News and notes from Reston (tm).

Friday, August 1, 2014

We Ride The Silver Line So You Don't Have To: A Photographic Odyssey from Reston to DC

It's been less than a week since the Silver Line has opened, and we decided to "check it out," as the kids haven't said for years, to see what it's all about. Come with us on our magical journey!

9:28am. Arrive at the Kiss or Disgruntled Half-Nod, Depending on Your Relationship Status, and Ride. There's a fence between us and the so-called "bus vault," which takes us a minute or two to figure out how to navigate (pro tip: walk until there's no fence).

Bus vault
As vaults go, this one is pretty nice--airy, almost. We feel sorry for the bus drivers that have to make a 180-degree turn in that turnaround, though. We'll take the over-under on the first of those yellow posts in the foreground being knocked over at two weeks.

9:31am. We make it to the walkway across the Toll Road. Wait, what's this?

Seat over DTR
Nice of them to put a couple of seats halfway across, for those who want to take a moment to relax and smell the diesel exhaust as they view the splendor of four lanes of traffic directly below.

9:34am. On the platform. The anticipation is palpable.

Feel the anticipation9:39am. We're underway! The Toll Road zips by on both sides, but our mighty Silver Stallion is (almost) keeping up with 70mph traffic.

A bit of graffiti on a Toll Road bridge spotted from the window: "Bitch-Ass Highway." Yeah, that's about right.

9:44am. Like a metallic chariot, the Silver Line rises into the air, crossing the bitch-ass highway Toll Road and flying over Tysons Corner. The view is.... magical.

Tysons Magic

High end Tysons retail
THE EMERALD CITY, only with better midscale retail.

More wonder of Tysons
GRITTY. Wait, are we at Nationals Park already?

9:59am As our train makes the sweeping turn to rejoin the Toll Road after transversing Tysons, it makes a prolonged squealing noise that sounds like Satan's tuning fork. We're pretty sure that's nothing to worry about.

10:01am. A fellow passenger surreptitiously takes a sip from his bottle of heavily sugared iced tea. YOU ARE BREAKING THE SOCIAL CONTRACT. WE ARE JUDGING YOU AND YOUR SNAPPLE.

10:15am. Getting bored. Time to play Guess That Stain.

Quality carpet10:35am. We arrive at our destination, the vaguely PG-13-sounding "Foggy Bottom." Barely able to contain our excitement, we alight from the train to find... a broken escalator. Metro, you never cease to fail to surprise, do you?

4:09pm. Back to Foggy Bottom after a successful day of bomb-strapping dolphins, or whatever government contracting job we've pretended to have all day, kind of like this guy.

4:23pm. There are a lot of stops in this "Arlington" place.

4:25pm. We check our email, pretending we have actual Important Jobs That Require Commuting Downtown, like 97 percent of the other people returning home in our car, and see this missive from Confidential Restonian Operative "Alexis"--"Alexis" of Silver Line Sea Monkeys fame! Sadly, the news isn't good:

I finally rode my bike over to check out the new Reston Station, but I did so alone. The Sea Monkeys are long gone. Yep, I'm that Alexis. They died like 6 months after hatching. I was able to shake the bowl and convince my kids that the dots in the water were alive and swimming but that didn't last forever.

Anyway, while there I checked out the bus schedule and snap a picture of this completely-not-confidence-inspiring section of Route 507 near Hunter Hill, I mean Mill, Rd.
Hunter Hill
No words -- for the sea monkeys or the sign. Suddenly this Silver Line car has become a slightly sadder place.

4:31pm. Hahaha.

Suck on it Loudoun
Enjoy that long bus ride back to Ashburn, losers! You may have Wegman's, but we've got a friggin' SUPERTRAIN.

4:39pm. Back to Tysons.

Nerds stuck on Rt 7
We've got to admit it feels pretty damned good to be zipping by all that traffic jamming Rt. 7.

Even our phone is getting in on the Tysons mystique:

West McLean WTF
West McLean? There's NO SUCH PLACE.

Bentley and buses
You know the Aston Martin/Bentley dealership just LOVES having to share street frontage with a bus stop.

4:53pm. The loudspeaker informs us that we're arriving at a place called "Willie Reston." Only we don't, as the train comes to an abrupt halt several hundred yards from the station. "Operator dhj gshjsgdhjg," the loudspeaker informs us as the train starts up again.

4:57pm. Hello, Reston.

Walking home
But where the hell is the rad '80s art we were promised?

Someone who (we hope) isn't a robot hands us this helpful postcard-sized map of the parking garage:

Many levels
Clear as mud, only we're not sure which level is for the virtuous pagans, and which is for the simoniacs.

Artsy rebar
We've got to admit, we kind of like the rebar "art." It helps take our minds off the palpable lack of fanciful concrete bollards.

And thus ends our adventure. We're a bit wiser, and definitely considerably sadder, for it.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Big Chunks of South Reston are Drone-Free Zones

No drones

As the Russet Brown paint on Restonian World Headquarters begins to crack and peel in the summer sun, we keep looking skyward for one of the DRB drones we assume will soon be plying the skies of our favorite earth-toned community on the prowl for violators. Turns out, though, that big chunks of Reston are no-fly zones for drones.

Our BFFs at the Washington Post "news paper" shared this fancy map showing areas in which flying drones is strictly verboten, due to the proximity of Dulles Airport. As you can see, big chunks of South Reston -- pretty much anything west of Reston Parkway -- are off-limits to drones. North of the Toll Road, Reston's Fake Downtown narrowly escapes the exclusion zone, but some of the townhouses to its west are off-limits. And don't even think of attempting an emergency landing in the Target parking lot.

However, we are happy to report that this video is totally legal. Maybe if we squint, we'll be able to see this drone's robotic sister.

See the map here. And shout-out to our favorite correspondent and resident expert on all things droney, the Peasant from Less Sought After South Reston.

Monday, July 28, 2014

We, For One, Welcome Our Robotic Silver Line Overlords

IMG 4833
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:

Screen Shot 2014 07 26 at 6 16 38 PM
And this:

Screen Shot 2014 07 26 at 6 21 40 PM
Workers try to get a jammed door to open shortly before the opening ceremony.

And this:

Screen Shot 2014 07 26 at 6 19 41 PM
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

IMG 4811
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.

Screen Shot 2014 07 18 at 10 18 36 AM

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

Screen Shot 2014 07 18 at 10 09 09 AM

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

Screen Shot 2014 07 18 at 10 09 13 AM

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