Reston, VA

Tuesday Morning Notes

New Express Route to Pentagon, Changes Come to Fairfax Connector — A new express route to the Pentagon will be available later this month after the Fairfax County Board of Supervisor’s approved changes to the bus system. Minor time adjustments will also go into effect on Route 950 –from Herndon-Reston. [Fairfax County Government]

Former comScore CEO and Board Member Steps Down — “ComScore has had a number of CEOs and board members come and go. Its latest executive to depart points to “clear skies and smooth waters” ahead for the embattled Reston company.”  [Washington Business Journal]

Reston Woman Dropped off by Redskins’ Player Died of Accidental Overdose — “A woman who was dropped off “unconscious and unresponsive” at a Loudoun County medical center by Washington Redskins safety Montae Nicholson and a friend in November died of an accidental overdose of fentanyl, authorities said a Virginia medical examiner has ruled. The Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office said Monday that the investigation into the death of Julia Crabbe, 21, of Reston, remains ongoing and that detectives are still trying to determine the source of the drug that killed her. No charges have been filed.” [The Washington Post]

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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With bus loop construction nearly complete, Fairfax Connector service to and from the Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride will return to normal today (Monday).

The bus loop is expected to close in the spring again to complete concrete work. Details about the upcoming closure have not been publicly released yet.

Here’s more from Fairfax County government:

Fairfax Connector and Metrobus passengers who make travel connections at Herndon-Monroe will board buses at the bus loop once again starting Jan. 6, instead of the temporary stops along Sunrise Valley Drive used during construction. Fairfax Connector Routes operating to and from the Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride are: 551924926, 927929937950951952980981983.

Routes were changed in late September.

File photo

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Local Fairfax County transportations officials are considering changes to Fairfax Connector routes in the Reston and Herndon area to meet demands created by the expansion of the Silver Line next year.

Of three options presented for changes, the county is recommending the “transformation” option — Other options included increment changes to the development plan or streamlining existing routes.

The recommended model would offer new service options, all day local service, and more frequent service to Metrorail Station through feeder routes at peak times. New planned connections include Sterling Plaza, Centreville and George Mason University in Fairfax.

County officials say the transformation model covers a greater area and includes the future Innovation Station. The model was also endorsed by the Multimodal Transportation Advisory Committee for recommendation to the Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT).

A recent marketing survey found the following areas had the lowest rankings:

  • Available when you need it
  • Fast way to travel
  • Goes places you need to go
  • Offers real-time information
  • Fits into your lifestyle

Users sought more frequent service, operation earlier or later in the day, and express bus service. Others said they were concerned about connections to Wiehle-Reston Metro East Station and Reston Town Center.

Reston Association’s Board of Directors will vote on a preferred service alternative on Thursday (Dec. 19).

Photo via FCDOT

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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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Friday Morning Notes

Fairfax Connector Offers Limited Service Today — As day two of a worker strike continues, several routes will only run on Sunday service and some routes will not run at all. [Fairfax County Government]

Metro Releases Concepts to Improve Service — Metro “released several preliminary concepts to improve reliability, meet future ridership demand, and better serve customers on the Blue, Orange, and Silver lines. The concepts, part of the two-year Blue/Orange/Silver Capacity and Reliability Study (BOS Study), include a range of infrastructure improvements and service alternatives to address both short- and long-term needs.” [Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority]

Wiehle-Reston East Station Closed This Weekend — “Crews are gearing up to try and finish construction of Phase Two of the Silver Line extension in time for a September opening, and it’s going to mean some continuous inconveniences for weekend Metro riders. Just like the past few weekends, the Wiehle-Reston East Station will close again order as crews work on the expansion project. The work (and the closures) will continue most weekends through February 2020, per Metro. Free shuttle buses will be available between the Spring Hill and Wiehle-Reston East stations.” [DCIST]

Photo via vantagehill/Flickr

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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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This op-ed was submitted by Kaelyn Serrao. It does not reflect the opinions of Reston Now. We publish opinion contributions of specific interest to the Reston community. Contributions may be edited for length or content. 

I am writing in response to the article titled “Strike Against Metrobus Contractor Could Impact Fairfax Connector Service”, published in your online newspaper on November 18th, 2019.  I was not aware of the current dispute going on between the Fairfax Connector drivers and the contractor of Metrobus and felt that your article articulated the issue well.  I felt that there was no overwhelming bias present and appreciated the Fairfax County Department of Transportation stating their position on the negotiations. 

Although they predict that there will be no impacts on service due to these negotiations, there is a possibility it could cause issues for those who are dependent on the transportation line.  People may not feel that this labor dispute is a big deal because it does not affect them directly, but if the negotiation doesn’t go well it could result in problems for a large portion of the community.  

I felt compelled to write a letter about this article because I feel that these types of issues are often overlooked.  The Fairfax Connector drivers are silent heroes that continually get people where they need to be in a safe and timely fashion. They deserve to be recognized for their service to the public and have their labor requests reviewed and implemented with the upmost respect.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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A strike against the contractor of Metrobus could affect service by the Fairfax Connector.

The union that represents Fairfax Connector drivers indicated that a strike is possible amid an ongoing labor dispute with Transdev, the operations contractor of the Fairfax Connector service.

In a release the county warned that ongoing negotiations for a new labor agreement with the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 1764 could result in service delays. Currently, no impact to service is anticipated.

Here’s more from the county:

The Fairfax Connector operations contractor, Transdev, is currently negotiating a new labor agreement with the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 1764, which represents Fairfax Connector drivers and mechanics.Even though Fairfax County is not a party to any labor negotiations between Transdev and labor unions, Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) has encouraged negotiations in good faith with the goal of completing a new contract prior to the expiration of the current one on November 30, 2019.  

FCDOT strives to provide effective communications and excellent customer service to our customers. We understand that you depend on us to take you where you need to go with reliable service. If the current negotiations are not successful and labor action occurs, FCDOT will communicate with passengers about service impacts and travel alternatives. 

The county offers updates about Fairfax Connector service online. Residents can also sign up for email service alerts through the county’s BusTracker.

Staff photo by Jay Westcott

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Monday Morning Notes

Second Round of Meetings on Fairfax Connector Service Changes — “Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) will hold a second round of community input meetings and engagement opportunities to encourage public input on alternatives developed to provide enhanced Fairfax Connector bus service in the Reston and Herndon areas, including connections to the future Metrorail Silver Line Phase 2 stations in Herndon and Reston.” [Fairfax County Government]

Why Rush Hour Promise Was Cancelled After Crash — “The refunds were offered to registered SmarTrip cardholders who were caught up in major Blue, Orange and Silver Line delays on the morning of Monday, Oct. 7. But they were not provided to those riders in the afternoon even as the crumpled cars continued to block one of the tracks near Farragut West.” [WTOP]

Community Action Spurs. Changers to Campus Commons Plan — “Consistent with the Reston Master Plan principle of public participation in planning and zoning, Reston citizens banded together to improve a flawed redevelopment plan by TF Cornerstone, for Campus Commons, located in the Reston Transit Station Area (TSA) at Wiehle Avenue and Sunrise Valley Drive. Among several reasons, the plan failed to gain community support because it does not adequately provide safe pedestrian crossings and will add at least 6,100 daily car trips.” [Reston 2020]

Photo by Marjorie Copson

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Fairfax County is seeking more feedback from commuters who use the Fairfax Connector.

A new round of meetings will give community members another chance to provide critiques for plans for the future of the Fairfax Connector and the Silver Line Metrorail expansion around Reston and Herndon, according to a press release.

People who want to give feedback can attend any of the three upcoming meetings, which are all accessible from the Fairfax Connector.

  • Herndon Middle School Cafeteria (901 Locust Street) on Thursday (Oct. 28) from 7-9 p.m.
  • Ox Hill Baptist Church (4101 Elmwood Street) on Friday (Oct. 29) from 7-9 p.m.
  • Reston Community Center at Lake Anne (1609-A Washington Plaza) on Saturday (Nov. 2) from 10 a.m.-noon

Anyone unable to attend the meetings in person may give feedback online. The form will be open from Oct. 23 until Nov. 30.

Comments can also be mailed to Fairfax County Department of Transportation, 4050 Legato Road, Suite 400, Fairfax, VA 22033.

Feedback from the meetings will be synthesized and converted into another design to “provide better access to destinations, improved travel times, increased schedule reliability and more dependable service,” the press release said.

This final plan will be available in early 2020 for a final round of critiques.

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Monday Morning Notes

Vehicle Tax Payments Due Today — The deadline to pay annual bills for vehicles in Fairfax County is today (Monday). Residents can pay their bill online, by phone, by mail and with your smartphone. [Fairfax County Government]

Fairfax Connector Sees Uptick in Ridership — ‘Fairfax Connector bus ridership was up during the second quarter of 2019 compared to a year before, according to new data, spurring hope it has turned a corner from declining ridership totals. The bus system, operated by a private firm under contract to the Fairfax County government, recorded a ridership of about 2.2 million in the three-month period ending June 30, according to figures reported to the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission.”  [Inside NOVA]

Unveiling of Colts Neck Underpass Project Set for Next Week — Philadelphia-based artist Ben Volta will unveil the Colts Neck Road underpass art project on Wednesday, Oct. 16. The artwork features drawings from hundreds of local residents. [Hunters Woods at Trails Edge]

Photo by Jay Westcott

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Monday Morning Notes

Changes at the Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride — “Beginning September 23 through November 2019, Fairfax Connector bus service at the Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride will be relocated to a temporary stop on Sunrise Valley Drive. The relocation of service is due to necessary construction on the bus loop.” [Fairfax County Government]

Refunds for Metro Riders — “Late in the morning rush hour, thousands of Metro commuters experienced delays Friday Metro says it had to begin single-tracking after one of its train operators reported a metal object on the track just west of the Foggy Bottom station… Metro said under its “Rush Hour Promise” program riders with a registered SmarTrip card will automatically receive a refund if they were delayed ten minutes or more. Metro said if your card is not registered, as long as you register it before midnight tonight you will receive the refund.” [WJLA]

UMAI Ramen Reopens Today  The new ramen and rice restaurant opened at 482 Elden Street on Saturday. After all items on the menu were sold out that day, the restaurant plans to reopen today. [UMAI Ramen and Rice Bowl]

Photo by Jay Westcott

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A community meeting next week will tackle proposed Fairfax Connector changes that would impact riders in Reston and Herndon.

Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) is seeking the public’s input on proposed service changes to six routes:

  • Route 396: a new route servicing Backlick North Park-and-Ride to the Pentagon
  • Route 306: GMU- Pentagon
  • Route 395: Gambrill-Pentagon Express
  • Route 640: Stone Road-Westfields Boulevard
  • Route 650: Chantilly
  • Route 950: Herndon-Reston

The proposed changes to the Herndon-Reston adjust the running time on Elden Street on Saturdays heading eastbound and westbound between 3-7 p.m.

FCDOT says that the proposed changes for all of the routes “will improve on-time performance.”

The meeting is set for 7 p.m. at the cafeteria at Eagle View Elementary School at 4500 Dixie Hill Road in Fairfax on Thursday, Sept. 19.

“In addition to the community meeting, Fairfax Connector staff will connect with customers, in-person throughout September, on routes that are affected by the proposed service changes,” according to FCDOT.

People can submit comments until Oct. 1. After reviewing the feedback, FCDOT plans to bring the proposed changes to the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors this fall.

If approved, riders can expect the changes to go into effect in January.

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As we head into Labor Day weekend, here’s a look at some area closings and schedule adjustments for the holiday.

Public schools, library, county offices, the county’s animal shelter, General District Court, and Reston Community Center Hunters Woods and Lake Anne will be closed.

The Fairfax Connector will be operating on a Sunday schedule. Metrorail and Metrobus will also operate on a Sunday schedule, with off-peak fares in effect all day. Parking will be free at all Metrorail facilities.

Frying Pan Farm Park’s farm and indoor arena will be open from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., but its visitors center will remain closed. More information about county closures is available online.

Reston Association offices, the Central Services Facility and the nature house will close at noon today (Friday) and remain closed on Monday.

The pool schedule for the holiday weekend is below:

Glade, Lake Audubon, Lake Newport: Noon to 7 p.m.

North Shore, Ridge Heights: 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.

In the town of Herndon, government offices will be closed. Recycling collection will be postponed from Monday to Tuesday. The town’s Labor Day festival is set from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. in the town green.

Photo via Ben White/Unsplash

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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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