The following is an issue with parking in Ashburn, and by proxy, probably at Loudoun Gateway. First, the North parking lot is a REAL HAUL to get to the station. It is where it is and not much can be done about that. Just didn't look so far when driving by on the Greenway. The South lot is a little closer, but not by much.
When trying to exit the garage for the first time - which is not implemented by WMATA - it was dark and the machine that takes your tickets was not clear. I put in the ticket and the screen shows "Already in Use." Does that mean that there is another copy of the ticket in play or the machine is locked? In the dark I could not see that it had spit the ticket out, so lighting is an issue. It did the in out three times, then rejected. On the third time I went through this process I was able to barely see in the dark that the ticket had come right back out, so I took it. Then it asked for my card.
Being a tapper, I did the card tap, but got a screen that I am not registered with their system. So they won't take my payment without registration? And I'm at the machine with cars lining up behind me? I did not find any signs in a logical location explaining any of this. Fortunately it took an insert, which should be the same as a tap, but with this system it clearly is not. Parking was $6.00, not the usual $4.95 that I often encounter.
How does this translate? In a garage that holds many more cars than Whiele Reston East, having to press a button to get a ticket to enter (and if you don't drive close enough, opening the door of the car to do so) takes some extra time, so the flow of cars in is pretty bad after a while. Then, having to go through even the regular process of payment at this garage instead of tapping with your Metro card (I could not see where it would even consider a Metro card payment, and given that mine is on my phone, a tap would have been negated) means at least three times as long just to exit the garage. How does this play at 5:45 on a typical commuter afternoon? I think we will know by February.
This appears to be similar to the system at Reston Town Center, which is a huge impediment, and perhaps deterrent to parking there. When they start getting ten to fifteen minute backups in the three Loudoun garages just to exit (and any suggestion of forcing us to register with their system will be met with resistance by many), perhaps they will revisit how this is done. Or, perhaps somebody might read this and consider doing that much sooner than when things are often done with WMATA, well after the problem becomes endemic or more than a nuisance.
As for the ride - well, I've ridden Metro for decades, and I've gone to Dulles for decades, so, meh. It was not all that shiny and new. Just a slightly different type of gumbo, but nice to have.
I'd love to hear other experiences from the Loudoun garages, and if it is the same at CIT.
Rails and Ragtime Rhythm