How To Use New Metro Silver Line To Get Between Dulles and Reagan National Airports

a map of a subway system

People talk about how bad the traffic is in places like Los Angeles with plenty of adjectives.  And, it is quite bad.  But, the traffic in DC is what I refer to as “stealthy bad”.  It doesn’t get the same press that LA traffic does, but a trip that normally takes an hour can easily turn into a 3-hour ordeal.

With visiting dignitaries, protests and construction as variables, weather can also wreak havoc on a system that consistently backs up during rush hour.  For those of us that live in the DC area, we think of the Beltway as something of a DMZ.  Anybody who lives inside the Beltway (closer to DC) doesn’t like venturing out into Northern Virginia and vice-versa.  This is especially true for airports.  That’s why I was happy when plans were announced to extend the Metro out to Dulles airport (and disappointed when that stop wasn’t included in the first part of the expansion).

We now have the Silver Line, which reaches out to Reston, Virginia.  That’s not all the way to the airport, but it’s close enough to navigate around a big chunk of rush hour traffic.  I’ve done the trip twice now, landing at Reagan National Airport (DCA) and taking Metro out to Reston.  Here’s how:

There are two walkways from the terminal at DCA to the Metro platform.  There are plenty of signs to guide you there.  I used the walkway between the A and B concourse.  A short walk up the hallway (with the help of a moving walkway), and the first right-hand turn will put you at the ticket booth.

Metro Silver Line

Metro Silver Line

Metro Silver Line

While there are usually attendants on duty to provide information, you’ll generally need to learn how to use the ticket booths.  They’re pretty straightforward.  Be sure to note whether you’re traveling during peak or off-peak, as the DC Metro fees are distance-based unlike New York City where it’s a fixed fee to take the subway on a one-way trip.

Metro Silver Line

Once you’ve purchased a ticket you feed it into the front of the automated turnstiles and retrieve it from a slot on the top.  Then, you’re headed upstairs, following the signs for the Blue Line towards Largo Town Center via Washington, DC.  This might seem backwards to folks familiar with the area, since Large is East, in Maryland.  But, as you can see from the map below, you’re headed North to transfer in Rosslyn.  The Blue Line ultimately hooks East from there and heads through DC to Maryland.

Metro Silver Line

Once you reach the top of the escalator, the Blue Line trains will be on your right-hand side.

Important note!  Yellow line trains leave from the same track, so make sure that your train is, in fact, a Blue line train.

Once onboard, you have 5 stops (or just shy of 15 minutes) to get to Rosslyn where you’ll transfer to the Silver line.  If you’re facing in the direction of travel on the train, doors will open on the left.  You’ll need to go downstairs to get to the correct transfer platform.  There’s an escalator or, if you need it, a very slow elevator.

Metro Silver Line

Metro Silver Line

Things get a bit more complicated downstairs, but as long as you pay attention you’ll find yourself on the right train.  This platform is served by Orange, Blue and Silver trains (remember, you’re looking for Silver).  There are update boards that tell you which train is coming next as well as some harder to see panels on the trains themselves.

Metro Silver Line

Metro Silver Line

Once onboard, you’ll have 10 stops (roughly 30 minutes) to get to the final stop on the line, Wiehle-Reston East.  All told, the trip can be done in as little as 50 minutes.  That’s longer than by car with no traffic (30 minutes) but far shorter than a rush-hour car ride. At Reston, you’ll find taxis and buses, a kiss & ride for people to pick you up and plenty of Uber cars nearby (I usually have Uber meet me at kiss & ride).

I’m generally a fan of trains/subways when I travel as a consistent means of travel, though I also use my fair share of Uber.  A Metro ride from DCA to Reston will run you a bit less than $5 during off-peak hours, plus another $15 to get a cab or Uber to Dulles, versus a normal cab/Uber fare of $75 to $100 between the two if there’s not much traffic.

For those that prefer the convenience/savings of mass transit, consider the Metro the next time you need to get to/from the DC-area airports.

The post How To Use New Metro Silver Line To Get Between Dulles and Reagan Airports was published first on Pizza In Motion.

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  1. There’s also Washington Flyer’s Silverlineexpress bus that connects the Reston East Metro stop with Dulles Airport every 15 minutes. It costs $5, and that makes the entire trip only $10.

    1. Patrick, thanks. Wasn’t sure how much the bus cost. Not a big bus fan myself, but it’s a reliable enough option.

  2. My advice is don’t even bother. If you arrive during rush hour, the metro will be super crowded as well and hauling luggage is a huge PITA (if you can ever get it on the train) along with fun things we locals are used to like “Track Maintenance”, “The Elevator is out of Service”, and 20 minute waits between trains and overcrowded platforms.

    Especially if you are in a group, take an UberX. It’s a usually about $50 (in decent traffic) or $40 with no traffic and their are TONS around DCA, so you can pick and cancel until you get a car bigger than a Prius.

    1. Ven, I’ve lived here long enough that I wouldn’t willingly try to get out of DC on the roads during rush hour. I’ll be happy to take my chances with Metro in those instances. While the train was crowded during rush hour it was manageable and moving a lot quicker than 66.

      1. I trust the roads way more then modern Metro. metro of 10 years ago, maybe, but today’s metro is a total joke. As someone who has plenty of time on the Orange Line (now Silver) squish to Ballston, I’d much rather be sitting in traffic on 66 at the rate of 0.20/minute of waiting time in an Uber.

  3. I live not too far from Reagan (maybe ten minutes by car) and just took uber for my first time to Dulles. To give a better idea of cost, it came out to a little over 40$.

    45 minute minute drive, little to no traffic, and straight to the terminal.

    1. Mike, that’s probably the lowest price I’ve seen for an Uber ride from Reagan to Dulles. Was it UberX or Uber Black?

      1. UberX. I live in Crystal city next to the 395 and took it from home, not the airport. I imagine from the airport it’ll be at most 10$ more? Again it was a smooth ride all the way there

        1. Ah, yes. That pricing makes more sense. With Uber black (before that car service) or a cab, I don’t think I ever paid less than $65 or $70. That’s good pricing for UberX.

          1. That sounds about right; If I UberX from my office(Tysons Corner) to Reagan it runs ~$20 on a Friday at around 3PM, and from Tysons to IAD is about ~$15. Usually works well because in Tysons you’ll sometimes get an Uber Black who will pick up an UberX. Has happened to me the last 2 times.

          2. Mike, that’s a great fare from Tysons to either airport in an Uber Black. I don’t have a lot of experience with UberX. What sort of cars/what condition are they in when they pick you up?

          3. Pizza,

            I’ve had a fair amount of experience with UberX, and the cars vary. They tend to be peoples “every day” car; ie, a Honda Civic, Nissan Altima etc. If I want a cheap ride it cant be beat. I’ve also ridden in Honda Accord/Toyota Avalons that are more the LUX versions of the car.

          4. Mike, I don’t have a problem with every day cars, just if they’re dirty or operated by drivers without knowledge of the local area. How has your experience been with Uber X drivers knowing the area?

  4. UberX is SUPER cheap, much better than a cab. 66 Isn’t too bad, and if it is, the GPS that Uber uses will probably recommend taking GW, Leesburg, or 50 for the route. You only need to get to around 495, because the Dulles express road will take you the rest of the way.

    1. Ven, I’ve only taken one UberX ride (in a market without black). Good to know the prices are that cheap. 66 and I have a long, bad history from when I owned restaurants in DC. I’m an advocate of GW to Chain Bridge myself. That being said, I still think the train is a reasonable option for people to consider, especially when they actually get around to connecting it to the airport.

  5. You say that you live in DC, but you called it “Reagan National Airport?” Sounds more like you live in Washington…

    1. Chris, I’ve lived in NOVA for 17 years now. I used to think of it just as National but have started to refer to it as Reagan National on the blog over the last couple years, despite that not being the popular term with most locals.

  6. Yep, with recent drop in prices by Uber, my husband’s rides from Alexandria/Annandale (Beltway exit 52) to Dulles became super cheap – about $35 (vs.$50-55 by cab) incl tip. The only problem is that at these prices many times there are no UberX willing to go to Dulles. Happened again this morning – hubby had to scramble to get the Red top cab.

    1. Yana, I’ve never actually been refused an Uber ride. Did your husband plug in his destination while requesting the ride or did the driver refuse the ride when they showed up?

    2. On a separate, but related note, gotta wonder how an UberX driver makes a living at rates that low kicking back a percentage to Uber.

  7. I flew into Dulles last December for FTU. Seem like there were no machines or booth to buy a rail/bus pass at the airport. I did managed to find the bus and the cost was seven dollars, perhaps. Waiting for the outbound flight I did get coffee and a donut at a Dunkin and felt the cost was reasonable.

    Currently, Metro St. Louis is working on a card pass plan. One can ride the light rail train from end to end for $2.50, provide it within two hours. A monthly card stock swipe (magnetic stripe) pass cost $72 and covers both the train and bus. IMHO, the locals whine about these prices; but the new system will bring in more revenue.

    1. Kevin, the integration at Dulles airport between the buses and train in terms of buying tickets ahead of time is problematic. Much better at DCA.

  8. This webpage is awesome! Worked like a charm! I did the whole thing (train plus bus) during the evening rush for $12.90 in about an hour. No worries!

  9. THANK YOU for having such clear instructions on how to navigate this inter-airport journey. I’ve been stuck in Boston for 2 days. When I finally convinced them to fly me to Reagan instead of Dulles, I was able to escape. Your timing was exact. I barely made my connection at Dulles. I had no problems navigating the metro, but it was non-peak hours. Bus was not running when I was there at Reston stop, but grabbed a cab.

    1. Sylvia, I’m THRILLED to hear that this helped you. And, super happy to hear you made your flight. Sounds like you were really hoofing it. If you liked the info, can you do me one favor? Tell one person about my blog. I’ll take every new reader I can get!

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