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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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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.

The online survey, which is available in English and Spanish, will now be open until next Wednesday (Oct. 27).

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).

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Morning Notes

Fairfax Connector Offers Metro Alternatives — With Metrorail service limited throughout the rest of the week, Fairfax Connector is reminding commuters that it offers express service to the Pentagon or downtown D.C. from five sites, including the Vienna Metro station on route 698. [Fairfax Connector]

Proposed Redistricting Maps Now Available — “The Board of Supervisors authorized a public hearing on Nov. 9 to consider proposed redistricting plans…There were 64 plans submitted in total by the board-appointed committee established to recommend new maps and the public, and these plans may be reviewed through an online dashboard.” [Fairfax County Government]

International Earthquake Drill Coming Tomorrow — “Every year, ShakeOut Day is the largest earthquake drill ever…What we do to prepare now before the next big earthquake will determine how well we can survive and recover. ShakeOut will occur in houses, workplaces, schools and public spaces at 10:21 a.m. local time on Oct. 21.” [Fairfax County Emergency Information]

County Opens Graham Road “Traffic Garden” — Fairfax County recently introduced a traffic garden near the Graham Road Community Center in West Falls Church to promote traffic safety education. The facility features an intersection with crosswalks and two-way lanes, mimicking real-life street conditions so kids can learn the rules of the road free of hazards. [Fairfax County Health Department]

Wolf Trap Accepting Grant Applications from Local Arts Teachers — “The Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts is accepting applications for this year’s Grants for High School Performing Arts Teachers Program. The grants are available to teachers across the D.C. area. The grant application deadline is Nov. 15, and grantees will be named in December for the 2021-22 school year.” [Patch]

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Morning Notes

Indigenous Peoples’ Day Scheduling Changes Announced — Most Falls Church city buildings will be closed on Monday (Oct. 11) in recognition of Indigenous Peoples’ Day, with the exception of the community center, which will remain open for scheduled classes and camps. In addition, Fairfax Connector will operate on a holiday weekday service schedule.

Vienna Awarded for Liberty Amendments Month — The Virginia Municipal League named Vienna Town Manager Mercury Payton its Local Champion Award winner this week for spearheading the first-ever Liberty Amendments Month. The town also won the 2021 President’s Award, which is the league’s “highest honor for innovative solutions by local government.” [Patch]

Eastern District of Virginia Gets New U.S. Attorney — The Senate voted yesterday (Wednesday) to confirm Jessica Aber as the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, which includes Fairfax County and operates out the federal courthouse in Alexandria. Her experience includes fraud and child exploitation cases as well as the prosecution of former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell, who was convicted of taking bribes but got the verdict overturned by the Supreme Court. [The Washington Post]

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Morning Notes

Police Charge Local Imam for Reported Sexual Assault — “An imam at a Fairfax County mosque in Virginia has been charged with sexually assaulting a girl in 2015. Fairfax County police said Said Shirzadi, 36, the imam at the Mustafa Center, on Braddock Road in Annandale, was charged Tuesday with indecent liberties by a custodian.” [WTOP]

Meetings Scheduled on Fairfax Connector Service Changes — The Fairfax County Department of Transportation is seeking public input on a proposed plan for Fairfax Connector bus service in Tysons, Vienna, Chantilly, Centreville, and neighboring areas, such as McLean and West Falls Church. After a previous round of engagement, the county will share its preferred plan at virtual meetings on Sept. 30 and Oct. 7. [FCDOT]

Vienna Restaurant Wins 2021 RAMMY Award — “Clarity, a restaurant from Chef-owner Jon Krinn, won the Outstanding Covid-Safe Redesign (Indoors or Outdoors) RAMMY. The restaurant adapted to the COVID-19 pandemic by offering Krinn’s rotating menu in an outdoor kitchen and outdoor dining area in the parking lot.” [Patch]

Former McLean Home of Capitals Owner Up for Sale — “The exclusive McLean compound built by Monumental Sports and Entertainment CEO Ted Leonsis is ready to trade hands again. The 3.5-acre property, which includes a Georgian-style mansion, Olympic-length pool, tennis court, and a guest house that has hosted the likes of Beyonce and Jay-Z, as well as Capitals star Alex Ovechkin, is currently on the market for $14.7 million.” [Washington Business Journal]

Metro Is Considering More Fare Changes — “Metro’s board will discuss a variety of possible changes to the transit system’s fares during its meeting on Thursday, including ideas as simple as reducing bus fares to $1 and as dramatic as getting rid of peak-hour pricing. The menu of options is part of a larger conversation around increasing ridership and ensuring the system’s fare structure is equitable, especially as the system struggles to look beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.” [DCist]

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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.

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Fairfax County Board of Supervisors chair Jeff McKay speaks during a press conference on Metro bus routes changing to Fairfax County Connector routes (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

(Updated at 10:05 a.m.) Bus routes taken offline during the pandemic are making a comeback.

Fairfax County officials gathered outside the West Falls Church Metro station yesterday (Tuesday) to herald the upcoming changes involving the Fairfax Connector, which will take over several Metrobus routes starting Saturday (July 10) and also adjust service on several key routes.

“As we come out of the pandemic, it’s never been more important to have robust bus service…to get people back on transit to remind them how convenient it is, how practical it is and how easy it is to use,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said.

McKay noted that county officials chose the Metro station as the location for their press conference formally announcing the changes, because the new bus routes will help bring transit riders there. The five new Fairfax Connector routes are projected to serve around 69,000 residents.

Another Fairfax Connector service change also starting Saturday involves discontinuing route 422 (Boone Boulevard to Howard Avenue) due to low ridership and duplicate service provided by routes 401, 402, 462, and 467, the county said.

Approved by the county board in March, the changes will restore four existing routes that were run by Metrobus but had ceased operating due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The county bus system will also take over a fifth route.

A Metrobus at the West Falls Church Metro station (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The county detailed the changes as follows:

  • 703: Pimmit Hills (former 3T route) will provide weekday and Saturday service, linking Pimmit Hills and Tysons to the McLean and West Falls Church Metrorail stations. The service operates every 30 minutes during weekday rush hours and every hour during weekday non-rush hours and Saturdays.
  • 715: East Falls Church – Langley (former 15K route) will have weekday rush hour service every 30 minutes to further link McLean, Salona Village, and Chesterbrook Gardens to the East Falls Church Metro station.
  • 803: Annandale Road (former 3A route) will deliver weekday and Saturday service, linking Lake Barcroft, Annandale, and North Springfield to the East Falls Church Metro station; it operates every 30 minutes during weekday rush hours, every 40 to 60 minutes during weekday non-rush hours, and every 45 minutes on weekends.
  • 834: Annandale-Pentagon (former 29C route) will extend to Northern Virginia Community College’s Annandale Campus Route and offer weekday rush hour service every 30 minutes linking Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale and Lincolnia to the Pentagon Metro station; express service is $4.25.
  • 835: Annandale-Pentagon (former 29W route) will extend to part of Olley Lane and Braeburn Drive and have weekday rush hour service every 30 minutes linking the Northern Virginia Community College and Willow Woods communities to the Pentagon Metro station; express service is $4.25.
Fairfax County announced bus route changes at the West Falls Church Metro station (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

Bus fees are $2 ($1 for seniors) and have unlimited transfers within two hours of boarding with a SmarTrip card. More information is available at fairfaxconnector.com, which also provides text and email alerts as well as customer service contact information.

“We are pleased to restore and enhance these services,” McKay said.

Other service changes involve routes 171 (Richmond Highway), 462 (Dunn Loring to Tysons), and 630 (Stringfellow Road — Centreville).

Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust called this an exciting time for Fairfax Connector specifically and transit in general, pointing to next year’s anticipated, long-delayed launch of the second phase of Metro’s Silver Line.

Fairfax County Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust speaks during a press conference on Metro bus routes changing to Fairfax County Connector routes (staff photo by Jay Westcott)

The moves also come as the county looks to move away from diesel buses by 2035, which the board noted last week is ahead of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s timeline to have electric buses by 2045.

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Bus riders in McLean and Falls Church can expect an increase in service next month, as Fairfax Connector prepares to take over multiple Metrobus routes, including four that had ceased operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Starting on July 10, the Fairfax County bus system will assume control of five routes from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. Some changes to existing Fairfax Connector routes, including two that connect the Tysons Corner and Dunn Loring Metro stations, will also take effect.

“Fairfax Connector will restore and provide enhanced service on these routes serving key areas in Fairfax County with connections to the McLean, East Falls Church, West Falls Church, and the Pentagon Metrorail Stations,” the Fairfax County Department of Transportation said in a news release yesterday (Wednesday).

FCDOT says the former Metrobus routes serve approximately 69,000 residents and provide access to more than 36,000 jobs in the county.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved the new routes and the changes to existing routes on March 23.

Here are the routes that Fairfax Connector is taking over from WMATA, according to the county:

Route 703: Pimmit Hills – West Falls Church (replaces Metrobus Route 3T)

  • Provides weekday and Saturday service, linking Pimmit Hills and Tysons to the McLean and West Falls Church Metrorail Stations.
  • Operates every 30 minutes during weekday rush hours, and every 60 minutes during weekday non-rush hours and on Saturdays.

Route 715: East Falls Church – Dolly Madison (replaces Metrobus Route 15K)

  • Provides weekday rush hour service every 30 minutes with improved connectivity linking McLean, Salona Village and Chesterbrook Gardens to the East Falls Church Metrorail Station.

Route 803: Annandale Road – East Falls Church (replaces Metrobus Route 3A)

  • Provides weekday and Saturday service, linking Lake Barcroft, Annandale, and North Springfield to the East Falls Church Metrorail Station.
  • Operates every 30 minutes during weekday rush hours; every 40 to 60 minutes during weekday non-rush hours; and every 45 minutes on weekends.

Route 834: Pentagon – Northern Virginia Community College’s Annandale Campus Route (replaces Metrobus Route 29C)

  • Provides weekday rush hour service every 30 minutes linking the Northern Virginia Community College, Annandale and Lincolnia to the Pentagon Metrorail Station.
  • Express service – $4.25.

Route 835: Braeburn Drive – Pentagon – Route 835 (replaces Metrobus Route 29W)

  • Provides weekday rush hour service every 30 minutes linking the Northern Virginia Community College and Willow Woods communities to the Pentagon Metrorail Station.
  • Express service – $4.25.

Service on all of those routes had been discontinued due to the pandemic, except for Metrobus Route 3A, which saw a reduced service levels.

Effective July 10, Fairfax Connector will also make a “minor operational adjustment” on Route 462 that it says will improve connectivity between the Tysons and Dunn Loring Metro stations, while increasing access along Maple Avenue in Vienna. Buses will run every 30 minutes during weekdays and weekends on that route.

In addition, Route 467, which also links the Tysons and Dunn Loring Metro stations, will start operating every 40 minutes throughout the week with the addition of Sunday service.

The route has been realigned to serve Maple Avenue, as well as Old Courthouse Road to Gallows Road, after a newly reconstructed Cedar Lane Bridge over I-66 opened to traffic in December.

Photo via Fairfax Connector/Facebook

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Memorial Day is just around the corner on Monday (May 31), and the federal holiday will bring a few closures of public buildings in the Tysons area.

Fairfax County Government:

Fairfax County Courts:

Town of Vienna

City of Falls Church:

Public Schools:

County Libraries, Recreation Centers, Parks:

  • All Fairfax County library branches will be closed.
  • All Fairfax County RECenters will operate at their regular hours.
  • Colvin Run Mill and Sully Historic Site grounds will be open from noon to 4 p.m. for strolling, but all the buildings will be closed.
  • The E.C. Lawrence, Hidden Oaks, Hidden Pond, and Huntley Meadows nature centers  will be open from noon until 5 p.m. on May 31.
  • The Riverbend Park visitor center will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
  • The McLean Community Center will be closed for Memorial Day.

Public Transit:

County Trash and Recycling:

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Fairfax Connector suspended fare collections last year as a temporary health measure in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the public bus system is considering longer-term adjustments to its fare policies with support from a new state grant program.

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation is one of 12 transit agencies in Virginia that have expressed interest in the Department of Rail and Public Transportation’s new Transit Ridership Incentive Program (TRIP), which will fund projects that increase connectivity in highly populated areas or remove barriers for low-income individuals by reducing or eliminating fares.

While fare collection resumed on Jan. 4, county leaders see reducing or subsidizing trip costs as one way to encourage more people to ride the Connector, which is the largest local bus system in Northern Virginia, transporting approximately 30,000 passengers on 91 routes in ordinary times.

“Access to transit is crucial in promoting equity county-wide and for many a barrier is cost,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Jeff McKay said. “Our Department of Transportation is committed to looking into how we can provide aid to those experiencing economic hardship.”

Created by the General Assembly during its 2020 session, TRIP was conceived before the novel coronavirus arrived in the U.S., but Virginia Transportation Secretary Shannon Valentine told the Commonwealth Transportation Board during a May 18 workshop that the pandemic illustrated how vital public transportation is for essential workers, DCist reported.

“Fares turned out to be an obstacle. So we are really trying to use this as an opportunity,” Valentine said, according to DCist.

DRPT has split TRIP into two programs: one focused on regional connectivity, which could include everything from integrated fare collection systems to the creation of bus-only lanes on significant routes, and one focused on reducing the impact of fares on low-income users, which could involve eliminating fares, creating zero-fare zones, or providing subsidized or free passes.

Virginia has allocated a total of $129 million to the TRIP initiative through fiscal year 2027, including $88.4 million for the connectivity program and $39.6 million for the fare program, according to a presentation that DRPT delivered to the Commonwealth Transportation Board.

Legislators limited the fare reduction program to 25% of the initiative’s annual funding, but the General Assembly gave the program an additional $10 million in the state’s fiscal year 2022 budget, raising its total to $12.5 million for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins on July 1.

DRPT released a draft policy last week outlining how TRIP will be implemented, including how projects will be evaluated for grant funds. The resolution is open for public input through June 18, and the CTB is scheduled to vote on it on June 23.

The department has also made a draft of the program’s application guidelines available for public comment until July 7. Read More

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