The new subway line began serving the airport on Tuesday, providing a long-awaited rail-to-fly option for the 20 million passengers who pass through Washington’s international gateway each year.
“When you travel across the country, around the world, take the Silver Line and fly with Dulles,” John E. “Jack” Potter, chairman of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, said Tuesday at an inauguration ceremony. opening.
I took the advice and made the trip Tuesday night from Northwest Washington to Dulles for a 1:30 a.m. flight to San Salvador. The $3.85 off-peak fare on the first night of the rail extension took me through 25 stations, a transfer from the red line to Metro Center, and 90 minutes of driving – at least twice what it would have taken to lead to this late hour.
With one carry-on and a heavy backpack, I left at 8:40 p.m. as a cold rain fell on the nation’s capital, making my eight-minute walk from home to the subway station the most miserable part of the travel.
Using Metro’s next arrival tool, I timed my arrival at the Friendship Heights platform within five minutes of the next train heading downtown. I also gave myself plenty of time for potential transit issues, even though the trip went well. The metro got me to the airport three hours before departure, as recommended for international flights.
Traveling outside peak hours meant plenty of free seats but less frequent service. After the 16 minute ride to the Metro Center, I had just missed a Silver Line train. On the platform, the subway terminals had signs depicting an airplane and the airport’s IAD code, while directing passengers to the lower platform. Overhead signs said the next train to Ashburn would arrive in 11 minutes.
The doors of a 6000 series train opened at 9:22 p.m. and then began the nearly hour-long journey to Dulles. By the time the six-car train reached Wiehle-Reston East – the former Silver Line terminus – the train was nearly empty. Three air travelers on my car continued through three more new stations before reaching Dulles.
A woman visiting from Toronto said she was happy to take the subway trip, saving money on what would have been “a very expensive Uber ride”, although she sighed about a ” too long journey”.
Another passenger, Pamela Leahigh of Southwest DC, took one of the first trains to Dulles on Tuesday to catch a flight to Scotland. The mood in her carriage was festive, she said, with people getting on and off the train to take photos of the shiny new stations.
“It was both old-fashioned and modern,” she said.
My train arrived around 10:20 p.m. at Dulles station, where a dozen people, a mix of workers and travelers, were waiting for a train to DC. Views of the airport terminal are visible upon exit. Signage directs passengers to spacious elevators and long escalators, then to the indoor walkway between the station and baggage claim. It’s an easy six-minute walk through an air-conditioned pedestrian tunnel with three moving walkways.
Metro and the airport authority see the Silver Line as a significant boost to regional rail and air travel, which have faced pandemic-related slowdowns. Dulles passenger traffic continues to recover, partly impacted by a decline in international travel. Transit officials say the airport is a primary destination for passengers along the extension. The subway line was envisioned before the airport opened 60 years ago and was touted as removing a transportation barrier to reach Dulles.
“When the airport opened almost exactly 60 years ago today, President Kennedy said the building symbolized the aspirations of the United States,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told Dulles on Tuesday. “I think the same can be said of the Silver Line today, enabling people to get where they need to go more cheaply.”
He continued, “All of us in the DMV have the experience of a friend saying they’re coming to Washington, they’re flying in and you’re so excited. …And then there is this little pause. “Wait a minute, what airport did you say you were going through?” No more awkward breaks because it will be easier no matter what.
Easier, at least, if you have an arrival or departure within the metro timetables. Passengers with early morning or late evening flights still need to stick with alternatives. For example, the last train to DC from Dulles is at 10:53 p.m. on weekdays, and the first train from DC to the airport on weekends is not until after 8:00 a.m.
The train also saved me at least $100. Since Metro has a $2 flat fare on weekends and late nights, my return trip will be even cheaper (compared to Metro’s maximum $6 fare during peak times). Parking at Dulles Economy Parking is $12 per day. Someone who doesn’t book in advance can end up at the much more expensive garages, where rates range from $19 to $27 per day. Taxi or Uber fares would have been over $120 round trip.
I’ve driven to Dulles at least half a dozen times this year to pick up relatives or for my own trips. Most of the time I did the 24 miles from DC in 35 minutes. The hardest and most unpredictable stretch is the six miles of the Beltway on my route and the choke point of the American Legion bridge. The remaining 13 miles on the Dulles Access Road are generally a breeze. Once this summer, a relative arrived at 4:30 p.m. on a Wednesday, and the drive turned into a two-hour nightmare. Metro would have been a good choice.
The drive was long but convenient and a good choice for me on driving, but especially during rush hour or days like Tuesday when the rain made driving chaotic.