An experimental mini-bus system connecting Vienna and Oakton with Tysons' Corner has been given a six-month extension by the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, despite staff reports of low ridership and a recommendation by the county transportation department that the system be scrapped.
The Jitneybus originally was funded with $120,000 and put into operation for one year, with the proviso that it would be evaluated at the end of that time. Currently, the system has two buses, and a one-way fare is 50 cents.
The new plan, approved by the supervisors this week, calls for extending the system at a cost of $60,000 and evaluating it again at the end of the six-month period. One condition for the extension was that new routes and schedules be worked out to increase use of the system.
"It may not have been a financial success, but for those who use the service it has proved to be helpful," Supervisor Martha V. Pennino (D-Centreville) told board members.
However, Supervisor Thomas M. Davis III (R-Mason), who opposed the extension, said statistics from the county transportation office made it clear that the service was not feasible. The supervisors, Davis argued, should have discussed proposed route changes earlier in the project instead of waiting till "two minutes till midnight."
Board Chairman John F. Herrity (R) argued that the county should focus its attention on Metro bus and rail service in the area, rather than on a failing local bus system.
Jitneybus, funded equally by the county and the Virginia Highway Department, fell far below performance expectations, according to a study by the Fairfax County Office of Transporation. In a report presented to the supervisors, the staff noted that none of the minimum performance standards had been met in the year the system had been in operation. Instead of yielding 10 passengers per trip, the report stated, an average of six people were aboard each trip. In addition, instead of costing $2.04 per passenger, the system was costing $2.46 per passenger.
Shiva Pant, Fairfax County transportation director, said the system, which has averaged 148 riders a day, will need at least a 40 percent increase in ridership to meet minimum standards with new routes. But Pant was not optimistic that those increases could be met. "I personally don't think the changed routes will bring about a 40 to 50 percent increase in ridership," Pant said.