Fairfax County, Virginia

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Suzie Battista, AICP,
Chief, Urban Centers Section

Transportation - Transforming the Existing System

Tysons Transforming the existing systemToday, the vast majority of people traveling to, from, within and through Tysons do so using private automobiles. However, the planned extension of the Metrorail system, with four Metrorail stations in Tysons, offers an opportunity to create a well-balanced, interlinked, multimodal transportation network that balances the needs of transit users, bicyclists, pedestrians and drivers. Using the Metrorail Extension as a catalyst and the Comprehensive Plan as a guide, Tysons will be transformed over time into a walkable, transit oriented, great urban place.

In order to be successful, a fundamental transformation of the transportation network in Tysons must occur. Several transportation elements must be created and/or enhanced. They include the following:

Metrorail Silver Line Extension

Metro Silver Line ExtensionBy the end of 2014, four new Metrorail Silver Line Stations will open and provide rail service in Tysons. This is by far the most significant public transportation improvement in Tysons and is expected to carry the majority of transit trips to, from and through Tysons. Ultimately, the Silver Line will extend to Dulles International Airport and will serve passengers traveling to Tysons from the Dulles Corridor to the west, and from Arlington and the District of Columbia to the east. More detailed information can be found at the Dulles Metrorail Project Website. The map above shows the location of each station in Tysons Corner. The station names and cross-streets where they are located are as follows:

  • McLean - Located on Route 123 at Scotts Crossing Road
  • Tysons Corner - Located on Route 123 at Tysons Boulevard
  • Greensboro - Located on Route 7 northwest of Route 123
  • Spring Hill - Located on Route 7 at Spring Hill Road

Express and Local Bus Service to Tysons

Tysons Express and Local Bus ServiceWhile Metrorail is necessary for Tysons to develop into a vibrant, urban center, it is not sufficient to support development at the Comprehensive Plan level by itself. Other regional, high quality, public transportation services, such as an expanded local bus network and express bus routes serving Tysons from the regional network of HOV and HOT lanes, are needed. Express bus service is a high-speed, limited-stop service generally operating within transportation corridors oriented to a principal destination. It consists of longer trips, especially to major activity centers, during peak commuting hours, and operates long distances without stopping. The opening of the Beltway High Occupancy Toll (HOT) lanes, with three new connections to Tysons, provides an opportunity to serve Tysons with a significant express bus network extending on the regional HOV/HOT network to destinations such as the I-95 corridor and the I-66 corridor.

An expanded network of local bus routes will play an equally important role in moving people to, from and through Tysons via transit. Over one dozen bus routes currently serve the Tysons area. About two-thirds of these routes are operated by WMATA while the remaining third are operated by the Fairfax Connector. When the Metrorail extension opens, these routes are expected to be realigned to provide better service to the new Metrorail stations, while other existing routes may be eliminated or replaced by modified routes or the extended Metrorail service. Bus service frequencies will also be modified for other routes to achieve consistency with new transit service in the corridor, to better coincide with Metrorail headways and to reduce duplication of service where it exists. For more detailed information on planned bus service to Tysons Corner, please review the Fairfax County Transit Development Plan.

Tysons Circulator

Tysons CirculatorIn order to increase the use of Metrorail and other transit services for trips to, from and within Tysons, a system of transit circulators is essential to provide quick and convenient connections between the Metrorail Stations and other locations within Tysons but beyond walking distance of the Metrorail Stations. To facilitate use of the Circulator System, it must be integrated with all other transit serving the greater Tysons area and be accessible, frequent, and convenient for users. In order to accomplish this goal, the circulators should operate in their own, dedicated right-of-way. The first phase of the Circulator System, serving the Metrorail stations immediately after opening, will be bus service operating in mixed traffic on existing rights-of-way. Over the long term the Circulator System may evolve through several phases, transitioning from buses operating in mixed traffic to buses operating on exclusive rights-of-way to, when feasible, a fixed guideway operating on exclusive rights-of-way. The map above shows the conceptual alignment of three potential circulator routes that could serve Tysons once the grid of streets and two new Beltway crossings are constructed. The ultimate alignment will likely change based upon the results of a detailed Circulator Study and other factors, such as the availability of the necessary rights-of-way.

Grid of Streets

Existing Tysons Grid of Streets
Existing Tysons Grid of Streets
Conceptual Tysons Grid of Streets in the future
Conceptual Tysons Grid of Streets in the future

Tysons Corner currently consists of large superblocks with a relatively small number of streets. The large block size inhibits transit use, pedestrian and bicycle movement by limiting short, direct connections between points within Tysons. This places excessive reliance on the existing street system to accommodate most trips to, from and through Tysons by use of single occupant vehicles. A grid of streets with smaller block sizes is typical in urban areas. It disperses vehicle traffic and improves mobility for pedestrians and bicyclists by providing short, direct connections between multiple points in an area. Smaller block sizes will make Tysons more walkable by creating convenient and short walk distances between points in Tysons and will improve pedestrian and bicycle access to the four new Silver Line Metrorail Stations in Tysons. The conceptual grid of streets is critical to the future form and function of Tysons. Implementing this network of arterials and local streets will be challenging. Engineering studies will be done to refine the conceptual grid shown above and individual segments will be constructed as redevelopment occurs over time.

Complete Streets with Pedestrian and Bicycle Facilities

Complete Streets with Pedestrian Facilities

The Comprehensive Plan for the Tysons Corner Urban Center calls for streets "Compete Streets" in Tysons Corner. By definition, complete streets are designed and operated to enable safe access and movement for pedestrians, bicyclists, motorists and transit riders of all ages and abilities. Complete streets in Tysons are expected to be attractive environments for walking, commerce, and casual interaction in addition to their function of moving traffic. The plan contains urban design guidelines for streets in Tysons to include enhanced pedestrian elements, such as sidewalks buffered from traffic by street trees, and bicycle enhancements, such as separate bike lanes, to address the elements of a complete street.

The plan provides a variety of options to apply complete street standards to individual streets depending on the streets roadway classification, a system developed to classify road types by the volume of vehicle traffic a road is anticipated to carry. The graphic above and to the left shows the conceptual grid of streets in Tysons with roadway classifications applied to each street. Typical street cross sections from the plan are shown above and to the right for each roadway classification shown in the map above and to the left. However, final street designs may include variations in lane width, sidewalk width, or building setbacks to reflect the changing context of the street as it passes through different neighborhoods and districts within Tysons.

Expanded Bicycle Facility Network

Expanded Bicycle Facility NetworkThe Comprehensive Plan for the Tysons Corner Urban Center envisions a mixed-use urban center with a more traditional downtown feel; a place which is friendly to bicyclists and pedestrians; a place organized around the four new Silver Line Metrorail stations. This vision includes a network of connected on-road and off-road bicycle facilities so residents, employees and visitors can travel comfortably and safely by bicycle to destinations within and around Tysons Corner. The map above is included in the comprehensive plan and shows a conceptual bicycle network in Tysons Corner. However, the existing transportation network in Tysons, with its superblocks, suburban character, and auto-related land uses, makes bicycling a challenge. Despite these conditions, Tysons has significantly more bicycle trips in, around, and through than other areas of the County.

As Tysons redevelops over time, the existing transportation network will be expanded and transformed to contain the complete streets, with expanded bicycle facilities, as described in the  Complete Streets with Pedestrian and Bicycle Facilities section. A Tysons Corner Bicycle Master Plan has been completed for Tysons Corner and the areas within a 3-mile radius of Tysons. This plan includes detailed recommendations for physical infrastructure (bike paths, bike lanes, bike parking, etc) to support bicycling in Tysons Corner, as well as policies and programs that are needed to encourage residents and visitors to travel by bicycle. Once this plan is complete, bicycle routes in, around and through Tysons will be refined and an updated map will replace the map shown above in the Comprehensive Plan.

Multimodal Transportation Hubs

Multimodal Transportation HubsIn order to provide alternative modes of transportation for transit users to reach their final destinations within Tysons that are beyond a reasonable walking distance of the Metrorail Stations, as well as to provide residents and workers in Tysons with expanded options for making trips within Tysons, the Comprehensive Plan for the Tysons Corner Urban Center calls for Multimodal Transportation Hubs strategically placed close to Metrorail and circulator stations and/or other retail, employment and residential centers. Multimodal transportation hubs are envisioned to provide alternative modes of transportation and transportation services including:

  • Transit (rail and/or bus)
  • Bike sharing
  • Car sharing
  • Other personal transportation devices
  • Taxis

Transportation Management

Tysons Comprehensive Plan TransportationThe Comprehensive Plan for the Tysons Corner Urban Center calls for the establishment of a Tysons Corner Transportation Management Association to develop and promote Transportation Demand Management (TDM) programs to stakeholders, major employers and developers in Tysons Corner. TDM refers to a variety of strategies aimed at reducing the demand on the transportation system, particularly to reducing single occupant vehicles during peak periods, and expanding the transportation choices available to residents, employees, shoppers and visitors. The result is a more efficient use of the existing transportation system.

When the four Metrorail stations open in Tysons and denser mixed use transit-oriented development is constructed surrounding the stations, a substantial percentage of travelers are expected to commute via Metrorail without any TDM programs in place. This development pattern will also reduce the need for driving trips because jobs, housing, shopping, recreational and cultural opportunities will be close at hand and accessible by walking or a short transit ride. A broad, systematic, and integrated program of TDM strategies throughout Tysons can further reduce peak period single occupancy vehicle trips, as well as increase the percentage of travelers using transit and non-vehicular modes of transportation. Examples of TDM Measures include:


  • Transit and vanpool subsidies
  • Pre-tax deduction of transit and vanpool fares
  • Telework program
  • Carpool and vanpool matching service
  • Shower and locker facilities for bicyclists and walkers
  • Secure and weatherproof bicycle parking
  • Carpool and vanpool preferential parking
  • On-site car-sharing vehicle
  • Employee shuttle
  • Guaranteed Ride Home Program
  • Commuter information center (bulletin board, web site, brochure table)
  • Employee Transportation Coordinator (ETC)
  • Flexible or alternative work hours
  • TDM education programs directed at the public and employers

Maintain a Balance Between Land Use and Transportation

Tysons Comprehensive Plan TransportaionIn order to maintain an acceptable level of accessibility in and around Tysons Corner as development occurs over time, it is essential to keep a balance between land use and transportation. To maintain this balance, the increase in development in Tysons should be coordinated with the provision of transportation infrastructure and programs to reduce vehicular trips. Considerable analysis was conducted to determine the need for specific transportation programs and infrastructure for a specific level of development in Tysons. From the results of this analysis, the following strategies were identified that need to be successfully implemented to maintain a balance between land use and transportation:

  1. The phased provision of transportation infrastructure, as detailed in Table 7 in the Comprehensive Plan. Major components of transportation infrastructure are the grid of streets, new transit routes, and new connections in and out of Tysons.
  2. The achievement of vehicle trip reduction levels, as specified in Table 5 in the Comprehensive Plan. Essential in obtaining these vehicle trip reductions are the following:
    -  TDM programs, as specified in the TDM section of the Plan.
    -  Achievement of transit modal split levels, specified in Table 2 of the Comprehensive Plan.
    -  Limitations to the provision of parking, specified in Table 6 of the Comprehensive Plan.
    -  Increasing the amount of residential development in Tysons as specified in the Land Use section of the Plan.
    -  Excellence in urban design, successful integration with Metro stations, and the achievement of the mix of uses and the facilities which creates the largest possible internal trip capture.
  3. A monitoring system, described in the "Monitoring System" section of the plan, to verify that strategies 1 and 2 are realized as planned, and to apply timely adjustments if there are variations from the recommendations on how a balance will be maintained.
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