New bus to the air and space museum in Virginia


The opening of the Silver Line will create a new transit route to the big toys, including a space shuttle, on display at the Udvar-Hazy Center, south of Dulles International Airport. (Tracy A. Woodward/The Washington Post)

A traveler commenting during my online chat Monday wanted everyone to know about a new way of reaching a popular museum.

Fairfax Connector is adding a new route (983) when the Silver Line opens that will serve Dulles Airport and also the air and space museum. This will offer a great way for people to access both facilities from the Wiehle Metro station, and it will only cost $1.75, compared to the $5 it will cost to ride the Washington Flyer Bus to Dulles from the same location. It’s always good to have more transit options, so kudos to Fairfax for offering this service.

Indeed, this is good news for both tourists and the D.C. region’s residents who want to see all the big toys on display at the National Air and Space Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, just south of Dulles International Airport.

As with the other Smithsonian museums around the Mall, admission to the center is free. But it costs $15 to park there, and at times there may be a wait to get into the lot.

Public transportation options have been limited. You could take Metrobus 5A from L’Enfant Plaza to Dulles International Airport, then pick up a Virginia Regional Transit “Dulles to Dulles” bus, which stops at the museum. But the option suggested by the chat commenter offers some potential advantages.

Museum-goers will be able to ride Metrorail to the new Wiehle-Reston East station on the Silver Line, then take the new Fairfax Connector route, which stops at both the airport and the museum. A rider who boards a Silver Line train at the Smithsonian station will have a 44-minute trip to the station at Wiehle Avenue on the east side of the Reston area. The fare will be $5.90 at peak and $3.60 off-peak. (Those are the SmarTrip fares that will be in effect after the system-wide fare increases on June 29. It doesn’t include the $1 surcharge each time a paper farecard is used.)

Fairfax Connector Route 983 will pick up passengers at the garage on the north side of the Wiehle-Reston East station. It will run seven days a week. See a pdf version of the schedule. The bus fare with a SmarTrip card or cash will be $1.75. (That’s the fare change taking effect July 1.) But a Metrorail rider making the transfer to the bus with a SmarTrip card would pay $1.25. So the total one-way transit fare would be $7.15 peak or $4.74 off-peak.

If it’s a family outing to the museum, people still may prefer to drive, but the transit option is looking better.

Now, of course, the question is when will it be available. Metro General Manager Richard Sarles said he hopes to announce a start date for the Silver Line on Monday, but it depends on the contractor completing some tasks.

Tom Biesiadny, director of the Fairfax County Department of Transportation, which manages the Fairfax Connector bus system, said the county has an understanding with Metro that it will have 30 days warning on the opening of the Silver Line. Bus drivers and staff have been trained on all the new routes, but “we need 30 days to gear up,” Biesiadny said Wednesday.

While the exact date is uncertain, a summertime opening is very likely. On Day One of the Silver Line service, the Fairfax Connector system will undergo a tremendous change. See information about all the routes on the Fairfax County Web site.

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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