Robert E. Simon purchased nearly 7,000 acres of Northern Virginia land in 1964 with a radical vision in mind. Leaving behind all preconceived notions of how urban planning should work, he aimed to create a picturesque community with a healthy mix of high-rises, single family homes, commercial zones, and green-space. Naming the place after his own initials, Reston was born.
Fifty years later, Reston is thriving with 60,000 residents and many businesses. Even at age 100, Bob Simon lives in Reston, seeing his original vision through to this day. That vision took its next step Saturday with the opening of Metro’s Silver Line. With rapid transit now servicing the community, Reston is positioned to attract even more tourism, business, and residents.
The Silver Line brings Metro to six new areas in Northern Virginia, while the work to extend the line to Dulles and beyond is set to finish in 2018. By this time next year, the line is expected to service 50,000 commuters daily, and two thirds of those will be riders ditching their cars in favor of Metro. When the service eventually hits Dulles International Airport, the benefits will be even greater.
The completion of the Silver Line was never a sure thing. Some government officials were hostile to public transit and would have preferred instead to pave our way out of the worst traffic in the nation. Luckily, a coalition of bipartisan leaders recognized the long-term benefits of investing in a smart growth future along the Dulles Corridor.
Expanding public transit is critical for Northern Virginia. More roads are not the answer to long-term congestion in an increasingly denser area. Anyone sitting in their car during morning or evening rush hour can attest to that. Alternatively, Metrorail offers a safe, reliable, and clean transit option. As our region grows, there is only so much capacity our roads can gain. Investing in better public transit today will keep Northern Virginia moving while generating billions in economic activity and growth. This is the idea behind the Silver Line.
Investment in transit has already paid off for Northern Virginia. In Arlington, where development has clustered around Metro stations, extraordinary things have been happening. Since 1996, the county added about 50,000 residents, yet saw traffic on nearly all of its major roads decline. The reason? Smart transit investment and planning that led to a 34.5 percent boost in transit ridership.
It’s no surprise that the D.C. suburbs are some of the most attractive places to live, work, and raise a family in the entire country. A paper recently released by the National Bureau of Economic Research found Washington, D.C. to be the happiest metropolitan area in the country with a population greater than 2 million. With a fast and reliable transit network connecting our residents with their jobs, schools, friends, and tourism, all at an affordable cost, it’s not difficult to see why.