The Inner Scoop

Survey: Mass transit more popular, but most still drive by themselves

Posted on: Thursday 9/19/2013 5:04am


WASHINGTON - Most people continue driving to work, but more and more are looking to telework and mass transit options, a new survey finds.

From the Transportation Planning Board's Commuter Connections program, the new survey finds mass transit and teleworking are becoming more popular, but most still drive a car into work and are the only occupant in that car.

However, the survey finds that the numbers vary greatly depending on where you live.

In D.C., Arlington and Alexandria, 45 percent commute alone in a car, with 34 percent using mass transit options and 8 percent biking or walking to work.

"It makes sense to see these numbers because there are so many options in the inner core to get around," says Nicholas Ramfos, director of commuter connections.

All three jurisdictions have Metro, VRE and Capital Bikeshare. With rail, bus and bicycle options, commuters have several options at their disposal that are close to their homes and convenient to use to get to their office.

But in Montgomery, Prince George's and Fairfax counties, the numbers drastically change. According to the survey, 70 percent drive alone into work, whereas only 15 percent take mass transit. The numbers could be considered a little surprising only because there are mass transit options in the three suburbs from Metro, MARC and VRE, as well as local commuter bus systems like Montgomery County Ride-On and the Fairfax Connector.

"There are a lot of Metro stations, but you also have to look at the population base, too. The population base is much larger than you would maybe see in some of the inner core," says Ramfos.

Three counties have about three million residents combined, compared to about one million in Arlington, Alexandria and D.C. Also, while several parts of Montgomery, Prince George's and Fairfax counties do have easy access to Metro, MARC or VRE, there are other locations where that's not the case.

"There a lot of factors that go into what mode of transportation you use to commute into work. It depends on where you live, where you work, what your work hours are, and the availability and convenience of different travel modes near you," says Ramfos.

For example, the survey finds that in the inner core (Arlington, Alexandria, D.C.) 84 percent of people live less than a half-mile from a bus stop, whereas the number in the inner suburbs is 53 percent. When you expand it to the outer suburbs like Loudoun and Prince William counties and Viriginia and Charles, Calvert and Frederick counties in Maryland, the number is 15 percent.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the survey finds a vast majority of commuters from those outer suburbs drive into their office. The survey finds 75 percent drive, whereas only 8 percent use mass transit. While there are commuter bus options in these counties, along with VRE in Prince William County and MARC in Frederick County, these options are not nearly as popular as taking the car.

"The bigger message here is giving people options, so that you're really not just boxed into just getting into my car and being stuck in traffic for an hour-and-a-half each way," says Ramfos.

It's a popular idea in the transportation community to fund projects to make mass transit options more attractive, hoping it'll convince drivers to shed the car for a bus or train. For Loudoun and Prince William counties, such an achievement could make a big difference on the congestion problem along Interstate 66, Virginia Route 7 and U.S. Route 1. In Frederick County, it could result in drastic improvements in the congestion problem along Interstate 270 each day.

"While there has been a lot of work on offering better options for commuters from these outer suburbs, the trend that more people will drive the farther out you go will likely continue in the future," says Ramfos.

The "State of the Commute" survey is done every three years and helps the Transportation Planning Board and the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments predict future travel patterns and suggest ways to better tailor transportation to the growing population.

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Overturned vehicle causes delays on I-495

Posted on: Tuesday 9/17/2013 10:29am

Inner Loop crash (TrafficLand)
A look at the delay and lane getting by after the overturned vehicle. (Courtesy of TrafficLand)

WASHINGTON - In Maryland, an accident involving an overturned vehicle caused major delays for commuters on Interstate 495/Beltway Inner Loop.

The accident caused back ups on I-495/ Beltway Inner Loop between Rt. 650 New Hampshire Avenue and Interstate 95. For some time, only a single right lane got getting by the large emergency response.

By 10:50 a.m., all lanes had been cleared.

Officials have not yet said if anyone was injured in the crash.

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DDOT: Streets near Navy Yard reopen after shooting

Posted on: Tuesday 9/17/2013 9:00am

WASHINGTON (AP) -- Transportation officials say streets and bridges around the Washington Navy Yard have reopened after a deadly shooting rampage there.

Authorities closed roads and bridges in the Navy Yard area on Monday after a gunman opened fire, killing 12 people and wounding several more before being killed in a shootout with police.

The District Department of Transportation announced Tuesday morning that all streets and bridges near the Navy Yard have reopened for the morning commute.

The Navy announced that access to the Navy Yard would be restricted to mission essential personnel on Tuesday.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Weekend Wakeup: Express Lane closures and downtown D.C. events might cause congestion

Posted on: Friday 9/13/2013 3:08pm

WASHINGTON -- As the summer travel season begins to wind down, construction of the new I-95/395 Express Lanes is heating up. Full closures of the Express Lanes are set to begin this weekend. But unlike in weekends past, the lanes will remain closed all day Saturday and through most of Sunday.

Weekend drivers on I-95 should brace for delays during the daytime hours.

On Friday night, the Virginia Department of Transportation will close the reversible HOV lanes on I-95/395 from south of Route 236 to Dumfries. They will remain closed on Saturday. The lanes are expected to reopen to northbound traffic by 2 p.m. on Sunday.

Similar closures will take place every weekend this month. In October, as highway volume further wanes, the Express Lanes will be closed all weekend through to the Monday morning rush hour. Crews will use the extra work space to complete tasks like milling and paving the new road surface as well as overhead sign, drainage, and barrier installation.

In an effort to alleviate some congestion on the mainline, VDOT and the Department of Rail and Public Transportation will begin offering a Saturday bus service between the Potomac Mills Mall and the Franconia-Springfield Metro Station. The Saturday bus service will be free for a three-month period. Buses will also make stops at the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission Transit Center in Dale City, offering additional transfer opportunities. Here's the schedule.

Navy-Air Force Half Marathon

Expect street closures in Northwest Washington around 5 a.m. Saturday for the Navy-Air Force Half Marathon. The runners will hit the pavement shortly after 7 a.m. The Navy-Air force Half Marathon and Navy 5 Miler is hosted by Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling Morale, Welfare and Recreation.

The entire length of the Rock Creek and Potomac Parkway will be closed to traffic. Beach Drive will remain open but traffic south of the National Zoo will be diverted into Woodley Park.

Arlington Memorial Bridge, Memorial Circle, and Lincoln Circle will be closed to traffic for much of the morning. Arlington National Cemetery will be accessible from Route 110 and the southbound George Washington Parkway.

The race course includes Ohio Drive, Independence Avenue, Maine Avenue, and 15th Street NW near the Tidal Basin and Potomac Park.

Most streets will be open by 11 a.m. except in the area around the awards ceremony on the National Mall.

Metro will open its doors early at 6 a.m. for participants and spectators. The closest Metro stop to the start of the race is Smithsonian Station.

9-11 Heroes 5K Race Street Closures

There will be several street closures on Saturday morning in Crystal City for the 9-11 Heroes 5K Race. The run starts at 8:30 a.m.

A portion of South Glebe Road northbound will be closed between 8:15 a.m. until 9:00 a.m. Other streets affected include 23rd Street, South Eads Street, South Fern Street, and Arlington Ridge Road. Parking near the race course will be restricted.

Weekend Fairs and Festivals

Doug Hill in the WTOP Weather Center predicts picture-perfect weather for fairgoers this weekend. The Maryland Renaissance Festival and the Anne Arundel County Fair in Crownsville, the Charles County Fair in La Plata, and the Great Frederick Fair in Frederick will draw crowds. Expect some congestion on the routes near the county fairgrounds.

Frederick's 31st annual In The Street Celebration is this Saturday. Market Street, All Saints Street, Church Street and more will be closed. Patrick Street and 7th Street should remain open to traffic.

Follow police direction and expect some delay if you plan to travel through downtown Frederick. Pets or animals of any kind are not allowed at the event. Due to expected large crowds, bicycles will be prohibited inside the event area.

In Arlington Heights, the street fair known as Prio Bangla Potho Mela will block South 9th Street from Walter Reed Drive to South Highland Street on Saturday. Street parking in the area will be restricted. Expect localized congestion and plenty of foot traffic.

D.C. Roadwork

Repairs to the old Arizona Avenue Railroad Bridge over Canal Road will be conducted this weekend. Crews will block a lane of Canal Road between Arizona Avenue and Chain Bridge between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday.

Work on the New York Avenue Bridge over the rail yard north of Union Station continues this weekend. A single lane will be blocked on the inbound side of New York Avenue between Penn Street and Florida Avenue Friday night until 12 p.m. on Saturday. For more on the new sculptures above New York Avenue, read this story.

Metrorail Track Work

Track Work will result in service delays on the Red, Orange, and Green lines this weekend but all stations will remain open. A portion of the Blue and Yellow lines will be closed. Those with plans to take Metro to National Airport should plan ahead for delays. The Reagan National Airport and Crystal City stations will both be closed from 10 p.m. Friday through Sunday, reopening Monday morning.

Buses will be replacing Blue and Yellow line trains between Braddock Road and Pentagon City. Riders detouring around the work zone on buses may experience delays of up to 20 minutes. Trains will run at normal intervals outside the work zone.

Red Line trains are expected to run on-time between Shady Grove and Medical Center. Brief delays are possible for riders between Grosvenor and Shady Grove.

Track work on the eastern side of the Orange Line will cause Orange Line trains to operate every 20 minutes throughout the weekend.

Green Line trains will operate every 16 minutes throughout the weekend.

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Capital Bikeshare coming to Montgomery County at end of September

Posted on: Thursday 9/12/2013 10:51am

This Capital Bikeshare station on Cordell Street is one of two along Norfolk Street in the Woodmont Triangle section of Bethesda, Md. (WTOP/Ari Ashe)

BETHESDA, Md. - As Capital Bikeshare stations are popping up in Bethesda, Silver Spring and Takoma Park, an event to formally launch the program is set for the end of September.

"To see that it's going to be close to my house is great. This would actually cut down my commute because it takes me 20 minutes to walk from my house to Metro and this would cut it down by at least 10 minutes. So I'm super excited to see Bikeshare in Bethesda," says Stephanie Kara-Jordan, who works near the Metro Center station.

"I've been actually following Bikeshare online, so I knew it was coming soon. But when I saw the station here, I said to myself 'Oh it's really close. That's great!' I'm very happy it's at a location I can walk to and hop on a bike," she says after taking pictures of a station outside the Elm Street garage.

Other Bethesda stations are already installed at Norfolk Street at Fairmont Avenue and Cordell Avenue.

In total, 51 Capital Bikeshare stations will be installed in Bethesda, Friendship Heights, Silver Spring, Takoma Park, Rockville, Shady Grove and the Life Sciences Center with a combined 500 bicycles.

Montgomery County transportation officials concede that not all 51 stations will necessarily be open after the initial launch, but all should be available soon after.

Dan Reed of Silver Spring, who's a transit advocate, says he is very excited about the program launch as well.

"Since all of the stations in Silver Spring, Bethesda and Takoma Park are in the downtown area, I might use them to run errands like if I had something to do on one side of downtown and wanted to go to the other side of downtown, or if I want to go from Silver Spring to Bethesda or Takoma Park I might do that instead of driving there," he says.

Reed said he'd be interested in bicycling from Silver Spring to Friendship Heights, eventually connecting up with the Capital Bikeshare system in the District of Columbia. Other bicyclists at the Action Committee for Transit of Montgomery County agreed that such a trip would interest them.

"I've got my fingers crossed that it will be very favorably received. Other communities have had very favorable responses and I think our community will as well," says Montgomery County Councilmember Roger Berliner, D-District 1.

"We really do want to become a very bikeable community and I think we're on the path towards that result," he says.

Scott Brownell noticed the new stations during a roundtrip on his bicycle from Alexandria to Bethesda and back.

"It's nice that they're expanding it. Bikeshare used to be just in D.C. and they've taken it near my home in Alexandria. I think it's also a good idea that they're bringing it here because now you can get to more places with it," he says.

While Montgomery County officials will not give a specific launch date, WTOP has learned it will be after County Executive Isiah "Ike" Leggett and members of the County Council return from a 10-day trip to China beginning next week.

Leggett returns on Sept. 24, which means the formal event will take place on a weekday between then and Sept. 30. Regardless of the specific date, it means bicyclists will only have to wait another two weeks.

"I feel as we kick start the effort towards a more bikeable community we will evolve organically. When you start putting more bikes on the road, then you will see what you have to do and where you have to do it to make the experience safe for riders," says Berliner.

Montgomery County transportation officials are working on how to enhance safety for the new riders, including bike lanes in certain locations and shared lane markings, also known as sharrows, to remind motorists that they have to share the road.

"I'm super excited. I have a bike, but I prefer the convenience of walking down the street and on a whim get on a bike. I have my [key] fob on me at all times, so to be able to grab a bike is awesome," says Kara-Jordan.

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Fairfax County develops plans to target speeders

Posted on: Thursday 9/12/2013 4:20am

WASHINGTON - Cars speeding through Fairfax County's residential areas is a top complaint in many neighborhoods and now county officials are stepping up to address the problem.

The county plans to spend $350,000 to try to get motorists to slow down. But Board of Supervisors Chair Sharon Bulova says the plans will not include speed cameras.

"We don't have speed cameras, but we do have devices that clock your speed and let you know how fast you are going," she says.

Bulova says the county will also increase the number of both stop signs and speed bumps in an effort to educate the public.

"Britain has a word for speed humps, they call them 'sleeping policemen,'" she says.

The county will also step up a public safety campaign aimed at speeding in residential neighborhoods.

Braddock District Supervisor John Cook, who requested the money, says this is just the beginning of the campaign. Cook wants to increase traffic enforcement and give police access to new technology to help curb speeding in the future.

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9/11 motorcycle ride denied permits for non-stop trek in D.C.

Posted on: Wednesday 9/11/2013 10:06am

Bikers (WTOP/Dick Uliano)
Bikers prepare to ride into D.C. to honor the victims of the Sept. 11 attacks. (WTOP/Dick Uliano)

Dick Uliano and Amanda Iacone,

WASHINGTON - Thousands of motorcyclists are expected to ride in the D.C. area Wednesday as part of a trek to honor those killed in the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

But the blogosphere has been abuzz with outraged talk that D.C. denied the riders a permit. The WTOP Answer Desk set out to learn what happened.

The group called 2 Million Bikers to D.C. requested police escorts and no-stop permits. They wanted to be able to go without stopping through red lights and intersections on D.C. streets, near the monuments and on Capitol Hill.

But the bikers have been denied those permits by both the National Park Service and the Metropolitan Police Department.

The ride would have been hugely disruptive to traffic on a regular workday, says National Park Service spokeswoman Carol Johnson.

Granting the organizers a permit would have meant road closures in the middle of the day, including on Memorial Bridge and Constitution Avenue. Past motorcycle rallies have been held on weekends, Johnson says.

In a statement released to WTOP, D.C. police say that ride organizers were encouraged to move their event to a weekend. MPD also says that the city's denial will not prevent the group's members from riding on city streets -- they just won't have a police escort.

U.S. Capitol Police also denied a similar request, according to both D.C police and the park service.

"Solely to facilitate the speed and timeliness of the participants in itself does not fall within the definition of a First Amendment assembly," D.C. police spokeswoman Gwendolyn Crump says in an email statement. "The activity was viewed as expressive."

Despite the lack of permits, bikers from across the country are still expected to be in the area Wednesday. Their numbers are expected to be 2,000 or more and their ride will begin at 11 a.m. from the Fort Washington Harley Davidson dealership in Prince George's County, Md.

Eric Zern, a ride organizer from Hagerstown, Md., tells WTOP bikers plan to ride one time on the Outer Loop of the Capital Beltway from Prince George's County to Montgomery County and then into Virginia, before arriving back where they started.

They reportedly will not go into D.C. as a large group.

"There are so many motorcycles that trying to go through Washington, D.C., would not have worked," Zern says.

It will be up to individual riders whether they choose to enter the city after the Beltway ride.

"That way we're going to have much smaller groups of motorcycles coming through the city and they won't lock things down so bad," Zern says.

Nicholas Montefusco from Huntersville, Pa., is among the bikers participating in the ride. He says Americans should never forget the significance of Sept. 11.

"It's very important and it's from all ethnical backgrounds, all religions -- it's just, we're all Americans and we need to support our country the best we can," Montefusco says.

The bikers' permit rejection brought an invitation from several other groups planning a "Justice for Benghazi" rally on the West Capitol Lawn.

Patriots4America and Special Operations Speaks have already obtained permits to hold their rally behind the U.S. Capitol, the groups said in a news release inviting the bikers to join them.

It was unclear if the bikers will accept the invitation.

According to the National Park Service, several other groups are scheduled to use space on and near the National Mall Wednesday.

The American Muslim Political Action Committee is holding a "Million American March Against Fear" Wednesday on the Mall. And the Answer Coalition will hold a rally on Freedom Plaza, according to the National Park Service.

Permit Denial Letter from the National Park Service

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AAA: Speed limit increases in D.C. lead to fewer speed camera tickets

Posted on: Tuesday 9/10/2013 5:59am

The speed limit was increased on some D.C. roadways in late 2012. (WTOP File)

WASHINGTON - The number of speed camera tickets issued to motorists in portions of the District has decreased, new numbers show.

At multiple sites in D.C. where the speed limit was increased in late 2012, AAA found both the number of tickets issued and revenue from them have decreased.

On Canal Road, for example, 11,000 tickets were issued in a period prior to the speed limit increase. In the corresponding period after the increase, only about 1,900 tickets were issued.

At one camera location on southbound Interstate 295 near Exit 1, tickets dropped 51 percent and revenue went down 60 percent.

"Drivers for a generation have complained about the artificially low speed limits on D.C. 295," says AAA Mid-Atlantic spokesman John Townsend.

D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson, D, says speed limits in the District have sometimes been set too low, and the numbers show the need to set speed limits correctly.

"Otherwise, motorists feel the cameras are unfair -- acting like speed traps," Mendelson says.

D.C. Councilmember Tommy Wells, D-Ward 6, says he is glad the numbers are going down, but thinks they might be indicative of another issue.

"The decline in revenue is good news because it means fewer people are speeding, but Maryland and Virginia charge between $40 and $60 for speeding -- D.C. the average ticket is now around $120. Seems like it's just a way to get into people's pockets," Wells says.

According to AAA, the city lowered the average speed camera ticket from $100 to $92 in April.

D.C. police did not comment on the data and referred WTOP to the D.C. Department of Transportation. A DDOT spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

A camera that issued an increased number of speeding tickets is located in the 2700 block of westbound New York Avenue NE. That device saw a 43 percent jump in citations and a more than 16 percent increase in revenue.

Ari Ashe contributed to this report. Follow @AriAsheWTOP and @WTOP on Twitter.

Redskins' home opener to cause major traffic delays

Posted on: Monday 9/9/2013 10:03pm

Quarterback RGIII and Redskins fans are ready for the home opener, but commuters may not be as excited. (WTOP File)

WASHINGTON - The Redskins home opener on Monday Night Football will put a crimp in many commuters' plans that evening as the 'Skins host the Eagles.

"It's the regular Monday afternoon rush hour coupled with the Monday Night Football game at FedEx Field could be very ugly on Monday," says WTOP director of traffic and transit Jim Battagliese.

The start time is moved up to 6:55 p.m., which pushes up the opening of the gates and parking lot. Fans can access the parking lots around FedEx Field starting at 3 p.m. and the gates open at 5 p.m.

The best advice from the Traffic Center: leave as early as possible and expect delays if you're heading in the direction of the burgundy and gold.

"This is a Monday evening rush hour, so it's going to be nasty heading to FedEx Field or if you're heading home through that area," Battagliese says.

The Redskins have set up stadium traffic updates to help fans navigate their way to and around the stadium on game days. Fans can text RSTRAFFIC to 44636 or sign up for mobile text alerts.

Fans can review directions to FedEx Field in case they want to try another route or need to access a different parking zone.

Below is a map of FedExField:

View Larger Map

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Classes cancelled at U. of Md. Largo for Redskins traffic

Posted on: Monday 9/9/2013 1:10pm

WASHINGTON - The anticipated gridlock for Monday night's Redskins game is already having an effect.

Night classes at the University of Maryland University College's Largo campus have been canceled.

A spokesman from the school says only a small number of classes were scheduled for Monday night and they didn't want students and faculty caught in what could be a traffic nightmare.

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