The last mile in Tysons Corner, part 2: Busways
Metro's Silver Line is currently under construction in Tysons Corner, but the built environment there presents major obstacles to transit riders. Not only is pedestrian infrastructure lacking and the neighborhood hacked apart by major arterial streets, but offices, apartments, and other destinations are spread across a vast area, many fairly distant from the future Metro stops.
As Steve discussed yesterday, Tysons needs a solution to get riders that "last mile" from Metro to their final destination. The area has already introduced a circulator bus, which faces criticism because it is often stuck in traffic. But that does not mean that it is impossible for buses to serve the area effectively.
The office district could benefit from a set of busways running along the major streets. With proper design, branding, and operations, a system of busway circulators could make it easy for Tysons-goers to leave their car behind.
I've laid out one potential circulator system. Running on semi-exclusive busways, buses would be able to bypass traffic, use signal priority at intersections, and stop at well-spaced "stations." The busways could be shoe-horned into existing rights-of-way, which would help to convert these streets into urban boulevards. At intersections, buses would have their own signals and conflicting movements (right turns across the busway, for example) could be stopped when buses are present.
View Tysons "Last Mile" in a larger map.
Below is an example of how busways could fit into the landscape. This is at the intersection of Chain Bridge Road and Old Courthouse Road (on the common Blue/Red lines on the above diagram):
Busway stations would have more amenities than a traditional bus stop. In addition to benches, shelters, and schedules, riders would find "next bus" signs, lighting, and fare machines for fare prepayment (if a fare is charged). Raised "platforms" could provide level-boarding for patrons. An example of this type of busway station can be seen in the image at top of this post, in this case on LA's Orange Line.
Additionally, buses could be branded differently than is traditional. Instead of calling buses "17T" or "R47", Tysons Circulators could follow in the footsteps of Boulder, Colorado, where buses are given creative names like, "Hop", "Skip", Jump", and "Dash". Like Boulder, buses could sport special livery to match their route designation.
My proposal is not meant to be a concrete solution to this problem, but rather as a conversation-starter. Fairfax County needs to begin work as soon as possible on transforming Tysons. Metro's trains will be plying the rails in the area by 2014 and the district needs to be ready to handle an influx of pedestrians by then or the Silver Line will not be a full success. If office workers find it too difficult to get from the Metro escalator to their cubicle, they'll go back to driving - and that's something this region can't afford.
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