Photo by Will Mitchell.

Metro will suspend service between East Falls Church and West Falls Church on Memorial Day weekend and the following two weekends for work on the Silver Line. Instead of shuttling passengers between these two stations, Metro could run sets of shuttles between East Falls Church and each of the three stations to the west.

There are three stations west of East Falls Church on the Orange Line: West Falls Church, Dunn Loring and Vienna. Very few people travel between these stations. Almost everyone who is using these stations is traveling to or from closer in parts of Arlington, transferring at Rosslyn to the Blue line or traveling into DC. There is little reason to run trains back and forth between Vienna and West Falls Church.

A typical passenger during this disruption period would board at Vienna, ride two stops to West Falls Church, transfer to a shuttle bus, ride to East Falls Church, transfer back to Metrorail and continue her journey, requiring two transfers.

Also, Metro will still have to pay to operate this small western portion of the line. Instead, Metro could choose to not even open the stations. They would only open the bus bays, with good signage and attendants to help passengers understand what is happening.

Another solution would be a set of shuttle buses that will speed passengers more quickly and directly to and from the affected stations. Because of its easy access to I-66, a shuttle from Vienna directly to East Falls Church can make that journey in only a few more minutes than one from West Falls Church to East Falls Church (and vice versa).

Here are the shuttles they could run, requiring only a single transfer for almost all riders:

  • East Falls Church to West Falls church and return.
  • East Falls Church to Vienna to Dunn Loring and return. Although this is out of usual order, it would actually be faster and more convenient for a larger majority of passengers than the other way.

The only unserved routes are Vienna to West Falls Church and Dunn Loring to West Falls Church. I suspect that there are vanishingly few passengers who travel between these stations. Metro should analyze their data. Instead of offering a regular shuttle between these two stations, the managers should provide for special shuttle service upon request, like they do for elevator outages. It would probably only be needed a few times per day. If I am wrong and there are a reasonable number of passengers, then I would suggest these shuttles instead:

  • East Falls Church to West Falls Church and return.
  • East Falls Church to Vienna and return.
  • Vienna to Dunn Loring to West Falls Church and return.

With the savings from the station closures and operating costs for this section of the system, Metro could beef up its shuttles to provide more frequent and faster service to everyone. They wouldn’t even need to charge for the shuttles; just provide them for free as compensation for the inconvenience to passengers.

Using a creative solution like this can be a win-win during an inconvenient time on the system, particularly during Memorial Day weekend, when there are lots of tourists. It can speed everyone’s journey, reduce inconvenience and potentially save costs all at the same time.

Steve Offutt has been working at the confluence of business and environment for almost 20 years, with experience in climate change solutions, green building, business-government partnerships, transportation demand management, and more. He lives in Arlington with his wife and two children and is a cyclist, pedestrian, transit rider and driver.