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The Route 7 bus rapid transit service from Tysons to Alexandria (via NVTC/Twitter)

A new bus rapid transit (BRT) route could connect Alexandria and Tysons, and the golden spike in that project could be Falls Church.

The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) is reviewing a study of Envision Route 7’s impact on Falls Church. The study doesn’t make recommendations but provides analysis on how BRT might impact bus and car traffic in Falls Church.

According to the NVTC agenda:

The Commission will be asked to accept the findings of the Envision Route 7 Phase 4-1 Mobility Study, a key element of the fourth phase of planning for a Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) system designed to connect the Mark Center in Alexandria to Tysons via Bailey’s Crossroads, Seven Corners and Falls Church along the Route 7 corridor.

The study included a variety of scenarios for how the BRT route could run through Falls Church, from a “no-build” option to full transit lanes, along with various “hybrids” inbetween.

Unsurprisingly, the scenarios with the higher number of dedicated bus lanes having the largest travel time decrease for buses, though travel times would also increase for cars and other vehicles.

The study also included feedback from public engagement, which determined 60% of respondents agreed improving bus speed and reliability was a high priority, though there was also concern about how the changes might impact bicyclist safety.

The full report is available online.

NVTC is working with Falls Church throughout this fall to develop a preferred scenario, with the project going to various boards and commissions in Falls Church, Fairfax, Alexandria and Arlington this winter.

Image via NVTC/Twitter

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

Whenever Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) gets widened, the new lanes from International Drive in Tysons down to the West Falls Church Metro station area will be reserved exclusively for a future bus rapid transit (BRT) system.

The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved a comprehensive plan amendment last Tuesday (July 25) incorporating the BRT into the county’s vision for Route 7 and International Drive, a move that enables county staff to pursue funding.

“I do think this is an important movement forward in this project,” Providence District Supervisor Dalia Palchik said after a public hearing.

The Tysons portion of the Route 7 BRT — which is intended to provide faster, more direct service than a traditional local bus route — is part of a regional system that the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission has been planning for a decade now. The finished route will extend into Falls Church City and Seven Corners, ending at the Mark Center in Alexandria.

For the initial Tysons phase, though, the Fairfax County Department of Transportation has settled on the West Falls Church Metro as the southern endpoint and the Spring Hill Metro station as the northern terminus.

Adhering to an alignment approved by the Board of Supervisors in 2021, the BRT will have nine stops:

  • The West Falls Church Metro station
  • Westbound 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, near the Rotunda Condominiums
  • Spring Hill Metro station

Along with establishing the potential stations, the newly approved amendment designates two additional lanes planned for Route 7 from Haycock Road to International Drive as dedicated BRT lanes.

The comprehensive plan recommends expanding Leesburg Pike from four to six lanes between Haycock and the Capital Beltway (I-495) and from six to eight lanes between the Beltway and Route 123. Funds have already been secured to design the Beltway to Route 123 segment. Read More

Fairfax County police (file photo)

(Updated at 4:30 p.m.) Local police have made an arrest in connection with the robbery of a 66-year-old woman in the vicinity of the North Shore pool.

Police arrested and charged the 38-year-old Reston resident with robbery on Wednesday (July 26).

The incident happened at 8:20 p.m. on Monday (July 24) near a Metro bus in the 11000 block of North Shore Drive.

“The victim was on a Metro bus near the Hunter Woods shopping center,” police said.

The victim reportedly left the bus, where she was conversing with the female suspect, and sat down on a bench.

Police believe the suspect sat down next to her and took her wallet.

“A physical struggle occurred between the victim and a suspect, at which time the suspect ran from the scene and was not located,” the Fairfax County Police Department said.

No injuries were reported.

The suspect is being held on no bond.

Correction: This story previously said the robbery occurred near the Hunters Woods Village Center. The police news release suggests that the victim was riding the bus near that shopping center, but the actual incident took place roughly three miles away on North Shore Drive.

Cars head south on Richmond Highway (staff photo by Matt Blitz)

(Updated 10:55 a.m. on 7/26/2023) The ongoing redevelopment of Richmond Highway (Route 1) in Fairfax County has sparked a larger discussion over whether the benefits of road widening projects outweigh their potential harm.

The Virginia Department of Transportation plans to bring improvements to a three-mile stretch in the Richmond Highway corridor in two phases: first from Jeff Todd Way to just north of Frye Road, then from just north of Frye Road to Sherwood Hall Lane.

Notably, the changes will widen Richmond Highway from four to six lanes, which will pave the way for bus rapid transit in the corridor but has garnered some pushback from local community members.

The Coalition for Smarter Growth, which advocates for more “sustainable” transportation methods such as walking, biking and transit in the D.C. region, claimed in a recent press release that “wider roads fail, and the public knows this.”

CSG’s Northern Virginia Advocacy Manager Sonya Breehey says road widening projects create induced demand, arguing that adding more travel lanes incentivizes more people to drive and increases congestion in the long run, despite offering short-term relief.

“The idea is, we get stuck in traffic, so we add travel lanes,” Breehey said. “It’s easy for a few years, but then those travel lanes fill back up and then everybody’s clamoring again for more road widening. It’s a cyclical problem.”

Rep. Don Beyer, who represents the county’s Route 1 area in Congress, told FFXnow in an exclusive interview that he supports road widening projects.

“I think [road widening projects] are an important part of congestion relief,” Beyer said. “There’s an alternative argument…that they will fill up as fast as you build them. That’s certainly been largely true in the metro D.C. area for a long time…but at the same time, I don’t know if it’s still true today.”

In addition to adding travel lanes, the Richmond Highway project reserves median space for future lanes dedicated to The One, a bus rapid transit system that aims to outpace traditional bus services with dedicated lanes and fewer stops.

The planned Richmond Highway bus rapid transit map (via FCDOT)

With the BRT expected to be operational in 2030, the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission announced last month that the Commonwealth Transportation Board approved $10 million to help implement the bus system from Fort Belvoir to the Huntington Metro station.

“This billion-dollar investment in a new state-of-the-art transportation system and in the communities along Richmond Highway will revitalize the area and provide more safe, convenient and dependable transportation options for the people who live here,” Mount Vernon District Supervisor Dan Storck wrote in a statement.

Storck says road widening can only be “done right” if it is “in coordination” with “walkable, bikeable communities and mass transit.” Read More

Metro plans to convert all of its buses to zero emissions by 2042 (courtesy Metro)

Metro’s bus facility in Franconia is a step closer to going electric, thanks to a big infusion of funding from the federal government.

The Federal Transit Administration has awarded Metro a $104 million grant to convert its Cinder Bed Road Bus Division garage at 7901 Cinder Bed Road into a fully electric facility, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority announced Monday (June 26).

In addition to supporting new charging infrastructure, the funds will enable Metro to buy about 100 battery-powered buses and develop a training program for drivers, mechanics and first responders, according to Sens. Mark Warner and Tim Kaine, who lauded the grant in a joint statement.

“We appreciate the Federal Transit Administration’s leadership in the transition to zero-emission bus technology that will help reduce air pollution and improve quality of life across the region,” WMATA Board Chair Paul Smedberg said, thanking the senators and other federal, state and local elected officials for helping secure the money.

Metro’s board of directors adopted a plan in 2021 directing the transit agency to purchase only buses that don’t produce carbon emissions by 2030 and fully transition to a zero-emission bus fleet by 2045.

Metro’s first electric bus arrived this month as part of an initial 12-vehicle batch that will operate out of the Shepherd Parkway garage in D.C., according to WMATA. The vehicles were expected earlier, but the delivery got delayed after a fire in Connecticut last summer forced the manufacturer New Flyer to recall hundreds of buses.

Located northeast of the I-95 and Fairfax County Parkway interchange, the Cinder Bed Road garage houses 121 40-foot buses that serve 11 routes, as of December 2021. It has parking for 160 vehicles and 13 maintenance bays.

According to Metro’s transition plan, the facility could host 112 battery-powered electric buses. It has “safe and efficient site circulation,” but a stacked bus parking layout and existing underground infrastructure for utilities and stormwater pose hurdles.

To fully cover the cost of converting the Cinder Bed garage, the federal grant will be matched by “a combination of local funding,” a Metro spokesperson said.

Fairfax County plans to use the facility for its future Richmond Highway bus rapid transit service. Branded as The One, the system will operate all-electric buses from Fort Belvoir to the Huntington Metro station, potentially beginning in 2030.

“Thanks to our partnership with the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority and federal support, we will soon deliver a fully converted battery-electric bus facility in Fairfax County,” Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said. “This project aligns with the county’s important goal of carbon neutral government operations by 2040 and is an investment in the region’s transit system and clean energy that will bring significant environmental and community benefits.”

The conversion design process is slated to begin later this year, with a projected opening coming in 2027-2028, according to WMATA’s transition plan. Read More

Fairfax County school buses are getting cameras to catch drivers who illegally pass them (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

A long-delayed effort to outfit Fairfax County Public Schools’ buses with cameras has officially received the green light from the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors.

At a meeting yesterday (Tuesday), the board unanimously approved an agreement allowing the Fairfax County Police Department to participate in a program that will install 50 bus camera systems to detect drivers who don’t stop when buses are boarding and off-loading students.

Board members emphasized the need for the program amid surging pedestrian fatalities and concerns about student and traffic safety.

Board of Supervisors Chairman Jeff McKay said he was extremely dismayed about delays associated with the program.

“This is a long time coming, frankly. It will save lives and equally importantly make the very tough job of our school bus operators a little bit easier with maybe one less thing they have to worry about,” he said.

The project is not expected to go live until 2024.

Failure to stop when a school bus unloads and loads students is prohibited by state law, resulting in a civil fine of $250 for violations. The state passed enabling legislation allowing schools to install video-monitoring systems in 2011.

FCPS staff began exploring the idea of adding cameras to its buses in 2013, prompted by Dranesville District Supervisor John Foust, but the Board of Supervisors turned up the heat in February when it approved a motion asking FCPS why a program had not yet been implemented.

Factors in the delay included a need for more state legislation to clarify legal questions regarding the authority of police departments to mail summons to violators and permitting vendors to access Department of Motor Vehicles data.

Talks with a vendor were on hold during the pandemic and when the contact for the vendor left in 2021, the future of the project was unclear. McKay then sent a letter in December 2021 proposing that the program be in place by last summer.

McKay, Foust and others said they had hoped for a more expeditious handling of the proposal.

“It was the legal issues that cost us all the times which is really frustrating because there were different interpretations [of the law],” McKay said.

Virginia school systems with bus stop-arm cameras include Falls Church City, Arlington and Newport News.

FCPS will bear the cost of the program by vendor American Traffic Solutions, Inc.

Drivers of vehicles identified by the bus camera system will receive a summons that requires payment.

The program will expand based on an evaluation of the administrative process and the effectiveness of the traffic calming technology by FCPS and the FCPD.

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.

Commuters wait at the closed Vienna Metro station for an express shuttle to Ballston (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

Some good news is on the horizon for local Metrorail riders: the West and East Falls Church stations are set to reopen on Monday (June 26) after a 23-day closure.

The bad news? The Vienna and Dunn Loring stations will remain closed through July 16.

Orange and Silver line service at the four stations ceased on June 3 so Metro crews could replace a 40-year-old steel rail. The transit agency is also using the closures to install fiber optic cables and clear vegetation along or near the train tracks.

After laying down nearly 1,800 tons of rail and removing “more than 42,000 linear feet of trees, bushes, grasses, and invasive vines,” the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority says it will advance to the project’s second phase next week.

“Our team has made great progress on this work so far. As of last week, our team has replaced 15.5 miles of track, installed nearly 36 miles of fiber-optic cable, replaced two diamond interlockings, and installed 13 new switch machines,” Metro Chief of Infrastructure Andy Off said. “They are working to keep the system safe and reliable, and we thank our customers and visitors to the area for their understanding and patience.”

The extended shutdown has been a source of frustration for many commuters in Northern Virginia, despite Metro’s efforts to minimize disruptions by providing free shuttles.

After getting reports of long lines and wait times for the shuttles, particularly at the Vienna and Ballston stations, WMATA said on June 7 that it would add more buses, coordinate with police to ensure free movement through traffic and reevaluate routes through the more congested areas of Rosslyn.

However, the transit agency noted that wait times could still reach 20 minutes during peak rush hours “based on the volume of customers at these stations.”

Some waiting should still be expected at the Vienna, Dunn Loring and West Falls Church stations going forward, Metro says, advising riders “to allow extra time for their travel,” especially during rush hour.

From June 26 through July 16, free shuttles will be provided with stops at those three stations, arriving every 10 to 20 minutes. There will also be an Orange Line Express with service between Vienna and West Falls Church every eight to 15 minutes on weekdays.

Standard buses from Metro and other transit services, including Fairfax Connector, will be available as well: Read More

The West Falls Church Metro station is one of four that will close for about three weeks, starting tomorrow (staff photo by Angela Woolsey)

The last train out of the Vienna Metro station for the next month will depart at 12:20 a.m. tomorrow (Saturday).

After that, the Vienna, Dunn Loring, West Falls Church and East Falls Church stations will all shut down, as the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority begins to replace a 40-year-old steel rail extending to Ballston.

All four stations will be closed through June 25. At that point, the Falls Church stations will reopen, but the Vienna and Dunn Loring stations will stay closed through July 16.

“Replacing some of the oldest tracks in our system is critical to safety and reliability, and crews will work 24/7 to complete this project as quickly as possible so we can get back to normal service,” Metro Chief of Infrastructure Andy Off said in a news release earlier this week. “We make every effort to minimize impacts to our customers, and we thank them for their patience while we continue to build a safe and modern Metro to serve the entire region.”

In addition to the rail replacement, the maintenance project will include upgrades of fiber-optic cables at the stations “to modernize communications and allow for more efficient maintenance in the future,” WMATA says.

Though the shutdown will primarily affect Orange Line travelers, the East Falls Church station in Arlington will also be closed to Silver Line trains, so anyone looking to transfer or travel between the McLean and Ballston stations will need to take one of the free shuttles provided by Metro.

The shuttle schedule during the shutdown’s current phase to June 25 is below:

Orange Line Shuttle: Local service between Vienna, Dunn Loring, West Falls Church, East Falls Church, and Ballston-MU stations during normal Metrorail operating hours.

  • Every 5 minutes during rush hours. (6-9 a.m., 3-7 p.m.)
  • Every 10 minutes all other times, including weekends.

Silver Line Shuttle: Local service between McLean, East Falls Church, and Ballston-MU stations during normal Metrorail operating hours.

  • Every 5 minutes during rush hours. (6- 9 a.m., 3-7 p.m.)
  • Every 10 minutes all other times, including weekends.

Orange Line Express: Express service between Vienna and Rosslyn stations.

  • Service every 5 minutes during rush hours. (6-9 a.m., 3-7 p.m.)
  • Service every 10 minutes during non-rush hours. (9 a.m.-3 p.m., 7-9 p.m.)

Silver Line Limited: Limited-stop service between Washington Dulles International Airport, McLean, and Rosslyn.

  • Service every 5 minutes during rush hours. (6-9 a.m., 3-7 p.m.)
  • Service every 10 minutes during non-rush hours. (9 a.m.-3 p.m., 7-9 p.m.)

The Silver Line Limited shuttle will be the fastest option for riders going to or from Dulles Airport, which accounts for about one-third of all trips on Metro’s Silver Line extension, according to WMATA.

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

Plans for a Route 7 bus rapid transit (BRT) system in Tysons are starting to take more concrete shape, outpacing an ongoing study of the corridor further to the south.

The service will initially launch in Tysons, operating between the Spring Hill and West Falls Church Metro stations, before later expanding into Falls Church and Alexandria, Fairfax County Department of Transportation staff told planning commission members at a May 11 committee meeting.

“Since the northern portion is kind of on a fast track, we would make this the first phase to see how it works,” Sean Schweitzer, a senior transportation planner for FCDOT, said. “It would work in the interim as a closed system until the rest can catch up.”

During the interim phase, the BRT will have nine stops, according to a comprehensive plan amendment proposed by county staff:

  • The West Falls Church Metro station
  • Westbound Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) at Chestnut Street
  • Patterson Road, near the Tysons Station and Idylwood Plaza shopping cneters
  • 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

In the future, the Fletcher Street station could serve as a transfer point for an “enhanced” Gallows Road transit system, Schweitzer said. A study of that corridor down to Annandale is only just gearing up.

The route follows the preferred alignment along International Drive that the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors approved in 2021. The West Falls Church Metro was chosen as an interim southern terminus so buses can turn around, but the county hasn’t ruled out the possibility of making it a permanent station.

“If [the BRT is] better served by going directly to the Metro station, where it can pick up more passengers versus staying on Route 7, we could make that adjustment and have that be the ultimate alignment,” Fairfax County Transportation Planning Chief Mike Garcia said.

Except for the Metro stations, each stop will have separate platforms for east and westbound travel, staggered to reduce right-of-way needs, according to county staff.

The buses will mostly utilize dedicated median lanes, but they have to join other traffic at the Metro stations and to make the left turn from International Drive to Spring Hill Road. Spring Hill and Tyco roads will have “Business Access and Transit” (BAT) lanes limited to buses and drivers turning into the commercial area east of the Spring Hill Metro station. Read More


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