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Silver Line will alter Va. bus routes

Wednesday - 7/23/2014, 9:35am  ET

Fairfax Connector Silver line (WTOP/Max Smith)
The Fairfax Connector service will cost the regular fare of $1.75, with a 50 cent SmarTrip discount for riders transferring from Metro. (WTOP/Max Smith)
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WASHINGTON -- The Silver Line means massive changes not only on the rails, but also for critical bus routes across Northern Virginia.

"There's signage in the stations, there's signage on our website, and there's signage actually at the bus stops…such as route maps, bus bay maps, so it's all labelled clearly for passengers," Fairfax Connector Operations and Planning Manager Nick Perfili says.

"I'm not talking just our every day commuters, but just a person who might be out here visiting the area for the first time, they'll be able to have the same level of information that a typical commuter has," he adds.

While there will be Metro and Fairfax Connector staff at stations and bus hubs the week of July 21 and after the Silver Line opens, below are some important things to know about bus transportation:

Taking the bus can mean free parking

While drivers will have to pay for parking in both the private and public garages at the Wiehle-Reston East station, parking will remain free at lots such as the Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride and Reston South Park and Ride. Parking in the Metro-run lot at Wiehle will be free on holidays and weekends.

For people who already use Herndon-Monroe, the bus ride to the Metro will be much shorter, since the buses will go to Wiehle-Reston East rather than West Falls Church. However, there will be a longer ride on the rails.

"Right now, when you go there you have two options, if you're commuting during typical commuting hours, to get you to West Falls Church, either Fairfax Connector Route 950 or 980. Starting with the Silver Line, that increases to four options. You'll have Fairfax Connector routes 924, 929, 950 or 980," Perfili says.

"We've rearranged the bus stops such that those four bus routes stop at either the same stop or are adjacent to one another so when a bus pulls up, passengers can just board whatever bus comes next to get them to Wiehle," he adds.

Buses at Wiehle-Reston East, Tysons Corner stations

At Wiehle-Reston East, most buses will stop in the covered bus bay inside the parking garage, including new service to Reston Town Center.

"We did our final big test at Wiehle last Wednesday, and we're happy with what we saw, in fact, we're not making any changes. We're just saying it was another opportunity for our operators to train in there and we're just ready to kick off service," Perfili says.

It is important that anyone who currently uses a bus that goes to West Falls Church double checks where the bus will drop off and pick up starting Saturday.

In addition to Fairfax Connector moving many routes to Wiehle or the Tysons stations, Virginia Regional Transit is shifting its West Falls Church route from Loudoun County to become a new "Wiehle Express."

Also, beginning Monday, PRTC is moving the Manassas and Linton Hall Metro Direct routes to the Tysons Corner Metro station.

"Fairfax Connector is also kicking off frequent, daily service between Wiehle-Reston East and Reston Town Center. That's the second largest business center after Tysons in Fairfax County," Perfili says.

There will be buses seven days a week thanks to routes 505, 981 and 983 that connect commuters and visitors over the one to two mile trip.

For now, anyone headed to Wolf Trap should still go to West Falls Church station and take a bus from there. Perfili says the county and the venue will not be making any changes to bus service there until the 2015 season. The Fairfax Connector Route 480 costs $5 round trip.

Getting to Dulles Airport

Also, there will be Fairfax Connector buses from Wiehle-Reston East to Dulles Airport and the Smithsonian's Udvar-Hazy center.

Other options for people headed to the airport include the new Washington Flyer service from Wiehle-Reston East that will cost $5 each way, or the Metrobus 5A which will continue to run as it has in the past between L'Enfant Plaza, Rosslyn, Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride and the airport.

The Fairfax Connector service will cost the regular fare of $1.75, with a 50 cent SmarTrip discount for riders transferring from Metro. The 5A charges the airport express bus fare of $7.

Transfers from one regular bus to another or from an airport bus to a regular bus are free with a SmarTrip card, and riders transferring from a bus to Metrorail using a SmarTrip card get a 50 cent discount on the rail fare.

The second phase of the Silver Line that will carry riders to Dulles on the rails is scheduled to open in 2018.

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