Even before the first station on the Dulles Metrorail extension has opened, Metro is worried that the time required to ride all the way to Dulles would discourage flyers from using the new rail option to get to the airport. Among the ideas to combat that is a new express line that would run parallel to the Orange Line with fewer stops, Metro said Thursday.
A trip from Metro Center to Dulles will be 52 minutes, compared with 17 minutes from Metro Center to National Airport. That means riders can expect to sit on Metro for more than an hour and a half. If they planned on making a transfer downtown after a late incoming flight, they’d have to be on board the Silver Line at Dulles by 11 or so on weeknights.
Planners note that some riders who will take Metro to Dulles live in the Virginia suburbs, including near yet-to-be-built stations. Their trips would be a quicker. A lot of the time spent getting all the way out to the suburbs is spent stopping at frequent stations in the inner core of Alexandria and Arlington.
But Metro can’t run express trains that would bypass some stations because they’d get caught up by regular-service trains, especially during rush hour. And there is no room in stations or tunnels to build another set of tracks. It would be easier, planners say, to build another line that travels the same area as the Orange Line from downtown and continued on the Dulles.
The line could start near Dupont Circle and include a Green/Yellow transfer at Mount Vernon; a station near Farragut North, including a ”virtual tunnel,” and a stop in Georgetown. Then it would stop near the existing Rosslyn station, shoot directly to East Falls Church, and then branch off to the new Tysons Corner stations.
In the end, though, planners say the result of all this would be a 10-minute reduction in travel time by eliminating Court House, Clarendon, Virginia Square and Ballston stations. Metro is considering its options as part of its Regional Transit System Plan.