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DC, Fairfax consider cutting the 5A bus to Dulles

The WMATA Board will consider a package of changes to Metrobus routes at its meeting tomorrow. There are many small changes to routes, but one that could affect a large number of residents is a proposal from DC and Fairfax County to cut the 5A bus to Dulles.


Photo by greychr on Flickr.

The bus may become unnecessary once the Silver Line's Phase 2 goes all the way to the airport. In the meantime, Fairfax County has established a bus from Tysons Corner, in addition to the Washington Flyer bus to East West Falls Church.

There are a lot of other small bus route changes in DC, Maryland, and Virginia, especially east of the Anacostia and around Burke and East Falls Church. The NH1 National Harbor bus will get another reroute and will now go to King Street in Alexandria, while Prince George's County will add a The Bus route to Southern Avenue to accommodate National Harbor employees.

The 5A serves a variety of riders

The 5A connects L'Enfant Plaza, Rosslyn, and the airport with a $6 fare. It was able to operate very successfully with a mix of people going to the airport for air trips, employees at the airport, and commuters from Herndon and points west.


Image from NextBus.

The bus started out in 2000 with a grant from DC to provide reverse commute service from the District to Tysons and the Dulles corridor. It originally had 2 variants: the 5A went from L'Enfant Plaza to Dulles Airport, and the 5B ended at the Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride. In 2006, WMATA merged the two.

Once the grant expired, the various jurisdictions agreed to keep funding the 5A separate from the regular funding formula, which didn't really fit the 5A. Fairfax created its Tysons-Dulles bus, and officials in that county and at the District Department of Transportation are now considering whether the two jurisdictions can eliminate their funding for the 5A.

The 5A and Washington Flyer make an imperfect pair

Even at $6, the 5A is cheaper than the Washington Flyer and rail ($10 for the Flyer plus the rail fare). A report on airport bus service from the WMATA Riders' Advisory Council (RAC) notes that many people ride the 5A from the Herndon Park and Ride, likely using the bus as an alternative to more expensive commuter buses.

The RAC report says that the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority has never cooperated with WMATA much about the 5A:

The original 5A stop was located far from the terminal building and marked with a black and white sign that did not conform to WMATA signage standards, making it confusing to regular system riders. (MWAA originally argued that WMATA signage did not conform to the airport's color scheme.) The stop was eventually
moved in closer to the arrivals area and standard WMATA signage was permitted.

WMATA officials note, however, that barriers to use of the 5A remain in place at Dulles: WMATA is still unable to post signs within the airport itself directing passengers to the 5A; official airport announcements in the arrivals area tell customers that the Washington Flyer and MWAA-sponsored taxis are the only forms of airport transportation endorsed and authorized by the airport authority; airport employees do not currently receive Smartbenefits from MWAA which could potentially be used on the 5A; and there is no place to purchase a Smartrip card within the terminal.

Having two separate buses, each running at infrequent headways (30 minutes for the Flyer, 40-60 for the 5A) indeed seems inefficient. Perhaps better coordination between WMATA, area jurisdictions, and MWAA could allow a more frequent bus for the years until the Silver Line reaches Dulles Airport.

What can happen with the 5A?

Options besides cutting the 5A, WMATA bus planner Jim Hamre told the RAC last winter, include keeping it with a new stop at Wiehle, or turning it into a shuttle just between the airport and Wiehle (in other words, a WMATA version of the Washington Flyer).

According to the RAC report, the Flyer still loses money. It once traveled all the way to downtown DC, but private operators refused to bid on such an expensive service. The current contract will end next year. Rather than treating the Flyer as a concession contract, It seems it might be better to have WMATA or another area transit operator run the "Flyer" as a public bus (perhaps even numbered 5A).

Do you think DC and Fairfax should stop funding the 5A? What airport transit should exist once the Silver Line opens, but before it gets to the airport? What about after?

The WMATA Board's action tomorrow would just put these changes out for public hearings in September. The board would then vote on a final set of changes in the fall to take effect between December 2013 and June 2014.

David Alpert is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Greater Greater Washington and Greater Greater Education. He worked as a Product Manager for Google for six years and has lived in the Boston, San Francisco, and New York metro areas in addition to Washington, DC. He loves the area which is, in many ways, greater than those others, and wants to see it become even greater. 

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It should go away and be replaced with higher frequency bus service that utilizes the silver line (not a decrease in access but rather an increase). Buses are not efficient at doing long haul distances and often can't charge the rates that would make them financially viable. Use the buses for short haul and more frequent transfers.

by Tysons Engineer on Jul 10, 2013 2:43 pm • linkreport

It seems to me that if you run it just between Wiehle and the airport, you should be able to increase frequency while cutting costs. I don't know how it'd work out with the split of costs between DC and Fairfax County. If it just becomes a shuttle to the Metro, it would make sense to merge it with the Washington Flyer somehow. The overall time savings and a merger with the Washington Flyer should allow for frequencies of once every 15 to 20 minutes.

by Mario on Jul 10, 2013 2:50 pm • linkreport

One concern I would imagine is employees that have to get there before 6:15 AM or whenever the first Silver Line train towards Dulles would arrive and also weekend service. Would it make sense to keep the 5a as a very limited "night" service that tacks a trip or three on to either end for people that can't get by with the Metrorail schedule, say from 5AM-6AM and 11:30PM-12:30AM? There should be plenty of buses available for the trips since both times are far enough off of peak. Obviously that depend on whether the 5A has any substantial ridership at those times.

by Alan B. on Jul 10, 2013 2:52 pm • linkreport

WMATA is still unable to post signs within the airport itself directing passengers to the 5A

WTF? Will this practice continue once the Dulles Silver Line station opens? "Yes, we have a transit link, but we're not going to tell you how to get to it."

by Juanita de Talmas on Jul 10, 2013 2:53 pm • linkreport

As if us DC residents didn't already hate/dread/despise any reason to have to go to Dulles...

Seriously, if there's no direct connection from something within District limits to Dulles, there will be less incentive or convenience than ever to use that airport. And the B30 might get a nice bump in ridership and usage. It's so incredibly short-sighted of MWAA, WMATA, and all the jurisdictions to even consider cutting the 5A until the Silver Line is fully operational.

by MetroDerp on Jul 10, 2013 2:54 pm • linkreport

I guess I've always thought of the 5A as a "Silver Line substitute," with the fully built Silver Line replacing the need for the bus entirely. As such, it would make sense to me that the 5A be truncated to serve the gap between the end of the Silver Line Phase 1 (Wiehle) and Dulles. It would seem that the Washington Flyer could do the same, or as suggested in the article, MWAA could give WMATA the contract, particularly since WMATA is going to be operating the future main mass transit option from Dulles (Silver Line!).

by David T. on Jul 10, 2013 2:56 pm • linkreport

Extending the NH1 to King St Alexandria is huge, in my opinion.

by Paul on Jul 10, 2013 3:00 pm • linkreport

This is an invaluable resource to those living car-free in DC and Arlington - not to mention budget travelers visiting DC and those that commute via the 5A. Connecting to key DC destinations with access to multiple transit lines (at L'Enfant) is also a major advantage over the Flyer bus (that connects to only the orange line). Given WMATA's ongoing track work, the 5A is really the only feasible public transit connection to all of DC for those travelers to/from Dulles on the weekend.

by Jen on Jul 10, 2013 3:07 pm • linkreport

Oh wow I just saw a great idea. Extending 50 or S line service to National. Yes please! Just serving Terminal A alone would make it worth it over metro.

by Alan B. on Jul 10, 2013 3:07 pm • linkreport

@David T.

The problem is that until Phase 2 opens, it adds a transfer that doesn't exist now nor will after Phase 2. E.g.:

Columbia Heights to Dulles now: GR/YL to L'Enfant, 5A to Dulles.
Columbia Heights to Dulles after SV Phase 2: GR/YL to L'Enfant, SV to Dulles.

But if they truncate the 5A, it's GR/YL to L'Enfant, SV to Wiehle, 5A to Dulles. Which, given the abysmal headways in this town (not to mention the luggage in tow) is a recipe for total, absolute aggravation (I am literally tensing up just thinking about it).

by MetroDerp on Jul 10, 2013 3:08 pm • linkreport

@Alan B.: how much would that extend the length of a 50/S run by? And how, in turn, would that affect the headways?

by MetroDerp on Jul 10, 2013 3:09 pm • linkreport

Good question, I would assume it would be a limited/express service like the S9 or the 50s version of that. Very back of the hand I'm thinking an additional 15 minutes to get from Federal Triangle to National assuming limited stops to serve L'enfant, Crystal City, and the airport. A 45 minute ride from Columbia Heights area to National would be reasonable. It would be pretty competetive with off peak Metro from Logan Dupont all the way up 16th.

by Alan B. on Jul 10, 2013 3:27 pm • linkreport

I really hope they dont get rid of the 5A before Silver Line Phase I opens.

Assuming they want to ax it and replace it (and the flyer or not) with a higher frequency bus from the silver terminus and the airport that would be ok, but still annoying. The silver line will save some time in rush hour but outside of that it is going to increase the total time spent getting to the airport. Also the 5A currently runs earlier and later than the metro, but with this chance you will be limited to the metro's opening and closing times.

by Richard B on Jul 10, 2013 3:28 pm • linkreport

The 5A getting the Ax while the Penn Line opens on weekends could really be a huge boon for BWI.

by Richard B on Jul 10, 2013 3:32 pm • linkreport

There is also discussion of ending the Fairfax Connector Reston-Pentagon Express line. I believe the solution is to merge the two lines into a new 5C route. Stops in Rosslyn and L'Enfant Plaza would be replaced with a single stop at the Pentagon. This will give IAD travelers and Herndon-Monroe commuters relatively efficient access to the Yellow Line. If Western Fairfax residents can get to Reston, they can get to Herndon-Monroe. Similarly Pentagon is relatively accessible for many DC residents and even better for those in the Rt. 1 corridor in VA (including DCA). They could increase the fare to $10 and it would still be an excellent deal. Rosslyn residents will lose out, but I assume some sort of Reston-IAD shuttle will emerge to lessen the impact.

by movement on Jul 10, 2013 3:39 pm • linkreport

I'd love to see more airport bus service during the late-night/early-morning hours when the train's closed.

I have a 6AM flight out of BWI next week, and there's no good options for getting to the airport other than the 3:30AM Amtrak (yeech!).

by andrew on Jul 10, 2013 3:40 pm • linkreport

Actually, strike that. We just need a decent night bus network altogether.

Obviously, one would want the routes to provide service to airports when that's appropriate.

by andrew on Jul 10, 2013 3:43 pm • linkreport

I'd always assumed that the Silver Line would never be able to match the 5A in terms of speed from L'Enfant to Dulles - 29 miles? 21 stops? It's crazy; even Vienna is only 18 miles and 15 stops.

But... WMATA schedules the 5A to take 50-65 minutes, depending on traffic and time of day. Based on a rough regression I just ran, rail trips to the suburban end stations from Downtown take about 2m20s per station (mileage is almost a nonfactor), so we can expect the Silver Line to clock a run to Dulles in 50ish minutes.

So it turns out my initial assumption that the 5A would remain as something of an airport express bus is unfounded and unnecessary. Well played, MWAA.

by Peter K on Jul 10, 2013 3:44 pm • linkreport

I've done the early morning Amtrak though I thin it was more like 5AM. Between the cab to Union and the train fare, it would have made more sense to fly out of national if i wasnt meeting others at the airport. What I would really love is to see Metro start to open an hour earlier but I'm not sure when that will ever happen.

by Alan B. on Jul 10, 2013 3:44 pm • linkreport

You can make the 6am BWI flights from Baltimore pretty easily via MARC or Light Rail. From DC, you dont really have options.

by Richard B on Jul 10, 2013 3:44 pm • linkreport

Airport passengers need to have multiple reliable public transit options at various price points. Just like traffic can slow down the 5A, trackwork can slow down rail connections. Public transit users need both so they can pivot from one to the other if necessary.

Also worth noting is that the 5A actually makes money. The WMATA budget proposal says that the service changes are "cost neutral" - I wonder what that means to them.

Another point of interest is that DDOT and Fairfax County are de-funding the 5A - WMATA is not solely to blame for its disappearance. I'd be interested to hear their reasons.

by Ben on Jul 10, 2013 3:45 pm • linkreport

IMO, both the Flyer and the 5A should continue to run, each stopping at Whiehle (possibly cutting service to Herndon, I dunno). If that's too expensive to run, truncate the Flyer to Whiehle.

Once the Silver Line Phase 2 is up and running all the way to the airport, the 5A is made fairly redundant. However, the Flyer provides a sort of "premium" service that has quite a bit of usefulness to tourists who don't want to deal with the hassle of the Metro. Maybe bring that along the 5A route. I suppose it might be nice to redo the bus stations at either East or West Falls Church to allow the bus to easily stop and then continue along 66/267, but that's far from necessary.

by ImThat1Guy on Jul 10, 2013 3:50 pm • linkreport

My guess is that it's a combination of wanting to increase ridership on the Silver Line (by removing the alternative) and free up buses for other service.

by Alan B. on Jul 10, 2013 3:57 pm • linkreport

I cannot emphasize the early morning problem enough. Trains don't start early enough to make morning flights on weekends. If the Silver line starts at the same time as the rest of the system, we must have the 5A to get to Dulles for flights leaving even as late as 8 a.m. It's an essential service.

by Eric on Jul 10, 2013 4:02 pm • linkreport

@Peter K
L'Enfant to Vienna is not a fair comparison. The stations on the Silver Line will be much more spread out. L'Enfant Plaza to Franconia-Springfield is nearly half an hour - about 3 minutes per station.

by movement on Jul 10, 2013 4:04 pm • linkreport

@ Tysons Engineer

I agree with you that, once the Silver Line stars operation, long-haul bus service that effectively duplicates rail service should be eliminated absent extraordinary circumstances. Fairfax County and WMATA have said that eliminating duplicate services, especially long-haul bus routes, can save considerable money. By eliminating long Fairfax Connector routes once the Silver Line opens, Fairfax County will be able to expand Connector bus service to more locations and with more frequency for the same money. It just doesn't make good economic sense to duplicate service.

by tmt on Jul 10, 2013 4:08 pm • linkreport

From reading the comments and person experience, the 5A should run before Metro opens and after it closes (when midnight closing) all the way from at least Rosslyn every 40ish minutes, though maybe not L'Enfant, for employees and early/late flights. When Metro is open, run it more frequently from Wiehle to Dulles every 15 minutes. As for Washington Flyer, the question is is there a service discrimination that tourists, etc are willing to pay for premium service? I'm not sure. Could this be merged into a Blue Van (bus) for people to pay $5-$6 to Blue Van for this high class shuttle service on a trial basis. Or maybe sell tourists SmartTrip cards at Dulles that include the fare from Dulles to Wiehle on the card so it's easier for tourists? Maybe even establish it's own brand like the Circulator for the bus which is a decent bus that looks nicer than many Metro buses but not as fancy as a coach bus?

by GP Steve on Jul 10, 2013 4:21 pm • linkreport

I take the 52 or 54 bus to L'Enfant and then the 5A to Dulles. Total cost = $6. If rail becomes the only option, the price will go up greatly.

by tour guide on Jul 10, 2013 4:22 pm • linkreport

I'd hope WMATA keeps some early-morning service - that's what they already do for DCA with 13F/13G:
http://www.wmata.com/bus/timetables/va/13a-g.pdf

I'd never be able to catch early Saturday flights without those two (and the late-night service on S2/S4 to get me there).

by Peter K on Jul 10, 2013 4:23 pm • linkreport

Moving the NH1 bus to King Street would be wonderful! Not only would workers have a shorter commute, the tourists would have more options. An extension to DCA, too ..... that would be even better!

by tour guide on Jul 10, 2013 4:25 pm • linkreport

I was always against the Silver Line because it didn't provide or leave open an option open for an express service. (e.g. Hong Kong's Airport Express, London's Heathrow Express)

Could the 5A be kept, reformatted, and/or upgraded to provide a quick alternative from the terminal to downtown?

by Rich on Jul 10, 2013 4:36 pm • linkreport

@Rich:
Could the 5A be kept, reformatted, and/or upgraded to provide a quick alternative from the terminal to downtown?
How? There is no dedicated transit ROW or any sort of bus lane on 66 or any other route into DC from points west.

by Gray on Jul 10, 2013 4:52 pm • linkreport

I agree, the issue of early AM and late evening access to and from Dulles is a major one, especially on Saturday & Sunday mornings, Sunday to Thursday late PM. The first 5A bus departs L'Enfant at 5:30 AM, arrives Dulles 6:25 AM ON Sat/Sun, the last one departs Dulles inbound 11:40 PM all 7 days.

On Sat/Sun with a 7 AM opening, the first Silver train from Largo won't get to Wiehle Ave until after 8 PM. That means any flight departing before 10 AM is pretty much off the table for a Silver Line to Wiehle to bus to Dulles trip on Saturdays.

If the 5A is going to be totally replaced when Phase 2 opens, that means the last train should depart Dulles no earlier than ~11:50 PM on weeknights (got to allow more time to get to the station). On Sat/Sun, the Metro should start by at least 6 AM. The 7 AM start time on Saturday is one of my beefs with Metro as a VA suburbanite because it limits early AM Amtrak train options at Union Station. At some point, the WMATA board will have to expand Metro hours or or run early AM and late PM buses for those who need them.

Thought on the B30 bus: if MARC goes to hourly or 90 minute weekend service and at least hourly between 6 AM and 11PM on weekdays, should the B30 be dropped? Or keep B30 until both expanded MARC Penn Line service and the Purple Line are running?

by AlanF on Jul 10, 2013 5:23 pm • linkreport

I agree, the issue of early AM and late evening access to and from Dulles is a major one, especially on Saturday & Sunday mornings, Sunday to Thursday late PM. The first 5A bus departs L'Enfant at 5:30 AM, arrives Dulles 6:25 AM ON Sat/Sun, the last one departs Dulles inbound 11:40 PM all 7 days.

On Sat/Sun with a 7 AM opening, the first Silver train from Largo won't get to Wiehle Ave until after 8 PM. That means any flight departing before 10 AM is pretty much off the table for a Silver Line to Wiehle to bus to Dulles trip on Saturdays.

If the 5A is going to be totally replaced when Phase 2 opens, that means the last train should depart Dulles no earlier than ~11:50 PM on weeknights (got to allow more time to get to the station). On Sat/Sun, the Metro should start by at least 6 AM. The 7 AM start time on Saturday is one of my beefs with Metro as a VA suburbanite because it limits taking the Metro to early AM Amtrak trains at Union Station. At some point, the WMATA board will have to expand Metro hours or or run early AM and late PM buses for those who need them.

Thought on the B30 bus: if MARC goes to hourly or 90 minute weekend service and at least hourly between 6 AM and 11PM on weekdays, should the B30 be dropped? Or keep B30 until both expanded MARC Penn Line and the Purple Line are running?

by AlanF on Jul 10, 2013 5:25 pm • linkreport

Wow. They really don't want people flying out of Dulles.

by aaa on Jul 10, 2013 6:05 pm • linkreport

@aaa
Of course not. They want to make Dulles a freight hub with the bicounty parkway

by Richard B on Jul 10, 2013 6:07 pm • linkreport

...in addition to the Washington Flyer bus to East Falls Church.

If I'm not mistaken, doesn't the Washington Flyer Coach go to West Falls Church?

by Jason L. on Jul 10, 2013 6:32 pm • linkreport

@AlanF
The purple line isnt going to be running for a LONG time, so waiting for it seems kind of silly.

Obviously we have to wait to see what expanded MARC service and weekend service look like.

I wouldnt get rid of the B30 until it's ridership falls, or MARC offers 30min headways all week long

by Richard B on Jul 10, 2013 7:12 pm • linkreport

Keep the 5A for all the weekends when the Silver Line is single-tracking.

by renegade09 on Jul 10, 2013 7:27 pm • linkreport

@AlanF
If MARC goes to hourly or 90 minute weekend service

Realize that this is only feasible on the Penn Line- The B30 stops at Greenbelt, which has a MARC station on the Camden Line. So the B30 may be more accessible to certain people as it's at the Green Line's terminal and as such has very good bus connectivity and may be more convenient for people on the eastern side of the region. Also, I don't know how often FBI agents go on flights, but keeping the B30 there if the FBI decides to relocate there sounds like a good draw.

by Jason L. on Jul 10, 2013 8:28 pm • linkreport

Keep the 5A, change the cryptic name* to "Dulles Express" westbound and "DC Mall Express" eastbound. Put up signs at the endpoints with those names and tell everybody about the route. It is THE least stressful way to get to Dulles.

*Likewise call the "B30" the BWI Express and DC/Green line Express. Duh. (No, I didn't say that...)

by Lisa on Jul 10, 2013 8:38 pm • linkreport

What this article fails to mention is that the Fairfax Connector created a new bus route a few months ago--the 981--that goes from Tysons to Dulles with just two stops: Reston Town Center and Herndon-Monroe. And the bus's fare was just reduced to $1.60 so that it can be easily used for commuters as well. There are still plenty of buses throughout the day and weekend to get to Dulles, even without the 5A.

by Restonite on Jul 10, 2013 8:42 pm • linkreport

BWI > Dulles already, and this just makes it that much more so.

I'm far more interested in that NH1 reroute, actually. I love the idea of a bus from National Harbor to King Street, but I fail to see why that requires there to be no bus between National Harbor and Branch Avenue. Having TheBus 35 replace it is pretty much nothing because TheBus doesn't run on weekends, and stops running weekdays right around 7 PM! (this, of course, assumes that the current 35 schedule is increased from its current two trips a day in each direction)
I fail to see why the existing NH1 can't stay as it is, and then either 1) a NH2 is added to do King Street-National Harbor or 2) the NH1 runs through to King Street.

by Justin..... on Jul 10, 2013 8:47 pm • linkreport

Most of the anti-s seem to think that the 5A would go away before the Silver Line opens, which doesn't appear to be the case. I like the idea of running it before and after the Metro closes, but otherwise look forward to the end of riding the 5A and its uncomfortable trips. There probably are alternatives for the Park & Ride, which rarely seems to have many customers--maybe I haven't hit their rush hour.

Penn Line weekend service and the demise of the B30 would be equally welcome.

by Rich on Jul 10, 2013 9:14 pm • linkreport

With this huge snafu with WMATA and the airport authority, this is Washington D.C.(Doing Crappy). I always tell this to future never been to D.C. visitor...
If you're thinking that you'll get tickets for the White House and everything else and everything will go hunky dory-YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE A MISERABLE TIME.
If you're thinking 1 snag after the other and think you're going to have an awful time getting tickets to the White House, etc-YOU'RE GOING TO HAVE A FABULOUS TIME.
To say the least Washington created the word SNAFU/INCONVENIENCE. Shame on the powers that be to have awful transit to/from airports. Years ago when WMATA started building their train lines-why didn't they include all the airports in it's inception design? Thanks to republicans who turn down funding for transit-I GUESS YOU GUYS LIKE TO BE STUCK IN TRAFFIC!.

Quit the B.S. and cooperate ALL PARTIES.

by Joseph Dunn on Jul 10, 2013 9:15 pm • linkreport

@ Tour Guide

"Moving the NH1 bus to King Street would be wonderful! Not only would workers have a shorter commute, the tourists would have more options. An extension to DCA, too ..... that would be even better!"

How is that better do all the workers live in Virginia ? If any live in DC or Maryland it would be worst.

@ Justin.....

Great point ; the best solution would be bringing back the N13 or whatever it was bus that WMATA had years ago from Branch Ave to King Street with a stop at National Harbour.

by kk on Jul 10, 2013 9:37 pm • linkreport

"Years ago when WMATA started building their train lines-why didn't they include all the airports in it's inception design?"

Because Dulles was absolutely the middle of nowhere and BWI's pretty far away.

by ImThat1Guy on Jul 10, 2013 10:28 pm • linkreport

As someone who's ridden both: no, no. no, don't eliminate the 5A.

I took a red eye once from San Francisco and ended up on the Flyer to East Falls Church. Then at 7:30 a.m. I stood with my suitcase until Metro Center because the train was so jammed.

There is a demand for both.

I'll also observe that when I've taken the 5A to Dulles in the a.m., it's packed with airport employees. It's not just fliers who use it. And perhaps it's more important to the low-income folks who commute to Dulles.

by lou on Jul 10, 2013 10:33 pm • linkreport

...in addition to the Washington Flyer bus to East Falls Church.
If I'm not mistaken, doesn't the Washington Flyer Coach go to West Falls Church?

The Flyer currently runs from WFC. However, my understanding is that after Silver Phase I, it will run from Wiehle. At least according to this:

http://planitmetro.com/2013/03/18/what-will-happen-to-the-buses-with-the-silver-line/

Of course, that could be dated since it says: "Going to Dulles Airport? Metrobus 5A will remain unchanged, and the express Washington Flyer buses will move from West Falls Church to Wiehle Avenue station."

by Falls Church on Jul 10, 2013 10:50 pm • linkreport

@Richard B, the target date for the Purple Line is 2020. Which I expect will slip a year or two due to getting all the funding in place, disputes over this and that, politics, but the Purple Line now has $280 million to buy property and do the final design. It is moving ahead.

@Jason L, of course for 7 day a week MARC service I am only referring to the Penn Line. If the B30 bus is dropped before the Purple Line is running, the only people that lose are those from the Metro stations are on the Greenbelt end of the Green Line. Everyone else is either coming from the core or taking the Metro to connect to the Green Line. Connecting to MARC at Union Station or New Carrolton won't be that much of an issue for them.

Looking up the Metrobus FY12 ridership numbers on the WMATA website, the B30 bus had a weekday average of 619 riders, so it is not that busy a bus. There is no data on the weekend average which could be interesting with the lack of MARC service. The 5A had a FY12 weekday average of 1,237 for comparison.

by AlanF on Jul 10, 2013 11:09 pm • linkreport

Fairfax Connector 981 will run between the new Wiehle station and Dulles every 20 minutes for $1.60 once Silver Line phase 1 starts. This is on the FFX Connector website.

No need for funding of duplicate bus service such as the 5A. Maybe DC and FFX can use that 5A money to make other bus improvements. Maybe keep the 5A for extreme early morning and late night trips when the rail system is closed.

by Transport. on Jul 10, 2013 11:10 pm • linkreport

The 5A bus is used by many people who work at the airport, and it is the only option to take public transport to and from IAD. Before cutting any service, including service in the early morning and at night, the airport authority needs to determine how many of its employees depend on the bus to get to and from work -- the Silver Line may not be able to substitute this extremely necessary service. I also think there should be more than one option to get to and from the airport by public transportation -- just imagine something happens on the Silver line -- there may be an accident, there may be single tracking due to repairs, and people get stuck, unable to get to their planes, or to work, or unable to get home -- there should be a bus *and* a train to the airport, as is common at most major airports in Europe. This proposal seems rather premature and short-sighted.

by K. Hering on Jul 10, 2013 11:28 pm • linkreport

@K. Hering: there is no other bus alternative at National Airport (DCA). The 13F,G Metro buses run when rail service is not; only Blue/Yellow rail service operated during most of the day. Why would the same not work at IAD?

With WMATA saying they could not add more 16th St "S" buses during rush hours to reduce crowding due to lack of buses, maybe a few of those 5A buses could instead operate along 16th St during rush.

by Transport. on Jul 11, 2013 12:05 am • linkreport

Service on the 981 bus from Wiehle Avenue to Dulles and back every 20 minutes on weekdays and Saturdays (but only every 40 minutes on Sundays) would be a notable improvement over the current service frequency. But... first, Fairfax Connector needs to enter the 21st century and a) get that route into Google directions, even if Metro has to manually add it to its own data set, and b) provide real-time arrival data in some obvious place like the NextBus site.

It would be nice if this bus has luggage racks comparable to the 5A's, but somehow I'm not expecting that. I suppose I'm also hopeful to think that they might give this bus a name that even vaguely suggests it's your way from Metro to the airport... I don't know, maybe "IAD"?

by Rob Pegoraro on Jul 11, 2013 12:46 am • linkreport

Cool, now we're totally out of luck when the orange/silver line is closed during construction season.

by alexandrian on Jul 11, 2013 1:03 am • linkreport

Why would the same not work at IAD?

Because in a pinch you can take a cab to DCA and not be out much cash. Doing the same to IAD will cost you a fortune.

by Airport Worker on Jul 11, 2013 9:41 am • linkreport

Whats better a 5A with terrible headways, but provides service all the way from DC with 1 stop, or a silver line transfer to a bus that runs longer hours and more frequently (like 10 minute headways). Because thats really the amount that the longhaul is costing to run parallel.

Personally, I think the convenience to DC residents (1/3rd the size of the NOVA residents) is not the primary decision factor. If DC wants to run a full length shuttle service they are perfectly capable of doing so. Loudoun has had fully funded personal bus services that do similar as has Prince William County. Either way, Fairfax County's funding of the 5A should be discontinued and replaced with more frequent connector service which better provides for Fairfax residents needs (and those who want to transfer from the Silver Line).

Cutting the 5A is a no brainer, not only would FFX Co no longer have to pay for the exorbitant WMATA operational costs (last years numbers showed that FFX Connector is about 60% cheaper than WMATA buses per passenger mile than WMATA), but it would also reduce the actual fuel costs for long haul.

In summary, if DC wants 5A then it can very easily be removed from the Fairfax County funded items, and transferred to a DC funded route, providing Fairfax back almost $1 million per year to spend elsewhere for transit.

by Tysons Engineer on Jul 11, 2013 9:48 am • linkreport

Whats better a 5A with terrible headways, but provides service all the way from DC with 1 stop, or a silver line transfer to a bus that runs longer hours and more frequently (like 10 minute headways). Because thats really the amount that the longhaul is costing to run parallel.

Nailed it.

After the Silver Line opens, they should truncate the 5A to just run between Weihle Ave and Dulles, AND increase the frequency. And keep the full 5A runs to Rosslyn/L'Enfant that fall outside Metro hours - those runs where you could not depart/arrive Dulles at that time using Metro.

The 981 route is interesting but it makes too many stops and runs at 25-minute intervals. The frequency should be more like 20 minutes.

by MLD on Jul 11, 2013 10:03 am • linkreport

@AlanF
I understand the purple line might be built in 2020, I just would rather plan the B30's demise based on that after construction is half way finished and the Penn Line actually has weekend service.

While on the 5A(I use to take it a lot) I got into a conversation with some lower class workers who were pissed the fare went up. When you are working for minimum wage out at the airport, paying $12 a day is a burden. Removing the 5A will mean paying ~$25 a day between the flyer, metrorail, and metrobus. When silver II opens it will still be above 12 from anywhere low income workers can afford to live. This will invariably increase the prices at dulles airport. I dont know why MWAA doesn't realize this.

I would really like to see a bus that hits the silver terminus and goes to dupont/union station. L'entant and Rosslyn are already on the silver line and too far south for a lot of people in DC and MD.

by Richard B on Jul 11, 2013 10:05 am • linkreport

The 5A nearly covers its operating costs with fares (repeating @Ben's point). For a while it created net operating revenue which was used to cross subsidize other WMATA operations. That is nearly unheard of in the world of public transit. It's odd to contemplate elimination of the only route that is performing well from a market perspective. People are voting for the 5A with their feet and their dollars unlike they do for any other route in the system. This makes a public hearing and a discussion of what alternatives exist seem pretty irrelevant. The people have already spoken.

@Transport is correct that WMATA could really use some extra buses which could be made available by cutting the 5A. But wouldn't it makes more sense to cut a route that isn't performing spectacularly well?

by Jonathon on Jul 11, 2013 10:05 am • linkreport

Classic Metro. Planning already to make service worse and less convenient. The 5A stops at the terminal, takes about 45 minutes from Rosslyn with one stop. Where will the Silver Line Station be at Dulles? How long will the ride take?

by Rightsman on Jul 11, 2013 10:07 am • linkreport

@Tysons Engineer: I agree with you on your 5A comments above (9:48).

I wonder what numbers you saw as "last years numbers" showing the FFX Connector being about 60% cheaper to run vs. the Metro buses. I ask as these numbers, wherever/whatever they are, may be the reason Mary Cheh on DC Council was in the news recently saying she wanted a study on converting all "local" DC-based Metrobus routes to DC Circulator routes. Maybe the District is seeing the same light as FFX did a few years ago when almost all of the Vienna Metro WMATA bus routes were changed to be FFX Connector if the costs are in fact that much different.

by Transport. on Jul 11, 2013 10:09 am • linkreport

last years numbers showed that FFX Connector is about 60% cheaper than WMATA buses per passenger mile than WMATA

I will also point out that this is the wrong comparison to make in this case - you are trying to compare how much it costs to PROVIDE service but are using a metric that measures how much the service costs based on use.

You should use cost per vehicle hour - according to the NTD FFC's cost is about 78% of WMATA's (22% cheaper) - for a route like the 5A I would expect the costs to be closer since the speeds are higher.

Comparing costs per passenger mile isn't useful when comparing options for a single route; of course FFC's costs will be WAY lower on that metric - they don't provide service on many routes for portions of the day and provide almost no service at night. WMATA does because it serves many people without cars, and those times are when passenger volumes are lowest.

by MLD on Jul 11, 2013 10:12 am • linkreport

The 5A stops at the terminal, takes about 45 minutes from Rosslyn with one stop. Where will the Silver Line Station be at Dulles? How long will the ride take?

The Final EIS shows a Rosslyn-Dulles travel time of 43 minutes: http://www.dullesmetro.com/pdfs/FEIS_I/FTA_FEIS_Chapter_6.pdf

The Dulles station will be adjacent to one of the Daily Garages, linked to the terminal via the tunnel with underground moving walkways.

by Alex B. on Jul 11, 2013 10:14 am • linkreport

FYI, I wrote an e-mail to my county's representative on the WMATA board making the points I outlined here. You all are doing the same, right?

by Rob Pegoraro on Jul 11, 2013 10:26 am • linkreport

@Transport both agencies (WMATA and FFX Connector) release both total operational costs (WMATA does split this for buses) as well as total passenger miles for calendar years. I simply compared the two ratios and Connector costs only 60% that of WMATA, I misspoke when I said 60% cheaper, it would be 40%, at 60% of the cost

http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/connector/news/facts.htm

Bus miles on FFX Co was 8.35 million miles
For a total operational cost of 77 million (2012 numbers). That comes out to about $9.20 per mile.

For WMATA in their subsidy calculation spreadsheet they noted 27.8 million miles for metrobus

http://www.wmata.com/about_metro/board_of_directors/board_docs/033120_3ASubsidyReview.pdf

Then from the 2014 budget, I looked back at the operating budget in 2012 for WMATA buses (520.2million). Then looked at the fare take in for 2012 on buses of (133.9 million, which shows just how hugely the bus system is subsidized by rail and jurisdictions). That means operating shortfall is 386.3 million.

That comes out to $13.90 per bus mile.

$9.20/13.90 is about 66%. I say 60% because in 2012 some of the operating budget increase in Fairfax was due to maintenance issues on the existing fleet, since then the cost per mile for FFX Connector has reduced below $9.

Hope that helps (and it is most certainly just a back of napkin calculation, but for sure the FFX Connector service is far more cost efficient).

Some of that changes if you look at total people served per mile, but that is not valid in the discussion of suburban spur bus routes anyways (to use the fact that the bus network in DC is far more dense to justify a suburban parallel bus/rail line)

by Tysons Engineer on Jul 11, 2013 10:32 am • linkreport

MLD, I misspoke, the cost reduction is when using vehicle miles, not passenger miles. And actually the speed of the road has very little impact on the cost saving, it is really the cost of the bus drivers on WMATA that drive up the Virginia bus subsidy. The more we can ween off of that, the better Fairfax is in terms of using that cost saving to provide better service for Fairfax

by Tysons Engineer on Jul 11, 2013 10:34 am • linkreport

@Tysons Engineer: "Personally, I think the convenience to DC residents (1/3rd the size of the NOVA residents) is not the primary decision factor."

Fine, then let's also rename it something especially awful like "Northern Virginia Hoover Dulles International Airport." This is a REGIONAL issue. It's not just about NoVA, and it's not just about DC, but it is about both.

by MetroDerp on Jul 11, 2013 10:37 am • linkreport

@Airport Worker: I don't think it is best use of transit resources to operate a bus route duplicating rail for the sole purpose of having a cheaper alternative to Metro rail service, especially when there are needs in areas where this is only bus with no rail alternative.

MWAA should put together some type of fare program (Smartrip Smart Benefits?) for airport employees. Same for contractors who managee the cleaning operation, concession stands, vending, etc... at both DCA and IAD (maybe this could be a requirment when service contracts come up for bid at the two airports).

by Transport. on Jul 11, 2013 10:37 am • linkreport

But you know, all of this speaks to the utter inability of any transit agency in the area to recognize the importance of good headways. You take any service at all and reduce the headways to 10 minutes or less, and you WILL see an uptick in ridership. Why is that such a hard concept for anyone to understand?

by MetroDerp on Jul 11, 2013 10:38 am • linkreport

@metroderp

I am fine with regional transit solutions, but to say that Fairfax (which funds most of the 5A system since it runs most of its miles within Fairfax) should fund it so that DC residents have a better trip option than taking the train to a bus, that is absurd.

I have no problem with the 5A remaining, you should contact your DC representative and insist that DC pick up the funding of this, remove any stop in Fairfax, and make it a one seat option from DC.

It isn't Fairfax's job to fund a $1million bus route that doesn't serve fairfax residents. I dont know what part of that is unreasonable

by Tysons Engineer on Jul 11, 2013 10:42 am • linkreport

@MetroDerp: The Silver Line addresses access to Dulles on a regional level, with significant funds put up by Fairfax County, VA, USDOT, etc... for construction. A six car Silver train every 12 minutes (using the proposed midday headway) from Largo, MD to Dulles is a heck of a lot more regional serving, at least in my opinion, than a 40 bus operating every 60 minutes from L'Enfant Plaza and Rosslyn out to Dulles. The Silver Line will also include Maryland, unlike the 5A.

@Tysons Engineer: thank you for explaining the data you referenced. Even a 40% lower cost is still a lower cost. I'll go back to Vienna. the old Metrobus 20 line used to operate a few trips only during rush hours. The replacement FFX service operates all day long and I was told for about the same cost. The bus users win who now have more flexibility and more service. I don't care what color the bus is or who operates it. As long as it is safe, gets me where I need to be, and accepts Smartrip cards for fare payment I am good to go.

by Transport. on Jul 11, 2013 10:46 am • linkreport

@Transport @MetroDerp

I guess my issue is canceling the 5A before Phase 2 opens (and even then, not running it during off-Metro hours). Especially if headways between Wiehle and Dulles aren't going to improve much.

And more specifically @Transport: 12 minute headways and six car trains are absolutely pathetic to aspire to (no offense to you, just to WMATA). That's an abysmal standard for the capital of the wealthiest nation on earth when the capacity exists for so much more.

by MetroDerp on Jul 11, 2013 10:52 am • linkreport

@metroderp I think the 12 minute headway is off peak. (and it is still better than the headways between the 5A, just sayin)

by Tysons Engineer on Jul 11, 2013 10:55 am • linkreport

I am fine with regional transit solutions, but to say that Fairfax (which funds most of the 5A system since it runs most of its miles within Fairfax) should fund it so that DC residents have a better trip option than taking the train to a bus, that is absurd.

Fairfax does not fund most of the 5A costs.

The 5A is a regional route, meaning its costs are pooled in the overall Metrobus budget. The subsidy for all of those routes are them paid for by the WMATA jurisdictions according to the WMATA bus subsidy formula.

by Alex B. on Jul 11, 2013 11:05 am • linkreport

@alex b Yes, and that subsidy uses mileage as one of its major factors. Since a huge portion of the miles are in Fairfax, it skews the amounts paid, therefore yes, it is accurate to say that the 5A is in majority funded by Fairfax and if that line was cut that Fairfax would be saved nearly $1 million via that same subsidy calculation.

If not, then I guess DC already pays plenty for it, so they wont mind to pick up the rest right? ;)

by Tysons Engineer on Jul 11, 2013 11:10 am • linkreport

@ kk
Washington Harbor is a destination for plenty of DC residents. For work as well as for play. A convention center has need for hundreds of casual labors.

by tour guide on Jul 11, 2013 11:12 am • linkreport

Alex B: Actually, the RAC report says that the 5A has been operating outside of the usual formula. From the report:
As individual jurisdictions and business interests recognized the value of the line, however, a loose agreement was reached whereby the line would remain in place with costs distributed among the jurisdictions whose riders most used the service. Over time, that formula has varied, with Fairfax in particular lowering its contribution and the District of Columbia picking up the slack.

WMATA officials told the working group that the 5A has survived primarily because it falls outside of the usual jurisdictional discussions about subsidies and ridership. Up to this point, they have operated under the assumption that the 5A will “continue in perpetuity until someone notices.”

They noticed now.

by David Alpert on Jul 11, 2013 11:23 am • linkreport

@David, thank you I didnt know the 5A was a special case.

That being said, Fairfax can be removed all together from that and DC could pick up all of the slack, and make it one seat from DC to Dulles if they wanted to retain it.

I'd wonder what the exact cost share is.

by Tysons Engineer on Jul 11, 2013 11:26 am • linkreport

Since a huge portion of the miles are in Fairfax, it skews the amounts paid, therefore yes, it is accurate to say that the 5A is in majority funded by Fairfax and if that line was cut that Fairfax would be saved nearly $1 million via that same subsidy calculation.

It's a regional route, meaning all of the jurisdictions chip in. The whole point about the regional routes is that they are not paid for on a route-by-route basis. DC chips in a much larger portion of the regional bus costs than FFX does thanks to the other factors in the formula, such as ridership by home location.

Also, if you look at the

by Alex B. on Jul 11, 2013 11:45 am • linkreport

The 5A has good usage out of Rosslyn too from what I understand. Most NOVA residents just arent going to take transit to the airport, but some will and some of those people like the 5A. Also if they are workers who cares which jurisdiction they are coming from. They should be able to get to work with reasonable ease.

by Alan B. on Jul 11, 2013 11:45 am • linkreport

Thought, maybe they could get Mega or another bus service to run a tourist shuttle from Dulles to maybe Farragut & Metro Center (with a potential stop in Rosslyn or Crystal City) since that provides the best connection to hotels? Seems like it would be a money maker since you could probably get a trip every hour when the airport is open with one bus and ~two/three full time drivers. I never understood why West Falls Church was the best connecting point for the Flyer. Charging slightly higher fares and going right down town would be preferable for many tourists and a good chunk of locals.

by Alan B. on Jul 11, 2013 11:52 am • linkreport

There are tons of regional routes and plenty of them only have a tiny part between jurisdictions.

To take FFX/Tysons boosterism to the point where you're saying we should just "cut loose" the 5A and let DC pay for it is just dumb. Virginia gets plenty of benefit from making Dulles more accessible to workers and travelers.

They should probably introduce other options and see how ridership on the 5A does and then cut back if need be.

Also, in WMATA's budget docs the 5A is listed as a "regional route" but I can't find anything about a special funding agreement.

Amazing that MWAA won't post anything about public transit options, but obviously their incentive is to recover the costs of the flyer service.

by MLD on Jul 11, 2013 11:53 am • linkreport

Whoops: hit send before I was finished.

If you look at the WMATA budget, you'll see that all of the 5A's hours for regional bus service are allocated to DC, not to others.

Actually, the RAC report says that the 5A has been operating outside of the usual formula.

Sort of. The formula allows for 'board consent' to change the allocation of specific routes.

My larger point is to correct Tysons Engineer's error: Fairfax is not 'paying for it.' The hours are allocated to DC in the regional funding formula, and that formula already puts ~43% of all regional bus costs on DC, and only ~12.5% of regional bus costs on Fairfax.

by Alex B. on Jul 11, 2013 11:54 am • linkreport

Then it doesn't matter that Fairfax doesn't want the 5A anymore. Sounds like DC needs to get behind it. As long as Fairfax aint paying for it, I have no opinion. But I think its a waste of DC money anyways.

And its not Tysons boosting to say that it is unfair for Fairfax to pay for a bus system that serves another jurisdiction, it is reality. Fairfax doesn't pay for Loudoun to operate its bus service to Tysons, because that would be stupid for Fairfax, its a Loudoun bus system.

If DC wants the 5A, then DC can pay for the 5A, which evidently it does. Otherwise it will disappear and you can use that shiny new train.

by Tysons Engineer on Jul 11, 2013 12:26 pm • linkreport

@MLD Dulles is still accessible, via the train and a much more rapid bus system with shorter headways. This is more about whining about how easy that access is to specifically remote parts of DC.

If you are coming from Fort Totten, going to Dulles, guess what its gonna take a while. I dont see anyone crying a river for the people who come from Vienna and have to go to NOMA which takes about 65 minutes during rush hour due to transfers.

If DC wants a service, they should pay for that service. It sounds like they are for the 5A based on Alex B's statement, if thats the case then this has nothing to do with Fairfax.

by Tysons Engineer on Jul 11, 2013 12:30 pm • linkreport

If the Penn Line is going to be the route to BWI and if regional rail transit is going to be in the cards in the future a bus from Dulles should go to Union Station, not L'Enfant.

by Richard B on Jul 11, 2013 1:04 pm • linkreport

When I took the 5A to the airport last summer, it was full of commuters. Seems to me that the 5A is a good alternative for people in Herndon/Reston. Since the Silver Line does not have the much-needed express track, I doubt that it would be faster than the 5A. Instead of cutting 5A, WMATA should increase the frequency to encourage riders to choose transit and continue to provide the express service between downtown and the airport.

by BusNTrain on Jul 11, 2013 4:54 pm • linkreport

Let me clarify DDOT's intention in placing the 5A route on the public hearing docket. The agency's intention is to develop one or more bus services between Dulles Airport and Wiehle Ave. on the Silver line that would result in total travel time and total fare that are approximately equal to what the 5A provides now. The current 5A frequency is every 35 to 40 minutes on weekdays and hourly on weekends. The Silver line headway will be every six minutes peak, 12 minutes off-peak,12 to 15 minutes on weekends and every 15 to 20 minutes during the evening depending on how late one rides. By combining the resources of the MWAA (which subsidizes the Washington Flyer), Fairfax County and WMATA we hope to provide more frequent airport service and reduce the overall net subsidy required of these agencies. It is also important to make as full a utilization of the new Silver line as possible. One improvement DDOT seeks is the ability of customers to use Smartrip on Washington Flyer buses. By combining the resources now devoted to the Flyer and the 5A public agencies should be able to provide an improved bus headway to Wiehle Ave. That is DDOT intention.

by Steve Strauss on Jul 11, 2013 6:03 pm • linkreport

@ tour guide

Also do you mean the National Harbor because I dont have a clue what Washington Harbor is ?

How can you support moving the bus from Branch Ave to King Street when King Street is further than Branch Ave to the Harbor and if most employees are DC or Maryland residents it is a kick in the a** for them and would see their transportation cost double or triple.

by kk on Jul 11, 2013 6:36 pm • linkreport

The MWAA "Washington Flyer" bus (Dulles:: West Falls Church metro) has more room and large luggage racks. It is ideal for flyers arriving/departing at Dulles.

The WMATA 5A bus has no luggage racks and has NEVER worked well for flyers arriving/departing Dulles. (Everyone I know who has tried the 5A with luggage hated the experience; folks without luggage seem happy enough).

So these bus routes serve different users and are NOT directly comparable.

That noted, the right answer is for MWAA to run their Washington Flyer buses, with the big luggage racks, between Dulles and the nearest open Silver Line station (initially this will be Wiehle Avenue/Reston East). A Metro bus for this route is NOT adequate because it lacks room for luggage carried by travellers.
It also would help if Dulles Airport management would improve signage on how to find their own Washington Flyer bus -- this has always been hard for out-of-town folks to locate. A frequency of every 15-20 minutes should be practical with existing MWAA staff/equipment, since the travel time to Wiehle Avenue is about half the travel time to West Falls Church Metro.

by Frequent Flyer on Jul 12, 2013 8:56 am • linkreport

The Fairfax Connector express route between Reston, Tysons Bus Depot, and the Pentagon will remain in high demand even after the Silver Line opens because of the badly designed interchange at Rosslyn. It should be kept -- more below.

Folks who live west of Rosslyn on the Orange Line (and future Silver Line) already have a huge crush at Rosslyn trying to change to a south-bound Blue train to Pentagon, Crystal City, and Old Town Alexandria. This is already barely tolerable today. This will get worse, not better, with the opening of the Silver Line because more people will want to travel that path, yet no trains will be routed along that path. The Rosslyn Orange Crush will get worse in coming years.

The long-term (no funding & expensive) fix would be to somehow add a turnout at Court House heading for Arlington Cemetary (underground = expensive) so that some new line could run from Fairfax County east through Arlington and then continue south to Pentagon, Crystal City, and King Street with no change of train (and no transit of the congested Rosslyn station).

It boggles the mind that WMATA designers thought that residents of DC/MD would work at the Pentagon, which is the region's largest office building/employment location by far, but that no one in nearby Fairfax County would want to take Metro to the Pentagon. Sigh. Mumble.

The bottom line is that Fairfax Connector express buses from Reston, Tysons, and similar places will continue to be in strong demand even after the Silver Line opens.

by Pentagon Commuter on Jul 12, 2013 9:04 am • linkreport

Pentagon Commuter

A rail connection between eastbound Orange/Silver line trains and southbound Blue line trains is one of the proposed improvements in WMATA's Momentum 2025 Strategic Plan. It would allow WMATA to operate a Silver line to Pentagon one seat ride.

by Steve Strauss on Jul 12, 2013 9:47 am • linkreport

To be fair there were a lot less people in Fairfax and more in DC when the Metro system was designed in the late 60s.

by Alan B. on Jul 12, 2013 11:00 am • linkreport

Just because you have to transfer doesn't mean there isn't a Metro connection...

by Alex B. on Jul 12, 2013 12:36 pm • linkreport

Just because you have to transfer doesn't mean there isn't a Metro connection...

We need to redesign things so every train goes everywhere - one seat rides for all!

by MLD on Jul 12, 2013 12:40 pm • linkreport

We need to redesign things so every train goes everywhere - one seat rides for all!

One-seat Metro rides for some, miniature American flags for others!

by Alex B. on Jul 12, 2013 1:33 pm • linkreport

@Alex B @MLD
I had thought one of the concepts of Metro was to make sure you could get from anywhere to anywhere in the system with at most one transfer. One transfer seems reasonable, but transferring seems to have a bad taste for people. Perhaps Metro should focus on that experience to make transferring the most efficient at transfer points from additional stairs and make the environment more pleasant (indoor plants? fun ceiling light displays? anything to make it more pleasant and keep people less aware of the wait). Also better signage when you get off the platform to quickly find your next train and know how long you'll have to wait right when you get off). Maybe signs on the ceiling like "Red - Shady Grove with an arrow toward the direction to the stairs / escalators to take to get to the train in 5 minutes" Perception is everything and if people can efficiently get to their train, know how long they will have to wait right away, and enjoy things they see at the station then transferring might not be so bad.

by GP Steve on Jul 12, 2013 2:21 pm • linkreport

I don't think it's the transfer so much as the congestion at transfer points that annoys people during the peak. Off peak I avoid the metro especially under track work schedules. I think the solution though is that the current system works with direct commuter bus service operating during peaks when there is enough demand and rail and local bus service providing comprehensive service span.

I hope in their next train design Metro will consider a couple standing room only cars that could be coupled onto cars with seating especially for peak service. You could probably get 50% more people onto a car without seating and board/disembark faster without maneuvering around seats. As long as they are clearly marked, people who need seats should still be able to get them on the other 6 cars. At the very least NYC subway style cars with single rows of seating facing into the aisle would be good. Considering that the number of cars is constrained to 8 by platform lengths its the only way to add capacity.

by Alan B. on Jul 12, 2013 2:37 pm • linkreport

I had thought one of the concepts of Metro was to make sure you could get from anywhere to anywhere in the system with at most one transfer. One transfer seems reasonable, but transferring seems to have a bad taste for people. Perhaps Metro should focus on that experience to make transferring the most efficient at transfer points from additional stairs and make the environment more pleasant (indoor plants? fun ceiling light displays? anything to make it more pleasant and keep people less aware of the wait). Also better signage when you get off the platform to quickly find your next train and know how long you'll have to wait right when you get off). Maybe signs on the ceiling like "Red - Shady Grove with an arrow toward the direction to the stairs / escalators to take to get to the train in 5 minutes" Perception is everything and if people can efficiently get to their train, know how long they will have to wait right away, and enjoy things they see at the station then transferring might not be so bad.

Totally agree with you that transfers should be improved. The system has some issues with chokepoints and pedestrian flow especially at transfer stations.

One-seat rides are great but you have to balance that with the number of people who want to take that trip on transit. Check out the differences between the two 2025 plans (Rosslyn Wye and Blue Line Terminal) and look at the potential trains per hour. It could be that a blue line terminal option with a transfer at Rosslyn could be almost as fast, travel time-wise, as the one-seat option with the wye, when you consider the difference in frequencies. And then that gives you more potential for trips along the Silver Line and into the core.

by MLD on Jul 12, 2013 3:01 pm • linkreport

"Perhaps Metro should focus on that experience to make transferring the most efficient at transfer points from additional stairs and make the environment more pleasant (indoor plants? fun ceiling light displays? anything to make it more pleasant and keep people less aware of the wait). "

working escalators ;)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jul 12, 2013 3:41 pm • linkreport

The 5A currently serves as an alternative for Western Fairfax when the Orange Line has problems. I do not see that role being reduced with the addition of the Silver Line. Keep in mind that the Silver Line is dependent on the Orange Line for operation.

by John McMahon on Jul 16, 2013 9:45 am • linkreport

@ MLD

Another issue that must be looked at is that are people not going a specific route such as Alexandria/Southern Faifax to Western Arlington/Northern Fairfax on the train due to there being bus service.

Many trips are actually quicker on the bus than on the train for example if you are traveling as I said above or between both sides of the Red Lines.

by kk on Jul 16, 2013 11:02 am • linkreport

The 5A bus is terribly convenient getting from DC to Dulles. I hope they keep it in place until the Silver Line is completed all the way to Dulles. I've tried the Flyer and found it expensive and much less convenient than the 5A.

I agree with Juanita de Talmas (at beginning of chain)--WTF with the Airports Authority not allowing signs telling travelers where to find the 5A bus stop? That is just insane and the Airports Authority should be embarrassed.

by Greg on Jul 16, 2013 5:00 pm • linkreport

Incidentally, the same board agenda item also includes considering improvements to the B30: "Reroute to service Arundel Mills; extend span of service; shorten some headways".

by Payton on Jul 19, 2013 9:20 pm • linkreport

Once again we see two persistent problems with the Washington-Baltimore region in this story:
1. A lack of comprehensive inter-modal, multi-modal planning for transportation.

2. How clueless and worthless the Airports Authority is when it comes to actually doing their job: facilitating the movement of people. They just don't get it and really seem a corrupt bunch of cronies.

by Jester on Jul 25, 2013 12:30 pm • linkreport

A slight correction. The 5B did not run to Herndon-Monroe. It ran from DC to Tysons Corner and Tysons Westpark. When that route ended in 2006 or so, the 5A added the stop at Tysons-Westpark which it served until about two years ago.

by Wes on Aug 9, 2013 12:51 am • linkreport

Interesting comments by folks who are not regular commuters of the 5A bus. This bus has been kept alive by regular commuters for years as a express service from DC to mostly Herndon-Monroe and some small volume of airport workers, until someone had the "brilliant" idea to advertise to passengers as well. Since Metro doesn't reach Dulles airport, it has been a money maker machine for them.

Instead of eliminated the service, it should be modified as a "commuter express bus" servicing LP/Rosslyn/Herndon Monroe with supplemental weekend feeder and after hours service, so there is NO duplication of services. Passenger volume already exists, so it will be a self-sustain bus line.

All of the Silver Line stations are above ground, and I cannot even speculate when inclement weather arrives in the winter. Just last March, when the DC area was blanketed with snow, Metro only serviced below ground stations, and only 5A was running for emergency personnel coming from Western Fairfax and so forth, albeit slowler than usual, but there was transportation available. The fact that it will take your average commuter at least 20 extra minutes commuting through Tysons Corner add to the insult, the "melting pot" Orange/blue/silver at Rosslyn, makes no sense for all involved. Prefer to drive.....

by EeE on Sep 17, 2013 3:31 pm • linkreport

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