Greater Greater Washington

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Here are the answers to whichWMATA week 36

On Tuesday, we posted our thirty-sixth photo challenge to see how well you know Metro. I took five photos in the Metro system. Here are the answers. How well did you do?

We got 22 guesses this week. Six of you got all five. Great work Chris H, Peter K, MZEBE, Spork!, Mr. Johnson, and FN!


Image 1: McLean

The first image shows McLean station from the bridge over Route 123. You should be able to tell fairly easily that this is a Silver Line station based on the triangular shapes and the tan brick (we featured all five in week 16). The grating through which I took the photo is also unique to the Silver Line. You can also tell that the roof type is "Tysons Peak," which narrows this to McLean or Spring Hill. Spring Hill, however, is in the median of Route 7, not off to one side like McLean is. Sixteen of you knew this one.


Image 2: Takoma

The second picture shows the end of the platform at Takoma. A primary clue here is the bank of escalators. Takoma is the only elevated station to have three escalators side-by-side (featured in week 32). Another clue is the "Gull I" canopy, which extends beyond the platform, creating a very high ceiling above the mezzanine below. The blue clock to the left also helped some of you narrow this down to Takoma. Fourteen of you got this one right.


Image 3: Tysons Corner

This image shows art at Tysons Corner station. We showed this art installation when introducing the Silver Line. Several of you guessed Largo, likely because you confused this art with the similar "Largo Beacon" sculpture that we featured in week 4. Twelve of you guessed correctly.


Image 4: White Flint

The fourth image shows the end of the canopy at White Flint. There were two primary clues here. The first is the tapered "ribs" on the underside of the canopy, which is unique to White Flint (featured in week 20). The other clue is the flat glass roof over the escalators. Of the "General Peak" stations, only Grosvenor and White Flint have this feature, and Grosvenor has a modified canopy that is distinctive. This proved to be this week's hardest clue. Only nine of you got it right.


Image 5: College Park

I took the final picture from the second level of the parking garage at College Park. If you look closely at the left side of the picture, you can see that the station has a "General Peak" canopy, which narrows the field considerably. College Park is the only one of those stations with a parking garage so close to the platform. Fourteen of you got this one.

Thanks to everyone for playing! Great work. Stay tuned. We'll have five more images for you next Tuesday.

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Bills in the Virginia General Assembly would hurt and help transit and cyclists

As the Virginia General Assembly session heats up, there's a lot percolating on smart growth and transportation. Key bills on congestion metrics, funding, and bicycle and pedestrian priorities are up this week.


Photo by Virginia Guard Public Affairs on Flickr.

Congestion metrics

For years, highway advocates and others hostile to transit have tried to make roadway "congestion reduction" metrics the primary way we choose which transportation projects get funding.

HB1470 and HB1915/SB1314 would do just that for the Northern Virginia regional transportation plan, local comprehensive plans, and new transit projects.

If passed, these bills would have serious impacts on Virginia's transportation planning. In effect, when selecting new projects to build, Virginia officials would have to ignore the many benefits of transit for moving more people and building strong communities, and focus solely on how a project affects the capacity of existing highways to carry cars.

Undermining pro-transit jurisdictions

Another bill, HB2170, would merge the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission, which funds and manages Virginia's portion of Metro, into the Northern Virginia Transportation Authority, a broader agency that includes more of the outer suburbs, and has a multimodal focus rather than transit-only. Combining them would reduce the voting power of transit-dependent jurisdictions to control transit decision-making.

Funding and oversight

Comprehensive "transportation omnibus" bill HB1887 is receiving a lot of attention because it would partially fill a hole in state transit funding and increase funding for structurally deficient bridges, deteriorating pavement, and local transportation needs. It's a huge bill with a ton of provisions, some good and some bad.

Another bill, HB1886, would reform the Public Private Transportation Act (PPTA), establishing new oversight and accountability for public-private partnerships in transportation projects. This is particularly important following debacles like Hampton Roads' Route 460 project, which wasted $300 million in taxpayer funds without having permits in hand.

Bicycling and pedestrian priorities

Delegate Riley Ingram (R) of House District 62 (outside of Richmond) has introduced HB1746, a "mandatory sidepath" bill, which would prohibit bicyclists from riding in the road wherever there's a sidepath or bike lane available. Obviously, this bill would have major negative impacts on the many Northern Virginia cyclists who use bicycles for transportation.

SB781, which would make it legal for cars to cross the double yellow line to pass bicyclists, with the required three foot safety distance, has passed in the Senate and is headed to the House. Another bill, SB882, would make dooring illegal, and would also make it easier for cyclists to be compensated after being injured by dooring.

HB1402/SB952 would make sure local jurisdictions don't lose state funding if they implement road diets, with bike improvements on local streets. Under current law, replacing a car lane with a bike lane reduces a jurisdiction's road funding, because the state funding formula is based on car lane miles.

SB1279 would ban use of any personal communications device while driving, unless that device is hands-free or the vehicle is stopped.

More information

The Virginia Bicycling Federation has an excellent online spreadsheet which they update regularly, detailing the status of bicycling bills this session. And the Coalition for Smarter Growth has a take-action tool to help Virginia residents contact their state legislators to support or oppose these bills.

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How well do you know Metro? It's whichWMATA week 36

It's time for the thirty-sixth installment of our weekly "whichWMATA" series! Below are five photos of the Washington Metro system. Can you identify the station depicted in each picture?


Image 1


Image 2


Image 3


Image 4


Image 5

The answers will appear on Thursday. We'll hide the comments so the early birds don't spoil the fun for the rest of you.

Update: The answers are here.

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Where Maryland's big three transit projects stand in Hogan's budget

Maryland governor Larry Hogan's proposed budget includes funding for the state's big three transit projects: the Purple Line, Baltimore Red Line, and Corridor Cities Transitway. But none of the projects appear to be out of the woods yet.


Image from the Maryland Transit Administration.

Hogan's 2016 budget includes $312.8 million for the Purple Line, "pending review and reevaluation." Baltimore's Red Line is slated to receive $106.2 million, also pending review and reevaluation.

That's the full amount that MDOT needs for both rail projects in the upcoming fiscal year. The pending review is potentially troublesome, but this budget is adequate to keep these projects alive through at least the next step.

For the Purple Line, that will be assessing private sector bids to help with construction costs.

For the $2.4 billion Purple Line, the Maryland Transit Administration had requested between $350 and $750 million from the state, spread out over several years. The rest of the funding for the project will come from $220 million from Montgomery and Prince George's counties, a $900 million contribution from the federal government, and several hundred million dollars from the private sector.

The Red Line has an estimated cost of $2.9 billion. In addition to the proposed state money, there are also funding commitments from local governments, and $900 million from the federal government. It's not clear yet where the rest of the funding will come from.

Hogan's budget also includes $18.2 million for engineering work on the Corridor Cities Transitway bus rapid transit line in upper Montgomery County. That's less than the total of $100 million needed from the state, but it's possible that it may cover the most immediate costs.

The Corridor Cities Transitway hasn't been as much of a lightning rod as the two rail lines, so it would be more of a surprise if Hogan targeted it for cuts.

What happens next?

Hogan campaigned on a platform of reducing government spending and building roads instead of transit, so this news is a blessing for transit supporters. But the Purple and Red lines aren't done deals yet.

For the Purple Line, it's likely that Hogan is waiting to see the bids for a public-private partnership to build and run the project. Maryland wants the private partner to provide between $500 and $900 million, but if the bid is too low and the state has to provide more money than Hogan's budgeted, then the Purple Line may be in trouble. The bids are due March 12.

If Hogan does decide to pull the plug on the Purple Line (or the Red Line) before those projects get underway, the amount he's budgeted in FY 2016 would go unspent, and the MTA budget would likely be lower in future fiscal years as a result.

Hogan's actions could prompt the state legislature to allow Montgomery and Prince George's counties to tax themselves to help pay for the Purple Line. However, Montgomery County had already envisioned taxing districts as a way to pay for its proposed bus rapid transit network, and voters may be unwilling to accept a tax increase large enough to pay for two big transit projects at the same time.

The governor's budget also includes money for maintaining existing transit systems. WMATA would get $238.2 million for its capital improvements program, while the Maryland Transit Administration would receive $101 million for upgrades to Baltimore's transit system, including refurbished light rail cars, new buses, and a new bus facility.

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Bus stops around DC are getting real-time arrival displays

If you ride the bus on 16th Street, Georgia Avenue, H Street/Benning Road, Wisconsin Avenue, or Pennsylvania Avenue in DC, it may already be easier to know when your bus is coming. New real-time screens have already appeared on 37 bus stops, and more are coming.


Photo by Reginald Bazile on Twitter used with permission.

The District Department of Transportation is installing these screens in bus shelters on these high-ridership bus corridors. According to Sam Zimbabwe of DDOT, they are part of an initial order of 56, and the agency hopes to have 120 by March.


One of the new signs. Photo from PoPville used with permission.

The money comes from a federal TIGER grant, part of the 2009 stimulus bill. The Washington region won a grant in 2010 to improve bus service.

Many of the projects then stalled for years, and there still isn't new signal priority, where signals adapt to help keep the buses moving, beyond the limited one that had already existed on Georgia Avenue. But it's great to see these screens, which should make riding the bus much less of a mystery.

Not everyone has a smartphone, and not everyone who does knows how to pull up the real-time info. Research shows that people even perceive the wait to be shorter when they have the information than when they don't.

Have you used any of the signs yet?

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Here are the answers to whichWMATA week 35

On Tuesday, we posted our thirty-fifth photo challenge to see how well you know Metro. I took five photos in the Metro system. Here are the answers. How well did you do?

We got 41 guesses this week. An amazing 12 of you got all five. Great work, Alex B, Peter K, dan reed!, Mr. Johnson, K Conaway, Spork!, MZEBE, DAR, Justin...., hftf, Chris H, and Frank IBC!


Image 1: Wiehle Avenue

I snapped the first image on the Wiehle Avenue station's southern bridge. The main clue here is the freeway below. You can see the six eastbound lanes of the Dulles Toll Road and Dulles Airport Access Road. The gambrel roof of the station, which is visible at left, also narrows this down to one of the three new Silver Line stations with that roof type. Thirty-two of you knew this one.


Image 2: Fort Totten

The next image shows the bus loop and upper level platforms at Fort Totten. One clue here is the tall steel beam running along the station. This is part of the bridge structure that holds up the CSX tracks that flank the Metro tracks between Brookland and Silver Spring. Takoma and Silver Spring also have similar beams, but their layouts are different. The bus loop, which extends under the bridge, is the clearest indicator that this is Fort Totten and not Takoma. Another clue that this isn't Takoma is that the platform continues above the roadway, which is not the case there. Thirty-two guessed correctly.


Image 3: Eisenhower Avenue

The third image was taken from Eisenhower Avenue looking north. At center is an inbound Yellow Line train. The tracks that split off here turn west and go into the Alexandria Rail Yard, which is along the Blue Line. These lead tracks allow Yellow Line trains to be put into service without first going to King Street and reversing. The perspective (off to one side of the tracks) also means that this is a side platform station, which considerably narrows the field. Twenty-eight of you got this one.


Image 4: Wheaton

This picture shows the pedestrian bridge over Viers Mill Road that links Wheaton station to its parking garage and the Wheaton Plaza shopping mall. It's a fairly distinctive bridge, and there aren't any others in the Metro system that share its design. Twenty-seven knew this was Wheaton.


Image 5: Foggy Bottom

The final image shows the entrance to Foggy Bottom station. Metro completely rebuilt this entrance a few years ago. Prior to its reconstruction, it had three escalators. But when one or more was broken, the lines to get into and out of the station were legendary. When WMATA rebuilt it, they put in three new escalators in such a way that there was room for a staircase. The LED lights glinting off the sides of the escalator are a clue here. Another clue is the building visible just outside, which is on the northeast corner of 23rd and I NW. Twenty-two got this one right.

Thanks to everyone for playing! Great work. Stay tuned. We'll have five more images for you next Tuesday.

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BREAKING: Hogan gives the Purple and Baltimore Red lines a momentary reprieve

New Maryland governor Larry Hogan will include some funding for the Purple Line and Baltimore's Red Line in the state's budget, though the fate of both projects remains unclear.

Both the $2.4 billion Purple Line, a proposed light rail line between Bethesda in Montgomery County and New Carrollton in Prince George's County, and the $2.6 billion Red Line light rail, which would connect Woodlawn in Baltimore County and Bayview in Baltimore City, are ready to start construction this year.

The state would only have to provide a small portion of the total cost, roughly between $300 and $700 million for each line. Each project already has funding commitments from local jurisdictions and the federal government, while the Purple Line would also receive funding from a public-private partnership.

Until the formal budget release tomorrow, we won't know how much funding Hogan has set aside for either project. He could provide enough money for each project to move ahead as they are, or request additional study or cost-cutting. That could imperil the federal government's $1.8 billion commitment for both projects, which would be distributed to other projects in other states if Maryland doesn't take the money, as well as the private funding.

Hogan, a Republican who beat Democrat and former lieutenant governor Anthony Brown in an upset election last fall, vowed in his campaign to reduce government spending to close the state's budget shortfall. While he said he would not make a decision on either the Purple or Red lines before taking office, he previously expressed a preference for building roads over transit and focusing on the state's rural areas.

Also included in the governor's budget is $30 million for a new regional medical center in Prince George's County, at Largo Town Center Metro. Hogan also proposed cutting in half a formula that provides additional funding to school systems with a high cost of education, called GCEI, which would specifically affect Montgomery and Prince George's counties.

We'll provide more details as they come.

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Awaiting a decision, activists rally for the Purple Line

Maryland's new governor, Larry Hogan (R), is expected to announce his budget on Friday. Among its many facets will be funding, or a lack of funding, for the Purple Line. Advocates are mobilizing on social media to ask Hogan to keep the project moving forward.


Images from Purple Line Now.

Since winning office, Hogan has remained mum on the line, which will run from Bethesda to New Carrollton, as well as the Baltimore Red Line. During the campaign, he said he thought both were too expensive, but once elected, he said he would evaluate the projects carefully.

Business groups have organized to support the line, which they say is key to Maryland's economic competitiveness. It already has federal money attached, which could help bolster the case, though that hasn't stopped other governors (like New Jersey's Chris Christie) from canceling transit projects.

Supporters have changed their Facebook and Twitter profile photos and tweeted with the hashtag #purpleline. Some even co-opted Hogan's slogan, "Change Maryland," suggesting that the Purple Line represents positive change for Maryland.

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