Greater Greater Washington

Transit


Silver Line starts July 26

WMATA just announced that the Silver Line will open at noon on Saturday, July 26just under five weeks from now.


Photo by Inspiration Point Studio on Flickr.

Beginning July 20, Silver Line trains will run in "simulated service" at the same times and frequencies as they will once the line opens. People will be able to board a Silver Line train along the existing parts of its route. If they're riding westbound, they'll have to get off the train at East Falls Church while the train itself continues to Wiehle.

As planned, there will be more "Rush Plus"-like changes: more Yellow trains to and from Franconia, but fewer Blue trains. That's needed to make room for the Silver trains in the Rosslyn tunnel until and unless Metro can afford to build a loop, a new terminal, or track connection to add capacity. There will also be fewer trains at West Falls Church, Dunn Loring, and Vienna, though some riders who now drive to those stations will be able to take the Silver Line.

And Tysons Corner will have four Metro stations, giving Fairfax County the chance to transform the nation's largest "edge city" into a real walkable, urban place.

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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Finally, yes! A moment to cheer!

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 23, 2014 11:20 am • linkreport

FINALLLLY!!!

by Ervin on Jun 23, 2014 11:22 am • linkreport

I'll be there!

by Tom Veil on Jun 23, 2014 11:25 am • linkreport

So the Silver line wins the race against the H Street streetcar.

by 202_Cyclist on Jun 23, 2014 11:28 am • linkreport

Exciting.

Any word on when Trip Planner will be updated with train times? I know they claim to not have a schedule during rush hour, but they do post times on Trip Planner (which are very accurate for my morning commute) and those will have to change.

For example, I catch a train at Vienna at 5:59 AM. Every morning, there's another one at 6:08 and then a Rush Plus at 6:10. Sure, maybe one leaves a minute early on occassion, but it's a very reliable schedule. I just used Trip Planner for Tuesday, July 29, and I see those same trains/times appearing. My assumption is they haven't updated Trip Planner yet or else I'd see something a little different. Or maybe those times just happen to not be affected.

Us non-Silver riders will also be interested to see how this affects our afternoon trip, especially those of us who have to catch buses.

by jh on Jun 23, 2014 11:34 am • linkreport

Nice!

by King Terrapin on Jun 23, 2014 11:52 am • linkreport

Agreed jh. As a sometimes Blue, but mostly Yellow line rider, I am eager for more Rush Plus Yellow service via L'Enfant.

by JDC on Jun 23, 2014 11:55 am • linkreport

Well, time to start preparing for the apocalypse.

by GM on Jun 23, 2014 11:59 am • linkreport

@jh

Bulls**t trip planner is far from reliable !

Do you work for WMATA?

I have used it numerous times where trains have come and gone 2 -3 minutes before the times given by trip planner. I have even added the trip planner times with the travel times between stations and the pid display and they all contradict each other with arrival times

What I wonder is when the first and last trips will live Reston East since there has been no mention of it just fare info and travel times. Since Reston East is far from the rest of the system I wonder will it leave like between 5am -5:10 am and 11:20-11:30pm like most of the lines currently do except for the Green Line or will they be leaving earlier due to the further distance and also when the second phase is finished what will happen then; will the times be pushed back or just earlier from 772 of whatever the hell that station is named now?

by kk on Jun 23, 2014 12:00 pm • linkreport

(Come July 26th) time to pop champagne!

by h st ll on Jun 23, 2014 1:14 pm • linkreport

Ah. July 26. The day that the Blue Line will go to 12 minute service at rush hour. That's double that 'track-work' frequency. Fantastic.

by Jasper on Jun 23, 2014 1:18 pm • linkreport

Fuuggly. Wish they had the foresight and the bucks to put more of it underground. The above ground tracks and stations in Tysons make the whole place feel even more like it's in the middle of a big highway spaghetti junction -- which it is.

by Randy on Jun 23, 2014 1:18 pm • linkreport

I have spent a fair amount of time on rte 7 and rte 123, and I do not think that the elevated lines are a net negative to their apperance, and to the extent they are, its small one. They have been traffic sewers for years, and some developments faced away from them anyway. As it is the financing for the SL was a touch and go thing.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 23, 2014 1:22 pm • linkreport

Sad day. As someone who lives in Alexandria and works on the West End of DC (Foggy Bottom), I am dreading the loss of more blue line trains. The upcoming fare hike is salt in the wound. So, while the opening of the silver line is exciting in theory, the reality is going to be pretty painful for those in my boat (well, on my train).

by RL on Jun 23, 2014 1:34 pm • linkreport

has the City of Alexandria taken an official stand on the seperate blue line/loop? Have any Alexandria pols spoken out? Arlington?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 23, 2014 1:39 pm • linkreport

Goodbye Blue Line, we hardly knew ye...

by Scoot on Jun 23, 2014 1:45 pm • linkreport

people taking the blue line from PG to DC will get just as much service.

Its a VA issue - basically east/south Arlington, Alexandria, and the Springfield part of Fairfax. If those areas want more BL service they need to step up on the new crossing.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 23, 2014 1:54 pm • linkreport

so I am assuming that 1st round of delays and weekend track work will be Aug 1-3 2014

by Jay on the 3rd Floor on Jun 23, 2014 1:56 pm • linkreport

I worry about getting from West End to the Airport on the Blue Line during rush hour. That's why we need to push forward with a new Potomac River tunnel/West End extension to support this surge in passengers from the Silver Line.

Such a project would be far more important and impactful than spending billions on a slow-paced, inflexible streetcar network.

by Brett on Jun 23, 2014 2:07 pm • linkreport

The Silver line is finally opening, it will be open before the new Macerich tower opens, I think. One month after Tour de Tysons. There is so much to discuss and celebrate.

I will leave discussions of the DC streetcar to other threads ;)

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 23, 2014 2:11 pm • linkreport

. . . and July 26 will be when I switch over to driving as my preferred mode of transportation. On a good day I can make it to the office in 15 minutes. Why would I risk having to wait 12 minutes for a train?

by Dave on Jun 23, 2014 2:18 pm • linkreport

Sounds like a good candidate for a bike (or ebike) commute.

by The Truth™ on Jun 23, 2014 2:35 pm • linkreport

Ah, quit mourning the loss of Blue Line trains. According to the system's design it was never meant to be the main way into DC. The Yellow Line is a welcome addition to service at Franconia-Springfield and will get people downtown faster and more efficiently …  as it was always supposed to be.

The story of how the Blue Line ended up servicing Franconia-Springfield instead of Huntington as originally planned is funny: it was because of the order in which cars were delivered, they had to start out the Yellow Line at Huntington first. And then they didn't change it to avoid confusing people.

But the Yellow Line from Franconia-Springfield makes mounds of sense: it's faster, and it follows the route of 395 into the city. As I see it, the opening of the Silver Line is correcting an accident of history.

by Omar on Jun 23, 2014 2:58 pm • linkreport

@Omar:Ah, quit mourning the loss of Blue Line trains.

Yeah. That's easy talk. I take it you never have to get from Alexandria to Rosslyn or the West End?

There are people who do. For them, the Silver Line means that the Blue Line will be the new sardine line between Rosslyn and the Pentagon.

Not fun.

by Jasper on Jun 23, 2014 4:05 pm • linkreport

Did I miss the info indicating the aggregate # of BL/YL regular/ Rush+ trains from Franconia-Springfield during rush and non-rush hours? If I did, sorry...

by Markus Orealeus on Jun 23, 2014 5:52 pm • linkreport

The Yellow Line does not follow 395 into the city. Unless you mean that it starts at one end and ends at the other but doesn't actually follow 395 at all.

by Sarah on Jun 23, 2014 6:09 pm • linkreport

Jasper,

Actually the 21st is when your Blue Line bellyaching will commence. The blue can't run its current headways and still allow enough slots for the pseudo-Silver trains to operate. There will be the "Silver" level of Yellow Line trains operating that day however.

by Lord Baltimore on Jun 23, 2014 7:24 pm • linkreport

Beginning July 20, Silver Line trains will run in "simulated service" at the same times and frequencies as they will once the line opens. People will be able to board a Silver Line train along the existing parts of its route. If they're riding westbound, they'll have to get off the train at East Falls Church while the train itself continues to Wiehle.

Those simulated days will likely cause the Orange Crush to get crushier. You'll be running service levels equal to when Silver is in full ops but all the cars and buses that would normally be going to SV stations will be at Orange stations.

by Falls Church on Jun 23, 2014 7:26 pm • linkreport

This will be the 26th consecutive Metrorail opening I have attend. I hope to make it 27 before I take the eternal dirt nap.

I also attend the 3 openings of the Baltimore Metro and the opening of the first segment of the light rail.

How many Washington Metrorail opening have others here attend?

by Sand Box John on Jun 23, 2014 10:20 pm • linkreport

The really great thing about the Silver Line will be the secure bike room at Wiehle-Reston East. Check it out: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ltaqgwg-4HY

Right next to the W&OD - the I-66 of cycling! Can't wait!

by kbikeva on Jun 24, 2014 7:26 am • linkreport

@Falls Church, "Those simulated days will likely cause the Orange Crush to get crushier." Yes, that may be a problem as Wiehle Reston East won't be taking some of the traffic load from the Vienna, Dunn Loring stops. One benefit of an August opening is that the simulated service week would take place with reduced peak traffic with many on August vacation. But Metrorail ridership drops from June to July to August, so the July 19-25 tests will be while ridership is declining leading into August.

But I am looking forward to Phase 1 opening. After decades of talking about it, studies, more studies, political battles, it is actually going to happen. For those in DC or Arlington, they will get Metro Access to the Tysons Corner Center megamall. Are there public estimates of how many people may take the Metro to Tysons Corner Center on weekends and evenings once the SL is up and running and the skywalk is open? I figure the Galleria will see only a small to modest number of Metro riders.

by AlanF on Jun 24, 2014 8:54 am • linkreport

I'm thrilled to see that other people have brought up what a horrible blow this is to Blue Line riders and that I didn't have to do it myself.

Still, even now, it's not too late for WMATA to do the right thing and cut just one train each from Silver and Orange to support an acceptable minimum service level on Blue during the peak.

Taking just one train away reduces orange and silver frequency from every 6 minutes to every 6 2/3rd, which means - at worst - you wait 40 seconds longer for your train.

Adding those two trains to Blue reduces Blue headways from every 12 minutes to every 8 minutes 35 seconds - putting it back above minimum service level and saving riders 205 seconds, or more than four times what it "costs" Orange and Silver.

Do the right thing, WMATA.

by Ryan on Jun 24, 2014 9:10 am • linkreport

s/four/five.

by Ryan on Jun 24, 2014 9:11 am • linkreport

AlanF

I'm guessing that for now, the vast majority of metro riders going to Tysons every day of the week will be folks going to jobs -- whether they work in office buildings or the Tysons Mall. There may be a good number of shopper-riders, though, during the holiday season traffic mess. You could also see worker-riders who do a little shopping at the mall after work or at lunch.

Eventually, Tysons is going to have a lot more transit-oriented retail but I don't know that the mall will ever get a high mode share of transit shoppers.

by Falls Church on Jun 24, 2014 9:24 am • linkreport

Ryan,

How do you propose running BL trains at 8:35 headways mixed in a common core with OR/SV trains at 6:40 headways when trains are scheduled in whole minutes and are required to be initially scheduled at least 2 minutes apart from each other?

by Lord Baltimore on Jun 24, 2014 9:43 am • linkreport

@Ryan: so the right thing is to run under-capacity blue line cars instead of at-capacity orange & silver line cars? the blue line simply doesn't have the ridership to justify bumping the more heavily utilized lines.

by Mike on Jun 24, 2014 9:47 am • linkreport

@Falls Church, of course the vast majority of the riders going to Tysons will be going to work or home. I was wondering about the number of trips to the Tysons Center mall. Pentagon City gets a lot of business via Metro on weekends. Tysons is lot further from DC, so I expect the Tysons malls won't get much traffic from DC, Alexandria except on Xmas shopping periods. But Tysons Center will be a quicker trip for those living along the Courthouse - East Falls Church axis than Pentagon City, so it will get trips from those stops. When SL Phase 2 is complete and the infill TOD follows, weekend & evening trips on the SL from Ashburn, Herndon, Reston to Tysons for shopping & dining may be routine over driving on the Toll road.

Tysons Center is going to see some business arriving via the Metro, we will see how much as the SL is completed and TOD follows. In 6-8 years, someone on GGW can do data mining to show year to year changing ridership patterns for OR, BL, SV lines for weekdays and weekends before and as the phases of the SL open.

by AlanF on Jun 24, 2014 10:40 am • linkreport

AlanF

I agree Tysons mall could get some Courthouse-EFC shoppers riding metro because the Ballston mall is tiny and Rosslyn-Ballston doesn't have every store that Tysons Center does.

When Phase 2 is complete, you'll get additional riders from the West but by that time, they may not be going to the mall. There should be more modern designed transit-oriented retail (like Mosaic District) by then. For example, the Scott's Run development at the McLean station will have millions of square feet in a park-like setting with a stream running through it and a pedestrian-scaled street grid. Tysons mall is going to have a tough time competing with that to attract metro riders.

by Falls Church on Jun 24, 2014 10:57 am • linkreport

How do you propose running BL trains at 8:35 headways mixed in a common core with OR/SV trains at 6:40 headways when trains are scheduled in whole minutes and are required to be initially scheduled at least 2 minutes apart from each other?
None of these lines begin or end in the segment where all three lines are sharing trackage, and I don't think it's a realistic expectation that there won't be 20 seconds or so of drift just as a natural consequence of people taking too long to board the train or something.

Or I can offer you averages, where 6:40 and 8:35 turn into 6 or 7 and 8 or 9, and it still works out "close enough."

The point remains that one train has far more of a beneficial impact added to Blue than its harmful impact subtracted from Orange or Silver.

so the right thing is to run under-capacity blue line cars instead of at-capacity orange & silver line cars?
Yes. It absolutely is the right thing to do.
the blue line simply doesn't have the ridership to justify bumping the more heavily utilized lines.
Gosh, it's almost like lowering frequency causes the line to become less attractive, resulting in a reduction in ridership that feeds into a destructive cycle where the logical conclusion is just to cut the line entirely!

Who'd 'ave thunk it?

by Ryan on Jun 24, 2014 11:06 am • linkreport

If the line is ever cut entirely, I guess then Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax will push the NVTA to fund the blue line crossing?

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 24, 2014 11:09 am • linkreport

If the line is ever cut entirely, I guess then Alexandria, Arlington and Fairfax will push the NVTA to fund the blue line crossing?
All the same arguments being used against restoring minimum service levels to the Blue Line (eg, more capacity needed on other lines, not enough Blue ridership) will be applied to the separated Blue Line tunnel as well, and it'll be even worse if the line is already phased out by the time construction could begin.

by Ryan on Jun 24, 2014 1:00 pm • linkreport

What will happen to metrobus 5a to Washington Dulles International Airport?

by Benjamin on Jun 24, 2014 1:11 pm • linkreport

"All the same arguments being used against restoring minimum service levels to the Blue Line (eg, more capacity needed on other lines, not enough Blue ridership) will be applied to the separated Blue Line tunnel as well, and it'll be even worse if the line is already phased out by the time construction could begin. "

DC has already declared the loop (which would include the new crossing) as something they will support, in the new MoveDC plan. IF Fairfax, Alexandria, and Arlington were to get behind it, I think it would happen (and I don't think any additional lines beyond the SL present that strong a case.) BTW I do not expect the blue line to be cut entirely. As we see from post rush hour service on other lines, every 12 minutes will still be useful to many people. I just think that instead of complaining about the SL, folks (and POLS!) concerned about the blue line need to focus on the new crossing.

by AWalkerInTheCity on Jun 24, 2014 1:11 pm • linkreport

@Ryan: you seem to be confusing what's most convenient for you with what is right for the system & the region. The blue line has long had less ridership than orange (rush+ was the result of that imbalance, not the cause). Yeah, some people going from pentagon to GWU are going to be inconvenienced, but there is simply no way to make a transportation system that has every route people might want and inconveniences nobody. What might make sense would be for the blue line to turn outbound at Rosslyn, to connect the ends of FFX county to each other, but even that minimal change would require some major work at Rosslyn.

by Mike on Jun 24, 2014 1:41 pm • linkreport

By "Blue line" we're talking about three stations. Franconia, Van Dorn, and Arlington Cemetary. Every other station along the blue line will either see more trains or the same.

If your commute is springfield to Rosslyn then that's unfortunate and your one of 11% of riders who are negatively affected by this. I'd suggest redirecting energy towards lobbying for the separated blue line.

by drumz on Jun 24, 2014 2:03 pm • linkreport

"Lower" ridership does not equal "no" ridership. The Blue is still heavily used - just try to board a train at peak hours. I'm fortunate enough to be able to use Blue or Orange to get to work in Rosslyn, but when I try to get from there to a sports field at Braddock Road around 6:15PM, it's a nightmarish sardine can down the Blue Line. And that's with existing pre-Silver headways.

I think you're also all missing the fact that induced demand works both ways. Provide a sub-par or downright shitty level of service (see: Metro off-peak, Metro evenings, Metro midday, Metro weekends, etc.), and you'll see ridership drop commensurately. Add service (I have no examples of this as I don't believe WMATA has actually improved service in my time in DC), and people will start riding the more convenient trains and buses.

It's also ridiculous that with a fairly modern signaling system, we can only squeeze 26 trains per hour out of the existing tracks. London is already running 33 tph on the Victoria Line and in fact used to run almost 40 tph. Why is WMATA incapable of following global best practices? Or of making any effort whatsoever to improve its headways?

by LowHeadways on Jun 24, 2014 2:11 pm • linkreport

Furthermore, the other problem here is less the relative level of Blue Line service to other levels but the fact that current operational practices have tons and tons and tons of wasted capacity (e.g., less than 50% between Pentagon and Rosslyn; same for the Green Line north of Mt. Vernon Square, any of the non-interlined branches of Blue, Yellow, and Orange). Until something radically changes with our track configuration and WMATA's practices, we'll continue to squander what we have.

by LowHeadways on Jun 24, 2014 2:14 pm • linkreport

[i]Add service (I have no examples of this as I don't believe WMATA has actually improved service in my time in DC), and people will start riding the more convenient trains and buses.[/i]

Green Line north before Rush Plus: 10 TPH.
After Rush Plus: 13 TPH
After Silver Opening: 15 TPH

by Lord Baltimore on Jun 24, 2014 2:59 pm • linkreport

LowHeadways: and you're missing that they are adding service for a large number of people, and not really affecting service for another large set of blue line riders.

as to tph, victoria line has a significantly lower maximum speed than the orange line, and an almost brand-new signalling system with 60s headways, so it's a bit apples-to-oranges. wmata does not have a fairly modern system and has been wanting to upgrade the signalling for decades but nobody has wanted to pay for it. I don't know what state everything will be in when they're finally finished the post-2009 crash upgrades.

by Mike on Jun 24, 2014 3:00 pm • linkreport

It's also ridiculous that with a fairly modern signaling system, we can only squeeze 26 trains per hour out of the existing tracks. London is already running 33 tph on the Victoria Line and in fact used to run almost 40 tph. Why is WMATA incapable of following global best practices? Or of making any effort whatsoever to improve its headways?

Because WMATA is WMATA. Expecting them to be competent and up to date with modern standards is quite a lot to expect.

by Zeus on Jun 24, 2014 3:49 pm • linkreport

@Lord Baltimore: True, but that isn't running more service. It's changing where they're running existing service (e.g., rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic).

What I'm talking about, for instance, are weekends where the scheduled service is like, 5 tph. I have never seen them propose an increase in service above what they have now.

by LowHeadways on Jun 24, 2014 5:54 pm • linkreport

Low Headways,

You can believe what you choose, but it is indeed running more service. If the overall net train miles, car miles, and man hours increase, you are running more service. Such was the case with Rush Plus, and will be the case yet again with Silver. Both schedule changes also increased peak car requirements in addition. Even though some of the mixture changes, the result from the changes is hardly resource neutral in any way, but rather adding resource requirements.

I believe bus has also seen increased service that outweighs any comparative service cuts. The one that stands out to me at the moment is 79 Saturday service that was recently added.

by Lord Baltimore on Jun 24, 2014 7:32 pm • linkreport

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