A Silver Line Express bus by Elvert Barnes licensed under Creative Commons.

The Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority (MWAA) is suspending its Silver Line Express (SLE) bus, which runs between Dulles Airport and the Wiehle-Reston Metro station, beginning this upcoming weekend and lasting through the summer.

With the Silver Line shut down and Metrobus and Fairfax Connector running limited schedules, riders and employees will have fewer transit choices to get to the airport or commute throughout Tysons.

The SLE bus runs between Dulles Airport and the Wiehle-Reston East Metrorail station every 15 minutes weekdays and 20 minutes off-peak and on weekends. Acting as a stand-in for the incomplete Silver Line extension to the airport, the bus gets riders from the western terminal of the Silver Line to the airport and back, and is run by the airports authority.

Transit options to Dulles Airport are limited in general, and will be in short supply this summer:

  • Metro is planning to shut down its Silver Line for the entire summer, including the western-most five stations: Wiehle-Reston East, Spring Hill, Greensboro, Tysons Corner, and McLean. Greensboro, McLean, and East Falls Church have been closed for several weeks already due to the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Metrobus is running a limited schedule due to the pandemic. The 5A bus, which runs from L’Enfant to Dulles and stops at Rosslyn, is running its Sunday schedule during the week, meaning it runs once per hour. The route is not running at all currently on weekends.
  • Fairfax Connector’s 981/983 route, which runs from between the Wiehle-Reston East station and Dulles Airport by way of the Herndon-Monroe Park & Ride, is running on its Saturday schedule during the week with service to Dulles every 20 minutes. The bus takes approximately 40 minutes to transit between Dulles and Wiehle, twice as long as MWAA’s SLE direct bus.

MWAA did not give a reason for why the express bus will be suspended over the summer, or when the bus might resume.

Air travel demand has been drastically reduced throughout the world due to the stay-at-home orders and travel restrictions implemented during the coronavirus pandemic. Travel in the US is about eight percent of what it was at this time last year; not even 200,000 people were reported traveling through TSA checkpoints on Tuesday.

Metro’s Silver Line stations close this Saturday, May 23 with no announced reopening date as part of platform reconstruction work occurring on the Orange Line. While Metro originally scheduled the stations to reopen by around Labor Day, they now say it’s too uncertain. “With the effects of the Covid-19 public health emergency on construction largely unknown, including social distancing measures by construction crews and supply chain impacts, Metro will announce the reopening date for the affected stations later this summer.”

Fairfax County officials and leaders in Tysons were so concerned about the closures that they recently wrote an op-ed about how halting Silver Line Metro service will impact the “edge city,” which built much of its transformation plans to become “a true urban downtown for Fairfax County” around the Silver Line.

A map showing service change updaes. Image by WMATA.

Three shuttle buses are going to make up for the suspended rail service; two on the Orange Line, and one on the Silver. Riders heading to Dulles Airport from closer into DC would have to take Metro’s Orange Line to Ballston, transfer to the local shuttle bus stopping at Tysons Corner, Spring Hill, and Wiehle, exit at Wiehle, and hop a ride on Fairfax Connector’s 981/983 to Dulles Airport. During the week when the 5A is running (again, once an hour), riders can pick the bus up at the Rosslyn station.

  • Tysons Partnership

This article is part of our ongoing coverage of Tysons underwritten by the Tysons Partnership and community partners. Greater Greater Washington maintains full editorial independence over its content.

Stephen Repetski is a Virginia native and has lived in the Fairfax area for over 20 years. He has a BS in Applied Networking and Systems Administration from Rochester Institute of Technology and works in Information Technology. Learning about, discussing, and analyzing transit (especially planes and trains) is a hobby he enjoys.