Falls Church Folly

The BJ's Wholesale Club that opened in Falls Church near Seven Corners last October was a short-sighted decision by Falls Church and works against taking steps towards an improved urban/suburban environment. Rather than taking maximum advantage of an opportunity to improve an area that is in dire need of better design, Falls Church resorted to the same-old, same-old, big box store, with an enormous parking lot out front and little regard for the future urban design or long-term planning.

The BJs opened last October 9 to much fanfare and pretty big crowds. Most of the press leading up to and at the time of the opening was very positive: people were excited about the new store.

The heat wave and human influence on climate

Most of the United States just endured a remarkable heat wave in which hundreds of daily temperature records were broken and a number of all-time high records were also broken.  Additionally, because of the flooding of the Mississippi River, humidity levels were also very high, leading to extremely high heat indexes, as high as 131 degrees in Knoxville, Iowa on Monday, July 18.

Farragut "Virtual Tunnel" close to reality (after only 3 years!)

The Washington Post reported today that Richard Sarles has included in his first 6-month report as full-time Director of Metro, that the "Virtual Tunnel" between the Farragut stations will be functional this fall.

I first promulgated this idea almost three years ago on the CommuterPage blog and have followed up numerous times since (More of the Invisible Tunnel, Testing the Invisible Tunnel, Now Even More Invisible?, Metro's response). Here's what the Post said today:  "In his first six-month report since being hired as Metro’s permanent chief, Sarles also said the agency will create a 'virtual tunnel' between Farragut North on the Red Line and Farragut West on the Orange and Blue lines, allowing riders to go from one station to the other without paying a new fare."

Why it took this long is a bit of a mystery.  Metro has been tying this service to changes in the SmarTrip card, which are finally just now being completed.  However, I learned way back in 2008 that the capability has always existed--even with paper farecards--to implement this service.

It will be interesting to see how popular the tunnel is once the ridership is educated about it.

Another missed opportunity to provide better service on Metro during track work

Metro has another opportunity to provide enhanced shuttle service to Orange Line riders the next two weekends while they perform work on the tracks. Thousands of hours could be saved by travelers with an intelligently designed and managed shuttle service.

Metro has announced that shuttles will run between East Falls Church and West Falls Church stations. Between West Falls Church and Vienna trains will single track while workers perform track work in this area. Metro's announced plan is to operate single-tracked trains on 24-minute headways between WFC and Vienna.

As I suggested previously (and received a reply from Metro), a better strategy for customers would be to not run trains at all for the three stations west of East Falls Church. Instead, they should run express shuttles from Vienna to East Falls Church and a secondary shuttle serving the other two stations.
There are approximately 20,000 boardings and deboardings at the three westernmost stations on a Saturday, divvied up as follows:

New bike/ped bridge on W&OD over the Beltway is now open

The bridge that carries the W&OD trail over the Capital Beltway is now open.  According to the W&OD Trail Report, it opened on June 15.  I've been out of town for most of the time since then, so this was my first time using it.  The new bridge replaces the old one just to its south.  The replacement was necessary, because the highway is being widened, and the old bridge was not long enough to span the wider road.

See photos below.  The new bridge is wider than the old one.  There is still a little work to complete on the approaches and landscaping as well as the removal of the old bridge.

Approaching the new W&OD bridge from the east
Approaching the new W&OD trail from the west

The new bridge (looking west) being used.  Note the 12-foot width.

The partially deconstructed old bridge
As an aside, I was told that VDOT offered the old bridge to Arlington County.  Although staff at the county identified a possibly beneficial location for the bridge, it was determined that by the time it was taken down, all that would be left would be a couple of long, steel supports that would be very difficult to move anyway.  So they declined.

Turn out the lights!!!

Why is it that lights are on so much when they make no difference whatsoever?  And sometimes they seem deliberately wasteful.  I notice this all the time. Here's one example.

For the last couple of years I have attended a UConn football game on the Saturday after Thanksgiving in East Hartford CT at Rentschler Field.  The game is played in the early afternoon.  In both cases it was a bright, sunny day.  Also in both cases, all the field lights were on from the time we arrived.  I have no idea how early in the day they were lighted, but they were on for at least a couple of hours prior to the start of the game.

Note the bright sunshine.  This was late in the game; earlier there were no shadows on the field at all

According to the Rentschler Field website, there are 316 fixtures affixed on four light towers and above the press box.  My best guess is that each fixture is 600-1200 watts. The lights were on for at least 6 hours.  I'll concede that it may have been worthwhile to turn on some of the lights towards the end of the game as the sun got low, but they could have played the entire game without the lights, and no one would have noticed until at least 3:30 PM and probably not at all if they had never come on.