DRPT Steps in to Save Commuter Bus Route

Oct. 20, 2014
Tysons express OmniRide to continue.

The Tysons Express OmniRide commuter bus route, which was at risk of cessation in November 2014, will continue to be operated with the assistance of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, DRPT.

The PRTC Board of Commissioners on October 2, 2014, voted to accept two separate options, a favored one whereby the Tysons route would be incorporated in a state-sponsored I-95 Express Lanes plan and an alternate option in the event state-sponsorship could not be arranged.  The Board’s approval of both options was intended to ensure that the route would continue in either event, while PRTC management and DRPT continued discussions about the state’s prospective sponsorship.  Following the Board’s action, DRPT affirmed its willingness to incorporate the route into the state-sponsored I-95 Express Lanes plan.  

The decision is sure to please the dozens of Tysons Express passengers who attended a September public hearing and sent comments to PRTC urging the agency to find a way to retain a route that many describe as indispensible to their daily commute. Passengers offered a variety of suggestions for lessening the amount of the required funding, including reducing the number of daily trips and increasing fares. Both those suggestions have been adopted in the final plan.

PRTC, the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission, has operated the Tysons OmniRide route since November 2009 with 100 percent of the required subsidy paid by Virginia Megaprojects, which is a partnership of the Virginia Department of Transportation and DRPT. The route was proposed by Virginia Megaprojects as a way to reduce traffic congestion during construction of the I-495 and I-95 Express Lanes. Because Express Lane construction on I-95 is now nearing an end, the Virginia Megaprojects subsidy was also scheduled to end.  

The newly-found funding to continue the Tysons route will not increase DRPT’s expenses because it will come from savings associated with changes to two new OmniRide commuter bus routes to the Mark Center in Alexandria that DRPT had already planned to sponsor as part of the Express Lanes plan. The Mark Center routes are to start operating when the I-395 HOV lanes are complete, tentatively in mid-FY 2016.

Initially the Mark Center routes were to include routing through some Prince William neighborhoods, but PRTC has decided to eliminate the local routing portion and concentrate on serving commuter lots where the majority of the passengers are expected to board. As a result, the Mark Center service will cost less than initially anticipated. DRPT has agreed to shift those savings to keep the Tysons service running.

To confine the amount of subsidy needed from DRPT, Tysons passengers will start to pay the regular OmniRide commuter bus fare of $5.75 with a SmarTrip card or $7.70 cash, and the number of daily trips will be reduced from nine to eight (four in the mornings and four in the afternoons/evenings). These changes will occur on Dec. 1, when PRTC’s annual fall service change takes effect. No changes to routing or destinations for the Tyson’s route are anticipated.

The Tysons Express OmniRide route currently serves two stops weekdays in Woodbridge: at the Woodbridge VRE Station and the Commuter Lot at I-95 /Route 123. Destinations include more than a dozen locations including Tysons Corner Center and the West Park Transit Center.