Yesterday, WMATA officially opened the second phase of the Silver Line. This extension will take the line from Reston all the way out to Ashburn. And most notably, it will stop at Dulles International Airport on its way. After being open sixty years (tomorrow), Dulles airport will finally have a rail connection. But will you use it?
The first response that most Washingtonians would likely offer to that question is “of course not, because I’d rather crawl to my ultimate destination than take Dulles.” And, fair enough. But sometimes a trip to Dulles is really unavoidable. Will you still drive or will you take the Metro?
On the face of it, it might seem like a fairly obvious answer for most people. From Georgetown, even in the middle of evening rush hour, it is only likely to take 30-40 minutes to drive there:
But keep in mind, where are you actually driving to? Are you parking in the short term lot? If so, that gets really expensive, really quickly. If you’re planning on a trip of more than a few days, you’re likely going to want to use the long term lots. And parking, waiting for the shuttle bus, and riding the shuttle bus over to the terminal can easily tack on another half hour. You could be looking at 1:15 hours from door-to-door at that point.
Now how long will the Metro take?
Depending on how long it takes you to get to the Metro, it could end up taking about the same amount of time:
From Rosslyn station, it is estimated that the Metro ride by itself will take just about an hour. So if you can get to Rosslyn in 15 minutes (which isn’t crazy if you catch the right bus) you can get out to the terminal of Dulles in about as much time as it would take to drive and park in the long term lot.
Of course, if you are taking a cab or Uber you can shave off the time spent getting from the long term lot. And so that will likely remain the quickest option (although probably the most expensive, depending on how long you would be parking your car).
(A lot of that depends, of course, where in DC you’re leaving from. The Post had a two teams of reporters race each other from downtown, one in a car and the other on Metro. With such fast access to Metro the team riding the rails won by a hair.)
But GM has a bit of a confession to make that may cause his DC-resident card to be revoked: he doesn’t hate Dulles. That’s because he only uses it to go to special and memorable trips to places like Europe or the Caribbean. It’s now associated in his mind with such occasions that the idea of going to the airport only conjures happy memories. And part of those happy memories is that GM long ago realized how much more relaxing any airplane trip can be when you simply BUILD IN PLENTY OF TIME TO GET TO THE AIRPORT. It seems like the most obvious life hack in the world, but so many people cut the time way too close and then get extremely upset when completely normal and predictable delays cause them to miss or almost miss their flights. JUST LEAVE EARLIER.
And in that spirit, yes taking Metro to Dulles is almost never going to be faster than driving. But if you’re racing to get there, then you’ve already made a mistake. Build in some time, and then take an easy and relaxed ride out there. You’ll be amazed what it will do for your mental state.