The Department of Defense and City of Alexandria opened the new DASH Mark Center Express Service with a ribbon cutting ceremony Tuesday at the Mark Center Station in Alexandria, Va.

Numerous representatives from DoD and the city helped provided a formal introduction to the new DASH Mark Center Express Service.

The bus shuttle is a direct service from the King Street Metro Station to the Mark Center with no intermediate stops.

The service, which allows DoD Mark Center personnel to ride the buses free of charge, is intended to help reduce traffic congestion around the Base Realignment and Closure Act facility.

DoD is paying for the servicing and refurbishing of four DASH buses, which the Alexandria Transit Company will use to transport Mark Center personnel in 10 minute increments during peak hours of the weekday.

"The provision of this enhanced transit service demonstrates that through a cooperative approach DoD and the city can find effective measures to help mitigate the traffic impacts of the BRAC 133 facility," said William Euille, mayor, City of Alexandria.

Passengers can use the service to connect to various mass transit options such as the Virginia Railway Express, the Amtrak station and the Richmond Highway Express.

It's estimated that the service will transport 20 percent of the approximately 6,000 Mark Center employees.

Partnership was the theme of the ceremony.

Representatives from the Alexandria city council, DoD and the Alexandria Transit Company congratulated each side for working towards creating a viable option to reducing traffic around the city.

William Brazis, Washington Headquarters Services director, said the DASH Express is a beacon of hope as WHS, ATC and DoD continue to develop solutions for traffic.

He called the early feedback from the DASH service resounding.

"The quality, the timeliness and the reliability of the service provided by DASH is outstanding," Brazis said.

Euille is confident that Alexandria and DoD will improve traffic conditions citing a previous collaboration to enhance transit services as evidence. He also stated that DoD has committed $20 million for roadway improvements around the area of the Mark Center. The road construction will happen during the next two years.

"DASH is very proud to be part of this partnership," said Sandy Modell, ATC general manager. "It's very important for us and the city overall and for the employees that come here on a daily basis."
The DASH Express officially began service in August, which coincided with the opening of the Mark Center.

Modell said the October ceremony was a celebration of the partnership between city and DoD.
Ridership for the DASH Express began slowly with an average of 44 people riding daily, and a total of 220 passengers during the first week.

"It was a little boring for the drivers," Modell said.

The express service has seen a progressive increase in riders since that time.

Modell said the ridership two weeks ago was approximately 220 people daily with a more than a 1,000 passengers by the week's end.

ATC will consider increasing service if the current passenger rate continues.

"If that's the only problem we have ... we'll be in pretty good shape," Modell said.

The Mark Center was built as part of BRAC 133. The facility is part of Fort Belvoir and is home to WHS, and a number of other DoD agencies. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers constructed the environmentally friendly facility which will use 30 percent less energy and 50 percent less water.

The Mark Center also encourages bicycling as the building has 300 on-site bicycle racks. There are also showers available to employees.