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Thursday, April 7, 2016

Bus Rapid Transit under consideration for Route 7

A rendering of a BRT system. [NVTC]

A draft proposal to be submitted to the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) April 7 calls for a bus rapid transit (BRT) system along Route 7 between the Mark Center in the City of Alexandria and the Spring Hill Metrorail Station in Tysons with a connection at the East Falls Church Metrorail Station.

That’s the preferred alternative proposed by the Envision Route 7 project.

The NVCT will present the BRT proposal at three public meetings June 6-8; locations for those meetings haven’t been announced. The NVTC will be asked to accept the Envision Route 7 proposal at its July meeting.

The Envision Route 7 study had narrowed down various transit options to two – BRT and light rail transit (LRT) – and considered several potential routes. BRT vehicles are like buses but are larger and could operate either in dedicated lanes or in lanes with other traffic.

The draft report says the proposed BRT route would serve approximately 9,500 new daily transit riders with 70 percent lower capital costs and 40 percent lower operating costs than LRT.

While the travel demand model results showed slightly higher ridership for LRT, the much higher cost to build and run the service made BRT a more cost-effective option. Connecting BRT service to the East Falls Church Metro Station would increase ridership by 38 percent. Terminating the service at Mark Center, rather than the King Street Metro Station would reduce ridership by less than 10 percent.

Public comment on the Envision Route 7 project indicated strong support for a connection at the East Falls Church Metro Station, but did not indicate a strong preference for extending the line to the King Street station.


  1. So they're going to stop the line, right before it reaches the part where it might inconvenience rich people in the City of Alexandria. Nice.

    1. That’s fine for now. I think it makes more sense that it continue from Mark Center to Van Dorn Metro anyhow. That way it will run along bigger population centers along the way with all the new planned development at Beauregard and Landmark in Alexandria. This will be the similar route as being planned for the West End Transitway.

      In the long run we can enhance it. A separate leg can be added that goes to not only King Street/Old Town but all the way to National Harbor. And if we choose to convert it to LRT in 15-20 years than we can also connect it across the American Legion bridge with the Purple Line.

      For now, I'll take this as soon as possible.

      In the long run we can enhance it. A separate leg can be added that goes to not only King Street/Old Town but also National Harbor. And if choose to convert it to LRT later and 15-20 years perhaps we can connect it across the American Legion bridge with the Purple Line.

      For now, I'll take this as soon as possible.

  2. BRT makes fiscal sense. would have loved for light rail but the dollars and sense are indeed overwhelmingly infavor of bus. I do hope they implement with dedicated lanes though - makes much less sense to implement when the busses have to compete with traffic.

    Stopping it at marc center vs king street metro also makes no sense.

    1. Unfortunately, two of your preferences are mutually exclusive. They were mine, too, until I went to the info session held last fall. There just isn't enough right-of-way over the Alexandria portion of King Street that would allow dedicated lanes. They have in mind bulking up the existing bus service on that section, with the goal of making transfers pretty simple. But keeping the new line separate from that section should do a lot to prevent disruptions rippling up and down the rest of the route.

  3. extending it to Landmark and Van Dorn station makes a lot of sense as well. terminating it at mark Center seems to me to making the system a lot less useful to a lot of people. Going to King Street would also be popular

    but it should be done now and should use wherever possible bus only lanes. and it should run every ten minutes all day long.

    don't make it run every half hour middle of the day and night. in short do it right from the beginning. I also like the idea of exploring extending it to link to National Harbor as there is no real transit option to get there from Alexandria right now.

    that's my two cents worth.

  4. So we're going to get another BRT-light project which will get stuck in traffic when it has to share lanes and will be nothing other than a fancy looking bus. Mediocrity in transit is the American way!

  5. Will they plan to have parking lots at some of the stops/stations? Many residents who live deep in neighborhoods have limited bus service and can't easily walk to Route 7.

  6. One can only hope that bus turn outs will be built. Since there is no room for dedicated lanes at least bus turn outs will allow riders to board and exit without impeding the traffic flow.

    Has there been any discussion regarding turn outs?

  7. I did not realize that Route 7 went to the Mark Center?! Seems to me the the Mark Center is on Seminary Road, so am I right to assume this will turn up Beauregard to get to the Mark Center?

    Anyway, if you are interested in what BRT looks like, go down to Potomac Yard as they have installed lanes there. They literally take up the width of 4 lanes. So, you get significantly less flow in those lanes versus the car lanes. I guess it probably works well on a weekday, but I took it on a weekend and had to wait 20 minutes for a bus to arrive.

  8. The County leadership does not have a clue, there ideas are worn out, their vision is dim and their spirit has evaporated. This BRT is too late and too inadequate to save this area. May as well call Uber or hitch a ride on a white van.

    Without appealing transit that is quick and direct to major metro centers, such as Van Dorn, King Street, Pentagon and East Fall Church this system does not stand a chance of being successful. The traffic hinders bus movement.......dah that is why the subway was invented over a century ago. That is is when we had political leaders that were interested in making cities great economic centers and not spending all their capital on homeless shelters being dropped into stable residential neighborhoods chasing out the middle class.

    The County's appeal to young professionals and the middle class (knock knock-people that pay taxes) will dwindle, and Mason District will continue to be the Bronx of Fairfax County as it steadily declines into irrelevancy and to an ever expanding section 8 mecca and neighborhoods of boarding houses.

    BoS go take a class on how to run a city not ruin it.

  9. So many negative comments here, assuming the worst. But a few bits of information that aren't in this article, but which I found with my Google machine. First, the BRT proposal covered here does envision being "mostly in a dedicated lane" over the 11 mile route.

    In addition, it helps to know that Alexandria is well along in its planning of the West End Transitway, which will connect Van Dorn Metro with the Mark Center, Shirlington, and the Pentagon. (And a redeveloped Landmark Mall, though skepticism about its redevelopment is well-deserved, based on the track record so far.)

    The combination of Route 7 BRT, connecting to the Silver and Orange lines, with transfers to the Blue and Yellow lines via bus service to King Street and via other transit service to Van Dorn and the Pentagon, seems exactly like the kind of well thought-out network that we all are clamoring for: mostly separate lanes, BRT rather than the more expensive rail, connecting major employment centers and residential areas. (Remember that traffic resulting from the defense jobs relocating to Mark Center has been a major concern.)

    And all this is being done in a remarkably multijursidictional way: Alexandria, Arlington, Fairfax County, Falls Church, METRO, Northern Virginia Transportation Commission are all talking, working to ensure that the various pieces work together. What's not to like?

    I think the expectation of some that every relevant bit of information will be included in every single Blog article is a little ridiculous. As is jumping to conclusions that public officials are idiots because some consideration of yours isn't explicitly mentioned here. Go follow the links--mine and the ones in the article--and get more information. (Looking at you, Anon 11:44 p.m.--the facts I cite contradict the basis for many of your complaints.)

    1. Andrew, thank you for your informative dialogue.

      Two things: one, although the bus lanes will be dedicated there remains traffic lights which will slow the busses down; two, this is an anemic and spotty solution to a huge problem: retractive growth, which is where Mason currently stands. The middle class and its commercial tax base are fleeing for whiter and more homogenous communities; and the young are moving into denser, metro access ready pedestrian neighborhoods that offer urban amenities. Mason offers none of this.

      However, I agree that this is a good first step; its just not draconian enough to stop the bleeding and that is because of a shortsighted government and a reticent population.

      11:44 PM Anon

    2. Please share what exactly you mean by "fleeing for whiter and more homogenous communities"?

      And please share what you think is not an "anemic and spotty solution" to "retractive growth"?

      Light rail? Metro? Those are not going to happen.

      Mixed use development: that is the heart of the SEQ masterplan.

      Also curious how a Bus Rapid Transit system that appears to be well thought out is "ruining" our county.

      Andrew - thanks for the thoughtful comments.

    3. Master plans mean nothing in Mason District. Penny and the BOS nixed the mixed usage with her forced wedging in of her palace on the SEQ. We are not getting mixed usage in SEQ.

    4. And there you have it Mason will always remain a dump.

    5. What a stupid thing to say. The development at SEQ with the BRT on Route 7 is exactly what we need to push Mason forward. And it is in line with the Bailey's master plan - all versions of it. Do a little research.

      Read the SEQ masterplan. The County is following it to the letter . . . including the BRT plan.

      Progress cannot happen overnight with the snap of a finger. It is a well regulated process involving the public.

      Also take a look at what Arlington is doing just to the north of Bailey's and what Alexandria is doing just to the East. The same density and the same type of mixed use.

  10. How about Envision Columbia Pike? Envision 236? All major corridors inside the beltway should be considered for transit upgrades. This patchwork of solid transit access vs. spotty bus service for other corridors is not going to work in the future.

    1. Yes, all corridors need this kind of attention, but it's got to start someplace. I'll take this as that start.

      I'm sure we'll see another round of planning for Columbia Pike, but that was dealt a setback when Arlington killed the light rail project that Fairfax was looking to coordinate with.