Fairfax Connector’s Driver Shortage Complicates Riders’ Commute

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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FCDOT Seeks Input on Fairfax Connector Service in Herndon, Reston 

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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Fairfax Connector Changes Schedule to Align With Herndon High School

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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Herndon-Monroe Bus Loop to Close Late Wednesday, Early Thursday

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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Service Disruption Planned for Herndon-Monroe Park & Ride Bus Loop

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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County Completes $14 Million Renovation Project of Reston-Herndon Bus Garage Facility

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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Metro Alert: Orange and Silver Line Delays Expected This Weekend

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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Buses Are Changing Routes for Silver Line Service

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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