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Where should Metrorail stop?

In my Dr. Gridlock column Sunday, Joan Pifer of Great Falls and I discussed where we'd like to see the Dulles Metro line stop -- not that we really have any choice about it. She'd like it to serve Wolf Trap and the Reston Town Center after the line gets west of Tysons Corner.

I said I liked her thoughts about the functionality of the line, having it serve entertainment and activity centers. After the line leaves Tysons and heads west, it follows the Dulles Toll Road/Access Road until dipping south to an airport station, then it swings north again to pick up the Dulles Greenway.

I wouldn't stop it at Wolf Trap. You probably could build a Wolf Trap station in the middle of the highway and create a pedestrian way north to the Filene Center, but I think that wouldn't be worth the expense of constructing a limited-use stop. I do like the idea of having a rail stop right in the middle of downtown Reston rather than in a highway median, but the expense and disruption would be greater than people would accept.

All the decisions the planners made involved trade-offs and compromises. To this day, people are unclear about how the plan finally came out.

Dear Dr. Gridlock:
What are the new stops? If Wiehle Avenue is a stop out here, I am surprised, because I thought it would run along Route 7, and it could then accommodate Wolf Trap. The Wiehle stop will be where, exactly?
-- Vicki Contavespi, Sterling

DG: The Wiehle Avenue stop is at the end of the first phase of construction, scheduled to be done in 2013. After the four stops in Tysons, including two along Route 7, the line swings onto the Dulles Toll Road/Access Road until it reaches the stop planned for just west of Wiehle Avenue. You can see the construction now along most of that route.

There will be a parking area for 2,300 cars on the north side of the highway. There are plenty of commuters who live in the farther out suburbs who are looking forward to those new parking spaces. But the plan does have a downside. It could create a string of Vienna stations leading out into Loudoun County.

The Vienna style in Metrorail is a concrete fortress that attracts only traffic. That doesn't create communities where people can live and work. Traffic along the Toll Road already is bad during the rush periods. We talk about the extension of Metro as a way of easing traffic. Building big garages also is a way of generating traffic. The four stations in Tysons Corner won't have much parking. The plan there is to create a place where people can take transit and walk. There already are too many drivers in Tysons.

How would you decide where to place the stations on the new line and how would you want them to function? (Bonus points if you suggest a way to pay for them.)

By Robert Thomson  | June 7, 2010; 12:20 PM ET
Categories:  Transit  | Tags:  Dr. Gridlock, Dulles Rail  
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Well, this column is about ten years too late, isn't it?

If anything, the rail line should have run along the old rail line in the area which is now partially used by the W&OD trail. There would have been plenty of right-of-way to have both Metro AND the trail there, and then it would have been able to stop right by the Town Center and in downtown Herndon.

At this point, why even ask where the stations should go, since they're set in stone?

Posted by: Joey-K | June 7, 2010 1:35 PM | Report abuse

Metro should stop at the Beltway. They can't handle running operations inside of it as it is.

Posted by: fireball72 | June 7, 2010 1:40 PM | Report abuse

You are wrong about the Vienna situation.

The Vienna station reached its current level of required parking because it is the end of the line. If the orange line extended down 66 through Fairfax and Centerville, many drivers would not have to go all of the way to Vienna.

Thus, you would not end up with a string of Viennas.

Posted by: staticvars | June 7, 2010 2:20 PM | Report abuse

The station locations and the sidetrip through Tysons are proof positive that the Silver Line is by no means being built with the true purpose of mass transit - move the maximum amount of people for the maximum impact on traffic congestion and air pollution. The Silver Line is a developer's boondoggle, plain and simple

Posted by: ceefer66 | June 7, 2010 2:46 PM | Report abuse

Since the current extension is already settled (I'm still fuming about them not using a tunnel in Tysons), I'm focusing on the next stretch from Wiehle to Dulles.

It's not too hard to locate where the stops should be along this second phase to Dulles. You have to have a stop at the Reston Town Center. It's the largest business, recreation and residential center around. OK, it will probably have to be located in the median of Rt. 267, leaving a 0.4 mi walk to the Town Center, but I can't see there's much choice. I hope they can get it closer. No parking at this station. Reston's already going to be burdened with enough parking at Wiehle.

Herndon Worldgate area is another ideal stop, but only if Herndon ponies up and agrees to assist with the funding and support the project. Otherwise, skip 'em. Assuming they sign on, this stop should be able to draw from the surrounding suburbs and business with a good feeder bus network. Station will need a good bus stop and kiss & ride. Again, no parking.

The Rt. 28 corridor supports the huge Loudoun Co. business and residential growth over the past two decades. It will be a good place for a stop - maybe with a sky-rise parking garage. The garage would support those extensive Loudoun suburbs with cars pouring off the Greenway and from Ashburn via Waxpool Rd. Not much chance for a residential and business development if the station is located at the Rt. 28 crossing of Rt. 267, so it's not a bad place for a Vienna-style parking garage. The stop will also need a good bus feeder network.

Final stop as close to the Dulles Airport terminal as possible. Preferably under the central parking lot or something. Let's not use the Dulles model of building a $Billion train system to the terminal, but leaving a half mile walk to the gates.

Let's get 'er done!!

Posted by: Menidia | June 7, 2010 3:48 PM | Report abuse

Dulles Airport is not slated to be the final stop on the line. It's supposed to continue past there to Ashburn, terminating at Route 772 (the overpass with the "Flynn's Crossing" sign when you drive out the Greenway).

I don't really follow ceefer's complaint about the line running through Tysons, though. I think running a Metrorail line out to Dulles Airport is a big waste but that a line to Tysons is something that should have been done a long time ago.

Posted by: 1995hoo | June 7, 2010 5:49 PM | Report abuse

Dr G - Could you look at the original metro route maps and let us know what route was initially proposed? I saw a map many years ago (probably 20 or more) at metro headquarters that showed the line. I think it may have been a continuation of the orange line instead of a separate line.

I question the need for all the stops in the Tysons area. Why not have just one and then let the businesses provide a free shuttle throughout the Tysons business area?

Posted by: ffxkid | June 7, 2010 7:36 PM | Report abuse

Not sure why everybody is asking all these questions about where and when the stations will be can see the plans online:

I like the idea of the Wiehle Ave station - one way to solve the parking issue is to offer ADDITIONAL bus service throughout Reston - today it is quite limited.

Posted by: nova_mom_08 | June 7, 2010 8:37 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Dr. G. that the Vienna metro stop is like a concrete fortress and we should avoid creating others like it. Exactly! Maybe it is not too late to change Phase II. Good time to eliminate the others such as the Herndon/Monroe Park and Ride and maybe even the Weihle. They will just be concrete fortresses like Vienna. Thanks for clarifying what you meant about a station in downtown Reston (the actual town center, I assume) as opposed to in the median of the toll road close to Reston Parkway only (as currently planned). Definitely put a stop at Reston Town Center and Worldgate (which will require some redevelopment around it). Maybe even bring Metro to downtown Leesburg. All of these will be tunnels when entering populated areas of course, to be funded through huge taxes on gas and automobiles, not on the good people who take mass transit. :)

Posted by: SusanMarie2 | June 7, 2010 10:37 PM | Report abuse

While I agree that transit can be used to spur economic development, I am not sure why removing 2500 vehicles from downstream isn't a noble cause. Sure it would have been better if each of the stops was designed with transit oriented development around it, using Arlington as a model, but that isn't what the system designers, either in the 1960's of early 2000's envisioned.

If we are going to make complaints about what should have been, then we could argue that the placement of Dulles out in the middle of productive agriculture was a mistake and that most of Fairfax County should have remained as it was in 1955, with limited or zero single family housing and highways spurring the wasteland exurban sprawl we see today.

At least Fairfax and the metropolitan region are trying to address some of the shortcomings of the development patterns of the last half century. While not perfect, it is better than nothing.

Posted by: LukasWP | June 8, 2010 6:49 AM | Report abuse

Agree that this column is 10, maybe 25 years too late. Of course it would be nice if the line veered off to the Reston Town Center, downtown Herndon and included a platform that was open during Wolf Trap performances. But ever since the Toll Road was built, there has been a provision for a train running down the center of it, and the focus of media concern during the design phase of this project was limited to the tunnel debate in Tysons Corner. Even that discussion happened 5 years too late.

We can't even afford to mow the grass along our roads these days, so anything that would cost more money, such as the land acquisition necessary to move the alignment outside the toll road, is off the table. We are lucky we are getting a metro extension at all.

Posted by: rocotten | June 8, 2010 8:01 AM | Report abuse

Since Metro charges by the distance traveled, how much will it cost the rider from downtown to Reston and Dulles? Also, what becomes of the Fairfax Connector which certainly costs less and provides excellent service?

Posted by: jckdoors | June 8, 2010 8:18 AM | Report abuse

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