Reston, VA

Passengers on several Fairfax Connector service will have to use a different bus stop.

The bus stop at the intersection of Colts Brook Drive and Sunrise Drive has been permanently removed due to sidewalk construction, according to a statement released online.

The county’s department of transportation is constructing a missing segment of walkway along Sunrise Valley Drive westbound between Colts Brook Drive and Hitchcock Drive, according to Anna Nissinen, a county spokeswoman told Reston Now.

A six-foot-wide asphalt walkway is planned in the area. The project would also upgrade existing curb ramps so that they are ADA compliant.

The bus stop at Colts Brook Drive was removed to encourage pedestrians to cross Sunrise Valley Drive at the nearest signal location at Monroe Street using the marked crosswalks, she said. The walkway is intended to provide another way for pedestrians to access the Herndon Metro Station.

Passengers are encouraged to use another stop with the identification number of 3540 at the intersection of Sunrise Valley Drive and Milburn Lane instead.

The bus stop will no longer be served by routes 924, 926, 927, 929, 937, 950, 952.

The project will likely be completed next month.

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Now, Reston residents can access detailed local transportation data with a click.

An interactive Reston Transportation Data Hub came online earlier this week, offering compiled data sets detailing how and when Restonians move about town.

The tool features vehicle, pedestrian, bicycle, and public transit data. Much of the data is from November 2019.

“This system provides a new way for residents to understand both the big picture and the details of our current and planned transportation system,” Walter Alcorn, Hunter Mill District Supervisor and Transportation Committee Chair, wrote in the press release. “Whether you drive, ride rail/buses, walk or bicycle, information on how the system fits together and coming improvements is critical. This data hub is an important step forward.”

Beyond that, the tool also maps upcoming transportation and infrastructure projects including timelines and costs. It also provides a comprehensive map of pedestrian and biking trails in Reston.

A high level analysis shows that traffic volume tends to be higher in Reston during the evening peak rush hour than the morning equivalent.

The report speculates that, along with commuting, this is due to the combination of errands and non-work trips that more often happen in the evening.

There are also other data hubs being planned, including ones showing zoning activity and parks that will show how land is being used in Reston.

Full press release below:

Reston residents, businesses and stakeholders can now access the latest information about transportation in the Reston area. The online, interactive Reston Transportation Data Hub features vehicle, pedestrian, bicycle, and public transit data, in addition to information about planned infrastructure improvements and transportation projects for Reston.

The Transportation Data Hub is one component of the Reston Data Visualization project. Led by the Fairfax County Department of Planning and Development Urban Center’s Section and GIS Department, the project focuses on data transparency associated with Reston development and infrastructure improvements, including information about mobility, parks, and zoning activity.

“This system provides a new way for residents to understand both the big picture and the details of our current and planned transportation system,” said Walter Alcorn, Hunter Mill District Supervisor and Transportation Committee Chair. “Whether you drive, ride rail/buses, walk or bicycle, information on how the system fits together and coming improvements is critical. This data hub is an important step forward.”

Additional Data Hubs are planned for the Reston Data Visualization project – including a Zoning Activity Data Hub and a Parks Hub – for sharing land use information with the Reston Community.

The main Reston Data Visualization page, which includes the Reston Transportation Data Hub, can be found at https://reston-data-visualization-fairfaxcountygis.hub.arcgis.com/. For questions about the new Transportation Data Hub or the Reston Data Visualization project, contact the Department of Planning and Development’s Urban Centers Section.

The Transportation Data Hub is a collaboration between Fairfax County’s Department of Planning and Development and Department of Transportation.

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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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Fairfax Connector will begin resuming fare collection on Jan. 4 following a months-long hiatus that began in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The local bus system will also begin boarding from the front door instead of rear door entry, another move that was undertaken to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus.

The move comes as doses of two vaccines produced by Moderna and Pfizer are delivered in Virginia and throughout the country to front-line health care workers and individuals in long-term care facilities.

Metro will also begin resuming the collection of bus fares on Jan. 3.

In order to maintain protect passengers and bus operators, the county has installed polycarbonate driver shields on buses. Face coverings continue to be mandatory inside buses.

Since May, staff has given 66,000 face coverings to passengers without masks. Passengers are encouraged to practice social distancing when possible, stay at home if they are sick, and wash hands often with soap and water.

Transdev, the bus systems operations continue, continues to step up cleaning and disinfecting of bus interiors and commonly used areas like door handles and handrails, according to the county.

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The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors indicated interest in a pilot program for electric-powered buses during its transportation committee meeting on Tuesday (Nov. 10).

During the meeting, Fairfax County Department of Transportation Director Tom Biesiadny delivered an presentation that explained the “ins and outs” of electric vehicles and and included a proposal for moving forward with a pilot plan.

The next step would be to return to the supervisors with a more in-depth financial plan that includes details such as when and where this would take place, and how long the demonstration would last, which could be in the early part of 2021, Biesiadny says.

“This is exciting,”said Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeffrey McKay. “Clearly we need to jump into this area and we need to do it quickly.”

Providence Supervisor Dalia Palchick supported a pilot because it would help ensure the county implements these changes correctly.

“This is the future,” she said. “We need to stop going backward. I’m hopeful to see a plan not just to see a pilot but do a demonstration project, which in my mind, means ‘how can we move forward?'”

A pilot with four buses could cost between $3.8 million and $4.2 million, a gross cost that does not take into account sources of funding. Some money has been set aside through a bus replacement program, and there are grants available, Biesiadny said.

FCDOT has in-house and external expertise from Fairfax’s “ongoing partnership with Dominion Energy” and the Richmond Highway Bus Rapid Transit team to draw from, said Tom Reynolds, the FCDOT Section Chief of Transit Services Division.

The pilot would help the department learn about the buses’ range and charging, how they perform during different seasons of the year and on various local and express routes, and what staff training needs to be done, Reynolds said.

“The sooner we do the pilot, the sooner we see the results of it, the sooner we can start to make longer-term decisions about some of the capital costs that would be necessary if we were to expand this,” McKay said.

When the county talks about costs, Palchik — who said she developed childhood asthma living in the area — and Braddock Supervisor James Walkinshaw emphasized the costs of treating asthma and the health impacts of poor air quality.

“In Virginia, we spend $87 million a year because of asthma hospitalization,” Walkinshaw said. “Fairfax County is lower, but Route One is higher. Annandale is higher. Other parts of the county are higher. It would be a small thing, but as we look at this pilot, we might want to look at locating it in parts of the county that have been hit harder by asthma.”

Fairfax County’s first effort to introduce electric vehicles into public transit came this year with the autonomous Relay shuttle now operating in the Mosaic District. That demonstration project is a partnership with Dominion Energy, Biesiadny said.

Photo via Electrify America

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Monday Morning Notes

New Roles for County Bus Drivers — Fairfax County Public Schools’ bus drivers are taking on new roles during a hiatus in in-person learning. Some were matched with temporary jobs based on their skill set. [NBC 4]

Volunteers Sought for Laptop and Book Distribution — Volunteers are “greatly needed” to help schools in Reston and Herndon, according to Fairfax County Public Schools. Volunteers can sign up to help with curbside library book distribution, weekend food distribution packing, helping with laptop distribution, and other tasks. [Fairfax County Government]

Virtual Appraisal Roadshow Set for Tomorrow — Reston Association is hosting a virtual appraisal roadshow from 11 a.m. to noon tomorrow (Tuesday). Experts will be on-site to educate the audience about facts and the worth of items selected by residents. [RA]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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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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Fairfax County Public Schools Superintendent Scott Brabrand has no plans to furlough bus drivers and food service workers, despite the virtual start to school next month.

In a letter sent to the community last night (Monday), Brabrand said he plans to “keep our FCPS family 100 percent intact” as the school year begins. Bus drivers are set to return to work on August 25. Some will deliver meals to specific locations or along select bus routes.

In other cases, the school system may provide other work assignments like facilities maintenance, student support, and delivering books and supplies to schools.

Brabrand also said the school system is working on an alternative plan to keep all food service workers employed throughout the academic years. Funding for service food service employees, which primarily relies on the sale of food, has taken a major hit due to school closures.

Here’s more from Brabrand’s letter:

I’d like to thank our food service employees for your heroic efforts to provide grab and go meals for our families since our schools shut down in March. More than 2 million meals have been served so far. Food distribution will continue through the rest of summer break and once the school year begins.   

A community survey is underway to determine meal demand for the upcoming school year. The results will determine if changes to the food striation schedule are warranted.

Other staff — including security guards and office employees — may also be asked to shuffle their job duties to support virtual learning.

The FCPS School Board is meeting today for a day-long work session to continue formalizing plans for the return to school.

Photo via FCPS

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After a variety of issues and delays, Silver Line’s Phase Two is now aiming for completion in spring 2021.

Updates on the second phase of the Silver Line were briefly mentioned due to time constraints during the Transportation Committee yesterday. Phase Two will connect six new stations to the Wiehle-Reston East, bringing Metro riders out to Ashburn.

Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn said that he briefly talked to Paul Wiedefeld, the general manager and CEO of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, last week.

“He assured me that — at least as of early last week — the Phase Two opening is still on track for next spring,” Alcorn said. “I’m sure there are probably a dozen ways that that can change, but for now, at least it is moving forward, according to that schedule.”

Phase Two is 98% complete overall, according to the presentation for Martha Elena Coello with the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.

The project has faced several delays, from train control software issues to flawed rail ties. The presentation addressed the ongoing issues the project has faced, including:

  • concrete panel deficiencies
  • concrete ties/cross level deficiencies
  • fouled ballast
  • automatic train control
  • insulated joints replacement

Work is expected to finish on the new rail, systems, stations and yard later this year or early 2021.

Recently, “substantial work” wrapped up on the garage at the Innovation Center Metro station, according to the presentation. The garage, which costs roughly $52 million, is 98% complete and awaiting its official occupancy permit, according to the presentation.

Bus loop work is expected to be done at the Herndon station garage this month.

The presentation also provided an update on the bus service plan for Phase Two. Currently, Fairfax County is seeking public input on the plan.

More from Fairfax Connector:

Welcome to the Reston-Herndon Area Bus Service Review final round of public input!… Fairfax Connector is considering a variety of options to improve bus service to, from, and around the new stations in Fairfax County.

Our previous round of outreach proposed three bus transit service alternatives, each with their own set of unique characteristics. We ranked the alternatives based on coverage, average travel times between key origin-destination pairs, and ridership potential (see right). We also listened to what Connector riders and nonriders had to say through several public meetings and an online survey. Based on feedback received, the preferred alternative presented today is cost-neutral, and includes the best elements of the three originally proposed scenarios and existing service.

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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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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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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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The Fairfax County Department of Transportation is offering residents free bus fare and prizes this week to celebrate Try Transit Week, which is in effect through Friday.

Fairfax County residents can try transit and go car-free with a free $50 Smart Trip Card to use on transit or parking at county Metrorail parking garages to residents. In order to receive the gift card, residents must complete an online survey. Social media users can also share photos of their “smart commuting” experience on the FCODT’s Facebook for a chance to win a free Echo Dot.

Other regional and statewide partners are also offering other promotions:

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation is invested in improving the infrastructure and resources to give commuters choices to get to work or get around town. Fairfax County invites residents to try some of these options during Try Transit Week and Car Free Days to build better commuting habits that will benefit us personally and globally today and well into the future,” according to FCDOT.

File photo

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A group of mothers from Fairfax County are banding together to push county schools to use electric school buses.

The group, Mothers out Front Fairfax, recently formed a local chapter of the national climate advocacy group Mothers Out Front.

“Our county has a chance to be on the cutting edge of technology and to be a national leader in providing our kids with healthy air and clean energy future,” said Kathy Keller, a nurse at Inova Fairfax hospital, Mothers out Front Fairfax member and a mom with two children in county schools.

The group formally launched its campaign at Patrick Henry Library in Vienna on Tuesday (August 20). Fairfax County Public School’s school board member Pat Hynes spoke at the event.

Here’s more from the group about their initiative:

Electric school buses, with no tailpipe emissions, eliminate children’s exposure to dangerous diesel exhaust during their ride to school. They have lower global warming emissions than diesel, even when the source of electricity is taken into account. They have no engine, muffler, or alternator that requires tune-ups, meaning a lifetime fuel and maintenance savings over diesel buses of up to $170,000. They have a lower center of gravity than diesel buses and are therefore less likely to roll over. They are safer for our kids and cleaner for our environment.

The health and environmental benefits of electric school buses are well documented. Studies show that that exposure levels to harmful chemicals can be between 4 and 10 times higher on school buses than in the surrounding environment.

The county has the second largest public school fleet of buses in the country, behind only New York City.

Mothers Out Front is a national advocacy group. Members are mothers who aim to “ensure a livable climate for all children,” according to the organization’s website.

File photo

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