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Proposed Fairfax Connector route would speed up bus trips between Tysons and Springfield, FCDOT says

If someone wanted to take a bus from Tysons to Springfield right now, they would have to sit through dozens of stops to travel the roughly 15 miles from north Fairfax County to the south.

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation hopes to change that by adding a 400X express route that would travel between the Tysons and Franconia-Springfield Metro stations via Gallows and Backlick roads.

Among the busiest corridors in the county, Gallows and Backlick are currently served by Fairfax Connector Routes 401 and 402, but even though they span a sizable area, those routes provide more localized service with frequent stops.

“With over 100 stops on this route, passengers traveling longer distances may have a slower trip,” Fairfax County Department of Transportation spokesperson Robin Geiger said by email. “The limited stop 400X bus route addresses this issue by significantly reducing travel time in the corridor between Tysons and Franconia-Springfield.”

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted on Sept. 14 to approve Route 400X as one of seven projects recommended for funding from the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority for fiscal years 2022-2027.

Compared to the “Ring Road” project at Seven Corners, which was also in the $620 million package, the $10 million requested for the new Connector route is modest, but it would buy eight new buses, covering the entire estimated cost of the proposal.

As envisioned by the county, the new express route would provide bus service between the Tysons, Dunn Loring-Merrifield, and Franconia-Springfield Metro stations during peak hours, with a peak frequency of 20 minutes, according to FCDOT staff.

In addition to speeding up Connector trips between Tysons and Springfield, the proposed route would increase access to those areas from Annandale and help Metrorail riders who currently have to leave the county to transfer between the Orange, Blue, and Silver lines, Geiger says.

FCDOT has recommended adding a limited-stop route to enhance capacity on Routes 401 and 402 since at least 2009, according to the county’s 2016 Transit Development Plan.

According to the plan, which recommends transit improvements for fiscal years 2016-2022, Fairfax Connector increased the frequency of its service on those routes in 2014 when the first phase of Metro’s Silver Line opened, but trips can still take as long as 100 minutes during peak travel times.

With more than 108,604 people living in the I-495/Gallows Road corridor and over 176,800 jobs located there, Route 400X is part of a Franconia-Springfield bus service review that FCDOT conducted last year to see how Fairfax Connector could evolve to accommodate the area’s anticipated growth.

“This 400X route will address future travel demand in the corridor through a multi-modal response that enhances connectivity,” Geiger said, noting that the county also plans to expand Capital BikeShare and add bicycle routes. “…The route will also benefit from its connection to the Tysons Circulator routes that distribute trips to employment centers in the Tysons area.”

The review overlaps with a similar evaluation of the Tysons area that proposes several new and modified routes. Both studies will be incorporated into a Transit Strategic Plan that FCDOT is developing and expects to be adopted by the Board of Supervisors in 2022.

“If funded and approved by the Board of Supervisors, [Route 400X] is anticipated to become operational in 2023,” Geiger said.

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