The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission plans to fund a new express bus service, part of efforts aimed at reducing congestion connected with Interstate 66 and the Beltway.
The commission approved a plan yesterday to fund the bus service with over $5.1 million for two years. Routes would run from the Reston South Park and Ride lot to key destinations in Arlington County that include the Pentagon, Pentagon City and Crystal City.
With the new service, proposed by Fairfax County, funding would also cover buying six diesel buses to operate the 10 morning and 10 evening peak direction trips.
More environmental friendly vehicles require significant infrastructure, such as charging stations, which weren’t part of the proposal, officials said.
The commission’s approval sends the matter before the Commonwealth Transportation Board, which could vote on the matter Oct. 20.
Two other projects and $400,000 in administrative costs were included in the NVTC plan, too.
A second project involves $85,000 in funding for an effort by OmniRide to provide a $200 a month incentive payment to newly formed, eligible vanpools.
The third project calls for nearly $155,000 to subsidize and reduce fares of the Fairfax Connector express bus service between the Reston North Park and Ride and stops in Arlington County that include the Pentagon, Pentagon City and Crystal City. It would reduce fares from $7.50 to $4.25.
The three projects are part of a Commuter Choice funding program of which the NVTC approved an initial batch of projects last year. Toll revenues fund the program.
Regional transportation officials are considering more ways to improve transit along the I-66 corridor, led by a multi-million-dollar proposal to create a new express bus route from Reston to key Arlington County work sites.
The express bus is one of four projects now up for public comment as the Northern Virginia Transit Commission decides what to fund for the latest round of the agency’s I-66 Commuter Choice program, which has $7 million in available funds, according to NVTC senior manager Ben Owen.
These four projects are part of a supplemental fourth round for fiscal year 2022 after the NVTC approved an initial batch of projects last year that was limited by the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact on I-66 toll revenue, which funds the Commuter Choice program.
The available money includes prior-year carryover that hasn’t been allocated, interest from the funds, and money released back to the commission from past projects that finished, NVTC communications and public affairs manager Matt Friedman said in a statement.
One of two projects proposed by Fairfax County, the new express bus service would connect Fairfax Connector’s Reston South Park and Ride lot with key employment destinations in Arlington County, including the Pentagon and Pentagon City and ending in Crystal City.
The county is seeking $5.1 million to cover two years of operating costs for the service as well as the purchase of six buses.
For its other project, the county has requested $154,000 to reduce Connector fares from $7.50 to $4.25 on the 599 express route from the Reston North Park and Ride to the Pentagon, Pentagon City, and Crystal City Metro stations in Arlington.
The other projects up for public comment come from OmniRide, which is seeking $85,000 to provide $200 per month incentives for new vanpools along I-66, and the Town of Vienna, which has applied for $5 million to design and construct a new Park and Ride lot at the soon-to-be-renovated Patrick Henry Library.
Staff presented a report on the proposed projects to the commission yesterday (Thursday). They recommended funding all of the projects except for the Patrick Henry Park and Ride.
For each round of Commuter Choice funding, NVTC staff give each of the submitted projects a technical score out of 100 that’s based primarily on their potential for reducing congestion, but also takes other factors into account.
The Town of Vienna’s proposal actually received a higher technical score of 56 than Fairfax County’s Reston North fare subsidy idea, which got a score of 44. However, staff said that the Patrick Henry Park and Ride would “exceed the available funding,” pushing the total cost of the projects to $10 million.
“The staff recommendation to fund Fairfax County’s fare buy-down proposal reflects the strong regional interest in fare reduction and equity initiatives,” NVTC staff wrote in their report. “It would also be a low-cost/costeffective means to help rebuild transit ridership in the I-66 Corridor.”
The OmniRide project received the highest score (62), followed by the Reston South express bus service (59).
Excluding the Vienna Park and Ride, the projects would move an additional 250 transit users through the I-66 corridor inside the Capital Beltway each morning when fully implemented, according to NVTC estimates.
The Commuter Choice program allows proposals to be resubmitted for future funding cycles if they’re not approved.
The public comment period runs through Sept. 17. People can participate by filling out a 12-step online form, providing feedback by email and phone, and joining in a virtual town hall this coming Wednesday (Sept. 8).
After the public comment period, NVTC will determine what it wants to fund, but the 17-member Commonwealth Transportation Board will have final approval over which projects are selected.
The commission is scheduled to approve its program on Oct. 7, followed by the CTB vote on Oct. 20.
For the next month, drivers can expect changes to their weekday commutes along Route 7 in Reston.
Beginning around Jan. 27 until the end of February, drivers can expect shoulder and single-lane closures from 9:30 a.m. to 3 p.m Monday-Thursday and from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m.on Fridays, according to a press release from the Virginia Department of Transportation.
During this time, crews will be working between Baron Cameron Avenue and Colvin Forest Drive to clear shrubbery and foliage from the east-bound right of way, the press release said.
The speed in the area will be temporarily reduced to 45 miles per hour between Reston Avenue and Jarrett Valley Drive until the work on the roadway is finished.
Image courtesy VDOT
Earlier this week, the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors recognized more than a dozen employers for excelling in implementing green commuter programs.
The award, which is managed by the Fairfax County Department of Transportation and Best Workplaces for Commuters, recognizes companies for offering transportation benefits and incentives, including teleworking, ride-matching services, and bike parking.
The board recognized 17 companies for receiving the award, including the following six employers based in Herndon and Reston:
- Comstock Holding Companies, Inc.
- Expedition Technology, Inc.
- InSequence Inc.
- Macedon Technologies
- SAP NS2
- Tobii Technology, Inc.
“Employers offering commuting alternatives receive value through enhanced recruitment and retention of staff, decreased parking expenses as well the ability to limit employee absenteeism. It’s a win-win for the employers, the employees and Fairfax County,” said Marcus Moore, lead employer outreach specialist with the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.
The designation is offering through Best Workplaces for Commuters, a membership program managed by the University of South Florida’s Center for Urban Transportation Research.
Photo via Fairfax County Government
Del. Ken Plum and 14 members of the Virginia General Assembly want toll relief for federal workers who are commuting on Virginia toll roads — including the Dulles Greenway — to go to their unpaid jobs as the longest government shutdown in U.S. history continues without an end in sight.
On Friday (Jan. 11), the 15 members sent a letter to the Secretary of Transportation Shannon Valentine and Greg Woodsmall from the Toll Road Investors Partnership II, L.P., urging them to work with EZ-Pass to develop a system to freeze tolling Virginian workers who are forced to work without pay during the current government shutdown.
“It is suggested that this letter [from the workers’ respective departments] is submitted in conjunction with their EZ-Pass transponder number and that this number be used to freeze the transponder’s ability to charge the petitioning Virginian during the entirety of their furlough,” the members wrote in the letter.
They also urged Valentine and Woodsmall to design a way to reimburse tolls that were collected from Dec. 20 — the beginning of the federal government shutdown — until the shutdown ends.
Virginia is the sixth most affected state by the shutdown with more than 34,000 workers who are affected by the furlough and a “significant number of them” who are expected to work without pay, according to the letter.
“These hardworking Virginians are TSA agents, United States Marshalls, FBI agents and others who are working hard to protect our nation and state, allowing our nation’s operations to continue during the government shutdown,” the members wrote.
Del. Karrie Delaney, who represents a large population of federal workers in the 67th District, which includes parts of Herndon, said that the letter is an opportunity to provide some financial relief for the federal workers who “are trying to figure out how they are going to make ends meet.”
“I represent TSA Agents, United States Marshalls, and FBI agents who are currently working without pay in order to protect our nation and our state,” Delaney said in a press release. “These residents are still going to work every day to ensure our nation’s operations continue, but they are not receiving a paycheck.”
JUST RELEASED: 14 other members of the GA and I have written the Secretary of Transportation to request that they take action and provide toll relief for furloughed federal workers who are still commuting on Virginia toll roads to go to their unpaid jobs.https://t.co/l5v6Lv5qQC
— Karrie Delaney (@KarrieKDelaney) January 11, 2019
Sameride, a ridesharing app that allows drivers and passengers to offer and request rides, has launched a new route from Herndon, Reston and Loudoun County to Arlington and the District.
More than 140 commuters are registered for the service, which allows app drivers and passengers to offer or request rides before taking off for their commute. Unlike taxi services, Sameride is an on-demand carpool service that helps connect drivers and drivers commuting on the same route.
Commuters can carpool on express lanes between Park & Ride commuter lots and their offices. The company, which first launched a route between Woodbridge and Tysons Corner, serves around 250 commuters. Company officials estimate the service can help customers who commute between the Herdon-Monroe Park & Ride lot and Rosslyn Metro Station $300 on rider’s fares or $590 on express lanes tolls on a monthly basis.
Andriy Klymchuk, a company representative for Sameride, said demand for a carpool matching service from Reston and Herndon has grown.
“This demand is due to the conversion of I-66 into high-occupancy toll express lanes, new residential constructions in the area and expansion of Herndon-Monroe Park & Ride lot. The same is true for Loudoun County commuters,” Klymchuk said. “In addition, Reston area serves as a hub for Sameride commuters coming on 267. Some commuters drive from as far as west of Leesburg and pick-up riders at the commuter lots near Reston.”
Klymchuk offered the following information about how the company differs from other ridesharing services:
Think about it as a commute sharing. You and your neighbor happen to work in the same location and you agree to ride to work together. With Sameride you do the same but through the app that allows you to create on-demand carpools. You can choose to be a driver or a rider, set your pick-up time and locations, commute once or daily, create ride requests or offers a few hours or a week before your commute. Drivers benefit from using HOT express lanes toll-free and riders benefit from getting a free commute. Both parties benefit from getting to the office and back home faster.
The app is available on iOS and Android.
Photo via Sameride
Top 5 Restaurants, Per OpenTable — According to OpenTable customer reviews, the top 5 restaurants in Reston are PassionFish, Big Bowl, Vinifera Wine Bar & Bistro, Il Fornaio and Neyla Mediterranean Bistro. [Patch]
Tetra Misses Revenue Forecast — Local advocacy group Reston 20/20 faults the Reston Association for “horrible” revenue forecasting for the RA’s Tetra/Lake House. Programming revenue for Tetra is expected to be $82,535 for 2016 compared to the $175,000 budgeted in May. Total costs, however, were below budget. [Reston 20/20]
Arlington to Reston Commute — Redditors are weighing in on the feasibility of an Arlington-to-Reston reverse commute. The emerging consensus: mornings aren’t too bad but evenings are rough. [Reddit]
Photo courtesy @MrErrett
No matter, we’re still No. 1 — in commuting time.
A new report produced by the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) shows drivers waste more than 3 billion gallons of fuel and were stuck in their cars for nearly 7 billion extra hours — 42 hours per rush hour commuter — in the last year.
Washington, D.C. tops the list of gridlocked cities, with 82 hours of delay per commuter, followed by Los Angeles (80 hours), San Francisco (78 hours), New York (74 hours), and San Jose (67 hours).
TTI says the problem has become so bad that drivers in the worst areas have to plan more than twice as much travel time as they would need to arrive on time in light traffic just to account for the effects of irregular delays such as bad weather, collisions, and construction zones. Anyone who has driven I-66 on a rainy day can attest to that.
So how do you deal with your commute? Take our poll and tell us more in the comments.