Lake Anne's Washington Plaza in Summer

Lake Anne's Washington Plaza in Summer

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

NOVUS comments on changes at Lake Anne Fellowship House--and we respond.

UPDATE, 8/20/2014:  We have updated these excerpts with Mr. Seldin's response to Mr. Maynard and his reply at the bottom of this post.  

Yesterday RestonNow posted an article on the upcoming hearings for redevelopment of Crescent Apartments and Lake Anne Fellowship House (LAFH).   We responded, in part, with our continuing concern over the fate of the residents of more than 100 apartment units who will be evicted to make way for the building of 285 luxury apartments at LAFH.  Robert Seldin, the head of NOVUS LLC, the company redeveloping LAFH castigated us for errors and said we should apologize to LAFH's volunteers and residents.  We responded in turn.  Below are those comments for your information.

Terry Maynard
The two Lake Anne applications are the first re-zoning applications to implement the re-development of Lake Anne Village Center. The plan for re-developing the Crescent Apts. has been widely endorsed, especially for its effort to assure at least the same number of affordable units as the existing facility. The re-development of Lake Anne Fellowship House at last count included plans to evict more than 100 poor, largely foreign language speaking residents in favor of high-end apartments. We need to watch to ensure that the latest revision to this re-zoning plan includes a reasonable apartment for ALL the current LAFH residents.

Terry Maynard, you are completely misinformed about the Fellowship proposal and by further spreading disinformation may cause irreparable harm to the Fellowship Square residents. Please allow me the opportunity to state the facts. At present only 114 out if the total 240 potential residents at LAFH receive direct Federal housing subsidy. This subsidy is set to expire for most residents (86 of the 114) in 24 months leaving them with no means of housing support. Further this subsidy is tied directly to the Fellowship Square building so those residents who need subsidy are forced to stay at the property. The proposed redevelopment will instead provide "Permanent, Portable Direct Housing Subsidies To All 240 Residents For The Rest of Their Lives" provided they earn less than 80% of AMI. This is a degree of housing security that none of the residents currently enjoys and I dare say very few people anywhere receive. The subsidy will pay the difference between 30% of a residents income and their actual housing cost, meaning that if a resident has no income, their housing is free. By being portable all residents will now have the freedom to choose housing that best suits their needs rather than being tied to a decaying structure. In addition to this permanent security for all, the proposed redevelopment will also add 140 new permanent affordable units to replace the 26 temporary affordable units that will be on site in 2016. All residents will be given access to a housing relocation counselors and will receive up to $3,500 apiece to cover moving expenses either into the new building or into other housing of their choosing.
I think that in light of the facts, you owe all of the fine Fellowship volunteers and their residents a sincere apology.

Thank you for your feedback, Mr. Seldin. For those of RestonNow’s readers who don’t know who Mr. Seldin is, he is the head of NOVUS Residences LLC, the residential division of Cafritz Interests. They have proposed the redevelopment of Lake Anne Fellowship House (LAFH) into more than 285 luxury apartments and only 140 affordable units, leaving the residents of 114 units without a home next year.
Now to your comment: It corroborates explicitly the point I made.  It is NOVUS’ intention to force (i.e.—evict) residents of more than 100 low-income units in LAFH to find housing elsewhere. It is well within NOVUS’ ability to provide that housing at the current LAFH area location in the new over-sized luxury apartment complex NOVUS plans to build, but you have chosen to build a very limited number of low-income housing units in your redevelopment of LAFH.  At the same time, NOVUS is buying residents off with a miniscule rent subsidy because, under Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, IT IS REQUIRED BY LAW. This is not because of NOVUS’ overwhelming corporate generosity as Mr. Seldin infers. Here is a simple statement covering this situation from a Nevada publication on affordable housing support: “In the new Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher project-based rental assistance program, a tenant in good standing moving out of a project-based unit (such as LAFH) must be offered a tenant-based subsidy, provided the tenant has lived in the project-based unit for at least a year.” Do you see that word “must”? So thank you for obeying federal law. And if you need more documentation, I can provide it.
Right now In Fairfax County, the 2014 maximum allowable rent in affordable dwelling units (excluding utilities) ranges from $780 to $1,115 per month, depending on the number of bedrooms (0-3). It is unclear to me how many, if any, LAFH residents could afford those rents, even with your small subsidy.
But there are NO available rental units in Fairfax County under its Housing Choice Voucher program. In fact, even THE WAITING LIST IS CLOSED according to the County website. (See So your plan will not only throw them out of LAFH and Reston, YOUR PLAN WILL THROW THEM OUT OF FAIRFAX COUNTY. Great work there, Mr. Seldin!  That so defies Reston’s Vision calling for diversity—including income diversity--as stated both in Bob Simon’s original vision and the recently approved Reston Master Plan that it is sickening. It is also morally reprehensible. We clearly understand where NOVUS’ priority lies: Maximizing profits at the expense of tenants.
As for the volunteers at LAFH, I have nothing but immense gratitude for their tremendous efforts in assisting the hundreds of LAFH residents in difficult circumstances, and nothing I said in my comment suggested otherwise. In fact, your statement was gratuitous.
Moreover, I hope that—and I will work for—an accommodation that allows ALL the existing LAFH residents can remain at Lake Anne in the new NOVUS development—even if it cuts into NOVUS’ bottom line. And we at Reston 2020 will work with other community advocates to press the County to help assure that happens. Throwing more than 100 poor people out of LAFH and Reston would violate all that Reston stands for.
In the meantime, I believe the only person who owes LAFH residents an apology is you for what you are about to do to them.
Thank you Terry. We appreciate your desire to see the best outcome for the Lake Anne residents. This is a desire that we likewise share and that has been the animating principle behind our efforts on behalf of Fellowship Square for the better part of the past 2 years. If recognition of your desire to help arrive at the best possible outcome, we are happy to meet with you and any members of your orgainization to discuss the challenges and opportunities available for the property and the solutions that we have been able to thus far arrange. If you are aware of any potential methodologies by which we can arrive at a better outcome for the residents we are certainly glad to incorporate them into the plan if we can. If you would like to discuss this further, please feel free to reach me in the office at 202-446-0670. In the interim, please allow me the courtesy of rectifying certain aspects of our proposal that may still be misunderstood.
At present only 114 "units" of the 240 total units at Lake Anne Fellowship House carry "temporary" project based subsidy. This subsidy enables the residents in these units to afford to live.
Residents in the other 126 units do not receive any housing support despite financial circumstances that see many of the "unsubsidized" residents paying upwards of 65% of their limited income on housing.
The temporary project based subsidy is set to expire for 86 of the 114 units in September, 2016.
The temporoary project based subsidy for the remaining 28 units expires in 2023.
Once the subsidy expires, it cannot be reinstated since the existing subsidy programs are no longer in existence.
Once the subsides expire, the newly unsubsidized residents will lose their ability to pay rent and therefore have an increasingly uncertain future.
The existing Lake Anne Fellowship Houses 1 and 2 are both in need of signficant repairs. The property's meager income stream (the product of the property's extremely low rents) is insufficient to enable even routine maintenance. This creates an ongoing cycle of decline that hastens the property's functional and physical obsolescence. This cycle of decline is not in anyone's best interests to continue.
Fellowship Square has been investigating potential solutions to these challenges for the past 4 years in hopes of arriving at a solution that would provide lasting financial benefits to all residents (not just those in jepoardy of losing current subsidy) while generating a new 40 year life in permanently affordable senior housing.
The existing buildings are completely unregulated in terms of rent and age by the County and therefore once the mortgages expire (2016 and 2023 respectfully) they could be leased at 100% market rates and to residents of all ages. While this would create the best financial outcome for the Foundation, as stated previously the primary motivating factor beind this exercise is to provide maximum benefit to the existing residents while enabling the maximum amount of long lasting senior affordable housing.
We have been working with the Foundation for over 2 years and have been funding 100% of the cost of their exploration into potential solutions during this period. At no point during this process has our involvement been predicated upon requiring a solution that would enable us to develop new apartments but rather has been done, in large part, as a component of our owner's ongoing history of charitable works thoughout the DC region.
After hearing the Foundations list of desires, we set about working with the relevant Federal and State agencies who play ongoing roles in this property to see how to craft the best potential solution. After one year of ongoing discussions and explorations, the best direction was as follows:
1) HUD would provide PERMANENT, GUARANTEED, and PORTABLE section 8 housing vouchers to all 240 residents living in either Lake Anne 1 and Lake Anne 2 regardless of whether they were in a currently subsidized unit. Rather than being forced to live in properties that carried current subsidy that could expire, all residents could now choose properties and bring the subsidy with them and that subsidy could not expire.
2) These vouchers WOULD NOT come from the County's existing allocation but would instead be accretive to the County total. Therefore no Fellowship Square residents would need to wait in any lines and no Fellowship Square residents would see any gaps in their coverage. As you are correct that the County's existing wait list for normal vouchers is currently 3 years long, it was important to get this assurance as the primary animating principal behind this initiative was to provide benefit to the existing residents.
3) The vouchers would provide PERMANENT HOUSING SECURITY FOR ALL RESIDENTS FOR THE REMAINDER OF THEIR LIVES. This is a condition that not one resident currently enjoys and that frankly most people in the US don't ever achieve.
4) To secure these Vouchers, Novus would fund and construct for Fellowship Square a new 140 unit permanently affordable senior building on the east (vacant) portion of the existing FSF site. It was expected that this building would be complete with construction by year end, 2017.
5) The 140 new units were required by HUD as 140 is the number of units currently covered by the existing mortgage on Lake Anne 1. Even though the existing Lake Anne 1 only has 28 subsidized units and is ultimately unregulated by the County once the existing mortgage expires, the new property would carry permanent affordability and be permanently for seniors.
6) From the time that we are able to finalize a deal with HUD (which ultimately requires having an approved site plan from Fairfax County) all Fellowship Square residents would be granted vouchers and given access to a housing counselor who would help each resident identify the potential housing that best suited their individual needs. As the new Fellowship building would not be complete until the end of 2017, this would give all residents upwards of 3 years to identify the best option for them.
7) Once the new Fellowship Square was complete and all of the residents had been successfully accommodated in the new housing of their choosing, Novus would remove the existing buildings and commence construction on the new market rate housing.
8) Through the "creation" of 240 "Permanent, New, Transportable Vouchers" for all existing residents plus the construction of 140 new permanent affordable senior units, the proposed redevelopment would create the opportunity for up to 380 deserving seniors to have dramatically improved housing prospects as compared to 114 existing residents who are currently facing subsidy expirations and the prospect of life in a decaying structure that does not best meet their needs. By most objective standards this appeared to be a worthwhile set of achievements.
A few other points that may also be worth understanding include:
1) Current HUD Fair Market Rent for a 1 Bedroom unit in the DC MSA is $1,239 per month, as compared with the $780 per month that you may have been lead to believe.
2) The Section 8 voucher pays the difference between the Fair Market Rent and whatever amount is 30% of a resident's income. If the resident earns $0 the voucher pays the full $1,239 per month (or up to $14,868 per resident per year).
3) Over a 30 year period, assuming a resident has no income, this would equate to a benefit of nearly $450,000 per resident in todays dollars; an amount I would respectfully suggest is somewhat more than "miniscule".
4) Absent this proposal, none of these benefits can accrue to any of the existing residents. The residents who lose their subsidies will lose their subsidies. The residents with no money to afford better accommodations will be forced to remain in the existing cycle of decline.
While there are countless other legal nuances that underscore the set of facts outlined above, they are indeed the facts as we best understand them. As stated in many prior instances, we are certainly sensitive to people's concerns about the property, the proposed redevelopment, and the issues facing the existing residents. As it remains primarily the resident's interests that we are working to advance we are grateful for the community's interest and their willingness to help advance solutions that guarantee the best possible outcomes. While there are plenty of items worth discussing, we believe that a solution that guarantees housing security for life for all existing residents remains a priority and worthwhile goal. We likewise believe that any solution that adds 140 new permanent affordable senior housing units to a site that has no permanent affordability today advances those goal even further. And lastly we believe that any solution that requires that all existing residents must be provided for, and all affordable units be constructed before any new market rate apartments can even commence furthers that goal yet again. We proudly stand by the work that we and the Foundation have done and continue to do on behalf of the residents and we invite you to share in the success that we hope to bring them. Thank you again for your time and thought. We look forward to speaking with you soon.
With Best Regards,
Robert M. Seldin
Novus Residences
Mr. Seldin: Thank you for your more considerate and illuminating response. Still, it appears that they reinforce the two key points I made earlier and leads to a shared conclusion: ·
--NOVUS is planning to evict poor, largely non-English speaking residents of 100 LAFH apartments.
--NOVUS is doing little to nothing more than is required by federal, state, Virginia, and County law, including building 140
affordable dwelling units, to meet the housing needs our Reston’s less fortunate.
--Although we have not mentioned it before, I agree with you that LAFH has become a barely livable place in recent years and needs to be replaced.
In replacing LAFH, you are pursuing a course that sees the construction of 140 permanent affordable dwelling units (because you must) and 285 “market rate” apartments under the “full consolidation” option of the new Lake Anne Comprehensive Plan allowing 425 units.   First, it is not clear to me how your proposed plan meets the requirements of the “full consolidation” option, i.e.—that your effort is combined with the efforts of others Lake Anne redevelopment efforts. A paragraph in the same section of that Plan also states: “Any redevelopment of this (LAFH) property should replace the loss of any of the existing affordable rental units among all the Land Units (at Lake Anne).” It would seem logical, then, that guarantees of the concurrent availability of the other 100 needed affordable residences in the Lake Anne area should be included. Is Republic onboard with the notion to build affordable units at Crescent Apartments to make up for at least some of your shortfall at LAFH? I am not aware that this is the case. What arrangements do you have in place (or expect to have in place before you seek County approval)
to assure that all LAFH residents can be re-situated in their current neighborhood when they are forced to leave LAFH with their vouchers in hand?
Another approach you might consider is pursuing “bonus” density for providing 100 “extra” affordable units at LAFH for all those people you now plan to displace. As you are aware, the County is woefully short of affordable housing and, to the extent legally permissible, would probably look favorably on such an offer. Heaven knows, the county has been “flexible” elsewhere in Reston for much less humanitarian reasons.
And you have a basis for doing so: “Housing will be provided for all ages and incomes” is one of Reston’s core Planning Principles under the new Reston Master Plan. Twenty percent might be an appropriate bonus number of units, so you might be able to add as many as 85 units to your 425 currently allowable total units if you added 100 affordable units, thus creating 240 affordable units and 270 “market rate” units. My guess is that the added rents from the 85 extra units (even if there are 15 fewer “market rate” units) would substantially exceed the revenues under the current proposal. (100 ADUs at $1,289/month is $128,900. Would you expect to receive $8,600/month in rent from each of the 15 “market rate” units you’d lose to make up the difference?) Admittedly there would be added costs, but the affordable units would also offer NOVUS tax incentives. You’d have to do the math to see if it’s workable.
Finally, I will take a critical shot at your remarks. You make it sound as if NOVUS is making a sacrifice or doing something extraordinary for LAFH’s residents when you are not, in fact. You are doing what is legally necessary to create the opportunity for a vastly more profitable market-oriented apartment complex. You even made it sound as if the housing subsidy LAFH evictees would receive would come from NOVUS, and apparently that’s not true.
You also note that the new “permanent, guaranteed, and portable” Section 8 vouchers are accretive and would not mean that displaced LAFH residents would not have to go to the back of line that is closed to wait for affordable housing. That is a good thing, but it still doesn’t address the issue of affordable housing availability in Lake Anne as called for by the Comprehensive Plan, or more broadly available in Reston or Fairfax County. You can’t live in a voucher. Are you aware of any such current housing opportunities or opportunities by the time you evict LAFH’s residents? I’m not. You see because most developers like NOVUS don’t want to build more affordable housing than the law requires, rarely is any new housing available.
Most importantly, the idea of large scale eviction and gentrification of Reston’s low-income housing is anathema to Reston’s vision. As a new developer in Reston, you will do much better if you try to become part of our community and not fight it on one of its most important foundations. I think you will find Restonians and others interested in housing affordability much more receptive to your plan if NOVUS shows its commitment to that core value by accommodating all of LAFH’s current residents in its new development. You simply have to find a way to keep all LAFH's residents in the Lake Anne area, and preferably in the new LAFH.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Here's What It's Like To Work In An Office Where Nobody Has An Assigned Seat, Business Insider, August 15, 2014

For more than a year, we have highlighted the ongoing reduction in office space per person (see our entries under "Office Space" in the index or search this blog on "office space per worker") as a key strategic driving force in the commercial real estate industry.   In particular, space per worker has shrunk from more than 300 gross square feet (GSF) to less than 200 GSF per person and is headed toward 150 GSF per person or less by the end of the decade.  The impact of these reductions has been felt in the Washington Metro office market where office vacancies continue to hover around 15%-17% four years after the end of the Great Recession. 

This article by Aaron Taube, Business Insider, highlights what may be the ultimate form of space reduction:  No assigned seat.  Here are some excerpts from the article:
Imagine coming to the office every day and not having your own desk. There's no place to call your own, no pictures of your family lining your cubicle, and none of the status that comes with a plush corner office.

That's what the 250 employees at the New York office of the Gerson Lehrman Group, a consulting firm that connects business executives with relevant experts, experienced in late June when the company moved into its new space at 60 East 42nd Street.

Instead of a desk, workers were given a locker, a laptop, and a license to roam across a variety of office landscapes ranging from conference rooms, to couches, to the company's own in-house coffee bar.
The two-floor, 64,000-square foot office is the largest U.S. implementation of activity-based working, a Dutch-born theory that posits office workers are happiest and most productive in an environment that allows them to utilize a variety of different spaces based on the task they are performing. . .
The goal, said GLG head of public affairs Richard Socarides, is to increase collaboration among employees and to have a space better suited for hosting clients.
Since one of the things the company is most proud of is bringing together its clients to share knowledge with one another, Socarides said it didn't make sense that these meetings were being held at restaurants instead of GLG's offices.
So far, it seems employees are mostly happy about the shift. . . .
Click here to the read the rest of this major article, which also includes a number of photographs that show how the work environment has been made appealing.

From a community planning perspective, as we have pointed out repeatedly to the County, the reduction by half of the amount of space each worker occupies mean that twice as many workers can occupy the office space that is being planned by the County.  Such an increase will swamp the County's ability to provide the needed transportation (& other) infrastructure whose calculations were based on historic averages, not the future we are supposed to be planning for. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014

WMATA notes the importance of residential density near Metro stations to increase ridership.

In a post on its official blog, PlanItMetro,  WMATA makes a point that we made three years ago to the Reston Task Force:  The more residents living near a Metro station, the greater will be Metro ridership.  Here's what WMATA has to say:
Metro cares about transit walk sheds because more households accessible to transit by walking translates directly into more ridership.
We’ve been focusing a lot on transit walk sheds lately. We’ve shown that the size of a transit walk shed depends heavily on the roadway network and pedestrian infrastructure, and that these sizes vary dramatically by Metrorail station. We’ve also demonstrated that expanding the walkable area can make hundreds of households walkable to transit.
But why do we care so much about walk sheds? Because larger walk sheds mean more households in the walk shed, and that means ridership. For example, we’d be hard pressed to find many households in Landover’s small walk shed, so it’s no surprise that walk ridership at that station is low. On the other hand, thousands of households are within a reasonable walk to Takoma’s larger walk shed, and walk ridership there is much higher.
In other words, the more people can walk to transit, the more people do walk to transit – and data across Metrorail stations prove it:
Correlation between Households in the half-mile walk shed, and AM Peak ridership, by WMATA Metrorail station entrance
More households in the walkable area around a Metrorail station means higher ridership.
The chart above shows that the number of households in a Metrorail station entrance’s walk shed is highly correlated with AM Peak walk ridership at that station.  In fact, the number of households walkable to a Metrorail station alone explains nearly 70% of the variation in walk ridership across Metrorail stations.
Click here to read the rest of this post.

The results and certainly the conclusions are similar to a short, more technical paper we wrote for the Reston Task Force and posted on this blog in 2011 entitled, "The Residential vs. Employment Balance in TOD Areas: Optimizing for Reduced Congestion and Environmental Damage."  The two key graphics in that report show that residents of a Metro station area "walk shed" ("the half-mile circle") are much more likely to use Metro than people who work in that station area.  They also show the converse:  That people who work in a station area are much more prone to drive to that station area at any given distance from the station than are the people who live there.


Our report was based on a 2005 WMATA survey of Metrorail ridership.  Since we are unaware of any more recent such surveys, we suspect the PlanItMetro article is a more fine-grained analysis of the same report.  The results in both these reports is consistent with a significant body of research on the topic:  Residents of a transit station area are much more likely to use transit than workers in the station area. 

Nonetheless, the point received absolutely not attention by the developer-driven task force, which was intent on allowing massive office space development and little residential development, especially within the critical first 1/4 mile of the Metro station.  This was especially true in the Town Center area.  Even advocates for Metrorail on the task force, including its DCRA President chairman, did not grasp--or chose to ignore--the importance of nearby residential development to Metrorail ridership.  The same was true to an even much greater extent in the Tysons Task Force. 

In the end, the County planning staff modestly muted the jobs-to-residential ratio and density (total square footage of allowable developed space) in the final plan subsequently approved by the County Board in the face of traffic analyses that showed even more massive gridlock than we can expect under the approved plan.  The final density, most notably in Reston Town Center, is less than proposed by the task force's Town Center Sub-committee, dominated by Boston Properties and its allies, and a better balance, that is, more residential, than the sub-committee proposed.  Still, the County's analysis of the approved development plan shows that, when the planned development is completed, Restonians can expect five-minute or more traffic delays at each intersection along the key through streets (Reston Parkway, Wiehle) in the station area during peak traffic periods--even if all the planned street infrastructure is in place!

And none of this considers the much reduced--and declining--office space per worker now seen in office property leasing.  Recent trends reported here several times in letters to Board Chairman Sharon Bulova (see here, here, here, and here) show that the office space per worker is being cut by half at least for a variety of reasons, meaning we can anticipate at least twice as many workers in the allowed plan office space than the plan envisions--and about twice as much traffic as has been assessed.

All of this belies the stated goal of Reston Master Plan re-make to take advantage of the arrival of Metrorail since little the task force did actually took advantage of the transit opportunities the arrival of Metrorail presents.  Rather it was about increasing developer and landowner profit opportunities and especially the County's real estate property tax base.  Unfortunately, the turn in the economy and the reduction of federal spending has shown all the growth assumptions prepared by developer-funded GMU's Center for Regional Analysis, including the developer controlled "2030 Group" lobbying entity,  to be grotesquely optimistic.  With little prospect that government spending will suddenly return to pre-recession levels over the next decade or so, the ill-considered tax revenue goals of the County and the grand lease increases envisioned by the developer community appear unlikely to unfold. 

Nonetheless, the now irrevocable legal commitment to office-focused development in the station area means that, whatever happens, there will be fewer riders taking Metrorail than could have been under a more balanced plan focusing on greater residential development in Reston and Tysons station areas.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Tysons Corner Pedestrian Safety Concerns, WUSA9--Also true at Wiehle Station

Tysons is facing the same shortfall in pedestrian and bicycle access to the Silver Line stations that we face at Wiehle station, a situation we have documented here most recently.  Here is Martin Di Caro's report:
crosswalk2TYSONS CORNER, Virginia (WUSA9)--It took just days after the opening of the $3 billion Silver Line Metrorail for the pedestrian infrastructure in Tysons Corner to be exposed as inadequate and potentially dangerous.
While Fairfax County planners say more than three dozen improvements are in the pipeline, the completion of crosswalks, sidewalks, and traffic signals near the four new Metro stations is years away. Meantime, people are taking chances crossing busy intersections to get to the rail and bus stops.
"We were watching people cross here and you are like a sitting duck. I mean, it is really dangerous," said Marc Cannon who paused his jog to talk at the intersection of Tysons Boulevard and Galleria Drive. "There was one woman who was crossing when we were running by and we happened to notice she could have been picked off easily."
"It surprises me that there is not the money to do the infrastructure that you need to keep it safe for pedestrians," said Cannon's jogging partner Cheryl Scully. . . .
Click here for the rest of this televised report.  

Thursday, July 31, 2014

Why hasn't Fairfax County provided the access infrastructure needed to take advantage of the Silver Line?

Last week, we documented in a post that Fairfax County has completed few of the the projects on its own checklist for creating the transportation infrastructure needed to make access to Reston's Wiehle Silver Line station reasonable.  This week, Tysons' leading commentator, Navid Roshan-Afshar, AKA "The Tysons Corner," makes the same point about Tysons.

Here is some of what he has to say:
For several years transportation officials, planners, and Fairfax County leaders have known that the Silver Line would be a reality, and that pedestrian improvements would be necessary to make sure people could safely use the transit line. After a nearly 9 month delay, County officials are now telling us there wasn’t enough time?
Residents and commuters aren’t asking for Tysons to magically be transformed into a walkable paradise, but to receive responses like this, when we get any at all, is a slap in our faces. Providing a crosswalk should not be a year long chore when people’s lives are risk. How many must run across 9 lanes of traffic without any signage, striping, or protection before Fairfax County will stop the status quo kowtowing to VDOT? Must someone die at the intersections in question, opening the county to millions in liability, before they will admit that what the state has been feeding them is worthless in terms of urban design?
. . . and so his post goes here. 

Everything he says about Tysons is also true in Reston--and there is absolutely NO EXCUSE for this pathetic County performance.  In Reston, the RMAG gave a large number of sound recommendations for improving access infrastructure in Spring 2008--six years ago.  The Silver Line has been under construction since Spring 2009--and its design absolutely locked down so the County knew what specifically to expect. 

Yet, here we are, with the Silver Line launched 9 months late and work on improving access to the station not even half done--certainly not the more challenging half, including the Soapstone extension.  This is a pathetic and unconscionable performance by our Board of Supervisors in transportation planning and implementation, especially by Supervisor Hudgins--a self-proclaimed public transit advocate--who represents residents and businesses of both Reston and parts of Tysons.  And it is forcing the County Transportation staff to make up stupid--and untrue--excuses for the delays to cover the gross incompetence of the Board of Supervisors.

In all likelihood, the urban development the County so desperately needs to salvage its financial situation will not occur unless the County makes the Silver Line easily and safely accessible to station area residents and businesses.  In the meantime, it is slowly, painfully shooting itself in the fiscal foot.  It is well past time for the Board to put our tax money where its mouth is on the wonders of rail in both Reston and Tysons.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Reston leads the Silver Line way on the first commute.

UPDATE:  A separate Washington Post report indicates that ridership on the western end of the Orange Line--Vienna to West Falls Church stations--was down about 7,000 people in this morning's rush period reflecting a shift of Orange Line users to the Silver Line.  That means the $3 billion investment in Phase 1 of the Silver Line yielded fewer than 3,000 (32%) new passengers to Metrorail.  That does not seem to be a good start. 

As Martin Di Caro explains, Reston's Wiehle Station accounted for more than half of all the morning rush period boardings and alightings at the new Silver Line stations with over 5,700 commuters.

Silver Line Ridership Off To A Strong Start, Especially In Reston

By: Martin Di Caro

The Silver Line saw impressive ridership during its first morning rush hour as thousands of commuters arrived at the Wiehle-Reston East station in Virginia via car, bus and bicycle.
The new station in Reston, with its 2,300-space underground park-and-ride and dozens of bus bays, saw the most riders by far of the five new Silver Line stops in Northern Virginia. The other four are in Tysons Corner—and only one of those has parking. The temporary lot at the McLean station was mostly empty deep into the morning commute.
From 5 to 10 a.m., more than 9,700 commuters either boarded or exited a train at the five Silver Line stations. The most boardings were at Wiehle-Reston East, where 4,727 commuters took trains east during morning rush hour. More than 1,000 commuters exited there.
Here is the ridership for the four Tysons stations with station name followed by the number of boardings/exits as of 10 a.m:
  • McLean (568/442)
  • Tysons Corner (507/900)
  • Spring Hill (559/432)
  • Greensboro (185/332) . . . .
Click here for the rest of Di Caro's report. 

We don't know how many of the riders were actually Restonians, how many are new Metro riders (vice Orange Line converts or formerly bussed to West Falls Church/Orange Line), etc.  We hope that WMATA will soon systematically collect this data and make it available so Reston and County officials can make appropriate adjustments to bus transit and other supporting infrastructure needs.