To Grow a Bus System

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by Kris Gilbertson

Sandy Modell’s strategy for growing DASH has always included community involvement. Following are a few highlights of DASH/community projects through the years.

Paratransit Service

Just days on the job, Modell was asked to create a door-to-door paratransit system. She’d done this in Harrisonburg with cabs. Here, Diamond Cab Company provided senior taxi service, administered by Senior Services of Alexandria. She met with Mary Ann Ormes (SS) and Robbie Werth (DCC) and asked, would you like to run it? And would you like to take the calls? In three months, DOT service was established. “People think it’s called DOT for Department of Transportation,” says Modell, “but it was DASH and DOT. I was making a joke about us being Morse code.”

Through clever handling and vision, DASH now operates the King Street Trolley group of six hybrid trolleys that offer free rides up and down King Street to residents and tourists. (Courtesy of DASH)
Through clever handling and vision, DASH now operates the King Street Trolley group of six hybrid trolleys that offer free rides up and down King Street to residents and tourists. (Courtesy of DASH)

King Street Trolley

In 2008, Modell was part of the  task force planning how to deal with visitors from National Harbor flowing into Old Town. The consensus was to run a trolley up King Street—a red trolley—from the riverfront to Metro. And it would be free.

“We were still in the old building,” says Modell, “and didn’t have room for trolleys, so the City contracted the service with a private company that brought in these old rickety trolleys. They were never on time; they were not reliable. One smoked so bad, it turned the whole street into a fog. It just wasn’t quality service.

“Then we moved into this building and had room for the trolleys. We worked with the City, wrote a grant to buy five clean, hybrid trolleys. And we took over the trolley service.” King Street trolley service has expanded and ridership now is about half tourists and half residents. It is still free.

Fire department bus(es)

“When there’s a fire, we may get a call,” says Modell, “can you bring two buses down to (wherever)?” The buses shelter people displaced from their homes, and firefighters, warming in winter, cooling in summer. AFD also has a retired DASH bus that they painted red, replaced seats with tables and chairs, and use for logistics and communications.

With Warwick Pool closed, Splash with Dash shuttled kids to the Old Town Pool for free all summer in 2015. (Courtesy of DASH)
With Warwick Pool closed, Splash with Dash shuttled kids to the Old Town Pool for free all summer in 2015. (Courtesy of DASH)

Splash with Dash

Two weeks before city pools opened in 2015, the recreation department called to say Warwick Pool would be closed. How could they get kids from Arlandria, Warwick Village, Del Ray, and Rosemont to the Old Town Pool? Would DASH provide a shuttle? A free shuttle for the whole summer?

The question for Modell was how to cover operating costs, an estimated $20,000.  “I just started dialing for dollars,” she says, “to folks who have been supportive over the years, like Jen Walker and Bobi Bomar, both Del Ray realtors.” Some 20 local businesses contributed and within a week, she’d raised $22,250.

The Celebration Bus was so popular last year that it will reappear, freshly primed, at Art on the Avenue in Del Ray this October. (Courtesy of DASH).
The Celebration Bus was so popular last year that it will reappear, freshly primed, at Art on the Avenue in Del Ray this October. (Courtesy of DASH).

Celebration Bus

People had talked for years about painting a bus, so in 2015, DASH primed an old bus and took it to Art on the Avenue in Del Ray, along with paint so people could dip their hands and plant a print. The project involved the art programs at TC Williams and Alexandria Country Day School, and Pat Miller of the Del Ray Business Association. The Celebration Bus will return to Art on the Avenue this October.

 

 

 

 

Alexandria DASH
3000 Business Center Drive
Alexandria, VA 22314
703-746-3274
www.dashbus.com

Wholistic Hound
18 Roth Street
Alexandria, VA 22314
http://www.wholistichound.com/