With the hoped-for opening of Metro’s new Silver Line set for this summer, public awareness of the transit system’s soon-to-be expanded rail service is “beginning to approach the awareness levels that the planners assumed in their ridership projections many years ago,” Metro’s top marketing official says. But research shows that many potential customers are still in the dark about specifics of the Silver Line, such as station locations and parking availability.
“We still have work to do” in educating the public on how to use the new subway line, Lynn Bowersox, Metro’s assistant general manager for marketing, said Monday in a conference call with reporters.
As for simply knowing about the existence of the Silver Line, she said, general public awareness has gone up significantly.
In November, Bowersox said, “we had market research that showed about 60 percent of residents in our region were aware of the Silver Line,” up from about 50 percent in September. Awareness of the Silver Line was lowest among survey respondents who were not regular Metro customers, while about 75 percent of people who routinely ride the transit system were aware of the years-old, multibillion-dollar Silver Line project.
But that has changed, Bowersox said. A survey completed last week shows “awareness levels have topped 90 percent for the region and 95 percent for Metro riders in Northern Virginia,” where five stations have been built for the new line. Metro has a Web site that offers details of each station, including the availability of parking.
The Silver Line’s first phase, nearing completion, is 11.7 miles of rail and has four stations in Tysons and one in Reston at Wiehle Avenue. The new line will share tracks with the Orange Line from East Falls Church to Rosslyn. From there, across Washington to the Stadium Armory station, the Silver, Orange and Blue lines will use the same rails. From Stadium Armory, the Silver Line will share tracks with the Blue Line to the Largo Town Center station.
The second phase of the project, due to be finished in 2018, will extend the Silver Line from Wiehle Avenue to Dulles International Airport and into eastern Loudoun County. The final cost of the first phase is expected to be $2.9 billion, roughly $150 million more than originally planned. The overall cost of the two-phase project is estimated at $5.6 billion.
To spread the word about the new service, Bowersox said, “Metro has actually participated in more than 80 neighborhood festivals and events throughout the region” in recent months, handing out information brochures and Silver Line promotional items. “This past school year,” she said, “we visited nearly every high school within a four-mile radius of the new Silver Line stations, as well as many elementary and middle schools along the Silver Line.”
She said the public-awareness campaign will continue as the line’s opening, possibly in August, gets closer.
Metro anticipates that about 50,000 people will use the Silver Line each weekday. Transit officials think about 33,000 of those passengers will be new Metro riders, not customers who currently use other lines. Overall, Metro logs about 750,000 rail-passenger trips each weekday, making it the nation’s second busiest subway system.