Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Who is conducting this study, and why?
The Route 7 Corridor Transit Study is being conducted by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC) and is funded by the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority. The Route 7 Corridor Transit Study will include an in-depth assessment of existing travel needs along the corridor and develop recommendations to improve mobility and accessibility in the Route 7 corridor between Tysons and Alexandria. The primary objective of this study will be to assess the project for viability and, if desired, prepare for entrance into the Federal Transit Administration’s (FTA) Project Development process.
Why should it matter to me?
The outcome of this study is intended to improve connections to jobs and community resources, make transit a more viable alternative in the corridor, and to make it easier to move around the region using transit.
Where are we conducting the study?
The portion of Route 7 that is the subject of this study is that which links Route 7 near the intersection with Route 123 in Tysons to a point in the City of Alexandria. There are currently two potential route termini in Alexandria - Van Dorn Metrorail Station or the King Street Metrorail Station. In addition, within the City of Falls Church, a potential connection to the East Falls Church Metrorail Station is being evaluated.
How long will this study last?
The study will last approximately one year, concluding in the Spring of 2016.
Where are we in the study process and what are the next steps?
To date, the study has been conducted in two phases. The first phase of the study was an initial screening of transit modes while the current phase of the study is taking a more in-depth look at the potential for transit in the corridor.
During Phase I, the study team:
- Assessed the existing issues and identified the potential opportunities that could be leveraged to improve the Route 7 corridor.
- Identified a suite of potential transit options that could improve mobility and accessibility in the Route 7 corridor.
- Evaluated the transit options based on planning-level feasibility assessments.
- Narrowed the transit options to be evaluated further in Phase II.
Currently in Phase II, the Study team will assess the set of transit options forwarded from Phase I in greater detail based on factors including:
- Public and stakeholder involvement to better align the study with the local and regional objectives and evaluation criteria.
- Viability of transit in the corridor given potential demand and benefits to the community.
- Impact on local and regional mobility and accessibility.
- Financial analysis including capital and operating costs, and potential funding sources.
At the end of Phase II, the Study will identify a transit option that most effectively and efficiently addresses not only the existing issues and needs along the Route 7 corridor, but also best accommodates the future demands along the corridor.
What answers are you seeking in Phase II?
The main focus of this phase of the project is to determine if the project is "viable." By this we mean:
- What is the anticipated market demand for premium transit service?
- Is it something that the community and also the political leaders want?
- Does this project make sense as a transportation investment given the estimated capital and operating expenses?
- How would this project fare when considering for very competitive federal funding dollars if it were submitted for consideration?
- Is there enough funding available across all funding sources (federal, state, local) to carry this project forward?
At the conclusion of this work we should be able to determine whether or not a high-capacity transit project along Route 7 is a concept that is "viable" from these perspectives.
When will we build something?
The question of timing of construction is dependent on a number of interim steps.
The Route 7 Corridor Transit Study will be completed in the Spring of 2016. If the study results point to a viable transit alternative that is appropriate to advance, then the corridor could advance into the federal funding program. Next would be completing required design and environmental review processes to identify final recommendations and a more specific cost estimate. Then the project can advance to request funding (federal, state, etc.) and enter into construction. This description of steps is simplified but gives a broad overview. This process can take years to complete. There is not a set timeline for how long this process takes because it varies widely depending on the specifics of each project, local political will, and available transit funding.
More minor improvements can be in place in a few years while larger investment projects can take 10 or more years before being constructed.
How much will the project cost?
Cost is heavily dependent on a number of factors such as final corridor alignment and length, mode selected, rights-of-way required, and utility relocations costs (if needed). Costs can range from a few million dollars per mile for minor changes and upgrades to a hundred million dollars per mile or more for LRT in challenging conditions which require things like elevated structures. Planning-level cost estimates will be developed as part of this study for consideration with more detailed cost estimates developed and refined if the project progresses.
What funding options will the study explore?
One of the key focus areas of the study is assess project cost and what the funding options may be to construct and operate transit along the corridor. These funding options could include federal, state and local funding through options like direct contributions or landowner proffers.
Is this a viable transit corridor?
We believe the Route 7 corridor presents opportunities to create connections and provide additional transit access to key places like Tysons Corner, Falls Church, Seven Corners, Skyline, Mark Center and also future development areas along the corridor. It also provides access to and from points along the corridor to the Silver, Orange, Blue and Yellow Metro lines.
How will the service connect to other transit service?
Transit service recommendations will be made as a part of this study that would indicate how the new transit service would interact with other services in the area, including recommended adjustments to transit service on other routes. An important consideration will be efficiency of connections between services, with more detailed engineering conducted in later phases working on the specifics of connections. Options could include nearby or shared platforms where possible to facilitate better transfers.
Is it realistic to expect transit to spur economic development?
Transit cannot create economic development, but it does have the capability to attract growth near station areas as is evident, for example, in Arlington along the Rosslyn-Ballston Corridor and throughout the Metrorail system.
Who, realistically, is going to ride from Alexandria to Tysons on transit instead of driving?
Very few riders would be expected to use the transit service from end to end. The majority of transit trips are interim trips, traveling shorter distances for different purposes and that would be expected along this corridor as well. It is anticipated that a number of riders will transfer to/from other transit services at various points along the corridor to continue their trip.
What mode do you think is the best choice for this corridor?
Modal choice is a fairly complex decision that will be made based on technical analysis and public input. Typically investment decisions are all about the right choice in terms of potential use, funding and support. If ridership on the line is expected to be very high, then a more significant investment in light rail transit (LRT) or dedicated guideway bus rapid transit (BRT) may be the best choice as both options can handle larger passenger loads. If ridership is expected to be more moderate, then BRT that travels in some dedicated lanes and/or mixed traffic or improvements to existing bus service may be the right choice. The role of the technical team is to conduct technical analysis and engage in a significant outreach to define those elements of use, funding and support.
How does bus rapid transit (BRT) differ from express (commuter) bus services?
Across the country, basic express (commuter) bus services typically operate only during weekday morning and late afternoon peak periods, with no service during the middle of the day, at night, or on weekends. They also typically run in only one direction during each peak period; routes are generally designed to take commuters from suburban areas to downtown centers in the morning, then back to suburban areas after work.
Bus rapid transit (BRT) services operate throughout the day, at night and on weekends and are recommended in areas where a mix of land uses and higher density centers line the corridor. BRT services are planned not just to provide a quick connection from start point to end point, but also to provide connections to and among employment, shopping, cultural activities, and health care at key destinations along the route.
What about light rail? Is it on the table?
Yes, light rail is still on the table. Light rail is being assessed as a modal alternative for the study and was carried forward from Phase I. It is to be considered in the range of possible service strategies.
What is Transportation Systems Management (TSM)?
Transportation Systems Management, or TSM, refers to lower-cost transit improvement options that do not require major capital changes to the existing roadway or transit network. These options include enhancements in service (decreases in headways, all-day service, or transit priority elements, etc.) to improve schedule adherence, service reliability, and reduced travel times. TSM is an important consideration as it allows for a comparison between what could be accomplished with better service, and what benefits would be derived from larger capital investments.
What about streetcars?
Streetcars and trolleys can be vital components of a regional transit system and often offer substantial benefits in urbanized areas, typically in a "Main Street" concept. They are in operation now in other communities nationally and are considered most effective for shorter trips along relatively limited routes in higher-density areas. So while streetcars may be an excellent option for certain corridors within the urban core, the land uses, corridor distance and trip types anticipated along the Route 7 corridor led to the decision that streetcar was not the right option for Route 7.
How do you plan to engage with LEP/disadvantaged populations?
There is a project outreach plan that is comprehensive and far-reaching. The study team is reaching out to planners from local jurisdictions, advocacy groups, community leaders and others to ensure that the voices of all potential stakeholders are heard during this important study. The outreach activities will be led by NVTC, with support from the consultant team and also jurisdiction staff who will be engaged throughout the project. To learn more about how to get involved, you can contact Karen Finucan Clarkson from the NVTC, by way of the contact information below:
Karen Finucan Clarkson
Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC)