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Wednesday, January 13, 2021

Fairfax Connector seeks public comments on strategic plan

Fairfax Connector route 401 on Columbia Pike in Annandale.
The Fairfax County Department of Transportation is seeking recommendations from the public on how to improve the Fairfax Connector bus system.

Comments from the public will help inform FCDOT’s development of a 10-year transit plan

Michael Felschow, head of transit planning for the Fairfax Connector system, described the planning process at a virtual meeting Jan. 12. Other community meetings will be held today, Jan. 13, at 7 p.m., and tomorrow, Jan. 14, at noon. 

Members of the public are encouraged to take a survey on their priorities for the Connector. Access the survey here

FCDOT staff wants to know such preferences as whether people prefer a longer bus ride or a shorter trip that involves a transfer, whether people prefer a shorter walk to a bus stop in their neighborhood that requires a longer wait for a bus or a longer walk to an express bus.

Even people who don’t ride buses are encouraged to take the survey and explain why they don’t use the Connector. 

People can also submit comments by Feb. 19 via email to fairfaxconnector@fairfaxcounty.gov or by calling 703-339-1608. “Your input is crucial,” Felschow said. 

The purpose of the 10-year plan is to identify the needs of the community and determine what the county’s transit system should look like in 10 years, Felschow said.  

The final document, to be presented to the Board of Supervisors by the end of the year, will have a list of priorities for improvements to be implemented depending on the availability of funds.  

Currently, the Fairfax Connector consists of 95 routes, 329 buses, and three bus garages. Before the pandemic, it served nearly 30,000 passengers a day. 

The system includes express routes to D.C. and the Pentagon, local routes, feeders to Metro stations, and circulator routes connecting neighborhoods. 

In late 2020, the Fairfax Connector announced plans to take over some Metrobus routes that are being eliminated including the 3A, 29W, and 29C that serve the Annandale/Mason District area. 

In developing the 10-year plan, FCDOT will consider such issues as: Where is growth happening? Where are the employment centers? What types of services are needed? Where are the gaps in service? Are there gaps in the schedules? Do we need more bus garages or transfer centers? Do we need more bus stops? Why are particular routes not performing well? 

In addition to the 10-year plan, FCDOT also develops shorter-term plans for each of five regional areas in Fairfax County. The Annandale/Mason District is included in the Franconia-Springfield plan.

Related story: Fairfax Connector to replace Metrobus routes in Annandale

During the Jan. 12 meeting, a participant noted that travel patterns could change after the pandemic, as more people might continue to telework. 

“We’re keeping an eye on this,” Felschow said. That’s why the FCDOT drafts a new plan every five years. 

Even if fewer people commute to jobs, buses will still provide an important service to people who don’t have a car or can’t telework, he said. And that group includes a large proportion of lower-income people. 

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