The Fairfax County Board of Supervisors voted Tuesday to approve a number of changes to the Fairfax Connector bus service, establishing new routes and shifting service throughout 40 percent of the bus system.
Forty routes are being changed or updated in order to meld bus service to the Silver Line Metro when the first batch of stations open in December 2013.
Supervisors unanimously approved the list of revisions, for which transportation officials have been soliciting public input for months in a series of public meetings.
“I’ve been here 25-years and this is the most significant public outreach that I can remember for any kind of bus service changes,” said Tom Biesiadny, director of the county’s Department of Transportation.
Biesiadny said the changes will cost a total of $3.3 million, a combination of C&I tax funds, general fund dollars and money officials hope to get from Gov. Bob McDonnell’s new transportation bill.
FCDOT officials also had yet to work out a fare for Tysons Circulator bus rides that will connect workers in Tysons to Silver Line stations.
Residents in the Hunter Mill and Dranesville districts will experience the majority of the changes, with route modifications in Reston and Herndon providing midday and evening service.
But the new 599 express route from Reston to the Pentagon and Crystal City in Arlington attracted the most attention Tuesday.
Route 599 is the combination of two routes – 595 and 597 – that are popular and packed with riders in the their current forms, Biesiadny said. Riders pay $7.50 per trip and would likely pay the same for 599.
But since the bus will run a route parallel to the Silver Line, Biesiadny said that ridership on 599 could fluctuate.
“We do think there will be people who find the rail more attractive,” he said. “Over time, the usage on 599 will not be as significant as it is today and we’ll reevaluate that.”
Supervisors said the express routes needed to be closely monitored to make sure the demand doesn’t become overwhelming.
Commuters are more likely to drive rather than deal with a long train ride that forces them to transfer at Rosslyn, supervisors said.
“If you don’t give people a time-advantaged commute, they’re going to get off the buses and get back in their cars,” said Supervisor Pat Herrity (R-Springfield). “They’re not going to get on a metro that takes them all the way around.”
Biesiadny said they would continue to monitor ridership and make tweaks as necessary.
“Providing transit service in Fairfax County is a work in progress,” he said. “There are needs for transit service all throughout the county.”
Supervisor Cathy Hudgins requested officials organize a transit riders advisory group in order to continue providing input on effective routes and fares. Supervisors will consider the measure at its next Transportation Committee Meeting.