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Votes

Buses, Trains and Mostly Automobiles

An estimate: rail line would be able to serve as many people as four lanes of traffic.

It is expected that bringing rail to Reston would ease some of the congestion in the community. However, other transportation measures would have to be introduced to improve people’s daily commutes in and out of Reston. One of the solutions, according to Dave Edwards, a Reston resident for 40 years, is a better internal bus system. Edwards would like to see a bus system that would bring people to the new stations, but he sees a problem in that. "We, as residents, are stubborn. We don’t want to get out of our cars," he said. Edwards is optimistic, however, that by the time the stations are built more people would use a bus system. He said rising gasoline prices might play their part in enticing more people to use public transportation. Another factor that may help attract more people to the bus would be adding a high occupancy vehicle (HOV) lane to Reston Parkway, where buses could have preferred treatment.

"People are more concerned about speed than cost," said Edwards. "If the bus is stuck in traffic with everybody else, it will not win out" over a private car.

Arthur Hill, vice-chair of the Reston Planning and Zoning Committee, agrees that an improved bus system — more reliable, more frequent and with more buses — may be a part of the solution.

MORE PEOPLE might use a bus system "if the fares are made attractive enough and service is reliable enough," said Hill. However, he said, buses would have to drive through the neighborhoods in order for people to take them and leave their cars at home.

There are 17,000 bus trips per day in the Dulles Corridor, according to Patti Nicoson, chair of the Reston Metrorail Access Group and president of the Dulles Corridor Rail Association. "We’ve already started getting people into buses. Rail will attract more users," she said. As far as Reston buses are concerned, Nicoson said the Reston Internal Bus System (RIBS) is a wonderful service. She thinks RIBS needs to improve its frequency though. "Sometimes you have to wait 20 minutes for a bus, when it only takes you five to seven minutes to get home," said Nicoson.

Karl Ingebritsen, who promoted and advocated retention and expansion of RIBS, said it would take an enormous amount of money to significantly improve the system. He believes road expansions, wherever possible, might improve the situation. "We can’t do much with Wiehle Avenue, but we can do something with Route 28 and Fairfax County Parkway," said Ingebritsen. "These are projects that might bring some relief."

ACCORDING TO FORECASTS from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, in the next 25 years Northern Virginia is projected to add nearly 700,000 more people, 700,000 more jobs and 300,000 more homes. It is estimated that 100,000 jobs will be within a half-a-mile of the Dulles Corridor metro stations, and the daily ridership on the "Silver Line" will be 91,200 people by year 2025.

Nicoson said the rail line would be able to serve as many people as four lanes of traffic would serve, about 9,000 people per hour. While the metro line would not get everyone off the roads, Nicoson said it would help reduce congestion. She compared it to today’s "Friday factor," which she said is the reduction in traffic on Fridays due to the fact that some federal employees work extra hours during the week so they could get every other Friday off. Since she drives to a lot of meetings, she noticed that it is easier to get to a meeting on a Friday than on other days. "If you can get 10 percent of the people out of their cars it makes a difference," she said. Also, other programs and business incentives, such as flexible work hours for employees and telecommuting, could go a long way in helping decongest the region’s roads. "There are a lot of innovative things we can do," said Nicoson.

Hill said it is very hard to predict what the average commute would be in five to 10 years. "Hopefully rail will be here by then, and that should have some mitigating effect," he said. He said he hopes that people who come to Reston to work would make use of the future stations, especially those who work in Reston Town Center where there is 5.5 million square feet of office and retail space. He wishes the rail and the supporting bus system were here yesterday.

Metro will be a vital part of the region’s transportation, said Ingebritsen. However, he said, "I don’t think it will be a solution to the congestion. That is probably something we will have to live with."