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Fairfax's answer to neighbors' transit plans: Light rail, streetcars, and BRT

Not to be outdone by its neighbors' aggressive plans for rail and BRT networks, Fairfax County has an impressive transit plan of its own.


Fairfax County's proposed high quality transit network. Image from Fairfax County.

DC has its streetcar and moveDC plans, Arlington and Alexandria have streetcars and BRT, and Montgomery has its expansive BRT network, plus of course the Purple Line.

Now Fairfax has a major countrywide transit plan too, called the High Quality Transit Network. Top priorities are to finish the Silver Line and the Bailey's Crossroads portion of the Columbia Pike streetcar, but that's not the end of Fairfax's plans.

County planners are also looking at several other corridors, including Route 1, Route 7 (both east and west of Tysons), I-66, Route 28, and Gallows Road/Dolly Madison Boulevard.

Both rail and BRT are possibilities for all those corridors. Some may end up light rail or streetcar, others bus. Route 1 and I-66 could even include Metrorail extensions.

In addition to all that, Fairfax County Parkway is slated for HOT lanes, which could make express buses a more practical option there.

As the DC region continues to grow, and demand for walkable, transit-accessible communities continues to increase, these types of plans are crucial. If our major arterial highways are going to become the mixed-use main streets of tomorrow, transit on them must significantly improve.

Fairfax is undeniably still spending a lot on bigger highways. Planners' inability to calm traffic on Routes 7 and 123 through Tysons, for example, indicates roads are still priority number one. But it takes a plan to change, and this is a strong step forward. So good on Fairfax for joining the club.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Dan Malouff is a professional transportation planner for the Arlington County Department of Transportation. He has a degree in Urban Planning from the University of Colorado, and lives a car-free lifestyle in Northwest Washington. His posts are his own opinions and do not represent the views of his employer in any way. He runs the blog BeyondDC and also contributes to the Washington Post Local Opinions blog. 

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The only new one to me is 28 but it makes sense and its good to have all these plans in one place. But you could also add a similar service onto the Fairfax County Parkway.

7 needs to have a rail option. In Fairfax there is more than enough room for it to have dedicated lanes. The bigger challenge will be 7 corners but that needs A LOT of improvements (like sidewalks) that could be bundled in. It'd be a big project but it's necessary.

by drumz on Apr 22, 2014 12:41 pm • linkreport

Any LRT on Gallows Road/Dolly Madison Boulevard should be sure to match the design specifications of the Purple Line for future-proofing. Though I have a feeling the county will short-sightedly choose a shorter-platform streetcar or, even more likely, BRT (lite), assuming any of this even happens.

by nbluth on Apr 22, 2014 12:41 pm • linkreport

Oh, good, this gives me a perfect place to once again drop my "If I were the Dictator of NoVa" priority - LIGHT RAIL DOWN 50!!!1

For reals, though, this is a corridor crying out for transit done right. A nice, 20-mile Rosslyn to Fair Oaks light rail could absolutely transform large swaths of Fairfax County (and parts of Fairfax City!).

by Dizzy on Apr 22, 2014 12:48 pm • linkreport

The county will almost certainly choose BRT for Gallows because

A. The volumes there probably won't justify rail B. Its a short stub end, as far as Inova Fairfax hospital I guess - A BRT line would allow shared use by buses going down to Annandale, heading east or west on rtes 29 and 50, etc. A rail line from Tysons to the hospital would provide single seat rides only to Merrifield and the hospital/exxonmobil area.

The more logical place for surface rail is on rte 7.

The map seems to show a blue line extension from Springfield as definite - I don't think thats the case. And the grey HOT/Express lanes are mostly going to be bus/HOV lanes - thats what is planned for Braddock, and I assume for the other corridors - I don't think they will tolling lanes in arterials, but I am prepared to be surprised.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 22, 2014 12:49 pm • linkreport

thats the light grey - the dark grey lines could be tolled I suppose. the legend does not distinguish the light grey (on arterials) from the dark grey express lines (on highways or semi-highways)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 22, 2014 12:51 pm • linkreport

They need Metro Extension to Fair Oaks/Fairfax Corner. This will help promote bus service(ex. Metro Extra) between South Riding and Rosslyn along Route 50.

by mcs on Apr 22, 2014 12:57 pm • linkreport

HOT lanes aren't needed on the parkway. If they are going to improve it, remove all the lights and put in cloverleafs.

by Centrist on Apr 22, 2014 12:59 pm • linkreport

The Gallows to McLean BRT/LRT would be a logical part of an extended Purple Line into VA.

by NikolasM on Apr 22, 2014 1:00 pm • linkreport

Any LRT on Gallows Road/Dolly Madison Boulevard should be sure to match the design specifications of the Purple Line for future-proofing. Though I have a feeling the county will short-sightedly choose a shorter-platform streetcar or, even more likely, BRT (lite), assuming any of this even happens.

Certainly would be nice. But they could do a BRT with true dedicated lanes and later add the rail and catenary. The stations might not match but it could be done.

The county will almost certainly choose BRT for Gallows because
A. The volumes there probably won't justify rail B. Its a short stub end, as far as Inova Fairfax hospital I guess - A BRT line would allow shared use by buses going down to Annandale, heading east or west on rtes 29 and 50, etc. A rail line from Tysons to the hospital would provide single seat rides only to Merrifield and the hospital/exxonmobil area.
Light rail can share a lane with buses. So long as it doesnt have to share it with cars the speed hit shouldnt be too bad.

by Richard on Apr 22, 2014 1:05 pm • linkreport

There are significant trail and bike lane improvements underway too with Marrifield/Tysons at the epicenters of the changes. The Vesper trail is probably the greatest need (to be completed sometime in late 2016 based on last FCDOT word) which will act as a spur to W&OD with access directly to Tysons and Silver Line stations. Theres also plans in Fairfax County's draft park plan to add a cycling beltway which connects all of the gateway trails in Tysons using the park space that exists near Scotts Run. It would include a new 495 overpass.

Fairfax isn't as bass ackwards as some might have you believe, its biggest problem is its massive size and the dispersion of much of the population, but you are starting to see nodes of development that, dare I say, resemble towns returning, which means more opportunities for better transportation networks.

We'll see.

by navid roshan on Apr 22, 2014 1:08 pm • linkreport

I wouldn't say I support it but I wouldn't put a lot of energy into fighting an upgrade of the parkway into all freeway type mode. It's current state is this weird hybrid that oscillates between a normal neighborhood artery and major highway.That would need to happen anyway if we are going to actually discuss if the lanes need to be tolled or not.

I'd like to hope that maybe an orange line extension would be bundled in with a new potomac metro tunnel. You could leave 66 at Fairfax Corner. Have a stop at the government center and then just tunnel under the county land there by West Ox and then pop out at fair lakes which could provide acreage for a huge amount of TOD to replace the acres of parking lots. That's ambitious of course but let me dream.

by drumz on Apr 22, 2014 1:10 pm • linkreport

Richard - I understand you could have a shared LRT/BRT lane, as Arlco plans to do at CCPY. But again, is it worth the incremental cost for rail if its only passengers are going to be those going from Tysons to Merrifield/Inova? (yes, i realize the map shows it extending to downtown McLean, but am skeptical that that part will prove politically feasible)

Centrist - A. That would be expensive, with no source of revenue like HOT lanes have B. It would be a disaster for peds and cyclists using the trail along the Parkway C. It would provide no incentive to use transit/HOV on the Parkway, which will be important to avoid gridlock in Reston, which is where (along with the DTR) most of those SOV's will end up.

msc - that is under study as part of the I66 corridor study

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 22, 2014 1:14 pm • linkreport

They would have to have a place to collect the tolls. The current stoplights would be very convenient places to do so. I just think that having the parkway be stoplight free would do much to alleviate traffic on 50, 29, and 123.

Also, since Arlington won't allow 66 to be widened, build 2 more lanes for DC-bound traffic above the current lanes - double-decker. That'll teach them to stand in the way of progress.

by Centrist on Apr 22, 2014 1:19 pm • linkreport

I just think that having the parkway be stoplight free would do much to alleviate traffic on 50, 29, and 123.

Except those roads don't go where the parkway goes.

by drumz on Apr 22, 2014 1:21 pm • linkreport

@AWITC, good point about the limitation of the proposed Gallows run. I do think connecting Falls Church/Tysons/Merrifield is smarter and likely less of a problem political/financially. As you said Route 7 has more than enough right of way, and so does 29/50 in this segment. I would make it therefore go Merrifield, to FC, to Tysons. For those who want to go Tysons direct from Merrifield, on Gallows there is rapid bus every 5 minutes that is perfectly fine.

I know its odd to make FC the focal point, but really that is where the largest concentration of population currently is between those three. It is more likely someone from FC is leaving/going to either Mosaic or Tysons, than a smaller population from Tysons go to Merrifield (or vice versa).

That route would have the largest potential for future connection into the Baileys/Columbia pike system as well.

All of these are atleast 2 decades from operation though unless there is a huge ground swell in support for a LRT in the mean time, or things in Tysons going quicker than anticipated and/or than they currently are.

by navid roshan on Apr 22, 2014 1:23 pm • linkreport

Looking at that map... Since when has metro rail extended past Springfield to Dale City?

by Richard on Apr 22, 2014 1:23 pm • linkreport

"They would have to have a place to collect the tolls."
The current stoplights would be very convenient places to do so. I just think that having the parkway be stoplight free would do much to alleviate traffic on 50, 29, and 123. "

I dont think people now using the parkway free would agree to tolling because there were interchanges. The proposal IIUS is to toll a new lane in each direction. And I think trying to get traffic headed inside the beltway to go FFX parkway to DTR is a big mistake. Though I guess if your current commute is on rte 50 you might want that.

"Also, since Arlington won't allow 66 to be widened, build 2 more lanes for DC-bound traffic above the current lanes - double-decker. That'll teach them to stand in the way of progress."

Why would we want to waste billions to make the bottleneck worse? While I suppose the BoS still would like to see ArlCo agree to widen I66, the above map should show you that FFX is largely accepting that ArlCo's approach, shifting to alternate modes from complete reliance on single occupant vehicles, is fundamentally correct. At least the majority of FFX, if not some GOP legislators from western FFX.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 22, 2014 1:25 pm • linkreport

"Except those roads don't go where the parkway goes."
If one travels from Reston/Herndon to Springfield or even Fairfax, it makes sense to take the local roads instead of the parkway. If traffic moved faster without stoplights, those making trips like that would stay on the parkway

There's money to do this. We are paying all kinds of lovely new taxes now.

by Centrist on Apr 22, 2014 1:26 pm • linkreport

Navid - LRT from Tysons to Merrifield TO Falls Church on 29, and then SE to Seven Corners????

Hmmm. A. that means a longer route from Tysons to Falls Church (higher capital cost, higher operating cost, worse transit times) B. it means missing some of the parts of Rte 7 in Falls Church between the County line and Rte 29, that already have decent density, and that will continue to become denser. Plus the high rises in Idylwood west of Rte 7. I realize its frustrating that Pimmit Hills is off limits to higher density, but I think the route straight down Rte 7 is still best.

I am pretty sure the frequency of bus service currently from Merrifield down to Inova/ExxonMobil is less than every 5 minutes at rush hour. But the main reason for the dedicated lane is to improve transit time - while that stretch of Gallows may not yet be that bad at rush hour, as Tysons grows, and so does Merrifield, and ultimately Exxon-mobil and central Annandale, congestion may well get worse on Gallows.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 22, 2014 1:31 pm • linkreport

Can we stop pushing heavy rail for the outer suburbs? I'm tired of seeing Metrorail to Woodbridge etc on plans when we already have VRE running to those locations.

Places along freeways and major arterials like that are decades away from being able to support anything other than a park-and-ride station, so in my mind we'd be much better served by lowering VRE's headways to give commuters 45-minute ride to downtown that leaves at predictable times thrice an hour versus a Metro extension that'd have to stop at least 15 times on the way.

by Peter K on Apr 22, 2014 1:33 pm • linkreport

I agree with Navid that this is a long range vision, not a short or even medium run plan. I am not quite sure what the most likely next step is after SL phase 2 and PikeRail (assuming that ArlCo politics does not stop that).

Centrist - the money is far from infinite. IIUC the cost of one interchange is close to that of the entire FFX bike/ped program for the next three years.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 22, 2014 1:35 pm • linkreport

I guess the next piece is the Braddock road express lanes.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 22, 2014 1:56 pm • linkreport

The Orange Line desperately needs to go to at least Route 50, even if not Centerville. The number of people who take route 50 and then get on 66 in order to drive to Vienna is staggering. Add light rail/streetcar along 50 for a decent stretch, and you could take a very significant percentage of cars off of 66.

by Zeus on Apr 22, 2014 1:56 pm • linkreport

Gallows from Merrifield/Inova to Tysons needs something more than BRT. That area will grow faster and be built up sooner than Tysons is going to. And people(especially in the suburbs) don't like the idea of a bus no matter how reliable simply because its a bus. I know people are more likely to use heavy/light rail or street car but especially in the suburbs as many (not all) people in the suburbs see themselves as above taking the bus.

by Ervin on Apr 22, 2014 2:07 pm • linkreport

If one travels from Reston/Herndon to Springfield or even Fairfax, it makes sense to take the local roads instead of the parkway.

It never made sense for me to do that when I lived in the area. But anyway

There's money to do this. We are paying all kinds of lovely new taxes now
Yes and and transit is capable of moving many more people than a new highway can. But I accept (and am happy for as well) that the state is taking an all of the above approach for transportation. Yes, it means that highways will still be built but at least we're starting to build and intergrate transit into these plans as well.

by drumz on Apr 22, 2014 2:09 pm • linkreport

but I think the route straight down Rte 7 is still best.

Yes, because:

A: it's relatively straight
B: there is lots of room for dedicated lanes (not so much in the city of falls church but falls church already has many of the land use conditions ripe for service like this).
C: Directly connects many dense communities (Tyson's, Falls Church, 7 Corners, Skyline).

by drumz on Apr 22, 2014 2:12 pm • linkreport

Ervin

there are middle class suburban type people who ride the 29 express buses (29X, 29G, 29H) every day. The local buses in that area get lots of riders but I guess not middle class folks so much. But I think with a dedicated lane, faster times, maybe a distinct brand, and a more urban environment, more people would ride.

Nah, I don't see a conversion to rail till densities are getting much higher - possibly as part of a deal more a major mixed use project at the Exxon-mobil campus.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 22, 2014 2:13 pm • linkreport

Light rail on Route 28 should be a priority. It could connect I-66, Dulles Airport and the Silver line, and Route 7 and serve the large concentration of offices, hotels, and the Air & Space museum that are along this corridor.

by 202_Cyclist on Apr 22, 2014 2:38 pm • linkreport

@AWITC, I think a slight misunderstanding, I want FC to be the center point (the pivot) not Tysons in the case of the LRT above. So it would go Merrifield to Falls Church via 29, then up Route 7 to Tysons from Falls Church.

by Navid Roshan on Apr 22, 2014 2:40 pm • linkreport

@202 land use along Route 28 is atrocious. If you were to put 1/2 mile walksheds on 28 you'd barely see anything, a few sprawling office buildings, zero houses. Its a waste of precious funds that doesn't even help Fairfax, it helps Loudoun.

The land use on the 28 corridor makes Tysons look like Golden Triangle.

by Navid Roshan on Apr 22, 2014 2:42 pm • linkreport

Forgot to mention land owners would completely stone wall any LRT on 28 because they are already paying a special tax for the Route 28 limited access highway project that was completed in the 2000s. Which means, you wouldn't even be able to tie the improvement to development patterns. The only properties that would be viable for upzoning/payment would be those already granting higher densities within 1/2 mi of the Silver Line (like Dulles Worldwide/Innovation)

by Navid Roshan on Apr 22, 2014 2:43 pm • linkreport

AWalkerInTheCity

If you go by the logic that you "don't see a conversion to rail till densities are getting much higher" then most of the current metro system and the silver line would have never been built.

by Ervin on Apr 22, 2014 2:45 pm • linkreport

Navid -

Okay - but then how do you get to Seven Corners and Baileys? Back around on rte 50? I think a run more directly southeast makes more sense, though not necessarily right on Rte 7.

Or are you thinking two routes? An A route thats Tysons to FC to Seven Corners/Baileys, and a B route thats Tysons- FC to Mosaic via rte 29 and then south on Gallows to Inova/Exxon?

The problem with that is you've invested in two routes, and you still don't have a good route for the folks from all the density that now exists, and is coming soon, NORTH of rte 29 along Gallows. They will have a longer walk than is necessary, and a longer route to Tysons than necessary. Is it worth building a dedicated lane south of Rte 29 on Gallows if not many people are going to use it?

It may make sense as a starter to build the dedicated ROW only on the Rte 7 corridor, and to route Annandale Tysons buses east on Rte 29 to join the dedicated corridor. but you will likely still want something like the current 401/402 to get folks all the way to the Dunn Loring metro.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 22, 2014 2:52 pm • linkreport

Ervin

There really wasn't a good way to build the Silver line in steps. A dedicated lane BRT can easily be transformed to LRT - the stations are the same, the ROW is the same, you just need to add the tracks and the power lines. That is in fact what ArlCo is planning to do in the Crystal City Potomac Yard corridor. Are you familiar with that project?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 22, 2014 2:55 pm • linkreport

It would be a colossal error to not put any form of rail on the Fairfax County Parkway and waste space with HOT lanes.

It is incredibly sad to see that Fairfax positions it as a Gateway to DC, as opposed to noting that is has twice the number of people as DC, and very few internal connections, both roads and transit. Try getting from Ft Belvoir to Reston via transit. Try driving from Clifton to Anandale.

by Jasper on Apr 22, 2014 3:00 pm • linkreport

Jasper

The county is going to be starting bus service to Reston on the parkway very soon - I am not sure what the southern terminus will be. Once you have HOT lanes, it will be simple to add express bus service from Ft belvoir to Reston. There isn't close to the density for a heavy rail line, and given both the certainty that bus line will not at capacity, and that there is little development potential between Springfield metro and Reston, I don't see what surface rail buys you there.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 22, 2014 3:04 pm • linkreport

Interesting, I've been saying extend the Blue line for a while and it always seems to get shot down in favor of the Yellow extension but it seems like Fairfax agrees with me.

by BTA on Apr 22, 2014 3:21 pm • linkreport

I'm not sure when it would be feasible but I actually think Rt 7 presents one of the strongest cases for a new metro line that doesnt go into the city. Tysons to Alexandria (National Harbor?) via Falls Church, Seven Corners, Bailey's which have a lot of density already.

by BTA on Apr 22, 2014 3:29 pm • linkreport

Gallows Road in Fairfax County already has the most traveled bus route in the county system with routes 401 and 402. There is already frequent weekday bus service with service that starts earlier than the 50's or S buses in DC!

What puzzles me is why the Gallows Road quality transit was not extended to Annandale and Springfield (along the new town center and to the F-S Metro Station). As it stands today, routes 401 and 402 act as the Purple Line of sorts connecting the spokes of the Blue and Orange lines and soon the Silver line.

Check out the 401-402 bus schedule and you will see how good the transit demand must already be along Gallows Road. http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/connector/pdf/401.pdf

by Transport. on Apr 22, 2014 3:35 pm • linkreport

Also I don't think its a coincidence a lot of the proposals we're seeing extend past the WMATA compact area into new (and conviently wealthy) suburban counties that can help foot the bill. Obviously it remains to see if there is interest, but obviously Loudoun was on board for the Silver Line so there may be.

by BTA on Apr 22, 2014 3:36 pm • linkreport

Transport

Gallows between the beltway crossing and central Annandale passes through areas of relatively low density SFH's. A. Ridership is light (until you get all the way to central Annandale) B Civic associations in those areas would like object to a dedicated lane for transit - I believe north of Inova its feasible widen Gallows using the edges of commercial properties - widening in the SFH would make taking peoples front yards. Worthwhile or not the BoS almost certainly does not want to take on that headache.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 22, 2014 3:41 pm • linkreport

AWalkerInTheCity

Yes I am aware of it. Not arguing that it wouldn't be easy to convert. I'm just saying that most of the current metro system was not built because of the existing density but the density that was to come.

by Ervin on Apr 22, 2014 3:42 pm • linkreport

BTA - The Loudoun $$ for SL phase two were smaller than the cost to build the line and stations in Loudoun IIUC. The reasons FFX wanted SL phase 2 to go to Loudoun was issues with parking at the terminal station, and the desire to get more LoCo commuters into Tyson out of their cars, to help urbanize Tysons. Not for $$.

Orange line almost certainly won't go past Centreville.

Blue line extension is far from a done deal (if you look at the slide shows that were part of the Quality Transit Network process) blue line extension is one scenario. I dont think the map is meant to indicate final decisions,
but its not clear from the website.

If FFX DOES support blue line into PWC, it will because of concerns about congestion approach Ft Belvoir and on I95, not because it expects a PWC contribution to exceed the cost of constructing track and stations in PWC.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 22, 2014 3:46 pm • linkreport

I am not a metro historian, but Im not sure how entirely true that is. In any case metrorail was built in stages - it was planned in the 1960s, first opened in 1976, and the last big part of the original system (the Green line connection) was not opened till 1999. And that despite that being a particularly generous time for federal funding of metro rail, IIUC.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 22, 2014 3:49 pm • linkreport

Politically though its likely easier to sell the project to the public in Fairfax if PWC picks up 40% of the tab or whatever their share would be, even if the cost were double. Most people aren't going to look into the details that deeply and would rather Fairfax pay 60% of the project @ 2 billion than 100% @ 1 billion. On the state level, the more counties and local pols involved, the easier is going to be to lobby the state for more funding.

by BTA on Apr 22, 2014 3:59 pm • linkreport

BTA

I don't know. I sure didn't hear any kind of discussion to that effect in Fairfax when LoCo was debating Silver Line Phase 2. LoCo's participation or non-participation was mostly a non-issue (except for the parking issue.) Similarly, when I look at the debate in ArlCo about PikeRail, both opponents and supporters seem oblivious to participation by Fairfax County.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 22, 2014 4:06 pm • linkreport

Maybe they should consider making the W&OD Rail Trail back to rail. It should be wide enough with all the high tension power lines. Big swath of NoVa that is underutilized.

by Some Ideas on Apr 22, 2014 4:27 pm • linkreport

@some ideas, eh, I think its more powerful as a cycling path frankly. For a majority of the W&OD there are no near by neighborhoods (outside of select areas like Vienna/Herndon/Reston). There are large sections that would be wasted. Not to mention, the Silver Line already addresses that corridor largely atleast up until Vienna.

by Navid Roshan on Apr 22, 2014 4:37 pm • linkreport

One of my earliest blog entries written (in 2005) was about how Fairfax County needed to do its own transit planning.

http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2005/03/dr-transits-prescription-for-fairfax.html

by Richard Layman on Apr 22, 2014 4:45 pm • linkreport

@someideas That was the premise of the first post I think ever read on this site. http://greatergreaterwashington.org/post/3429/dulles-needs-an-express-rail-line/

by Kolohe on Apr 22, 2014 6:41 pm • linkreport

My recollection of commuting on the parkway for nearly its entire length a few years back is that there were really only two traffic issues: Fair Lakes (since remedied, I suppose, by the removal of those lights) and Reston, from Sunset Hills to at least West Ox if not further south. All of those lights (maybe as far as south as 50 while you're at it) should be replaced with free-flow interchanges.

I don't think there's anywhere near the need for major changes south of Braddock. The population density is significantly less on the south side, to the point that it's basically a commuter bypass of local roads between the southeast and the northwest--much too low, I think, to support anything other than express bus service.

by Joshua Cranmer on Apr 22, 2014 7:10 pm • linkreport

I see the blue line happening soon or alater. Since it will be shorter once the loop is done. That coupled with the brt down route one will bring the needed growth.

by zombiexm on Apr 22, 2014 7:43 pm • linkreport

@ AWalker: there is little development potential between Springfield metro and Reston

That is nonsense. All those green trees along the parkway can be replaced by highrises. Not going to happen, but it can happen. If Fairfax upzones the half mile closest to the parkway, developers will come and buy out current home owners and build highrises. Both rentals and condos. There are plenty of things along that parkway that people want to live close to. Throw in some retail at ground level, and we're set to go.

My idea would be to extend the Blue Line along the Parkway and 123 via Burke, GMU, Fairfax City, crossing the extended Orange Line, the Oakton Mall and then onwards to the Silver Line at either Wolf Trap or Herndon.

You can develop that entire stretch like a huge Rosslyn-Ballston corridor.

Fairfax is a nicely run, decent county. The problem is that it sees itself mostly as a community serving DC. Which is partly true. But Fairfax need to also acknowledge that is twice the size of DC, and has plenty of right of existence of its own. It needs to create a transit network that reflects its own strengths. Tysons, Great Falls, the Beltway, Mt Vernon, GMU, Dulles, Clifton, Anandale and everything in between.

by Jasper on Apr 22, 2014 9:07 pm • linkreport

Personally, I'll take some bus lanes on 66 to Vienna. I catch a bus at 5:39 AM because of the lack of traffic. I easily make a 5:59 train every morning. However, the rare times I've gone in later, the bus can take up to 45 minutes to get to Vienna. Absolutely brutal. The HOV lanes are a joke and don't move.

by jh on Apr 22, 2014 9:22 pm • linkreport

@AWallkerInTheCity: "A dedicated lane BRT can easily be transformed to LRT - the stations are the same, the ROW is the same, you just need to add the tracks and the power lines."

Yeah, but you may also have to shut down that ROW, and abandon those stations, for the two or three years you'll need to lay the tracks, and string the wires. A BRT line that's ready for railstitution is, almost by definition, a really tough thing to close.

Thesource.metro.net, an LA transit blog, ran a post about this a few months ago: their Orange Line, a bus transitway, has almost reached capacity, and would normally be a good candidate for LRT conversion...but there are no practical alternatives for its customers to use while the transitway is being rebuilt, and no new alternatives are on the horizon.

I'm not saying that would be a problem for every single BRT line--obviously one built in the median of a multi-lane parkway, or in a dense street grid, would present fewer problems--but considering how often folks pitch BRT as a baby step toward LRT, and considering how quickly other, similar BRT corridors reached capacity, maybe we should plan two or three baby steps down the road.

by Steven H on Apr 22, 2014 10:21 pm • linkreport

It seems to make sense that Columbia Pike streetcar and the Van Dorn transitway merge in the future between Bailey's crossroads and Mark center.

And also if enhanced bus or express bus is implemented the length of Fairfax parkway, there should also be second enhanced or express bus route on the parkway that branches off at 123 intersection and follows 123 North to Tyson's.

by TS on Apr 23, 2014 1:13 am • linkreport

@TS:

Yes, that was considered when Alexandria was doing their own high capacity transit study a few years ago. Alexandria City Council approved the study recommendation to initially build BRT in dedicated lanes along Van Dorn and Beauregard with the goal to eventually convert it to a streetcar connecting via NVCC to the Columbia Pike streetcar.

Coincidentally, I happened to look over the Route 7 study site last night. After a couple rounds of screening, the build options for Route 7 have been narrowed down to four: LRT from Tysons to Van Dorn via Mark Center and East Falls Church, and three BRT options from Tysons...one to King St Metro and two to Van Dorn Metro.

A connection to East Falls Church Metro was seen as desireable for most build options. Streetcar was ruled out as it was viewed the corridor is too long for typical streetcar operations. All rail options to King St Metro were ruled out due to A) Alexandria's recent study, B) likely opposition from King St residents (remember, these folks raised a fuss just with restriping the road to add bike lanes), and C) lack of right of way near the Metro. In fact, the one BRT option that remains to King St Metro would run in mixed-traffic east of Quaker Lane.

The options to Van Dorn St would dovetail with the city's corridor from Mark Center south.

by Froggie on Apr 23, 2014 8:51 am • linkreport

"All those green trees along the parkway can be replaced by highrises. Not going to happen, but it can happen. If Fairfax upzones the half mile closest to the parkway, developers will come and buy out current home owners and build highrises"

A. look at rents on Reston, and in Fair Lakes. Now adjust for the fact that the Parkway is farther from tech corridor jobs than reston, and farther from DC and Arlington jobs than Fair Lakes. I don't think there is sufficient demand for that kind of development there
B even if there were no NIMBYs the BoS would be reluctant to cannibalize growth in Tysons and other designated growth areas in the County
C. If you look at where the county is doing densification, its virtually all on commercial/industrial properties. The only case of SFHs being torn down is MetroWest, where an entire HOA was willing to sell out - that was next to an existing metro station, it was adjacent to existing THs and apts, and even then it was quite controversial.
D. You also note that most of the places the county is trying to densify outside Tysons, like central Annandale and Rte 1, are areas with commercial and/or residential decay.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 23, 2014 9:12 am • linkreport

Steve H

A point to consider yes. I wonder how ArlCo plans to handle that?

I think Gallows road has enough capacity for a temporary bus lane taken from the general travel lanes, if VDOT did not veto it.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 23, 2014 9:15 am • linkreport

note also hi rises are costlier to build than low rises, so hi rise developers need higher rents to break even. And if they have to go through the issues of assembling land in a SFH area (like the developers of MetroWest) their costs will be still higher.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 23, 2014 9:20 am • linkreport

And in any alternative universe where FFX BoS is okay with hirises on FFX county parkway, they would also be okay with hirises in Pimmit Hills, throughout Reston, and in many other parts of the County better suited than the parkway, and that would kill demand for units on the parkway.

Unless of course you think there is infinite demand for apts in Fairfax county.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 23, 2014 9:22 am • linkreport

@Jasper: "All those green trees along the parkway can be replaced by highrises."

Actually, the southwest portion of the county is deliberately downzoned to improve water quality in the Occoquan.

by Joshua Cranmer on Apr 23, 2014 11:20 am • linkreport

@froggie

A reason for a route to King Street Metro would be that from there, via a 236, route 1 and 495, you could extend the LRT across Wilson Bridge to National Harbor. Another option would be to go South on Quaker Lane from 7, than East on 236 to King Street Metro and further on to National Harbor. LRT via Van Dorn Metro could also eventually run to National Harbor but would that be via Eisenhower Ave somehow? 236 makes more sense. LRT to Van Dorn is good idea though. We can consider another solution for Wilson Bridge.

When I did the survey for the route 7 study I recommended Streetcars. I figured it would work better in conjunction with streetcars from Columbia Pike to go to Van Dorn or King Street Metro. But I suppose Streetcar and LRT are compatible and can use the same tracks where need be (?) and LRT makes more sense for the route length. BTW, if I recall the route 7 study correctly, the preference was to bypass East Falls Church Metro and stay on route 7. No?

I remember the Alexandria study and also discussions of connecting Columbia Pike and Crystal City-Potomac Yard Streetcar through a southern leg that passes through Mark Center, Van Dorn, 236 to create a loop. This would seemingly entail that Streetcars and LRT share some of the same route.

But I'd like that, a streetcar loop and a LRT between Tysons to Van Dorn.

by TS on Apr 23, 2014 11:41 am • linkreport

Wow, this is pretty underwhelming. How are Express/HOT lanes "transit?" I doubt that any of the BRT/LRT lines will actually be built as LRT. I also like how the "under study" routes have been that way since the dawn of time...

Fairfax finally decides to get (moderately) serious about transit after nearly every square inch of the county is covered in sterile, cookie-cutter single-family housing developments and single-use commercial/retail properties. That ship has now sailed. I still have a hard time picturing Tysons Corner being transformed from the traffic-clogged, parking lot covered, office-park/strip mall ghetto that it is now.

by King Terrapin on Apr 23, 2014 12:19 pm • linkreport

"Wow, this is pretty underwhelming. How are Express/HOT lanes "transit?""

They enable buses to move faster than they would in mixed traffic, faster than SOV's. Come ride a bus on the I395 HOV lanes sometime and see.

"I doubt that any of the BRT/LRT lines will actually be built as LRT."

Id bet on Rte 7 at least. We discussed Gallows above.

" I also like how the "under study" routes have been that way since the dawn of time... "

AFAIK the rte 7 study is the first formal study of that corridor.

"Fairfax finally decides to get (moderately) serious about transit after nearly every square inch of the county is covered in sterile, cookie-cutter single-family housing developments and single-use commercial/retail properties."

I agree that the pre-Connolly FFX BoS' were deficient in their planning. Retrofittin FFX is a difficult challenge.

" I still have a hard time picturing Tysons Corner being transformed from the traffic-clogged, parking lot covered, office-park/strip mall ghetto that it is now."

The urban design guidelines for Tysons have lots of pictures to help you.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 23, 2014 12:25 pm • linkreport

Fairfax doesn't/didn't have bad planning. The plans themselves were bad but county was very good in getting the results it wanted.

It'll be hard to pivot from that to something less sprawl/auto focused to something more sustainable but the county is doing a pretty good job staying on track.

by drumz on Apr 23, 2014 12:36 pm • linkreport

@AWalkerInTheCIty

HOV lanes and HOT/Express Lanes are not the same, and neither should be called transit. Dedicated bus (BRT) lanes are obviously the superior option and actually fall under transit.

- I was mostly referring to the Rte 1/Yellow Line extension study

- It would take quite an imagination to truly believe that Tysons will actually look like that, even decades from now. To transform the area you need development, for development (especially the 200-400 ft development they want) you need demand.

With Northern Virginia vacancy rates at 15%+, the defense budget shrinking, GSA reducing sq ft, the nearby established urban Rosslyn-Ballston corridor competing from a better position, I have a hard time seeing this plan being fully realized. The problem with Tysons is that its just too big to fill up without some very, very aggressive investment. But then again I guess they do have until 2050...

by King Terrapin on Apr 23, 2014 3:46 pm • linkreport

"HOV lanes and HOT/Express Lanes are not the same"

HOT lanes also allow SOVs that pay a toll. That can finance a lane where an HOV lane could not be financed.

", and neither should be called transit."

its the express bus that runs on them thats transit

"Dedicated bus (BRT) lanes are obviously the superior option and actually fall under transit."

That depends on local conditions, including financing constraints. BTW, I took an express bus on the I395 HOV lanes this morning. I did not drive a car, and did not ride a bike, nor did I walk. what mode did I use, if a bus on an HOV lane is not transit?

" I was mostly referring to the Rte 1/Yellow Line extension study"

Eh. Im not sure when that was last formally studied. Anyway its more urgent now, after BRAC.

" It would take quite an imagination to truly believe that Tysons will actually look like that, even decades from now. To transform the area you need development, for development (especially the 200-400 ft development they want) you need demand.

With Northern Virginia vacancy rates at 15%+, the defense budget shrinking, GSA reducing sq ft, the nearby established urban Rosslyn-Ballston corridor competing from a better position, I have a hard time seeing this plan being fully realized. The problem with Tysons is that its just too big to fill up without some very, very aggressive investment. But then again I guess they do have until 2050..."

Tysons has, IIUC, the lowest vacancy rate of any office market in NoVa, and is picking up firms (including Intelsat that chose not to locate in Maryland)It has almost no federal employment, and a surprisingly large number of jobs at non-contractors. And of course a very large part of the growth is residential, not office - the plan envisions a double of employment, but a more than 5 fold increase in residences.

And yes they have till 2050 to reach it - though major changes are already much closer than that - there is much UC and more planned. Given the widespread NIMBYISM in the region (look at the new "radical" DC zoning code that upzones nothing, for example, and the reluctance of ArlCo residents to densify Col Pike, and the agonizing about growth in MoCo) Tysons could become more important as a place for both employment and residents.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 23, 2014 4:09 pm • linkreport

Also this map is about both road/public transit projects. Again, the state seems to be taking an all of the above approach to transportation which means lots of road and transit projects.

by drumz on Apr 23, 2014 4:14 pm • linkreport

actually the map is specifically a quality transit network map. HOT lanes are included because its the county goal to leverage those HOT lanes with a network of express buses. Its a perfectly logical strategy, and given both the limited financial resources and the need to compromise with non-transit modes, its probably the best strategy for Fairfax.

We now have fast express bus service to Tysons on the beltway. There is simply no way we could have gotten a transit only lane on the beltway - or a rail line. Thats pie in the sky.

If we oppose transit in HOT lanes, we wont get BRT lanes as a result, we will get HOT lanes without transit.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 23, 2014 4:28 pm • linkreport

It's not really worth arguing over semantics and I agree with the rest of your comment (the last line especially). I just read "transit" to mean generally transportation which does include driving (as the map obviously does as well).

by drumz on Apr 23, 2014 4:33 pm • linkreport

Looks like Tysons should have good access to and from Reston/Herndon, Arlington/DC, and points South like Springfield and Woodbridge. (I remember reading an article after the HOT lanes opened saying buses could get from Woodbridge to Tysons in 30 minutes. That's a fantastic improvement.) However, seems like locations out I-66 don't have a great solution to get to and from Tysons.

Assuming Metro to Centreville is a distant dream, looks like the plan for I-66/Tysons transit is bus (hopefully BRT) to Vienna, Metro one stop to Dunn Loring, then LRT/BRT to Tysons (with possibly another transfer to the Silver Line). I don't think that's going to get people out of their car.

by jh on Apr 23, 2014 5:13 pm • linkreport

"Assuming Metro to Centreville is a distant dream, looks like the plan for I-66/Tysons transit is bus (hopefully BRT) to Vienna, Metro one stop to Dunn Loring, then LRT/BRT to Tysons (with possibly another transfer to the Silver Line). I don't think that's going to get people out of their car."

why wouldnt you just run an express bus in the BRT lane all the way to the beltway (assuming there is one from vienna to 495, otherwise it can go back into mixed traffic for that stretch) then up the HOT lane to Tysons? there is surely enough demand to support both routes to Vienna metro AND seperate routes to Tysons.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Apr 23, 2014 5:24 pm • linkreport

Um, yeah, that's a much better solution. For whatever reason, I had HOT lanes ending at Nutley and everything going to Vienna in my mind. Probably because I go to Vienna and I generally only think of myself.

Even if a bus has to merge back into traffic before Nutley, I'd guess Centreville (Stone Road Park and Ride) to Tysons in under 30 minutes is easily doable. With HOT lanes, a well-located park and ride lot in Gainesville could probably get to Tysons in 45 minutes.

I guess I just think about the idea that Fairfax wants Tysons to become a "downtown" and that it's already the 12th largest employment district in the country and that it should have more transit access than one heavy rail line, one light rail line, and a couple BRT lines. And maybe someday it will be more.

by jh on Apr 23, 2014 6:45 pm • linkreport

Well, overall I think it's a good plan.

Naturally some could always complain of better cross county service (or lack of), I think it's good considering Fairfax's established development patterns.

Now as far as specific projects?

I live on Route 1 in SE FairCo so naturally I am most interested in the Route 1 AA study, naturally I'd like Metro down here but we shall see.

Apparently they want to expand the Blue Line. I do agree that putting it down to Potomac Mills is silly. The furthest it should go is Lorton and maybe meet up as a dual Blue and Yellow line terminus.

Ill be very interested to see what sort of transit they choose for Route 7. It'd be nice to have a one transfer trip to Tysons if it goes to King Street, but that'll be REALLY tough.

by Billy Bob on Apr 23, 2014 8:18 pm • linkreport

Talking about any Blue Line extensions is utterly laughable. Unfortunately, it is once again the Blue Line riders who are the butt of the joke.

While Fairfax County hypes up and dreams about extensions of the Blue Line past Springfield, WMATA is hard at work crippling the Blue Line right out of existence with schemes like Rush Plus. While the Blue Line has now fallen below minimum acceptable service levels, absolutely nobody outside of Blue Line sufferers notices or cares - because, hey, Arlington Cemetery is the only Blue-exclusive station and it isn't even open all the time! Just send the Silver Line down to Largo even though it makes far more sense for it to go to New Carrollton instead, and that way minimum service levels are preserved at almost every Blue Line station even though the line itself is not.

But, hey, good on Fairfax County to talk big about extending a line that won't exist in ten years. That's one less transit proposal they'll end up having to keep!

by Ryan on Apr 25, 2014 6:29 pm • linkreport

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