Silver Line will change the game for commuters

(WJLA) - Silver is the color of change for WMATA, and when the Silver Line begins revenue service it will change the game for commuters by linking Reston and Tysons with the rest of the metro system – increasing the frequency of trains through the so-called “Orange Crush” corridor from East Falls Church to Rosslyn during peak times.

The Yellow Line will also see an increase in the number of trains operating both regular and Yellow Plus service running from Franconia-Springfield to Greenbelt.

But the system can only expand frequency to a point, as the maximum is 26 trains per hour in each direction. During peak times, the Rosslyn tunnel is already at capacity, so the Silver Line will replace Orange Plus service to Largo Town Center, and also replace two Blue Line Trains.

Riders from Rosslyn to Largo will see increased train frequency as the Silver line will supplement Orange and Blue service through the system’s central core (except eastbound between Rosslyn and Stadium Armory where a Blue, Orange, or Silver line train will arrive every two minutes and 18 seconds).

In fact, trains on the Silver, Orange, Red, Green and Yellow will run every six minutes. Yellow Plus service will run every 12 minutes between Franconia-Springfield and Greenbelt, and the Orange Line will run one “tripper” train per hour during rush that makes a one-way trip along the length of the Orange Line to help ease congestion.

With the extra Silver Line trains, even nonpeak service will see improvements between Rosslyn and Stadium Armory as trains will depart stations about every four minutes.

But more elsewhere means less for the Blue Line: two fewer trains an hour results in waits up to 12 minutes all day. Silver Line service will offset that reduction for much of the Blue Line, but the impact will be most noticeable Rosslyn and Franconia-Springfield. At the Arlington Cemetery stop, that means riders will only see five trains an hour.

“If I miss my train and gotta wait longer, I'm gonna miss my time to be to work,” says Blue Line rider Adrian Jackson. “I don't know how that will work out for me.”

Mary O’Conner also wonders what the changes mean for peak times:

“Rush hour will probably have an issue, especially with regular commuters,” she said.

If Rosslyn or Arlington Cemetery is your final destination, your commute could feel the impact of the longer wait times on the Blue Line, but Metro hopes to limit those impacted by the increases on the Yellow Line and to Yellow Plus service.

A WMATA spokesman tells ABC7 that riders traveling to Farragut West and McPherson Square would likely arrive sooner taking a Yellow Line train and transferring to the Blue, Silver or Orange Line at L’Enfant Plaza than waiting 12 minutes to board a Blue Line train bound for Largo. The transit agency has launched an educational campaign to show Blue Line riders the benefit of transferring, but that is not always a popular option with riders.

“When you transfer, you don't know what time everything's going to run,” says rider Stephanie Kariuki. “So it’s just easier if you know, ‘if I hop on this train I'm going to get to work at this time.'"

Meanwhile, on the Orange Line in Virginia, the West Falls Church, Dunn Loring, and Vienna stations will lose five inbound rush plus trains per hour, resulting in departures every six minutes in the direction of New Carrollton. WMATA believes the impact to riders will be offset by the reduction in traffic at these stations, as it expects approximately 17,000 daily commuters to shift to the Silver Line within the first year.

The eastbound Orange Line riders will also see three fewer trains per hour during peak times between Stadium-Armory and New Carrollton. Metro expects a 5-percent increase in passenger traffic as another 8,000 new riders to start taking Metro because of the Silver Line during that time.

The Silver Line could open in late August.

WMATA has assembled a map of service changes that can be found here.

Education brochure for Blue Line Riders is found here.