Reston drivers might have noticed some fencing and other construction equipment going up along stretches of road near South Lakes High School, as crews prep the area for a sidewalk construction project.
The approximately $2 million bicycle/pedestrian project on South Lakes Drive will add sidewalk to areas that are currently mostly dirt paths. According to a Fairfax County document, the sidewalk being constructed involves an approximately 3,600-foot-long area.
That’s not all. The Fairfax County Department of Transportation project will also add sidewalk on Twin Branches Road at the intersection with South Lakes Drive, where safety upgrades for pedestrians will also occur, Reston Association Chief Operating Officer Larry Butler said in a Reston Today video on Tuesday (July 6).
“Very early in the planning and scoping for this project, Fairfax County agreed to add a short section of sidewalk that had been identified in our multimodal transportation advisory committee’s report, Reston on Foot and Bike,” Butler said.
The project, which uses 2014 bond money, will install walkways from Greenskeepers Court to Soapstone Drive, Whisperwood Glen Lane to Ridge Heights Road, and Harbor Court to Twin Branches Road.
Orange barrel markers have been placed along areas of the project — areas which Butler said will fill in gaps between existing sections of sidewalk and Reston Association pathways, and improve three bus stops in main sections of the work.
Butler noted in the video that the project is one of three recent pedestrian improvement projects in the area. Work to add five-foot-wide sidewalks on the south side of Sunrise Valley Drive from South Lakes to Soapstone Drive and from RA’s headquarters (12001 Sunrise Valley Dr.) west to Glade Drive has been completed.
“These improvements will help facilitate a safer pedestrian experience for all Restonians,” Butler said. “I hope you get out and enjoy these paths and sidewalks once they’re completed.”
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.
Local Company Uses Virtual Reality to Train Space Force Guardians — The U.S. Space Form is working with Reston-based company SAIC in order to use virtual reality to train space force guardians. The platform allows armed forces to respond to missile-warning scenarios and collaborate in cyberspace. [The Washington Post]
French Cafe and Bakery Opens in Herndon — Le Vingt Trois Cafe and Bakery recently opened at 311 Sunset Park Drive in Herndon. The owners hopes the business will be similar to French cafe that she encountered while growing up in Australia. [Reston Patch]
Paving and Re-striping Meeting Set for April 6 — State and county transportation officials are holding a virtual public meeting on April 6 p.m. to discuss the latest paving and re-striping project set for the Hunter Mill District this year. [Fairfax County Government]
Free Lyft Rides Available for St. Patrick’s Day — Residents can get a free Lyft ride home on St. Patrick’s day. Codes are valid from 4 p.m. today through 2 a.m. on Thursday. [Fairfax County Police Department]
Photo by Marjorie Copson
Work on a new walkway for Innovation Center Metro Station to Dulles Green Boulevard has been completed.
Roughly 270 linear feet of sidewalk were installed at the site, including a handrail and a two-curb ramp.
The project connects with the existing sidewalk from the new Metro station. A community review process was jumpstarted in 2017 by the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.
Work on ensuring other Silver Line Metro Station continues to support pedestrian walkability is also underway.
Recently, Fairfax County completed the construction of a 10-foot wide concrete walkway along Dolley Madison Boulevard in Tysons. The project added 2,400 feet of liner walkway and allows for a safer connection between downtown McLean and area Metro stations.
Photo via FCDOT
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
County to Enter Phase Three Tomorrow — As health metrics continue to stabilize, the county will move into phase three along with the rest of the state beginning tomorrow. Social gatherings of up to 250 people will be allowed. New guidelines also end the cap on the number of customers allowed inside non-essential retail stores, restaurants and bars. Face coverings are still required inside public places. [Fairfax County Government]
Trio of Business Burglaries Reported — Three businesses were burglarized over the weekend. Two were located at the 2300 block of Hunters Woods Plaza while the third was located at 11800 block of Baron Cameron Avenue. All incidents are under investigation. [Fairfax County Police Department]
State Court Upholds Face Mask Requirement — “A winery’s challenge against Gov. Ralph Northam and State Health Commissioner Norm Oliver’s face mask requirement has not succeeded in court. Fauquier County’s Philip Carter Winery and its owner filed suit earlier in June challenging executive order 63, which took effect on May 29. The executive order applies to indoor public places, including food and beverage establishments. There are exemptions for individuals eating and drinking, among other reasons.” [Reston Patch]
Feedback Sought on Title VI Program — The Fairfax County Department of Transportation is seeking feedback on its Title VI program, which aims to ensure equitable distribution of transit services. Comments on the updated policy will be accepted through July 31. [Fairfax County Government]
Last Day to Vote for Thoreau’s Ensemble — Today is the last day to vote for Thoreau’s Ensemble, which is up for an international art award. The artwork, designed by Philadelphia-based artist Ben Volta, is located at the Colts Neck Underpass. [CODAwards]
Photo by Marjorie Copson
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