In anticipation of the Silver Line, Fairfax Connector is reorganizing its bus routes in and around Tysons Corner to get people to each of the 4 new stations. But of all the proposed changes, the most controversial has been a new bus route to Vienna.
Option 1, one of 4 alternatives for Route 432. All images from Fairfax Connector and edited by the author.
The proposed Route 432 would connect northern Vienna with the Spring Hill Metro Station and Tysons in a loop, filling a critical gap in the county’s transit network. Many residents support better bus service in this area due to the highly congested nature of Route 7 (Leesburg Pike) and Route 123 (Chain Bridge Road/Maple Avenue), the main roads into Tysons.
But residents living on Old Courthouse Road and Creek Crossing Road have overtaken the discussion about one of the 4 proposed route options that would use those two streets. They say the buses will endanger pedestrians and parked vehicles.
A small group of 3 residents practically took over a public meeting last February where 100 people came to hear about the proposals. The residents interrupted the 2-hour question-and-answer section with comments that school buses had struck parked cars. They fear that more buses would turn their quiet neighborhood into a loud urban freeway.
Unfortunately, the opposition was so effective that the Board of Supervisors decided to table discussion on Route 432, even after approving Fairfax Connector’s other proposed routes. They revisited the plan options during a board meeting this week and will make a final decision on whether it will move forward.
The Board of Supervisors could simply choose one of the other 4 options where there’s less opposition, but they are all weaker solutions. They avoid residential neighborhoods that don’t already have transit service and force more buses into congested roads, making them less viable as an option for commuters.
The great thing about the original design of the 432 was that it would have slight variations in the route depending on the AM and PM rush hours to avoid being stuck in traffic. In the morning it used Leesburg Pike westbound, in the afternoon Leesburg Pike eastbound, by changing the clockwise or counterclockwise travel path.
Due to opposition from a vocal minority, the other 3 options propose running the bus instead along Maple Avenue, Vienna’s main street and its most congested. In other words, that bus is gonna get stuck in a lot of traffic depending on the time of the day and it will be located far away from the residents who need it most.
This will make the bus more inconsistent, unreliable, and ineffective in transporting people, especially in an area where a lack of accommodations means walking or biking aren’t an option either.
Option 1 remains the most viable solution. It avoids the heavily congested Maple Avenue corridor during rush hours, it uses dedicated bus lanes on the toll road, and most importantly it is accessible to residents by being routed on Old Courthouse Road and Beulah. The Fairfax County Department of Transportation has targeted this corridor for sidewalk improvements, which should dispel concerns about pedestrian safety.
What opponents haven’t said is that neighborhood safety is compromised far more by the increasing number of commuters using Old Courthouse Road as a cut through to avoid traffic. When the Silver Line opens, these conditions will only get worse without viable alternatives to reach the stations.
Hopefully, the Board of Supervisors will recognize that kowtowing to the opposition will make Route 432 a worse service by putting buses where they don’t belong, and join many of the Vienna residents who want to see Option 1 approved.
A version of this post appeared on The Tysons Corner.