The first phase of the $5.6 billion Silver Line opened Saturday, connecting Tysons Corner and Reston to the Metrorail system, but its first rush of commuters came Monday morning. The line’s first phase includes 11.4 miles in Fairfax County, with the second phase the connects to Dulles International Airport and into Loudoun County expected to open in 2018.
It’s the first morning rush after the launch of the Silver Line from Reston to Largo. Here’s what you need to know to get to work even if you’re not taking the new train, from Dr. Gridlock:
Silver Line — Silver Line trains will run every six minutes between Wiehle-Reston East and Largo Town Center during rush hour. During non-rush periods, the trains will run every 12 to 20 minutes. Here’s where to park at each of the six new stations.
Orange Line — As of Monday, there will be no more Rush Plus service on the Orange Line.
During the morning rush, the number of trains between Vienna and West Falls Church will drop from 19 to 11, so expect to see a train about once every 5.5 minutes instead of once every 3.5 minutes. With fewer trains, the platforms probably will be more crowded than they were on Friday.
Between East Falls Church and Stadium-Armory, the number of trains is the same as before: 26 per hour. But if your morning commute takes you beyond Stadium-Armory and out toward New Carrollton, you will have fewer trains. The number of outbound trains on that section of track drops from 14 to 11 per hour, or about one every 5.5 minutes. If you’re traveling from New Carrollton toward downtown, you will have the same number of trains during the rush you have today: 10 per hour, or one every six minutes.
Key things to remember during the afternoon rush: Watch the destination signs on the trains. If you’re heading west, the Orange Line destination signs will say either “Vienna” or “East Falls Church.” If those Vienna-bound trains look too crowded, consider boarding one for East Falls Church and waiting on the East Falls Church platform for what would then be a less-crowded Vienna train. Heading east from downtown, the Orange Line destination signs will say either “New Carrollton” or “Largo.” There will be three fewer “New Carrollton” trains per hour than there were on Friday.
Blue and Line — Just as on Friday, 10 trains per hour are scheduled to leave Franconia-Springfield each peak hour, but the alignment will be different: The Yellow Line is up to 15 trains and the Blue Line is down to five. Half of the Blue Line trains in service during peak periods will be eight cars long. If your destination is on the far west side of the District, or you transfer at Rosslyn to take a westbound Orange Line train, you’ve got less service. And Blue Line trains will only come every 12 minutes.
Because there will be more frequent Yellow Line trains, maybe you want to think about taking the Yellow Line to L’Enfant Plaza and transferring to either a Blue or Orange Line train. Lori Aratani explored the possibilities for the transfer option. You give up the one-train trip, but you may find yourself on two less crowded trains, while saving time overall.
Same situation heading home from downtown in the afternoon: If it’s a long time till the next Blue Line train, or if you’re finding the Blue Line trains extra crowded, consider going to L’Enfant Plaza and taking a Yellow Line train. The next-train signs on platforms served by the Blue Line will always give an arrival time for a Blue Line train, even if it isn’t one of the next three.
See also: Bus options for Blue Line riders.
Yellow Line — The two trains added to the Yellow Line are Rush Plus, so they will continue north to Greenbelt, rather than terminating at Mount Vernon Square, as the regular Yellow Line trains do during the peak. If Greenbelt is the station you start from in the morning, you’ve got more trains heading downtown than you did on Friday. Heading home in the afternoon from downtown, Yellow Line riders have more service than they did on Friday.
Green Line — There’s no change in the number of trains on the Green Line. But riders in central Washington will notice more Yellow Line trains passing through the stations shared by the two lines.
Red Line — No change at all. It’s the one line that has the track all to itself.
The Silver Line has finally arrived, with four stations in Tyson’s Corner. So now will people actually move there? A 404-unit, 25-story high rise apartment building that opened in April, the first of its kind in the area, is a test case.
Tysons already has a city’s worth of office space, shopping and jobs. But it has hardly any people. In 2010, when the county passed a nearly 250-page plan calling for the urbanization of Tysons, only about 17,000 people lived there. That’s up to 21,228 according to the latest estimate. Still, there are 3.39 employees there for every resident — more than double the ratio in Arlington.
The county’s plan for a Metro-accessible, urban Tysons calls for 100,000 residents, and Henry’s building is the first of more than a dozen major projects and more than 10,000 apartments or condos targeted for empty parking lots and industrial properties surrounding the Metro stations.1
The calm before the storm: Silver Line at Tysons Corner empty for now before the crush of commuters. pic.twitter.com/PmZyHi4cAp
— T. Rees Shapiro (@TReesShapiro) July 28, 2014
The metal gates at the Tysons Corner station opened at 4:52 a.m. Monday for the first day of commuter travel on the Silver Line.
The whir of the station’s escalators broke the morning quiet on the platform that stood empty before the earliest passengers arrived.
Gilbert Bernardo was the first one. A dental technician at the VA medical center in the District, he decided to try the Silver Line Monday for the stress-free commute.
“I live close by so I’m going to try this and see how long it takes,” Bernardo said, who normally drives to work.
At 5:12, he was among a dozen riders to board the first train leaving Tysons for the District.
Standing on the other side of the platform were Pauline Kelly and Karen Oltmanns, waiting for the first eastbound train toward Reston. They were the only two to board the train when it arrived at 5:19.
“I’m excited because it seems like it’s been a long time coming,” said Oltmanns, who works at a nursing home. “It seems surreal that it’s finally open.”
Jonathan Winebarger, 29, woke up at 3:40 a.m. Monday to begin his commute from Gainesville. A clinical manager at the Georgetown University hospital, he took the Omni ride bus to Tysons in order to take the Metro. He expected his entire commute to take an hour and a half.
“I have high expectations,” said Winebarger. With Beats headphones draped around his neck, Winebarger said he enjoyed listening to a Pandora station tuned to classical piano to ease him into the day. “I decided to take public transportation because it offered me a lot more time to get ready for the day.”
– T. Rees Shapiro
Chuck Ramey left his car parked in his Ashburn driveway on a work day for the first time ever Monday, swapping his sometimes two-hour drive to Ballston for a hoped-for 50-minute ride on the Silver Line. That is, if the train and two shuttles that will take him there all run on time.
“I told people at work, ‘We’ll see how the adventure goes, I’m taking Metro,’” said Ramey, a manager at a defense healthcare agency where most of his colleagues drive to the office. “I think some of them were jealous.”
So far so good, he said even though he barely missed a Silver Line train as he charged his SmartTrip card. The bright digital sign in the gleaming Wiehle-Reston East station said the next would be along in 12 minutes. Ramey reckons the cost will be comparable to what he now spends in gas. But whatever the calculations of time and money, he is delighted to have an alternative to sitting on the dreaded Dulles Toll Road.
“For me, even if the time is similar, I’m not driving. I’m doing this,” he said, holding up his a digital copy W.E.B. Griffith’s “The Hunters” on his tablet.
For now, his trek starts with a 15-minute bus ride to Reston. But when the new tracks finally reach Loudoun County in a few years, Ramey will achieve commuter Nirvana: waking each morning a brief walk to the Loudoun metro station.
– Steve Hendrix
Elsie Isaac, of District Heights, Md., was one of just two people waiting to enter the Silver Line’s Spring Hill station when it opened at 5 a.m.
She stood on a platform as red streaks started to creep across the Tysons skyline.
The statistical assistant had faced a daunting two-hour commute each day to the United States Geological Survey in Reston until now.
Her husband would drive her to the Tysons bus park, where she would catch the 427 bus and then transfer to the 951, before arriving at work.
She estimated the Silver Line would knock 30 minutes off her commute.
“I’m really excited by this,” Isaac said. “I like it. The station is nice and quiet.”
As the sun rose behind him at the new Tyson Corner Silver Line station, Julio Campos hustled to his job as an engineer at one of the local construction sites. The newly switched-up train and bus scene will likely slow down his commute, predicted the 29-year-old.
He was just last week assigned to a job site on Route 7 in West Falls Church. Under the old rubric, he used to be able to walk three minutes from his house in Reston to the Herndon/Monroe Park & Ride bus stop and go directly to West Falls Church. Now, he says, the route changed and he has to take the bus to the Wiehle-Reston East Metro, take the train to Tysons and then a bus to West Falls Church.
Today is the first day of the new commute, but he was skeptical. And he’ll be on this job at least six months.
“For most people who work in D.C. this is better, but it’s bad for people trying to get around here,” he said as he rode the escalator up to head out into the day. “We’ll see. I guess today is trial and error for everyone.”
– Michelle Boorstein
The view from the Silver Line platform is quite nice at the Spring Hill station pic.twitter.com/CNBH3LCEw6
— justin jouvenal (@jjouvenal) July 28, 2014
Stuart Shlafer had no choice but to commute on the Silver Line Monday morning.
The Falls Church resident has no car and the 425 or 427 buses he normally took to work at Freddie Mac were discontinued as part of the Silver Line rollout.
Shlafer estimated his commute would increase from 10 minutes on the bus to 20 minutes on the Silver Line.
Yet, he said he was not upset, shortly after stepping off a train at the Spring Hill station.
“We all sacrifice and the sacrifice is not all that great,” Shlafer said. “Metro also has advantages that the bus doesn’t have: I can get to work when it snows and traffic is not an issue.”
He said there were no glitches on his first morning rush commute — fare machines, escalators and gates all worked perfectly.
The streets around Reston were still sleepy pre-dawn, a handful of cars streaking down the empty roads, but the nascent Wiehle-Reston East station was already welcoming haggard and rushed Metro riders early Monday morning. The station — still in the process of shedding its shell of scaffolding — was ringed with neon-vested personnel waving cars into the empty, clean lot, with handfuls of docents milling around each of the entrances, pointing travelers from the garage to the direction of the platform.
Fairfax Connector passengers making their way from the new drop-off at Wiehle to the Silver Line… http://t.co/D7lSbm90Jg
— Elizabeth Koh (@elizabethrkoh) July 28, 2014
A “couple hundred people” had already made their way onto the platform by 6 a.m., said Vincent Mendolia, a communications specialist for the Fairfax County Department of Transportation, as he pointed people in the direction of the trains. “This time of the morning tends to be a little lighter.”
No complaints so far, said new traveler Sabine Alston, 53, who was headed to work at the George Washington University Medical Center via the Foggy Bottom station. Her previous commute from Herndon Parkway on the Fairfax Connector had stopped at West Falls Church. As she crossed the bridge from the parking lot (where Connector buses dispatched their passengers), speakers crackled inarticulately from overhead.
Other travelers were drawn to the station by curiosity, including Manuel Emmanuel, who was traveling on the Silver Line to the Navy Medial Center via a circuitous transfer to the Red Line.
“Just giving it a try,” he said. His usual commute by car takes him an hour and a half in bad traffic, he said.
Though the station’s escalators and fare machines were running smoothly early Monday morning, commuters were confused by the two tracks — one carrying Silver trains to Largo and another where many trains were “out of service” and “taking no passengers.”
– Elizabeth Koh
As she stood in the platform at Rosslyn, waiting for a Blue Line to Pentagon, Cherie Whitley contemplated a few adjustments. She had taken the Silver Line for the first time this morning from Wiehle-Reston East, instead of the Orange Line from West Falls Church. She left Wiehle a little later than she wanted because she was not familiar with the garage (although she pronounced it “lovely.”) The first Silver Line train out of Wiehle does not get her to Rosslyn to catch the first Blue Line, which means she misses a shuttle she usually catches at Pentagon to get to work. “But it’s a much nicer commute,” she said. “I was pondering changing my lunch,” so she could keep riding the Silver Line. Just then, another Blue Line arrived. “This is my train,” she said, and, holding tightly onto her lunch carrier, disappeared through the closing doors.
– Annys Shin
Phil Romello, 59, had passed by the Silver Line to measure how long it would take him to bike to the Greensboro Station. Romello had planned to park his bike at the designated bike lockers before taking the train to Dupont Circle, where he works as an actuary. The bike ride would take him seven minutes from his Vienna home, but on Monday morning he walked. Walking took 25 minutes.
“I’d be more excited about my first Silver Line if they’d gotten the bike lockers available,” Romello said. “They’re trying to promote no parking at the stations and alternative ways to get on the train but don’t have any bike lockers available yet.”
Romello said he had emailed Metro to ask about the bike lockers more than a week ago and received a reply that they would not be ready.
Greensboro station Metro employees declined to comment.
– Karen Chen