Fairfax Connector suspended fare collections last year as a temporary health measure in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, but the public bus system is considering longer-term adjustments to its fare policies with support from a new state grant program.
The Fairfax County Department of Transportation is one of 12 transit agencies in Virginia that have expressed interest in the Department of Rail and Public Transportation’s new Transit Ridership Incentive Program (TRIP), which will fund projects that increase connectivity in highly populated areas or remove barriers for low-income individuals by reducing or eliminating fares.
While fare collection resumed on Jan. 4, county leaders see reducing or subsidizing trip costs as one way to encourage more people to ride the Connector, which is the largest local bus system in Northern Virginia, transporting approximately 30,000 passengers on 91 routes in ordinary times.
“Access to transit is crucial in promoting equity county-wide and for many a barrier is cost,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Jeff McKay said. “Our Department of Transportation is committed to looking into how we can provide aid to those experiencing economic hardship.”
Created by the General Assembly during its 2020 session, TRIP was conceived before the novel coronavirus arrived in the U.S., but Virginia Transportation Secretary Shannon Valentine told the Commonwealth Transportation Board during a May 18 workshop that the pandemic illustrated how vital public transportation is for essential workers, DCist reported.
“Fares turned out to be an obstacle. So we are really trying to use this as an opportunity,” Valentine said, according to DCist.
DRPT has split TRIP into two programs: one focused on regional connectivity, which could include everything from integrated fare collection systems to the creation of bus-only lanes on significant routes, and one focused on reducing the impact of fares on low-income users, which could involve eliminating fares, creating zero-fare zones, or providing subsidized or free passes.
Virginia has allocated a total of $129 million to the TRIP initiative through fiscal year 2027, including $88.4 million for the connectivity program and $39.6 million for the fare program, according to a presentation that DRPT delivered to the Commonwealth Transportation Board.
Legislators limited the fare reduction program to 25% of the initiative’s annual funding, but the General Assembly gave the program an additional $10 million in the state’s fiscal year 2022 budget, raising its total to $12.5 million for the upcoming fiscal year, which begins on July 1.
DRPT released a draft policy last week outlining how TRIP will be implemented, including how projects will be evaluated for grant funds. The resolution is open for public input through June 18, and the CTB is scheduled to vote on it on June 23.
Fairfax County is taking a small but crucial first step toward electrifying its sprawling government vehicle fleet, thanks to more than $4 million in state grants.
Gov. Ralph Northam announced on Friday (May 7) that the county will receive $4.4 million from the first round of Virginia’s Clean Air Communities Program, an initiative that launched in November using $20 million from the state’s Volkswagen Environmental Mitigation Trust.
Three of the five awarded grants went to Fairfax County agencies:
- Department of Transportation: $2.9 million for four shuttle buses and chargers
- Department of Public Works and Environmental Services: $1.2 million for four solid waste and recycling trucks and chargers
- Department of Vehicle Services/Department of Procurement and Material Management: $205,275 to purchase a medium-duty truck and charger for the public library system
The other recipients are the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which will get $3.9 million to purchase five shuttle buses and chargers, and Amherst County, which got $998,301 for two trucks, a shuttle bus, and chargers.
“Supporting clean transportation solutions is a vital part of our efforts to combat climate change and improve air quality in the Commonwealth,” Northam said. “These investments will reduce harmful vehicle pollution, which disproportionately impacts marginalized communities, and help accelerate an equitable transition to a cleaner economy for all Virginians.”
Fairfax County will use its grant funds to launch an electric vehicle pilot as part of a broader push to eliminate fossil fuels from the county’s transportation operations and achieve carbon neutrality by 2040.
The county’s Joint Environmental Task Force recommended in October that the Fairfax Connector bus fleet transition to electric vehicles or other non-carbon-emitting alternatives by 2030, followed by public school buses and non-bus vehicles in 2035.
The county has approximately 6,347 vehicles in its overall fleet, including 1,540 Fairfax County Public School buses, according to the Department of Vehicle Services.
While the new pilot will kick off the conversion of the county government fleet, FCPS received its first electric school buses in January from a statewide initiative led by Dominion Energy, which has pledged to replace all diesel buses in the state with electric ones by 2030.
The county first utilized electric vehicles for public transit in November, when the autonomous Relay shuttle kicked off passenger service in Merrifield for a year-long pilot project.
“To cut carbon admissions, we have to reimagine the way in which we travel,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said. “As a county, we are already actively moving towards cutting our emissions from our public transit and this will move us closer to our end goal.” Read More
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.
⚠️ Effective March 25, 2021, Stop ID# 3494 at Sunrise Valley Dr. & Colts Brook Dr. will be removed due to construction and will no longer be served by Routes 924, 926, 927, 929, 937, 950, 952. Passengers should use alternate Stop ID #3540 at Sunrise Valley Dr & Milburn Ln. pic.twitter.com/dU9EDN3mR9
— Fairfax Connector (@ffxconnector) March 15, 2021
Reston Community Center to Open Late — The center’s facilities will open at 9 a.m. today. Water aerobics classics that start before then in the Terry L. Smith Aquatics Center are canceled. [RCC]
Detectives Issue Warning about Texas License Plate Scam — ”Detectives with our Organized Crime and Intelligence Bureau are warning unsuspecting motorists of vehicle registrations being illegally sold involving the issuance of temporary Texas state license plates. Late last year detectives learned that Latinos Solutions Inc., formerly located at 7202 Poplar Street, Suite F, in Annandale, was fraudulently distributing temporary Texas license plates. After a lengthy and complex investigation, detectives arrested Karla Lopez, 25, of Woodbridge. ” [FCPD]
Fairfax Connector Returns to Regular Service with Detours — ”As wintry weather is expected to continue to impact Fairfax County and the National Capital Region, Fairfax Connector will operate full service with established detours tomorrow, Friday, Feb. 19, 2021. As road conditions improve, detours will be lifted on a route-by-route basis, or system-wide.” [Fairfax County Government]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
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.
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.
You know the drill: #StayHome and stay OFF the roads, friends. Ice, snow, and sleet are impacting many parts of #Virginia. Remember, it's nearly impossible to travel safely in icy conditions. Be safe! #VaWx pic.twitter.com/45FC096FKK
— Virginia Department of Emergency Management (@VDEM) February 18, 2021
Photo by Marjorie Copson
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.
⚠️ Due to road closures for Inauguration, Route 697 will not operate into DC starting immediately through Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. Passengers should use shuttle between Stringfellow P&R and Vienna Metro South. Use alternative Routes 631, 632, & 634. Thanks for your patience.
— Fairfax Connector (@ffxconnector) January 13, 2021
⚠️ Due to road closures, Route 699 will not operate into DC starting immediately through Wednesday, January 20, 2021. Route 699 will shuttle passengers (free of charge) between Government Center Park & Ride and Vienna Metro South. Thanks for your patience.
— Fairfax Connector (@ffxconnector) January 13, 2021
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
The proposed changes would impact a number of Herndon-Reston routes and create new ones, including Sterling-Herndon and Reston Town Center Metro station (when it finally opens) to Herndon High School.
The goal of the changes is to provide better access to destinations, improve travel times, increase schedule reliability and frequency, and increase overall services, according to the county’s press release.
The county is also looking to provide more access to schools, hospitals, and transit centers, decrease average travel times on popular routes, and to improve efficiency by cutting duplicating connections. Changes would be “initially developed as budget neutral,” according to the county.
There will be three virtual community input meetings next week (Jan. 12, 13, and 14) and public comments will be accepted until Feb. 21.
To increase participation, Fairfax County Department of Transportation is mailing out a brochure to every county resident this month that will direct people to the online survey. The brochure is also translated into nine different languages. The public has already had some chance to comment on a number of the subareas, including the Herndon-Reston routes, according to Robin Geiger, a spokeswoman for the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.
Due to this, these particular route updates can go to the Board of Supervisors and will be implemented prior to the entire transit strategic plan. These route changes and updates are expected to be approved and ready to go for when phase two of the Silver Line, Geiger tells Reston Now, since it incorporates two Metro stations into the routes.
Silver Line Phase 2 is currently scheduled to open in the fall, at the earliest.
However, if residents would like to comment on the Herndon-Reston routes and how they will be incorporated into the county’s overall transportation plan, Geiger says they are welcome to do so.
“We want to hear from everyone,” she says.
As we look forward toward closing the book on 2020 and ring in 2021, there are a few noteworthy closures around the county to be aware of.
Services and government offices throughout Fairfax County have altered their schedules in observance of the New Year’s holiday.
The full list from around the county is as follows:
Fairfax County Government:
- County government offices will be closed on Jan. 1.
Fairfax County Courts:
- The Fairfax Circuit, General District, and Juvenile and Domestic Relations District courts will be closed all day on Dec. 31 and Jan. 1.
- Reston Association offices, including the Central Services Facility and Nature House, will be closed Dec. 31 and Jan. 1 in observance of the New Year holiday.
- RCC Hunters Woods is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Dec. 31, and from noon to 5 p.m. on Jan. 1.
- RCC Lake Anne is open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Dec. 31, and it is closed on Jan. 1.
- Fairfax County Public Schools remain closed through Jan. 1 for Winter Break. All students will resume classes virtually on Tuesday, Jan. 5. Monday, Jan. 4, is an independent day.
County Libraries, Recreation Centers:
- All Fairfax County library branches, community and regional, will be open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Dec. 31. They will all be closed on Jan. 1.
- All Fairfax County RECenters, except George Washington RECenter (GWRC), will be open at their regular times and close at 4 p.m. on Dec. 31. GWRC will be closed on Dec. 31. All RECenters will be closed on Jan. 1.
Town of Herndon government and services:
- Government offices will be closed on Jan. 1.
- The Herndon Community Center will be open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Dec. 31, but it will be closed on Jan. 1.
- The Town of Herndon will not provide trash collection on Jan. 1. Trash that is normally collected on Friday will be picked up Thursday, Dec. 31.
- Connector buses will operate on a Sunday service plan on Jan. 1. Check here for operating routes.
- Fairfax CUE service will not be provided on Jan. 1.
- WMATA Metrorail service will open at 5 a.m. and close at 11 p.m. through Dec. 31. Service will open at 8 a.m. and close at 11 p.m. while operating on a holiday schedule with Sunday service intervals on Jan. 1.
- WMATA Metrobus will operate on a regular schedule on Dec. 31 and will go to a Sunday schedule for Jan. 1.
- Metro’s customer information call center will be closed. Automated information is available by calling 202-637-7000 or online at wmata.com
- WMATA’s regular fares and parking fees will be in effect on Dec. 31. Off-peak fares will be in effect all day, while parking will be free at all Metro-operated facilities on Jan. 1.
County Trash and Recycling:
- There will be no change in the county’s trash and recycling collection on Jan. 1. To ensure all trash and recycling is collected, the county urges for all materials to be placed at the curb or street line by 6 a.m.
- County Public Works and Environmental Services administrative offices will closed on Jan. 1 and reopen on Jan. 4.
- The recycling and disposal centers at the I-66 Transfer Station and I-95 Landfill Complex will be closed at 2 p.m. on Dec. 31 and all day on Jan. 1.
Photo by Elisha Terada/Unsplash
With Christmas just around the corner, many government offices and services will be closed for the remainder of the week, as employees take Thursday and Friday off for the holiday.
Fairfax County government offices will officially close at noon on Thursday (Dec. 24), and they will be closed for the entirety of Christmas Day.
All county parks and recreation facilities, including golf courses and RECenters, will be closed on Christmas.
However, all RECenters will be open until noon on Christmas Eve, and other facility hours vary that day depending on the specific location.
Reston Association offices, including the Central Services Facility and the Nature House will be closed Wednesday through Friday. No RA news will be distributed on Friday.
Fairfax County libraries will close at 1 p.m. on Thursday for the holiday weekend.
The Town of Herndon is also implementing a new trash and recycling collection schedule through the beginning of the New Year. Government offices in the town will also run on an abridged schedule. Offices will close at noon on Thursday and remain closed on Friday and Jan. 1.
Fairfax County will not provide any trash and recycling collection services on Christmas Day. Customers who typically have their waste collected on Fridays will instead get service on Saturday (Dec. 26). In addition, the county’s recycling and disposal centers at the I-66 Transfer Station (4618 West Ox Rd.) and the I-95 Landfill Complex (9850 Furnace Rd.) will close at 1 p.m. on Dec. 24 and stay closed throughout Dec. 25.
For transit users, Fairfax Connector will operate on Christmas Day according to its Sunday service schedule. Information about specific routes can be found here.
With students on winter break since Monday (Dec. 21), Fairfax County Public Schools has put its meal distribution services on hold starting today through Jan. 1. Yesterday, FCPS offered four days of breakfast and lunch to students who picked up meals at bus stops, and students who used Grab & Go locations or meal kits sites received 14-day meal kits.
Bus route meal distributions will resume on Jan. 4, while distribution at Grab & Go locations and meal kits sites will return on Jan. 5 and 6, respectively.
Photo via Reston Farm Market website
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.
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.
Sergeant Involved in Reston Shooting — “A Reston resident, who D.C. Police Chief Peter Newsham identified as a veteran sergeant in his department, shot and killed an armed man standing in the doorway of his apartment late Friday night, according to Fairfax County police.” [The Washington Post]
Fairfax Connector Resumes Service to Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride Today– “Fairfax Connector will resume service to the bus loop at the Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride as construction has been completed… Other construction activity continues at the Park and Ride to prepare for Silver Line Phase 2 Metrorail service, including the Kiss and Ride lot, which will be closed until Silver Line Phase 2 Metrorail service begins next year.” [Fairfax County Government]
Golf Course Island Pool Closed — Reston Association closed the pool due to a plumbing issue over the weekend. All pass holders with reservations have been contacted via email about the change. [Reston Association]
Prosecutors to Drop Stun Gun Charges — “Prosecutors in Fairfax County, Virginia, will seek to drop misdemeanor charges and instead secure an indictment against a police officer who used a stun gun on a man he mistakenly thought he recognized.” [WTOP]
Photo by Ray Copson
Reston Association to Host Listening Session — On Thursday, RA CEO Hank Lynch and Board President Julie Bitzer will host a virtual listening session via Zoom. Members can ask questions or give comment at 7 p.m. [Reston Association]
Free Legal Help for Small Businesses in Northern Virginia — “The Fairfax County Economic Development Authority (FCEDA) is partnering with the Northern Virginia Pro Bono Law Center and Start Small Think Big on the COVID-19 Pro Bono Collaborative, an initiative to provide free legal assistance to small businesses in Northern Virginia during the COVID-19 pandemic, including help with federal assistance, grant and loan programs, leases and employment issues.” [FCEDA]
Virtual Meeting on Herndon-Reston Bus Changes Tomorrow — The Fairfax County Department of Transportation is seeking feedback on its proposal for bus service in the Herndon-Reston area to improve one-time performance and streamline service. A virtual meeting is set for tomorrow at 6:30 p.m. [Fairfax County Government]
Photo by Marjorie Copson
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 Station, Herndon Station, Innovation Center Station, Dulles Airport Station, Loudoun 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
(Updated 5/20/2020) Before Orange and Silver line stations temporarily close this Saturday (May 23), Fairfax County officials for the Tysons and Vienna areas want to know more about the closures’ impact.
Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik and Hunter Mill District Supervisor Walter Alcorn plan to hold a virtual town hall on Thursday (May 21), according to staff from Palchik’s office.
The discussion will include representatives from WMATA and the county’s transportation department.
All Orange and Silver line stations west of the Ballston station will be closed through the fall for platform reconstruction at the four Orange Line stations and work to connect the Silver Line with the upcoming stations running from Reston to Ashburn.
The town hall is set to start at 6:30 p.m. People can register online.
Photo by Jay Westcott