Reston, VA

Local closures are in effect today as snow continues to fall in the Reston area today.

A Winter Storm Warning is in effect through early Friday morning, with the possibility of three to six inches o of snow and one-tenth t one-quarter inch of ice is also expected.

Fairfax County government offices and courts are closed today and all employees have been given emergency leave.

The Fairfax Connector will operate a on holiday weekend service schedule. If road conditions get worse, service may be reduced further.

All Fairfax County Public Schools and central officers are also closed today. In-person and virtual learning is also canceled.

Today’s school board meeting will take place virtually at 7 p.m.

Here’s more from the Fairfax County Department of Transportation on recent changes.

Routes 231232335351393394395396 422432461494495556585599624634697698699722724 and 985, which will not operate 

Route 980 will run every 12-15 minutes instead of every 6-8 minutes.

Passengers are encouraged to check the status of routes online before heading to a bus stop. If a bus is on detour, the county’s BusTracker will not reflect real-time estimated arrival information.

The county has also cancelled all COVID-19 vaccine clinics administered directly the Fairfax County Health Department for today. Residents will receive an email with a re-registration link for the upcoming week.

Reston Association’s member services office is also closed for appointments today. Members can call or email RA for more information.

Photo by Marjorie Copson

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo via Fairfax Connector/Facebook

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Fairfax County Public Schools is getting its first electric school bus today as part of a statewide initiative led by Dominion Energy.

The bus is expected to arrive at the Stonecroft Transportation Center in Chantilly. It is the first of eight vehicles that FCPS will receive from Dominion in an initial deployment of 50 buses throughout Virginia.

FCPS says it anticipates getting the remaining seven buses by the end of January.

Made by Thomas Built Buses, the new vehicles will join Fairfax County’s fleet of approximately 1,625 diesel-fueled school buses, one of the largest in the country.

“Electric school buses in FCPS will benefit not only the school division and its community, but the entire national capital area,” FCPS says. “…They will help reduce carbon emissions, serve as a resource for national emergency planning efforts, and provide stability and capacity to the grid with meeting increasing energy demands.”

While electric buses are more expensive to purchase than diesel ones, they are cheaper to maintain and operate. FCPS is covering the difference in the initial cost with a grant from Dominion Energy, which also funded the installation of electric charging infrastructure at the Stonecroft facility and is responsible for maintaining the equipment.

FCPS says training for bus drivers, maintenance technicians, and other staff will start once the first bus arrives. The vehicles will undergo testing before being assigned to routes in early to mid-April, though whether there will be any students for them to transport at that time remains to be seen.

The arrival of Fairfax County’s first electric bus is a welcome step forward for community members and public officials who have been advocating for a transition to electric vehicles, citing health and financial benefits as well as environmental ones.

One of the most prominent advocates for electric school buses has been the Fairfax County branch of the national climate advocacy group Mothers Out Front, which launched a campaign in 2019 calling on FCPS to commit to converting its entire fleet to electric power by 2024.

“We are so excited for Fairfax to get its electric school buses on the ground and running,” Mothers Out Front Fairfax co-leader Barbara Monacella said in a statement. “…Every electric school bus we add to our fleet reduces the air pollution from diesel that harms our kids’ health, and brings us closer to our goal of converting every bus in order to reduce emissions and fight climate change.”

The community advocacy group has teamed up again with Del. Mark Keam (D-35th) on legislation that would create a state fund for school districts to purchase electric buses, a move aimed at addressing concerns about the amount of control Dominion has over the current initiative.

Last year, lawmakers opted to pursue the utility company’s pilot program instead, but Monacella says Keam will reintroduce his bill when the Virginia General Assembly convenes for its 2021 session on Wednesday (Jan. 13).

“We applaud the buses Fairfax has added, and we hope to add more through the state grant fund in the future,” Monacella said. “With every electric bus we add, we move the needle for our kids’ health and their future in the face of climate change.”

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Several Reston and Herndon’s local officials came together virtually yesterday (Monday) to discuss the possibilities of what the retail industry will look like after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Dulles Regional Chamber of Commerce hosts “Metro Monday” on the last Monday of each month. This month Herndon’s Mayor Lisa Merkel, Fairfax County’s Director of Economic Initiatives Rebecca Moudry and other local business owners were present to talk about the future of retail in Reston and Herndon.

The possibilities of the future of retail include promoting more online ordering for food, creating new digital ways for businesses to interact with its customers, and merging more restaurant and retail places together.

Merkel believes “restaurants are becoming anchors for retail centers which promotes social engagements and draws in the office crowd during lunch hours.”

Although many local businesses received grants to help with its loss of income, Moudry said the coronavirus pandemic has particularly affected the retail system.

RISE grants have been awarded. We mailed postcards to every single business for local and federal grant programs,” Moudry said. “Economic Recovery Framework was recently launched to confront the economic shifts. That is the current task at hand.”

Job access and workforce development are essential factors in the framework. Moudry said the framework will work with the local transit system to improve both.

“The Reston bus plan will significantly improve bus transit and people’s access to jobs, as well as more opportunities for retail and people to come in and out,” Moudry said.

Tony Stafford, owner of Ford’s Fish Shack, said many businesses have had to take steps they thought they would never do.

“A lot of businesses had to reinvent themselves. We’ve seen a loss of lunch business because people aren’t going to work,” Stafford said. “This time last year, our takeout business was 7 p ercent of our overall sales, this year its 43 percent. of our overall sales. People are now comfortable ordering their meals off computer screens.”

Omar Aru, the owner of Escape Room Herndon, said setbacks posed by the pandemic have been significant, despite grants from the federal government and local assistance.

“There used to be a 15-minute wait period between each visit, but now it’s a 30-minute to an hour wait period between each visit to allow more time for proper cleaning and for rooms to air out,” Aur. said. “This means that we’re getting fewer games in and less people because we’re taking longer to clean.”

Photo courtesy of Omar Aru

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Bus service between the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station and Dulles International Airport has officially resumed.

The Silver Line Express Bus provides transportation between the Dulles Terminal and the metro station. The 15-minute trip costs $5 each way and is free for children under two years of age.

Service is offered every 15 minutes during peak times and every 20 minutes during off-peak times. Free WiFi is also offering on the buses.

The schedule for the service and information on how to purchase tickets is available online.

Other transportation services have resumed or are planning to resume services, including Fairfax Connector, which will resume service next Saturday.

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Fairfax Connector will resume full service on all routes beginning Aug. 29, bringing a return to a new normal after months-long disruptions in service.

The bus service — which is the largest local bus system in the state — will also feature new services, including a new commuter route from Stringfellow Road Park and Ride to Southwest DC.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay thanks customers for being patient with past service reductions. Throughout the pandemic, the bus service maintained roughly 70 percent of its service in order to cater to customers who depend on it for essential jobs and vital services.

“As we return to full service, the health and safety of Fairfax Connector passengers and personnel continue to be our top priority. Working together to diligently follow public health and safety guidelines will result in safer travel conditions for all,” McKay wrote in a statement.

A breakdown of new service being offered is below:

Route 699: Enhanced service on this route includes two additional morning and afternoon rush hour trips from the Fairfax County Government Center to Downtown Washington, D.C. (Foggy Bottom); adjustments to the departure times to better align with rider demand; and morning and afternoon rush hour reverse commute trips from Downtown, Washington, D.C., to the Fairfax County Government Center.  This route is supported by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) Commuter Choice Program and I-66 toll revenues.

Route 334: Enhanced weekday service operating every 30 minutes during rush hour and every hour during non-rush hour to better serve the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) facility in Springfield by way of Springfield Center Drive and Metropolitan Center Drive, with access to the Franconia Springfield Metrorail Station, the Defense Logistics Agency, and the Army Museum.

Routes 340/341: Minor route adjustments to maintain efficiency and dependability.

Transdev, the bus system’s operations contractor, will implement improved cleaning protocols, especially on common touchpoints like door handles and handrails.

Customers must continue to enter and exit the bus through the rear doors. A face mask is still required while riding the bus.

Riders are encouraged to practice social distancing by keeping six feet apart, when and if possible.

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(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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