Potomac Rappahannock Transportation Commission [PRTC] held a ribbon cutting ceremony for its OmniRide Western Bus Maintenance and Storage Facility on Doan Drive, in Manassas, Wednesday. The event also celebrated 35-years of continuous PRTC commuter service to the people of Prince William County.
The new western hub means that buses will not have to travel nearly an hour from the Woodbridge facility to serve park & rides on the western end of the county, making OmniRide operate much more efficiently in serving its newer Manassas, Haymarket and Gainesville routes. Commuters now depend upon those Express routes that travel along the I-66 corridor to D.C., Arlington, Alexandria and the Pentagon.
The project will provide new travel choices and congestion relief across a 22.5 mile stretch of 1-66 from I-495 near Route 29 in Gainesville.
“This facility will permit us to provide our residents on the western end of the county - as well as the business community - with efficient, reliabl and safe OmniRide service. as well as help reduce congestion. It will also permit OmniRide to grow its western service” said Prince William Supervisor Margaret Angela Franklin, who also serves as chair of the PRTC.
The $50-million facility, which opened on June 7, can store 100 buses that will serve 4,000 park and rides spaces. Many of those lots are under construction, and may require an expanded fleet of buses.
The facility also allows for quicker repair of vehicles on the western end of the county.
“Our program is all about attaining and maintaining a state of good repair for our transit assets and improving the efficiency of our transit systems to better serve the citizens of the commonwealth, and this facility does that, for OmniRide and for the region and for the I-66 corridor,” said Jennifer DeBruhl, Chief of Public Transportation for the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation [DRPT].
“It’s eliminating the need to bring buses from Woodbridge to Manassas to start their day,” DeBruhl said, which translates to more reliable service to passenger living in Western Prince William.
Funding for the new maintenance facility came from PRTC’s various partners. The Northern Virginia Transportation Authority [NVTA] contributed $16.5 million; DRPT $10 million; and the Federal Highway Administration contributed $7.7 million. Virginia Department of Transportation’s Transform I-66 Outside the Beltway Program provided $11 million. Federal funding provided another $2.5 million. PRTC, which receives funding from Prince William County, contributed $2 million to the project.
The plans for the new facility went hand-in-hand with the plans to expand I-66, explained Perrin Palistrant, Director of Operations and Planning. They realized adding express lanes would not be possible without reliable transit along the corridor.
Bob Schneider, Executive Director of PRTC and Monica Backmon, Executive Director of NVTA, kicked off the celebration. Schneider said for the riders, the experience will be the same. For them it will be “just another ride.”
Del. Danica Roem-D of Virginia's 13th District said 2018's HB768, set a floor for the regional motor fuel tax, which increased transportation funding significantly. That funding source provided $17.86 million dollars for VRE and PRTC alone, per year. Thus, it enabled OmniRide to launch Haymarket Line within one year's time. It quickly became, "the most popular route," before Covid.
Jennifer DeBruhl, Chief Public Transportation for the Virginia Department of Rail and Public (DRPT), said the facility increases transit accessibility and makes I-66 a truly multi-mobile corridor.
Ralph Smith, representing the City of Manassas, said that the OmniRide faculty exemplifies how partnerships are supposed to work. Prince William County, the City of Manassas and the City of Manassas Park are all being served by the new facility.
“It is one of the best [bus maintenance] facilities I’ve seen,” said David Scorey, President and CEO of Keolis North America that manages transportation at OmniRide and similar services in regions all over the country.
"This project is a great example of what is happening in Virginia and especially Northern Virginia," said a representative from Sen. Mark Warner's Office.
Tour of the Facility
The maintenance garage is equippeed with cutting edge technology to make the place operate more efficiently and save space. A parts "vending machine" by Standley Vidmar, allows for tighter storage of maintenance parts. Another machine stacks and delivers tires in a similar manner.
The room receives plenty of natural light and a heated floor to help the vehicles be better maintained in the winter months.
Across the parking lot, is a new state of the art cleaning and fueling station for the vehicles. The interior of the buses are cleaned between each ride. The exteriors are cleaned almost every day weather permitting.
On the property is also a new administrative building. The first floor serves as a hub for the drivers. In addition to the service counter, it includes a lounge/break room with a comfy seating, a television and a computer. There are several small bistro tables for eating, a locker room and even a small gym area. The area is brightly decorated in blues and greens.
Down the hall and up the stairs are administrative offices and conference rooms. The facility receives natural light and has modern architectual flairs.
Plans for the Future
While COVID-19 meant ridership did not grow as expected, the OmniRide fleet is prepared for that increase in ridership.
Currently taking OmniRide on I-66 in the express lane can shave between 15-20 minutes off a trip. Once I-66 changes are completed outside the beltway, people could save much more time during their commute by taking OmniRide.
Additionally, passengers will avoid toll fees. OmniRide is exempt from tolling, so the savings are passed on to the customer. In fact, the tolls will help fund OmniRide services.
OmniRide partners are looking at the feesibility of utilizing electric buses. Alexandria has one such bus is visiting the Western Maintenance Facility, Thursday. Having electric vehicles fits with OmniRide's goal of becoming more sustainable and helping to reduce drivers' carbon footprints.
In addditional to OmniRide Express serves to destinations in Northern Virginia and D.C., OmniRide offers local routes through Dale City, Woodbridge, Lake Ridge, Dumfries, Manassas and Manassas Park.
OmniRide East-Weste Express connects Eastern Prince William County and Manassas to medical facilities, offices and shopping. OmniRide Ridesharing Services helps people find a free carpool or vanpool that meets their neeeds.
OmniRide Access is a pilot program that offers paratransit for poeple with disabilities near routes that serve Manassas and Manassas Park.