Cutting Dulles Airport Metrobus now doesn’t make sense

September 23, 2013

One of the Silver Line test trains operates near the Wiehle-Reston East station. (Chuck Samuelson/Dulles Metrorail Corridor Project)

Metro held six public hearings last week on proposals to change dozens of Metrobus routes. Some are good ideas, some not so good. I got a letter this morning about a District proposal that’s downright bad:

I saw in your recent column that Metro is considering ending 5A bus service before the Silver Line opens to Dulles.  I was unable to go to the hearing on this, but I have to say that I think it is a horrible idea.
Metro needs to take into account that people who make this trip are carrying luggage, sometimes lots of luggage. Most people, including myself, will have to switch lines at Metro Center to get to the Silver Line.
Getting rid of the 5A will mean one additional exit from a train and two escalators with bags.  When you are going on or returning from a long international trip that is just that much more travel exhaustion.
Now I take Yellow Line or Green Line to L’Enfant (although getting bags out of or on to L’Enfant is challenging as well). The 5A is the most convenient and inexpensive way to get to Dulles.  Metro shouldn’t be changing this service at all until they have a line all the way out to Dulles.
– Mitchell Polman, the District

DG: I hope that particular proposal won’t make it past the Metro board, which will need to review all the proposed changes this fall. The process itself is a good one. It allows the transit authority to conduct periodic reviews of Metrobus service throughout the resources. This makes sense, since bus routes are more flexible than train lines, and they should be adjusted to put the service where it does the most good for people.

The proposal to end the 5A service between L’Enfant Plaza and Dulles International Airport came from the District Department of Transportation. The idea is a few years ahead of its time. Once the second phase of the Silver Line is completed, Metrorail will link the airport with downtown D.C. But only the first phase of the Silver Line will open early next year, providing train service to the Wiehle Avenue station in the Reston area, where airport-bound passengers would need to board a bus.

We want people to be able to take transit to the airport. Why make that more difficult than it already is?

See also: Prince George’s residents, officials criticize Metro’s plan for National Harbor bus line

Monday’s online chat: Join me at noon for our weekly discussion of traffic and transit issues in the D.C. region. You can submit questions and comments now.

Robert Thomson is The Washington Post’s “Dr. Gridlock.” He answers travelers’ questions, listens to their complaints and shares their pain on the roads, trains and buses in the Washington region.
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Ashley Halsey III · September 23, 2013