Supervisor Cook Proposes Fairfax Connector, VRE Transfer Option. Urges State to Maintain its VRE Commitment

 In January, the Fairfax County Department of Transportation (FCDOT) will launch the first of what will eventually be three new Fairfax Connector bus lines that seek to take advantage of the 495 Express Lanes. The initial line will provide commuters in the Burke community with quick, reliable access from the Burke Centre VRE to Tysons Corner. The two other lines will serve communities in the Lorton and Springfield areas.

These new bus routes will offer Fairfax residents new options to reach Tysons, but they have broader potential than that. Currently, residents of Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park have only one option for reaching Tysons - driving. With the Express Bus service, however, these individuals, for example, will have the option of taking the VRE to Burke Centre, disembarking, and continuing to Tysons via the new bus line. This opportunity is not only a benefit to those residents of other jurisdictions, but Fairfax residents will benefit every time one of those drivers, currently adding to our road congestions, opts to take the train and bus instead.

In an effort to encourage individuals to take advantage of this option, Supervisor Cook submitted a Board matter at the Board of Supervisors’ November 20 meeting that directed staff to initiate discussion with the VRE on whether a system of transfer tickets can be established, and asked that a joint marketing campaign begin to encourage current drivers in outer jurisdictions who commute to Tysons to consider the option of using both the VRE and Fairfax Connector. In many transit systems riders are given financial incentives on train to bus routes, where a transfer ticket from the train to the bus saves funds off the full price of each.

The Board matter, cosponsored by Chairman Bulova and Supervisor Hyland, passed unanimously.

At the same Board meeting, Supervisor Cook alerted his fellow Board members to the fact that VRE faces the potential of a tremendous budget shortfall due to recent changes in Federal transportation funding streams. Federal funds for track access fees, which in 2012 amounted to $9.6 million dollars, had been sent directly to VRE, but due to a rules change that money now sits in Virginia’s general transportation fund, where it could be diverted. As the state has not given a clear indication as to how that money will be used, there is real concern that much or all of that money would be spent on other projects.

Said Supervisor Cook, who serves as Treasurer on the Virginia Railway Express Operations Board, “This is not a small budget matter, it would be so significant that we’re not sure we could keep the VRE going.” Recent indications are that the State will restore most or all of the funding.

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