Transit lovers are anxiously awaiting the arrival of the first phase of the Silver Line, the Metro extension from West Falls Church to Dulles Airport. Rather than wait till 2013 for the first phase to open (to Tysons Corner), and till 2016 for the second phase, we can use Google Earth to simulate a functioning Silver Line.

I expanded my KML model of the WMATA Metrorail system to include the 11 new stations on the Silver Line (see Animating Metro with KML and Google Earth). Since the GTFS data doesn’t include Silver Line scheduling information, I had to create my own timetables. The Dulles Corridor Metrorail Project web site says peak service will be every 7 minutes, but doesn’t specify non-peak service. I made my model show trains that start their runs in the morning, up to 6:30am, using the optimistic 7-minute headway. I also made every 3rd Blue Line train take the “Blue Line Split,” where it switches to the Yellow Line tracks after the Pentagon, leaving room for the Silver Line trains to run from Rosslyn to RFK Stadium.

Use this link to view the Silver Line KML in Google Earth:

Be sure to press the tiny “play” button on the time slider to begin the animation.

The “Blue Line Split” was proposed because adding Silver Line trains made the core area busy. The 14th St Bridge currently supports only the Yellow Line, so it can handle more traffic. But the Blue Line Split causes other problems to propagate. The Metro map is now more confusing to navigate. And the corridor from L’Enfant Plaza to Fort Totten already serves two lines (albeit not as heavily used as the Orange Line). And with fewer Blue Line trains servicing the eastern end of the Blue Line, from Benning Rd to Largo, WMATA has suggested they will re-route some of the New Carrollton trains to compensate (or perhaps just have the Silver Line continue to New Carrollton).

I have a solution that would preserve the model of having no more than two lines share tracks. If we could install “Y” switches at Rosslyn, the Pentagon, and L’Enfant Plaza, the Silver Line could go from Courthouse to Arlington Cemetery, and from there across the 14th St Birdge to connect with the Green Line at Waterfront. If possible, it would be nice to build platforms at the Pentagon or L’Enfant Plaza, so Yellow Line passengers can transfer. If those connections aren’t feasible, this would be a good excuse to add a Yellow Line station between the fish market and the Jefferson Memorial.

This KML file shows my proposed route for the eastern portion of the Silver Line going to Branch Ave:

Visualizing the Silver Line

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