Residents Want More Bus Service, But How and Where Remain the Question
Community offers feedback to proposed Fairfax County Connector routes, which will launch with the opening of the Silver Line later this year.
Vienna and Tysons area residents want Connector bus services in their communities, but residents don’t agree on how they want the routes to run once the first half of the Silver Line opens at the end of 2013.
During a two-hour meeting at Westbriar Elementary School, Fairfax County Department of Transportation officials presented a series of proposed modifications to bus service to and from Silver Line stations. But residents raised concerns about route layouts, bus frequency, parking facilities and more.
The meeting was one of several planned this week and over the next few months as the Board of Supervisors looks to approve bus service changes by May.
The county’s 2010 Transit Development Plan recommends 12 new routes be added to Tysons, McLean and Reston in concert with the opening of the new Metro line. It recommends 21 other routes be tweaked and six more be eliminated.
Christy Wegener, FCDOT’s Fairfax Connector chief, assured bus riders alternate service would be provided for the eliminated routes.
“We are not looking to remove service from any area of the county,” she said. “We are looking to enhance service.”
Routes 505 and 555 — which provide service from Reston Town Center and Sunset Hills, respectively, to West Falls Church — would be replaced by new route 959, from Sunrise Valley to Sunset Hills; and riders using routes 595 and 597 would be able to take the Silver Line.
For other notable routes, see list at the bottom of this story.
Route 432, which would run weekday rush-hour service to Spring Hill Metro Station and Leesburg Pike via Trap Road and Old Courthouse Road, was one route debated by residents at the meeting.
Some area residents argued Old Courthouse Road in Vienna, one of the route's main arteries, was too narrow and highly populated to accommodate large buses during rush hours.
Department of Transportation officials agreed Route 432 needed further study.
The route would have to use smaller, 30-foot buses that hold 29 people, Wegener said, to move forward as proposed; the larger Connector buses wouldn’t be able to make some of the turns near Old Courthouse Road.
Residents also feared for the safety of kids who attend schools in the area, including Westbriar and Colvin Run Elementary Schools, saying huge buses would be added to the already dangerous car traffic.
But other residents argued that ideally, buses would reduce the number of cars on the road.
“Every person who gets on a bus is one less person who’s going to be driving down Old Courthouse Road,” Wolftrap homeowner Dan Benson said.
Other residents said the route needed to have buses running in both directions because crossing Leesburg Pike to get to a bus stop during rush hour is dangerous.
Finally, many residents were concerned about a lack of parking infrastructure. Some homeowners feared that commuters who lived too far from a bus stop would drive to the nearest location and park their cars in the neighborhood for the day.
But FCDOT representative Eric Teitelman said his office didn’t think there was much danger of that happening.
He said county parking enforcement policies in the neighborhoods surrounding new Silver Line stations were probably “inevitable,” but said it was less common with bus routes.
Fairfax County Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) said constituents were raising valid concerns – most people want buses but they want to make sure the system is sound.
"People want to make sure it’s going to be a reliable service, that it’s going to be frequent,” Hudgins said after the meeting. “We haven’t heard anybody say ‘We don’t want this,’ but they want to know how it’s going to work.”
Another round of public meetings is planned for April, and the Board of Supervisors is set to make a decision in May. Bus service will launch on the day of the Silver Line’s opening.
Notable Proposed Routes in the Vienna/Tysons area
401: Backlick – Gallows Road – Tysons Northbound/402: Backlick – Gallows Road – Tysons Southbound: Runs throughout the week from Tysons Corner Metro Station to Franconia Springfield Metro Station, serving Annadale, INOVA Fairfax Hospital and Merrifield.
434: Dunn Loring – McLean: Runs weekday rush hour service to Dunn Loring, West Falls Church and McLean Metrorail Stations via Idylwood Rd and Great Falls Street.
461: Vienna Circulator: Runs weekday rush hour service from the Town of Vienna to Vienna Metrorail Station via Nutley Street, Tapawingo Road, Park Street, Malcolm Road and Flint Hill Road.
462 Dunn Loring – Tysons: Runs weekday rush hour service from Dunn Loring Metrorail Station to Tysons Corner Metrorail Station with a stop at Navy Federal Credit Union.
463: Vienna – Tysons: Runs weekday rush hour service from Vienna Metrorail Station through the Town of Vienna to Tysons Corner Metro Station.
SLC 1-4: Four special Silver Line Circulator routes that will run weekday service from locations around Tysons Corner crom 5:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. every 10 minutes during rush hours. Service will slow to 20-30 during midday and evening.