News and notes from Reston (tm).

Friday, February 22, 2013

Why Metro Won't Open Phase 2 Silver Line Stations as They Are Built, and Other Friday Bummers

Thomas the Silver Line Engine.jpeg

A while back, our BFFs at Reston 2020 had a modest proposal: To keep the fancy Wiehle Avenue Metro station/geometry playset from being the traffic-snarling terminus of the Silver Line for at least a half-decade, why not open each Phase 2 station as construction is completed, instead of waiting until construction finally snakes out into the particleboard nirvana of Loudoun County? We were particularly psyched, as the kids today no longer say, as taking the Metro from Wiehle to Reston Town Center would reduce the travel time from Restonian World Headquarters to the Macaroni Grill by at least 2 minutes -- and if we have to wait until 2018 for the RTC station to open, our favorite carb-intensive eatery will be long gone.

But we digress. It turns out there's a good reason staggering station openings won't work after all:
MWAA spokeswoman Marcia McAllister says it is impossible to open station by station, unless a rail yard is built along with each station as it is opened.

"The phases were designed this way to ensure the continuity of the operating systems," says McAllister.

"The Wiehle-Reston East Station is designed to be a temporary terminus station and includes tail tracks for storage of rail cars."
Bummer, but having seen the seminal mass transit documentary Thomas the Tank Engine, it makes sense that there needs to be a place for the Really Useful Engines trains to sleep park. And since Metro has already managed to royally screw up the turnaround arrangements on the other end of the Silver Line, it's probably best not to tempt fate here.

But no worries! In the same article, Supervisor Cathy Hudgins tell us that traffic won't be any worse once the 2,300-space parking garage opens.
"I live one block from Wiehle Avenue, and I don't think it's going to have any more gridlock than we have today," says Fairfax County Supervisor Cathy Hudgins.

"Will there be some hard days in the beginning? I think you're right. But the larger part of the message is that it's an asset coming here."
No arguments there, but we're guessing that 2,300 extra cars on two roads are going to have a soup├žon of impact on the traffic situation. Reston 2020 and others tend to agree:
The Fairfax County Department of Transportation is currently working on projects to help ease congestion.

"These improvements include roadway expansions and the addition of turning lanes to facilitate the movement of traffic in areas near Silver Line stations and, in the case of Phase 1, the addition of temporary bus bays to the north side of Wiehle from the eastbound Dulles Toll Road," says Nick Perfili, Dulles Rail planner for the Fairfax County Department of Transportation.

Perfili says the level of service grade at the Wiehle Avenue and Sunrise Valley Drive intersection is currently a "D." He says the planned improvement would keep the intersection at its current grade. Without any improvements, it is projected that the intersection would get an "F."

The level of service measure grades intersections on an "A" to "F" scale based on traffic flows, wait times, and the space between vehicles. Level A is wide-open and Level F is total gridlock.

Fairfax officials hope adding 15 new Fairfax Connector routes in Reston will encourage more people to ditch their cars. The routes for the buses are still being finalized.

"The more cars we take off the road, the better. Each Silver Line train that leaves will take nearly 1,000 people, and that is 1,000 cars off the road, every 6 to 10 minutes," says Hudgins.
Our Reston 2020 BFFs have put together a report suggesting steps to be taken to address the transportation issues, including improved pedestrian, bus, and auto access to the station from the south of the Toll Road, where the fancy pedestrian bridge ends in a privately owned parking lot, as well as the creation of residential parking districts, better access for buses, and alternatives to single-occupant car trips to the station. Since we'll be stuck with this arrangement for at least five years, hopefully it's not too late to put some of these into place before the first train chugs in later this year.

11 comments:

  1. I wonder if anyone has ever studied overlap of Connector routes and high school bus routes. If we could get the high school buses off the road in by slightly modifying those Connector routes, it would cut down on congestion and save tons of money for the school system. The money saved by the school system could offset the cost of the fare for the students. This is what every other civilized country does for students -- or what they actually do is tell the students to 'grow up' and figure out their transportation options, including cycling to school, and the gov't subsidizes the fares.

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    1. Two bus routes serve the bus stops along South Lakes Dr in front of SLHS. Ribs-2 and 551. I see kids at those bus stops all the time in the afternoon after the school buses are long gone.

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    2. Wow, looking at those timetables and maps, there are already a bunch of kids who could use those instead of FCPS buses! It might be a little more complicated for the kids who come from North Reston or Fox Mill, but do we really think kids who can do IB classes cannot also figure out how to transfer between buses? This idea just makes too much sense to be practical.

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  2. Having sat through countless airings of Thomas the Tank Engine with my kids, I wouldn't mind seeing Thomas and his whiny pal Percy try to ride on a 900-volt track.

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  3. Have they published info about what bus routes they plan to bring people to the Wiehle Metro?

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    1. Here's the link to the County webpage on Reston bus changes: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/connector/routes/dullesrail/reston.htm

      ALSO, tonight will be the very last presentation by the Fairfax Connector staff on the proposed Reston changes--presented to you by the Reston Citizens Association.

      The meeting is at RCC-Hunters Woods at 7PM with 1-on-1 discussions of individual route changes. Supr. Hudgins will make some remarks about 7:30PM before the staff discusses the changes.

      All Restonians are invited to come listen, question, and comment!

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    2. Thank you Terry! While I know they need to do more with bus access, this is a good start for me. I currently drive to/from Vienna metro, because I can't get to WFC in time for the rush hour bus service home in the evenings. But the RIBS3 service they describe will make it feasible for me to go car-free. Whee!

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  4. I looked at replacing my 6-mile driving commute with bus. It would take me three buses, two walks, and two hours. Sigh!

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  5. You can't take everything FCDOT says seriously. First, what does "working on" road improvements mean? FCDOT has had a consultant's recommendations for road improvements for nearly four years and not a spadeful of dirt has been turned. So what's new? Is FCDOT actually going to make the improvements or does "working on' mean that someone in FCDOT is thinking about them?
    Second, FCDOT's bus plan includes no new bus service in Reston, just the old service redirected from West Falls Church to Wiehle Avenue. Perhaps more people will use the buses, but it won't be because there is more service. Moreover, off-peak and weekend bus use is certainly not going to increase after the Silver Line opens because FCDOT, so far, has not changed the RIBS routes to facilitate getting to the Wiehle Avenue station.
    If FCDOT wanted to increase bus usage and reduce traffic congestion, it would expand bus service both in Reston, and perhaps more important outside Reston to the south and west where much of the rush hour traffic in Reston originates. FCDOT's explanation for its failure to propose expanded service was that the Board of Supervisors had approved only reshuffling the existing buses and service hours, not an overall expansion of bus service. At a minimum, it seems a bit off to spend $6 billion on a rail line and resist spending a bit more to allow people to get to the rail line.

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  6. Hudgins is SUCH a liar --- she does NOT live one block from the station.

    And if she thinks traffic will not be worse, please give me a scrpit for whatever she smokes that will create similar delusions.

    SMH in disgust!

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  7. Navaho White Trim OnlyMarch 8, 2013 at 8:58 PM

    Well, as a politician desperately trying to appeal to just about every constituency she can imagine, she misleads us all on a regular, consistent basis, except when she is talking about more "workforce housing". But more often, she is "Ms. Noncommital". She only believes in redistributive housing policies, and little else. I just can't believe how ossifed our entire BOS had become sometimes...

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