main banner

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Bus rapid transit could relieve congestion on Route 7

Leesburg Pike at Bailey's Crossroads.

The Northern Virginia Transportation Commission is expected to endorse a proposal for a bus rapid transit (BRT) system along Route 7 at its July 7 meeting. The line would run between the federal building at the Mark Center in Alexandria and the Spring Hill Metro station in Tysons.

NVTC staff described the rationale and basic plan for the Envision Route 7 proposal at a public meeting June 7 at the Mark Center. Two more community meetings are scheduled: June 8 at Glen Forest Elementary School in Bailey’s Crossroads, and June 14 at Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School in Falls Church. Both meetings are at 7 p.m.

At the previous series of public meetings hosted by the NVTC in April, transportation planners for the regional commission were still officially considering light rail transit (LRT) as well as BRT, although BRT seemed to be the preferred option. Now, it’s clear that LRT is no longer under consideration.

The NVTC estimates the capital costs for the Route 7 BRT system would be just over $266 million, while the operating costs would be $17 million a year.

It will likely take about seven to 12 years before the system is fully operational, said Dan Goldfarb, a transportation planner with the NVTC. Other projects in the pipeline are taking precedence, such as the BRT system being studied for the Route 1 corridor between Ft. Belvoir and the Huntington Metro station.

As proposed, the Route 7 BRT line would take a detour to serve the East Falls Church Metro station, heading along Wilson Boulevard, Roosevelt Boulevard, N. Sycamore Street, and N. Washington Street.

There would be about 20 stops along the line, at one-mile or half-mile intervals, at major population centers or intersections, like the Skyline Center and Columbia Pike. Buses would run every six to 10 minutes during peak hours, Goldfarb said.

In Fairfax County, the BRT system would run on a dedicated lane. In the City of Alexandria, the buses would be in mixed traffic, and in Falls Church, they would share a lane with vehicles making a right turn.  

The system would be designed to connect to other BRT systems, such as the BRT system planned for the west end of Alexandria and a potential BRT along Columbia Pike in Arlington. 

NVTC’s Envision Route 7 study found the service would attract about 9,000 new riders who currently don’t use regular buses. About 6,000 of them would use the system to travel from one point to another along the corridor. About one-third of the trips would be to get to a job; the rest would be for shopping, recreation, or other purposes.

BRT buses would hold about 50 to 60 people – the same as a regular bus. BRT systems would be faster, however, as they would make fewer stops. There would be an automated system for paying fares, which would be integrated with SmarTrip cards used for Metro and regular buses. Electronic signs at bus stops would let people know when the next bus is coming.

There won’t be any parking lots associated with the system, as it’s aimed at serving people who would walk to the BRT stations.

Once the NVTC gives the go-ahead for the project, the commission will begin to work with Fairfax County, Alexandria, Falls Church, and the commonwealth of Virginia to figure out how much each jurisdiction will contribute to the system.  

NVTC will conduct a test to analyze the anticipated benefit of this system compared to other projects. Goldfarb notes that by 2040, Tysons will have as many jobs as Seattle, and without a BRT system like this, “won’t be able to reach its potential.

According to Goldfarb, the system would cost about $21.4 million a mile, which is about the same as Alexandria’s Metroway BRT system and far below the $151 million per mile cost for the Purple Line, a light rail system planned for Maryland.


  1. Can't wait for this system. Hopefully the timeline can be moved up more.

    1. When has a big construction project ever finished on time, much less early?

    2. The Wilson Bridge (beltway) finished on time and under budget.


    There won’t be any parking lots associated with the system, as it’s aimed at serving people who would walk to the BRT stations.


  3. The metro bus system is so bad now, you think this will improve it. Tonight my bus came late and then got lost going to Annandale. Metro and FCDOT, haven't a clue how to run mass transit. Took 80 minutes to go 11 miles. FFX transit options suck. Soon walking to DC will be more efficient.