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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Updated: Fairfax County Public Schools Cancel Tonight’s After School Activities

Updated at 12:30 p.m. — Fairfax County public schools will close by 6:15 p.m. 

“Due to the expected refreeze of roads tonight, FCPS facilities and school grounds will be closed starting at 6:15 p.m.,” FCPS tweeted at 12:26 p.m. today (Jan. 15). “All activities scheduled in FCPS schools or on school grounds for this evening must be completed by 6:15 p.m. or are canceled.”

FCPS tweeted last night that it would open two hours late today.

The delay was meant to allow more daylight for drivers and students who walk to school, according to the FCPS website.

School offices and central offices will open on time.

Morning preschool classes were canceled while afternoon preschool classes were set to start on their regular schedule. Full-day preschool and Family and Early Childhood Education Program-Head Start classes started two hours later than the regular schedule.

Adult and community education classes were set to start on time.

File photo

This story has been updated

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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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Wednesday Morning Notes

Scam and fraud awareness event today — At an event at Reston Association headquarters, today from 4-7 p.m., a local detective and community partners will discuss warning signs of fraud and provide information about common scams that frequently target the older adult community. [AARP Virginia]

Not betting the farm — “Key players in the joint bid for Amazon’s second headquarters say their community’s time has come, even if the Seattle-based company picks another location.” [Washington Business Journal]

A free (but not necessarily full) ride — Loudoun County Transit is offering free bus service from the park-and-ride in Purcellville to the Wiehle-Reston Metro Station beginning Oct. 1. [The Loudoun Tribune]

Photo by Charlotte Geary

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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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Friday Morning Notes

Child dies after medical emergency on school bus — A young boy died in Herndon Thursday after experiencing a medical emergency on a Fairfax County Public Schools bus in the 2300 block of Dulles Station Boulevard. The boy was pronounced dead at the hospital and no other kids were on the bus at the time. [NBC 4]

A back to school report — School principals in Reston give an update on what’s new this year and their one-sentence message to the community. [The Connection]

The fight for control — Canaan Merchant writes about how Reston Association is asking Fairfax County to give it more control over future growth. Although the Silver Line has brought growth to the area, many residents aren’t happy, Merchant writes. [Greater Greater Washington]

Dog paddle set for today from 4-7 p.m. — Bring your dog for a dip in the pool before it’s shut down for the season. A current dog license is required and registration is $6 for Reston Association members and $8 for all others. [Reston Association]

Photo by Twitter user Mary Dominiak

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A “Hidden Treasures of Reston” Bus Tour is Coming to the Area

The Reston Association is hosting a bus tour showing off the area’s hidden treasures.

“Even if you have lived here for a long time, have you ever seen the trolls under the bridge near Reston police station, the significant monarch trees, the Lake House or the Nature House?” said the RA’s event description.

The bus tour will take place on Monday (April 9) from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. and will meet riders at the Lake House.

The tour will cost $12 for RA members and $18 for all others.

File photo

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Fairfax Firefighters Build Covered Bus Stop With Community Help

New Wolf Trap Bus Stop in Progress/Courtesy Fairfax Co. Fire & RescueA nearby stretch of road is getting a much-needed covered bus stop, thanks to volunteers from the Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department and donations by local organizations.

Capt. Gery Morrison and his colleagues from Fire Station 42 (Wolf Trap) said the spot directly across from the firehouse, at Beulah Road and Route 7, has needed a covered bus stop for some time to help shelter people from inclement weather as they wait.

“The current stop is just a posted sign that sits in a ditch along the heavily traveled corridor of Route 7,” Capt. Rocco Alvaro said in a blog post yesterday. “Area residents line up in the morning without adequate shelter and are forced to take their chances waiting on the edge of Route 7 for the next scheduled bus.”

Morrison and several of his crew members decided they would build a community bus stop, but only if they could get donations.

Reston’s Home Depot and The Barns at Wolf Trap then agreed to donate materials, which Fire Station 42 members used to build a covered stop.

Although the initial structure is complete, some finishing touches are still in the works.

“When finished, the project will bring some of the finer touches of the Wolftrap Firehouse into the soon-to-be-completed bus stop,” Alvaro said.

The captain said he hopes more collaborative projects are in the community’s future.

“What an innovative way to develop community partnerships while at the same time enhancing the safety and well-being of our community members,” he said.

Photo via Fairfax County Fire and Rescue Department

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Reston Bus Bays to Be Relocated Beginning Monday

Bus relocatiion 1

Due to station improvement work at the Reston Town Center Transit Station, bus stops will be temporarily relocated to Bluemont Way.

During Phase 1 (Monday, April 4 – Wednesday, April 27), Route 605, 950, RIBS 1, and RIBS 4 will be relocated.

During Phase 2 (Thursday, April 28 – Friday, May 20), Route 505, RIBS 2, RIBS 3, and RIBS 5 will be relocated.

The Connector Store will remain open during construction.

 

Visit Fairfax County Connector online to see more information about the Reston Transit Center and bus routes.

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Bus Rides of the 1970s Put the ‘Play’ In Reston’s Motto

Classic Reston banner

Classic Reston is a biweekly feature sponsored by the Greater Reston Chamber of Commerce that highlights businesses, places and people with deep roots in Reston.

It’s a big week for Reston with Saturday’s opening of its first Silver Line Metro stop.

Metrorail will connect Reston in a straight shot with Washington, D.C., making the community an attractive option for both residents who work in Arlington or D.C. and workers in Reston who live to the East.

This week’s Classic Reston takes a look at he community’s quirky public transportation link of the 1970s.

When Reston was founded, the “Live, Work and Play,” motto was in place, but in reality, the “work” part was a work in progress. Most Restonians worked in D.C., and it was a long commute with no Dulles Toll Road or Orange Line Metro to Vienna.

But Restonians saw the need for a commuter transit, so — in the true pioneer spirit of the place — they founded a service themselves.  In the early 1970s, the Reston Community Association (RCA) and Reston developers Gulf Reston, created the Reston Community Bus Service (RCBS).

Riding the Reston Commuter bus in the 1970s/Credit: GMU Some in Reston nicknamed the bus “the booze bus,” since there were free-flowing drinks onboard. Well, it was a long commute.

The drinks dried up in 1972 after a commuter threatened to complain to the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control Board.

“We will inform our riders they are confined to Coke and potato chips unless we hear otherwise,” Reston Commuter Bus officer Howard Pearlstein told an Associated Press reporter in February of 1972.

The shuttle to D.C. lasted a few years, dying out by the late 1970s. Eventually, Reston minister Embry Rucker helped start the Reston Internal Bus System (RIBS), which took people to various parts of the growing community.

After that, if you wanted to get into D.C., you were on your own — until now.

Reston’s new era begins at noon on Saturday, when the first train pulls out of Wiehle-Reston East heading toward Tysons Corner, Arlington and Washington. Find schedules and fare information on Silverlinemetro.com.

And remember, no eating or drinking on Metro — and certainly no cocktails.

Photo: Riding Reston’s Commuter Bus in the 1970s/Credit: GMU Archives

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