DASH bus in Alexandria by Adam Fagen licensed under Creative Commons.

Late last year, the City of Alexandria launched its Transit Vision plan, which seeks to improve and adjust bus services by 2030. The goal is to have a better system in place to serve the anticipated growth and needs of the changing city of 150,000 residents for the next 10-20 years.

“The City’s DASH system and WMATA’s Metrobus services within the city connect a variety of people and places, including places where people work, live, and shop. They also link to key transit connections such as Virginia Railway Express (VRE), Metrorail, and other bus operators such as Fairfax Connector and Arlington Transit (ART),” the Alexandria Transit Visions report, released February 11, says. “The existing network may be based too much on history and not enough on the needs and values of Alexandria today, or the forecasted demands from future growth.”

Phase One of the plan sought public input through an online survey and several public meetings, and posed a series of questions pertaining to bus service. The main thrust of the first phase was to determine which of two scenarios the City and DASH should pursue: increased frequency of bus service trading off coverage, or, increased coverage of the city with less frequent bus service. The plan assumes a 20% increase in bus service.

Riders prioritize speed and frequency

The results of the survey show that a majority of Alexandria bus riders want fast and frequent bus service. Respondents indicated they would be willing to walk farther to reach a bus stop if that stop has more frequent buses.

Graphic from page 5 of the Alexandria Transit Visions report.

Riders further indicated that fast service, even if that meant transferring from one bus to another, is a priority rather than a single-seat ride that may take longer to reach a destination. The results of Phase One will be used by city planners and DASH to reengineer the service network currently in place.

Project schedule by City of Alexandria.

Based on these results, the plan now moves into Phase Two, which takes the results of Phase One and incorporates them into the two scenarios. The two scenarios are now known as Ridership or Coverage.

“Ridership” means increased and more frequent bus service in dense areas at the expense of fewer parts of the city being served by buses. The assumption is that more people will ride because there is faster and more frequent service in dense areas. “Coverage” means increased service in some areas at the expense of frequency. More of the city will be served, and thus more people potentially able to ride.

The planners have created a new online survey that presents the two scenarios with a map overlay showing how they could potentially appear in 2030. Both scenarios increase frequency of buses, but they do so in different ways on different routes.

Current DASH network by City of Alexandria.

The Coverage scenario has five all-day bus routes connecting the City to Old Town and one bus route serving the West and Northwest portions of the city that avoids Old Town. Both scenarios have frequent bus service of 15 minutes or less, and both offer significantly different services than the current DASH bus offers.

Coverage scenario by City of Alexandria.

The Ridership scenario has six all-day bus routes that connect the City to Old Town, but there are two additional bus routes that would serve the West and Northwest portions of the city that avoid Old Town.

Ridership scenario by City of Alexandria.

You can weigh in!

The various scenarios represent a spectrum of possibilities for the new bus network, and city planners want more input from bus riders in Alexandria. They're asking the public to take the survey (Spanish version here) or attend one of three public meetings on March 5, 6, and 7 from 6:30-8:30 pm. The results of Phase Two will be used to determine which scenario will be used to influence the final design.

Correction: Alexandria's population is about 150,000 people, not 100,000.

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Gregg Otten is a civil servant, a transportation aficionado, a history buff, and an amateur chef. He has lived in the Washington region since 1982. He graduated from American University, and currently resides in the West End of Alexandria, Virginia.