News and notes from Reston (tm).

Monday, July 28, 2014

We, For One, Welcome Our Robotic Silver Line Overlords

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Confidential Restonian Operative "Joel" snapped this picture during Saturday's Silver Line opening-day festivities. "Nearby, a helpful mechanical woman directed the anxious to a gated community of Port-A-Potties," he writes.

Beyond the whole uncanny valley thing, we have so many questions: Why a mannequin? And for $2.6 billion, couldn't they find a pair of slacks with matching legs to dress said mannequin? Who is controlling that Segway-esque scooter, and is it looped into the Matrix train-control system? And, most puzzling of all, how is the robot/mannequin/metaphor for all things Silver Line actually holding the sign?

"Joel" decided not to wait in the long line for the first Silver Line train, so he found himself another, only slightly less exciting, ribbon-cutting ceremony:

IMG 4831

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Welcome to the Silver Line Era: Same as the Old Era

It so happens that at the very moment that the first Silver Line train chugged out of the Wiehle-Reston East Station this afternoon, we were stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic on I-95, returning from one of our rare unsupervised trips beyond Reston's earth-toned boundaries. The clogged traffic and endless semi-suburban sprawl around us was an apt reminder that for all the challenges and problems to come, a real investment decades in the making has finally come to fruition, and with it, a new era will begin for Reston.

10574531 10152529355123911 5257995309800865282 nBut in many ways, that's not exactly true. More dense, atypical suburban living has been part of the Reston plan from the very beginning. Even though discussions about what ultimately became the Silver Line began the same year Reston was founded, there were already high-rises, the nation's first townhouses not actually in towns, and lots of planning talk about "sinews" and "blobs".

Bob Simon, now a century old, was present at today's opening ceremonies. He got to witness a significant part of his original dream a half-century ago come true.

SimonSo in a way, the Silver Line is actually a promise kept, a reminder of what seems like a long-ago notion that long-term investments in our communities are what a healthy and prosperous culture can and should do.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx put it nicely:
“What I’m reminded of is that the work of transportation is really the work of generations,” Foxx said. “And if we’re not putting those cornerstones in place as a nation, we’re not building for the generations to come afterward. So this is a time to celebrate the voices of ‘yes’ sounding louder than the voices of ‘no.’ ”
Barely warmed leftovers from the Great Society era? Okay, fine. But that era spawned Reston, and we've seen the alternative -- unsustainable exurban sprawl -- and that alternative almost ate the Silver Line whole.

There have been--and almost certainly will continue to be--poor planning decisions, questionable levels of preparation, and some breathtakingly big bumps in the road to come. We will need to protect our existing neighborhoods from inappropriate development. We will need to hold county officials' feet to the fire to make sure the infrastructure needed to support this $2.6 billion chunk of infrastructure actually gets built. And we'll need to make sure that Wiehle Avenue doesn't get as clogged as I-95 on weekends, and maintain some skepticism about how all of this will be paid for (spoiler alert: lots of quarters). But this is a big deal, as much as a moment to celebrate as Reston's 50th anniversary. And it's bringing Reston a bit closer to the promise it's always had.

But of course, there was this:

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And this:

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Workers try to get a jammed door to open shortly before the opening ceremony.

And this:

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Come on, WMATA, don't let us down!

Also, has our house doubled in value yet?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Master Plan Phase 2: Site-Specific Plans Would Increase Density Near Forest Edge, Redevelop Fairfax Hunt Club

Hey, remember how one of the sneaky new elements of Phase 2 of the Reston Master Plan process was that it allowed people to submit proposals for redeveloping specific chunks of Reston? Yeah, that was awesome. Turns out three property owners did just that, and one was "not specific and disqualified" (no truth to the rumor that it was our application to build a very narrow 96-story mauvescraper in the backyard of Restonian World Headquarters).

The other two requests? One would increase density at the 48-acre Colvin Woods Apartments near Forest Edge Elementary, and the other could result in the Fairfax Hunt Club rezoning its property near Lake Fairfax for residential development.

ColvinThe owners of Colvin Woods Apartments, seven garden-style buildings from the late 1970s, are proposing to build three additional low-rise buildings and 40 townhouses on the southern portion of the site.

"The site benefits from its unique location between two regional open-space amenities, Lake Anne and Lake Fairfax," the submission states, adding that the additional development would justify modernizing the complex and offering properties at a broader range of rental prices.

HuntThe Fairfax Hunt Club, best known for the old-timey log cabin right outside Lake Fairfax Park, said in its submission that it was "considering relocating its operations and desires to have the option for this property to be converted to residential as are the surrounding properties."

Our BFFs at Reston Now point out that the club's history and Reston's go back to the days of the drunken village of Wiehle:

The Fairfax Hunt has deep, if not active, roots in Reston. A. Smith Bowman – founder of the former Reston distillery bearing his name — also founded the Fairfax Hunt Club in 1928. He later gave part of his 4,000-acre property to the club, and the clubhouse, built in 1951, remains as a catering facility today. Eventually, much of the surrounding land was sold to build Reston and fox hunting moved farther into horse country.

The clubhouse contains part of a 200-year-old log house that was formerly located a few miles away in Vienna. The club’s still owns eight acres near Lake Fairfax Park to the south and housing subdivisions on the other sides.
We've seen worse ideas (and locations) for redevelopment in recent years, but this is yet another reminder that more ch-ch-ch-changes are coming down the pike.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Metro Ribbon Cutting Marks Beginning of Brave New Bollardy World for Reston

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Confidential Restonian Operative "Joel" captured the very instant the ribbon was cut at Saturday's grand opening ceremonies at the Wiehle Avenue Metro station and parkatorium, its fraying yellow strands, one of which is suspended in mid-air forever in this photograph, symbolizing the very moment Reston was transformed from a sleepy nudist colony turned planned community to a bustling socket in the region's transit network. It'll have to stay suspended in mid-air until next Saturday, though, because that's when the first train leaves the station.

IMG 4820Unfortunately, our busy candystriping schedule kept us from attending the grand opening. But we have this CONTINUING TEAM COVERAGE, courtesy of yet another Confidential Restonian Operative:

Ribbon cutting at 10:00, loitering until 3:00. Come for the SLHS marching band, speeches and self-guided tours. Preview the commuting experience. Get information about the Master Plan review, Phase 2 (“There Goes the Neighborhood”). Maybe review your retirement planning.

I suggest parking in the original Reston North outdoor park-and-ride lot (corner of Sunset Hills and Wiehle). Cross busy Sunset Hills Road and Reston Station Boulevard. Time the traffic lights and dodge turning cars. Ignore the enormous sidewalk scaffolding, construction crane and workmen overhead if you use Metro Center Drive. Pretend you are in Bob Simon’s Manhattan.

IMG 4782Or park in the new Wiehle Garage. Visualize yourself racing 3,300 other drivers down the three inbound traffic lanes towards the station, hoping to find a spot before the garages fill on weekday mornings. (As the Reston Station signs say, don’t get shut out!) Practice dodging the 30+ Fairfax Connector buses per hour that will serve the underground bus bays during peak periods.

If you currently park at the Interim Lot (Sunset and Town Center Parkway), with nearly unlimited free parking (only hassle is the geese), try to envision yourself parking in the new multilevel garage. Watch out for those pesky structural columns (cost $4.85/day). Count the exit lanes/gates, stop lights and difficult left turns as you leave. Morning arrivals will be staggered, but how long will it take to pay and exit in the evening, even with that awesome smartcard technology?

If you currently transfer from commuter bus to rail at West Falls Church, with covered walkways from bus stops to the platform, compare the Wiehle experience: the exposed plaza and long open-air bridges over the 12-lane highway (no windows, you’re kidding). Imagine waiting in the Wiehle-Reston East platform wind tunnel during bad weather. What are the odds you’ll have to stand on the train for 40-minutes?

IMG 4789Finally, look for the commercial spaces, including the food services, promised for station opening last December. Oh and where did they put the taxi cab line? Remember, no hitchhiking!

Hope you enjoy the open house and new station. See you on the Silver Line. To paraphrase WMATA’s slogan, Get on board, you don’t have a choice!
Our BFFs at Reston Now have more, including this telling quote:
Bob Whiteman of Oak Hill said he moved to Reston in 1980, and even then his Realtor told him “a train to Dulles would be here in five years.”

“I believed [rail] would never happen,” he said. But now that he is two years from retirement, the federal employee said he will most likely stick to his usual commute.
Hope he enjoys the extra tolls.

Friday, July 18, 2014

On The YouTubes: A Magical Journey to the Metro

Our BFFs at the Washington Post strapped one of those, whazzitcalled, GoPro cameras to one of their paperboys' bicycles and take us from the W&OD trail and across several traffic-clogged pedestrian-friendly intersections to a tour of the plaza outside of the Wiehle Avenue Metro station's still-locked gates.

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It's a magical, often bewildering journey. Fortunately, the scribes at the Post are there to explain what some of the strange sights are:

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This next one doesn't really help answer our earlier question: Is this art? Like, on purpose?

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Maybe they can use some of that extra tape to tie those suckers down, the end.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

With 10 Days to Go, Silver Line Still Needs Some Tape, Names For LoCo Stations

TapeWith 10 days to go before our awesome E-ticket ride to the wonders of Tysons and beyond begins service, we're eagerly anticipating news of yet another delay seeing a fully operational system when we ride walk down the escalators a week from Saturday. Um, right?

Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said on Monday that several items DTP should have completed by now are not finished.

One area — the application of heat tape on the third rail — is to be done by the end of July according to the post-operational readiness agreement. Stessel says the heat tape work has not even started.

“It has been disappointing to us to see that the contractor has not been taking advantage of every available work window,” he said. “They could have done much more.”

Stessel said DTP has also not resolved water leaks at several stations. He said that the heat tape, which prevents freezing so it isn’t urgently needed in July, can be applied after opening.
Exactly how hard is it to apply tape? We've hung a few posters in our day -- without a no-bid contract even.

In the meantime, there's a fancy open house on Saturday, where you can see the escalators while they're still running. And the temporary Park and Ride lot on Sunset Hills will close on July 26, the day the Silver Line opens, presumably to allow its owners to forego their $1.46 million in leasing fees and continue to move Reston Town Center's footprint closer to the nearby, someday-to-be-built Metro station there.

But all the ch-ch-ch-changes will be worth the hassle, according to yet another Metro ad, this one not directed at lonely men:

That sweeeeeeet wood paneling screams "early '70s Reston family room," so we totally relate.

Meanwhile, the process for selecting names for the Loudoun County stations to be built in the next phase of the Silver Line has begun, according to (awesomely named) website Ashburn Rising. No one paid attention to our humble suggestions during the first phase, but as is the case with painting hand railings on a no-bid contract, maybe the second time will be the charm:

You're welcome, Loudoun. You're welcome.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Flashback Monday: Cussin' Cider At The Foul-Mouthed Farm Market

You may recall the video about the original Reston Farm Market that lost to a talking dog in the Reston: The Video contest. But now there's a fancy website detailing the market's 23-year run through 1997, when encroaching McMansions development finally prompted it to shut its doors. It's actually a great romp through a much-loved bit of Reston history, including an online memory book sharing favorite moments. It's worth a visit, but we'll just focus on one bit of Farmer's Market lore:

The D Word
Turns out this 1981 ad, aired before the advent of all those cussin' channels on the cable teevee, invited the wrath of some busybodies concerned churchwomen:

Moonshine? Slick advertising? Wow, 1981 was different.