There may not be any free lunch. But, Alexandria now offers a free way to get to lunch. At least for those working and living in the area of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.
This past Monday, Mayor William D. Euille, joined by other city elected leaders and officials, business leaders, and representatives of PTO and the Alexandria Transit Company, officially launched the new DASH About lunch-shuttle service.
It will transport passengers at no charge from the PTO campus in the Carlyle complex to Old Town from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. The initial pick up point will be the PTO offices on Ballenger Avenue. Operating continuously during that time frame, at 10 minute intervals, riders can disembark and reboard at the King Street intersections with Alfred, Henry, Fayette, and West streets.
"The purpose of this shuttle is to meet the needs of the workers and businesses in the Carlyle area until we get more hotels and restaurants adjacent to the PTO campus," Euille said. "It will get the people from the PTO campus to Old Town and back at no charge."
Actually initiated Jan. 3, the free lunch-shuttle was created to enable PTO employees to enjoy the amenities of Old Town, both in terms of restaurants and shopping, that they have been used to in their previous Arlington location.
"We are very happy to be in Alexandria. This is a great location for us. And, this is another example of the partnership between the PTO and Alexandria. This also ought to be a great shot in the arm for Alexandria businesses," said Stephen Pinkos, Deputy Undersecretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and deputy director, USPTO.
"This has been a public/private partnership all the way and many people in Alexandria have been involved with this project," Euille said.
THE IDEA for the shuttle was first suggested by Jo-Anne Barnard, chief financial and administrative officer, USPTO, in a letter to Euille last November. "The one major need which has become evident to our employees is the lack of access to amenities such as restaurants, shopping and other service establishments," she wrote.
Her request was supported by the Alexandria Chamber of Commerce. Ken Moore, president and CEO of the Chamber, pointed out in a supporting letter to Euille, "PTO employees had easy access to dining and shopping in their Arlington location and many felt they would lose that convenience in Alexandria." One solution to that issue would be a lunchtime shuttle, Moore suggested.
Former City Manager Philip Sunderland, in a memorandum to Euille and City Council, said, "As more opportunities for dining and retail activities become available" in the PTO area "the need for this shuttle will dissipate. Staff expects that these ... opportunities will significantly increase in the next 18 months, resulting in ... termination of the shuttle service by June 30, 2006."
Sunderland said, "This service level will require two buses, and cost $92,000 for a 12-month period." He estimated the cost for the remainder of FY 2005 at $46,000. This would cover costs for the "last half of FY 2005 only," according to Sunderland.
"For FY 2006, shared funding on a 50/50 basis will be sought from Carlyle TMP funds as a match to City funds. No funds were available from the Carlyle TMP fund in FY 2005. This service will be for a maximum 18-month period," he said.
Included in the group joining Euille and Pinkos at the ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new service were Vice Mayor Redella "Del" Pepper; City Council members Ludwig Gaines, Rob Krupika, and Paul Smedberg; new City Manager James K. Hartmann; Assistant City Manager for Fiscal and Financial Affairs Mark Jinks; Richard Baier, director, Transportation and Environment Services; Charles Collum, chairman of the board, Burke and Herbert Bank and Trust Company; Ken Moore, president and CEO, Alexandria Chamber of Commerce; and Sandy Modell, general manager, Alexandria Transit Company.