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Transit


Here are the answers to whichWMATA week 20

On Monday, we posted our twentieth photo challenge to see how well you know Metro. I took photos of five Metro stations. Here are the answers. How well did you do?

We got 19 guesses this week. 6 of you got all 5 correct. Great job, Alex B, MZEBE, Peter K, coneyraven, Roger F, and Phil.


Image 1: West Falls Church

The first image is from the mezzanine of West Falls Church. The crucial clue here was the "Dulles Airport Shuttle" sign. It refers to the now-truncated DC Flyer service. I don't know whether this sign is still in place. I took the photo last month. But despite that, the line of natural light coming in from the ceiling and the down escalator at the far left discounts underground Rosslyn and L'Enfant Plaza. Wiehle Avenue doesn't have this kind of brutalist architecture, so it's out too. 13 of you correctly guessed West Falls Church.


Image 2: Judiciary Square

The second image shows the western escalator entrance to Judiciary Square, in front of the National Building Museum. The District of Columbia City Hall is visible at center, which is a clear giveaway. Another clue is the pair of elevators, which drop directly to the platforms, bypassing the mezzanine. 16 of you knew this one.


Image 3: White Flint

The third image was a bit harder. It depicts the canopy at White Flint. This peaked-roof canopy is very similar to the canopies at most of the above-ground stations that opened in the 1980s and 1990s. But there's a unique feature here: This canopy has tapered support beams. These tapers are not present anywhere else in the system on the beams running parallel to the tracks, though the taper is standard on the cross-beams. The office building visible through the glass may have tipped some of you off as well. 9 of you got this one right.


Image 4: Tysons Corner

The fourth image shows the set of 4 escalators at the western end of Tysons Corner station. Tysons Corner has two entrances. One is on the south side of Route 123, via a bridge over the roadway. It lands near Tysons Corner Center. But the other entrance is below the tracks, 2 levels below the mezzanine. These escalators lead from the mezzanine to a landing (where the photo was taken) and down to the north side of Route 123. Nine of you guessed this one correctly.


Image 5: East Falls Church

The final image shows the view out of the entrance to East Falls Church station. The road that's visible is Sycamore Street, which runs under the tracks and platform (which are above the concrete lattice in the photo). The other clue is the bridge that carries the westbound lanes of I-66, just visible in the upper right corner. East Falls Church is the only median station in the system with an entrance below the tracks. 14 of you got this one right.

Next Monday we'll have 5 more photos for you to identify. Thanks for playing!

Transit


Do you know the station? It's whichWMATA week 20

It's time for the twentieth 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

We'll hide the comments so the early birds don't spoil the fun for the rest of you.

The answers will appear on Wednesday. Good luck!

Transit


Alexandria's Metroway BRT: Open and carrying passengers

The DC region's first Bus Rapid Transit line opened this weekend. Metroway runs from Crystal City to Braddock Road, using a transitway along Route 1 in Alexandria.


All photos by Dan Malouff.

The transitway runs down the center of Route 1, with one lane in each direction. Stations are on either side, in medians separating the transitway from the general lanes.

The Metroway buses themselves have a unique brand and paint scheme, but are otherwise similar to other WMATA Metrobuses.

But Metroway isn't the only route that uses the transitway. Any Metrobus route traveling down that stretch of Route 1 can use it.

The transitway stations are more comparable to light rail stations than normal bus stops. They're larger, have better protection against the elements, more seats, raised platforms, and better information. Unfortunately so far they lack real-time arrival displays or pre-pay.

For now, the Metroway is only really BRT for part of the Alexandria portion of its route. The Arlington portion of the transitway is still under construction, so the bus runs in mixed traffic through Arlington for now.

But in 2015, new sections of transitway and dedicated bus lanes will open in Arlington, making Metroway even better.


Metroway initial route (left) and route starting in 2015 (right). Map from WMATA.

Visit the full Flickr album to see more photos.

Transit


Ask GGW: Why do some stations have side platforms?

Have you ever wondered why your Metro station has two side platforms instead of a single island platform? If so, you're not alone. Reader Sam Inman is curious, too.


Images by the author.
Why are some stations (I'm particularly interested in the subterranean stations) designed with the side platform design instead of the island?

Do you know if this is dictated by a topography/cost concerns? Or was there a design consideration that wanted to force passengers to make their decision at the mezzanine level rather than on the platform level?

Unfortunately, the answer is not simple. In practice, the layout can be influenced by a variety of factors, so there's great variation between transit systems. But there are some general rules that influence the layout (though they're not hard and fast).

Economics
In general, island platforms can be cheaper because they require less duplicative infrastructure. However, sometimes other technical factors can make side platform stations cheaper.

With an island platform, the station requires less vertical circulation. For example, Foggy Bottom only needs 1 mezzanine-to-platform elevator, since it has an island platform. But Farragut West needs 2 mezzanine-to-platform elevators, since it has side platforms. Staircases and escalators can do double duty at an island platform, but sometimes need to be duplicated at side platform stations.

Loading can also be an issue. For example, at a station that is very commuter heavy in the morning with passengers all traveling the same direction, a side platform station may have one platform that is very full and one that is completely empty. That's less efficient than an island platform, where the passengers can use the whole platform, even though they're primarily focused on one track.

But oftentimes these considerations take a back seat to the method of construction, which can also influence the station design.

Construction influences
For underground construction, if the line is cut-and-cover, it is often more cost-effective to build side platforms. With cut-and-cover construction, the tunnels are constructed by digging up the street, building the tunnels, and then rebuilding the street.

To build an island platform station with this method, it requires the two tracks be spread apart from each other (to give room for the platform). This requires more excavation than a side-platform station, which only requires the extra width for the length of the station.


The difference in excavation required for side versus island platforms. Graphic by the author.

So when subways are constructed using cut-and-cover, like along I Street around McPherson and Farragut Squares, stations often have side platforms.

On the other hand, when a subway line is deeper, and is bored through the ground, it often makes much more sense to have island platform stations. This is because when lines are bored, the two subway tubes are not directly next to each other. Since the tracks are already apart, when they get to a station, it's much easier to just put the platform between the tracks, rather than to pull the tracks together so the platforms can be on the outside.

This is the case for the deep stations along Connecticut Avenue and Wisconsin Avenue between Woodley Park and Medical Center.

It's much rarer, but sometimes both tracks are built in the same (larger) subway tube. This is the case for the Red Line between Farragut North and Woodley Park (not including either of those stations). Both tracks are in the same (bored) tunnel, and so at Dupont Circle, it makes much more sense to have side platforms, since the tracks are already right next to each other.

This is also the case for almost the entire Montreal Metro system, where the tracks are always in the same tunnel. As a result, almost every station has side platforms.

There's less pressure for one or the other design on elevated and surface rail lines, since the construction is cheaper than subway construction. However, there are still some influencing factors. For example, when the tracks are running in a freeway median, the road lanes have to spread out in advance of the station anyway, so there's no penalty for spreading the tracks out ahead of time either. So in that case, there's no penalty for an island platform station. For a side-platform station, the only penalty is the duplicated infrastructure.

On an elevated viaduct, it might be easier to have one structure carrying both tracks rather than two separate structures for each track, and therefore side platform stations may be cheaper, like at West Hyattsville. But then again, it's not necessarily better one way or the other, and so sometimes an island platform makes more sense, like at McLean.

Design decisions
Sometimes, though, a transit agency might make an intentional decision that overrides other concerns.

Terminal stations should have island platforms so that the next train can leave from either track. So any station that is planned to be a terminal for any period of time generally has an island platform. When a terminal does have side platforms, generally trains have to go out of service on one platform, go past the station, reverse, and then pull in on the other platform. That's very inefficient. Alternatively, passengers have to wait in the mezzanine and then pick a platform when the train is ready to depart, also inefficient. All of Metro's terminals have island platforms.

Any station that is likely to be a transfer between diverging lines should have an island platform. That way a passenger coming from one branch can transfer to the other branch simply by walking across the platform. This is the case at Stadium/Armory, where a passenger riding from Addison Road to New Carrollton can make an easy cross-platform transfer.

Furthermore, at key stations, certain platform arrangements can be more efficient.

Metro Center, Gallery Place, and L'Enfant Plaza are good examples. With right-side exits on the upper level, there can be multiple escalator shafts down to the island platform on the lower level. If both levels at these stations had center platforms, the only efficient layout would be to have a mezzanine between, which is how Fort Totten is laid out. And that's generally more expensive and less efficient. Though in the case of Fort Totten it works because the lines have such a great vertical separation (the Red is elevated, the Green is underground).

Other design factors
And while we don't have any examples of it in the Washington region, the "Spanish solution" can also be employed to reduce dwell times. The Spanish solution is where the doors on both sides of the train open. This makes it faster to unload and load the train. MARTA's Five Points station has this on both the upper and lower levels.

When looking at express/local configurations, having island platforms between the local and express tracks allow for an easy cross-platform transfer between trains going the same direction. But at some stations where express service needs to stop, but where the agency wants to discourage transferring passengers (because of crowding), the island platform can be placed between the two express tracks and with the local tracks having side platforms. This is the case at 34th Street/Penn Station on the 1-2-3 and A-C-E. That station is important enough that all trains need to stop, but the stations are crowded. The traditional island/island layout is present one stop north at Times Square/42nd Street to allow transfers between locals and expresses.


Graphic by the author.

In systems that have express/local tracks, there are even alternate ways to accommodate local stations. In New York, local tracks tend to be on the outside, so local-only stations have side platforms. The drawback here is that if the local service ends before the express service, it's difficult to turn those trains around, since they have to cross over the express tracks. The Lexington Avenue (4-5-6) Line handles this by having the local 6 train dive under the 4-5 express tracks via the City Hall Loop.

A rarer alternate version is to put the local tracks in the center. In this case, with the express tracks on the outside, the local-only stations have center platforms. This is present on Chicago's north side trunk, with the local Red Line in the center and the Purple Line Express running on the outer tracks.

So, as you can see, the logic is somewhat complicated. Sometimes it's cheaper to do one, sometimes it's cheaper to do the other. Sometimes, there are logistical reasons for doing one over the other. Sometimes, it may just be more-or-less random.

Transit


Here are the answers to whichWMATA week 19

On Monday, I posted 5 images of stations in other transit systems in a twist on the weekly whichWMATA challenge. Here are the answers.

We got 55 guesses this week. 27 of you correctly guessed each of the 5 transit systems shown here. 8 of you got all of the systems and all 5 of the stations. Great work, Austin, Roger F, David, Joe M, Mike B, Peter K, Matt D, and Paul Kirk-Davidoff.


Image 1: BART.

The first image is a picture of BART's 12th Street/Oakland City Center station. BART is the regional rail system in the San Francisco Bay Area, and is very much a sister system to WMATA. This station in downtown Oakland is distinctive with its red tile. Another clue is the "platform 3" label on the digital sign. 12th Street has 3 tubes because it's where several lines converge. 49 of you got BART right. 12 of you, appropriately, guessed 12th Street.

Several of you guessed 19th Street - Oakland, which has an almost identical layout. But the tile there is a dark blue color, which differentiates it from 12th Street (with red tile).


Image 2: Montreal Metro.

The second image shows art above the tracks at Montreal's Berri-UQAM station. Montreal's Metro has distinctive blue carriages with a white stripe, and that helped most of you narrow this one down. 36 correctly guessed Montreal. 19 got Berri-UQAM right.


Image 3: DART.

The third image shows a DART train at Victory station near downtown Dallas. Victory is the station near the basketball arena here and also serves as a transfer point to the TRE commuter train to Fort Worth. The landmark Reunion Tower is visible at center right. 45 knew this was DART. 15 got Victory station right.


Image 4: San Diego Trolley.

The fourth image shows a San Diego Trolley LRV leaving San Diego State University station. San Diego is home to the first modern light rail system in the United States, and the bright red cars are an icon of the city. The station at San Diego State is the only underground station in the system. 36 of you got San Diego. 15 correctly guessed San Diego State University station.


Image 5: Charlotte CATS.

The final image shows the Third Street/Convention Center station in Uptown Charlotte. This stop has beautiful red and green art that doubles as the station's canopy. 31 guessed Charlotte. 17 knew it was Third Street.

Next Monday, we'll have 5 more photos for you to identify. Thanks for playing!

Transit


WhichWMATA week 19: On vacation

This week, whichWMATA is on vacation, which means it's time for a real challenge. Can you guess the transit systems these photos are from? Earn a bonus point by also correctly guessing the station where the photo was taken.


Image 1


Image 2


Image 3


Image 4


Image 5

We'll hide the comments so that the early birds don't spoil the fun for the rest of you.

The answers will appear on Wednesday. Good luck!

Public Spaces


This could have been the Silver Spring Transit Center

Though it remains unfinished, the Silver Spring Transit Center has been in planning since 1997. But 20 years before that, architecture students created this proposal for a giant box stretching across downtown Silver Spring.


A 1970s proposal for the Silver Spring Transit Center. All images courtesy of Neil Greene.

Silver Spring is one of the region's largest transportation hubs, bringing together Metro, commuter rail, local buses, intercity buses, and eventually the Purple Line and the Capital Crescent Trail. Fitting all of those pieces presents a pretty interesting design challenge, and naturally attracts architecture students. When I was in architecture school at the University of Maryland, I saw more than a few thesis projects reimagining the transit center.


A section drawing of the proposed transit center, which would have also contained stores, offices, a hotel, and apartments.

Recently, Action Committee for Transit's Neil Greene found this proposal for the Silver Spring Transit Center produced by a group of architecture students at Catholic University in the 1970s, right before the Metro station opened in 1978. Like the most recent plans for the transit center, which have since fallen through, they surrounded the transit center with buildings containing apartments, offices, a hotel, and shops. Except in this proposal, they'd all be in one giant superstructure surrounding the station platform.

In their design, Metro trains would pull into a giant, skylit atrium, surrounded by shops and restaurants, with apartments, offices, and hotel rooms above. That was a really popular idea at the time, pioneered by architect John Portman, though I don't know of any atria that included a train station.


Metro trains would have passed through a giant atrium.

Directly below the platform was the B&O Railroad, the precursor to today's MARC commuter rail. Below that were buses, taxis, and a kiss-and-ride, as well as an underground parking garage for commuters.

The entire structure would have stretched over multiple blocks from Colesville Road and East-West Highway, where the NOAA buildings are today, up to Wayne Avenue, where the current transit center is. Existing streets would go through the transit center in underpasses, while skybridges would allow visitors to travel through the rest of downtown Silver Spring without touching the street.


Skybridges would have connected the transit center to the rest of downtown Silver Spring.

Of course, this was just a student proposal, and was never carried out. But Montgomery County did propose skybridges in downtown Silver Spring as early as 1969 and, by the 1970s, had drawn out an entire network of them, most of which were never built.

This was in keeping with the prevailing wisdom of the time, that cars and pedestrians should be kept separate. But as we've seen in places where this actually happened, like Rosslyn or Crystal City, this doesn't work very well, and those communities are getting rid of their skybridges.

Of course, had we actually pursued a design like this, the Silver Spring Transit Center might have actually opened by now. Repair work on the current facility is currently underway and Montgomery County officials say that it could open next year, just seven years after groundbreaking.

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