CORRECTION: County Board Approves 10-Year Plan for Bus Service Improv

Published on July 18, 2016

(Correction: Chair Libby Garvey was incorrectly quoted in this release when first issued today. The quote is corrected here to say that "Riders should see much improved service along these important corridors by 2018." We regret the error).

  • Improvements will serve all parts of the County

  • Premium bus service planned for Columbia Pike, Pentagon City and Crystal City

  • Extensive community input shaped final plan

  • Board directs Manager to explore additional improvements serving Columbia Pike corridor

More frequent bus service, more late night and weekend service, better north-south connections, and a new Premium Transit Network along Columbia Pike  — this is the new vision for bus service in Arlington. On Saturday the County Board, unanimously adopted a new Transit Development Plan that provides a road map for Arlington Transit and Metrobus service improvements through 2026.

"This plan demonstrates Arlington's continued commitment to excellent transit service that makes it easier for people to move around the County without a car," said County Board Chair Libby Garvey. "It includes a plan for improving bus service along Columbia Pike and the Crystal City-Pentagon City corridor that will offer fast, frequent, reliable and easy-to-use bus service. Riders should see much improved service along these important corridors by 2018. We are also planning ahead to make sure we have the capacity to handle anticipated increased ridership along the Pike in the future."

The Commonwealth of Virginia mandates that every transit operator in the Commonwealth have a Transit Development Plan (TDP). The plan must be updated annually and comprehensively revised every six years. The plan identifies transit needs in the County, as well as modifications to the system that will increase productivity or improve efficiency, and identifies the resources required for improving service. The plan makes County projects and services eligible for State funding, one of the County's main funding sources for transit.

Responding to community concerns that service improvements may not support the Columbia Pike corridor's growth and revitalization, the County Board also directed the County Manager to explore improvements to the Premium Transit Network such as customized bus vehicles, larger articulated buses and more frequent off-peak service that could encourage more people to use transit.

Bus improvements will serve all parts of the County

By summer 2020 the County plans to make the following improvements to bus service:

  • A new north-south connection between Rosslyn and Shirlington

  • More frequent service from Dunn Loring to Ballston, via Arlington Boulevard

  • More frequent service along Glebe Road

  • A new connection between Crystal City, National Airport and Shirlington

  • A new connection between Buckingham and the County's Department of Human Services facility at Sequoia

The new TDP also includes innovative on-demand services to maintain connections in neighborhoods where bus ridership is low and demand does not warrant fixed route service. To be fiscally responsible, the plan calls for converting some Metrobus routes to lower cost Arlington Transit (ART) service and consolidating or shortening some bus routes.

Route-by-route details are available on the County website.

The new services proposed in the TDP are dependent on resources appropriated through the County's annual operating budget. For ART, the proposed services are estimated to cost an additional $10.6 million annually by fiscal year (FY) 2026. These additional operating costs are expected to be covered by additional fare revenue and state aid and savings from converting two Metrobus lines to lower-cost ART service. New Metrobus service called for in the TDP would cost an additional $7 million annually by FY 2026, which would be funded by County general funds, state aid and regional gas tax revenues. The TDP will be updated on an annual basis to reflect current needs and available resources.

Premium bus service planned for Columbia Pike, Pentagon City and Crystal City

A major feature of the plan is creation of a Premium Transit Network connecting Columbia Pike, Pentagon City and Crystal City. The premium network will offer bus service that is fast, frequent, reliable and easy to use, with features including simplified routes, increased weekday and weekend service, and a new one-seat bus ride from Skyline to Pentagon City-Crystal City.

In addition to new service, the Premium Transit Network includes new transit stations along Columbia Pike that will provide near-level boarding, longer platforms, real-time bus arrival information and off-vehicle fare collection. The premium service is planned to start in summer 2018, with transit stations and other amenities implemented in phases through 2021.

The premium network is designed to accommodate projected demand along Columbia Pike during the next six to ten years. As the corridor develops and more riders are attracted to the service, larger vehicles can be used to add capacity and meet the growing demand.

Community helped shape the plan

To develop the 10-year plan, the County surveyed Arlington residents about how they currently use transit and where they want to see improvements. More than 1,000 persons responded with comments on the draft recommendations, presented to the community in February. The feedback included strong support for additional off-peak and weekend service and new direct connections to activity centers. These comments and suggestions, along with extensive technical analysis of the County's current bus service, helped shape the final TDP.

Community input timeline:

  • Spring 2015: Surveyed 3,396 people to get input on transit usage and needs, helping County staff to analyze existing system and service area.

  • Fall 2015: Hosted 406 people in four workshops and five focus groups; also hosted online input form, providing input on initial findings of technical analysis. With the input, staff prepared draft recommendations.

  • Winter 2016: More than 1,000 people participated in six workshops and via an online form, to provide input on the draft recommendations.

Next steps

This month, in addition to adopting the new TDP, the County Board will adopt a new Capital Improvement Plan that includes projects such as a heavy maintenance facility, new bus vehicles and transit system technologies needed to implement the bus service improvements.

Specific bus route changes will involve more public input before implementation.