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Getaway: more Metrobuses to the airports

Dear Dr. Gridlock:
Will Metrobus add additional buses to the 5A and B30 routes this Wednesday and Sunday? The last time I traveled on the B30 during Thanksgiving, people were standing. That seems unsafe to me given that the bus travels on the BW Parkway, not to mention all the starting and stooping because of traffic is not so great on the arms.
Katherine Bedard
Dupont Circle

The two airport buses are very popular during the holidays [see story by Sholnn Freeman], and Metro is indeed adding capacity from Wednesday through Sunday.

Take the Green Line to Greenbelt and turn left as you exit the station. You'll find the bus shelter for the B30, the Metrobus direct to BWI. It costs $3.10 with cash and $3 with a SmarTrip card.

On Wednesday and Sunday, Metro will put on two additional articulated buses to help meet the high demand. On Thanksgiving Day, the B30 will operate on a Sunday schedule. [See schedule here.]

Two options:
-- Take the Orange Line to West Falls Church Station and then taking the Washington Flyer bus to the airport. The Flyer leaves every half hour from Bus Bay E. (Mark Regan of Fairbanks, Alaska, wrote in to ask if there was still a Metrobus out of West Falls Church for the airport. No, there isn't.)
-- Take the 5A Metrobus from L'Enfant Plaza or Rosslyn stations. As with the B30, the fare is $3.10 in cash, or $3 using a SmarTrip card.

From 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Wednesday, 5A buses will leave Dulles Airport every 20 minutes. One bus will go directly to the Rosslyn Station. The second bus will continue on to L'Enfant Plaza. On Thursday, the 5A will operate on a Sunday schedule. [See schedule here.] From 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, the 5As will leave Rosslyn every 30 minutes, with one bus going directly to Dulles. The other bus stopping at Rosslyn will start at L'Enfant Plaza. Metro says it will have an additional bus on standby if the demand requires it on the weekend.

Many people love the 5A, but I do get complaints that the bus interior is not designed for airport travelers. There's no room for luggage. Take that into consideration in planning your trip.

Metrorail to Reagan National
Parking at National Airport is always tough around holidays, because space is limited. Check on how many spaces are open before you go by clicking on this link.

But a better option would be to take Blue or Yellow lines, since this is the one airport out of our three that is served by a Metro line. Just be considerate of your fellow train riders when you're swinging around those big bags and backpacks.

Metro says that on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving last year, 5,851 people entered the Metrorail station at National Airport and 12,587 exited. On the Sunday after Thanksgiving in 2008, 8,890 entered the station and 3,036 exited.

By Robert Thomson  |  November 24, 2009; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Getaway , Metro , holiday travel  | Tags: Dr. Gridlock, Metrobus, Thanksgiving, travel tips  
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Next: John Townsend of AAA to offer getaway advice


Dr. G. I have a friend leaving out of Dulles on Wednesday and wants to avoid paying the parking rates at the airport. Is it ok for him to park at West Falls Church metro and leave his car there for 4 days? Will he get towed? He's planning to take the Washington Flyer from there.

Posted by: UMDTerpsGirl | November 24, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

WMATA does not allow overnight parking at the majority of stations, including West Falls Church. The problem your friend has is that Friday is not a holiday for these purposes. If it were, there would be no issue because they wouldn't be losing parking revenue. But if he parks on Wednesday, that means that he would owe them for two days' parking fees, yet their parking system is too unsophisticated to account for this sort of thing. Seems stupid that they want people to take mass transit to the airport but then they don't let you park....

Anyway, check WMATA's web site. There are limited multi-day spaces at a couple of stops (I believe Huntington, Franconia-Springfield, and Greenbelt have them). Far less convenient than parking at West Falls Church, that's for sure.

Posted by: 1995hoo | November 24, 2009 11:43 AM | Report abuse

Follow-up: This is from WMATA's site.

Multi-day Parking

Multi-day parking is available at three stations: Greenbelt, Huntington, and Franconia-Springfield. Each of these stations has between 15 and 17 spaces allocated for multi-day use of up to 10 days. Availability is on a first-come, first-served basis. There is no charge for multi-day parking beyond the regular fee, paid with a SmarTrip card on the day of exit if exiting during collection hours (10:30 a.m. - midnight on Monday - Thursday, and 10:30 a.m. - 3 a.m. Friday).

These spaces, located inside the regular facilities and not at the metered (Kiss & Ride) spaces are at:
1. Level 1J at Franconia-Springfield station
2. The lower level of the new Huntington station garage
3. Cherrywood Lane side at Greenbelt station

Posted by: 1995hoo | November 24, 2009 11:44 AM | Report abuse

Hmm 1995hoo, do you know if there are any park and ride lots in that area (with a bus to a metro station? I don't know VA very well.

Posted by: UMDTerpsGirl | November 24, 2009 11:46 AM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: TerpsGirl, I think I can take the rest of the day off with 1995hoo accurately addressing the Metro long-term parking situation.

This URL takes you to a page listing all the park & rides in Fairfax County (look at Herndon-Monroe, for example):

Your friend might get away with parking at one of the Metro stations not designated for longterm parking, but there is the possibility of getting a ticket if transit police come round. Also, there's the security issue. Cars do get broken into at the Metro parking areas.

Is it not possible for your friend to reach any other Metrorail station, then take a train to either L'Enfant Plaza or Rosslyn or West Falls Church and catch an airport bus from there? Even if there's a cab ride involved to reach Metrorail, it still would be a decent savings over parking at the airport.

Posted by: Robert Thomson | November 24, 2009 12:28 PM | Report abuse

I don't know about in the West Falls Church area, but I know there is a free park-and-ride garage out between Reston and Herndon off the Dulles Toll Road (the Herndon-Monroe Park and Ride lot). The 5A Metrobus to the airport stops there. Since it's free, they probably don't restrict overnight parking, although that's just my guess, as I do not know for sure. I have never used this facility, as when I fly out of Dulles I have either driven there and parked at the airport or, for trips longer than four days, used car service.

Directions: Dulles Toll Road west to the Fairfax County Parkway exit (VA-7100). Pay the toll as you exit the highway, then go left at the light at the top of the ramp. Then make a right at the second light onto Sunrise Valley Drive. Look for the park-and-ride facility on your right. The 5A bus leaves from the bus stop all the way to your right as you face the bus stops from the garage.

You can find info on this site, including a .PDF map of the facility:

Posted by: 1995hoo | November 24, 2009 12:34 PM | Report abuse

Dr. Gridlock's comment must have appeared while I was typing mine. What's that old saying about great minds? :-)

Something else that occurred to me is that WMATA has a deal with Springfield Mall to allow people to park on the top floor of the parking garage outside Macy's at the corner of Frontier Drive and Spring Mall Road. I wouldn't recommend considering this option, though. If the shuttle bus to the Metro stop isn't on schedule, it's a bit of a hike when pulling luggage, especially if the weather is lousy. That level of the garage is usually fairly empty outside commuter hours; while this Friday might normally be an exception to that, Springfield Mall has been on the decline as a shopping destination recently (you may have heard that they plan to knock it down and redevelop it into a "town center"). Plus you have to ride all the way to Rosslyn (about half an hour), then either get the 5A bus or change to the Orange Line and ride out to West Falls Church to get the express bus.

I think going to Herndon-Monroe is a far more reasonable option.

Posted by: 1995hoo | November 24, 2009 12:52 PM | Report abuse

Thanks 1995hoo. He will be coming from work in the McLean area so it just seemed silly to drive all the way to Springfield or Huntington to park and then still have to metro from there to a bus.

I should have looked at the 5A schedule and I would have realized it stops at a park and ride. Silly me. Thank you for your help.

Posted by: UMDTerpsGirl | November 24, 2009 1:24 PM | Report abuse

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