Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area/Dulles Corridor Bus Rapid Transit
Dulles Corridor Bus Rapid Transit
Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area
The Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation (VDRPT) proposes to construct, under the technical guidance of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), an approximately 23 mile bus rapid transit (BRT) system as an interim step to rail in the Dulles Corridor located in Northern Virginia. The Dulles Corridor, a rapidly growing suburban area west of Washington, DC, contains major regional employment and residential centers, including Tysons Corner, Reston Town Center, Dulles International Airport, the Town of Herndon, the proposed Smithsonian Air and Space Museum Annex, and new commercial and residential development in eastern Loudoun County.
The BRT project is proposed as a minimum operating segment (MOS) of the Dulles Corridor Rapid Transit project, which will phase implementation of rapid transit technologies throughout the corridor. BRT service will be provided between the Metrorail Orange Line and the Western Regional Park and Ride Lot located at Route 606 in Loudoun County. The proposed BRT system will include construction of at least three transit stations convertible to rail stations located in the median of the Dulles Airport Access Road (DAAR), stations at major park and ride lots within the corridor and Tysons Corner, and interface with Metrorail at Falls Church. BRT service is scheduled for operation in 2003 at an estimated capital cost of $287.3 million (escalated). Average weekday boardings for the BRT are estimated to be 23,000 in 2020 with 13,600 daily new riders. (Note: The BRT analysis reflects year 2020 conditions although plans call for rail to replace BRT in 2010.)
The Recommended rating is based on the adequacy of the BRT system’s justification criteria and capital finance plan for Preliminary Engineering. The overall project rating applies to this Annual New Starts Report and reflects conditions as of November 2000. Project evaluation is an ongoing process. As new starts projects proceed through development, the estimates of costs, benefits, and impacts are refined. The FTA ratings and recommendations will be updated annually to reflect new information, changing conditions, and refined financing plans.
The report of a Major Investment Study (MIS) for the corridor was issued in 1996, recommending construction of a Metro-like rail system. The Dulles Corridor Task Force issued the Dulles Corridor MIS Refinement in July 1999, reaffirming development of a rail system but with interim development of a BRT system. The phased BRT/rail system was adopted by the National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board and included in the metropolitan Washington region Constrained Long Range Plan in October 1999. In March 2000, FTA approved initiation of Preliminary Engineering (PE) for the Dulles Corridor Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Project. This PE approval is applicable only to the BRT project, although it allows for the necessary engineering efforts to support the environmental review process with consideration of other modal alternatives, including rail alternatives. WMATA is the grant applicant for the project, at the request of VDRPT, and is providing technical oversight and control of the PE work on the proposed Dulles Corridor BRT project.
TEA-21 Section 3030(a)(93) authorizes the “Washington, DC – Dulles Corridor Extension” for final design and construction. Through FY 2001, Congress has appropriated $90.93 million for this project in Section 5309 New Starts funds.
The following criteria have been estimated in conformance with FTA’s Technical Guidance on Section 5309 New Starts Criteria for the 23 mile BRT system. N/A indicates that data are not available for a specific measure.
FTA has evaluated this BRT project as entering preliminary engineering. The project will be re-evaluated when it is ready to advance to final design and for next year’s Annual Report on New Starts; subsequent rail phases of the Dulles Corridor Rapid Transit Project will be evaluated when ready to initiate preliminary engineering.
The Medium project justification rating reflects the adequacy of the project’s environmental benefits, mobility improvements, and cost effectiveness at this early stage of preliminary engineering.
VDRPT and WMATA estimate that the Dulles Corridor BRT will have 23,000 average weekday boardings and attract 13,600 daily new riders by 2020, and would result in the following annual travel time savings.
Based on 1990 Census data, there are an estimated 237 low-income households within a ½ mile radius of the proposed 3 new stations, approximately 4 percent of total households within ½ mile radius of the proposed stations.
The Washington, DC Metropolitan area is a “serious” non-attainment area for ozone, and a moderate non-attainment area for carbon monoxide. VDRPT and WMATA estimate that in 2020, the Dulles Corridor BRT would result in the following annual emissions reductions.
VDRPT and WMATA estimate that in 2020, the Dulles Corridor BRT would result in the following savings in regional energy consumption (measured in British Thermal Units – BTU).
VDRPT and WMATA estimate the following system wide operating costs per passenger mile in 2020 for the Dulles Corridor BRT, No-Build, and TSM alternatives.
VDRPT and WMATA estimate the following cost effectiveness indices for the new start as compared to the no-build and TSM alternatives.
Transit-Supportive Existing Land Use and Future Patterns
The Low-Medium land use rating reflects the moderate to low density of existing land uses in the Dulles Corridor and the need for additional transit supportive land use policies.
Existing Conditions: The proposed Dulles Corridor Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) will serve several suburban major activity centers including Tysons Corner (18 million sq.ft. of office space and two regional malls), Reston Town Center (a large suburban office park/shopping area surrounded by a large planned residential development), the town of Herndon, Dulles International Airport, the proposed Smithsonian Air and Space Museum Annex, and the rapidly growing suburban communities in Loudoun County. However, much of the existing development is auto-oriented and the proposed BRT system will utilize the center of the Dulles Airport Access Road (an eight lane freeway), which will make pedestrian access to/from the surrounding land uses difficult. With the exception of Dulles Airport, free parking is available throughout the numerous office parks and shopping centers along the corridor. Year 2000 totals for all busway station areas (one-half mile radius) are estimated at roughly 58,000 jobs and 12,800 residents. If the proposed rail line is built, additional stations (mostly in Tysons Corner) will bring the totals to 103,200 jobs and 24,500 residents.
Future Plans and Policies: The population in the corridor is expected to increase from 180,700 in 1990 to 430,200 in 2020, an increase of 138 percent. Employment in the corridor is anticipated to increase from 145,000 in 1990 to 324,000 in 2020, an increase of 123 percent. Generally, high population growth is forecast for the Washington, DC metropolitan area (44 percent between 1995 and 2020) and the study area is expected to capture a significant share of that growth. Fairfax and Loudoun Counties have adopted policies in their comprehensive plans that support moderate increases in density in transit station areas. Fairfax County is examining whether additional changes to its comprehensive plan are necessary to promote transit-supportive land uses and improve pedestrian connections, and the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation has hired a full-time planner to evaluate and make recommendations on land use issues around specific stations. Additionally, WMATA has a strong track record of encouraging joint development at Metrorail Stations. It is anticipated that as the project progresses through preliminary engineering and after station locations are identified, more specific transit supportive plans and policies will be developed and implemented by individual jurisdictions in the Dulles Corridor.
FTA BRT Demonstration Program: In August 1999, the Dulles Corridor BRT project was selected as one of FTA’s ten Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) Demonstration Projects. FTA’s BRT Demonstration Program is intended to foster the development of BRT systems in the United States, address BRT planning, implementation and operational issues, and evaluate system performance in a wide range of operating environments.
Local Financial Commitment
Proposed Non-Section 5309 New Starts Share of Total Project Costs:
* The FY 2001 Transportation and Related Agencies Appropriations Act provides that $217.8 million in commitment authority be provided for the Dulles Corridor Bus Rapid Transit project. VDRPT has proposed up to $224.3 million for the Dulles Corridor Bus Rapid Transit project.
Stability and Reliability of Capital Financing Plan
The Medium capital finance plan rating reflects the financial conditions of the Commonwealth of Virginia (Commonwealth) and WMATA, and the reasonableness of the capital financing plan at this stage of the BRT project. This rating reflects evaluation of only the BRT system.
Agency Capital Financial Condition: The Commonwealth and WMATA are in sound financial condition. The Commonwealth of Virginia will finance the capital development of the project through its Priority Transportation Fund and Transit Capital Fund; locally, Fairfax and Loudoun Counties will finance the project with Northern Virginia Transportation District Bonds. The Commonwealth, WMATA and Fairfax County hold AAA bond ratings from Standard and Poor’s, while Loudoun County holds an AA bond rating. The Commonwealth and Fairfax County are members of the WMATA Compact, responsible for financing the 103 mile Metrorail system.
Capital Cost Estimates and Contingencies: The capital cost estimates are sufficient for a project in preliminary engineering. The BRT has 27 percent contingency funding to handle any shortfalls in the capital funding.
Existing and Committed Funding: All funding sources for the Dulles BRT project are established, and all local funding has been committed. Section 5309 bus discretionary funds were appropriated in FY 2001.
New and Proposed Sources: No new sources of funding are proposed.
Stability and Reliability of Operating Finance Plan
The Medium operating finance plan rating reflects the ability of Fairfax and Loudoun Counties and WMATA to operate local and regional bus service, and current efforts to increase transit service in the Dulles Corridor. This rating reflects evaluation of only the BRT system.
Agency Operating Financial Condition: WMATA will operate advanced technology buses for the proposed Dulles Corridor BRT. The agency is in sound operating condition and has been experiencing a 2 percent increase in ridership annually.
Operating Cost Estimates and Contingencies: Average annual operating costs are estimated in forecast-year dollars at $48.4 million for the Dulles Corridor BRT. A detailed account of the operation and maintenance costs for the project has not been provided.
Existing and Committed Funding: The assumed farebox recovery of 40 percent from the proposed BRT service compares favorably with WMATA’s existing 51 percent farebox recovery ratio. The Commonwealth will subsidize project operations.
New and Proposed Sources: No new funding sources are proposed.