Silver Line gives Metro and Dulles Airport optimism for new passengers

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The black tape covering the signs at Dulles International Airport that point to its new subway station was removed this week as workers complete their final tasks to open the long-awaited Silver Line extension in less than two weeks .

A giant banner announcing the train stop has been placed in a busy spot that passengers will see when walking between the metro station and the airport terminals: “No buses, no fuss, one-stop train service between Dulles International Airport and Washington DC”. said. “Welcome aboard.”

Officials from the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which operates Dulles and oversaw construction of the $3 billion extension, and Metro, the agency that will operate the Silver Line, held a tour of the 11-billion extension on Wednesday. .5 miles through Northern Virginia. It will begin carrying customers on November 15, a manufacturing milestone that is four years behind schedule. The visit came a day after the transit agency’s first full day of increased fare evasion enforcement, which resulted in five citations after years of Metro mostly ignoring the infraction.

Metro is expected to open six stations in Northern Virginia, including a stop at Washington Dulles International Airport on Nov. 15. (Video: Justin George, Amber Ferguson/The Washington Post)

Metro and the airport authority see the Silver Line as a significant boost to regional rail and air travel, which has faced pandemic-related issues and staffing shortages. While airline passenger numbers have mostly rebounded as some carriers report record revenues, transit agencies like Metro have lost thousands of fare-paying passengers as part of the shift to working from home. Subway executives are hoping their rebound will follow, pinning hopes on the Silver Line and sending more suspended cars back.

“It’s been a generational dream long before I took this job,” Metro chief executive Randy Clarke said Wednesday, about three months into the job, “and we really look forward to welcoming people. “

Clarke said he expects steady growth in ridership on Metrorail from residents moving into apartment towers and condominium complexes along the Tech Corridor, and did not express a concern. concern that remote working policies could curb use of a rail line built with expectations of trains full of office workers commuting five days a week. Commuters who are part of changing travel patterns that have emerged since the pandemic will still rely on the subway, Clarke said.

Silver Line extension to open Nov. 15 in time for Thanksgiving trip

As he stood on the platform at Dulles Station overlooking the airport terminal, he described the airport as the central destination for passengers along the extension. He also said people living in developments like Loudoun Station, where hundreds of new homes have been built, will rely on Ashburn Station to get to shops, events and workplaces at Tysons. and elsewhere.

“It’s not just going to help people today. Future growth along this corridor is going to be amazing to see coming together,” Clarke said. “And everything is based, as usual, around this region: where Metro is, where people want to live, work and play.”

Outside Ashburn station, the future final stop of the Silver Line, on Wednesday workers were still smoothing the concrete that forms a walkway to the Loudoun station development and shops and cinema near. The catwalks featured gleaming white ceilings while the roof of the new station featured a pattern of grey, white, and clear glass panels evoking the Brutalist architecture and ceilings of old subway stations.

On a drive from Ashburn to Dulles, trees with red, yellow and green leaves on undeveloped land stood next to huge tech warehouses and office complexes. The platform at Dulles Station provided an unobstructed view of the airport terminal while the interior walkway between the terminal and the station featured new signs directing passengers to baggage claim. A subway video announcing the opening date of the Silver Line played repeatedly on a television screen.

John E. ‘Jack’ Potter, chief executive of the airport authority, said Dulles expects ‘high’ usage of ‘several thousand’ passengers a day via the subway station, which is five minutes away walk from baggage claim via an underground corridor.

During baggage claim, Sophia Sevilla, 20, of Baltimore, who had just returned from Miami, said she was unaware of the upcoming opening of the new station, but said it would be a welcome convenience.

“That would be really convenient because a lot of people don’t want to waste like $50 on an Uber and gas is super expensive,” she said.

The new Silver Line riders are part of Metro’s strategy to tackle a nearly $150 million funding shortfall it will face next year amid sharp declines in fare revenue and shrinking federal revenues. coronavirus assistance. Another strategy is to reduce the number of non-paying passengers on the rail and bus systems – a problem that has worsened since the start of the pandemic, but which was largely ignored until Tuesday, when police subway began to strengthen law enforcement.

During the first full day of renewed enforcement, transit police issued five citations for nonpayment of fares, officials said.

The transit agency estimates it is losing more than $40 million a year in direct fare revenue, while also worrying that frequent evasion violations are driving away paying passengers. Past enforcement tactics have come under fire from some black residents in the district, who say police targeted stations disproportionately used by black passengers, making unnecessary stops and using excessive force for minor incidents. In 2018, the DC Council decriminalized the offense, making it punishable only by fines.

Metro assesses fare increase and rail improvements while preparing for Silver Line

While enforcement continued in Maryland and Virginia, the number of citations issued in both states has dropped precipitously in recent years.

Of the five citations issued on Tuesday, four were in the Pentagon City neighborhood of Arlington and one was at the Morgan Boulevard station in Prince George’s County. Officers also issued 18 warnings, Metro spokeswoman Sherri Ly said. Clarke said Transit Policing is not about issuing tickets, but about warning and informing violators.

Police also made two arrests for trespassing, at District’s Gallery Place station and Pentagon City, according to Transit Police records. Further details were not immediately available Wednesday.

Ly said the presence of officers working in Pentagon City deterred “a number” of people from jumping the tariff barriers.

“We continue to provide enforcement in the normal course of our duties and with high visibility at various stations across the system,” Ly said in a statement.

As train shortage eases, subway and bus systems gear up for Silver Line

As the transit system steps up enforcement, it simultaneously increases train frequency as Metro begins a phased return of its overhead railcar series after suffering a year-long shortage.

Metro is slowly putting back its 7000 series cars after the rail system regulator suspended them following a wheel safety issue discovered in several cars. The Washington Metrorail Safety Commission has allowed Metro to slowly reincorporate more cars that receive inspections every four days.

The safety commission last week cleared Metro to reinstate hundreds of additional railcars and gave Metro benchmarks in the coming months that would allow the transit agency to reinstate its entire suspended fleet. Clarke said Metro is focusing first on rolling out those trains to six stations reopening Sunday south of Reagan National Airport that have been closed for weeks.

Metro officials have estimated that trains on the new Silver Line extension will run every 15 minutes.

Crews continue to work through a list of minor tasks to receive safety certification from the safety commission, Clarke said. Information technology workers acquire software while signaling circuits still need fine-tuning. The agency also resolves wiring issues that cause inconsistencies with emergency lighting. The safety commission said Metro could not operate the Silver Line without the certification.

Clarke said the two agencies are working together to ensure the new line is certified by Nov. 15.

“The team is fully confident that we will have finished them,” he said. “Everyone does the same thing. We want the most secure and reliable system there is.

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