Bus fare discounts: Get to work for half the price

WASHINGTON —  Some commuters can get to work for half the price starting Monday for the next four years.

The bus fare discounts for commuters along Interstate 66 are meant to draw drivers off the road and reduce the expected congestion during the construction of two HOV or toll lanes in each direction between the Beltway and U.S. 29 in Gainesville.

Multiple work zones are being set up along the 22.5 mile stretch this month, and VDOT is encouraging increased transit use, carpooling or slugging, and vanpooling for the next four years.

Ideally, transportation leaders hope the shared rides continue long beyond construction to reduce traffic.

In the mean time, these are the discounts from public transport systems:

PRTC discounts

Starting Monday, Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission (PRTC) OmniRide bus routes to and from Gainesville and Manassas are half-price until toll lane construction is complete in 2022.

One-way fares with a SmarTrip on buses between that area and the Pentagon or Washington are now $3.45 instead of $6.90. Buses running to Metro stations from Gainesville and Manassas now charge $1.75 instead of $3.45. The Portsmouth Road commuter lot in Manassas typically has parking available and seats open on buses, PRTC said.

Fairfax Connector discounts

Also starting Monday, select Fairfax Connector routes serving the Vienna Metro station will be half price.

The new $1 fare applies to routes 621, 623, 630, 631, 632, 640, 641, 642, 644, 650, 651 and 652.

The buses serve Centreville, Fair Lakes, Fairfax Corner and Chantilly, including a number of free park and ride lots.

Loudoun: Free rides temporary

Loudoun County Transit is offering free rides through June 2 on all buses that connect to Metro stations.

Several routes connect to either Wiehle-Reston East or West Falls Church.

Loudoun County is also offering cash incentives to county residents who currently drive alone to work along the I-66 corridor inside the Capital Beltway.

Switching to a Loudoun County Commuter Bus qualifies a former solo driver for $100 SmarTrip cards.

Anyone who uses the I-66 corridor and switches to a carpool any time through 2020 qualifies for a $100 gas card funded through the Interstate 66 toll project, plus up to $130 through a separate, existing regional program.

There is also state money available for van pools and to pay businesses up to $10,000 to create a program that leads to at least 10 new teleworkers.

The Virginia Department of Transportation and Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation are funding the discounts as part of the I-66 toll lane projects. The toll system inside the Beltway is controlled by VDOT, while the toll lanes outside the Beltway are being built and will be operated by private companies that are required to put a portion of the expected revenues toward transit or other improvements.

In June, a new commuter bus from Front Royal to Rosslyn and Metro Center is scheduled to launch with trips toward the District in the morning and back to Front Royal in the afternoon, VDOT said.

Last week, the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission approved $12 million in spending from the inside the Beltway toll project, mainly for new or expanded bus service and better access to bus stops, park and rides or Metro stations. The package also included some funding to support transit incentives, carpools, van pools and slugging.

When formally approved next month by the Commonwealth Transportation Board, that will add to $9.8 million in previous toll-funded projects picked ahead of the launch of the tolls, including Fairfax Connector 699 from government center to DC, PRTC bus between Gainesville and Pentagon, and Loudoun County park and ride.

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