County transit officials have set Sept. 26 for the start of a major expansion and restructuring of Fairfax Connector and Metrobus service affecting hundreds of riders in southern Fairfax.
The highlight of the changes is the launch of REX, or Richmond Highway Express. It is a daily express service running along Route 1 between Fort Belvoir at the southern end and the Huntington and King Street Metro stations at the northern end. The distinctive buses and bus stop signs will be purple and blue with a logo showing a golden yellow, running lion. The fare is $1 a ride, the same as for the Connector.
In addition to REX, new bus routes will replace 24 existing routes in Springfield, Franconia, Kingstowne, Hayfield, Lorton, Saratoga, Fort Belvoir and the Route 1 (Richmond Highway) corridor, officials said. They said the new routes take different directions and have different numbers, longer hours, more frequent trips and better connections.
Generally, service will start earlier in the morning and end later at night than it does now. More buses will run during the middle of the day and on weekends. During rush hours, riders will wait shorter times between buses.
Bus routes affected include: Fairfax Connector Routes 101, 102, 103, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 202, 203, 204, 301, 303, 304, 305, 311, 383, 384 and 385; Metrobus Route 9A; and TAGS (Transportation Association of Greater Springfield) Routes S-80, S-81 and S-82.
The county is joining Metro and the city of Alexandria to operate the Richmond Highway Express. REX will stop at 12 strategically located bus stops in the county, where it will connect with Connector or Alexandria DASH service. The 12 stops are: Huntington Metro, Kings Highway, Beacon Center, Lockheed Boulevard, Arlington Drive, Belford Drive South, Ladson Lane, South County Government Center, Frye Road, Lukens Lane, Sacramento Drive/Cooper Road and Old Mill Road/Mount Vernon Memorial Highway.
There will also be three stops on Fort Belvoir and three stops in the city of Alexandria. Other bus stops on Richmond Highway will be served by new Connector routes.
REX buses will run every 15 minutes in both directions on Richmond Highway during rush hours, every 30 minutes during non-rush hours and on Saturday, and every 60 minutes on Sunday. Service will start at 5:30 a.m. and end at 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday, and run from 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Sunday.
REX buses have low floors, making it easier to board. They are also equipped with SmartCard fareboxes. The buses feature transponders that trigger traffic signals along Route 1 to hold green lights so the buses can keep moving. Such technology is part of bus rapid transit.
The lion on the REX buses is a reference to the three lions on the Fairfax County seal, originally the family crest of Lord Fairfax. REX is part of a multiyear, $55 million program to improve transit service and pedestrian safety along Route 1.
New timetables and maps are being printed reflecting all of the changes and will be available on buses and at transit centers. The Connector's Web site, www.fairfaxconnector.com, also will detail the changes.
* Metrobus Route 9A will no longer operate along Richmond Highway between Fort Belvoir and the Huntington Metro station. But it will continue to operate from the Huntington Metro station to the Pentagon Metro.
* TAGS service in greater Springfield has been restructured with new connections and longer distances. New Connector routes will replace some of the existing TAGS service and provide links to Springfield Plaza, Gateway 95, Defense Logistics Agency, Boston Boulevard, the Medical Education Campus, and the Franconia-Springfield, Van Dorn Street and Huntington Metro stations.
* A special new express route numbered Connector 380 and called the Pentagon Express will operate between Franconia-Springfield Metro station and the Pentagon Metro station and bus terminal. Route 380 will operate every 15 minutes during rush hours.
This route will affect riders who now use the 383, 384 and 385 routes, which transit officials determined have been underused. Riders on those three routes are now asked to take the new Connector Route 303, 304 or 305 to the Franconia-Springfield Metro, where they can transfer to the Pentagon Express.
County officials said they will hold a public kickoff at 1:30 p.m. Sept. 26 at the South County Government Center, 8050 Richmond Hwy. There will be entertainment and food.
For more information, call the Connector information center at 703-339-7200, visit the Connector Store at Springfield Mall or go to the Web site.