Silver Line falls 30 percent short on projected ridership

Associated Press

McLEAN, Va. (AP) -- One year after its debut, ridership on the Metro's Silver Line through Tysons Corner is 30 percent below projections.

For 50 years, regional planners dreamed of a mass transit link to connect Dulles International Airport to the greater D.C. region. That dream took a step toward reality on July 26 of last year, when the first phase of the Silver Line began operations. Phase One, which cost $3 billion, runs through the Tysons Corner business district, from Falls Church to Reston. Phase Two, which will also cost nearly $3 billion, is under construction and will stretch to Loudoun County and Dulles airport. It is expected to debut in 2019.

Even though the Silver Line is not fully built out, last year planners had projected that by this point the Silver Line would average 50,000 riders a day. The most recent numbers from Metro, though, show average weekday ridership of about 35,000.

In particular, stations in McLean and Tysons Corner are falling well below projections. Ridership at the end-of-the-line station at Reston, meanwhile, is above projections.

Elected officials, Metro executives and Tysons Corner business leaders who gathered Monday to celebrate the Silver Line's birthday said they are pleased with how the extension is boosting development in the corridor.

Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., one of the Silver Line's biggest supporters in the decades-long battle to get it built, said he is not particularly concerned that ridership does not yet meet projections. He pointed to the redevelopment of Tysons Corner, including plans to make the notoriously traffic-choked conglomeration of malls and car dealerships into an "edge city" with increased residential population and a pedestrian friendly street network.

"It's only been a year," Connolly said. "We're trying to remake a place that has grown up over half a century. It's not going to happen overnight."

Metro officials also emphasized the positive. They pointed to rider surveys showing that half the riders on the Silver Line now had been driving to Tysons.

"I'm not concerned at all," said Jack Requa, Metro's acting general manager, pointing out the construction of high-rise office and residential buildings being spawned around the new metro stations. "The opportunities for new ridership are growing daily."

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