Greater Greater Washington

Transit


Vienna-Tysons bus route meets neighborhood opposition

In anticipation of the Silver Line, Fairfax Connector is reorganizing its bus routes in and around Tysons Corner to get people to each of the 4 new stations. But of all the proposed changes, the most controversial has been a new bus route to Vienna.


Option 1, one of 4 alternatives for Route 432. All images from Fairfax Connector and edited by the author.

The proposed Route 432 would connect northern Vienna with the Spring Hill Metro Station and Tysons in a loop, filling a critical gap in the county's transit network. Many residents support better bus service in this area due to the highly congested nature of Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) and Route 123 (Chain Bridge Road/Maple Avenue), the main roads into Tysons.

But residents living on Old Courthouse Road and Creek Crossing Road have overtaken the discussion about one of the 4 proposed route options that would use those two streets. They say the buses will endanger pedestrians and parked vehicles.

A small group of 3 residents practically took over a public meeting last February where 100 people came to hear about the proposals. The residents interrupted the 2-hour question-and-answer section with comments that school buses had struck parked cars. They fear that more buses would turn their quiet neighborhood into a loud urban freeway.

Unfortunately, the opposition was so effective that the Board of Supervisors decided to table discussion on Route 432, even after approving Fairfax Connector's other proposed routes. They revisited the plan options during a board meeting this week and will make a final decision on whether it will move forward.


Option 2.


Option 3.


Option 4.

The Board of Supervisors could simply choose one of the other 4 options where there's less opposition, but they are all weaker solutions. They avoid residential neighborhoods that don't already have transit service and force more buses into congested roads, making them less viable as an option for commuters.

The great thing about the original design of the 432 was that it would have slight variations in the route depending on the AM and PM rush hours to avoid being stuck in traffic. In the morning it used Leesburg Pike westbound, in the afternoon Leesburg Pike eastbound, by changing the clockwise or counterclockwise travel path.

Due to opposition from a vocal minority, the other 3 options propose running the bus instead along Maple Avenue, Vienna's main street and its most congested. In other words, that bus is gonna get stuck in a lot of traffic depending on the time of the day and it will be located far away from the residents who need it most.

This will make the bus more inconsistent, unreliable, and ineffective in transporting people, especially in an area where a lack of accommodations means walking or biking aren't an option either.

Option 1 remains the most viable solution. It avoids the heavily congested Maple Avenue corridor during rush hours, it uses dedicated bus lanes on the toll road, and most importantly it is accessible to residents by being routed on Old Courthouse Road and Beulah. The Fairfax County Department of Transportation has targeted this corridor for sidewalk improvements, which should dispel concerns about pedestrian safety.

What opponents haven't said is that neighborhood safety is compromised far more by the increasing number of commuters using Old Courthouse Road as a cut through to avoid traffic. When the Silver Line opens, these conditions will only get worse without viable alternatives to reach the stations.

Hopefully, the Board of Supervisors will recognize that kowtowing to the opposition will make Route 432 a worse service by putting buses where they don't belong, and join many of the Vienna residents who want to see Option 1 approved.

A version of this post appeared on The Tysons Corner.

Navid Roshan is a civil engineer who works and lives in Tysons Corner. He has a degree in civil engineering from Virginia Institute of Technology, has worked in the Northern Virginia land development field for 10 years, and has been a resident of Fairfax County for 27 years. Navid blogs at The Tysons Corner about reforming poor land use and design practices in the Northern Virginia region. 

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I'm not inclined to fight to give people living behind a country club access to a bus route. Maybe fight for a bus lane on Maple instead. Let them have their cut through traffic.

by Dave Murphy on Jul 30, 2013 1:17 pm • linkreport

I agree they shouldn't let a loud minority dictate decisions. However, I just don't see Old Courthouse and Beulah Road as the types of places that will use buses. I can't imagine decent ridership coming those places.

by jh on Jul 30, 2013 1:18 pm • linkreport

Is there any quantifiable evidence that buses are more likely to hit a person or a parked car than say another car hitting a a person or a parked car? It seems like adding bus trips a day could actually help by taking some cars trips off the road including those cut through drivers you mentioned.

by Alan B. on Jul 30, 2013 1:18 pm • linkreport

Don't discount the ridership. This is basically a 5-10 bus trip that get's you to a one seat metro ride to downtown DC at a metro station that won't have parking. These are the people predicted to switch to the silver line from the Orange.

Anyway, the objections are just plain dumb anyway. Buses don't pose any extra risk and they can improve it by putting less vehicles on the road and being predicatable. Unless there's evidence that Fairfax Connector drivers are somehow less competent than other services it's a ridiculous argument.

by drumz on Jul 30, 2013 1:24 pm • linkreport

Slightly off topic, but three of these alternatives propose a single direction loop. Isn't that a big transit planning no-no? I thought Fairfax Connector knew better.

by Penguin on Jul 30, 2013 1:49 pm • linkreport

Generally agree Penguin, but it might be a short enough loop ~ 20 minutes around that it doesn't really matter much. Not optimal certainly though.

by Alan B. on Jul 30, 2013 2:00 pm • linkreport

I'm a bit confused by the narrative of this post. If there are many Vienna residents who want Option 1 approved, where are they? Of the 100 people at the meeting, were there no more than 3 vocal supporters to drown out the opponents?

by Scoot on Jul 30, 2013 2:14 pm • linkreport

Full size Ffx County school buses use most all of the streets this bus would travel along. What's the big deal with this route? I checked the Connector's website and it would run every 30-40 minutes during rush hours only.

by Transport. on Jul 30, 2013 2:21 pm • linkreport

This piece makes the assumption that those who did not speak up publicly are in favor of Option 1. The BoS and the actual supervisor for this district, aren't going to table an option simply because three people threw a temper tantrum in a public meeting. We also have no mention of the type of feedback the area supervisors have received on this. Are there no quotes from them available? Any comments from the local business or the country club?

The piece also does a disservice to the perception of increased bus traffic in an established neighborhood. At the very least, busses are seen as being louder and dirtier than regular car traffic. While the GGW commentariat will point out that in the big picture, mass transit is cleaner than multiple cars commuting through here, that does change perception one lick.

by Chris22303 on Jul 30, 2013 2:25 pm • linkreport

@Scoot, there were lots of people telling the opposite of the 3, saying they wanted it; person after person in fact begged for more hours and more frequent service.

But as is with all things, those who are connected or have sway or use words like danger to children often end up being more clearly heard than the grander majority.

by Tysons Engineer on Jul 30, 2013 2:30 pm • linkreport

@Chris22303

I have not seen a quote from any BoS member on specifically 432. When asked about the silver line bus connector services they all focused on the routes that have already been approved without much ado. Supervisor Hudgins was in attendance at the Feb. meeting, and in her discussions with residents after the presentation looked to be favorably for providing more bus service in northern Vienna.

No quote though. Sorry.

by Tysons Engineer on Jul 30, 2013 2:33 pm • linkreport

@chris22303, the group against the original option and option 1 do have an online petition which they presented to the board, which was evidently enough in June for them to table it for further consideration. So to that point, no 3 people did not, but a small majority (far less than the population of the northern vienna area) was capable of halting the approval already.

By ratio of vocal attendees (the only measure I have because I don't have a poll available to me of vienna residents) there was easily a 10:1 ratio of people who spoke in favor of the route, with the half of the audience either having no opinion, or not speaking up about it.

by Tysons Engineer on Jul 30, 2013 2:36 pm • linkreport

1. This reiterates all I've written about how to do transit planning at different scales.

2. DC (like the E bus that goes through neighborhoods north of Military Road; the H8 that goes through various neighborhoods between Brookland and Mount Pleasant; the G8 from Downtown to Avondale; the 62 which goes from Takoma to Petworth, mostly on 5th Street NW) and Montgomery County have scads of routes that go on "neighborhood" streets.

I don't see why these kinds of examples aren't relevant to all other jurisdictions in the region, when they are relevant.

3. Former director of the Pratt Institute for Community Planning and now NYC Council member Brad Lander argues that these kinds of infrastructure decisions should not be held hostage to community boards:

http://secondavenuesagas.com/2013/07/26/brad-landers-bus-mayor-and-the-triboro-rx-sbs-plan/

4. When this came up in Baltimore County, and a community plan called for not doing transit (which after all serves "those people") the transpo planner in the DPW was incensed. (This area wasn't within my purview.) I pointed out that when the county master plan prioritizes X, in this case, transit service, then such provisions ought not to be countenanced except in extreme circumstances. It's up to the planners/planning office to set the planning parameters for both city/countywide goals and objectives and neighborhood objectives. I don't know why the community planner for that district didn't step up and "educate" the participants in the process.

Yes, sometimes buses hit cars. Sometimes cars hit buses. The reality depends on the width of the road, parking, the size of the bus, and the geometry of the route.

note that sometimes cars hit cars but we don't ban cars from the road.

by Richard Layman on Jul 30, 2013 3:04 pm • linkreport

@TE - Thanks for the response. I'm a civic association president, and one thing we pride ourselves on is not being That Community. We're in SE fairfax, so I have no idea of this particular community or it's relationship w/ Sup. Hudgins.

If the rest of Vienna is for this, perhaps they should open their yap. I tell my folks frequently that silence may mean support, but it is a poor counterweight to any organized opposition.

by chris22303 on Jul 30, 2013 3:07 pm • linkreport

Getting an update about this from JJ Madden and Fairfax County, looks like the BoS did the right thing today in this case and went with Option 1, but also allocated funds to improve sidewalks and crosswalks in this area to avoid pedestrian dangers.

by Tysons Engineer on Jul 30, 2013 3:17 pm • linkreport

@drumz "Don't discount the ridership. This is basically a 5-10 bus trip that get's you to a one seat metro ride to downtown DC at a metro station that won't have parking. These are the people predicted to switch to the silver line from the Orange."

My prediction is they'd drive to West Falls Church and park.

by jh on Jul 30, 2013 4:00 pm • linkreport

If they're driving, they'd likely go to Vienna metro instead. But from this part of town the drive commuters will likely be using Wielhe.

Also you discount the amount of people (as so many people do) who work in Tysons. Check out 66 westbound in the morning to see where the jobs are. A connection to Tysons from North Vienna alone is enough reason for this bus route, let alone connection to the silver line

by Tysons Engineer on Jul 30, 2013 4:06 pm • linkreport

Jh,

Maybe, but why drive a greater distance to pay $4.50 daily when you have the option of a bus fare/discounted metro ride on top of that?

by drumz on Jul 30, 2013 4:19 pm • linkreport

@drumz

I'm just going off of my assumptions of the demographics of those who live along Beulah Road and Old Courthouse Road. I certainly could be wrong, but I just don't see them taking the bus when it is a relatively easy drive to Metro (they actually have pretty driving access to Vienna, Dunn Loring, and WFC). I'm assuming they wouldn't worry too much about a few extra $ per day to park.

I believe a recent data visualization posted here showed locations of people who parked at different Metro stations. The Vienna station still has many people who park there despite having a bus option near them.

by jh on Jul 30, 2013 4:54 pm • linkreport

@Tysons Engineer

I'm not sure how the number of people working in Tysons is relevant to this bus route discussion. If these people work in Tysons, I don't think their parking is going away anytime soon. If they drive to Tysons now, I assume they will continue to drive.

by jh on Jul 30, 2013 5:21 pm • linkreport

There are apartments and town homes along old courthouse

by drumz on Jul 30, 2013 6:00 pm • linkreport

I definitely believe that this bus should go down the neighborhood streets. Having ridden Fairfax Connector buses quite a bit, I think there's plenty of untapped demand for decent service there--but the routes need to avoid the big traffic sewers and head down neighborhood streets instead.

I do have a caveat, though (one I never expected to be adding), which is that there is a point to be made regarding bus drivers driving through neighborhoods. Sometimes they're so focused on on-time performance that they speed through places. I live on a street with a 30 MPH speed limit and clearly marked crosswalks (with bright signs stating STATE LAW YIELD TO PEDESTRIANS IN CROSSWALK with arrows!), and was almost hit by a Ride On bus while midway through the crosswalk. He had the nerve to slam on the brakes and stop right next to me so that he could yell at me for daring to be in the crosswalk.

Of course I would be first in line to argue that more transit should be running down this street, but it's also the case that those drivers need to be very aware of pedestrians and the proper speed when driving through residential areas.

by Gray on Jul 30, 2013 6:58 pm • linkreport

@ Tysons Engineer

If the service between Tysons and Vienna is worth it without the new Metro Stations than why doesn't the service already exist ?

If the problem is the buses why not use smaller buses I remember WMATA use to use small buses over a decade ago but havent seen one since.

by kk on Jul 31, 2013 1:34 am • linkreport

I believe that the 15M is supposed to be routed to create a Vienna-Tysons link along Maple/Chain Bridge when the Silver Line opens.

by A. P. on Jul 31, 2013 7:32 am • linkreport

@kk

Preaching to the choir on that subject. This service has been asked for for years, as is the case with all things public service, it isn't as though one can snap a finger and have transit solutions provided on a silver platter. It takes years, sometimes decades

On the subject of the bus size, I have written about the waste being committed by FFX Co by only having a fleet of 35' and 40' buses.

http://thetysonscorner.com/fairfax-connectors-rigidity-on-fleet-size-costing-millions-and-impacting-access03/

They could be saving millions in fuel cost and be addressing the same capacity needs (and be solving these tight neighborhood problems) if they would diversify their fleet.

by Tysons Engineer on Jul 31, 2013 7:44 am • linkreport

@drumz

Yes, there are some townhouses and apartments on Old Courthouse, but they already have easy access to buses on Gallows Road and will be a 10-minute walk from Greensboro Station (maybe 5 minutes if they build improved pedestrian access through those shopping centers.

Don't get me wrong. Option 1 looks like a logical circular route to serve Tysons' metro stations. I'm just skeptical that anyone will ever get on those buses. My guess is Fairfax Connector has done their homework, though, and maybe there are potential riders on that route.

And, as mentioned, the one-direction routing is horrible. Why would anyone on Old Courthouse get on a bus that takes them the away from the metro before taking them back to metro? Or am I reading that route wrong? They could probably walk to Spring Hill Station faster. Looks like there is probably a nice cut through next to Raglan Road Park.

by jh on Jul 31, 2013 8:25 am • linkreport

@JH

One thing I noticed (from the public meeting) is that some of the residents skew a bit older (not like Metro Access age but just not the bike/fast walk crowd either). A 5-10 minute walk is really closer to a 20 minute walk for many of them.

I think a bus route is needed in northern vienna, but I do share some of your concerns about the length of time it will take due to the uni-directional routing as well as the bus size being incompatible to the actual usage (we need smaller buses).

by Tysons Engineer on Jul 31, 2013 8:29 am • linkreport

On the subject of the bus size, I have written about the waste being committed by FFX Co by only having a fleet of 35' and 40' buses.

http://thetysonscorner.com/fairfax-connectors-rigidity-on-fleet-size-costing-millions-and-impacting-access03/

They could be saving millions in fuel cost and be addressing the same capacity needs (and be solving these tight neighborhood problems) if they would diversify their fleet.

C'mon man, don't just post completely uncited and unverified "research" from your own website and try to claim it's some kind of authoritative source on how FFX is wasting money. If you really think this is the case then provide some actual figures, not something with just made-up numbers that ignores costs you can't find any information about.

by MLD on Jul 31, 2013 8:35 am • linkreport

@MLD, the numbers come from dividing out the operational costs provided by Fairfax Connectors yearly budgets. Its not shots in the dark. Are they exact numbers? No because there are way to many factors for anyone other than Ed Long to be able to give a final budget option analysis, but it is within a 10% to 20% margin of error, which based on the fact that I provide a low end and high end prediction on the numbers should be enough to prove the point that FFX is using more money to run more empty buses.

Not sure why the animosity. I'm sorry its on my website and not this one, if GGW would like they could cross post it, just as they did this one but I was never asked to do so on that story.

by Tysons Engineer on Jul 31, 2013 8:40 am • linkreport

Unless there's evidence that Fairfax Connector drivers are somehow less competent than other services it's a ridiculous argument.

There is no evidence that FFX drivers are worse than other bus drivers. However, there is plenty of need for bus drivers training can get a lot better. There are still too many drivers that drive 'binary'; either full on the gas or full on the breaks. There are still too many that break the law by driving away while people are paying; there cannot be anybody in front of the yellow line while the bus is in operation. There are still too many bus drivers that speed. FFX Connector has a maintenance issue leading to too many buses not being able to follow traffic at speed uphill.

This does not mean that there is any reason to fear buses, but there is plenty of improvement of bus driver knowledge.

by Jasper on Jul 31, 2013 9:02 am • linkreport

@ Tysons Engineer:On the subject of the bus size, I have written about the waste being committed by FFX Co by only having a fleet of 35' and 40' buses.

They had smaller 'El Dorado' buses. They rode on the 305 route for instance. They've been removed from service because they were falling apart.

I imagine that keeping one bus size keeps the fleet flexible, and maintenance easy.

by Jasper on Jul 31, 2013 9:05 am • linkreport

I think just because they found a problem with a particular 22-25' bus shouldn't mean they should write off the idea of having any in their fleet. I have heard the maintenance argument, but the capital cost difference between the 22-25' buses more than makes up for any uptick in maintenance cost and over the long term (if they set it up to be a common fleet option) will work itself out also.

This is change fear, I see it in government all the time. "Our field people don't want to change cause they dont know how to use item X, so lets pay more for the inferior product we know about"

by Tysons Engineer on Jul 31, 2013 9:08 am • linkreport

Ffx Connector has many 30 foot buses. I see them on the Reston RIBS routes all the time, so it is not just 35 and 40 foot buses.

by Transport. on Jul 31, 2013 10:01 am • linkreport

Arlington County seems to do reasonably well with different size buses in their fleet and matching them to services

by Some Ideas on Jul 31, 2013 10:02 am • linkreport

@Transport, can't speak to RIBS, never ridden it. But FCDOTs response when I asked about this was that they see the smaller buses as a maintenance issue, and that is why the new Silver Line fleet didnt considering purchasing any.

by Tysons Engineer on Jul 31, 2013 10:08 am • linkreport

There are other important cost factors including drivers which cost the same regardless of how many passengers the bus can hold and maintenance when you have different buses to service. Small buses make sense but only if you are absolutely never facing crowded conditions and adding them does pose some additional operational costs.

by Alan B. on Jul 31, 2013 10:37 am • linkreport

@Alan, the analysis I included had bus driver salary included in the analysis. Bus driver cost only comes into play when you ask, ok we've saved money on fuel and capital, so then what would we spend it on (ie we need another bus driver)

But the bus driver is not a variable when looking at the reality of how many people will ride this bus, and does it make sense to run a 3/4 empty 35', or a 50% full 22'.

by Tysons Engineer on Jul 31, 2013 10:44 am • linkreport

I've been on 402/401 buses where all seats were taken. If that 75% is versus total capacity, including standees, there may be a benefit to the larger bus in terms of rider comfort, which can impact ridership for people with any degree of choice.

Add that to the maintenance and management issues.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 31, 2013 10:50 am • linkreport

@AWITC, if this route through northern vienna used up 30 seats during rush hour I'd be surprised. I worded that funny. 75% empty = 25% full, ie only about 8-12 seats, which would be a fairly empty 35 footer, but a more than half full 22'

Sorry on confusing phrasing

by Tysons Engineer on Jul 31, 2013 10:51 am • linkreport

The 401/402 is a far more populous route of course. (Doesn't mean this 432 isn't needed, but it does mean it would have been better served and an easier and more efficient sell had it been a 22' shuttle bus instead)

by Tysons Engineer on Jul 31, 2013 10:52 am • linkreport

wait, you're going to have a different bus for just this one route? I haven't looked at your number, but I can well imagine that the savings on fuel and capital are offset by the maintenance costs and management headaches.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 31, 2013 10:54 am • linkreport

AWITC, this route is indicative of a growing need to reach lower density neighborhoods which are adjacent but isolated due to freeways from access to transit.

This route, several routes in McLean, older neighborhoods of FC, Springfield, and Centreville, that have very large household populations, many of whom are younger and would consider transit, if transit service was competitive on a time/cost basis with driving.

So it wouldn't just be for this route, it would be in an effort to replace some under efficient routes using 35' currently, with less costly 22'. Doing so would help reduce the subsidization needed while maintaining the same reach and access (thereby allowing those same funds to be spent elsewhere to either expand access, or make popular routes more frequent and usable)

by Tysons Engineer on Jul 31, 2013 10:59 am • linkreport

FCDOT may more may not see that expansion to more low ridership routes as feasible. That is where driver cost IS relevant - because it will impact the feasibility of lots of low ridership routes.

The choice to add a new bus class in ORDER to do a major expansion of low ridership routes (not only Silver Line feeders) is a different question than the choice of bus for the Silver line feeder routes.

I would also suggest that if FCDOT has the resources for an expansion to autocentric, low density areas in McLean, Centrevill, etc, - an alternative to that would be increasing frequency on priority routes - like the 401/402, which, as I said, often has standees. As Jarret Wallker says, frequency is freedom. Thats a route with many transfer options (not only three different metro lines once Silver line is open, but bus transfers at the hospital and at LRT) and it traverses places with densification potential (Tysons, Merrifield, Inova/Exxon site, Annandale, and Springfield)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 31, 2013 11:12 am • linkreport

Thats valid AWITC, but many of the cases I noted are already existing service areas that are inefficiently run to low density neighborhoods that are very close to metro (like McLean, Vienna, and Springfield). There are already a lot of Connector buses through those regions.

It wouldn't be so they could necessarily expand into even mroe low density areas, but to address the areas they are trying to address, perhaps include a few other areas that havent been attempted because of the operation cost.

Of course, adding more drivers is a big expense, which is part of the (admittedly back of napkin) analysis I linked, but the savings in operation/capital amortization can in some cases make up for it.

by Tysons Engineer on Jul 31, 2013 11:26 am • linkreport

But as is with all things, those who are connected or have sway or use words like danger to children often end up being more clearly heard than the grander majority.

Really, all things?

by Scoot on Jul 31, 2013 11:40 am • linkreport

@Scoot, yes all things :)

by Tysons Engineer on Jul 31, 2013 12:05 pm • linkreport

With 30' buses (which I know they have in the fleet, ride RIBS and you will see) already in the fleet I am not sure adding another type of bus (22' buses) makes sense. Maybe Connector should obtain more short 30' buses that can be used on RIBS, this new 432 route, other residential community routes in McLean, low ridership routes and etc...

I understand the difference and application of using a 30' bus vs a 40' bus, but I am not sure of the purpose of the 35' buses. 401-402 will always need a larger 40' bus while RIBS will always need a 30' bus due to shopping plazas but the 35'?

by Transport. on Jul 31, 2013 12:22 pm • linkreport

@Transport, thats a valid point, but I'd argue dropping to a shuttle bus size at that point would make more sense than continuing with emptier (though shorter) buses. Its a case of Fairfax (in my opinion) doing what the big brothers in Arlington and DC do, without looking around the world and country at what is successfully provided as transit options in suburban settings.

In europe mid sized towns similar to those found in Fairfax all have shuttle transit, not full sized empty buses. I find it hard to believe that the additional maintenance nightmare of figuring out how to fix shuttle buses (not really that complicated and like has a lot more mechanic options than a full sized bus) would really make the economics of this flip.

by Tysons Engineer on Jul 31, 2013 12:34 pm • linkreport

its not so much that the size of a bus is a problem, IIUC, but that the more different things you need to maintain, the more you need specialized parts, etc. I know transit equipment maintenance operations like standardization - it creates economies in skill sets, machinery, shop layouts, and in spare parts (and in spare equipment though I suppose you could always use a larger bus on a route designated for shorter buses - IF you have designed the route to accommodate larger buses)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 31, 2013 12:41 pm • linkreport

I meant to say "also non transit equipment mtnce operations"

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 31, 2013 12:42 pm • linkreport

@AWITC

However, if an agency is using the van converson chassis or similar...say a Ford F550 chassis...if they plan smartly it would be the same drive train as some of their public works trucks with utility beds and buckets. -- some of their own bus maintenance response truck would be the same.

My point is that it isn't just about the "bus" fleet, but about the entire fleet of the agency providing bus service.

by Some Ideas on Jul 31, 2013 1:16 pm • linkreport

does FFX Public Works and Utilities share mtnce facilities with FFX Connecter? Does FFX Connector share mtnce facilities with the rest of FCDOT? I don't know.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 31, 2013 1:20 pm • linkreport

FCDOT and Fairfax Connector are highly interconnected, though I am not sure if that extends to maintenance. I know the staff that plans and executes routes for FFX Connector is FCDOT based on the Silver Line bus public meetings I attended.

This is a good discussion. I'm not trying to say that shuttle buses must be used. Like someone said above I am not privy to all information at hand at FCDOT. But when I asked them, their answer was simply its too big of a maintenance headache... they didnt say if it cost less (and was a maintenance headache, ie operational problem not financial). I just find it odd that we just spend multiple millions on the new buses and smaller buses were not considered in the purchase. When I ride a FFX Connector 35' or 40' bus that has 5 or 6 people on it I can't help but think, I wonder what all this wasted fuel and capital cost could have been used for instead.

It comes down to (in my opinion) that FFX wants to mimic instead of innovate so far in their urban solutions, which is a shame if its the case.

by Tysons Engineer on Jul 31, 2013 1:26 pm • linkreport

If they said it was too big of a maintenance headache, then it sounds like they were considered...and rejected.

Speaking of Fairfax Connector, why don't they provide any service to the Burke or Rolling Road VRE stations?

by jh on Jul 31, 2013 2:02 pm • linkreport

@jh?

They do with the 495 series, WMATa has the 17L. From burke you can park at RVM and use lots of options (which has actually been there since I was a kid).

In general Springfield is greater served via FFX Connector, and Burke with Wmata. Not sure why thats the case.

http://www.wmata.com/pdfs/bus/Virginia_System_Map.pdf?

by Tysons Engineer on Jul 31, 2013 2:06 pm • linkreport

jh: In addition to the 495 Connector routes Tysons Engineer wrote about, Metro is also planning to reroute 15M 18P and 18S buses to Burke Centre VRE. This was in the Metro board informational package from the July meetings. Metro will schedule public hearings on this per the package.

I asked about smaller buses on routes and was told the biggest operating expense is the bus driver wages and benefits. I was told the 30-40' buses burn about the same amount of diesel. The length distance between a 22' bus and a 30' bus is not that much, maybe that is why the old shuttle buses Connector used to have were retired after apparently falling apart.

by Transport. on Jul 31, 2013 2:36 pm • linkreport

Transport

1) nicely done in getting those answers

2) I still am dubious about what they are saying. To me a vehicle 150% as heavy (between a 30' and 40') using the same fuel economy makes about as much sense as a hummer and a towncar burning the same amount of fuel. Also, a 22' is even smaller, and shuttle buses have far smaller chassis and lighter engines than a full bus, so again would use a lot less fuel to move (especially stop and go traffic).

About the same is kind of a relative term. Is it 10%, 20%, 30% difference?

All things being equal, the same driver is driving both so its inconsequential that the largest operating cost of a bus is the driver unless we are talking about driverless operation (see you next century).

Drive takes up 60% of the operation; ok the remaining 40% is what we are debating. If that remaining 40% can be reduced by 20-30%, and if that 20%-30% reduction is more than the additional maintenance concerns then that should be applied.

Also, no one is talking about depreciation and amortized capital costs. A 30-40' bus costs hundreds of thousands more than a shuttle bus. Spread over the life cycle its a significant amount of money being thrown away.

by Tysons Engineer on Jul 31, 2013 2:48 pm • linkreport

Weird. Fairfax Connector doesn't have the 495s on their North, West, or South County maps on their website. I now remember seeing those before, but I dismissed them because they are irrelevant to me.

My question was really more about providing access TO Burke VRE in the morning rather than FROM Burke VRE. Those routes don't appear to be setup for getting people TO VRE in the morning. Nothing feeds into Burke VRE from the west.

by jh on Jul 31, 2013 3:09 pm • linkreport

@JH, that is definitely a valid issue. You should send an email to your BoS representative stating you live there and find the lack of access to VRE difficult for your commute.

Its either gonna be John Cook or Pat Herrity. They are fairly attentive to constituents, and while I don't always agree with them, they are amicable to discussion.

by Tysons Engineer on Jul 31, 2013 3:16 pm • linkreport

Also, no one is talking about depreciation and amortized capital costs. A 30-40' bus costs hundreds of thousands more than a shuttle bus. Spread over the life cycle its a significant amount of money being thrown away.

The buses that cost hundreds of thousands less also have useful lives that are like one half of the 12+ years/500K miles a transit bus lasts.

by MLD on Jul 31, 2013 3:32 pm • linkreport

@MLD those transit buses can last that long because of the tens of thousands of dollars of maintenance that gets pumped into them. I have a friend that owns a shuttle bus for his private chauffer business, it has 380k miles on it, and its maintenance costs have been comparable to a SUV not a metro bus.

by Tysons Engineer on Jul 31, 2013 3:44 pm • linkreport

Here is another annoyance with the FCDOT Vienna presentations...it only showed the Fairfax Connector bus routes and proposed schedules. If you were interested in anything other than the 432...like along Maple Avenue they did not present nor could tell the audience anything about the WMATA busservice and proposed headways on Maple Ave. If I am a transit rider I care about service (generally) not whose it is. If a WMATA (2C ?) will get me to a Tysons area station, why should I care about a Connector bus?

by Some Ideas on Jul 31, 2013 4:46 pm • linkreport

At the meetings I sensed if they started talking about WMATA items, people would have started asking them questions about WMATA services like Silver Line and buses that they wouldnt be able to answer.

This actually happened at the McLean meeting when people were talking about how some of the pedestrian access plans to metro stations were not very good (something the connector folks really couldnt answer cause its not their property) and people were asking about the silver line train costs etc.

I agree with you though that, as far as the rider is concerned its all numbers, and any map should avoid colorization for who runs the service, but instead use color on the map to denote frequency of service etc.

by Tysons Engineer on Jul 31, 2013 4:50 pm • linkreport

I used to work just off Beulah, while living in Bloomingdale. The combination of a rail line and this bus route would have made my life incalculably easier.

by Lucre on Aug 1, 2013 11:55 pm • linkreport

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