Prince William County transportation planners are hoping that a shuttle service will eventually draw housing and other development to Innovation Park near Manassas.
With a grant from the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, the county will conduct a feasibility study for a service that would connect the area around George Mason University’s Science and Technology Campus – dubbed an “activity center” – and the Broad Run Virginia Railway Express station.
The study will run from this July until June 2022 and ultimately produce ridership estimates, a cost analysis and an implementation strategy. After that, Department of Transportation planner Meagan Landis said, the county could pursue funding and implementation.
“It’ll identify points of interest within the town center. So it’ll look at what businesses are coming and what’s there already, like the George Mason University campus, and where the ridership would be coming from, and then establishing kind of origin and destination points,” Landis said. “The idea is that the shuttle service would run on a continuous frequency between those points of interest. You could take the VRE … and then hop on the shuttle to get anywhere in Innovation Town Center.”
In December, the Board of County Supervisors adopted the Innovation Park small-area plan in hopes of eventually turning the area next to the GMU campus into a mixed-use, science and technology-oriented employment hub. The county is also planning for a pedestrian-oriented town center with student housing and office space.
Transit service would encourage more development to materialize, Landis said.
“Right now you have people that either are coming in from the inner jurisdictions and they’re looking at a long trip on [Interstate] 66, or vice versa,” she added. “There’s not a lot of ... that type of dense housing because there’s not a transit solution.”
The Department of Transportation is also hoping to use the study to analyze the feasibility of autonomous shuttle services.
The county hopes that the area will eventually become an economic and residential hub of clustered, dense development that can support a transit option. According to planning department estimates, the district could eventually house between 19,000 and 39,000 jobs, as well as 2,400 to 4,000 housing units. At last count, 696 people currently live in the area, just west of the Manassas city limits.
The county’s project description notes that nearly 70% of Prince William residents commute outside of the county for employment, primarily by car. “The current data and the projected growth demonstrate the need for strategic, intentional development in activity centers to minimize impacts to the local and regional transportation networks and achieve the region’s climate goals.”