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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Several options proposed for Route 7 transit study

Heading east on Route 7, approaching the Columbia Pike intersection.

The consultant working on a transit study for Route 7 has narrowed down the options, eliminating the most expensive modes like street cars and less feasible routes.

Street cars don’t make sense for Route 7 because they are geared to denser, urban areas, are shorter (generally five to seven miles), and make frequent stops, said Michael Flood, a planner with Parsons Brinckerhoff, at a public meeting on phase 1 of the transit study Sept. 18 at the Skyline Center. The study  overseen by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission.

A transit line would generally run from Tysons to Alexandria, but key decisions need to be made about whether it should bypass part of Route 7 in Falls Church to connect to the East Falls Church Metro station, and thus provide access to the Orange line and new Silver line, and where it should terminate in Alexandria.

At the meeting, Falls Church Vice Mayor David Snyder made the case for having the system traverse Route 7 through the center of Falls Church and not take a detour around it.

The alternative options still in play include the following:

  • Light rail between Tysons and the Van Dorn Metro station via Mark Center with a connection to the East Falls Church Metro station.
  • Bus rapid transit (BRT) between Tysons and the King Street Metro station with a connection to East Falls Church.
  • BRT between  Tysons and the Van Dorn Metro station via Mark Center.
  • BRT between Tysons and Van Dorn via Mark Center and East Falls Church.
  • A transportation management system aimed at improving traffic flow between Tysons and King Street /Van Dorn.

According to Flood, the key features of a BRT system are easy, low-floor boarding; comfortable interiors; a modern, sleek design; attractive and welcoming stations; multiple wide doors; off-board fare collection; and real-time information on the next vehicle.

BRT systems could run either in a dedicated traffic lane, mixed in with automobile traffic, or with a combination of both. BRTs could make use of “intelligent transportation systems” with transit signals timed to give them priority in getting through intersections faster.

The next step calls for refining the plan and submitting an application for federal funding. There’s an online form for submitting comments.


  1. I have worked in transportation for 15 years. If the consultant is saying BRT can operate mixed with traffic, it is a major departure from my understanding of BRT. I was under the impression that the "R" (rapid) derived from having a dedicated right of way.

    Semantics aside: if they're going to make a huge investment in equipment and infrastructure but not have dedicated right-of-way, it seems like they could spend a lot less by just making major upgrades to the service headways with existing equipment. Signal priority can be given to existing equipment as well.

  2. A BRT system that was all in mixed traffic would indeed by BRT-VeryLite, though there are more BRT attributes it could have in addition to shorter headways and signal priority.

    However a very possible option would be part dedicated ROW, and part mixed traffic in places where it's harder to dedicate the ROW. One advantage of BRT is its flexibility in that respect.

    Note - the only option that seems to be off the table is street car in mixed traffic (IE something like PikeRail) It appears that LRT in dedicated ROW is still being considered.

    Note City of Alexandria already plans for BRT from Mark Center to Van Dorn.

  3. It aint BRT if it runs in mixed traffic, period. Crossing mixed traffic is one thing -- pure/100 percent BRT avoids even this wherever possible, like Bogota's Transmilenio -- but running in mixed traffic is a nonstarter.

  4. well whatever you call it, a bus line with more frequent service, signal priority, and multiple doors and off board fare collection for faster loading and unloading, would be better (and somewhat more rapid) than a conventional bus - or even a bus with just the more frequent service and signal priority.

    The main reason to oppose that, is that if Rte 7 is widened, and we don't get dedicated transit lanes, it will be very hard to switch the added lanes to transit only in the future, given how VDOT is resistant to repurposing general travel lanes.

  5. VDOT is stuck in the 17th century. Does VDOT know that the USDOT has an on line data base, TRISHNET, which is a compendium of lots of transit information? As for route 7, I could not agree more that a bus stuck in traffic is a bus without passengers.

    VDOT and the counties of Fairfax and Arlington, cities of Alexandria and Fairfax, Falls Church need to face facts. There ain't enough room for light rail or BRT. Before the Columbia Pike line goes to far, I would like the following questions answered: How are rte 16 passengers going to get from the Pentagon to Pentagon City? How are passengers going to get from their stop to the inner streets of Columbia Pike (16F, G, B, C, etc); A mock up of the platform and cars (cheaply made) should be placed in a new sport on Columbia Pike to see how traffic flow is affected. Where are the "car barns?" Will the cars only permit entrance and not exit from the front doors? This is a major problem on all the 16 lines. Will VDOT be able to keep the rails clean when it snows. We need the cars to be functional in all types of weather. If a car breaks down while in transit what provision will be made to quickly move the train? What system will be used to maintain a 5 minute head way and not bunch up as the 16 busses now do?

  6. I think we should carefully consider our decisions for this large investment on rout e 7. Either Light Rail, Streetcar or a quality BRT will cost a good deal of money and will stay in place until 2040 and beyond. All of these systems are a multi-decade investment in very busy area that requires a serious solution to the traffic situation, a traffic situation that will only get worse as the area adds more and more residents.

    Cost may be the biggest considerations but we should not shy away from considering all the options and choosing the most appropriate solution even if it’s an expensive one. In the long view the difference in the cost of systems will not be as significant and all the options will bring a substantial return on investment.

    In that regard Light Rail is at least as expensive as Streetcar but it is more appropriate solution for the route. BRT is a good option on the route and it’s cheaper but a Real BRT with dedicated lanes and other features mentioned by Mr. Flood in the blog post will also Cost Tens of Million per Mile as Montgomery County is finding out.

    From a long term perspective and the substantial return on investment, for the money my preference is for Light Rail or Streetcar.

    Here is an article considering between light rail and Streetcar.