Tysons Corner, VA

The Vienna Town Council is entering the first stages of a process to bring electric scooters and dockless bicycles to town.

According to staff at a Town Council work session on Monday, June 10, a potentially shared mobility pilot would include both electric bicycles and scooters as “self-propelled vehicles,” but more still needs to be determined.

For starters, where will people ride electric scooters in Vienna? Council members expressed concerns about having them either on Maple Avenue or the adjoining sidewalks, which are typically only 5 feet wide and include planter boxes that narrow the sidewalks considerably. But elected officials seemed equally concerned about the prospect of having electric scooters complicating the already notoriously dangerous and congested Maple Avenue.

The discussion of a potential pilot program comes after a feasibility study for a regional bike-share network — commissioned by the City of Fairfax — was completed last fall. The Vienna process follows in the footsteps of the City of Fairfax, which Vienna staff said has launched a pilot program running from this June to next year.

Both staff and officials expressed some misgivings and frustrations with the prospect of bringing in electric scooters. Staff said that a story had come out this year that Lime Scooters would be coming to Fairfax City and Vienna, prompting a tense series of phone calls from Fairfax and Vienna staff advising Lime that they had not gone through the proper approval process.

Planning Commissioner Mary McCullough also referenced a Washington Post story that only 7 percent of regional residents reported using e-scooters as their preference for getting from one place to another.

The next step for the scooter approval process is a work session planned for sometime in the fall, which the Town Council said will likely include meeting with the Transportation Commission.

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It is far from the biggest problem facing Metro, but the lack of cell coverage in the Greensboro Metro tunnel is still a minor annoyance for locals that could be fixed earlier than planned.

Since May, Metro’s claims that Virginia’s tunnels had complete cellular coverage came with an “except for Tysons” corollary. But while Tysons was originally scheduled to get covered by 2020 with the rest of the tunnels, plans for Tysons have shifted to an expected completion by the end of the year.

“Wireless voice and data service is now available in more than 60 percent of Metro’s tunnel segments,” Sherri Ly, the media relations manager for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, said. “Metro is on schedule to have the Greensboro tunnel on the Silver Line complete by the end of this year and expects to have cellular coverage across the entire system by June 2020.”

The lack of cell service is more than a convenience issue. Experts have called it a glaring safety problem for the system — particularly in the wake of a death in a smoke-clogged tunnel in 2015.

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Bus riders in the Tysons area can expect to see blue and white Fastran buses on some Fairfax Connector routes starting today (June 3).

The buses are meant to help riders impacted by the summer shutdown of several Metro stations during the summer.

The Fairfax County Department of Neighborhood and Community Services and Fairfax County Department of Transportation teamed up to bring Fastran buses to a few Fairfax Connector routes, as the Fairfax Connector offers more service on two express routes from the Springfield area to the Pentagon.

The Fastran buses will cover these Fairfax Connector routes:

“Fastran buses do not have route numbers and destinations listed outside of the buses,” according to Fairfax County. “The Fastran buses will stop at each bus stop on affected routes to make sure passengers know to board. When boarding, please look for a sign inside the bus to verify your route.”

Riders won’t be able to check real-time arrival information for the Fastran buses, since the buses do not have the technology. Fairfax County urges riders to get to their bus stop at least 5 minutes before the bus’ scheduled arrival time, which can be found via the static schedule information on BusTracker and by texting 41-411.

Metro recently closed several stations on the Blue and Yellow lines south of Ronald Reagan National Airport for platform reconstruction that will last until September.

Fairfax County is deploying the Fastran buses through September.

Let us know below if the Metro shutdown will affect you during the summer.

Photo via UCM of Alexandria/Facebook

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Metro recently closed several stations on the Blue and Yellow lines south of Ronald Reagan National Airport for platform reconstruction that will last until September.

The temporary shutdown is a part of Metro’s plan to reconstruct its 20 outdoor concrete platforms.

Ahead of the closures, Metro got the word out about Metrobuses, free shuttles and other bus options — like the Fairfax Connector — for affected riders. (The 494 Fairfax Connector runs from Lorton to Tysons, passing through Springfield.)

Tysons Partnership has information about carpools and vanpools, which travel for free in express lanes.

From social media and news reports, the transition has caused commuting headaches for some people — from getting stuck in traffic to bus drivers getting lost to stranded riders.  Others have reported few or no issues with alternative transportation.

Let us know below if the Metro shutdown will affect you during the summer.

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The City of Falls Church is looking to reduce its residential parking and ramp up its multi-modal transportation options.

The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments’ Transportation Planning Board (TPB) approved $680,000 in assistance for 13 projects, including one to support a residential parking standards update underway in Falls Church.

Details on the update are scarce, but according to the TPB:

This project will update multi-family residential parking requirements for new development in the area. An outcome of this project will include revisions to the city’s Traffic Impact Analyses tables, which are used to estimate potential traffic impacts of proposed land uses and assign parking requirements. The project will also support a potential revision to the city’s zoning ordinance. The updated standards would be intended for use in all future multi-family residential projects and useful to other jurisdictions in the region.

The look at residential parking follows a commercial parking requirements update approved in 2016.

The residential parking standards update would be one part of a broader effort to promote non-car transportation through the city. The FY2019 budget included $25,000 to restore a commuter incentive program.

Photo via Facebook.

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After 32,000 student trips, the free Metrobus pilot program at Justice High School in Falls Church could be expanding to Marshall High School in Tysons.

Students across the county can use the Fairfax Connector and City of Fairfax CUE bus for free, and students account for 1.4 million trips on those buses in less than 4 years, but the passes have not been usable on the Metro system.

Over the last eight months, 35 percent of students at Justice High School have gotten a Metrobus-enabled student bus pass. Students at the school account for 3,500-4,000 trips per month.

Nearly half of the ridership among Justice High School students was on Metrobus Route 28A, which runs along Route 7 from King Street in Alexandria to Tysons.

Of students surveyed as part of the pilot, 70 percent had never ridden a Metrobus to or from school and 52 percent said they would not ride unless it was free. The majority of students said they also wanted to see more routes, extended hours and Metrorail service added.

The top three uses for the pass were traveling home or to activity centers — Tysons specifically — or to an after-school job.

At a Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Transportation Committee meeting on Tuesday (May 14), faculty and students from Justice High School told the committee about their experiences with the program as the committee considered an expansion of the pilot.

A similar pilot program is planned for either Marshall High School, Falls Church High School or Annandale High School in the 2020-2021 school year.

“Students take the bus to the mall and the movies, but they also go to work with it,” Justice High School Principal Maria Eck said. “I met with a student on a totally different topic, but he told me he got a better job because of the bus pass. Now he can find a job he can get transportation to, and he’s going up to Tysons to help his family.”

Staff recommended renewing the agreement with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority to continue the pilot at Justice High School next year.

“When I first heard about it, I couldn’t believe it,” Carlos Pineda-Lopez, a student at Justice High School, said. “Now, I’m not paying $40 a week for Metro. It’s been amazing. For a family that makes $30,000 with both parents combined, that adds up. Sometimes I couldn’t go to practice or work and that would hurt my family. This bus pass increased my mobility and range of jobs. Now, I can go anywhere in Virginia. That’s how the pass has helped me. It’s helped as a next step towards adulthood.”

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The Capital Bikeshare network soon could reach out to even more spots in the Tysons area.

At a Fairfax County Board Transportation Committee meeting today (Tuesday), staff went through plans to add new bike share stations throughout Tysons, Vienna and Merrifield, with potential to add them to McLean.

Currently, 30 Capital Bikeshare stations are located in Fairfax County, with 16 in Reston, 13 in Tysons, and one at the West Falls Church Metro station. The most recent Capital Bikeshare station in Tysons was installed in December at the McLean Metro station. On Friday (May 17) a new station is scheduled to activate at Hilton Headquarters (7930 Jones Branch Drive) on the other side of the Jones Branch Connector.

There are 17 proposed locations for new Capital Bikeshare docks in the Tysons area to be launched next year — including docks along the Route 7 corridor between Tysons and Falls Church and the Gallows Road corridor between Tysons and Merrifield.

In Merrifield, three new stations are planned to activate on May 22 at:

  • Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro station (2700 Gallows Road)
  • Halstead Square Dunn Loring Metro Apartments (2729 Merrilee Drive)
  • The Mosaic District (Merrifield Cinema Drive)

Six new stations are planned to launch in the area next spring.

A collaborative study for bike share expansion in Vienna was completed in March, and staff said the study recommended expanding the system throughout Vienna and considering a dockless bike share feature sometime in the future.

Along that route, Fairfax County recommends additional stations at:

  • Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro station (2700 Gallows Road)
  • Vienna Metro station (9550 Saintsbury Drive)
  • Gallows Road corridor
  • Nottoway Park (9537 Courthouse Road)
  • Circle Towers (9335 Lee Highway)

The Capital Bikeshare expansion in the study area is planned to be funded from the I-66 Commuter Choice program.

In the Town of Vienna, new bike share locations are proposed at:

  • Town Green (144 Maple Avenue E.)
  • Vienna Community Center (120 Cherry Street S.E.)
  • Maple Avenue Shopping Center (180 Maple Avenue W.)
  • Navy Federal Credit Union (820 Follins Lane)
  • 444 Maple Avenue W. (currently a redevelopment project)

Yesterday (Monday), Capital Bikeshare also expanded into Falls Church with 11 stations.

There are few details, but the staff report indicates that future expansion could add the Capital Bikeshare to other areas like McLean.

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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.

One person noted that the same driver shortage alert popped up earlier this month on Friday, May 3.

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

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The regionwide Capital Bikeshare is scheduled to open in Falls Church on Wednesday (May 8).

There are 11 new stations in total, with six located either on Broad Street or within one block of it, according to Falls Church Communications Director Susan Finarelli. Other new stations include one at the West Falls Church Metro and one near a bicycle trail near Tripps Run Creek.

The stations are planned to activate this week for a “soft opening” with an official ribbon-cutting planned Monday (May 13), according to Finarelli.

The stations offer bicycles to rent through a membership and can be ridden to any other Capital Bikeshare station.

“We’re excited to be connecting to the regional network,” said Finarelli.

Finarelli said the opening is planned for 6:30 p.m. at the Capital Bikeshare station between Clare & Don’s Beach Shack and The State Theater on N. Washington Street.

Map via City of Falls Church

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As construction gears up for widening Route 7 from Reston to Tysons, upcoming “Pardon Our Dust” meetings will provide information on the $313.9 million project and seek public feedback.

The proposed Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) project will transform nearly seven miles of Route 7 between Reston Avenue and Jarrett Valley Drive. The project includes widening Route 7 four to six lanes, adding shared-use paths, replacing the bridge over Difficult Run and revamping intersections along the corridor.

“These improvements aim to enhance safety, decrease congestion, increase capacity, and expand mobility for all users, as part of Fairfax County’s Comprehensive Plan,” according to VDOT.

VDOT will hold a public meeting next Tuesday (May 7) at Forestville Elementary School in Great Falls and a second one the following Tuesday (May 14) at Colvin Run Elementary School (1400 Trap Road). The meetings will run from 7-9 p.m. with a presentation at 7:30 p.m.

At the meetings, the team will share information on the design-build phase of the project, including the latest design and schedule, and the transition to construction work, as well as answer questions on stormwater management, right of way, environmental topics, traffic engineering and noise walls.

The current schedule for the project on VDOT’s website says, with expected completion in July 2024:

  • late summer 2018-summer 2020: final design
  • early 2019-early 2021: right of way
  • spring 2019-summer 2023: utility relocation
  • spring 2019-summer 2024: construction

Members of the public can provide input at the meetings and can email ([email protected]) or mail (4975 Alliance Drive) comments to VDOT by May 26.

Map via VDOT

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