Silver Line Successfully Launches

Photo by PoPville flickr user wolfkann


“Metrorail, the nation’s second busiest rapid transit system, grew 10 percent larger today with five new stations and new direct rail service between the Washington region’s two largest employment centers, all as a result of the opening of the Silver Line’s first phase. The new rail line is the largest expansion of Metrorail — and the first time a new color has been added to the Metro map — since the Green Line opened in 1991.

Rail service to the five new stations – McLean, Tysons Corner, Greensboro, Spring Hill and Wiehle-Reston East – began at noon with the departure of an inaugural train from Wiehle-Reston East Station in Fairfax County, Va., bound for Largo Town Center in Prince George’s County, Md. Along the way, Silver Line trains connect Fairfax County with popular destinations in Arlington County and Downtown DC, serving a total of 28 stations.

As one of the largest capital construction projects in the United States, the Silver Line has national significance. The Dulles Corridor is home to several of the Washington, D.C. metropolitan region’s most dynamic and rapidly growing activity centers, including Tysons Corner (Virginia’s largest employment center), the Reston-Herndon area (Virginia’s second largest employment concentration), Dulles International Airport and the emerging activity centers in eastern Loudoun County. Silver Line trains will provide high-quality, high-capacity transit service that reduces travel time between the Dulles corridor and Downtown D.C., expands the reach of the existing regional rail system, offers a viable alternative to automobile travel and supports future development.

It is anticipated that the Silver Line will quickly become one of Metro’s busiest services because of the draw of two employment and entertainment destinations — Downtown DC and Tysons — appealing to riders at all times of the day and week. Serving many of the region’s great destinations, the Silver Line will deliver football fans to FedEx Field and baseball fans to Nationals Park, entertainment destinations in Arlington County, and nationally known cultural attractions in Downtown DC. About 25,000 daily riders are projected to use the five new stations after the first year of service.

By offering a convenient alternative to driving, the Silver Line is expected to transform Tysons, previously an automobile-centric, congestion prone area into a more walkable, bikeable, livable community anchored by high-density, mixed-use developments around the new stations. The Silver Line gives commuters traveling to or from Fairfax County a new option to avoid traffic congestion along I-66 and the Dulles Toll Road, while saving on fuel, parking and tolls.

With the opening of the Silver Line, Metrorail now serves a total of 91 stations on a 118-mile system in Virginia, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.

The new Silver Line tracks branch off from the existing Orange Line between East Falls Church and West Falls Church. The first new station, McLean, is about 8 minutes away from East Falls Church, and is the first of a cluster of four Tysons-area stations that are each two minutes apart. The line’s western terminus, Wiehle-Reston East, is another eight minutes west of the Tysons area.

The four Tysons-area stations put most parts of Tysons Corner within an easy half-mile walk of a Metrorail station providing easy access to the region’s second largest employment center with nearly 100,000 jobs, shopping malls and restaurants.

Wiehle-Reston East Station is connected to Reston Town Center and Washington Dulles International Airport by frequent bus service.

Silver Line construction

The Silver Line project is widely regarded as one of the most sophisticated rail system projects in the world, featuring innovative design, state-of-the art technology, pleasing architecture, natural light, and modern finishes that enhance the passenger experience. Construction of the first phase of Silver Line began in March 2009 and included the five new stations, 11.7 miles of track, rail yard expansion at West Falls Church and a new railcar maintenance facility. Work has already begun on phase two of the project, which will extend another 11.4 miles to six new stations including Reston Town Center, Herndon, Washington Dulles International Airport and Ashburn.

The combined phases of the Silver Line make it the largest and one of the most complex transportation projects in the United States. It is also the first expansion of Metrorail beyond the system’s original five rail lines, and the first time an extension was constructed by an entity other than Metro.

Silver Line construction is being managed by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority. Metro took control of the first phase of the Silver Line less than two months ago, on May 27. The milestone, known as the “Operational Readiness Date” (ORD), marked the point where care and control of the line was formally transferred from the Airports Authority to Metro.

“From the beginning, the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority has understood that the Silver Line is a game changer for the Dulles Corridor, Northern Virginia and the entire metropolitan Washington region,” said Tom Davis, Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority Board of Directors. “Construction of the Silver Line is a testament to what can be best accomplished when people from jurisdictions across the region, from the private sector, from all types and levels of government, and from across the political spectrum work together for the common good.”

The U.S. Department of Transportation is providing $975 million toward the $3.14 billion total project cost for Silver Line’s first phase. The remaining cost is being covered by state and local funding sources.

The Silver Line will be the last expansion project for Metrorail unless funding is secured for projects in Metro’s Momentum strategic plan. At today’s event, Metro Board Chair Tom Downs encouraged the public to support funding for expanded capacity on the region’s transit system.

“The region as a whole is expected to add 1.5 million residents in the next 20 years, and a clear commitment to public transit is required to meet the demands on our transportation infrastructure,” Downs said. “I ask that you join me in celebrating the opening of the Silver Line today with a pledge to support the Momentum strategic plan that will prepare our system and the entire region for the next generation of Metro riders.”

“Many people worked tirelessly for more than 20 years to bring quality rail transportation to the Dulles Corridor, and our residents will now benefit from more choices about where to work, live, and recreate,” said WMATA Board Member Catherine Hudgins. “The Silver Line is a game changer for Fairfax County economically and it will improve the quality of life for many families in our community.”

Silver Line service

The introduction of Silver Line service represents a significant service increase that benefits more than one in three existing riders. As a result of Silver Line, 37 percent of existing Metrorail riders, accounting for 260,000 Metrorail trips, benefit from shorter wait times. These include rush-hour riders traveling to or from stations north of L’Enfant Plaza on the Green/Yellow lines, those traveling to or from stations east of Stadium-Armory on the Blue Line, and those along the Orange Line in Arlington County. Another 53 percent of riders are unaffected by service changes, while 10 percent of riders see an average wait time increase of up to two minutes.

“Starting today, riders can board the Silver Line to reach new opportunities in dining, entertainment, living, and working,” said Metro General Manager and CEO Richard Sarles. “Welcome aboard the Silver Line! It’s time to ride.”

Silver Line trains run every 6 minutes during rush hour, every 12 minutes during midday, evenings and weekends, and every 20 minutes during late-night hours. The service levels are consistent with most other Metrorail lines. Like other Metrorail lines, Silver Line fares are based on distance traveled and whether a rider is traveling during rush hour or off-peak travel times.

Riders at stations from East Falls Church to Court House will see trains arrive more frequently at all times, and riders from Rosslyn to Stadium-Armory will notice more frequent service outside rush hours. On the Blue Line, trains will operate every 12 minutes at all times of the day; and during rush hours, trains at Vienna, Dunn Loring and West Falls Church will arrive and depart every 6 minutes.”

48 Comment

  • What’s with the old people dancing? Is this the Centrum Silver Line?

  • Happened to be in Tyson’s Saturday so I took a spin on the Silver Line. The distance between the Reston and Spring Hill stations has got to be one of the longest distances between two stations in the system now.

    • Yes, but also one of the smoothest. Those concrete ties make a huge difference.

    • brookland_rez

      I wonder if there will be infill stations at some point if added residential density demands it.

      • added residential density at Wolftrap?

        I think you can count on that remaining a nice long ride between stations for a VERY long time.

        • There was a plan for an infill station, but it got pulled out after they did studies and realized how rarely Wolftrap is used and the rest of the area around the highway is spare single family homes and mostly wetland.
          The one intelligent comment was it would provide a metro to all the locals and they could use the massive swath of empty Wolftrap parking lots on a regular basis.

  • Emmaleigh504

    Perf pic!

  • We took the SV line from L’Enfant to end, Wheile Reston. 55 minute on Sunday, not bad if you don’t want drive. About the same as far as I see.

    Loved it and think it will be a big success. What I don’t understand is why not lay the track from the end of the line on now to Dulles – just 7 miles – even long term temporary.

    Anyway, same old cars but very new everything else in the Stations. I guess it will be a big success; there is massive building at each new above ground station along the line.

    Exciting and New…

  • Or, alternatively: Metro added five more stations in the ‘burbs. Meh.

    • Yeah, Metro has always been a hybrid urban subway/suburban commuter rail line. This seems to cement is focus on more of the later. All of the serious expansion talk is further and further out in to suburbia.

      I really hope Metro moves to a core urban zone vs. suburban zone. People in the District are going to use Metro differently then people in Fairfax who will basically use it as a commuter/nationals games train. DC riders want frequency (no more 20 min waits on the weekends) and usability, while Fairfax rides will want more focus on seating/comfort factors over headways.

      • Yes, five more stations in the burbs….burbs with more office space than either Atlanta or Seattle.

        “Over the following two decades, developers turned Tysons into what has been described as a “suburban commercial center on steroids”. Today, Tysons ranks as the 12th largest commercial business district in the U.S., with more office space than either downtown Atlanta or Seattle. Tysons
        is also the 5th largest retail center in the U.S; the second largest on the east coast after Manhattan.”

        From this pdf-

        • justinbc

          Yeah, if you haven’t driven around Tysons in the last couple of years you would hardly recognize it with all the additional development that the Metro announcement spurred.

  • This image looks like a comforting woman hugging an old man who thought he’d never live to see the Silver Line open. There, there, old man. You made it. You can rest now.

  • I’m really excited about this. The timing is perfect, since I’ve got to travel from my office in Tyson’s to Fedex Field tomorrow night during rush hour. But even my normal Columbia Heights to Tysons commute is going to be so much nicer.

  • Silver line= not a big deal to anyone except some VA commuters, Metro and the media. A new line did not open. You added a few stations. Oh and WTH only 1 parking garage / lot? What is the rational behind that? Yes lets commute…or wait I have to drive past a station to another station so I can park?

    • justinbc

      I imagine it will be a pretty big deal during Christmas season when lots of people who wouldn’t normally have driven to Tysons Corner will now be able to have Metro access there.

      • Possibly. Makes it easy to get there but hauling a bunch of Christmas shopping back home on the Metro doesn’t sound like a lot of fun.

      • brookland_rez

        That’s what I was thinking. For people shopping, it will be a game changer. Tyson’s is also the second largest job center. This will make people work commutes a lot easier.

    • Yeah, taking a suburban bus to/from a metro station is not fun. I can’t imagine many people would be willing to put up with that.

      • lots of people do it already. And some folks bike to metro. and yes, in Tysons people will walk to metro.

        • Yeah, but you have to admit it’s a lot more stressful. If all the legs of the commute don’t line up perfectly it can easily end up being 30-60 minutes longer.

    • This was the most new stations since the inner Green Line opened. That didn’t make much difference, now did it 😉

      This is important because its the first big step in the transformation of Tysons.

      BTW there are three parking garages/lots. One garage at Reston, one parking lot at Reston, and one parking lot (not WMATA operated) at McLean.

      There are not more parking garages at the Tysons stations, because bringing more cars into Tysons is about the last thing Fairfax wants. Most folks driving to Silver will be come from west of Reston, and will park there. What origins do you have in mind where people will be driving into Tysons to use the SL? Folks from Vienna, Pimmit Hills, and McLean who do not choose to bus or bike or kiss n ride or taxi, will still be able to drive to the Orange Line as they do now.

    • It’s also a big deal to people who live in DC and have an office (be it headquarters or a client) located in Tyson’s. I don’t have a car and my normal day-to-day is in DC, so there’s not a pressing need to get a car. This is a huge deal to no longer have to take the metro and hop on a Fairfax commuter bus for the days that my work requires me to be in Tyson’s, and I know from experience on those days that there are plenty of people who regularly commute out of the city because their company is unfortunately located in a Tyson’s Corner business park.

  • How far is the Tysons Corner metro from the actual mall?

    • There’s a sky bridge connecting the Tysons Corner stop to Tysons Corner Center, so just a short walk. If you are trying to go to the Galleria it’s probably a five minute walk in the other direction.

  • I have to scratch my head at all the people who live in DC who are jumping up and down about taking the Silverline to work in Tysons.

    I live a 3 minute walk from the Columbia Heights Metro station, and a 5 minute walk from the Tysons station.

    Metro’s trip planner says the trip will take 50 minutes, although that is under the best possible circumstances as a coworker who lives a couple stops downline at Shaw tried it this morning and it took 58 minutes station to station.

    So lets call it an even hour from Columbia Heights. Add 5 minutes on both sides to for walking to and from, and now the ride from Columbia Heights is 70 minutes.

    I leave the house for work at 7:20AM, and am sitting in my desk 35 minutes later in Tysons. Why in gods name would I literally want to double my commute (under the best of metro circumstances)?

    At night, the return trip takes 5-10 minutes longer for me, but even still, thats 80 minutes a day of commuting in my car versus the 140 on the silver line. Seems like a pretty poor tradeoff.

    • Some people might not want to own a car because of the expense or because they hate driving. Even though the metro ride’s longer you can do things while metro-ing that you can’t do while driving.

    • Accountering

      It’s not meant for you…
      If you have to include looking for parking in the evening that adds to it as well. The big win here is for people on the orange/blue/silver line on Capital Hill and in MD.

    • Because I’d rather spend an hour on the train reading than 45 minutes in the car. And I’d really rather spend an hour on the train reading than the occasional, massively frustrating 90 minutes in the car. I begrudge every minute I spend behind the wheel commuting.

    • a lot of people don’t have and/or don’t want cars. Depending upon your circumstances it can be a pretty significant added expenses (gas, parking, tickets, insurance, etc).

    • I think you just need to realize that everyone else does not have exactly the same circumstances and preferences as you in order to understand why some people are excited about this.

    • Some of us also can log legit billable time whole on a train. Whereas a drive is wasted time because you have to focus solely on driving. I like arriving to work caught up on my email so I can get some real work done.

    • I live in Columbia Heights and I have never made it out to Tyson’s in 35 minutes. Granted, I never go out to Tysons at 7:20, but even if I worked out there, I wouldn’t leave for work work at that time, either. Even on some Sundays when I need to get out there by 9:30 for a gig – I have to give myself an hour and it usually takes me at least 45 mn to get to the gig at Falls Church (so, still a few miles shy of Tysons). How do you get out of the city? It almost always takes me 25-30 mn just to get out of the city.

      • Park rd to RCP to 66 to rt 7.

        And JCM, the difference isn’t 15 minutes, but more than a half hour each way, or look at it this way. You spend a extra full 5 days per year commuting.

        I guess the silver line is ok if your personal time means so little to you

  • Too bad this took to long. For several months I commuted by car from the Hill to an office next to the Tyson’s mall and HATED, HATED, HATED sitting in the traffic. This would have made working out there not so much of a problem.

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