Reston, VA
(Staff Photo by Jay Westcott)

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation has selected its preferred bus service plan for the Fairfax Connector in Reston and Herndon.

County planners say the plan “aims to improve on-time performance and streamline service to meet the needs of the community and commuters.”

Here’s more from FCDOT on what’s being considered:

Some of the key improvements to the bus service in the area include new and more direct connections and routes; new connections to Chantilly, Centreville and the Dulles Corridor; service to Northern Virginia Community College (Loudoun Campus); and routes travelling from Sterling to Herndon. The plan, which also uses elements from all three of the proposed alternatives, shortens travel time, increases access for transit dependent populations, and maintains bus stop coverage at most locations.

The implementation of the proposed service changes will coincide with the start of the new Metrorail Silver Line service and will provide connections to the Reston Town Center StationHerndon StationInnovation Center StationDulles Airport StationLoudoun Gateway Station and Ashburn Station.

The plan will include three new routes: Chantilly to the Dulles Corridor, Northern Virginia Community College’s Loudoun campus, and Sterling too Herndon. Planners say the proposal shortens travel time and creates more direct connections.

The average travel time could be reduced from 57.3 minutes to 49.4 minutes. The updated plan would also improve service to more households, especially those that are low-income.

More information about the proposal is available online.

The county is seeking feedback via an online survey and via email at [email protected]. Residents can also call the county at 703-877-5600, extension 711, or mail comments to 4050 Legato Road, Suite 400.

The county is also hosting a virtual public meeting on the plan with Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn and Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust on Wednesday, July 8 from 6:30-7:30 p.m.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Revenues from decreased ridership are taking a hit on the Fairfax Connector as the fallout of COVID-19 outbreak continues to unfold.

The bus service is set to receive $1.85 million in funds from the Commonwealth Transportation Board, which oversees statewide transportation and transit projects, to help address the impact of the novel coronavirus, including a dip in revenue from fares. Last week, the board approved supplemental funding to help stave off the impact of service reduction, ridership losses, and decreases in revenue.

But the funding, which was OK’d by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors at a meeting yesterday (Tuesday), would only keep the buses rolling for about two months.

Fares on buses were temporarily suspended last week because fare boxes are located at the front of buses. Customers are required to enter and exit buses using the rear doors.

Here’s more from the board matter approved by the Board of Supervisors:

County staff have been responding to the onset of COVID-19, ensuring that Fairfax Connector employees are prepared, and the County’s capital assets are cleaned frequently to help reduce the potential spread of the disease. At the same time, County staff have been ensuring Fairfax Connector service continues to be available to serve Fairfax County residents who have no alternate way to travel during this emergency. The Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) is continuing to implement changes necessary to protect the health and safety of Fairfax Connector employees, customers and the public during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as requiring passengers to enter and exit the bus using the rear doors, with the exception of customers who need to use a wheelchair ramp. Fare collection on buses has been temporarily suspended due to the location of fareboxes at the front entrance of buses. The County will continue make adjustments to Fairfax Connector service to prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and will ensure information on such adjustments is provided to the public.

An FCDOT spokesperson told Reston Now that although ridership had dipped, statistics on the extent of the increases are not yet available.

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Tuesday Morning Notes

Fairfax Connector Suspends Fares, Begins Rear Door Boarding — The bus service has temporarily suspended fare collection and all customers must enter and exit the bus using the rear doors. Fares will be suspended because fareboxes and SmarTrip equipment is at the front entrance of buses. Service continues in order to “serve Fairfax County residents who. Have no alternate way to travel during this emergency.” [Fairfax County Government]

Stonebridge Companies Acquires Residence Inn — The Denver-based company will manage the 168-room Residence Inn by Marriott in Herndon.  The hotel is located at 315 Elden Street. [Hotel Executive] 

Playgrounds, Parks, and Park Authority Restrooms Now Closed — “Effectively immediately, all Fairfax County Park Authority playgrounds, skate parks and restrooms will be closed until further notice. Portable restrooms will be placed near all bathrooms. Signs will be posted at all affected locations. Park visitors are asked to adhere to all closure notices and current social distancing recommendations.” [Fairfax County Government]

Herndon-Fish Offers Emergency Financial Help — “At least for the time being, we are making no changes in our criteria for providing assistance, and our operations remain in place to make this possible. Because our efforts related to providing emergency financial assistance are done by phone and online, we can carry out these activities without endangering the health of those involved. Changes in our revenue receipts or alterations in government policy could mandate that we alter these policies in the future, but they remain in place for now.” [Herndon-Reston Fish]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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County officials are evaluating if the Fairfax Connector bus service should continue normal operations. For now, Fairfax Connector is operating on a normal schedule.

A spokesperson for the Fairfax County Department of Transportation told Reston Now that changes in service levels are possible in the future, but no plans have been finalized yet.

Overall, ridership has taken a hit, but it’s too soon to tell by how much, according to Robin Geiger, an FCDOT spokeswoman.

The Fairfax Connector’s operations contractor has implemented a more rigorous vehicle cleaning cycle with “a special focus on bus interiors and critical touchpoints such as door handles, handrails, and other surfaces,” according to FCDOT. The contractor is also working with its workforce to ensure employees are informed about coronavirus and measures to slow its spread.

Passengers should continue to practice ways to prevent spreading COVID-19 by washing hands often with soap and water, avoiding touching your eyes nose or mouth, and avoiding contact with people who are sick.

The Fairfax Health District has 14 presumptive cases of COVID-19.

How do you think the bus service should respond to COVID-19? Let us know in the poll below.

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Local Fairfax County transportations officials are considering changes to Fairfax Connector routes in the Reston and Herndon area to meet demands created by the expansion of the Silver Line next year.

Of three options presented for changes, the county is recommending the “transformation” option — Other options included increment changes to the development plan or streamlining existing routes.

The recommended model would offer new service options, all day local service, and more frequent service to Metrorail Station through feeder routes at peak times. New planned connections include Sterling Plaza, Centreville and George Mason University in Fairfax.

County officials say the transformation model covers a greater area and includes the future Innovation Station. The model was also endorsed by the Multimodal Transportation Advisory Committee for recommendation to the Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT).

A recent marketing survey found the following areas had the lowest rankings:

  • Available when you need it
  • Fast way to travel
  • Goes places you need to go
  • Offers real-time information
  • Fits into your lifestyle

Users sought more frequent service, operation earlier or later in the day, and express bus service. Others said they were concerned about connections to Wiehle-Reston Metro East Station and Reston Town Center.

Reston Association’s Board of Directors will vote on a preferred service alternative on Thursday (Dec. 19).

Photo via FCDOT

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All Fairfax Connector buses will return to normal operations today (Monday) after a worker strike ends.

Transdev, the company that recently took on a new contract to operate buses for the county, is ending the strike without a negotiated contract.

The Amalgamated Transit Unions 1764 told WTOP that a deal is within reach, although issues like wages, vacation, sick time and retirement remain to be ironed out.

“We still have items to negotiate, but our riders come first and foremost for us. We are going back to work because their support and that of elected officials and allies have helped us make significant advances at the table,” said ATU International President John Costa said in a release Sunday night.

Photo via ATU 1764/Facebook

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Commuters who rely on Fairfax Connector service should plan to make alternate plans tomorrow (Thursday).

Fairfax Connector workers plan to begin a strike at 3 a.m. tomorrow, according to the Amalgamated Transit Union.

The service, which is used by 30,000 individuals on a daily basis, will operate on a Sunday schedule tomorrow.

The strike comes after failed negotiations over a contract extension and an ongoing six-week-long strike at a Metro garage in Lorton. Transdev, a private company recently hired by the county, operates both services.

Here’s more from the county’s transportation department:

As a result of the job action, Transdev does not expect all drivers represented by ATU Local 1764 to report for work on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2019, and bus service will be operated by a limited number of available personnel. The decision was made to operate a Sunday schedule instead of a weekday schedule because that is believed to be the maximum level of reliable bus service that can be provided under the current circumstances.

Workers plan to stand at picket lines at three locations in the county, including the stop at 268 Spring Street in Herndon.

Here’s more from the union on the strike:

Five weeks after its union-busting tactics unleashed an unprecedented Metrobus strike that continues to this day, private transit contractor Transdev is at it again.

With more than 36 allegations of labor law violations alleged against the company, six hundred Transdev workers who operate and maintain the Fairfax Connector are striking beginning December 5.

Commuters should sign up for text or email alerts, follow Fairfax Connector on Twitter and Facebook, or call the service’s customer service line at 703-339-7200 for updates on service impacts.

County officials are encouraging residents to carpool, bike, walk or telework tomorrow.

We appreciate our passengers’ patience as Transdev and ATU are continuing to negotiate a new contract.  Until an agreement is reached, Fairfax County will continue to update Fairfax Connector customers with operating status on a regular basis,” according to a statement by the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.

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For at least two weeks, the Fairfax Connector has been struggling with a shortage of bus drivers.

Although county officials say the number of missed and delayed trips has dropped over the last week, the shortage continues to impact riders’ commutes across the county. Some riders say buses have missed multiple trips for the last three weeks. Other buses have been delayed.

A service operation alert on the Fairfax Connector’s BusTracker website that previously alerted riders about the shortage was taken down. County officials are unsure why the alert is no longer on the website.

Tom Biesiadny, the director of Fairfax County’s transportation department, told Reston Now that MV Transportation, the current operator for the system, is “working through staffing issues.”

The county plans to switch operators to Transdev North America on July 1. The operator, which was awarded a five-year contract by the county, has started training bus drivers as part of its hiring process. Under the $443 million contract, Transdev will have 730 employees and operate 308 vehicles.

Although the cause and extent of the bus driver shortage is unclear, Biesiadny said the limited bus drivers is a regional issue.

“With the economy doing pretty well and unemployment being very low particularly in Northern Virginia, there’s a shortage of workers in general,” he said.

County officials urged riders to plan their trips ahead of time and check Twitter, Facebook and the Fairfax Connector’s BusTracker for the latest updates.

Riders can also text bus stop IDs to 414-11 to obtain information on trips and the latest bus schedules.

“What we’re trying to make sure that passengers know is that they should sign up for Bus Tracker emails or text alerts to make sure they see any important alerts,” Anna Nissinen, chief of communications for FCDOT, said. “That’s the best way to stay on top of travel.”

Photo via Facebook

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The Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) is seeking public input on the Fairfax Connector in the Herndon-Reston area as it looks toward improvements for the local bus service.

Future recommended improvements will also consider connecting the planned Metrorail Silver Line Phase 2 stations in Herndon and Reston, according to the county.

Ultimately, FCDOT aims to increase mobility and schedule reliability, create better access to destinations, improve travel times and grow ridership.

Over the next few weeks, Fairfax Connector staff will hand out information about how locals can get engaged and provide input, along with “free ride coupons” for use on all Fairfax Connector buses in the Herndon-Reston area.

Locals can provide feedback in a variety of ways, including:

  • attending an interactive community meeting
  • filling out an online survey
  • emailing input to [email protected]
  • mailing comments to 4050 Legato Road, Suite 400 in Fairfax, Va.

FCDOT will hold two interactive community meetings with interactive exercises to explore travel needs, issues and ideas. The first one is scheduled to take place at the RCC Lake Anne’s Jo Ann Rose Gallery (1609-A Washington Plaza) from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, Jan. 26. The second one is set to take place at the Herndon Middle School’s cafeteria (901 Locust Street) from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Jan. 29.

People have until Feb. 15 to provide public input. After the deadline, FCDOT staff will compile the comments to incorporate into future planning.

FCDOT will then come back to the community in the spring to hold more community meetings to present and discuss a draft plan for future improvements for the service area.

The move to improve the bus service comes just a month after changes to the bus schedule were announced to make it easier for Herndon High School students to catch a ride were unveiled.

Starting on Saturday (Jan. 19), Routes 924 and 926 will be adjusted to align with the school’s bell schedule and provide better access for Herndon High School students.

File photo

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New changes to the Fairfax Connector bus schedule will hopefully make it easier for Herndon High School students to catch a ride.

Starting on Jan. 19, Routes 924 and 926 will be adjusted to align with the school’s bell schedule and provide better access for Herndon High School students.

The route is a weekday rush hour service only that that runs from the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station to the Town Center Plaza on Leesburg Pike.The route runs directly past Herndon High School.

The changes were approved by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors in November, where Supervisor John Foust praised the swift response of Fairfax County Department of Transportation staff to issue the change.

“I just wanted to thank our transit group for being so responsive,” said Foust. “We have the ability to make connector services available to Herndon High School students by tweaking the schedule. I brought it to their attention and next thing I know, bam, it’s done.”

At the meeting, the Board of Supervisors also approved a new bus route in Vienna.

Photo via Facebook

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Bus riders, be advised: the Herndon-Monroe bus loop will be closed Wednesday (Dec. 19) evening and Thursday (Dec. 20) morning.

The temporary closure allows Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project crews to complete the pedestrian bridge span at the southwest corner of the bus loop, according to a post from the Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project.

Work is expected to start at 10 p.m. on Wednesday and last through 4 a.m. on Thursday. Buses will pick up and drop off from Sunrise Valley Drive.

The post also notes that the closure of Innovation Avenue has been extended to March.

Map via Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project 

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A six-week partial bus loop closure is planned near the Herndon-Monroe Park & Ride facility.

Beginning on Monday (Oct. 29), crews will install a precast stair tower at the southwest corner of the Herndon-Monroe bus loop. The southwest portion of the loop will be closed to traffic between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m. during the weekdays.

All service and bus stop locations before 10 a.m. and after 3 p.m. will not be affected by the closure.

The installation of the tower is expected to be complete by December. Passengers should expect delays and BusTrack arrival times will likely be affected, according to an announcement by the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.

Updated stop locations can be found below:

Photo via FCDOT

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Ahead of the completion of phase two of the Silver Line project, a nearly $14 million renovation project of the Reston-Herndon bus garage facility on 268 Spring Street is complete.

County officials said the facility will help support Fairfax Connector bus operation in Reston and Herndon as the Silver Line project brings more demand to the area.

The project was funded through revenue from the commercial and industrial tax and general obligation bonds. A ribbon cutting to celebrate the opening of the new facility was held today (September 19).

Staff now have a working environment that is safer, more efficient, and more comfortable than before,” county officials wrote in a statement.

The renovation project includes the following:

  • An existing bay was closed to create a new drive-through bus wash
  • Addition construction for exterior tire storage
  • Upgrades to vehicle lifts and service equipment
  • Creation of automated parts storage system
  • Modernization of drivers lounge and administration areas
  • Addition of new fueling station
  • Replacement of bus parking lot surface with heavy-duty concrete
  • New parking lot for staff

Photo via Fairfax County Government

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As major track improvements continue on Metro, riders of the Orange, Silver and Blue Lines should expect delays this weekend.

On Saturday (August 11) and Sunday (August 12), Farragut West, McPherson Square and Metro Center’s lower level will be closed. Orange and Silver Line trains will run every 12 to 15 minutes outside the shutdown area. All Orange and Silver Line trains will end at Foggy Bottom.

Blue Line trains will run between Franconia-Springfield and Arlington Cemetery only. All other stations will be open. Shuttle buses will replace trains between Foggy Bottom and Federal Triangle stations.

A “Unite the Right” rally and counterdemonstrations planned for Sunday afternoon near the White House could also make the commute more challenging. According to a statement, Metro will “be prepared to add trains as needed to address crowding if necessary.” Access to some stations due to overcrowding on the platform may be restricted by Metro Transit Police.

Photo by Mike Heffner

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Fairfax ConnectorNow that the Silver Line is in the final stretch towards opening, Metro and Fairfax Connector want to familiarize residents with bus routes that will serve the stations.

The opening of Phase 1 Metro’s $2.9 billion rail extension that will run from East Falls Church to Reston’ Wiehle Avenue is more than six months behind schedule.

However, Metro officials said on Monday that fewer of 10 punch list items need to be completed. If that gets done promptly they will set an opening date early next week. That means the first Silver Line riders may be boarding as soon as July.

Wiehle-Reston East will be the end of the line until at least 2018, when Phase 2 is slated to be completed. In Phase 2, the rail will go to Reston Parkway, Herndon, Dulles International Airport and into Loudoun County.

Until that happens, Wiehle will be a busy hub. It is the only Phase 1 station with parking. More than 3,000 spaces are in the parking garage at the intersection of Sunset Hills Road and Wiehle Avenue. Parking will cost $4.75 a day. There is also parking for more than 200 bicycles.

Despite the parking, Metro and Fairfax County transportation officials are encouraging Metro users to take a bus to the station.

Things to know:

The Silver Line will be serviced by several bus providers. Metro bus will provide service to and from the McLean and Tysons Corner stations; Fairfax Connector will take riders to all five stations; Potomac and Rappahannocok Transportation Commission will provide service to the Tysons Corner station;  and Loudoun County Transit will provide service to Spring Hill and Wiehle-Reston East stations.

Fairfax Connector has added new routes, made changes to existing routes and eliminated some routes in preparation for the Silver Line’s opening. To see if your route is affected and to see which bus route is most convenient for you, visit www.silverlinemetro.com.

Buses will also play a critical role in connecting riders to Dulles, said Jack Requa, Metro’s assistant general manager of bus services. Options to Dulles include the 5A bus from L’Enfant Plaza in D.C. (with stops at Roslyn and Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride);  Fairfax Connector buses 981 and 983 will depart Wiehle-Reston East with stops at Herndon Park and Ride and the Smithsonian’s Udvar-Hazy Museum; and the Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority will run the Washington Flyer Silver Line Express from Weihle-Reston East to Dulles.

Fairfax Connector routes 505, 981 and 983 will also go from Wiehle-Reston East to Reston Town Center. Buses that formerly carried passengers from Reston stops to Blue and Orange line stations will now go to Wiehle-Reston East. Visit Fairfax Connector’s website to see all area routes.

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