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More people riding commuter and express buses in Interstate 66 corridor, new report shows

Commuter and express bus routes in the Interstate 66 corridor are showing increases in ridership due to tolling and new service funded by the I-66 Commuter Choice program, according to a June report by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission (NVTC).

The report said that from February 2017 to February 2018, express bus ridership grew by 8 percent. The Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission’s (PRTC) OmniRide that serves Prince William County, Manassas and Manassas Park riders experienced an average weekday ridership increase of 58 percent. The Fairfax Connector experienced an increase of 32 percent.

Only Loudoun County Transit’s I-66 corridor routes decreased—by 12 percent.

Bus travel times have become more reliable as traffic conditions on I-66 improved.

“Vehicular speed on I-66 inside the Beltway increased by 15 percent from February 2017 to February 2018. Available data and anecdotal evidence strongly suggest that running times of express bus services using I-66 have also improved,” notes the report.

It points to PRTC’s OmniRide as an example. “Prior to tolling, OmniRide was using I-495 express lanes and I-395 HOV lanes for services from western Prince William County to the Pentagon, instead of I-66 and Route 110, because they offered comparable travel time and greater reliability. After tolling started, OmniRide switched these services to I-66 and Route 110 due to improved run-time reliability and time savings.”

“It is encouraging to see that NVTC’s I-66 Commuter Choice program is having a positive effect on travel in the corridor, helping to move more people faster and more reliably,” NVTC Executive Director Kate Mattice was quoted as saying in a news release.

“As additional bus service and transit-related improvements come online at the end of this year and in early 2019, we expect to see express and commuter bus ridership continue to grow,” she added.

Metrorail ridership also was up, though the report indicates that it is “difficult to discern the influence of I-66 tolling from these statistics.” Metrorail’s average weekday ridership in the corridor in February 2018, the third month of tolling, was 4 percent higher than February 2017. During the same period, however, Virginia Railway Express’ average weekday ridership dropped by 5 percent.

The NVTC report highlights the need for more information to evaluate the impact of tolling on the I-66 Commuter Choice program and, more broadly, public transportation services along the I-66 corridor.

NVTC says it will continue to work with regional and jurisdictional partners to monitor the performance of public transportation services in the corridor. NVTC also recommends periodic mode-share surveys of people throughout in the corridor and regular, biannual collection of ridership statistics for public transportation serving the corridor.

The I-66 Commuter Choice program, a 40-year partnership between NVTC and the Commonwealth of Virginia, uses toll revenues to fund transit, transportation demand management services, and related technological and roadway improvements.

To date, 10 projects have qualified for $9.8 million through the program. Another 15 projects, requesting a total of $12 million, are awaiting approval from the Commonwealth Transportation Board tomorrow, June 20.

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