ACLU of Virginia Sues Over Optional Mask Order — The civil rights organization filed a lawsuit against Gov. Glenn Youngkin yesterday (Tuesday), saying that his executive order making face masks optional in schools “shows a reckless disregard for students with disabilities.” The move comes as Fairfax County Public Schools prepares for a hearing in its joint lawsuit in Arlington County Circuit Court at 1 p.m. today (Wednesday). [WUSA9]
County Launches Black History Project — The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors and public school system are collaborating on a Black/African American Experience Project to capture, share, and preserve those aspects of the county’s history. The effort includes collecting oral histories, supporting student activities and research, and identifying options for new historical markers. [Fairfax County Government]
Tysons Software Company Expands — “Tysons’ Appian Corp. has been on a fierce hiring spree, and now it’s adding more space to accommodate those new employees. The low-code software company, which has seen demand for its products grow during the pandemic, is taking on two additional floors at its headquarters in the former Gannett building at 7950 Jones Branch Drive.” [Washington Business Journal]
Funding Approved for Vienna Stream Restoration — “The second phase of the Bear Branch stream-restoration project in Vienna will move forward, following unanimous approval Jan. 25 by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors. The project…is designed to reduce nutrients and bolster water quality in the Accotink Creek watershed.” [Sun Gazette]
Metro Offers Hiring Bonus to Bus Drivers — “Metro is offering up to a $2,500 pay incentive as part of a new campaign to hire more bus drivers. Metro, like transit agencies and other industries nationwide, is facing a staffing shortage due to the pandemic and is looking to hire nearly 70 bus drivers needed to meet the current bus service schedule.” [WMATA]
Virginia Declares State of Emergency Ahead of Possible Snow — “The National Weather Service is calling for 2 to 3 inches of snow in the District of Columbia and the immediate suburbs in Northern Virginia, along with Fredericksburg. Western Fairfax and Prince William counties, along with Loudoun County, are in the zone where only 1 to 2 inches of snow is expected.” [Patch]
Regular Metrobus Service to Return — Metro will restore regular weekday bus service on Feb. 7, as COVID-19 case rates among employees start to decline. The transit system has been operating at only about 75% of its usual service since Jan. 10 due to a shortage of drivers, leading to reports of buses not showing up and students being stranded. [DCist]
Four Displaced by VITA Tysons Fire — An unattended candle started an apartment fire in the 7900 block of Tysons One Place at 4:02 p.m. on Wednesday (Jan. 26). The fire was extinguished by a sprinkler, but four residents were displaced, and there was $3,000 in property damages, the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department says. [FCFRD/Twitter]
Vienna Seeks New Planning Director — “Vienna Planning and Zoning Director Cindy Petkac has stepped down, town officials said at the Vienna Town Council’s Jan. 24 meeting. Petkac departed in December last year because she ‘wanted to pursue other professional opportunities,’ said Town Manager Mercury Payton.” [Sun Gazette]
Founders Row Restaurants Confirmed — The new casual, American concept Ellie Bird will be joined at the upcoming Falls Church development by Arlington-based seafood restaurant Chasin’ Tails, the fast-casual Roll Play Vietnamese Grill, and Vietnamese restaurant-bar Nue. Founders Row is under construction now but reportedly nearing completion. [Falls Church News-Press]
McLean Central Park Meeting Postponed — “The virtual public meeting originally scheduled for Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2022 to present the revised McLean Central Park Development Concept Plan has been rescheduled. A new meeting date is now confirmed for Wednesday, March 2, 2022 at 7 p.m.” [FCPA]
The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors has submitted plans for its Tysons Fire Station and Bus Transit Facility project.
As shared at a public meeting in November, the project will relocate Fire Station 29 from Spring Hill Road to the 8300 Jones Branch Drive site now occupied by Fairfax Connector’s West*Park Transit Station, which will be replaced with a smaller, one-story building with offices and a commuter waiting area.
The new two-story, 20,000 square-foot fire station will have a garage with five engine bays as well as storage and administrative space, including offices, a kitchen, an exercise room, and bunk rooms for workers.
“The existing station is 3-bay only, outdated and having limited room on site for expansion,” a statement of justification said. “This project provides the opportunity to serve the Tysons area with a 5-bay fire station, replacement transit station and a new access to the [Dulles Toll Road].”
To build the facilities, the county board wants to remove the 4.2-acre parcel from a proffer agreement with a developer that limited its use to a bus station, kiss-and-ride lot, or mass transit facility, according to the application submitted on Jan. 4.
In response to traffic circulation concerns raised by some county staff, project manager Jun Li said that maintaining a clear separation between vehicles and pedestrians has been a design priority.
The overhauled site is expected to produce fewer trips during peak hours than it does now, because the number of bus bays for passenger loading will be reduced from seven to five, and shift changes for fire station personnel will occur outside of peak hours.
A traffic study approved by the county and state transportation departments estimated that the fire station will see a total of four trips per hour, based on projections of how many calls the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department will receive in the area.
The proposed plan allocates 46 parking spaces to the fire station and eight spaces for the bus facility, including two spaces each designated for people with disabilities. The transit station currently has 40 parking spaces total.
According to Li, the new bus facility is envisioned more as a transfer station, rather than a park-and-ride lot, so the county doesn’t anticipate a lot of cars or bicycles at the site.
However, the county is considering adding a shared bicycle and pedestrian lane along Jones Branch Drive and has committed to providing 8-foot-wide sidewalks on Jones Branch and Spring Hill Road.
The facility will feature electric charging stations for both buses and cars. The county hopes to reduce energy and carbon emissions by at least 30%.
“We are also in process of studying net zero,” Li wrote.
The application notes, though, that the project as proposed would eliminate all existing tree cover.
“As the project moves along, more effort will be investigated for preserving the tree canopies as much as possible when getting into design details,” the statement of justification says. “Given the lack of tree preservation, the balance of the tree canopy cover requirement would need to be met with new on-site tree planting.”
Fairfax Connector Plans Regular Service — “In anticipation of more winter weather and snowy conditions overnight, Fairfax Connector will operate regular service on Friday, Jan. 7, 2022. Fairfax Connector officials want to remind passengers to check their route-specific information before heading out because detours on individual routes will be in effect in anticipation of poor road conditions.” [FCDOT]
Metrobus to Follow Moderate Snow Plan Today — “In a moderate snow service plan, service on some routes is suspended and detours will be in effect on certain routes to avoid areas prone to hazardous conditions such as hilly terrain and narrow streets. Approximately 119 out of 183 routes will operate. Bus supervisors will assess roads overnight to ensure they are safe for bus operations.” [WMATA]
Tysons Mass Vaccine Site Closed — “The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is closing five of its Community Vaccination Centers (CVCs) on Friday, January 7, 2022, due to expected inclement weather with some areas of the state expected to see several inches of snow.” [VDH]
County Tweaks COVID-19 Protocols — “Due to the ongoing surge of COVID-19 cases in the Fairfax Health District, the Health Department will no longer provide individuals with clearance letters to return to work or school following COVID-19 infection or exposure. The agency will also stop providing written communications that exclude people from work or school due to illness or exposure.” [FCHD]
Tysons Area Ramen Offerings Highlighted — Northern Virginia Magazine recommends Jinya Ramen Bar, which has locations in the Mosaic District and Reston, and Hokkaido Ramen Santouka at The Boro for those craving a unique ramen bowl. [Northern Virginia Magazine]
Get Advice from Tysons Business Leader — “Aspiring entrepreneurs can get start-up tips from Pallabi Saboo, CEO of Tysons-based Harmonia Holdings Group during the Fairfax County Economic Development Authority’s next Entrepreneurship 101 virtual workshop on Tuesday, January 11.” [FCEDA]
COVID-19 Infections Contribute to Metrobus Driver Shortage — “More than 50 Metro bus routes are experiencing delays and increased wait times due to a driver shortage across the city. WMATA cites the spread of new COVID variants, such as delta and omicron, as one of the causes of the shortage, as employees take sick leave to recover.” [WUSA9]
County Urges Awareness of Unhoused People — As the winter solstice, last night (Tuesday) was the longest one of the year, prompting Fairfax County to acknowledge its 1,000-plus residents who experience homelessness every winter. The county advises community members to call its Department of Public Safety Communications at 703-691-2131 if they see someone in need of shelter, and the annual Hypothermia Prevention Program is now underway. [Fairfax County Government]
Nearby: Mary Riley Styles Library Goes Virtual — “Due to concerns about the recent increase in COVID-19 transmissions in the area, all in-person library programs and use of library conference rooms are suspended until mid-January 2022. Group study rooms may still be reserved, but are limited to groups of three or less.” [City of Falls Church]
Transit and Amenities Drive Fairfax County Office Demand — “New office buildings in transit-oriented mixed-use developments in Tysons and Reston have generated leasing and investor interest as office tenants court young workers. But as these projects soak up the pandemic-weakened demand for new leases, the older suburban-style office buildings have suffered.” [Bisnow]
Student Mental Health Support Staffing a Concern in FCPS — “Many Fairfax County Public Schools students were experiencing high levels of anxiety and depression even before the pandemic struck nearly two years ago and county officials are struggling to maintain adequate mental-health staffing to address those concerns.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]
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.
The Fairfax County Department of Transportation has extended the Oct. 18 deadline for its community survey on proposed changes to bus service in Centreville, Chantilly, Vienna, Tysons, and neighboring areas, including McLean and Falls Church.
Unveiled at virtual public meetings on Sept. 30 and Oct. 7, the preferred plan will enable Fairfax Connector to serve more people, reduce travel times, maintain more reliable schedules, and provide more access to key destinations in the area, according to FCDOT.
“We encourage people to take the survey so they can tell us what is most important to them in the preferred bus plan for the Centreville, Chantilly, Vienna and Tysons areas,” FCDOT Transit Planning Chief Michael Felschow said. “The service belongs to our riders and our goal is to make it dependable, convenient and on-time.”
Fairfax Connector launched its review last year as part of a broader effort to identify service improvements that could be made throughout the transit system. So far, the evaluation has also included looks at the Franconia-Springfield area as well as Reston and Herndon.
County officials initially presented three possible plans: one similar to existing service patterns, one that completely overhauled the service area, and a hybrid. The preferred plan now under consideration is the product of revisions based on community feedback.
The proposed plan encompasses 24 bus routes, including several involving the Tysons area:
- Route 427 (North Tysons-Spring Hill): A new route between the Spring Hill Metro station and the McLean Governmental Center area, via Jones Branch Drive and Spring Hill Road
- Route 468 (Vienna-Reston): A new route between the Vienna and future Reston Town Center Metro stations, via Lawyers and Soapstone roads
- Route 660 (Centreville-Tysons): New, direct express service between the Centreville Park & Ride on Stone Road and the Tysons Metro station, via the Vienna station and I-495 Express Lanes
- Route 662 (Centreville-Vienna): New off-peak and weekend service between the Centreville Park & Ride and the Vienna Metro station, via I-66
- Route 671 (Chantilly-Vienna): New off-peak and weekend service with limited stops between Chantilly and the Vienna Metro station, via Route 50
- Route 722 (McLean-Langley): A new express route between the McLean Metro station and Langley, via Route 123/Dolley Madison Boulevard
Some existing routes in the plan will have better connectivity or more frequent service, such as Route 467 between Dunn Loring and Tysons and Route 461, which travels in a loop through Vienna and Oakton.
A full breakdown of the routes and service maps can be found on FCDOT’s website.
Fairfax Connector is also studying a “flex service concept area” in Vienna and McLean northwest of Route 123 “as a way to provide future on-demand service to and from the four Metro Stations within Tysons,” according to a map showing the preferred plan’s peak service routes.
According to FCDOT, the preferred plan will shave about a minute off the average travel time within the review area compared to its existing Connector service. It will also put an additional 2,700 people within a quarter-mile of the bus system.
The changes will provide more service to population and job centers as well as minority communities and households with an income at or below $50,000, according to the county.
Along with filling out the online survey, community members can also provide input by phone (703-877-5600), email ([email protected]), and mail (Fairfax County Department of Transportation, 4050 Legato Road, Suite 400, Fairfax, VA 22033).
Last Day for Voting Registration in Virginia — Today (Tuesday) is the deadline to register to vote in the Nov. 2 general election, which will determine Virginia’s next governor, House of Delegates, and other races. New voters and people who need to update their name or address can register online or by visiting the Fairfax County general registrar’s office. [Office of Elections]
Post Service Pilots Paycheck Redemption in Falls Church — The U.S. Postal Service is testing a program where people can redeem paychecks for Visa gift cards, topping out at $500, in Falls Church, Washington, Baltimore and the Bronx. It began in September and could expand to other places, possibly going nationwide after the holiday season. [The Washington Post]
More Overnight I-66 Closures Starting Today — “All lanes of I-66 West approaching Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) will close nightly October 12-14 for continued bridge beam installation at the I-66/I-495 Interchange. Traffic will be detoured using Route 7 and I-495. The ramp from I-495 North to I-66 West, as well as the 495 Express Lanes North, and multiple lanes of I-495 North approaching I-66 will also be closed so that this work may be implemented.” [VDOT]
Falls Church Warns of School Bus Delays — “Falls Church City Public Schools in Virginia is alerting parents that some school bus routes could be delayed because of double runs starting Tuesday. The problem is driver shortages. The announcement comes as many school districts in the D.C. region are experiencing similar issues.” [WTOP]
35th District Delegate Candidate Forum Tonight — The League of Women Voters of the Fairfax Area is hosting an online candidate forum at 7 p.m. today for Virginia’s 35th House District, which includes the Town of Vienna and part of Tysons. Register in advance to hear the conversation between incumbent Del. Mark Keam (D) and challenger Kevin McGrath (R). [Patch]
A regional study of the proposed bus rapid transit (BRT) route from Tysons to Alexandria is moving into a new phase that will assess options through the Seven Corners area.
The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission voted last night (Thursday) to approve a contract for the fourth phase of its Envision Route 7 mobility analysis study, which began in 2013 to evaluate the possibility of bus service between the Spring Hill Metro station and Alexandria’s Mark Center.
“As we look to the corridor in segments, Fairfax has done a lot of work from Tysons to the border of Falls Church,” NVTC staff said at yesterday’s meeting. “This picks up on the analysis they’ve done and continues down to Seven Corners.”
The study is expected to take up to 18 months, ending in April 2023. It will be followed by environmental and preliminary engineering design before staff comes back with a strategic framework for the plan. The contract was approved with a $516,800 cap.
According to a report prepared for the meeting:
The Envision Route 7 Phase IV-1 Mobility Study will evaluate and determine the mobility benefits and impacts resulting from the proposed Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) from Tysons to Seven Corners. The overall study objectives for this effort for the section of Route 7 from Tysons to Seven Corners are:
- To determine the mobility benefits of BRT along Route 7;
- To gain a better appreciation of the traffic impacts of BRT along Route 7;
- To gain an understanding of the traffic operational issues with a BRT operating along
Route 7; and,
- To facilitate the public understanding of how a BRT would operate along Route 7.
With the 11-mile Route 7 corridor expected to see a 35% growth in population and jobs by 2040, NVTC anticipates that the planned BRT will generate about 30,000 boardings per day, two-thirds of which will be for shopping and recreation, according to the project webpage.
Photo via Northern Virginia Transportation Commission
Starting over Labor Day weekend, transfers between Metro trains and Fairfax Connector buses will be free.
The Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) said yesterday (Monday) it has partnered with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to provide free transfers on nearly all Connector bus routes beginning on Sunday (Sept. 5).
This lines up with Metro’s new policy of also offering free bus transfers, which was first announced earlier this month.
“Fairfax Connector has historically aligned fare policies with Metrobus and by doing so, helps create a seamless experience for users when moving between transit services provided by WMATA and the County,” FCDOT spokesperson Robin Geiger wrote in an email. “That’s why we are partnering with WMATA to extend their program to Fairfax Connector bus service to provide good customer service and provide incentives to ride transit.”
The two exceptions will be the Fairfax Connector Express Service and the Wolf Trap shuttle. Both will be discounted by $2, though, with the use of WMATA’s SmarTrip card or app.
This is a pilot program that will operate for the next 10 months, through early July 2022, Geiger says.
Fairfax Connector serves all Metro stations located in Fairfax County. The transit system recently expanded service in the Falls Church area by taking over five Metrobus routes, four of which had ceased operations during the pandemic.
Additionally, the Wolf Trap shuttle will start again operating on Sept. 5. The shuttle runs between the West Falls Church Metro station and Wolf Trap National Park’s Filene Center.
The new policy is part of a larger push to encourage increased ridership on the Fairfax Connector as schools, offices, and other public places reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We hope that when people go back to their workplaces, they consider returning to or trying transit for the first time,” writes Geiger. “Now, is the time to ride because the free transfer from Fairfax Connector to Metrorail or from Metrorail to Fairfax Connector saves money and because Fairfax Connector continues to provide a safe and healthy environment on buses.”
In May, county officials said they were reviewing possibly reducing or even eliminating fares altogether on the Fairfax Connector.
To help with this, the county was planning to apply for grant funds from Virginia’s Transit Ridership Incentive Program. The application deadline for the program is Sept. 17. Geiger says there’s currently no additional information on the possibility of reducing or eliminating fares.