2024-07-18 4:53 AM

Our Man In Arlington

Our struggling Metro this March announced a post-pandemic plan to recover its needed ridership.


The coming new marketing push on social media, to which Arlington contributed $10,000, will stress the value of public transit at a time of rising gasoline prices.


Details, however, were scarce. So I extracted some hints from Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld in an exclusive interview.


Metro, it seems, was impressed with a recent blogpost by Sun-Gazette managing editor Scott McCaffrey. This friendly competitor of mine attacked the Arlington school board’s sartorial shortcomings. “Going commando, either without a jacket, without a tie, or without both,” read his description of the elected officials at a recent meeting. This “sloppiness reflects badly on the school board, the school system and the community.”


This got Metro to thinking: Perhaps the way to lure back the rush-hour standing-room-only subway crowds is to class the transit system up a bit. That means implementing a dress code. Planners believe that requiring sharper wardrobes would make a trip on Metro more of a special event. And it would create a certain solidarity of purpose for an incipient community of well-groomed riders.


I asked skeptical questions. Would this be fair to those who frequent the subway in Crocs, blue jeans purposefully tattered, or T-Shirts that shout ill-informed slogans?


Certainly Metro officials wouldn’t go so far as to require formal wear? Black tie, besides being unaffordable to many (unless they’re willing to rent), would be asking too much, the Metro chief acknowledged. (I personally have ridden the subway downtown wearing a tux, and it made me very self-conscious.)


I can report that the new Metro dress code will be a compromise: business casual.


How would the code be enforced? Do the kiosk guards—who don’t do much currently about passengers not wearing Covid masks—possess sartorial tastes discerning enough to make snap judgments? Could they be trained?


I was assured that the station managers in tough cases would use their walkie-talkies to pool their thoughts. And they promise to rule quickly enough so that passengers with border-line outfits wouldn’t unnecessarily miss their trains.


Some kinks are still being worked out, I was told. What if one of the slobs who gets rejected at the turnstile is a long-distance commuter who parked a car at Metro before entering? Does getting sent home to change entitle them to a parking refund?


Metro’s only condition for granting my interview: that I wait to publish until April Fool’s Day.


Two key advisory bodies have implored the county board to preserve the Joyce Motors building facade now endangered by the pending Clarendon Sector Plan. Built in 1949 and marked as historic in 2011, the now-empty building in N. 10th St. is the only remaining example of “porcelain-enameled, boxlike service stations” remaining in Arlington by the late-twentieth century, wrote the Historical Affairs and Landmark Review Board. It backed a recommendation by the Planning Commission that the frontage be preserved.


But the owner, eyeing a larger area re-development, sees the one-time Texaco station as run-down and its parking lot a hazardous waste site. The county prefers commercial buildings closer to the street. Board decision coming in April.


I was moved on March 19 while attending the two-years, pandemic-postponed classical concert by the 56-year-old Arlington Chorale.


The theme heard in the packed pews at Westover Baptist Church was “Through Troubled Times,” made all more urgent by the crisis in Ukraine.


Artistic director Ingrid Lestrud took the orchestra, choir and four soloists through Ola Gjeilo’s “Song of the Universal” and Haydn’s “Lord Nelson Mass.” The finale was Handel’s “Hallelujah Chorus” conducted by a fund-raising auction winner—13-year-old Ava Yi, a student at H.B Woodlawn.

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