Plan for Route 7 bus rapid transit in Tysons passes planning commission

The proposed route and stations for the Route 7 bus rapid transit system in Tysons (via FCDOT)

Fairfax County’s plan for bus rapid transit (BRT) service on Route 7 in Tysons sailed through the planning commission last week.

The commissioners recommended on Wednesday (June 21) that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approve a comprehensive plan amendment establishing guidelines for the future public transportation system, including the route and station locations.

If the amendment is approved at the board’s scheduled public hearing on July 25, the project will become eligible for funding through the county’s Transportation Priorities Plan and state and regional grants, Fairfax County Department of Transportation senior planner Sean Schweitzer told the planning commission.

“This is for future planning. This is not an immediately funded initiative. It’s also very timely,” Planning Commission Vice Chairman Timothy Sargeant noted, referencing FCDOT’s collaboration with the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission on a larger study that could eventually extend the Route 7 BRT to Alexandria.

Known as Envision Route 7, that study has been underway since 2013 and shifted its focus last fall to a portion of the system that will run through Falls Church City down to Seven Corners.

Because the Tysons section is at a more advanced stage of planning, with an overall route alignment in place since 2021, Fairfax County hopes to initially implement service within Tysons down to the West Falls Church Metro station as a temporary southern terminus.

As shared with the planning commission at a committee meeting on May 11 and with the public at virtual community meetings on June 7 and 8, the Route 7 BRT will serve nine stops in the Tysons area:

  • West Falls Church Metro
  • Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) at Chestnut Street
  • Patterson Road, near the Tysons Station and Idylwood Plaza shopping centers
  • George C. Marshall Drive
  • Fashion Blvd, serving Tysons Corner Center
  • International Drive and Fletcher Street
  • International and Greensboro Drive, next to Tysons Galleria
  • International and Lincoln Circle
  • Spring Hill Metro station

To give the buses a clear path, since BRT is intended to be faster than a regular local bus service, the county has proposed designating two future lanes on Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) as BRT-exclusive lanes. The service will also repurpose two existing lanes on International Drive to Lincoln Circle.

The buses will occasionally enter mixed traffic at the West Falls Church station and when turning left from International Drive onto Spring Hill Road, where they will use Business Access and Transit (BAT) lanes to reach the Metro station.

“We know that the middle of Tysons doesn’t really have too much in the way of transit options,” Schweitzer said. “So, this preferred alignment helps to kind of expand the overall transit network within Tysons and gives people…different modes to use in order to get around Tysons and, ultimately, in the future, to Alexandria.”

FCDOT staff is studying how to incorporate improvements for bicyclists and pedestrians into the project, Schweitzer told the commission. Also to be determined is whether the BRT will keep stopping at the West Falls Church Metro station or stay on Route 7 after service is extended into Falls Church.

Franconia District Commissioner Dan Lagana suggested the county could learn from the existing BRT systems in Arlington and Alexandria when designing bicycle and pedestrian facilities, such as wider or raised crosswalks.

“I use and drive by, for example, the Metroway in Alexandria frequently, and…the city has done an outstanding job, Arlington and Alexandria,” Lagana said. “But there are some clear gaps now that we’ve seen it in action and we know crosswalks in the area are insufficient.”

Schweitzer said the county has been collaborating with its neighbors in Arlington, Alexandria and Falls Church, including through the Envision Route 7 study.

“We’re making sure all our transit projects and studies are kind of lining up so it can create, in the future, an expansive BRT system and also connect to the West End Metroway as well in Alexandria,” he said.