Reagan National hopes passengers still take Metro, despite summer shutdown

Reagan National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, has a message for passengers during this summer’s monthslong Metro shutdown: Many of you can still take the train.

Metro is closing all six Blue and Yellow Line stations south of Reagan National from May 25, the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, through Sept. 8. The airport station will be open for service to and from the Pentagon, Rosslyn, D.C. and Maryland.

“We want to make sure folks know that everything north, where 80% of our passengers go, is open. It’s very key to our success that folks continue using public transit — the normal train service going north and free shuttle buses going south for the summer to be successful,” said Brian Kalish of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.

If even more people switch to driving or taking cabs, Uber or Lyft than expected, traffic in and around the airport could face significant problems.

Traffic at the airport is already being slowed by major construction work on new security checkpoints between the Metro tracks and Terminal B/C. That work is scheduled to shift some time around July, which airport manager Paul Malandrino said will make the police team dedicated to moving traffic even more important.

“It’s going to be a little more challenging, but we want to make sure that we can make it work, so we’re fortunate to have people like that directing the traffic,” Malandrino said.

In an effort to reduce the additional backups this summer, only one of Metro’s five planned free shuttle routes will stop at the airport. Three of the routes are express buses to and from Pentagon, and the second local route will start and end at Crystal City rather than at the airport.

“Traffic is bad in D.C. Traffic will be a little bit worse this summer, but it’s a regional issue. The GW Parkway, Jefferson Davis/U.S. 1 are at capacity as is,” Kalish said.

The shuttle route operated by Alexandria’s DASH Bus will drop off and pick up on the roadway between the Terminal B/C parking garage and the Metro tracks when looking out from baggage claim. The space is typically used for employee shuttles.

The “Blue Line Shuttle” bus serving the airport will not stop at Braddock Road, but instead will only stop at King Street, Van Dorn Street and Franconia-Springfield stations.

People flying in and out of the airport should expect emails from their airlines warning of both the road work and Metro closure. The Airports Authority also plans to retweet Metro, post information on the airport website, make announcements in the terminal, put up additional message signs, and point people toward Travelers Aid volunteers.

“One of our key strategies is to promote use of public transit, and to make sure that we are communicating to folks that you can go north. There’s going to be a lot of misinformation,” Kalish said.

Metro gave the Airports Authority 10,000 flyers to hand out at the airport, with information in English and Spanish, about the closure and shuttle routes. Metro is responsible for the signs directing riders to shuttle buses.

Nearly 15% of airport passengers use Metro, Airports Authority CEO Jack Potter said. While that is down from just a few years ago due to Uber and Lyft, Potter said Reagan National still has the highest proportion of passengers in the country who use the train to reach the airport.

The Airports Authority and Metro have been working together on shutdown mitigation plans.

“There’s been a good, healthy give-and-take,” Potter said. “We will continue to monitor it over the course of the summer, and we’ll tweak as we go.”

The authority asked Metro to include information on airport access in brochures for each closed station, even if the only options are to take an express shuttle to Pentagon and catch a train south, or take a local shuttle bus with multiple stops that could require a transfer at King Street.

VRE riders can continue to Crystal City rather than Franconia-Springfield, then walk or take Metro one stop south, but may not be inclined to jump through all the hoops with luggage in tow.

“It’s not easy from the end-of-the-line stations,” Airports Authority Board member Kate Hanley said.

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