Panel on Potomac Yard Shopping Center Redevelopment

    The Mayor's Institute on City Design (MICD) will present expert panel findings on the design challenges of and recommendations for redevelopment of Potomac Yard's Landbay F. Landbay F is shown on the diagram at right and is where the Potomac Yards shopping center is currently located.

    The MICD describes itself as:
    A program sponsored jointly by the National Endowment for the Arts, the United Nations Conference of Mayors and the American Architectural Foundation. The MICD Alumni Technical Assistance program provides mayors, their staffs, and local stakeholders the opportunity to engage a panel of experts in an analysis of a proposed development, design challenge, or current urban development issue.
    It goes on to say that experts will present their findings from 5-6 PM at the City Council Workroom at City Hall on June 30th. Here's the link to the full PDF flyer describing the event. It includes biographies of panel members and some more details. You must RSVP to attend.

    RSVP to Claire Gronat
    Phone: (703)746-3856
    E-mail: claire.gron@alexandriava.gov.

    Thursday, June 18, 2009

    Renovations Coming to the Calvert?

    UDR, the owner of the Calvert on Mt Vernon Avenue have begun talking about conceptual plans that promise to bring about a major renovation of the aging building.

    Still described by project representatives as an evolving concept, a recent preview shows that UDR plans to reface the existing tower and replace the front parking lot and retaining wall with a mid-rise (4 story),street-fronting apartment building.

    The new construction would incorporate the existing ground-floor retail but move it adjacent to Mt Vernon Avenue. Some of the retail space would likely surround a central art or water feature in an open air plaza at the intersection of the T-shaped building as shown in the first graphic in this post. Most of the parking would be placed underground with some above-ground parking on the north side of the property, just as it is now. The current south parking lot would be replaced with green space adjoining Warwick Village and Goat Hill Park.

    The concept is by no means a done deal, but it looks extremely promising. The renovations...which might take years...would revitalize an aging building, strengthen existing retail, and suggests that the Calvert could evolve along Complete Street principles.

    Smart Growth and Affordability

    From the Arlington Virginia Network:

    "Arlington's Smart Growth Journey" is a new documentary film that traces the dramatic history of the past half-century of growth and development in our community.

    • How did Arlington get 11 Metro stops?
    • What risks did leaders and residents take to balance neighborhoods and development?

    Watch video (52 min.) With closed caption option

    This tale of political wheeling and dealing, visionary planning, missteps and challenges is a glimpse into the recent history of Arlington, as told by many who were there.

    The full story makes for interesting viewing, but...thanks to our friends at Greater, Greater Washington, a 5-minute snippet of my favorite part is available for viewing (click on the movie at the top).

    This portion deals with bringing revitalization...without Metro...to neighborhing Nauck while preserving affordable housing: the goal of the Arlandria plan.

    It's a Smartrip in Arlandria

    From WMATA:

    "Customers at select CVS/pharmacy and Giant Food stores now can add value to their SmarTrip® cards at the same time they check items off their shopping lists.

    Metro and local retailers have made it more convenient for busy riders to add value to their SmarTrip® cards by installing the small, portable devices to process SmarTrip® transactions at more than 100 local retail outlets."
    The list of locations is online here. In the neighborhood it includes the CVS at 3811 Mt Vernon Avenue and Eagle Financial at 3500 Mt Vernon Avenue.

    The Anderson Bikeway

    "I even saw a sign the other day that said 'Anderson Bikeway' along 4-Mile Run, whatever that is. " says Steve Offutt of Greater, Greater Washington (Trail signs should work like street signs).

    I agree it's pretty confusing and our area trails are mostly a patchwork of short run some of which may not even connect. But I know the Anderson Trail pretty well.

    Above is a map...a pretty old map...that I found on the website of the Friends of the WO&D Trail. The map is pretty out of date (doesn't seem to show the Four Mile Run trail that runs along South Glebe Road, north of the stream). And it suggests that there might be a trail south of the Run in Alexandria between Mt Vernon Avenue and West Glebe Road (one day maybe says the Four Mile Run Restoration project). But it does get something right.

    The Anderson Trail...or perhaps, Anderson Bikeway....is the proper name of the trail in Four Mile Run park between Route 1 and the Avenue.

    Here's a view of the trail at an entry point at the end of Commonwealth Avenue (where someday there might be a bridge to Eads Street in Arlington). Note the monument to the Army Corps of Engineer flood control projects.

    View Larger Map

    The Alexandria Times Misplaces Its Map

    This morning the Alexandria Times makes a farce of what should be a very serious, important issue by misplacing a story about a devastating fire in the Lynhaven neighborhood and placing it across town on Alexandria's West End.
    Alexandria Times | Alexandria, Arlington Firefighters Contain Blaze on West End
    THURSDAY, JUNE 18 2009
    By Times Staff

    Units from the Alexandria and Arlington Fire Departments responded to reports of a fire on Wesmond Drive on Sunday, June 14 around 7 p.m. The first units to arrive reported a heavy fire from the basement of 151 Wesmond Drive."
    There really should not be any making light of this. Serious questions have already been raised about delays that may have been caused by illegally parked cars that blocked emergency response equipment from getting to the incident as quickly as they should have. But the Times neglected to get that part of the story much as the local press has neglected all of North End neighborhoods. Apparently the neglect is deep routed. They don't even know where we are.

    UPDATE: The Times apparently "corrected" the mistake in their print edition. The headline now reads "East End".

    Friday, June 12, 2009

    A Public Space, Elevated

    The first time that I heard about the High Line in New York City it was still merely a concept that existed only in pictures, much like the conceptualization at right from the Four Mile Run restoration master plan.

    The Four Mile Run plan envisions restoration of the stream for a variety of active and passive use from Shirlington and Nauck down to the Potomac River. While much of the plan focuses on naturalizing a flood control project (also known as a 'drainage ditch'), other parts of the plan envision reusing unused, former industrial structures for recreation. The old railroad bridge in Potomac Yard pictured above is one such example.

    The transformation of the High Line in NYC from a rusting relic to a vibrant urban park is in many ways similar to the vision of the Four Mile Run restoration project. The planning for the High Line began just about 10 years ago, much about the same time as talk about Four Mile Run restoration began. So it was welcome news this week that the High Line is now open:
    After Years of Advocacy, Newly Renovated High Line Opens - NYTimes.com

    For now the Four Mile Run restoration exists mostly in concept, but elements are coming closer to fruition. Funding is becoming available for a demonstration project between Mt Vernon Avenue and Route 1 and planning on the Four Mile Run Park expansion is due to begin soon. But the news about the High Line is a reminder of what a group of people can accomplish and that hard work can bring concepts into reality.

    For a slide show presentation of the High Line, see:
    A Public Space, Elevated - The New York Times

    Wednesday, June 10, 2009

    Video of the Four Mile Run Extension

    From the current edition of The Arlington Insider:


    image A new trail connector links the W&OD and Four Mile Run trails, making a safer, more convenient route for pedestrians and cyclists alike. >> View

    Tuesday, June 09, 2009

    The Case for Year-Round School (from Experiences in Arlandria)

    In Sunday's Washington Post, reporter Brigin Schulte wrote about The Case for Year-Round School as she's seen it develop at one of our neighborhood schools, Mt Vernon Elementary:

    "At their Alexandria public school, my kids have learned how to sail, designed entire cities in cardboard, built skyscrapers with toothpicks and marshmallows, performed in a musical and built and set off rockets on the front lawn. They've created passports and had them stamped after 'visiting' countries around the world. They've learned CPR, calligraphy, Japanese, rollerblading and how to make art like Andy Warhol and Jackson Pollock. My daughter was in kindergarten when she came home bubbling about Picasso's Rose period. In Spanish."

    "My children attend a year-round school. And these are the kinds of hands-on, big-project classes that are taught during 'intersessions,' or short breaks throughout the year that take the place of the long, lazy, Huck Finn summers that most Americans have come to think of as an inalienable right of childhood."

    Arlington moves ahead with Columbia Pike streetcar project

    The Washington Examiner reported today that Arlington moves ahead with Columbia Pike streetcar project. What does that have to do with Arlandria? The Examiner explains:

    "Arlington, like communities around the country, once had a network of streetcars. Today such transit lines are making a comeback in many jurisdictions. Locally, similar projects are also being planned, including a streetcar line in Anacostia and a possible line between Crystal City and Potomac Yard" (emphasis added).

    Further says the report:
    "(Arlington County and Metro board member Chris) Zimmerman hopes the (Columbia Pike) line can be the first piece of a network of surface rail that would include a link to Potomac Yard and Crystal City."
    See the Pike Transit Initiative for more.

    Friday, June 05, 2009

    Find a Deal at Arlandria and Del Ray Restaurants

    We don't advertise on this site, but we do cover anything we can involving area businesses. One Arlandria restaurant and numerous Del Ray restaurants are offering deals through the next 2 weekends as part of the Discover Del Ray Dining event. The promotion lasts from June 5 - 14.

    In Arlandria, My Bakery and Cafe is offering a free slice of their famous Tres Leches cake with the purchase of any entree. It is quite tasty, I must say. A number of restaurants in the ground-floor retail at the Calvert (located between Del Ray and Arlandria) are offering promotions as well. Cafe Pizzaiolo has some great offerings, as do Del Merei Grille and Bombay Curry Company.

    Tuesday, June 02, 2009

    Expanding Surroundings

    With Shirlington becoming a new transit hub with the recent opening of the new, state-of-the-art station, it's welcome news that a couple of new routes have begun operating from there to other 'urban villages' throughout Arlington.

    From the CommuterPageBlog:
    New Bus Service Between Shirlington, Clarendon and Court House Begins June 8

    The Shirlington transit hub is within walking distance of much of Arlandria. Alternatively, locals can transfer to these new routes via the 10B and 23A Metrobuses....and maybe, oneday, DASH?