What Will Happen to the rail schedules with the Silver Line?
The Silver Line, which will run from Reston and Tyson’s Corner to Largo Town Center, will bring a net increase in rail service. But exactly how will it affect you? That depends on when you travel.
At peak times, Metro will need to make a few adjustments to make room for the Silver Line. The map below shows where the number of trains goes up, down, or stays the same. Metro’s main constraint is at Rosslyn, where three lines – Orange, Blue, and Silver – come together. At Rosslyn and into downtown, Metro can handle a maximum of 26 trains per hour, or a train every 2 minutes and 20 seconds or so. (To keep things simple, this blog post uses the AM peak hour to illustrate peak rail changes). In a nutshell, the Silver Line rail operating plan will:
- Add Silver Line trains every 6 minutes,
- Redirect 2 more Blue Line trains per hour onto the Yellow Line,
- Convert some Orange Line trains from Vienna to Silver Line trains,
- Discontinue some one-way Orange Line trains we currently run (called “trippers”) because they will be replaced by Silver Line trains.
As a result, service will increase in several places, shown in green below:
What will happen with the Blue Line in Virginia? Because of the limitations at Rosslyn, the frequency of Blue Line service will be reduced from an average of every 8.5 minutes, to 12 minutes. From Pentagon and points south, trains will arrive just as frequently as today (every 3 minutes), but more will be Yellow, and fewer will be Blue. What does this mean for riders?
- Riders from south of Pentagon in the morning to Metro Center, McPherson Square, Farragut West, or Foggy Bottom may find it faster to take the first Yellow Line train they see, and transfer at L’Enfant Plaza for any train (Orange, Blue, or Silver) westbound. Metrobus options also exist – the 7Y, 16X, 9E/10E run from Pentagon to Rosslyn and downtown.
- For riders from south of Pentagon in the morning to Rosslyn, Arlington Cemetery, and points west on the Orange Line, Blue Line service will be reduced.
- Riders from south of Pentagon headed anywhere on the Green/Yellow Lines from L’Enfant Plaza to Greenbelt will benefit from more trains.
What will happen with the Orange Line from Vienna? Trains from Vienna, Dunn Loring, and West Falls Church will depart on average every 5.5 minutes, from 3.5 minutes today. On average, a customer from these stations will see an increase in wait time of around one minute. The trains are not expected to get much more crowded than they are today, since we expect many Orange Line riders to switch to the Silver Line – especially because many Fairfax Connector bus routes now serving West Falls Church will move to Silver Line stations.
What will happen with the Orange Line in Arlington? Service will be increased. The combined Orange and Silver Lines will serve stations in Arlington about every 3 minutes.
What will happen with the Blue Line in Maryland? The combined Blue and Silver Lines will increase the number of trains by 50% to and from Largo Town Center station. Trains will arrive every 4 minutes, rather than 6 minutes today.
What will happen to the Yellow Line? At Huntington and Eisenhower Ave, nothing. Everywhere else, there will be more Yellow Line trains between Greenbelt and Franconia-Springfield.
What will happen to the Green Line? South of L’Enfant Plaza, nothing will change. North of L’Enfant Plaza, there will be more Yellow Line trains to/from Greenbelt.
What will happen to the Red Line? Nothing.
What will happen to the Silver Line? These stations will be served by trains every 6 minutes.
At off-peak times, things are less complicated. Metro will will simply add new service on the Silver Line, and make no changes to anything else. So if you travel at any time outside of rush hours on weekdays, and you ride anywhere the Silver Line is added, you will get today’s service, plus the Silver Line trains. That’s anywhere on the schematic map below indicated in green:
So what’s the overall effect on passengers? Whether you have a longer or shorter wait time depends on your origin and destination, not just whether there are more trains passing you by. So, we overlaid the ridership of a typical weekday on the new schedule, assumed no one changes their origin or destination, and made some estimates about passenger’s path choice. We found:
- About 50% of all existing riders are unaffected,
- One-third of all existing riders will see shorter average wait times, and new riders will use the Silver Line.
- 11% of existing riders will see longer wait times