Before a photographer starts to capture images, he/she must know how to get to the intended location of the shoot. In the Washington, DC area this can be an interesting challenge. There are all kinds of transportation options, and they are constantly changing.
Yesterday brought a huge change with the Grand Opening of the Washington Metro’s new Silver Line. I stayed home on Day #1 while the VIPs, media, and first-day riders had their fun. But today it would be just regular folks riding the rails and I decided it was a good time to start exploring.
Welcome Signs Everywhere
The first thing riders need to know is that not all of the five stops on this section have dedicated parking facilities, so we started at the Reston station which for the time being is the end of the line. (In a few years, the line will extend to Dulles Airport.) There are several free and paid-for apps for smart phones and tablets available to help with route planning, but I haven’t tested any yet. The Washington Metro’s website has a Trip Planner that is somewhat clunky but can help with basic routing scenarios. We decided to be typical riders and just show up.
The Reston Station has a large underground parking garage that also houses the bus arrival and departure zones, plus a secure bicycle storage area that is quite large and features a repair facility.
One of the Fairfax Connector buses in the Departure Zone
The elevator from the parking garage deposits you on a plaza that is surrounded by construction projects for apartments, stores, restaurants and who knows what else, so this could be a lively place in the near future.
Signs Guide the Rookies (like us)
The architecture of the Silver Line stations is quite different from other above ground Metro stations; I’ll leave it to architecture critics to assess their aesthetic merit.
The Walkway in Foreground Leading to the Station
The pedestrian walkway is open and airy, with mesh screens covering the openings allowing the sound of the traffic below to serenade you during the short walk to the station. I couldn’t help but wonder about the days when we have wind and rain. But today at least it seemed much more pleasant than walking through a tunnel.
Inside the station, the many skylights contributed to the feeling of openness. Metro personnel were out if full and friendly force to help anyone with questions. Signs were everywhere providing useful information. Riders lined up to get their fare cards replenished and moved through the turnstiles to the train platform.
More Help for the Newbies (everyone)
We hopped on, found a seat, and settled in for the ride. The Silver Line passes through the Tysons Corner/McLean, Virginia area (4 stops), then joins the same route as the Orange line, passing through Falls Church, Arlington, and into the District of Columbia and then out to Maryland where it terminates at Largo. On this day, the most popular of those 4 new stations was the Tysons Corner Center where shoppers were taking advantage of this new option for getting to this sprawling complex of stores, restaurants, and movie theaters.
In about 15 minutes, we arrived at the last of the new stations—McLean—and got off to wait for a train going back to our starting point. It was nearly deserted, but that likely will change tomorrow when the workweek starts. There are a number of large office buildings nearby whose workers are prime candidates for the new service.
A Good Number of Bikers were Testing the System
Our Return Train Arrives
Flying Over the Infamous Beltway
The ride back was equally smooth and the Reston Station was still crowded with passengers checking out the new line. Our costs for this excursion were a paltry $1.75 each because we never left the McLean Station. For all the fare card machine knew, we never boarded a train. And parking, usually $4.85 was free on this day. So it was just the minimum fare.
It should be interesting to see how all this plays out. If you are thinking about trying the Silver Line, the complicated part will be getting to the station. Numerous bus routes have been set up to serve these stations, and figuring out the ideal route will take a little research. If you plan on parking at the Reston station, I’d recommend a trial run because the entrance and interior design of the parking area is not, shall we say, fool-proof.