Transit riders face hassles reaching the region's airports

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Photo - Planes take off and land at Ronald Reagan International Airport on Friday, March 23, 2007, in Arlington, Virginia.  After McLean residents studied aircraft noise they thought had increased from Reagan National Airport, the FAA and Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority are offering corrective measures. Greg Whitesell/Examiner
Planes take off and land at Ronald Reagan International Airport on Friday, March 23, 2007, in Arlington, Virginia. After McLean residents studied aircraft noise they thought had increased from Reagan National Airport, the FAA and Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority are offering corrective measures. Greg Whitesell/Examiner
Local,Liz Essley,Metro and Traffic

Getting to the region's international airports can be a hassle for people taking public transit, largely because agencies don't cooperate with each other, according to a new report from Metro's Riders' Advisory Council.

Taking Metrobus to and from Washington Dulles International Airport can be a headache because the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority hasn't been eager to work with Metro to improve access, the report said. Bus service to Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport is better, the report noted, but still "suffers from inattention to the rider experience."

"We thought it was sort of a hole in the system," said Ben Ball, chairman of the riders' council. "Especially for the growing number of people here who don't have cars, that's one of the difficult areas in the region to reach, the region's airports."

Metro plans to look at the council's critique in an upcoming meeting and may make changes to the problems that the group described in painstaking detail.

No signs at Dulles point riders to the only Metrobus at the airport -- the 5A to L'Enfant Plaza -- because airports officials said they have to get approval for new signs from the Virginia Historical Preservation Society. And airport announcements tell passengers that the Washington Flyer taxis and buses to West Falls Church are the only authorized transportation.

"Despite the 5A's popularity as a means of airport transportation, [the airports authority] is completely disconnected from the service, both in financial and policy terms. When the line began operations [in 2005], [the airports authority] was noticeably uncooperative," the report said.

But the airports authority told The Washington Examiner it would be happy to work with Metro and is reviewing the riders' report.

"We are happy to work with [Metro] and all the Dulles Corridor stakeholders on transportation improvements, especially at this time when the corridor is undergoing exciting changes," an airports authority spokesman said in an email.

Bus riders from Dulles also face problems in D.C. The bus drops them off at the L'Enfant Plaza Metro station's east entrance, which is closed on weekends, forcing riders who want to transfer to Metrorail to seek out the far-off alternate entrance. Metro said it hasn't moved the bus stop because it took months of negotiations with D.C. to get the stop there in the first place.

Metro's B30 bus to BWI has fewer problems, the group said. But the bus stop at the Greenbelt Metro station is quite a hike from the multiday spots, giving riders a long walk hauling luggage or a precarious jump over a fence, the report said.

lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

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Liz Essley

Staff Writer - Transportation
The Washington Examiner