Thursday, June 26, 2014

Silver Line Opens Month From Today

Not a Silver Line train; they're all above ground.
Since I moved into the District, there have been just a few major additions to the WMATA Metrorail system. In November 2004 an infill station was added to the Red Line between Union Station and Rhode Island Avenue. At the time, the new stop was known as New York Ave–Florida Ave–Gallaudet U, and was even considered as a possible location for the new Washington Nationals stadium. Nats Park was constructed in Southeast and now the area around the station is known as"NoMa."

About one month after that opening, the Blue Line extension form Addison Road to Largo Town Center was completed. The areas around Morgan Boulevard and Largo Town Center stations haven't had the same type of build-up as NoMa, but fall in line closer to what already exists in Prince George's County; suburban style development.

That's it. No major additions to the system in nearly ten years. However, one month from today, on July 26th, the Silver Line is scheduled to open. The first Silver Line trains are scheduled to leave the Wiehle-Reston East station in Fairfax, VA at noon, headed to Maryland via downtown DC. From that point forward, the Silver Line will operate just like the other five lines. Same hours, same rules, same cars.

I'm really excited! First of all, I just love trains of any kind; heavy rail, light rail, Amtrak, commuter. And second, as the region grows, I love to see plans for infrastructure (especially transportation) adjust/grow/change/move accordingly. I haven't been to Tysons Corner in a while... maybe more than one year. And although I don't anticipate using the Silver Line on a regular basis, I can't stress how huge I think this will go towards making an impact on the District. From job hunters living in the District getting new options in Virginia to tourists who ditch the rental car to Metro into the city for fun; there are a lot of possibilities. Yes, there are challenges, too, including reduced service for some one-train-to-downtown trips on the Blue and Orange Lines, as well as new riders having to adjust to using Metro more regularly. Hopefully, those will be overcome in time (preferably with more infrastructure development).


Stations: There are five new stations over eleven miles of new track. Four are clumped together in "downtown Tysons": McLean, Tysons Corner, Greensboro, and Spring Hill. Wiehle-Reston East station is the terminus and it lies a few miles west

Sample trip # 1: A trip between the Tysons Corner station and Columbia Heights will take 48 minutes, including 5 minutes for a transfer. Add in the walk from Mount Pleasant and that's about an hour trip from our neighborhood to, say, Tysons Corner Center shopping mall. Using SmarTrip, that journey will cost $5.15 during rush hour and $3.60 other times.

Sample trip #2: Walk to Columbia Heights Station (10 minutes) + take Metro from Columbia Heights to Wiehle-Reston East station (60 minutes) + Fairfax Connector Bus 981 to Dulles Airport (40 minutes - including 10 minutes waiting for bus) = 2 hour door-to-door trip from Mount Pleasant to Dulles International Airport. Including the rail-to-bus discount (using SmarTrip) that journey would cost $7.00 during rush hour and $4.70 other times.

Sample Trip #3: Your in-laws & parents are staying at the Sheraton Tysons Hotel and Residence Inn Tysons Hotel, respectively. No way you are driving there to pick them up during rush hour. They decide to ride Metro to Penn Quarter and meet you for dinner. The trip from Spring Hill Station to Archives-Navy Memorial station takes 45 minutes. Since they're using paper farecards, not SmarTrip, the cost for each  person would be $6.35 during rush hour, and $4.60 all other times.

Buses: Fairfax County has all collected all of the bus changes related to the Silver Line opening onto one page. One of the new Fairfax Connector buses will take Silver Line riders form Wiehle Ave station to Dulles Airport every 20 minutes during the day. Cool!

Rail cars: Sorry, we won't be riding the new 7000 series cars for a while. It would have been really cool to have the cars debut at the Silver Line opening, but they won't even be in production yet. Metro is still running the pilot models through the gauntlet before ordering the final cars. Look for them later this calendar year, on all lines.