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Second-Guessing the Silver Line as Metro’s Problems Mount

by Karen Goff — July 11, 2016 at 10:00 am 12 Comments

Some of the Silver Line's first passengers on July 26, 2014Two years ago this month, the Silver Line — after years of discussion, rising costs and many construction delays — finally opened, bringing long-awaited rail service to Reston.

But ever since, Metro has been plagued by problems — track issues, smoke and fire, near-constant single tracking, and now, the SafeTrack project to fix them.

Is it the new Silver Line to blame for Metro’s issues? A Washington Post story Sunday laid out the case:

To make room for the line, Metro reduced service on the Blue Line, angering thousands of riders. New rail cars set to arrive before the line opened did not — leaving fewer trains in reserve when older cars broke down. The result? Worsening service disruptions systemwide. Adding to Metro’s woes, ridership was well below projections.

After the January 2015 tunnel fire near L’Enfant Plaza, which left one passenger dead, things got worse, the post points out.

Metro blamed the chronic breakdowns on its inability to keep up with much-needed maintenance that had been neglected for years and said it needed more money to catch up. Some observers — and Metro to a degree — blamed the Silver Line, saying the new line placed too much of a burden on the system’s infrastructure. Some riders and others argued that the transit agency should have invested in rebuilding instead of expanding.

Several transportation consultants quoted in the article have mixed opinions. One says Metro would likely have the same problems it does with or without the Silver Line; another says adding a new line to a broken system was “beyond idiotic.”

The article also points out that the ridership on the Silver Line has not met projections. While Wiehle-Reston East — the end of the line until Phase 2 opens in 2020 — has met projections, but at the one-year mark, the average of 17,000 weekday boardings is far short of the 25,000 the line was projected to have after its first year.

Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va. 11th), who was a crucial advocate in bringing Metro to Reston (he formerly served as chair of the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors), and the current chair, Sharon Bulova, are urging residents to stick with the Silver Line as the benefits will be felt in the decades to come.

Read the entire piece on Washingtonpost.com.

  • Arielle in NoVA

    Don’t blame the Silver Line, which we should have gotten decades ago. Blame the people who didn’t maintain the Metro system over the years.

    We were thrilled when the Silver Line finally got near us – and then the media started reporting on the dangers of riding due to the lack of maintenance over the years. And then the shutdowns. So we’re not riding it to Tysons, DC, etc. as we were planning to – we’re waiting for more repairs to get done and for the system to be reliable and accessible. This is probably why many other potential riders have stayed away.

    • Why do you bother?

      Yep. The so-called analysts have it bass-ackwards: Ridership is down because of the unreliability of the system. Reduced ridership is the RESULT of Metro’s ineptitude, not its cause.

      • surfish

        Service and quality are crappy and risky. What’s not to like?

  • JoeInReston

    The Silver Line was subsidized by northern Fairfax and Loudoun County residents via the 267 tolls. The idea that those tolls should have instead been used to fund Metro improvements on areas outside northern Fairfax is crazy.

    • Greg

      As was the plan and bargain, the tolls should be gone by now that the toll road itself has been paid for (at least once).

  • Tammi Petrine

    Today we have Metro shutdowns and repairs. When Phase 2 of the Silver Line is completed and Reston area commuters are faced with packed-to-capacity trains eastbound every AM, I wonder how thrilled everyone will be to be financing it with exorbitant DTR tolls? These unfair tolls not only finance the Silver Line; they damage the attractiveness of our community to both business and residents.

    • 20191

      Metro rider here. No way am I going to continue riding Metro if it’s standing room only for the ~45 minute ride from Reston to Metro Center.

      • Why do you bother?

        It will not only get worse, so will delays, because there’s only one tunnel under the Potomac. The laws of physics still apply.

  • It’s not too lste

    One train, two stops. Tysons Reston IAD. Hi speed, green energy, 1st 2nd and 3rd class seating, 24×7. Done.

    • Math and spelling R hard

      First of all, that’s three stops, not two. Secondly, why on earth would you have this proposed line terminate at Tysons?

      • Any Question its OK

        The train departs, stops twice, then arrives (two stops).

        Termination point is Tysons because its the center of our universe and a true elite destination.

        Now fork up 10, 15 or 25 dollars for a single one way ride.

  • vdiv

    Oh, so it is Reston’s populace fault for not meeting someone’s unrealistic expectations.

    But of course it is!

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