Will VRE Be Extended to Nokesville… and Beyond??

vrelocoPrince William County says “maybe,” and Fauquier County says “yes” – but in February 2014, VRE decided the answer was “not before the year 2040, if ever.”

The Comprehensive Plan of Prince William County and the current long-range plan for the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) both propose extending VRE, but the extension would go west to Gainesville-Haymarket.  There are no plans by Prince William or VRE to provide commuter service south of the Broad Run station at the Manassas Airport.1

Prince William did leave a tiny crack in the door. The map of Future Transit Alternatives (after 2030…) includes a Transitway (Transit Mode – TBD) south of Broad Run, along with a light rail system north on Manassas on Route 28, plus extension of Metrorail Orange Line to Gainesville and Blue Line to Potomac Mills.  Any source of funding for such pipe dreams was conveniently ignored…2

Back in 2003, VRE’s long-range plan did propose extending commuter rail service past Broad Run to Nokesville and Bealeton/Remington.  The Fauquier County Comprehensive Plan still reflects that dream. However, the VRE System Plan 2040 (issued in 2014) abandoned previous plans to extend the commuter rail system south into Fauquier County.  Instead of listing grandiose visions as if money might appear miraculously during the next 25 years, the 2014 plan chose to be realistic about priorties and to “focus on markets within the existing service area.”3

VRE made a smart decision.

VRE’s Operations Board decision to build its capacity within its existing service area increases the potential of converting the commuter rail system into a transit system.

Currently, VRE carries commuters leaving Prince William to jobs closer to the urban core, then back again.  Last train into DC from Broad Run leaves before 8:00am.  In the morning, only one train leaves DC to bring anyone out to Manassas.  In contrast, the Orange Line Metrorail trains operate every 15 minutes between 5:00am-11:30pm.

For Prince William to shift from a bedroom community and attract employers who provide jobs near current housing, the county needs to provide reliable access for workers in other jurisdictions to get to high-paying jobs in Prince William.   In the future, access to jobs via transit will be essential; in the Rosslyn-Ballston corridor, 12% of residents do not own a car now.4

Commuter rail service does not stimulate new economic development. In contrast, regular transit service on Metrorail spurs high-density development, underway now in Tysons and Reston, and results in jobs being located near Metrorail stations.

A key method for Prince William to lower property taxes and cure the traffic congestion headache is to attract employers to the county, eliminating the long commutes that start before 6:00am.

VRE does nothing to attract new jobs so long as it is just a commuter rail system. Expanding VRE service south to Nokesville and Remington/Bealeton would spread the resources of the system too thin. Focusing on the existing rail service area increases the potential to expand service throughout the day, trigger revitalization near existing stations, and attract employers with high-paying jobs to Prince William.

vrethe 2030 Transit Improvement Map shows VRE stopping at Broad Run, with expansion directed to Gainesville/Haymarket


Footnotes
1. “Transportation Chapter – Comprehensive Plan,” Prince William County, March 2013, p.TRANS-63, http://www.pwcgov.org/government/dept/planning/Pages/Comprehensive-Planning.aspx; “2008 Comprehensive Plan 2030 Transit Improvement Map,” Prince William County, February 2, 2010, http://www.pwcgov.org/government/dept/planning/zoning/Pages/Maps-and-Publications.aspx
2. “Future Transit Alternatives,” 2008 Comprehensive Plan Maps, Prince William County, February 2, 2010, http://eservice.pwcgov.org/planning/documents/MAP_10U1_2008CP_FutureTransitAlt5280.pdf
3.VRE Strategic Plan – Phase 2 Report,” pp.82-84, http://www.vre.org/about/strategic/StratPlan_Sect5.pdf; “Virginia Railway Express System Plan 2040 Study,” Virginia Railway Express (VRE), February 2014, p.36, http://www.vre.org/about/strategic/strategic_plan.htm; “Chapter 10 – Transportation” in Fauquier County Comprehensive Plan, last updated February 18, 2010, p.24, http://www.fauquiercounty.gov/Government/Departments/CommDev/includes/compplan/chapter10/chapter10.pdf
4. “40 Years of Transit Oriented Development,” A Presentation to the Reston Land Use Task Force by the Robert Brosnan, February 23, 2010, http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/dpz/projects/reston/arlington_experience_w_tod.pdf

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