Loudoun County will begin exploring the feasibility of expanding its commuter bus service into the county from jurisdictions to the west and north, according to the May 17 staff report.
The Board of Supervisors passed the matter on consent Tuesday, authorizing staff to develop a work plan and funding options for the proposal.
Supervisor Matt Letourneau, R-Dulles, brought the idea forward to support Loudoun businesses and the workforce traveling to and from the county, but also potential employees.
“We hear about workforce issues from our employers, we certainly hear about congestion and traffic, we know about the environmental concerns,” Letourneau said.
“So, if there is a place or two in the county where we could have a critical mass of folks that are going in the same direction — whether that be Winchester or Frederick, Md., or Jefferson County or so on — I really think it would be a great idea for us to start looking into providing that service,” he said.
Loudoun-based businesses have been challenged with recruiting and retaining employees due to the costs of living within the county and other northern Virginia jurisdictions continues to increase, according to the staff report.
With the limited commuting options from such areas, the report also stated that offering commuter bus service into Loudoun would help support county employers by leveraging the transportation service to workers and potential employees with concerns of limited access to transportation, rising commuting costs, and traffic congestion.
Chairwoman Phyllis Randall, D-At Large, said she appreciated the idea and hopes the board will also discuss using the proposed service for recreation and leisure opportunities.
“If people want to come into those areas of the county for recreation and leisure without having to bring the car, it’s a great place to do it and a great way to use the system,” Randall said.
The board directed staff in its feasibility analysis to include a survey of Loudoun- based businesses and their employees to determine where their workforce is commuting from, the level of interest in utilizing the service, and the desired destinations within the county, the staff report states.
Additionally, staff will also need to evaluate the availability of commuter parking lots in the originating locations to ensure that sufficient capacity is available to meet the demand and identify the fares necessary to fund the service.
The idea comes at a time when the board has been increasing the availability of affordable housing options and the anticipated opening of Silver Line Phase 2.
Staff said in its report that riders may shift from commuter bus onto Metrorail and likely lead to continued excess capacity within the commuter bus fleet.
Commuter bus ridership was between 3,300 and 4,650 riders per day on 53 buses over 115 routes prior to the service being shut down due to the COVID pandemic, the staff report states. Ridership has only returned to 9% of pre-pandemic levels and the service is operating 49 routes requiring 31 buses.