Rules Set for New Bus-Only Lanes in Crystal City, Potomac Yard

Published on January 28, 2016

  • Exclusive Potomac Yard bus lanes between Four Mile Run & 26th South

  • Crystal City rush hour lanes between 26th South & 15th Street South

  • County mounting broad education effort

  • 30-day "grace period" on enforcement

The Arlington County Board today approved an ordinance establishing the rules for how new bus-only lanes in Crystal City and Potomac Yard will be used and enforced. The lanes are being built as part of the Crystal City Potomac Yard Transitway project that is expected to open this spring.

"We are all looking forward to the transitway opening in the spring," said Arlington County Board Chair Libby Garvey. "It will make riding transit on this busy corridor faster and more efficient. But because these bus-only lanes are a first for Arlington, we are mounting an extensive education and outreach effort to ensure that drivers know how to deal with the changes in traffic patterns before the lanes open. We want to make sure that this transitway works both for the transit riders who use it and for the drivers who will still be using this corridor in large numbers."

The Board voted unanimously as part of the consent agenda to adopt the amended Motor Vehicles and Traffic Ordinance. To read the Staff Report on this Item, visit the County website. Scroll down to Item #17 on the Agenda for the Thursday, Jan. 28 Carryover County Board Meeting.

The ordinance covers two types of bus lanes:

  1. Exclusive lanes - In Potomac Yard, between Four Mile Run and 26th Street South, these are new lanes physically separated from general traffic. The ordinance states these lanes are for transit and emergency vehicles at all times.

  2. Rush hour lane - In Crystal City, between 26th Street South and 15th Street South, one lane on northbound Crystal Drive and one lane on southbound South Bell/Clark Street will be dedicated to transit vehicles and right-turning vehicles during peak weekday travel hours. The ordinance establishes these bus-only time periods as 6 to 9 a.m. and 3:30 to 7 p.m. on weekdays only. All vehicles may use these lanes during off-peak times.

Outreach already underway

County staff had conversations with residents and the business community last summer and fall about the proposed restrictions, how general traffic -- including turn movements -- would be accommodated, as well as the proposed signage and lane marking plan. In response to community feedback, staff reduced the hours of the rush hour lane restrictions from 10 hours per weekday to 6.5 hours per weekday.

Leading up to the Transitway's opening and continuing after, the County will mount an extensive outreach effort to help educate the community about the new rules for the bus-only lanes. Activities will include partnering with Crystal City civic groups, electronic and print materials, street teams at neighborhood events, and outreach to business and residential properties. Arlington Police also will participate in the education program, with officers trained to observe and correct improper behavior in the bus lanes.

"We know this is a big change for many drivers," said Dennis Leach, director of the County's Transportation Bureau. "We have addressed some of the concerns by reducing the hours of the rush hour lane restrictions, and we will make sure there is clear signage. We want to make this transition as smooth as possible for all affected."

New fines established to aid enforcement

The Board's action established a fine of $200, as allowed by state law, for violators of the bus-only lanes. This fine will not apply to drivers who use the rush hour bus-only lane to make a right turn at a corner or into a driveway. Enforcement of the regulations will begin with a transition period of 30 days, during which Arlington County Police will issuing warnings, and no fines will be imposed.

The ordinance also allows the County to use off-vehicle fare collection for its public transit buses and establishes a $100 civil penalty for failing to pay a transit fare. These changes will allow enforcement of fare evasion when off-vehicle fare collection is implemented.

Transitway opening this spring

In December the County Manager announced that the Crystal City Potomac Yard Transitway, a joint project with the City of Alexandria, is expected to be completed this spring. The County's portion of the project includes 0.75 miles of new transit-only roadway, 1.5 miles of on-street dedicated transit lanes, seven new stations and traffic signal upgrades along the Transitway route.

The Transitway will provide faster, more reliable bus service along the congested Route 1 corridor, connecting residents and employees to jobs, shopping and the region, while supporting redevelopment in Crystal City and planned development in Potomac Yard.