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Popular bus routes saved for Pentagon commuters

Thursday - 3/28/2013, 6:28am  ET

FairfaxConnector.JPG
The Fairfax Connector 595 and 597 are popular commuting options for Pentagon employees living in Fairfax and Loudoun counties. (WTOP/Ari Ashe)

Ari Ashe, wtop.com

RESTON, Va. - Two popular express bus routes connecting Reston to the Pentagon and Crystal City have been saved from the chopping block.

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation will unveil the revised plan for the Fairfax Connector on Monday, according to two Fairfax supervisors briefed on the plan.

"I am so excited that the buses will remain," says Sarah Stein of Herndon, who commutes from Reston North Park and Ride to the Pentagon.

"It's wonderful that they listened because I know there must have been hundreds of letters and phone calls to Fairfax County officials. It's nice to know they care."

The Fairfax Connector 595 and 597 are popular commuting options for Pentagon employees living in Fairfax and Loudoun counties.

Fairfax County transportation officials proposed eliminating the two routes to provide enhanced bus service to the Wiehle-Reston East Metro station when the Silver Line opens later this year.

"Without the 595, my commute would be about 30 more minutes each way. That's about four or five more hours each week and that's just time I don't have," says Aaron Otte of Reston. "I couldn't be happier. It'll allow me to save those hours. It's a much needed deal."

"That's excellent. I'm ecstatic. I'm glad all the campaigning worked. The process works and I thank you for letting us be heard, too," says Kathy Loftin of Herndon.

Fairfax Connector officials reversed course after receiving criticism over the plan, including vocal opposition at several town hall meetings.

The revised plan will likely include a partial merger of the 595 and 597 buses during certain portions of the morning and afternoon, where ridership is lower, says one Fairfax supervisor.

During peak rush hour service, the two buses will remain as is. Hundreds of riders use the two bus routes each day, and many of the busiest ones are packed to capacity. The buses run every 30 minutes from 5:35 a.m. to 8 a.m. and again from 3:50 p.m. to 6:50 p.m.

A round-trip ticket for the buses costs $15, the most expensive on the Fairfax Connector.

"I'm overjoyed. You can't take a bike on Metro during the peak hours. I would've been in big trouble," says Paul Mulgrew of Sterling, who doesn't own a car.

Fairfax County Supervisor John W. Foust, who has not been briefed on the plans, tells WTOP that eliminating the buses was a bad idea because those riders would end up driving -- most likely alone -- to the Pentagon.

The Fairfax County Department of Transportation will hold meetings in early April to discuss the revised plans.

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WTOP's Hank Silverberg also contributed to this report. Follow @ariasheWTOP, @hsilverbergWTOP and @WTOP on Twitter.

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