Some riders fear they’re just bit players as Metro makes history with Silver Line

Columnist July 26, 2014

A Metro TV ad released to publicize this weekend’s opening of the Silver Line shows an upbeat crowd dancing onto a train. Gosh, those people look happy!

Dancers never write to me.

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. View Archive

The real trains don’t look that clean.

And the platforms don’t have that much room for spinning.

Folks I hear from are a little too burdened by daily commuting to twirl their way onto a train. Welcome to their world.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I commute to Metro’s Smithsonian station, starting from the Vienna station. I drive to the Metro garage. Monday morning, at about 8:05, the garage was not particularly crowded, but the platform was jammed. A six-car train arrived as I was going through the fare gates, and by the time I got down to the platform, it was standing-room-only.

By the time we left Dunn Loring, it was an Orange sardine can.

I can only surmise that this incredible crowding on a fine summer day was the result of the Silver Line beginning its non-passenger service. While I live in Reston, using the Wiehle-Reston East station to board the Silver Line may not be a good option. That part of Wiehle Avenue is nearly always crowded, and I cannot imagine less crowding during the morning and evening commutes.

I’ve always used transit to get to and from downtown, and that goes back to the old, private Reston bus service. I feel I have limited practical choices, but if Monday morning is any indication of what my commutes will be like, the future will not be at all pleasant.

— John H. Jennrich, Reston

Orange Line riders who board at the far western stations just went through a difficult week. Their train service was cut back to allow for testing of the Silver Line route to and from the new Wiehle-Reston East station.

That’s done. On Monday, thousands of Orange Line riders will become Silver Line riders, if only because that’s where their buses will start dropping them off. Metro and Fairfax County planners say this should greatly ease the past week’s crowding from Vienna to West Falls Church.

Wiehle Avenue at the Dulles Toll Road may become a new trouble spot, as both cars and buses exit the toll road to reach the new end-of-the-line garage. Almost everyone will be a beginner on this new route, so watch for crowding and confusion, at least in the early going.

I’m also worried about what commuters will experience on the way home, when they wait at downtown platforms for one of three lines now passing through their stations.

But Metro isn’t just a suburb-to-central-city system.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

I am a Blue and Orange Line commuter looking for options with the opening of the Silver Line.

I commute from Dunn Loring to King Street, transferring at Rosslyn. We’ve all read how service between Rosslyn and King Street on the Blue Line has been cut, as well as service on the Orange Line west of East Falls Church. I’m one of the many commuters facing a worst-case scenario.

Metro has been pushing use of the Yellow Line as an alternative. It seems counterintuitive to me to travel east in the District and transfer at L’Enfant Plaza, when trying to commute south or west. Will the Yellow Line actually be a feasible option for me? Are there other options outside of Metro that would work?

— Rob McCarry, Vienna

This is a double blow: One cutback line to another. Depending on how the transfer goes at Rosslyn, the trip may be 39 minutes, or it may be 51 minutes. That’s if the trains are on schedule.

I can’t come up with a better alternative. There’s no bus that beats this. And taking Yellow would add even more time.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:

With the opening of the Silver Line, the Sunset Hills Park & Ride lot is closing and the Fairfax Connector Route 555 bus that served it will also cease. The 555 was useful because it ran every 10 minutes between the West Falls Church Metro station and Reston Town Center during rush hours. It will be missed.

Most troubling, however, is the loss of that big parking lot near Reston Town Center, which was full every day.

Where are all those commuters going to park? If they all go to the new Wiehle Avenue garage, we won’t have gained much.

— Brian Carlson, Reston

Although that park-and-ride lot closed Friday night, the Virginia Department of Transportation lot at Sunset Hills Road and Wiehle Avenue still will be open.

So will the other park-and-ride lots at Reston Parkway and Lawyers Road and at Baron Cameron Park.

The Herndon-Monroe Park & Ride lot will also remain open.

Dr. Gridlock also appears Thursday in Local Living. Comments and questions are welcome and may be used in a column, along with the writer’s name and home community. Write Dr. Gridlock at The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071, or e-mail drgridlock@washpost.com .

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