After eight years of construction, students said the Metro’s newly extended Silver Line has made travel to Dulles International Airport more affordable during the holiday season despite a longer commute to the airport.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority opened the six-station Silver Line extension last month with rail access to Dulles International Airport, the primary international airport in the D.C. area., for the first time in Metro’s 46-year history. Ten students said the extension has opened more affordable avenues to fly out of Dulles after transporting to the airport through alternative and costly transportation methods, like shuttles and rideshares, in previous years.
“The completion of the Silver Line means a better, greener, more affordable way to get to work, school, shopping, entertainment and events as well as easy access to Washington Dulles International Airport, a gateway to the world,” WMATA General Manager and CEO Randy Clarke said at the extension’s opening ceremony in November.
The first phase of the Silver Line, with six new stations, opened in Fairfax County, Virginia in 2014 after officials began construction in 2007. The second phase – which includes three more stops in Fairfax County and Metro’s first three stops in Loudoun County, including Dulles – began construction shortly after in 2014, but delays pushed back the opening date of the second phase from 2018 to 2022.
Before the Silver Line reached Dulles, riders could take the Metro line to Whiele-Reston East station and ride the Silver Line Express Bus the final leg to the airport for a $5 fare.
Students who have taken the Silver Line to the airport said the extension has saved them between $70 to $80 in transportation spending.
Netra Ranganathan, a junior majoring in public health who lives in Dubai, said she travels to Dulles for international flights because they’re not offered at the closer Reagan National Airport, which is connected to the Blue and Yellow lines and serves near-exclusively domestic flights in Arlington. She said the extension to Dulles was “really convenient” for her flight to London for Thanksgiving break because getting to the airport was free and easy to navigate.
“It was a straight shot, so it wasn’t a hassle, and the station is really nice,” Ranganathan said. “There’s a lot of signs and everything to follow that make it really easy to get to the terminal once you get there.”
Danielle Davenport, a freshman double majoring in political science and economics, said while her trip to Dulles to fly back to Newark for Thanksgiving break was “convenient” because of the free Metro service, the commute to the airport lasted about an hour – roughly 30 minutes more than a rideshare trip.
“I’ve never taken the Metro to Reagan before, but I would imagine I would prefer to take the Metro to Reagan just because of the significant reduction in travel time compared to Dulles,” Davenport said.
Dani Trevino, a freshman studying international affairs, said she will travel out of Dulles for winter break because the airport offers cheaper, direct flights to her in Colorado. Trevino said she will take the Silver Line to the airport because it is “way cheaper” than taking an Uber or Lyft, which has an average route cost of $59 according to Uber’s website.
Freshman Owen Fields, who flew home to Colorado from Dulles for Thanksgiving, said he enjoyed the trip to the airport because the stations are new and the service was free. But he said he had to take a Lyft back to GW for about $80 when he returned to D.C. after midnight, when Metro closes for the night Monday through Thursday.
“Unfortunately, when I returned to Dulles on my return trip, there was no longer service past 12,” Fields said. “So, I once again had to fall on the sword and Lyft back home.”
Stella Weiss, a freshman studying international business, said she chose to take an Uber to Dulles instead of the new Metro line because the 25-minute car ride was most convenient for her to make her 10 p.m. flight amid the Thanksgiving travel rush. Weiss said she plans to take the Silver Line to Dulles instead of an Uber in the future because of the ride costs.
“I’m still learning transportation,” Weiss said. “With having that time where you have to be at the airport by, I would be nervous and probably leave extra early and make sure I’m at the right place.”
Casey Robarts, a senior studying biology, said he flew home to Boston out of Dulles for Thanksgiving break so he could try out the new Metro extension. He said the ride to Dulles on the Silver Line offered a “scenic” view through Virginia.
“At one point, you’re in the middle of a highway, and that was really cool,” Robarts said. “Then you come up from that, you go up onto a big, elevated section, and you’re looking out at the weird mix of suburbs and city.”
Freshman Addy Dunbar, whose flight back to D.C. from New York was rerouted to Dulles from Reagan due to fog, said the Silver Line was a “lifesaver” because she did not have to pay for a bus or rideshare back to campus. Dunbar said she can now bypass the $5 express bus and take the extension directly to Dulles instead where she will now book trips because of the easier access and more affordable flights.
“Now that Metro lines go to both, I can get whatever ticket I want, which is lovely,” Dunba said.