It may shock a few non-Tysons residents, and maybe a few in town, that Tysons has a very solid bus network which can get you to several Metro Stations, the Pentagon, DC, and Arlington already in existence. It seems many are unaware of the Tysons Transit Center located on Jones Branch Drive, although on a typical weekday rush hour the station does become quite busy. The design and layout of those bus routes were based on a city without metro stations of its own. Several of the buses routes are designed to move people to the orange and blue rail lines. The Silver line will of course allow major changes, and more efficient consideration of people movement, to be incorporated into the system.
As part of the comprehensive plan and transportation master plan for Tysons, Fairfax County has been preparing a study to analyze the best circulator system options. Currently there are several options ranging from only two routes (a decrease to the number of circulators and not a serious option) and five routes (filling in the gaps where the four metro stations can’t reach). I think the study is fairly solid, other than that two route idea which is a complete rip-off. One thing I want to note to readers is that more routes isn’t necessarily better. The key is the frequency of the routes and the time frame in which they run. It would be preferable to have buses that run at the same frequency as the rail headways at the silver line stations, as this will allow for bus routes to be kept in sync with the rail system, and reduce waiting times at transfers. To this point, it may be better for a 3 route system with 4 buses running at rush, instead of 5 routes each with only 2 buses running at rush.
The discussion of the circulators is one of those elements that residents should be a part of and educate themselves so that they can make their best case in advance of decisions being made in 2013. One thing that hasn’t been discussed is what happens to the inter-city bus networks that are now redundant systems to the silver line?
One such route is the 23A and 23C. Currently this system starts from the Tysons Transit Center, does a lap around the mall, back down International Drive, and then finally heads out of town towards Crystal City as well as Langley. This system spends 30 minutes of its route simply circling Tysons, and will pass by three metro stations once Silver line is up and running. This is a terrible use of limited transit funds. The key will be gaining access for people from Tysons to those same destinations (Crystal City, Arlington, and Langley). By rearranging the map to remove the Tysons component, the route can now start at the Silver Line McLean station, avoid much of the worst traffic, and make straight shots to each terminal.
Right now this system takes 3 hours to make a full lap to Crystal City from Tysons. That means at rush hour it runs 6 buses on this route in order to maintain a 30 minute headway. Changing the Tysons terminal to the McLean silver line station will reduce the lap time to only two hours. To maintain the current service level the system would only need 4 buses, or a 33% reduction in operation cost. Of course, these buses could remain and the headways could be reduced to 20 minutes and improve mobility for residents in McLean, Arlington, Tysons, and Crystal City also. Either way, maintaining the current route would be wasteful folly.
Is there a bus line that you believe could benefit from the silver line that you want to inform us about? Let us know and we will take a look. The point is not to reduce our transit dollars, but to use them better to assure more mobility and options for people coming to and leaving Tysons.
Reference Fairfax County Circulator Draft Study