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Implications of the Silver Line Phase II

December 12, 2011
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With the approved funding of the Silver line Phase II nearly finalized and agreed upon by all of the coordinating jurisdictions the Dulles Corridor will likely accelerate the recession-proof growth it has experienced in the last 5 years. The regions surrounding each metro station will likely see variable levels of success, dependent on the specific demographics and dynamics of their locations, but the benefits to the greater region can not be discounted. While Phase I will alleviate a congestion constraint which has crippled the growth opportunities of Fairfax County, Phase II will help grow the County into an economic dynamo capable of attracting additional corporations, investments, and developers.

Connection of the nations 20th (Dulles) and the nations 26th(Reagan) largest airports with a modern rail system alone could spur further growth in the airports

Phase I of the silver line construction through Tysons Corner has passed the halfway mark as final Plans for Phase II are likely to begin forming

and commercial viability of the region and would have been financially wise for the region on its own merit. Including the additional benefit of connecting the fasting growing commercial office spaces in the metropolitan area, previously unreachable by light and heavy rail, in Reston and Tysons Corner as well as providing commuters additional transportation options within a road system which has ranked last in the country for the past 2 years has provided Fairfax the opportunity to create a new paradigm in the interwoven cultural mesh between suburbia and commercial centers.

Regardless of the stance many critics have on the idea of smart growth and the function of municipalities in the design and planning of developments, the Dulles Metrorail project creates a new capability for industries to attain quick access to the economic engine within the District while generating new opportunities for the vibrant Biotech, Financial, Engineering, and Management industries to cross pollinate their service and client base. In the Great Reset, Richard Florida asserts a regions metabolism, based on the growth of a region in relation to its economic diversity, provides an indication of the regions buffering ability during downturns. “The critical strength of fast-metabolizing cities is that they can overcome business failures more easily, by reabsorbing their talented workers and growing new businesses.” In this way the interconnection of multiple fields, the magnetism of a region which can attract a dynamic skilled workforce, and the size of the regions gross economic exchange can enforce this resilience.

The completion of the Silver line Phase I will likely be congruent to the inflection point of the current recession in 2013 which could act to propel the benefits of the new system but it is the final connection of the outer suburbs through Phase II which will promote sustainability of the network. On average 86,000 commuters access I-66 before Vienna (west of Vienna) daily compared to 34,000 beyond Vienna (east of Vienna). Based on the 2009 metro-rail ridership at the West Falls Church and Vienna station, approximately 30,000 of these trip reductions can likely be attributed to WMATA. In comparison 135,000 commuters access the Dulles Toll road beyond Wielhe Avenue daily(towards the city). Revised for clarification.

  • The average travel time on the toll road from Rt28 onto Northbound 495 during morning rush hour averages typically 45 minutes for 15 miles of travel, a sluggish 20 mph per hour. Considering many of these commuters have the District as their eventual destination (90 minutes typically) it would be foolish to believe that an equivalent number, if not more riders, should be expected from the Wielhe Avenue station to Phase II future stations during rush hour in comparison to the Vienna Station. Revised for clarification.
  • Considering the lack of density around the Vienna Station in comparison with the much denser, and intermodal Reston (pop. 56,000) and Herndon (22,000) within 2 miles of the Phase II metro stations by using the Vienna ridership again would be deemed conservative.
  • These outer stations will draw off users of the Vienna station who currently must use I-66 to reach the station, providing greater capabilities to these riders to access stations via mass transit and shorter vehicle trips. Revised for clarification.

These being the likely factors on ridership to the Silver line it could be asserted that an anticipated reduction of 25,000 commuters from both I-66 and the toll road could be expected leaving these over-congested routes more sustainable while providing a quick commute option to those accessing the District.

While many have discounted the relief that can be estimated from these new projects it is clear that Northern Virginia commuters have utilized intermodal options when available and this trend is likely to continue if not grow. The inclusion of a larger rider base for WMATA will also assist in sustaining the network as a whole and serve as a tool of the new region that can emerge to attract economic growth and a dynamic population.

 

 

Richard Florida, The Great Reset: How the Post-Crash Economy Will Change the Way We Live and Work, Harper Collins, 2010

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3 Responses to Implications of the Silver Line Phase II

  1. jh on December 13, 2011 at 9:27 am

    Good idea starting this blog. Thanks.

    I agree with your overall conclusion that phase II is really important, but I’m just wondering about a lot of these numbers.

    I’m not sure where the 30,000 “trip reductions” comes from. How was that calculated?

    It’s not clear to me what “beyond” and “before” mean when talking about cars that access the roads. “Beyond” is entering east of a particular location and then traveling east in the morning? Or are these numbers heading both east and west? I’m confused. Depending on these definitions, and what exit is being used for “before Vienna” and “beyond Vienna, I’m shocked (skeptical) by the Wiehle vs Vienna numbers.

    Reston to 495 is not 15 miles. Ashburn is about 15 miles from 495. Reston is about 8 or 9 miles (depending on what exit you use). I don’t drive on the toll road much, and pretty much never during rush hour, but I find it hard to believe it takes 45 minutes, on average, to get from Reston to 495.

    I also doubt half those commuters have DC as their final destination. I can’t find the link right now, but I saw a stat about 12 years ago that about half of Fairfax County residents work in Fairfax County. The other half are spread across all other jurisdictions, with DC and Arlington as the largest.

    • Navid Roshan on December 14, 2011 at 4:14 pm

      JH, thank you for your interest. The trip reductions I noted came from WMATA’s ridership numbers at the Vienna, West Falls Church, and East Falls Church metro which typically during work hours exceed 30,000 riders. Part of the assumption is the majority of these riders are not reaching the metro via mass transit or walking and are driving to the metro stations, parking, and using metro the remainder of their commute. This can also be observed by VDOTs average trip counts for I-66 with the steep decline of riders after 495. I make a jump in conclusion that the 30,000 riders are coming from I-66 but from my personal observations and anecdotal evidence from fellow commuters this is not far from the truth. Part of the reduction can be attributed to the restrictions on single occupancy after 495 and people taking other routes into DC but I believe that remainder population exists within the difference of the 30,000 and the actual drop of 52,000 I-66 commuters after Vienna which would mean somewhere between 20,000 – 30,000 switch off of I-66 to use a different route due to those restriction or to get to another destination other than DC. These numbers again are my opinion but I think based on the track history of Vienna and West Falls Church usage they will end up being a better estimate over the first 3 years of the new metro than the 10,000 commuter reduction noted by other publications. The 10,000 number provided by the Airport authority was actually a reduced estimate from the original estimate which was inline with my current estimate of 30,000.

      For the Reston to 495 I agree my description is inaccurate, I intended this to mean from the Rt 28 ramp of 267 through the merge onto northbound 495. This is about 13 miles, but absolutely does take all of 45 minutes on average. When I state on average I mean the typical work day which may not take into account federal holidays and some weeks of the summer months (20-25minutes) but also does not take into consideration days where there is any accident either (which easily exceed 90minutes). This traffic duration comes from my own as well as several other commuters experiences over the past 4 years of having that commute, we are all traffic/civil engineers so we pay attention to travel durations more than is healthy for most drivers, but as its not a statistical analysis you may want to take it with a grain of salt.
      You may be right about the final point on the DC worker question, and theoretically a more economically powerful Tysons Corner would remove even more workers from DC and Arlington.

      I will take these notes and modify the post accordingly. Thanks for your comments.

  2. Douglas Lerner on December 23, 2011 at 8:53 am

    Yes – 45 minutes from Reston to 495 during morning rush on the DTR – especially in the months of September through December.

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