The stop (red) moved to the playground to the south. Image from Google Maps.

Many residents of the Fox Mill Estates neighborhood in Herndon are disappointed with Fairfax County’s decision to move a bus stop because a new homeowner doesn’t want it in front of her house.

According to resident Carmelita San Jose, the current stop at Pinecrest Road and Viking Drive is safe and well lit, with stop signs to aid crossing and enough room for buses to pull out of traffic. Many residents of the neighborhood walk 10 or 15 minutes to reach the stop.

A mother and son moved into the house nearest the bus stop in 2008, and asked Fairfax to remove it. They initially agreed, but then backtracked after residents objected.

However, the son began parking his car on the street in late 2009, which made it difficult for buses to pull in close to the stop. One bus trying to pick up a blind passenger almost hit the car and was unable to leave until the homeowner moved the car; in October, a bus actually scraped against the car.

According to Ms. San Jose, Paul Mounier of FCDOT then posted a notice about the County’s decision to move the stop to another location 500 feet away along Viking Drive. Ms. San Jose wrote to FCDOT and Supervisor Hudgins, saying this will inconvenience those who ride the bus, is not well-lit, and will require people to walk on narrow sidewalks along busy Viking Drive. That includes a blind man who uses a guide dog which would need retraining.

FCDOT says that most public comments favored moving the stop, and claims the new location is “both safe and accessible.” They will also retrain the guide dog.

The homeowner and Ms. San Jose also disagree about whether the son’s car had been parked illegally. The law prohibits parking within 30 feet of the bus stop. Ms. San Jose says her measurements show there is just about 30 feet available, meaning the son must be violating the zone, while the homeowner claims there are 47 feet available, which leaves more than enough room to park legally. Ms. San Jose asked the County to measure the distance, but they did not.

It’s unclear why the son can’t simply park somewhere else on the street. As a suburban area, there’s plenty of street parking. In many suburbs, homeowners get cranky about people parking in front of their houses, even though the street belongs to all. The son can’t park in the driveway so that the mother can get her car out in the morning; it’s also unclear why they can’t just switch cars, or switch the locations of the cars at night ahead of time. Is a tiny bit of convenience for them worth inconvenience for all bus riders?

It’s disappointing that Fairfax planners seem to be prioritizing one homeowner’s desire to monopolize public space over the general good. It’s not the homeowner’s curb, it’s the County’s, and the homeowner certainly knew about the bus stop when she bought the house.

If 30 feet isn’t enough for a bus to pull to a curb, the stop should be wider. If the car is parking illegally, it should get a ticket. And if a homeowner doesn’t like buses stopping in front of his or her house, County officials should listen, but ultimately do what’s best for the greatest number. Perhaps they think that’s what they’re doing, but from the emails Ms. San Jose forwarded, there’s no evidence of that. I’ve left a message for Mr. Mounier to find out if he has a better explanation.

David Alpert is Founder and President of Greater Greater Washington and Executive Director of DC Surface Transit. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He lives with his wife and two children in Dupont Circle. Unless otherwise noted, opinions here are his and not the official views of GGWash or DCST.