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Virginia Association of Railway Patrons

Modern Transportation for the Virginias

Virginia Assn. of Railway Patrons Station Access Study: Crystal City, VA

August 19, 1999

In general, the Crystal City station, served by 24 weekday Virginia Railway Express trains, has good access, including access for handicapped patrons.

Although Crystal City has thousands of residents, the station is primarily a destination rather than an originator of traffic. Paid parking is available in an underground garage across the street, but passengers beginning their trips at Crystal City are likely to arrive on foot or by shuttle bus (the ART shuttle bus stops at the station entrance), as all of Crystal City is within walking distance of the VRE station, and most of Crystal City is connected by indoor walkways.

The station could benefit from pedestrian access to National Airport. Although this was considered as part of a possible long-range VRE plan to move the Crystal City station farther south, there is a short-term opportunity: The Crystal City Connector to the Mount Vernon hiking and biking trail begins at the other end of the Water Park from the VRE station. It crosses under the railroad and the George Washington Parkway and passes near the airport main terminal, but several airport access roads at grade level separate the trail from the terminal. Crosswalks with exclusive lights for pedestrians or, better, a footbridge, would give not only VRE passengers but Crystal City residents and workers direct access to the airport. Although the approximately 15-minute walk would be unattractive to passengers with luggage, pedestrian access to the airport would be useful to airport employees and visitors.

Many VRE passengers transfer to and from Metro at Crystal City. Although the overhead signs in the Crystal City corridors mark the way to the Metro station, there are insufficient signs to lead a passenger from the Metro station to the VRE station. One sign outside the Metro station starts people in the right direction, but several more unmarked turns are needed to reach the railroad station.

Pedestrian access to the Crystal City station is generally good. There are sidewalks leading to the station, and a crosswalk connecting the station with the main part of Crystal City has an exclusive Walk light for pedestrians. Curb cuts permit uninterrupted wheelchair passage from the station platform to much of Crystal City.

The study identified several hazards to pedestrians, however: traffic crossing the sidewalk, vehicles parking in the crosswalk, vehicles parking on the sidewalk, and long waits for the traffic light to change.

Across Crystal Drive from the station and slightly south of it are two driveways leading to the underground parking garage. In rush hours there is moderately heavy vehicular traffic in and out of the driveways and fairly heavy pedestrian traffic on the sidewalk crossed by the driveways.A high proportion of vehicles cross the sidewalk without warning (that is, without signalling), even when there are pedestrians actually in the driveway (see the results of the traffic survey, below). During most of the traffic survey, there was a guard at the entrance to the driveways, but he was not directing traffic. Having a guard direct traffic in and out of the driveways during rush hours could safeguard pedestrians. Ticketing of drivers who turn without signalling could cut down on the number of vehicles crossing the sidewalk without warning.

The main crosswalk leading to the VRE station is occupied some mornings by an armored truck. It has been there on many days when VRE train 310 was discharging passengers. In evening rush hours, the crosswalk is often blocked by taxis or by cars picking up passengers.

One block north of the station, outside the Holiday Inn, where Crystal Drive curves around to intersect with 15th Street, the sidewalk has been blocked almost every weekday this year by parked vans and trucks. These are not vehicles temporarily stopped while making deliveries. They park on the sidewalk and sit there all day.

Finally, the crosswalk from the VRE station takes up to a minute to display a Walk light. This delay, combined with the fact that traffic sometimes keeps moving through the red light, prompts many pedestrians to cross when no traffic is coming rather than wait for the Walk light. This light should be retimed to delay no more than 30 seconds before changing to Walk. Although no vehicles ran the red light during the one-hour traffic survey, I have witnessed vehicles doing so on numerous occasions, and witnessed one later in the day after the traffic survey.

Results of Traffic Survey at Crystal City VRE Station, June 8, 1999, 8:13 to 9:13 AM

Cars turning without signalling and crossing the sidewalk: 37. When 15 of those turned, pedestrians were in the driveway or attempting to cross it.

One car stopping for the red light stopped in the crosswalk.

Trucks were parked on the sidewalk outside the Holiday Inn.

At 9:02 a Dunbar armored truck parked in the crosswalk and remained for approximately 5 minutes, even though there were two empty parking spaces next to the crosswalk.

June 2014, and nothing has changed: this limo is parked in, not passing through, the crosswalk leading to the VRE station; note the walk sign.