Revenues from decreased ridership are taking a hit on the Fairfax Connector as the fallout of COVID-19 outbreak continues to unfold.
The bus service is set to receive $1.85 million in funds from the Commonwealth Transportation Board, which oversees statewide transportation and transit projects, to help address the impact of the novel coronavirus, including a dip in revenue from fares. Last week, the board approved supplemental funding to help stave off the impact of service reduction, ridership losses, and decreases in revenue.
But the funding, which was OK’d by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors at a meeting yesterday (Tuesday), would only keep the buses rolling for about two months.
Fares on buses were temporarily suspended last week because fare boxes are located at the front of buses. Customers are required to enter and exit buses using the rear doors.
Here’s more from the board matter approved by the Board of Supervisors:
County staff have been responding to the onset of COVID-19, ensuring that Fairfax Connector employees are prepared, and the County’s capital assets are cleaned frequently to help reduce the potential spread of the disease. At the same time, County staff have been ensuring Fairfax Connector service continues to be available to serve Fairfax County residents who have no alternate way to travel during this emergency. The Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) is continuing to implement changes necessary to protect the health and safety of Fairfax Connector employees, customers and the public during the COVID-19 pandemic, such as requiring passengers to enter and exit the bus using the rear doors, with the exception of customers who need to use a wheelchair ramp. Fare collection on buses has been temporarily suspended due to the location of fareboxes at the front entrance of buses. The County will continue make adjustments to Fairfax Connector service to prevent and mitigate the spread of COVID-19 and will ensure information on such adjustments is provided to the public.
An FCDOT spokesperson told Reston Now that although ridership had dipped, statistics on the extent of the increases are not yet available.
Several paving and restricting changes are planned for roads in the Hunter Mill District.
State and local officials are planned to add bike lanes and left-turn lanes on Beulah Road, as well as shared lane marks on the narrow parts of the road. On-street parking is expected to remain at the site.
Residents could also see bike lines on Glade Drive between Colts Neck Road and Glade Bank Way. On-street parking will remain on both sides of the road, but on-street parking west of Charterhouse Circle could be converted to bike lanes because it is underutilized.
Bike lanes are also planned on Pine Valley Drive between Old Courthouse Road and Higdon Drive. This project will require narrowing the road.
The existing left turn lane into the West Market Community neighborhood could be converted into a pedestrian refuge. Left turns into Market Street would be limited and alternative routes into the community through Crescent Park Drive will remain.
Paving projects are expected to begin in April and continue through November. State and local transportation officials identify repaving and restriping projects annually in order to implement the county’s comprehensive plan.
The feedback period for comments closed on March 10.
Photo via FCDOT
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.
The Fairfax County Department of Transportation is seeking input on future bus service to and from phase two of the Silver Line.
Residents can provide feedback at two meetings: Hutchinson Elementary School on Sat., March 21 from 10 a.m. to noon and South Lakes High School on Wed., March 25 from 7-9 p.m. Feedback will also be accepted online from March 16 through April 16.
Service will begin once the Metro stations are Reston Town Center, Herndon, Innovation Center, Dulles Airport, Loudoun Gateway and Ashburn are open.
In December, FCDOT officials backed the most transformative of three options to change service levels. This approach would impact a greater coverage area and was endorsed by the county’s Multimodal Advisory Committee. Other options include incremental changes to service plans or streamlining of existing routes.
More information about the proposals is available online.
Staff photo by Jay Westcott
A major project to improve sidewalks and bus stops along South Lakes Drive is set to be completed by the summer.
The Fairfax County Department of Transportation is planning to complete missing sections of the sidewalk on the north side of South Lakes Drive and improve existing sidewalk between Greenskeeper Court and Twin Branches Road.
The project, which was first developed by the Reston Metrorail Access Group in 2009, will also include making six bus stops ADA- friendly.
Both projects are both in the construction phase and will be finished by early summer, according to Robin Geiger, a spokesperson for FCDOT.
Geiger said that the sidewalk on the Southside is 45 percent complete and the trail project on the Northside has just begun.
“The intent is to complete the majority of the work on the Southside prior to moving construction activities to the northside,” Geiger said.
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: 551, 924, 926, 927, 929, 937, 950, 951, 952, 980, 981, 983.
Routes were changed in late September.
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
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
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.
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.
⚠️Fairfax Connector bus service will operate Sunday schedule today due to a job action by Fairfax Connector drivers and mechanics. Please visit:https://t.co/ztkygOkVhq to learn which routes will and will not be operating today and disregard weekday buses shown in BusTracker.
— Fairfax Connector (@ffxconnector) December 5, 2019
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
Bikeshare in Reston is set to get a boost by early 2020.
The Fairfax County Department of Transportation plans to install 21 new stations in Reston. The stations, which are currently in the design phase, will connect denser residential neighborhoods with transit and aim to improve access to retail, community resources, and recreational opportunities, according to the county.
The program is funded by a $1 million federal grant. All stations are expected to be installed by the end of next year.
- Green Range Drive & Glade Drive
- Charterhouse Circle & Glade Drive
- Olde Crafts Drive & Cartwright Place
- Ridge Heights Road & Seahawks Drive
- Baron Cameron Avenue & North Hampton Avenue
- Wainwright Drive & North Shore Drive
- Fairway Drive & Hook Road
- South Gate Community Center
- Links Drive & Wedge Drive
- North Village Drive & Park Garden Lane
- Great Owl Drive & Great Owl Circle
- Lake Newport Rd & Autumn Ridge Circle
- Reston Parkway & Bennington Woods Road
- Vantage Hill Road & Wainwright Drive
- Inlet Court & Wiehle Drive
- Ring Road & North Shore Drive
- South Lakes Dr & Reston Parkway
- Golf Course Square & Golf Course Drive
- Soapstone Drive Convenience Center
- Ridge Heights & Owls Cove Lane
- Becontree Lane & Goldenrain Court
County transportation officials are also looking into the possibility of adding a bike share station at Reston Community Center Hunters Woods.
As of last year, the stations at Wiehe-Reston Metro East and the Reston Town Center Transit Station were the most popular. Although ridership saw a dip earlier this year, the opening of phase two of the Silver Line is expected to boost ridership.
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 Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transit is giving away a year of free transit service from a transit operator in the state, as well as a pair of round-trip tickets aboard Amtrak’s Northeast Regional.
- A program by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments is hosting car free days from Sept. 21-23. Participants will receive a $30 gift certificate from Nift and will be entered in a raffle for prizes like sports and museum tickets, Capital Bikeshare memberships and gift certificates for food and groceries.
“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.
Great Decisions Event at Reston Regional Library Today — Speaker Gen. James Clapper will discuss the movie, which is produced by the Foreign Policy Association, from 2-4 p.m. today. Clapper’s book, “Cyber Conflicts and Geopolitics,” will also be on sale. [Reston Regional Library]
The Importance of Longterm Planning — “This week, the second week of National Preparedness Month 2019, highlights the importance of knowing your community’s risks and what to do when they occur. Having a plan and taking action in advance means that everyone can be prepared, no matter where or when disaster strikes.” [Fairfax County Government]
Try Transit Week Next Week — “To encourage Fairfax County residents and visitors to get out of their cars and give transit a try, the Fairfax County Department of Transportation, Fairfax Connector, Fairfax County Commuter Services, and other regional transportation partners are offering commuters the chance to win great prizes during Try Transit Week (Sept. 16-20, 2019) and Car Free Days.” [Fairfax County Department of Transportation]
Photo via vantagehill/Flickr
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.
Two federally funded projects are in the works to improve the walkability of Sunrise Valley Drive.
The county plans to widen an asphalt trail on the north side of the road to 10 feet and install a new asphalt trail that will later be incorporated into a planned cycle track for the Sunrise Valley Drive corridor. That track will separate bikes from the pedestrian walkway, according to county spokeswoman.
On the south side of Sunrise Valley Drive, the county plans to install a five-foot concrete sidewalk. Currently, no walkway exists for pedestrians.
“There’s currently very narrow trails in that area or nothing at all,” Tom Biesiadny, director of the Fairfax County Department of Transportation, said. “It’s not in great shape.”
Construction for both projects is expected to cost $1.5 million. The county anticipates receiving a contract award in July and construction is expected to begin later this year.
The projects are intended to improve access to the Wiehle-Reston East Metro Station from surrounding communities.
Map (for reference only) via FCDOT