Embedded within the Herndon Metro Station Area Plan is specific language instructing town staff to solicit Fairfax County for an improved transit system to transport commuters from the proposed new station into Herndon.
Last month, the Herndon Town Council officially approved a comprehensive plan amendment that allows enough transit-oriented development to be built in the next 25 years to accommodate about 15,000 employees and 4,700 residents — plus retail services to support a new community around a Metro station scheduled to go online in 2017.
Getting all those additional people around town, while mitigating their traffic footprint, is the focus of the language within that segment of the approved plan.
“Overall, we essentially want to minimize traffic impacts and public costs while maximizing transit-oriented development features and benefits to the town,” said Lisa Gilleran, Herndon’s Director of Community Development.
Two Herndon residents —one a former town councilman and the other the town’s vice mayor — have come up with a plan on how to accomplish this task.
The Herndon Internal Transportation System (HITS) was developed by former councilman Richard Downer and Vice Mayor Lisa Merkel, who said they got the idea from researching prior bus routes that used to run through the town.
They eventually proposed two new internal bus routes that could transport commuters from the proposed Metro station to downtown and other key population and commercial hubs throughout the town.
“HITS would give residents access to frequent, reliable public transportation to Metro, which gets people out of their cars and in turn lessens the burden on our roads and neighborhoods, particularly in the neighborhoods adjacent to the Metro Station area,” Merkel said.
According to Merkel, the bus system is designed to be accessible to the majority of the town’s residential areas, businesses and restaurants by having its stops all virtually within a quarter mile — or at most a half mile — of every major area of town.
“Properly planned and executed, and coupled with innovative ventures such as Capital Bike Share and Zip Cars, HITS could put Herndon on the map as the greenest station on the Silver Line; a suburban community where car-free living is a possibility,” Merkel said.
As for the cost, the plan nondescriptly calls for a combination of funding from the town, county, private developers and user revenues.
“State and Federal transportation grants would also be explored,” Merkel said.
Developer Bill Lauer, president of Tetra Partners, sees the system as a boon for the revitalization of Herndon.
“As a Metro commuter coming off the train into the Herndon station, I certainly hope, since I don’t have an automobile, that I will be able to go to town on a bus system,” he said hypothetically.
“The bus system is important to more than just the Metro commuter, however. It is also a marvelous vehicle to revitalize the downtown, give Herndon citizens a way to get around without a car and better utilize the new Metro station.”
According to officials, the town is considering HITS as a potential reality.
“For now, HITS remains in a study and discovery mode,” Gilleran said. “But it certainly is one possibility to link commercial hubs such as Elden Street, the downtown and Worldgate Drive with the proposed Metro station.”
Gilleran said Herndon soon will act in seeking county assistance in achieving some sort of internal transit system, be it HITS or perhaps an extension of the already existing Fairfax Connector bus system.
“Advocating for Fairfax County to include HITS as a portion of the Fairfax Connector routes planned for Phase 2 gives the Herndon residents and businesses transportation services tailored to our needs, paid for by the tax dollars Herndon property owners send to Fairfax County every year,” Merkel said.