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Northern Va. bus transit plan gets green light

WASHINGTON – The design of a new bus service to speed up transit for parts of Northern Virginia was unanimously approved by the Alexandria City Council Planning Committee Tuesday.

The Crystal City-Potomac Yard Transitway will stretch for five miles along Route 1, from the Braddock Road Metro station in Alexandria to the Pentagon City Metro stop.

The transitway will initially be operated by the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority. The first 0.8 miles along the route, between Potomac Avenue and Glebe Road, are currently under construction and officials say that portion is expected to be completed by the start of 2014.

The system will mean changes for WMATA’s bus service. The 9S bus route that currently runs solely within Arlington County will be extended to Potomac Yard. The 9A and 9E routes will also have access to the transitway and a new 9X route will be created once the entire system is up and running.

The project is designed to speed up travel time between connections. Officials say a new payment system will allow passengers to pay before boarding.

“They don’t have to tap any SmartTrip reader or put in any cash on the vehicle itself,” said Marti Reinfeld, Alexandria’s transit division chief, at the city council committee meeting Tuesday.

Reinfeld says the system will also allow riders to board at all doors on a bus.

“This will really speed up travel times (and) reduce the time that buses are dwelling at the stations,” she says.

Buses will operate primarily in designated right-of-way sections of the road, but in certain areas of Pentagon City, Potomac Yard and Route 1 southbound in Alexandria, the routes will run in mixed traffic.

Jeff King, chairman of the Alexandria Bicycle and Pedestrian Advisory Committee, says he generally approves of the overall design of the project, but he adds that there are no parking options for bicyclists who bike to buses.

“If you don’t have any facilities to put them somewhere, they’re going to chain them to the trees and stuff like that, and you don’t want that,” King said during the public-comment session of the same committee meeting.

Transitway project officials say they plan to have bike parking available by the summer of 2014, when the entire system is operational.

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