The crowds turned out for the first public ride on the Silver Line Saturday — but will commuters embrace the line?
The Silver Line finally debuted with much fanfare on Saturday. Metro officials, local politicians and even Teddy were on-hand for the ribbon-cutting and first trip carrying actual bona fide passengers.
Operating on a weekend schedule for crowds of transit buffs and enthusiastic locals is one thing, but the real test for Metro comes when the system has to carry a full load of rush hour passengers, estimated to be as many as 25,000 daily riders after the first year of service.
WAMU reporters Martin Di Caro and Armando Trull will be on-hand to report as the Silver Line undergoes its first real test Monday morning, but in the meantime, here are five things you need to know about the new Silver Line:
Walking to the Silver Line stations is a bit of a challenge. Residents of Tysons Corner have complained about a shortage of adequate sidewalks and crosswalks, something that the Fairfax County Department of Transportation says they will be monitoring as the line begins service. This might make the residential roads around the stations slightly chaotic until riders have the routes down.
Many commuters in Fairfax will face longer, more expensive trips to work. For many of the thousands in Fairfax County who currently take the Fairfax Connector from park and rides near home to the West Falls Church Metro station on the Orange Line, there's going to be a big shake-up. Eleven Fairfax Connector routes have been changed to bring riders to the Wiehle-Reston East stop on the Silver Line. This could add several dollars to the cost of an everyday round-trip commute as well as 10 or more minutes of travel time.
Blue Line trains are running once every 12 minutes. This took effect July 21, but it may still take some getting used to for Blue Line riders. While the Silver Line will mean shorter wait times for some of those who formerly considered themselves Orange Line riders, a logjam at the Rosslyn tunnel has prompted Metro to drop two Blue Line trains per hour in favor of two Yellow Line trains. So for those heading to the District from Virginia, Metro advises taking the Yellow Line and transferring back to the Blue Line at L'Enfant Plaza.
Be prepared for confusion. Picture the annual summer chaos of the Smithsonian Metro station, with the swarms of tourists looking about for signs and trying to use paper fare cards on the SmarTrip readers. Now take that and imagine that everyone is visiting the Metro station for the first time, not just the tourists. That's what you can probably expect at Metro's five newest stations Monday morning. So be prepared to exercise patience.
If you're going to be doing any dancing, please tweet us about it. Dancing on Metro is not generally encouraged, but the Silver Line ads WMATA has been running seem to indicate otherwise. We won't take a position one way or another, but we'd appreciate if you tweeted us a photo (along with all your other impressions of the Silver Line) at @wamu885news.
More information about the Silver Line, including station locations and fares, is available on Metro's website.