WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — Between announcing an opening date for the Silver Line extension, and starting a crackdown on riders who don’t pay their fare, it’s safe to say that Metro has had a busy week.
On Monday, after years of anticipation, Metro announced the official date when passengers will finally be able to board trains at 6 brand-new stations in Northern Virginia. Tuesday was the first day that Metro Transit Police officers started issuing fines to people who jump the fare gate or hop on a bus without tapping their SmarTrip card.
Silver Line extension set to open on Nov. 15, right before the Thanksgiving holiday travel rush
Metro’s 11.5-mile extension of the Silver Line finally has an opening date: Tuesday, November 15. The opening will officially put six new stations on the map: Reston Town Center, Herndon, Innovation Center, Dulles International Airport, Loudoun Gateway and Ashburn.
Residents throughout the DMV have been questioning this opening date for several years now. The extension — which links Loudoun County to Washington D.C. via rail service for the first time ever — was supposed to open in 2018. Construction, which began in 2014, was plagued with several contractor-related crises that ultimately delayed the opening by four years.
One last hurdle…
The Washington Metrorail Safety Commission (WMSC) — the agency that oversees Metro — played a big part in keeping the transit agency’s plans to open the Silver Line by Thanksgiving on track. Metro General Manager & CEO Randy Clarke, along with WMATA’s Board of Directors, repeatedly warned that not having enough train cars would jeopardize a pre-holiday rush opening.
“We appreciate our partners at MWAA, FTA, WMSC, Fairfax and Loudoun Counties who have worked collaboratively with us for several years to reach this moment,” Metro General Manager/CEO Randy Clarke said in a statement.
Since last year, roughly 60% of Metro’s rolling stock has been off the tracks after a derailment led to safety concerns in the 7,000-series railcar. Last week, the WMSC approved a plan that would allow Metro to phase in all of its 7,000-series railcars after the yearlong hiatus.
This decision boosted enough confidence among Metro officials, leading the agency to announce the Silver Line extension opening date, which falls just one week before one of the busiest travel periods of the year.
The last step until a ribbon cutting? Metro still needs safety certification from the WMSC in order to start service, something the agency expects soon.
Metro continues to work on a short list of items that we are coordinating daily with the WMSC. We appreciate their collaboration and expect to finalize safety certification before we open for passenger service.Metro statement
Back to the fines
Metro has officially started issuing fines to people riders who hop over the fare gate at stations or don’t tap their SmarTrip card when boarding a bus.
Technically, this isn’t anything new. Metro Transit Police officers have always been able to ask a person to go back and pay their fare if the officer notices that someone hasn’t paid, but over the past few years, enforcement has been lax.
According to Metro: “Citations with associated fines may be issued to anyone jumping fare gates, improperly using emergency gates, or not tapping fare boxes on Metrobuses.”
Fines in Maryland and Virginia can cost riders $100 per infraction; in D.C., the fine will be $50.
The renewed enforcement comes at a time of financial trouble for the DMV’s largest transit system. The agency says they’ve lost roughly $40 million this year due to lost fares when people don’t pay. Metro sees the fare evasion crackdown as a tool to help wade itself out of its upcoming budgetary woes.