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Metro’s Silver Lining

During a time when metro riders are feeling the pinch after increased fees and bumpy tracks, there’s something “new.” Washington, DC’s long-awaited Silver Line metro rail service commenced today without a hiccup. 

However, if you step back from the transportation giant’s cheesy commercials, you might find out things really are not all they are cracked up to be.

In fact, unless you live in the metro area’s western suburbs, there is absolutely nothing new about your commute, except for a few headaches.

On Saturday, five new stations on the Silver Line opened up to lots of excited people, some of whom may have never stepped on the train before. And hopefully they didn’t expect a light at the end of the tunnel, because that’s probably not what is waiting. Finally an area accessible only via a long bus ride or even longer traffic journey will be connected to the big city via rail.

The problem with the Silver Line’s unveiling is that is has been dubbed something it’s not. The new track will share a line with both the Blue and Orange Lines, two well-used avenues for commuters on Metro. These lines are extremely busy during rush hour, which prompted officials to create special “Rush Plus” service in 2012, adding trains during peak usage times. Because of the shared rails, you most likely won’t get to where you need to be, especially if you’re west of the new stations, in any better time than before.

The equipment, too, will be broken in. While Metro does plan on unveiling new series liners for riders to use, those carriers are not ready yet and most likely will need to undergo several more rounds of testing.

Old equipment means commonplace delays attritubed to train issues or boarding problems. Even though the stations opening up are new and will most likely see less users than the bogged-down downtown terminals, delays will trickle through the three lines. That means a Reston resident getting to DC can still be delayed, even though a new line has opened.

And track work, which takes place just about every weekend out of the year, will also affect Silver Line riders – again, it all goes back to the Orange and Blue Lines.

But it’s not all bad. For many, they probably didn’t forsee a day when metro-DC growth would connect Reston to the District. And in the future – as soon as 2018 pending funding arrangements – areas west of Dulless International Airport will be connected. That means you could take a train from Dulless to Reagan National Airport in no time.

The Silver Line is promising, brining a new group of commuters off the road and onto the rail in an area where gridlock is the four-letter word.

Let’s just hope there is some gold on this silver lining.

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