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Transit


WMATA truck parks on the sidewalk, crashes into a light pole

The NoMa Metro station sports large areas of sidewalk. Unfortunately, some WMATA employees treat this sidewalk as a private parking lot. This past weekend, one even backed into a light pole. This employee was violating WMATA internal policies and was disciplined.


Photos by the author.

This has been a periodic problem for years. Geoff Hatchard observed employee vehicles on the sidewalk and even blocking the bike racks back in 2010.


A minivan with a placard identifying it as belonging to a WMATA employee blocks the bike racks in 2010. Photos by Geoff Hatchard.

If a driver can't avoid a light pole, would he miss a pedestrian?

Here in DC, the sidewalk on M Street at the NoMa station is always filled with people walking their dogs, kids running around their parents, waiting for rides, and more.

One WMATA driver not only hit a light pole, but struck it hard enough to shatter his windshield. What if that had been a smaller, moving object like my 3-foot-tall son, who was walking with us here that afternoon? This station also serves Gallaudet University, where the thousands of deaf students and staff would have never even heard a vehicle backing up.

I cleaned up the glass

The next day, glass still littered the sidewalk. By then, shards had spread across several hundred square feet of sidewalk, making this situation especially hazardous for dog walkers and young parents.

I grabbed a broom, large battery and a vacuum from my house and walked several blocks to clean up the sidewalk outside the station. It took me two hours.

The next day, two WMATA vehicles parked on the nearby sidewalk once again.

Driving on sidewalks can be dangerous without a spotter

Many cities only allow government vehicles on sidewalks for certain prescribed reasons, and require a spotter to ensure that the driver does not strike people or objects.

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) updated its policy recently to require spotters walking ahead of full-sized vehicles on sidewalks after a maintenance truck driver struck a cyclist in a caged bike/ped lane on a Norfolk bridge.

Other times, policies are in place but not followed. For example, last year in San Francisco a woman playing with her infant daughter was struck and killed by a parks employee who was driving a truck through the park against city policy.

Metro policy prohibits most parking on the sidewalk

WMATA spokesperson Dan Stessel looked into the issue and sent us this statement:

As a general matter, Metro vehicles should not be parked on sidewalks at any time. There may be times when no other option is available, depending on the station and the exigency of the circumstances (e.g. elevator technicians responding to an entrapment, track workers responding to an arcing insulator, rail supervisors responding to a person struck by train).

However, for routine work, Metro vehicles should only be parked in marked, legal spaces (except for ADA spaces). Employees who violate parking policies are subject to ticketing (for which the employee pays the fine), as well as internal discipline.

In the case of the NoMa incident you referenced, the vehicle was being operated by a new Red Line supervisor who was assigned to NoMa-Gallaudet as a terminal supervisor to manage the single-track operation and turn-back of selected trains at the station. He should not have parked on the sidewalk.

When departing the station, the vehicle made contact with a pole, causing the rear window to break. The employee was removed from service, taken for post-incident testing (drug/alcohol) which is standard, and will be subject to discipline.

This issue does come up from time to time, and requires occasional reinforcement with our 11,000-employee workforce. (For additional context, we maintain a fleet of nearly 1,500 service vehicles across a myriad departments, such as elevator/escalator, systems maintenance, plant maintenance, rail transportation, bus transportation, car maintenance, revenue/fare collection, etc.)

The vast majority of employees follow the rules and park properly. However, those that don't create a negative impression for the rest of us. Which is exactly why we encourage anyone who wants to report a parking issue to directly contact Metro Transit Police, either by calling 202-962-2121 or by texting "MyMTPD" (696873) 24 hours a day.

Transit


Richmond will have BRT by 2018

Bus rapid transit will come to Richmond in 2018. The long-planned Broad Street BRT project won a federal TIGER grant this week to cover half its cost, allowing the project to move forward into final design and construction.


Rendering of Broad Street BRT. Image from the Greater Richmond Transit Company.

Broad Street is Richmond's most successful transit corridor, and main bus spine. It runs through or near most of Richmond's densest urban neighborhoods and most important central city hubs. It's the natural place for rapid transit.

The BRT project will run from the Willow Lawn shopping center in suburban Henrico County, through Virginia Commonwealth University and downtown Richmond, all the way to Rocketts Landing on the city's east side.

It will use a mix of dedicated curbside bus lanes and a median busway through the busiest sections of the central city, with mixed-traffic operation on either end.


Map of Broad Street BRT. Original image from the GRTC.

Projections say the BRT line will carry about 3,300 riders per day. That's low compared to the standards of a transit rich metropolis like DC, but it's huge for a place like Richmond, where there are only about 35,000 total daily bus riders in the entire region.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Transit


Here are the answers to whichWMATA week 22

On Monday, we posted our twenty-second photo challenge to see how well you know Metro. Reader Peter K took photos of five Metro stations. Here are the answers. How well did you do?

We got 31 guesses this week. 10 of you got all five correct. Great work, Alex B, Merarch, Patrick, Mr. Johnson, TheOtherGlenmont, Kwasi, Sand Box John, Aaron, JS2008, and Rob K!


Image 1: Dupont Circle

Since Peter K took all the photos this week, the answer paragraphs below are all in his words.

Across all 91 stations, WMATA operates 613 escalators to keep passengers moving efficiently through the system. That's really quite an impressive number considering there are only 35,000 escalators in the US, meaning that slightly more than 1 out of every 60 escalators in this country is on Metro. Since escalators are a key part of nearly all Metrorail commutes, I thought it'd be appropriate to take a moment and look at a few unique escalator installations.

First up is an overhead view of the surface-mezzanine escalators at the Q Street (north) entrance to Dupont Circle. This configuration, with three escalators separated by wide balustrades, is somewhat unusual in the system and is most commonly seen at deeper and/or high-volume stations since it allows each escalator to be taken offline for maintenance without impacting the others. The lighting and point of view narrow the location down further: here, we're above the escalator and have natural light, which eliminates places like Bethesda and Tenleytown.

But the real key here are the building materials. The darker metal along the balustrades rules out renovated escalators like the ones at Medical Center and Potomac Avenue, and the brickwork along the sides definitively puts us in the open, circular pit of Dupont's north entrance. 28 of you got Dupont Circle right.


Image 2: National Airport

The second image is at National Airport, specifically the escalators at the southern end of the District-bound platform. The main hint here is the Gull Wing I roof, which is only used at 13 island platform stations. Of those, National Airport's platforms are distinctly narrower than the others, being barely wide enough to accommodate 2 escalators side-by-side, due to its 3-tracked configuration.

Other unique features include the "THANKS FOR RIDING METRO" inscription on the way to the mezzanine and the placement of the escalator at the very end of the platform. Another tip could have been the airport shuttles and distinctive yellow pedestrian bridge barely visible on the left side of the picture. 18 of you got this one correct.


Image 3: L'Enfant Plaza

The third image shows a few of the platform-mezzanine escalators at L'Enfant Plaza on the upper level, heading up to the 7th/Maryland entrance. The upper level of L'Enfant is unique within the system for how wide its upper level is, providing a cavernous amount of space on the platforms and allowing the floating mezzanine to be pulled away from the walls to create a second walkway on the outside of the escalators.

Metro Center can be ruled out, since it now has signs installed in the space between the parapet and the escalator. This particular entrance also has 3 escalators serving each platform, which among side platform stations is a trait shared only with Ballston (to my knowledge). 21 of you correctly guessed L'Enfant Plaza.


Image 4: Farragut North

The fourth image shows the escalators up to the L Street (northernmost) mezzanine at Farragut North. Like a handful of other stations, the L Street mezzanine at Farragut North is located in a separate room beyond the end of the platform. The distinctive feature here, aside from the bank of 3 escalators and the arriving Red Line train, is the especially low (and newly renovated!) tiled ceiling, eliminating other similar stations.

Stadium-Armory also has a bank of 3 escalators right at the end of the platform, but the ceiling is full-height there. Union Station, which has a flat ceiling at its north end, only has 2 escalators, separated by the elevator. 23 of you knew this was Farragut North.


Image 5: Rosslyn

The fifth image shows the west (older) mezzanine at Rosslyn. The unique feature here is simply the size of the escalator bank. Rosslyn is one of only 3 stations to have 4 escalators in one bank serving a single mezzanine, the others being Mount Vernon Square at the Washington Convention Center and the Verizon Center entrance of Gallery Place. However, both of those installations are much, much shorter than Rosslyn and feature a staircase in between two sets of two escalators.

In this picture, the extra-wide, stair-free gap in the middle is there because of a now-disused elevator shaft bisecting the escalators (week 15) that's been closed due to development above the station and replaced by the new, elevator-only east mezzanine (week 12). 20 of you correctly guessed Rosslyn.

Next Monday we'll have 5 more photos for you to identify. Thanks for playing! And a special thanks to Peter K for supplying the photos this week.

Transit


New Tysons Circulator bus routes get mixed reviews

When the Silver Line opened, Fairfax County also launched three new bus routes to help people get around Tysons Corner. How are they working? Jenifer Joy Madden had a good experience on the buses, but Navid Roshan says that the meandering route makes the bus slow for many trips.


Photo by Jenifer Joy Madden.

Madden writes,

Recently, two family members and I biked from our home in suburban Vienna over quiet streets and neighborhood trails to Spring Hill, the closest of the Silver Line stations. Our final destination was the Tysons I mall, but instead of continuing by bike or Metro, we parked our bikes, walked over the Route 7 Metro pedestrian bridge, and caught Fairfax Connector 423.

For walkers and cyclists, the bus is a great solution for bypassing or crossing the Tysons core. The 423, like the other new Fairfax Connector circulator buses, runs every ten minutes from morning until night. The cost is only 50¢ per ride or free if you transfer from Metro. The ride to the Tysons Corner Metro station bus stop took less than 20 minutes, about the same time it would have taken by bike.

However, Navid Roshan points out that while the bus takes a fairly direct route between Spring Hill and Tysons, it winds circuitously around the rest of Tysons, making it less useful for many trips.


Map from Fairfax Connector.
Unfortunately, the [North Central Tysons] residents who would rely on the 423 would see an approximate 8 to 10 minute bus ride from the Park Run region to Tysons Corner station. That is only 2 minutes shorter than walking. Add in the average headway wait of 5 minutes (half of 10 minutes) and it makes more sense for the thousands of residents in this community to walk instead.

That being the case, it's not shocking that ridership on the 423 is so pathetic, especially considering the very strong ridership from this same neighborhood on the 425/427 series to WFC... which used to take only 4 minutes more than the 423 to get to the Metro station.

That's just the morning. Forget about riding the bus if you want to take it home after work. Due to the 423′s one way loop around Tysons, grabbing the bus from Tysons Corner Station to get to the center of the North Central residential region will take between 14 and 18 minutes. All of this is being caused by the serpentine and over stretched nature of the 423.

Roshan says that initial plans called for four Circulator routes, but Fairfax combined them to save money. He suggests re-dividing the 423 into two routes, one mostly using the north-south roads to and from the Tysons Corner station, and one more east-west to Spring Hill.


Map from Fairfax Connector modified by Navid Roshan.

That would mean the bus wouldn't serve the specific trip Madden took. but since that was between two Metro stations, the train is available except during rush hours when bikes are prohibited on Metro. Meanwhile, she has her own suggestions to improve the circulators:

It would be useful if a circulator route could ferry cyclists and pedestrians past the dangerous Beltway/Dulles Toll Road interchange. Also, the circulators should have their own design and colors. Right now, they are indistinguishable from the external buses and their purpose isn't clear. I think that's why the 423 isn't being used as much.
Have you used the Tysons buses? What do you think of the routes?

Transit


DC Circulator is such a great brand it's expanded to Ohio

Earlier this year Columbus, Ohio launched CBUS, the Columbus Circulator. It's a special overlay bus route running along the main street through the city's densest, most urban neighborhoods. It comes every 10 minutes, has a low (actually free) fare, and limited stops. Sound familiar?

Oh, and here's a photo:


Photo by Darius Pinkston on Flickr.

Look familiar? That sweeping line, the destinations labeled on the side, "CIRCULATOR" in a modern sans-serif font right in the middle. It looks nothing like Columbus' standard bus livery, but it is all very reminiscent of the DC Circulator.

In fact, Ohio transit advocates had the DC Circulator in mind during planning for CBUS.

Columbus isn't alone, either. "Circulator" is spreading as an increasingly common brand choice for short-distance, high-frequency buses in mixed-use areas, especially near DC. There's a Bethesda Circulator, a Tysons Circulator, and a Baltimore Circulator.

Just how far will this brand spread?

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

Transit


Think you know Metro? It's whichWMATA week 22

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

This week, we have a guest photographer. These 5 photos were all taken by Peter K.


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 Thursday. Good luck! Thanks again to Peter K for his submissions.

Transit


Streetcar "simulated service" could begin on H Street in October

The streetcars have been running on H Street for testing and training. Soon, "simulated service" will start, where the operators will drive trains up and down the street just as if they're really carrying passengers. When the line opens, possibly by the end of 2014, fares might be free.


Photo by DC Streetcar on Flickr.

Streetcar program manager Thomas Perry from the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) briefed Advisory Neighborhood Commission 6C's transportation and public space committee last week about progress toward opening the long-awaited streetcar starter segment from Oklahoma Avenue to Union Station.

Streetcars will operate up to every 10 minutes from 5 am to midnight, seven days a week, without passengers during this phase, also called "pre-revenue service." Operator training along the 2.4-mile line began in August and should wrap up in the "next several weeks," Perry said.

Simulated service is the last planned phase of testing before the line can open to the public. Passenger service could begin before the end of the year, but officials are not making any promises. Perry says that pre-revenue service will take 30 days, after which the agency can seek safety approval to open the line to passengers.

The line might not cost anything to ride at first

DDOT officials are pondering whether or not to make the streetcar be free initially, Perry also said. While the benefits and drawbacks of free transit service have been thoroughly discussed here, the possibility would be an exciting enticement to H Street residents and visitors to try the new service when it does open.

Will special streetcar signal phases cause a safety problem?

While DDOT is dealing with the controversy over proposed rules that would ban bikes between the streetcar tracks, officials are also focused on promoting bike and pedestrian safety along the corridor.

Concerns have been raised about four intersections along the corridorH and 3rd Streets; the "Starburst" intersection whrere H Street crosses Bladensburg Rd and becomes Benning Road; Benning Road and 24th Street; and Benning Road and Oklahoma Ave.

At each of these intersections, the streetcar has its own signal cycle separate from those for cars and pedestrians. Some worry that cyclists and pedestrians will cross the street when they see that traffic has stopped for an opposing red signal, not realizing that the streetcar is going to then start moving.

Officials recommend that cyclists and pedestrians always wait for a green signal and not preemptively try to cross H Street. They have posted staff at the intersections to educate pedestrians and passing out fliers outlining the dangers with safety tips.

A striped crosswalk and pedestrian signal at the streetcar terminus atop the Hopscotch Bridge will come within the next couple of weeks, says Perry. This was another spot of concern for the committee members.

On the proposed ban to bikes within the streetcar tracks, Perry said anyone concerned should submit comments on the proposed rules by September 27.

Transit


Bus Rapid Rabbit Transit pulls into Gaithersburg

Bus Rapid Transit is years away in Montgomery County, but residents got a preview when Action Committee for Transit and Transit Alternatives to Mid-County Highway Extended brought a bus rapid rabbit transit bus to the 76th annual Gaithersburg Labor Day Parade.


County Executive Ike Leggett at the Gaithersburg Labor Day Parade. Photos by Tracey Johnstone.

ACT's Tina Slater and Bee Ditzler conceived of, designed, and built the bus, which traveled the one-mile parade route in a rapid 45 minutes. It sports drawings of rabbits riding the bus, making this not just Bus Rapid Transit, but Bus Rapid Rabbit Transit.

In addition, a dance team performed a routine ably choreographed by the Coalition for Smarter Growth's Kelly Blynn to the sounds of the Hollies' Bus Stop, the Fatback Band's Do the Bus Stop, and the Four Tops's bus stop song.

But don't feel bad if you missed it. ACT is already planning its second year of marching in the Silver Spring Thanksgiving parade. If you have ideas or want to join, please visit ACT's website and get in touch! But don't delay, because the big day is only 11 weeks away.

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