Greater Greater Washington

Here are the answers to whichWMATA week 66

On Tuesday, we posted our sixty-sixth photo challenge to see how well you knew Metro. I took photos of five Metro stations. Here are the answers. How well did you do?

This week, we got 28 guesses. Thirteen got all five. Great work, Justin..., Mike B, Peter K, Alex B, AlexC, MZEBE, Roger Bowles, FN, Adam L, JamesDCane, Dylan P, Spork!, and Mr. Johnson!


Image 1: McLean

The first image shows McLean station. This vantage point, from the pedestrian bridge across Route 123, is looking toward Tysons Corner. The details should tell you that this is one of the new Silver Line stations. The roof type, Tysons peak, narrows the station down to two: Spring Hill and McLean. In case you couldn't quite make out the roof type, the fact that the bridge is below the level of the platform tells you the the station will be a Tysons peak, since Silver Line stations with overhead mezzanines have the gambrel type.

The key difference between McLean and Spring Hill is that Spring Hill (and Greensboro) are in the median of Route 7, while McLean (and Tysons Corner) are to one side of Route 123. Since this station isn't in the median, it must be McLean. For comparison, we featured Spring Hill in week 64.

Twenty-four got this one.


Image 2: Branch Avenue

The second image shows Branch Avenue station. The roof here is of the high peak variety, narrowing it down to one of just four possible stations. In addition to that, there are two main clues. First, the bridge over the yard lead in the distance at left. The second clue is the trapezoidal blocks where the columns meet the roof. None of the other high peak stations have this feature; it's exclusive to Branch Avenue.

Twenty-one knew this one.


Image 3: Grosvenor

This picture shows the view from the platform at Grosvenor. The station here is in a shallow open cut, like its neighbor to the north, White Flint. The main clue here is the narrow pedestrian causeway leading from the bus loop to the mezzanine, above the tracks here.

Eighteen got this one correct.


Image 4: Farragut West

The fourth image shows the 18th Street entrance to Farragut West. The escalators in the foreground don't lead (directly) into the Metro. But the Metro entrance is in the background. The setting clearly narrows this down to one of the downtown stations. The clues here include the orange square to the right, the bronze-colored escalators in the foreground, and the orientation of the Metro escalators and elevator.

Twenty-one guessed Farragut West.


Image 5: Mount Vernon Square

The final image shows the original elevator to Mount Vernon Square station. When the Walter Washington Convention Center was constructed above the station entrance, the mezzanine was reconstructed and enlarged. As a result, two new elevators were built between the mezzanine and the southwest corner of M and 7th Street NW. But the original elevator was left in service (in fact, I used it right before taking this picture). The old elevator leads up to the northwest corner of M and 7th.

The brick archway is part of an apartment building built over a parking lot that surrounds the elevator. It's a very odd arrangement which isn't repeated elsewhere in the system. Seventeen guessed correctly.

Next Tuesday we'll have five more photos for you to identify. Thanks for playing!

Information about contest rules, submission guidelines, and a leaderboard is available at http://ggwash.org/whichwmata.

There's a plan for more rail options in Baltimore, and it doesn't involve the Red Line

The Red Line might not be happening, but that doesn't mean Baltimore's transportation needs have gone anywhere. A plan from 2007 recommends new stations on the MARC's Penn Line and make it easier to travel to and from Baltimore as well as within the city itself.


Baltimore's existing heavy rail lines, along with potential new Penn Line stops and the now-cancelled Red Line route. The 2007 plan also discusses possibilities for expanding the Camden Line. Base image from Google Maps.

Assembled by the Maryland Transit Administration, the 2007 MARC Growth & Investment Plan featured a number of rail projects, many of which would invest heavily in Baltimore. Adding more MARC stations to Baltimore would also amount to intracity service, removing some of the sting of losing the Red Line investment.

A 2013 draft update omits stations and improvements planned for the city. There isn't an explanation for why.

Moving forward with the Penn Line stations identified in the 2007 plan would provide many more places to access or depart Baltimore on the MARC regional rail line.
The plan includes three new stations on the Penn Line, which runs from DC Washington's Union to Station to Perryville, Maryland, near the Delaware border.

  1. The first is Bayview, near the Baltimore City/County line. Bayview would be a strong choice for a transportation investment because has easy access to Interstates 95 and 895 and park & ride opportunities, a major hospital, and dense neighborhoods nearby. Bayview is also easy drive from large suburbs in Baltimore County such as Essex and Middle River.

  2. Bayview was meant to have a connection to the Red Line and has considerable station planning work was completed on the $60 million project. Of all the proposed new stations, this one is the most shovel ready.

  3. The second is Madison Square, in the center of East Baltimore. The 2007 plan specifically calls for proposes a connection to the Metro Green Line and Johns Hopkins Hospital, which is one of the region's largest job centers. A stop here would provide regional rail access to Northeast Baltimore, an area currently unconnected to any passenger rail network.

  4. Finally, the plan proposes a station at Upton in West Baltimore, with a proposed connection to the Metro Green Line. This proposed stop is near the epicenter of the 2015 riots. Completing this connection would require making a station that links connection between the subway and the train tunnels that pass over each other.


Riders leaving the MARC in Baltimore.
Photo by Elvert Barnes on Flickr.

The MARC lines are regional in scope, but by adding stations in densely populated neighborhoods outside of downtown on both sides of the city, more of Baltimore's residents could access the system. Those coming into Baltimore would also have a greater slate of options that might be closer to their destinations.

More MARC stations in Baltimore could attract jobs

When it was still on the table, a lot of people called the Red Line the "jobs line" because it would have connected so many of Baltimore's densest employment clusters, especially near the harbor and in Baltimore County. The MARC Penn Line runs about three miles north of the Red Line alignment, and while the proposed stations are in places with fewer jobs, they're still close to large residential populations.

That means new Penn Line stations could very well attract new jobs in the future. Like the Red Line, the MARC lines cross from west to east (although the Red Line was to go much further west into Baltimore County). Adding stations on the Penn Line at Bayview and Madison Square in particular, appear to be feasible. With multiple new stations within Baltimore and more frequency, it could create "transit-like" service through Baltimore. If that were to happen, it would be an economic jolt for neighborhoods in the city's interior.

As the state and city discuss transportation improvements for Baltimore, the 2007 MARC Investment Plan for Baltimore should be on the table. Adding MARC service and stations in Baltimore is not a substitute for the Red Line, but it would do a lot of good in different areas of the city.

Here's a map of where people in our region commute to, and how

Commuters in our region mostly travel to work by car, which is the same as the rest of the country. But second to driving, people here use public transportation at higher rates than the national average.


Photo by Kevin Utting on Flickr.

This is according to Who Drives to Work? Commuting by Automobile in the United States: 2013, a report the US Census Bureau published in August based on 2013's American Community Survey.

The survey gathers demographic and travel to work data from 1 of every 38 households nationwide each year and asks participants how they travel to work. The question asked to determine travel mode to work is "How did this person get to work last week?"

The interactive map below is based on survey results from counties the Census defines as being in the "DC metro region."


Map by the author.

Here are some things we've noticed about our region. Feel free to tell us what you see in the comments below!

  • For commutes within Arlington County, Alexandria, and DC, "other" is a large chunk of the travel mode. That's probably an indicator that lots of people in those areas walk or bike to work.

  • People traveling between Arlington and DC actually use a mode other than driving alone more than half the time.

  • Commuters from counties located on I-95 South (Spotsylvania County, Fredericksburg City, Stafford County, Prince William County) carpool at rates higher than any others most likely due to the I-95 HOT Lanes.

  • In Rappahannock County more than 41% of commuters chose "other." That distinction includes working from home, and it makes sense that the number in Rappahannock is high since a lot of people there are self-employed and work in the agricultural sector. Other fringe counties like Warren, Clarke, and Jefferson have relatively high "other" mode shares as well.
It's important to keep in mind that the ACS is a sample survey so there is inevitably sampling error. You can see margins of error for each transit mode by hovering over the data. In general data from more populous counties will be more reliable.

Lots of people drive in our region, but not as much as other places

Among the biggest takeaways from the report is that DC has some of the highest commuting rates in the country. In other words, a whole lot of people travel to a county outside of the one they live in to get to work.

But our region ranks eighth-lowest among places where people drive to work, with 75.7% of commuters doing so compared to the national average of 85.8%. Of the remaining DC commuters, 8% choose Metro. The national average for all public transit use is 5.2%.

The list of lowest auto use is led by New York City with 56.9%, followed by Ithaca, NY with 68.7% and the Bay Area rounds out third at 69.8%. New York City is certainly unsurprising, Ithaca has a big college population that mostly walks, and in the Bay, the well developed bus and trolley bus network is a popular mode for commuters.

According to the report, the rate of driving to work alone or with others, on the rise since 1960, peaked in the year 2000 at 87.9% before dropping to the current rate. The list of cities with the biggest drops in auto use since 2006 were in the San Francisco Bay Area, Boston, and Durham-Chapel Hill. Our region did not make it on the top 15 in that category.

Breakfast links: What's on the Pike?


Photo by Arlington County on Flickr.
Plans for the Pike: Arlington cancelled the Columbia Pike streetcar last year, but the bus corridor is still the busiest in the state. So what now? With buses already running every couple of minutes during rush hour and the county unwilling to fight for a bus lane, planners have to "look really hard" to find ways to improve capacity and service. (WAMU)

Loss of communication: A woman tried to snatch a toddler on a Metro train. While passengers restrained her, others struggled to notify the train operator and police because the intercom wasn't working properly and there was no cell signal. (Post)

Schools, the commute killer: Fairfax County is pushing back high school start times to give teens more sleep. With high schoolers, school buses, and commuters now on the road at the same time, some are worried it could cause a traffic nightmare. (WBJ)

Quarry's coming: The Loudoun Board of Supervisors approved a massive TOD project at the future Innovation Center Station on the Silver Line. Officials hope the project will encourage more walkable, transit-oriented developments within the county. (WBJ)

I believe in MPD: Despite a vote of no-confidence from a survey of MPD officers, Mayor Bowser fully supports Chief Lanier. Bowser cited her experience and track record when pledging her confidence in MPD programs and initiatives. (City Paper)

Behind Marriott's move: Marriott's CEO isn't just kowtowing to millennials when he says he want to move the company's headquarters near Metro. Arne Sorenson himself wants to ditch the car and work in a walkable place. (Bethesda Magazine)

Suburbia, socially engineered: American suburbia didn't just happen as an accident of the free market. Government housing policies built it through decades of programs that consciously segregated metropolitan areas by race. (CityLab)

Cruising out of style: Young people are overwhelmingly more likely to be tech geeks than gear heads. Social media and cell phones now give young people the same freedom that car ownership used to. (Post)

And...: The poll is in: Dulles is one of the worst airports in the world. (WBJ) ... Do you think DC overreacts to snow with unnecessary closures? If so, Hillary Clinton is with you. (Post) ... A DC urban farmer sees a local food network as a way to eliminate the city's many food deserts. (Next City)

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Here's a map of... something in DC. Can you guess what?

Last month, we posted about a map of Georgetown that was unclear about what, exactly, it was mapping. We eventually got to the bottom of it, but the experience gave us the idea to create a mystery map of our own. Can you guess what this one is showing?


All maps made with data from the District government's open data portal with additions by the author using satellite imagery.

The maps in this post show the locations and sizes of a certain something in the District. Here are two clues for what it is:

  1. A national environmental non-profit recently named Washington, DC the number one city in the US based on how many of these it has.
  2. First Lady Michelle Obama is a huge supporter of these and started something similar at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

A zoom into Ward 3 for a closer look.


A zoom into Ward 6 for a closer look.

We'll hide the comments for now, but we'll unhide them and also update this post to share the answer on Friday!

The MARC's Brunswick Line only goes one way in the AM and the other in the PM. It could do both.

Service on the MARC Brunswick Line only runs one way at a time: toward DC in the morning and away from DC in the afternoon and evening, on weekdays only. Some MARC riders think there is a simple way to make service between DC and Brunswick run both ways in the early and mid-afternoon.


Photo by Phil Hollenback on Flickr.

Currently, the Brunswick-bound train that leaves Union Station at 1:30 pm (P871) runs only on Fridays. And when the train returns from Brunswick to Union Station in mid-afternoon (as P884), it does so without picking up passengers. Running P871 every day and having P884 pick up passengers would provide meaningful two-way Brunswick Line service.

CSX constrains MARC's ability to add service

Since 2007, the Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) has had the goal of all-day, two-way, and weekend Brunswick Line service. However, CSX, the freight railroad company that owns the tracks the Brunswick Line runs on, has said that MARC may not add trains on the Brunswick Line until Maryland begins to build a third track, which the state has not yet done.

At last week's MARC Riders Advisory Council meeting, riders (disclosure: I was one of them) talked to MTA officials about a way to get two-way service without adding trains to the schedule. The early-afternoon train to Brunswick (P871) and mid-afternoon return train to DC (P884) already exist; they just don't run every day. MARC need only restore daily service to one and passenger service to the other, and voilà: the first step toward full two-way service.

The Friday-only early-afternoon train could run every day

The early-afternoon train (P871) currently leaves Union Station on Fridays at 1:30 pm and arrives in Brunswick by 3:04. Before the MARC service cuts in 2009, this train ran every weekday. If you needed to come home early, that was the train you took. The number of riders on the train each day was low, but the proportion of MARC riders who used the train on occasion was high.

Almost seven years after the service cuts, the early-afternoon train is still running only on Fridays. Riders at the advisory council meeting wanted to know why. MTA has restored other service that was cut in 2009, like service on Columbus Day and Veterans Day. Also, because MTA kept the Friday service, the train already has a train slot, trainset (engine and passenger cars), and crew.

There could be passenger service toward DC in the afternoon

There was also talk at the advisory council meeting of service towards DC in the afternoons. The trainset and crew for the early-afternoon train to Brunswick return to DC as train P884, but P884 doesn't pick up passengers.

In the mid-1990s, there was a mid-afternoon train towards DC that picked up passengers. That train left Brunswick at 4:30 pm, with a scheduled arrival at Union Station at 5:30 pm, and flag stops along the way. Could MTA could restore this service as well?

One potential problem might be a delay in the return to Union Station. MARC uses the same trainset and crew for an evening train to Martinsburg, so a delay in P884's return would lead to a further delay for an outbound train. However, MTA could solve that problem by stopping the train only at Point of Rocks, Germantown, Rockville, and Silver Spring. This would add only a few minutes to the trip.

Discuss the Brunswick Line further at a meeting

There will be a public meeting about MARC Brunswick Line service and other transportation topics in the I-270 corridor, sponsored by state delegates from Montgomery and Frederick Counties, on Wednesday, September 9, at 7 pm, at the Upcounty Regional Services Center in Germantown. People from the Maryland Department of Transportation, including MTA, will be there.

There may be hurdles to redeveloping the White Flint Mall, but not to tearing it down

While a lawsuit threatens to derail the redevelopment of White Flint Mall, the deconstruction of the 1970's-era shopping center on Rockville Pike continues apace.


The mostly demolished mall. All photos from the author.

My normal commute to work has me bicycling around the west and north sides of the White Flint Mall property regularly. When I came back from vacation last week, I was amazed to see how far the deconstruction of the parking structure has come.

Developer Lerner Enterprises wants to turn the mall into a new urban neighborhood with shops, housing, and a new street grid. It's one part of Montgomery County's plans to make the larger White Flint area into a new downtown.

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But department store Lord & Taylor, which still has a store at the mall, says that violates a promise Lerner made in 1975 to keep the mall a mall, and filed a lawsuit against the developer last year. Last month, a Maryland judge ruled in favor of Lord & Taylor and said Lerner has to pay them $31 million in "lost profits," which the Lerners say could imperil their plans to redevelop the site.

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The mall closed in January and demolition started in July. The parking garages around the mall have been torn down and much of the mall's interior has been ripped out, but the structure's exterior remains.

Of course Lord & Taylor's building remains intact. So they will soon have a bunch of money (pending appeals, of course) and a stand-alone store in a temporary wasteland.

The 7000s will change the Metro fleet. Here's how.

In April, Metro put the first 7000 series train into service. 748 of the new cars will arrive over the next four years, and they'll change the shape of the Metro fleet.


Photo by the author.

What will the 7000s be used for?

The genesis of the 7000 series railcar order was twofold: The primary reason was to expand the fleet by 128 railcars, the amount needed to operate the Silver Line phase I and II. The other reason, in the wake of the Fort Totten crash, was to replace the 1000 series.

In addition to these two purposes, Metro's contract with Kawasaki included options for replacing the 4000 series and to allow for 100% 8-car train operation.

In July, Metro ordered the 220 cars that were left on the contract. These were intended to ensure that every train in the system has eight cars. However, the Metro Board balked at spending millions to enlarge rail yards and upgrade power substations.

The jurisdictions which fund WMATA had already allocated the money to buy more cars. However, without yard space and power upgrades, Metro wouldn't be able to operate more 8-car trains or have the space to park them.

As a result, the Board agreed to the "Goldman Compromise." Under that plan, Metro would use the additional 220 cars to send the unreliable 5000 series cars into early retirement. The remainder of the new cars would go to allowing all Red Line trains to run to Shady Grove during rush hours, instead of having half turn around at Grosvenor.

Note that because some 1000 and 5000 cars are out of service due to incidents and reassignments, some of the cars that are replacements are also enlarging the fleet. For example, originally there were 300 of the 1000 series cars. Today, there are only 274 in service. But the 7000 program includes 300 new cars to replace the 1000 series, so for practical purposes, 26 of the cars will be fleet expansion cars.

What will the fleet look like in 2019?

By 2019, Metro should have received all 748 of the new Kawasaki 7000 series cars.

When the 7000 order is complete, the new cars will make up over half the fleet. By then, there will only be three railcar series: The 2/3000s (364 cars), the 6000 series (184 cars), and the 7000 series (748 cars).

That means that by 2019, the new cars will outnumber the old cars by 748 to 548, making up 58% of the fleet.

However, in terms of trains, the new cars will only make up about half the trains, since they can only operate in 8-car sets. The 748 7000 series cars could make up 93 trains, though taking into account a 20% spare ratio, in regular service, there would really only be enough cars to make up 74 trains.

The 548 older cars will probably be mostly operated as 6-car trains, which would (after the spare ratio) make up 73 trains.

And because of the number of trains required to run normal service, they'll need all of those trains. Running some of the older cars in 8-car sets would reduce the number of trains available. For that reason, in 2019 it's likely that all 8-car trains will be 7000s and all 6-car trains will be 2/3k and 6k cars.

Breakfast links: One step forward


Photo by j Gregory Barton on Flickr.
Her plan for the homeless: Mayor Bowser is pushing for year-round emergency shelter for homeless families. She also wants to build efficiencies, with shared kitchens and bathrooms, instead of apartments that had been planned for homeless housing. (Post)

Teach a kid to bike: Every DC second grader will learn how to ride a bike this year as part of the district-wide PE curriculum. The program hopes to improve equity in urban cycling by giving all children the skills and confidence to take advantage of resources like bike infrastructure. (CityLab)

Fixing the finances: WMATA has taken steps to fix major gaps in its financial record keeping and management in hopes that the FTA will ease restrictions on the transit agency's ability to borrow federal funds. Right now WMATA is basically "living paycheck to paycheck." (Post)

Bike share pick: College Park will likely pick the firm Zagster to run its bike share system. The city backed out of a slow-moving deal with Capital Bikeshare in order to keep a time-sensitive state grant meant to fund the program. (Diamondback)

Sue me, SSTC: Metro officially took over the Silver Spring Transit Center on Tuesday. Last week, WMATA and Montgomery County sued the companies that designed, built and inspected the long-delayed transit center for $166 million. (Post)

School's out forever: Since 1986, lobbying efforts have ensured that Virginia students start school after Labor Day in order to support the tourism industry. School leaders have fought the law unsuccessfully, but some districts can get a waiver. (WAMU)

Mapping our history: Alexander Graham Bell lived at 15th and Rhode Island NW. Check out this map of the neighborhood that he drew by hand. (Ghosts of DC)

The Lance Armstrong Effect: The biggest spikes in cyclist injuries and death have occurred in those older than 35. Why? Experts speculate that the "Lance Armstrong Effect" resulted in more inexperienced riders picking up racing as a sport. (NPR)

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Think you know Metro? It's whichWMATA week 66

It's time for the sixty-sixth installment of our weekly "whichWMATA" series! Below are photos of 5 stations in the Washington Metro system. Can you identify each from its picture?


Image 1


Image 2


Image 3


Image 4


Image 5

Please have your answers in by noon on Thursday. We'll hide the comments so the early birds don't spoil the fun for the rest of you.

The answers will appear on Thursday. Good luck!

Update: The answers are here.

Information about contest rules, submission guidelines, and a leaderboard is available at http://ggwash.org/whichwmata.

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