Last December during morning rush hour I shuttled with my bike from the Wiehle Reston Metro Station to Herndon Park and Ride, where I then boarded a standing room only 5A bus to L’Enfant Plaza.
I commented to the 5A bus driver that he must be very popular with commuters to attract such a crowd. No, retorted an irate middle aged passenger. She said it takes more than an hour to get into town via the slow moving Silver Line, whereas it takes only 45 minutes via the 5A bus, which stops at Rosslyn Metro en route to L’Enfant Plaza.
Speed is not a problem for the Washington Flyer bus that shuttles people in 10 minutes from IAD to Wiehle Reston, where the Silver Line is timed to pick up the offloaded passengers. On the Sunday after New Years I arrived at IAD from Atlanta a little after 9 p.m. and was on the Metro within an hour. Yet I estimate that no more than a dozen people boarded that train on one of the busiest travel days in the year.
These experiences highlight the underutilization of the Silver Line either because bus provides a faster, cheaper alternative or because people are programmed to shun all forms of mass transit.
Bob Chase, head of the Northern Virginia Transportation Alliance (NVTA) exemplifies the latter. He recently took issue with National Capital Region Transportation Planning Board (TPB) report indicating that “a majority of the [public] comments sought more details and greater commitments from VDOT that the multimodal aspects of the proposals, especially the new commuter and rapid bus services, would indeed be implemented.”
“Not quite,” said Chase. “58% (113) stressed the need for additional lanes and increased capacity in the corridor with no mention of concern regarding transit commitments, while 31% (61 including 4 from one individual) expressed concern regarding transit services.”
I don’t doubt the accuracy of Chase’s numbers. In fact lack of Metro ridership explains why I-66 inside the Beltway is a parking lot when HOV is not in effect during rush hour. I myself applaud Bob Chase’s search for more parking space, but I do question whether area interstates are the appropriate place to put it.