OmniRide hopes to take advantage of the upcoming 66 Outside the Beltway toll lanes, and for the first time, its riders could enjoy single-seat trips in the Dulles area by the end of the year.
The transit provider hopes to launch a commuter route that would take riders from Balls Ford Road to the Innovation Center Silver Line subway stop in December, using the nearly completed I-66 Outside the Beltway toll lanes. The proposal is part of a series of adjustments and increased bus service designed to take advantage of the new lanes, which are expected to open by December.
The service would take passengers from Balls Ford Road in Manassas to the Innovation Center stop, then to several employment centers in the area before terminating at the US Geological Survey headquarters in Reston.
At the Innovation Center, passengers will be one subway station away from Dulles Airport once the Silver Line extension opens – expected this fall – and the line will intersect several Fairfax Connector routes. Runners can also take the subway from this stop to Tysons, Arlington or Washington.
Omniride executive director Bob Schneider said that for commuters traveling from the Manassas area to Herndon and Reston, the bus will either be faster than a solo ride in the toll-free lanes or cheaper than to drive on the toll lanes.
“Do you want to go to the airport?” No problem. Balls Ford Road, next stop, hop on the subway and you now have access that works for airport workers,” Schneider told InsideNoVa. “It gives you employer access, retail worker access, airport job access…and the route is anchored at USGS, and that’s one of the major employers that we’re trying to tap into.”
The route was recommended by the State Department of Railroads and Transit’s 2020 Report on I-66 Corridor Transit Options. While the report recommended the line operate 10 buses per peak period, Schneider said it would begin operating three northbound buses in the morning and three southbound in the afternoon each day. The state report was released in February 2020, before the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted travel patterns in the region.
Of the. Danica Roem, a regular supporter of increased transit service in western Prince William County, said she has been pushing for a similar line since the toll lanes opened.
“From the moment someone leaves Balls Ford, they won’t hit another traffic light…until they get to Dulles,” Roem told InsideNoVa. “And because the bus can use the toll lanes, it will reduce costs for people…and it will also have a speed factor.”
Other route changes
In other changes, the transit provider is looking to increase the frequency of service on its local 65 Manassas route, running buses every 45 minutes on the line rather than every 90, the current schedule. It would also be split into two branches: a 65N line would run from the west hub of OmniRide and Northern Virginia Community College to just outside Manassas and restore service to the Manassas Mall, and a 65B line would run between the hub west and the new suburban Balls Ford Terrain. The branch would also serve residential areas along Coverstone Drive west of Ashton Avenue.
Public hearings for these and other service changes will take place in the coming weeks. They come as OmniRide continues to regain ridership that was lost after the pandemic began. OmniRide’s local, commuter and Metro Express lines carried more than 6,000 passengers on average during weekdays in May, up from 3,400 in May 2021. The biggest gains this year also came from commuter service from the operator.
Sunday service on local roads is also expected to begin for the first time in late August.