Updated at 5:05 p.m. — Tysons Reporter interviewed FCDOT Director Tom Biesiadny, who provided more information about the driver shortage and advice for bus riders.
The Fairfax Connector currently doesn’t have enough bus drivers.
A service operation alert on the Fairfax Connector BusTracker website today (May 7) says that the shortage is affecting the entire bus system. The alert says:
The Fairfax Connector bus operations contractor is experiencing a shortage of bus drivers which is impacting service delivery. We apologize for the inconvenience and appreciate our passengers’ patience as the contractor is working diligently to recruit drivers and add staffing, when possible, to minimize further impacts.
Tom Biesiadny, the director of Fairfax County’s transportation department, told Tysons Reporter that work is underway with MV Transportation, the current bus system’s operator, on the shortage.
“We are working with the contractor to make sure we have the staff that is needed to operate the bus system on a daily basis,” he said.
In addition to the contractor hiring more drivers — something that Biesiadny said has always been a challenge in the area, FCDOT is working to figure out which routes will be least impacted by missed or delayed buses.
“What we’re trying to do is to ensure that if there are trips that are going to be missed that we make sure that it’s not affecting the same route all of the time,” he said.
He said that the driver shortage varies day by day, with Fridays tending to be more problematic. “This is a relatively recent problem to the extent it is affecting all of our trips,” he said.
The shortages began about a week after the announcement that Fairfax County awarded a five-year contract to Transdev North America to operate the Fairfax Connector starting July 1.
Biesiadny said that the contractor switch may be one of the causes behind the shortage.
“Anytime you’re transitioning from one contractor to another contractor there are uncertainties in the workforce,” he said. “I wouldn’t discount that. I wouldn’t say that’s the entire reason.”
Some people took to Twitter to share delayed buses — or ones that never showed up at all — have caused transportation headaches.
Yo, @ffxconnector, what's up with the 631 bus? Three times this week the 6am EB bus has been a no show. When is this issue going to be resolved? Telling riders to check the Bus Tracker isn't a solution when we're already out there waiting for a bus that only comes 2x an hour.
— Bekki Weaver (@noitsbekki) May 2, 2019
@ffxconnector why does the bus on route 651 not show up at the scheduled time around 6:40 am for the past two mornings??? The wait time is causing a lot of ppl to run late to work due to inconsistency in following the schedule.
— RN (@rnmair121) May 3, 2019
461 and 466 not running? People need to get to work but we've spent the last hour waiting for buses that area not coming @ffxconnector????? No communication unless someone calls to complain? We need another provider of public transportation… So frustrating!!!!!!!!!
— Young J Kim (@YoungJ91) May 3, 2019
— narayana sundaram (@narayanais) May 2, 2019
One person noted that the same driver shortage alert popped up earlier this month on Friday, May 3.
Fairfax Connector alert: buses might be late because MV Transportation doesn't have enough bus drivers.
(Is this a short-term thing, just today? Long-term? What are the impacts? I have several questions?) pic.twitter.com/CHp0KPl7Xv
— Stephen Repetski (@srepetsk) May 3, 2019
The reader who tipped Tysons Reporter off about the shortage also expressed concern for people using alternative transportation in the Tysons-area tomorrow (May 8) — the same day that some Uber and Lyft drivers plan to strike.
Biesiadny stressed the importance of planning trips and using resources like Twitter, Facebook, BusTracker, texting stop IDs to 414-11 and the customer service number as a way for people to find out the bus schedules.
“We’re trying to reach out to passengers but also we also want passengers to reach out to us,” he said.
Photo via Facebook