That summer opening of Metro's Silver Line? Depending on who you're talking to, it might now be July 28... or maybe not during the (Northern Hemisphere) summer at all. One thing we now are sure of? While we won't miss standing in the median of the Toll Road when one of the Connector buses breaks down on its way to West Falls Church, we just might miss paying less money for the privilege of getting downtown.
Let's start with the
glass half-full Metro escalator half-working argument first, courtesy of the kind-hearted, charitable folks at NPR:
Metro is targeting July 20 for the start of “simulated service” — trial runs to train rail operators — on the new Silver Line to Reston, Virginia, according to union scheduling records. Passenger service could start one week later on Monday, July 28, pending the outcome of ongoing safety testing and the completion of outstanding construction issues by the contractor Bechtel.That doesn't sound so bad, right? But apparently the dark clouds at the Washington Post beg to differ:
The builders of Metro’s Silver Line, under pressure to finish the project so that passenger service can begin just weeks from now, are behind schedule on many final work items, leaving transit officials worried about a potential delay of the rail line’s hoped-for summer opening, a top Metro manager said Monday."Did not explicitly dash hope." That should really be Metro's official slogan.
Rob Troup, Metro’s chief of operations, noted that contractors working for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, which is overseeing construction of the project, agreed in writing to complete 33 “punch list” items in time for riders to start using the Silver Line this summer. That memorandum of understanding was hailed in April as a big step toward finishing the current phase of the much-delayed project.
“However,” Troup told reporters in a conference call Monday, “we do have concern that the airports authority and the contractor are behind schedule on approximately half of the items we have listed” in the memorandum. He said: “This is work that has to be completed before we start [passenger] service. We expected them to be further along at this point.”
Although Troup on Monday declined to estimate when the Silver Line will open, he did not explicitly dash hope that it will be running by summer’s end. In making it clear that Metro is unhappy with the contractors’ progress, however, he seemed to be publicly prodding Bechtel and its partners to pick up their pace.
One of those outstanding problems? Apparently some touch-up paint work. SRSLY.
“For example, the painting and grounding of the tunnel hand rail. [The contractor] went out and did some grounding and painting of the tunnel hand rail. We were concerned with the work effort that was done on that, and we have asked them to go back and do some testing on that. How those issues get resolved… may take some time to get those out of the way,” said Troup.Give us a can of flat black paint (and a multi-billion-dollar, no-bid contract) and we'll get that knocked off the punch list in a day.
Meanwhile, our BFFs at Reston 2020 have done an analysis of the just-published fares for rail and bus service. Turns out you'll pay quite a bit more for the privilege of seeing the wonder of endless car dealership lots from above as you glide through the urban wonderland of Tysons.
Restonians' commuting costs could nearly double depending on which option they take. Here's the rundown:They also pointed out that while Fairfax Connector set lower fares for Tysons bus routes, presumably to encourage more wage-slaves to take the subway instead of Rt. 7 to work, they've actually increased all fares by 15 cents here.
Current rail and bus users will see a nearly 40% increase over current round-trip costs (from $10.60 to $14.80 per day). Annually, the total will be $2,960.
For those who park in the Wiehle Garage rather than ride the bus to the station, daily costs will increase a whopping 56% (to $16.55). That works out to $3,130 a year.
Costs for riders with a reserved parking space in the garage will nearly double (rising to an average of $20.45 per day, a 92% increase). They will face a total annual cost of $4,090.
And there's concern that planned changes in bus service elsewhere might not convince people to switch to the Silver Line quickly enough to avoid congestion on other lines. Give us some good blockquote, BFFs at the Post:
The initial success of the Silver Line depends in large part on complicated plans to get thousands of Orange Line riders to switch to the Silver Line via new bus routes.Yeah, but the folks in Vienna have better pool bathrooms, the end.
This effort involves a lengthy publicity campaign, but it’s difficult to tell how many commuters will behave as planners hope.
Metro’s most recent effort at behavior modification had mixed results. When the transit authority cut back on Blue Line service while adding rush-hour trains to the Yellow Line in the Rush Plus program, Metro urged Blue Line riders to consider the Yellow Line as an alternative.
“We learned in Rush Plus that commuter habits are very deeply held,” said Metro Assistant General Manager Lynn Bowersox, who oversees the Silver Line marketing campaign.
If commuter habits are an issue with the Silver Line opening, we should send most of our sympathies to the many thousands who now board between Vienna and West Falls Church. They will have fewer trains at rush hours and will face greater crowding if many of their fellow riders refuse to switch to the Silver Line.