For months, residents, businesses and commuters in and around Tysons Corner and Reston had worried that the opening of the Silver Line would bring more chaos to an already frustrating commute. Residents worried that commuters would jam their neighborhoods. Office parks — and the Tysons Corner Center mall — brought on extra security to keep unauthorized vehicles out of their lots. On Monday, Fairfax County officials deployed additional police officers to monitor potential bottlenecks in Reston, and towing companies were prepared for what they thought might be a banner day.
But the parking and traffic nightmare did not materialize — at least not Monday. Instead of long lines of cars jockeying for spaces in the lone Metro park-and-ride lot adjacent to the McLean Metro station in Tysons, traffic breezed by. By midday Monday, only 45 of the more than 700 spaces were occupied.
In Reston, where two underground garages offered 3,300 spaces, Fairfax County officials said about 1,300 were taken in the 2,300-space county-run facility. Comstock Partners, which operates the adjacent 1,000-space garage, said that site also had space available.
“Traffic was steady but not overly heavy,” Officer Dan Gotthardt, a Fairfax County police spokesman, said, citing reports from Reston district officers.
And towing companies said business wasn’t out of the ordinary.
“It was just a normal day,” said Fred Scheler, owner of Henry’s Wrecker Service, a towing company used by Fairfax County police and residential developments in Reston and elsewhere.Still, Fairfax County transportation officials said it may be too early to judge the impact the Silver Line will have on parking and traffic in and around Tysons and Reston, noting that the first phase of the $5.6 billion Silver Line debuted during the summer — a traditionally slow time in the Washington region, when many folks are on vacation or have abbreviated work schedules. Schools also are out, taking hundreds of buses off roads. Come fall, officials say, things could be different.
“We’re staying tuned to see what will happen,” said Beth Francis, spokeswoman for the Fairfax County Department of Transportation. County officials will spend the next two weeks watching — and tinkering as needed.
For now, though, Metro commuters used to circling repeatedly before finding a space may enjoy positive parking karma like many did Monday.
With Metro riders who live in Reston, Herndon and other points along the Dulles Toll Road now boarding at the Wiehle-Reston East station, parking at the West Falls Church garage was a breeze, commuters said.
“I thought it must be a holiday, it was so smooth,” said Ron Jones, who lives in Falls Church and works at a law firm in downtown Washington. “Plenty of parking spaces. A lot more spots.”
Kiara Bent of McLean agreed. Even though she was running late, she slid into an open parking space with no trouble.
And her commute may get even easier. Bent, who works at a nonprofit in Arlington, lives close to the new Tysons stations and plans to make the shorter drive to one of those. She just didn’t want to chance it Monday.
As word gets out that stations are accessible and parking plentiful, more commuters may opt to drive, county transportation officials said.
If drivers weren’t plentiful at the McLean station Monday, cyclists were. By the time Cecilia Clavet arrived at the station, most of the bike racks were occupied, forcing her to double up.
Usually Clavet, a policy adviser for the Nature Conservancy, drives 10 minutes to the West Falls Church station, where she parks and hops on an Orange Line train. But with the McLean station just down the hill from her home, she rode in. Her route didn’t include any major roads such as Chain Bridge Road or Route 7. Still, she said, the county could make the roads more bike-friendly. “There weren’t any bike paths, and I’m not used to riding a bike in traffic, so it was a little bit nerve-racking,” she said.
The county master plan for cycling access is expected to go before the Planning Commission in October, according to Charlie Strunk, Fairfax County’s bicycle coordinator. The Board of Supervisors is expected to consider it later that month. But Strunk said some improvements have been put in place, including the addition of bike lanes to Gallows Road.
Mariano Gutierrez pulled up to the bike rack at the Spring Hill station about 9:15 a.m. — his first time biking to a Metro station. He was pleased but said he hopes the county will do a better job of delineating bike lanes, particularly because Tysons is not a particularly bike-friendly area. He also wondered whether officials had done enough to make drivers aware there would be more cyclists on the roads.
Still, those were minor problems, he said, and he planned to be back on his bike Tuesday:
“I’m going to do this every day.”