Tysons, VA

People who live and work in Tysons are one step closer to getting a bus rapid transit route through the area.

Fairfax County began studying options for bus rapid transit in Tysons two-and-a-half years ago as part of the larger Envision Route 7 BRT project from the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, which would establish bus service between Tysons and the Mark Center in Alexandria.

Now, the Fairfax County Department of Transportation has settled on a preferred route within Tysons, which it will recommend to the NVTC as the organization embarks on the fourth phase of study for the Envision project.

The county’s preferred route goes up Route 7 and takes International Drive up to Spring Hill Road, where it loops onto Tyco Road to rejoin International Drive. It will make six stops, FCDOT BRT Route 7 Project Manager Sean Schweitzer said during an informational meeting Wednesday night (March 24).

FCDOT chose the route out of three proposed alternatives because it would serve the most households, the greatest population — about 6,700 people — and the largest employment area in Tysons, according to Schweitzer.

Staff had narrowed nine options down to three after considering cost, sustainability, and accessibility, among other factors, he said. The second option, which is much shorter, branches off Route 7 to loop past Tysons Corner Center and the Tysons Metro station.

Schweitzer said the third alternative most closely resembles the NVTC’s vision for a route through Tysons, circling around Tyco and Spring Hill roads but remaining aligned with Route 7 by passing through the Greensboro Metro station.

FCDOT staff will accept comments on the proposed paths through April 14 via the Route 7 BRT Survey. The NVTC will incorporate the selected route into the final phase of its Envision Route 7 BRT study this summer and fall, Schweitzer said.

“BRT is a more efficient form of local bus, which typically operates in zone-exclusive lanes,” he said. “BRT usually has enhanced stations with raised platforms for level boarding, smart digital fare, and real-time passenger information and bus times. Stops are more limited than local bus and are more distanced.”

BRT is comparable to light rail but at a lower capital cost, he said.

Like the BRT service operated by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority in Alexandria, pictured above, a service in Tysons could run along the median for part of the route. To further reduce conflicts with cars and bicycles, buses would get transit signal priority, and bicycle lanes would run behind the stations.

The buses would drive in mixed traffic, turning left onto Spring Hill and transitioning into a bus-and-turn lane before returning to the median lane, according to Schweitzer.

The service would run from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m. on weekdays and 6 a.m. to 12 a.m. on weekends, seating 110 passengers, he said.

After the meeting, FCDOT planner Mike Garcia told Tysons Reporter that the county obtained input from residential and commercial management groups, homeowners and civic associations, faith communities, libraries, recreational centers, schools, and other stakeholders, including the Tysons Partnership, in coordination with district supervisor offices.

“The pandemic did limit our outreach efforts to physically reach out to communities,” he said.

Map via FCDOT, photo via Google Maps

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Fairfax Connector will make a few service changes this summer.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved several proposed service changes during its meeting yesterday (Tuesday). The changes will be implemented starting July 10.

Service on Routes 462 and 467 will be enhanced “to improve connectivity between the Dunn Loring and Tysons Corner Metrorail Stations, as well as provide access to employment centers and activity centers along Maple Avenue,” according to the proposal made to the Board of Supervisors.

Route 462 will operate with 30-minute frequency while providing weekday peak-period service between the Dunn Loring and Tysons Corner Metrorail stations.

The realignment of Route 467 comes in response to the opening of a new Cedar Lane Bridge in Vienna.

The route will add Sunday service and provide weekday, midday and evening service as well as weekend service between the Dunn Loring and Tysons Corner Metrorail stations. The new realigned route will service Maple Avenue, and Old Courthouse Road to Gallows Road. It will operate with 40-minute frequency.

Route 422 will be discontinued due to low ridership, and because it duplicates service on other routes, including Routes 462 and 467. It currently operates as a circulator between Boone Boulevard and the Tysons Corner Metrorail station.

The proposal to the board says that eliminating Route 422 would offset the service adjustments to Routes 462 and 467.

Fairfax Connector will also assume operations of five Metrobus routes — Routes 703, 715, 803, 834, and 835 — that link communities to the McLean, East Falls Church, West Falls Church, and Pentagon Metrorail stations.

Route 703 replaces the existing Metrobus Route 3T, which is not currently operating and had been scheduled to be eliminated by the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority this year. The new route will provide weekday and Saturday service, linking Pimmit Hills and Tysons to the McLean and West Falls Church Metrorail stations.

Route 803 replaces existing Metrobus Route 3A, which is operating with reduced levels of service. The route will provide weekday and Saturday service to connect Lake Barcroft, Annandale and North Springfield to the East Falls Church Metrorail station.

Both 703 and 803 will operate with 30-minute frequency during weekday peak periods, 40- to 60-minute frequency during weekday off-peak periods and 45-minute frequency on weekends.

Routes 715, 834, and 835 will all provide peak-period service to replace existing Metrobus routes that are not operating currently. They will operate with a frequency of 30 minutes.

Route 715 replaces Route 15K, which links McLean, Salona Village and Chesterbrook Gardens to the East Falls Church Metrorail station.

Route 834 replaces Route 29C, which connects Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale, and Lincolnia to the Pentagon Metrorail station.

Route 835 replaces Route 29W, which links the Northern Virginia Community College and Willow Woods communities in Annandale to the Pentagon Metrorail Station.

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation announced plans to pursue the service changes in December. The changes carry an estimated capital cost of up to $650,000 to purchase 12 buses from Metro and an additional $400,000 to convert them to the Fairfax Connector fleet, according to county staff.

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The Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) has developed three potential routes for a bus rapid transit system (BRT) that would travel through Tysons and along the Route 7 corridor.

County staff will hold virtual public meetings at noon on Friday (March 19) and at 7 p.m. next Wednesday (March 24) to share details about the proposed routes, including possible station locations and performance analyses based on tests of the options.

Fairfax County has been studying options for bus rapid transit in Tysons since October 2018 as an offshoot of a larger Northern Virginia Transportation Commission Envision Route 7 BRT project that would establish bus service between Tysons and the Mark Center in Alexandria through Falls Church.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors recently approved $140,000 in funding to support the next phase of NVTC’s study, which will evaluate mobility benefits, impacts, and potential issues that could arise from the proposed bus system.

The county’s Route 7 BRT study focuses specifically on the Tysons portion of the project, which encompasses approximately three miles of Leesburg Pike from the Spring Hill Metro station to the I-66 interchange.

Based on a map from FCDOT, the three routes currently being considered are:

  • Alternative 1 circles around Tyco and Spring Hill roads via the Spring Hill Metro station and travels along International Drive before connecting with Route 7 at Gallows Road
  • Alternative 2 branches off Route 7 to loop past Tysons Corner Center and the Tysons Metro station
  • Alternative 3 circles around Tyco and Spring Hill roads but stays aligned with Route 7, passing through the Greensboro Metro station

FCDOT staff will present a preferred route out of those three options during the two upcoming public meetings, and there will be time for questions and provide feedback.

Attendees can register online to receive a link to the WebEx meetings or dial in by phone at 1-844-621-3956. Comments can also be provided through an electronic survey that will be available after the meetings or through the project team’s feedback form.

Comments on the Route 7 BRT study will be accepted until April 14.

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Morning Notes

(Updated at 9:20 a.m.) Fairfax County Gets New General Registrar — “The Fairfax County Electoral Board appointed Scott O. Konopasek as the county’s new general registrar and director of elections at its March 11, 2020, meeting. He will lead the Fairfax County Office of Elections following the retirement of the current registrar Gary Scott who has worked in the office for the past 24 years. Konopasek’s tentative starting date is April 19.” [Fairfax County Government]

Metrobus to Expand Service Starting March 14 — Metro will increase bus service to 80% of pre-pandemic levels starting next week to accommodate increased ridership demand. Some routes, including Route 28A between the Tysons and King Street-Old Town Metro stations, will have service completely restored to pre-pandemic levels, while others will get supplemental buses or have weekend service restored. [WMATA]

Tysons One East Developer Joins Expansion of The Boro — The D.C. developer Akridge has partnered with The Meridian Group on its plans to expand The Boro in Tysons with additional mixed-use development. Akridge is also behind the Tysons One East tower that Fairfax County approved last year for Old Meadow Road near the McLean Metro station. [Bisnow]

House Fire in Vienna Extinguished — “Units on scene of a house fire in the 10400 block of Hunt Country Lane. First arriving reported smoke showing from two story home. Small fire located and extinguished. All occupants safe. Crews checking for extension.” [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department/Twitter]

McLean Student Wins State Journalism Competition — “McLean High School senior Marina Qu has been named the 2021 Virginia Journalist of the Year by the Virginia Association of Journalism Teachers and Advisers. Qu serves as editor-in-chief of The Highlander newsmagazine and The Tartan literary magazine; she has been on both publications’ staff for three years.” [FCPS]

FEMA Gives Virginia Funding for COVID-19 Vaccinations — “The Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded $38.6 million in funding to support COVID-19 vaccination efforts in Virginia. A grant of $1,814,688 will be used to pay for staff needed to administer vaccines, while a grant of $36,750,003 has been made available to establish a number of mobile vaccine sites across the state.” [Patch]

Vienna Decks Out “Love” Sign for St. Patrick’s Day — “Friends of the Washington & Old Dominion Trail Trail Patrol volunteer was kind enough to pose for this. #LOVEViennaVA sign has been decorated for St. Patrick’s Day, so snap away #spring #March.” [Town of Vienna/Twitter]

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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A new bus route in Tysons is one step closer to becoming a reality.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors unanimously voted Tuesday (Feb. 23) to move forward with a Phase IV-1 Mobility Analysis Study as a part of a Envision Route 7 Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project being undertaken by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC).

Launched in October 2018, the project aims to connect the Mark Center in Alexandria to Tysons through Bailey’s Crossroads, Seven Corners and Falls Church along Route 7 via bus. Three phases of the study have already been conducted, with the most recent one completed in fall 2019.

The fourth phase that the board approved Tuesday is “to evaluate and determine the mobility benefits and impacts resulting from the proposed BRT from Tysons to Seven Corners,” according to the board’s agenda package. The study will also identify right-of-way concerns and any other potential issues along the proposed project corridor.

The mobility analysis study will add about 3.5 miles to a micro-simulation model that the Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) developed to evaluate current and future traffic conditions from Tysons to the City of Falls Church.

Last year, NVTC got a $560,000 grant from the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation to fund the Phase IV-1 study. The state will cover half of the cost, while the localities involved in the study will collectively match the remaining $280,000.

Under a memorandum of agreement that the Board of Supervisors approved Tuesday, Fairfax County will contribute $140,000 to the local match. The funds will come from state aid held in trust at NVTC.

In the first phase of the Envision Route 7 study, NVTC assessed the existing issues and opportunities to improve the Route 7 corridor. The study team then determined that a BRT system from Mark Center to Tysons — via the East Falls Church Metro Station — could be a viable transit solution before conducting a conceptual engineering study.

NVTC says on the project website that the mobility analysis study is expected to take 12 to 18 months.

Working with the Virginia Department of Transportation, FCDOT is supplementing NVTC’s project with a Route 7 BRT study of its own that focuses specifically on Tysons from the Spring Hill Metro station to the I-66 interchange. The county says it will host a public meeting on its study in early March.

Image via NVTC

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Fairfax Connector has suspended service to bus stop 2605 on Leesburg Pike and Laurel Hill Road until December to accommodate construction on Route 7.

The temporary bus stop closure took immediate effect around noon today, and it is expected to last until approximately the end of 2021, the Fairfax County transit system says.

According to Fairfax Connector, the suspension of service was necessitated by a traffic switch that began this week on Leesburg Pike between Lewinsville Road and Jarrett Valley Drive in the McLean area.

The Virginia Department of Transportation initiated a lane shift and closed direct access to Route 7 from Laurel Hill and Old Ash Grove as part of its Route 7 corridor improvement project, which is widening the highway between Tysons and Reston. The traffic changes will be in effect until late 2021.

Fairfax Connector advises passengers to use stop 2673 as an alternative to the closed stop. Stop 2673 is located near the intersection of Leesburg Pike and Lewinsville Road across from the McLean Bible Church.

Photo via Google Maps

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Updated at 1:10 p.m. on 1/19/2021 — Fairfax Connector announced today that the changes to its bus service for tomorrow’s inauguration have now been extended through Thursday (Jan. 21).

Fairfax Connector Routes 697 (Stringfellow Road Park and Ride – Downton D.C.) and 699 (Fairfax County Government Center – Foggy Bottom) will continue to operate as free shuttles to the Vienna Metrorail station through Thursday, Jan. 21, 2021, adding an additional day to the service detour. Passengers should take the Metrorail Orange Line to complete their trip into Washington, D.C.  Fairfax Connector staff will continue to monitor road closures and make a determination about Friday as the week goes on.

Earlier: With only a week left until President-elect Joe Biden’s inauguration, Fairfax Connector announced that two bus routes will stop operating today (Wednesday) through Jan. 20 due to planned road closures in Washington, D.C.

Route 699, which normally travels between the Fairfax County Government Center and downtown D.C., will instead serve as a free shuttle to transport riders from the government center park and ride to the south entrance of the Vienna Metro station.

“The shuttles will leave the government center at the time on the schedule,” Fairfax Connector said in a tweet. “The shuttles will leave Vienna about 45 mins after their DC departure time with the goal of getting riders back to the P&R lot near their regularly scheduled arrival time.”

Fairfax Connector suggests Routes 631, 632, and 634 as travel alternatives for passengers on Route 697, which goes from the Stringfellow Road Park and Ride in Centreville to D Street SW in D.C. Routes 631, 632, and 634 all stop at the Stringfellow Park and Ride and the Vienna Metro station.

Fears that the violence that embroiled the U.S. Capitol last week could return during the lead-up to Inauguration Day have put the D.C. region on edge, prompting thousands of National Guard troops and federal, state, and local law enforcement officers to mobilize for the National Special Security Event.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay joined other local and state public officials in warning community members against traveling to downtown D.C. on the day of the inauguration and the days preceding it.

“Sadly, the terror that occurred at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, was not a contained or isolated incident, and there is continued concern that similar violence is an ongoing threat to Americans and our democracy,” McKay said in a statement today.

The chairman says that the Fairfax County Police Department has been in contact with D.C. police about “the evolving situation” and has increased its presence in “key areas” of the county.

McKay advises residents to stay home if possible, avoid downtown D.C., and report any suspicious activity to police at 9-1-1 or the FCPD’s non-emergency line at 703-691-2131.

“Fairfax County will do all we can to help our partners in the region ensure a peaceful and safe transition of power on January 20, 2021 because that is the will of Fairfax County residents and the majority of Americans across the country,” McKay said.

Photo via Fairfax Connector/Facebook

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The Fairfax County Department of Transportation is seeking public comment on 10 proposed changes to its Fairfax Connector bus service, including alterations to several routes in the Tysons area.

Fairfax Connector announced on Dec. 18 that, in response to the opening of a new Cedar Lane Bridge over Interstate 66, it will enhance service to Routes 462 and 467, which link the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro station with Tysons Corner.

In a news release issued yesterday (Tuesday), FCDOT provides more details on those impending changes, which are set to take effect on Jan. 4:

Route 462 — Dunn Loring-Navy Federal-Tysons: This route would continue to serve Old Courthouse Rd. and Gallows Rd. operating every 30 minutes, during rush hour, presently being served by Route 422. The route is now linked to Route 467.

Route 467 — Dunn Loring-Tysons: This change would add service to Old Courthouse Road and Gallows Road, add Sunday service and improve frequency, operating every 40 minutes, 7 days a week.

On top of those changes, Fairfax Connector is also exploring the possibility of adding five routes that would replace service previously provided by Metrobus.

Two of the proposed new routes would serve the Tysons area:

Route 703 — Pimmet Hills: This route would replace Metrobus 3T and provide service between the West Falls Church Metrorail and McLean Metrorail stations, operating Monday-Friday + Saturday

Route 715 — Chain Bridge Rd.: This route would replace Metrobus 15K on weekdays only. The first southbound trip starts at Langley and would eliminate a section of the current Metrobus 15K route between Rosslyn and Langley.

FCDOT will host a virtual community meeting on all of the suggested service changes on Jan. 7 at 7 p.m. Registration for the WebEx event is now open.

Community members can also share their feedback by taking an online survey that is available in English and Spanish, emailing [email protected], calling 703-339-7200, or sending a letter addressed to FCDOT Planning at 4050 Legato Road #400 Fairfax, VA 22033-2895.

Public comments must be received by 5 p.m. on Jan. 22.

According to a presentation on the service changes, FCDOT plans to request that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approve its proposal in February. If approved, the changes would take effect in July 2021.

Photo via Fairfax Connector/Facebook

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Fairfax Connector is enhancing its service for two routes between the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro station and Tysons Corner.

The Fairfax County bus system announced today (Friday) that the anticipated Dec. 23 opening of a new Cedar Lane bridge over Interstate 66 gives it the ability to restore Routes 462 and 467 to their previous routing and scheduling, effective Jan. 4.

Route 467 will also have Sunday service “due to increased passenger demand,” Fairfax Connector says.

The enhanced Dunn Loring-Tysons routes are one of several service changes that Connector passengers can expect starting on Jan. 4.

On that day, Fairfax Connector will begin resuming fare collection following a months-long hiatus that began in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Riders must also return to boarding from the front door after entry shifted to the rear doors in an effort to limit close contact between passengers and drivers and mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The move comes as doses of two vaccines produced by Moderna and Pfizer are delivered in Virginia and throughout the country to front-line health care workers and individuals in long-term care facilities.

Metro will also begin resuming the collection of bus fares on Jan. 3.

In order to protect passengers and bus operators, the county has installed polycarbonate driver shields on buses. Face coverings continue to be mandatory inside buses.

Connector staff have distributed 66,000 face coverings to passengers without masks since May. Riders are encouraged to practice social distancing when possible, stay at home if they are sick, and wash hands often with soap and water.

Transdev, the bus systems operations continue, continues to step up cleaning and disinfecting of bus interiors and commonly used areas like door handles and handrails, according to the county.

Angela Woolsey contributed to this report

Staff photo by Jay Westcott, photo courtesy Fairfax County Department of Transportation

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Metro will start collecting fares from bus riders again on Jan. 3 as part of its pandemic recovery plan, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority announced yesterday (Thursday).

The WMATA board of directors authorized a temporary suspension of Metrobus fare collections in March as part of a policy prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic that required riders to board buses through the rear doors in an effort to reduce contact between passengers and drivers.

With fare collections resuming, bus riders should return to entering the vehicles from the front, where the farebox and SmarTrip equipment are located.

WMATA says the change in policy is enabled by the more robust public health procedures that it has put in place now that there is a better understanding of how the novel coronavirus is transmitted.

“With everyone wearing masks, shields for operators on every bus, and enhanced daily cleanings, front-door boarding is safe, expands our capacity for more riders, and helps us resume some normalcy,” Metro General Manager and CEO Paul Wiedefeld said. “We also need to collect fares from every rider to keep essential Metro transit employees working and continue to provide essential service.”

Metrobus costs $2 per trip, which is payable in cash or with a SmarTrip card. Metro also offers a seven-day bus pass for $15 that provides unlimited access to Metrobus and other local bus services, including the Fairfax Connector.

The plan to resume collecting bus fare comes as Metro threatens to make significant service cuts after plummeting ridership during the pandemic contributed to a projected deficit of nearly $500 million for Fiscal Year 2022.

The dilemma facing Metro is shared by other major transit systems around the country, leading local elected leaders and transportation officials to call for the inclusion of public transit funding in a federal coronavirus relief package currently under negotiation in Congress.

Without outside support, WMATA could close 19 stations, drastically reduce rail and bus service hours and routes, and eliminate 2,400 additional jobs. The impact of those cuts is expected to land hardest on low-income residents and other populations that depend on transit.

Metro’s proposed FY 2022 budget will be up for public comment early next year.

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