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
Tysons Partnership Considers BID — The Tysons Partnership could become a business improvement district that would impose a tax to help fund its efforts to implement Fairfax County’s Tysons Comprehensive Plan. The district would be a first for the county, similar to what Arlington has around Amazon HQ2, but a majority of property owners would have to approve the tax. [Washington Business Journal]
Fairfax Connector Commits to COVID-19 Health Protocols — The bus system has joined the American Public Transportation Association’s Health and Safety Commitments Program, pledging to take “all the necessary measures to operate safely” as Fairfax County plans a recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. The program commits transit systems to following public health guidelines, including cleaning protocols and mask requirements, and keeping passengers informed. [Fairfax Connector]
MPAartfest Submissions Open — The McLean Project for the Arts is seeking submissions for its 15th annual MPAartfest, a one-day, juried fine art and craft show featuring local and regional visual artists. This year’s festival will take place on Oct. 3 in McLean Central Park. The deadline to submit work is June 15. [McLean Project for the Arts]
McLean Teen Organizes Church Food Drive — “A 14-year-old from McLean, Virginia, is making an extraordinary difference in her community by helping hundreds of families who need some extra help during the pandemic…[Sophia] Sears’ efforts were done in conjunction with St. John’s Episcopal Church.” [WTOP]
Fairfax County is taking a small but crucial first step toward electrifying its sprawling government vehicle fleet, thanks to more than $4 million in state grants.
Gov. Ralph Northam announced on Friday (May 7) that the county will receive $4.4 million from the first round of Virginia’s Clean Air Communities Program, an initiative that launched in November using $20 million from the state’s Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust.
Three of the five awarded grants went to Fairfax County agencies:
- Department of Transportation: $2.9 million for four shuttle buses and chargers
- Department of Public Works and Environmental Services: $1.2 million for four solid waste and recycling trucks and chargers
- Department of Vehicle Services/Department of Procurement and Material Management: $205,275 to purchase a medium-duty truck and charger for the public library system
The other recipients are the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which will get $3.9 million to purchase five shuttle buses and chargers, and Amherst County, which got $998,301 for two trucks, a shuttle bus, and chargers.
“Supporting clean transportation solutions is a vital part of our efforts to combat climate change and improve air quality in the Commonwealth,” Northam said. “These investments will reduce harmful vehicle pollution, which disproportionately impacts marginalized communities, and help accelerate an equitable transition to a cleaner economy for all Virginians.”
Fairfax County will use its grant funds to launch an electric vehicle pilot as part of a broader push to eliminate fossil fuels from the county’s transportation operations and achieve carbon neutrality by 2040.
The county’s Joint Environmental Task Force recommended in October that the Fairfax Connector bus fleet transition to electric vehicles or other non-carbon-emitting alternatives by 2030, followed by public school buses and non-bus vehicles in 2035.
The county has approximately 6,347 vehicles in its overall fleet, including 1,540 Fairfax County Public School buses, according to the Department of Vehicle Services.
While the new pilot will kick off the conversion of the county government fleet, FCPS received its first electric school buses in January from a statewide initiative led by Dominion Energy, which has pledged to replace all diesel buses in the state with electric ones by 2030.
The county first utilized electric vehicles for public transit in November, when the autonomous Relay shuttle kicked off passenger service in Merrifield for a year-long pilot project.
“To cut carbon admissions, we have to reimagine the way in which we travel,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said. “As a county, we are already actively moving towards cutting our emissions from our public transit and this will move us closer to our end goal.” Read More
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.
Car Crash Shuts Down Eastbound Leesburg Pike — A car crash around 6:48 a.m. on Leesburg Pike near Colvin Run Road forced the eastbound lanes to close. First responder crews extricated a person who was trapped in a car and transported them to a hospital with non-life-threatening injuries. The crash has now been cleared, and the road is back open. [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department/Twitter]
Madison Girls’ Basketball Team Wins State Championship — The Warhawks beat Osbourn Park 54-48 on Saturday (Feb. 20) to earn James Madison High School’s first girls basketball state title since 1993. The team was within a game of the championship last year, but the final contest was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. [The Washington Post]
Leesburg Pike Bus Stop to Be Skipped Due to Construction — “Effective February 24, 2021: Until further notice stop #2674 (Leesburg Pike and Lyons St) will be skipped due to ongoing construction on Leesburg Pike. We encourage you to use alternatives a thank you for your patience.” [Fairfax Connector/Twitter]
Fairfax Connector Reminds Passengers To Wear Face Masks — “Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) officials would like to remind Fairfax Connector passengers that they must wear a mask or a face covering, as now federally mandated, when taking public transit or visiting a transit hub in Fairfax County. This safety measure, which has been in place on board Fairfax Connector buses since May 2020, aims to protect passengers and bus operators during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.” [Fairfax Connector]
Fairfax County Public Schools to Hold Virtual Job Fair — FCPS is “searching for educators with a strong academic background and a passion to make a difference in the lives of students. To open the 2021-22 school year hiring season, FCPS will host a virtual Instructional Job Fair on Saturday, February 20, from 8 a.m. to 11:30 a.m.” [FCPS]
Sens. Kaine and Warner Raise Concerns About Continued Mail Delays — “From Dec. 19 to 31, according to statistics in the [court] filings that the Senators cited in their letter, Northern Virginia residents received less than half of their first class mail on-time. While the holiday crush is surely to be a contributing factor, rates started dropping in mid-September.” [ARLNow]
Virginia Pauses E-Z Pass Deactivations During Pandemic — For the next six months, Virginia is suspending its policy of deactivating E-Z Pass accounts if they go unused for a year, since fewer people are traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic. The number of users who got a notice that their account would be deactivated last year nearly doubled from 2019. [The Virginian-Pilot]
The Boro Partners with Red Cross for Blood Drive — “#TheBoroTysons is partnering with @americanredcro5 to host another blood drive on March 4th from 9am-3pm in Boro Station (1775 Greensboro Station Place). Donors will receive free antibody testing. Help save a life and reserve your spot!” [@TheBoroTysons/Twitter]
McLean Contractor Buys Fairfax Firm — “McLean-based tech contractor IntelliBridge Inc. announced Monday it has acquired Fairfax-based tech company Alethix LLC. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed, but the acquisition will add DevSecOps and cloud services to IntelliBridge (which is backed by Enlightenment Capital), and also expand its clientele to include homeland security, federal-civilian and defense agencies.” [Virginia Business]
Staff Photo by Jay Westcott
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.
⚠️ Effective immediately until December 2021, stop 2605 (Leesburg Pk/Laurel Hill Rd) will be suspended due to road construction. Use stop 2673 (Leesburg Pk/Lewinsville Rd) as an alternate. Thank you for your patience.
— Fairfax Connector (@ffxconnector) January 21, 2021
Photo via Google Maps
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.
⚠️ Due to road closures for Inauguration, Route 697 will not operate into DC starting immediately through Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. Passengers should use shuttle between Stringfellow P&R and Vienna Metro South. Use alternative Routes 631, 632, & 634. Thanks for your patience.
— Fairfax Connector (@ffxconnector) January 13, 2021
⚠️ Due to road closures, Route 699 will not operate into DC starting immediately through Wednesday, January 20, 2021. Route 699 will shuttle passengers (free of charge) between Government Center Park & Ride and Vienna Metro South. Thanks for your patience.
— Fairfax Connector (@ffxconnector) January 13, 2021
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
Potentially Icy Sidewalks and Roads Pose Hazards — “Temps near or below freezing combined with recent rain may cause ICY spots on roads and sidewalks this morning…Motorists and pedestrians should use caution this morning!” [Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department/Twitter]
Fairfax County Seeks Input on Fairfax Connector Future — “The Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) is beginning outreach on the 10-year Transit Strategic Plan (TSP) and is seeking input from county residents…The TSP incorporates outreach results from short-term, sub-area studies that are being conducted in Herndon/Reston, Franconia-Springfield, Centreville/Chantilly/Vienna/Tysons and Huntington.” [Sun Gazette/Inside NoVA]
McLean District Police Recover Car Reported Stolen — “Officers stopped a 2016 Acura RDX which had been reported stolen. The driver, Chesterfield Stewart, 21, of Maryland, was taken into custody. A gun with an altered serial number was located inside the SUV. Stewart was charged with receiving stolen goods and alteration of a weapon serial number.” [Fairfax County Police Department]
Fairfax County Prosecutor Makes Major Sentencing Reforms — “Prosecutors in [Commonwealth’s Attorney Steve] Descano’s office will stop using mandatory minimum sentences in plea deals, and charging people who commit minor offenses with felonies. And that’s just the start.” [WTOP]
How the Vienna Foodies Grew Into a Movement for Good — “Over a year ago, Vienna VA Foodies was started as a Facebook group celebrating Vienna’s restaurants. Today, it has become a community effort to help restaurants, thank first responders and assist people in need.” [Patch]
Staff Photo by Jay Westcott
With tomorrow marking the final day of 2020, many government offices and services throughout Fairfax County are altering their schedules over the next couple of days in observance of the New Year’s holiday.
Here are the closures and service changes that community members should know:
Fairfax County Government
- County government offices will be closed on Jan. 1.
Fairfax County Courts
- The Fairfax Circuit, General District, and Juvenile and Domestic Relations District courts will be closed all day on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1.
McLean Community Center
- The center will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Dec. 31. It will be closed all day on Jan. 1.
Town of Vienna
- Town offices and the community center will be closed on Jan. 1.
- Waste collection for Friday, Jan. 1., will be postponed until Saturday, Jan. 2. The town requests that no brush, bulk or yard waste is included in this pickup.
City of Falls Church:
- All city offices and services, including City Hall, Mary Riley Styles Public Library and Community Center, will be closed on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1.
- Fairfax County Public Schools remain closed through Jan. 1 for Winter Break. All students will resume classes virtually on Tuesday, Jan. 5. Monday, Jan. 4, is an independent day.
County Libraries and Recreation Centers:
- All Fairfax County library branches, community and regional, will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Dec. 31. They will all be closed on Jan. 1.
- All Fairfax County RECenters, except the George Washington RECenter (GWRC), will be open at their regular times and close at 4 p.m. on Dec. 31. GWRC will be closed on Dec. 31. All RECenters will be closed on Jan. 1.
- Connector buses will operate on a Sunday service plan on Jan. 1. Check here for operating routes.
- Fairfax CUE service will not be provided on Jan. 1.
- WMATA Metrorail service will open at 5 a.m. and close at 11 p.m. through Dec. 31. Service will open at 8 a.m. and close at 11 p.m. while operating on a holiday schedule with Sunday service intervals on Jan. 1.
- WMATA Metrobus will operate on a regular schedule on Dec. 31 and will go to a Sunday schedule for Jan. 1.
- Metro’s customer information call center will be closed. Automated information is available by calling 202-637-7000 or online at wmata.com
- WMATA’s regular fares and parking fees will be in effect on Dec. 31. Off-peak fares will be in effect all day, while parking will be free at all Metro-operated facilities on Jan. 1.
County Trash and Recycling:
- There will be no change in the county’s trash and recycling collection on Jan. 1. To ensure all trash and recycling is collected, the county requests that all materials be placed at the curb or street line by 6 a.m.
- County Public Works and Environmental Services administrative offices will closed on Jan. 1 and reopen on Jan. 4.
- The recycling and disposal centers at the I-66 Transfer Station and I-95 Landfill Complex will be closed at 2 p.m. on Dec. 31 and all day on Jan. 1.
Photo courtesy Town of Vienna