The Washington, DC region is great >> and it can be greater.

Posts from April 2012


Parking minimums undermine Montgomery zoning changes

Montgomery County is rewriting its zoning code, but the proposed draft leaves old minimum parking requirements largely in place. This obstructs the very growth the county wants to encourage.

Townhouses in Colesville. Photo by thecourtyard on Flickr.

Outside downtowns with parking districts, almost all new housing will still need 2 off-street parking spaces per dwelling, even in mixed-use or multi-family residential areas.

Parking minimums drive up the cost of housing unnecessarily. Developers want to sell what they build; they will include parking to meet the demand from future residents. Extra spaces just add costs.

The added expense bites hardest in the less affluent sections of the county, where a transit-riding populace struggles with infrastructure built for cars. Parking minimums could stymie the needed revitalization of corridors like New Hampshire Avenue, University Boulevard, and Veirs Mill Road.

Formulas for Bethesda and Silver Spring won't work countywide

Parking minimums like these did not impede the county's first wave of transit-oriented development, centered on the expensive downtowns of Bethesda and Friendship Heights. Rents and condo prices there are high enough to cover the cost of underground parking even if it goes unused.

In Silver Spring, where rents are lower, the county lifted the parking burden off developers' shoulders by building massive garages at taxpayer expense.

But the county can't afford to endlessly replicate the vast subsidies that went into downtown Silver Spring. Nor can the Bethesda model of luxury housing and expensive retail be copied everywhere. It would drive out current residents, and in any case there are only so many places where the market would support it.

The county needs a new model of revitalization, one that upgrades existing neighbor­hoods without displacing their population. This will not happen as long as off-street parking requirements make anything but luxury residences too expensive to build.

Decaying strip malls illustrate the problem. Planners hope that the strip malls can be rebuilt in a more urban style, with stores that open onto the sidewalk, a few floors of apartments above, and a parking garage behind the buildings. A row of duplexes, facing the single-family homes across the street, could complete the back side of such a development. Duplex housing, now very rare in the county, is more affordable for both the tenant and the owner (the rent helps pay the mortgage).

But under the zoning code, a developer cannot sell a duplex unless it has 4 parking spaces of its own. The cost of building 4 spaces in a parking garage is over $100,000—enough to put an otherwise affordable home far out of reach for a middle-class buyer.

Parking minimums serve a different purpose in single-family neighborhoods

Regardless of whether parking minimums are good policy, planners have sound political reasons for keeping them in Montgomery's single-family zones. They preserve the bargain that underlies the county's land use policy: keep single-family neighborhoods the way they are while promoting smart growth near transit.

Parking requirements serve a different purpose in suburban neighborhoods than in cities like DC. While the District's debate over minimums revolves around "spillover" that deprives residents of places to park, Montgomery homeowners would have space to put their cars with or without minimums because of two other laws.

The minimum lot sizes in the zoning code guarantee that every house has at least 60 feet of curb space. That is more than enough room for two cars, if there were no driveway. The resident parking permit program ensures that outsiders cannot park in those spaces.

Instead of guaranteeing space for cars, the rules effectively ensure that on-street spaces will usually be empty. Except in a few older neighborhoods where houses don't have driveways, mostly around Takoma Park, that's what housing subdivisions have always looked like in Montgomery. For many homeowners, car-free curbs are an essential element of their neighborhoods' suburban character, and the county has promised to preserve that for single-family zones as it becomes more urban elsewhere.

But minimum parking rules apply to commercial and apartment zones as well. There, off-street parking requirements are counterproductive. Left to its own devices, the real estate building and lending market will provide all the parking that is needed and more. The planning department should abolish parking minimums for mixed-use and multifamily residential zones, as DC is doing.


Are smarter bikes in the future for bike sharing?

Capital Bikeshare has been a huge success since its debut in 2010, but its system, which provides simple, sturdy bikes backed by sophisticated technology at stations, is no longer the only option. Might some cities, suburban jurisdictions, or even Capital Bikeshare in the future, consider a new technology: smarter bikes?

Photo by sam_churchill on Flickr.

Like many other cities with mature and successful bike sharing systems, Capital Bikeshare requires bikes to dock at stations when not in use. Each station has a kiosk that communicates wirelessly to track bikes.

Some next-generation bike sharing systems are trying out bikes with electronics on board, instead of at the station. These bikes can then dock at a larger number of stations or, in some cases, even be locked anywhere.

Currently, Capital Bikeshare's stations and kiosks serve the following functions:

  1. Unlock in response to member keys and credit cards
  2. Provide a secure locking point to deter theft
  3. Transmit usage and billing information
  4. Identify a known place to find bikes (by users or the bike sharing agency)
  5. Advertise for the system (and other commercial sponsors)
  6. Less commonly used functions, such as reporting malfunctions and extending reservations when dockblocked
Instead of putting these features in the station kiosks, they could all become part of the bikes themselves. The SoBi (Social Bicycles) system pictured above shows how this could work. A box attached to the bicycle contains a lock, a GPS, and wireless communication with a central computer. It unlocks in response to a rider's mobile phone or PIN code. When a rider reaches a destination, he or she locks the bike, and the station notifies the central computer.

It's easy to envision other potential features, such as a credit card reader for tourist use, or a button for reporting malfunctions. The box is solar-powered, like Capital Bikeshare stations, but could also be pedal powered.

The first system to use smart shared bikes like this is Call a Bike, still widely used in German cities, including Berlin, Frankfurt, and Munich. As its name implies, a user must phone before each trip for a bike's unlocking code, then after each trip, phone again with the bike's cross street to confirm return.

However, without designated stations or accurate location information, it can be inconvenient to find a bike, and the system does not encourage use by tourists. The weBike system at the University of Maryland uses text messaging instead of phoning, but also requires bikes to be returned to fixed docks.

Currently, two "next generation" bike sharing systems in the US are going further by putting all the intelligence in the bike. These systems are viaCycle, currently operating at a small scale at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, and Social Bicycles, a startup in New York.

In each of these systems, vehicles themselves communicate their locations to a central server, and users can find them using a website or mobile apps. A user unlocks a bike using his or her mobile phone and can then lock it anywhere.

These systems are analogous to the car2go car sharing system, in which cars don't have designated spaces and can be parked in any legal street location.

Smart bike systems promise a significant cost savings versus current generation systems with docks and kiosks. Adding 12 docks to an existing station costs about $13,000, while a new 12-dock station with a kiosk costs about $36,000. This cost difference is leading DDOT to expand many stations instead of adding new ones in between, where they'd be more useful but also more costly.

Social Bicycles founder Ryan Rzepecki claims that 2-4 times more smart bikes could be deployed for the same cost as current generation kiosk systems. Bike racks could also go almost anywhere, without the linear space and solar requirements of current docks.

Flexibility has advantages and disadvantages

Smart bike systems largely solve the dockblocking problem at full stations because users can lock their bike at any safe location, not just at docks.

But is it really a good idea to be able to dock bikes anywhere? It would be difficult to prevent some people from abusing the privilege, such as locking bikes in inaccessible locations (e.g., garages, courtyards, and behind security barriers). Additionally, bikes might accumulate in remote or infrequently used locations, as some have reported happening with car2go. Theft and vandalism could also become a problem; Capital Bikeshare has relatively low loss rates, thanks in part to its sturdy docks in well-traveled locations.

In addition, smart bikes do not solve the problem of empty stations, and can even add difficulty to the process of finding a bike. Bike sharing members often plan around expecting to find a certain number of bikes at a station because it makes for a convenient routine, or because they need several bikes at once for a group trip. A more flexible system would create more uncertainty and make users more reliant on smartphones, which are not available to everyone.

In fact, DDOT officials have cited predictability as a major reason they are enlarging stations: users find it particularly frustrating to find an empty or full station, so they would rather have fewer stations that are more often usable than more conveniently located, closely-spaced stations.

To make bike locations more predictable, Social Bicycles has proposed a "virtual station" concept, in which a station is just a geographic area on a map. Bikes could incur higher fees depending on how far riders park them from a virtual station. This solution gives users the flexibility to park anywhere, but ensures that most bikes will return to designated stations.

Would we use this here?

Several jurisdictions in our region are considering their own bike sharing systems. Some, fairly distant from DC and Arlington, primarily expect users to take short trips inside their systems instead of trips to and from the core.

There are many reasons for jurisdictions to join the current Capital Bikeshare network, like savings from economies of scale, and the convenience for users being able to get a bike anywhere within the network. However, systems less reliant on docks could be more cost-effective in lower-density suburban areas, where stations will be smaller and the cost of station kiosks will be a large fraction of the total budget.

Meanwhile, Capital Bikeshare is a huge success with its current, proven technology. Already, its stations are far cheaper to install and move than its predecessor system, SmartBike. Capital Bikeshare shouldn't change just as it's hitting its stride. In time, we might even see it transition toward technologies that further reduce the burden of stations.


"Diverging diamond" doesn't help make a walkable corridor

An almost-finished plan for the Greenbelt Metro and MD-193 area aims to create pedestrian-friendly urban nodes in northern Prince George's. But the county has decided to push a pedestrian and bike-unfriendly interchange in the middle of the corridor.

Diverging diamond in Springfield, MO. Photo by MoDOT on Flickr.

Prince George's planners recently held their final meeting on the Sector Plan in Greenbelt. It caps months of hard work and civic engagement. But in a baffling move, the department chose this meeting to bring up the idea of transforming the Greenbelt Road/Kenilworth Avenue interchange into an even more anti-pedestrian environment by converting it to a "diverging diamond."

None of the planners, and especially not the traffic engineer leading this part of the discussion, saw any conflict between turning one section of Greenbelt Road into a micro-freeway while turning the next block into a pedestrian-friendly urban district.

Diverging diamond: Faster traffic, worse for pedestrians

Diverging diamond interchanges (DDIs) are designed to move cars more efficiently by reducing the number of signal phases at interchanges and allowing cars on freeway on- and off-ramps to move freely without waiting for signals.

To accomplish this, the surface street lanes (not the freeway) cross to the opposite (left) side of the center line as they to pass through the interchange.

Diverging diamond diagram from Wikimedia.

Pedestrians have to cross to the median and walk between concrete walls, forcing them to cross half of the through lanes at each side of the bridge. In the case of the Greenbelt Road/Kenilworth Avenue interchange, that would mean crossing 3 or 4 lanes (depending on the final configuration of the design) at each side of the bridge.

Alternatively, the design could accommodate pedestrians the outside of the roadway, but then they must cross the free-flowing left turn on- and off-ramps where drivers will be focusing on making the turn fast rather than looking for people crossing.

Incompatible with walkable vision for the corridor

What's most troubling is that the planning department is actually trying to create an urban, pedestrian environment immediately west of the interchange, yet they still proposed this design which does the opposite.

Early on in the presentation, planners showed before and after renderings of their visions for a walkable urban node where Beltway Plaza is today. They showed a suburban arterial transformed into a narrowed street with wide sidewalks, street trees, pedestrian lighting, and bike lanes. At previous meetings, they talked of building a street grid, of filling in parking lots with development, and making it easier and safer to walk in these new urban nodes.

They also talked of finding ways to link the different neighborhoods of Greenbelt that have been separated from each other by the various freeways in the area. They specifically mentioned finding better ways of linking the Golden Triangle office park with the Beltway Plaza area—two neighborhoods that are currently separated from each other by Kenilworth Avenue and its interchange with Greenbelt Road.

But planners are approaching rebuilding the Kenilworth/Greenbelt with the objective of moving more cars, faster. They are not thinking about creating a pedestrian-friendly environment in that space. They are not thinking about making cyclists feel welcome on the road.

And encouraging drivers to speed up as they approach what planners hope to be a walkable node is asking for trouble.

The cure is far worse than the disease

Today, Greenbelt Road crosses above Kenilworth Avenue at an interchange built in the 1980s. Most would agree that the intersection has its problems, mostly from the way the northbound ramps are offset and the close spacing of the north- and southbound off-ramps.

Image modified from Google Maps.

But the solution the county planners propose would be far worse than the current setup, especially for pedestrians and cyclists.

It is questionable why the county wants to focus on this intersection to begin with. It's not "failing" by traffic engineer standards, and in terms of driver delay, it's not even the worst intersection in the corridor, according to a study conducted in conjunction with the Sector Plan. But of course, highway engineers like to "fix" things whether or not they're broken.

Strong Towns executive director Chuck Marohn narrated a video about a DDI in Springfield, Missouri. A traffic engineer involved in the design created the video, touting how a pedestrian can walk through the interchange, but Marohn points out how absurd it is to say that this is actually pedestrian-friendly.

Marohn notes that while a DDI provides a path for pedestrians and cyclists, it's nothing like the kind of interchange one would design if the goal from the start were to make a space friendly to people walking and biking.

Building walkable communities and complete streets has to be more than an engineer running down an accommodation checklist. If we're trying to create a neighborhood where walkability is a primary goal, then pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users have to be a top priority, not just get the leftover road space and the bare minimum listed in the design guide.

The nascent urban districts at White Flint and Tysons Corner are transforming from suburbs to more walkable spaces. And like the Beltway Plaza area, pedestrians in those areas face barriers in the form of interchanges. Prince George's can't simply get rid of their interchanges, but they don't need to make the pedestrian condition worse by recommending converting an interchange to one that's sole purpose is to move cars more quickly.


Breakfast links: Not enough

Photo by -Mandie- on Flickr.
Give peak a chance: Metro is dropping its peak of the peak surcharge, but some say they didn't give it enough time or design it in the way that would actually shift ridership away from the peak. (Examiner)

ICC too empty?: AAA complains that not enough people use the ICC because of the tolls, but Maryland says the traffic is meeting projections. Plus, lower tolls would take more money from other parts of the state. (Gazette)

The Tide rolls on: Virginia Beach rejected light rail in 1999, but with congestion, high gas prices, and its success in Norfolk, citizens will get a chance to reconsider extending The Tide on the November ballot. (Pilot, Jack Love)

Poplar going to auction: A developer who bought land on Poplar Point will lose it in an auction after being unable to get anything built. At least one adjoining landowner wants no development at all on Poplar Point. (Post, RU Seriousing Me)

Peds, bikes now count: Prince George's passed the bill to let the Planning Board make developers expand sidewalks and bicycle facilities around new projects. They already do this for roads but not for other infrastructure. (Rethink College Park)

Tourism without a car: It's not hard (or expensive) to visit Philadelphia without driving, but one writer finds a few ways SEPTA can provide clearer and better information to unfamiliar riders, and delays can frustrate plans. (Post, Ken A)

Biking in the future: Bill Nye the Science Guy envisions future bike infrastructure in DC, from tunnels protected from the weather, and that give riders a tailwind in both directions, to just having places to shower. (WashCycle)

Transit Score gets low quality score: Walk Score's Transit Score inherently prefers rail to bus even if a streetcar is slower than an express bus. It would be more difficult, but better, to score based on travel times. (Human Transit)

And...: ANC 1B opposes McMillan plans. (bloomingdale) ... DC looks to develop a Shaw parcel with mixed-use and affordable housing. (EastShawDC) ... Get caught up on Mayor Gray's housing and workforce development budgets. (DCFPI)

Have a tip for the links? Submit it here.


Don't fear change, or the zoning updates

Change can be frightening, especially when it affects our own neighbor­hoods. That's why it's no surprise that the planners who are rewriting the District's and Montgomery County's zoning codes are running into trepidation, misinformation, anger and even conspiracy theories at community meetings.

Photo by Mr. T in DC on Flickr.

The District and Montgomery, like most of our region, are indeed changing. But this change is happening on its own, unbidden by any planning official. The walkable neighborhoods of the DC region are growing more popular with residents of all ages, and many people want amenities such as restaurants and shops within walking distance and a convenient transit line to work.

In response, planners are trying to thread a difficult needle. They want to remove barriers to better, more inclusive walkable neighborhoods, but they also are trying to preserve single-family neighborhoods that remain popular with many others.

Continue reading in my latest op-ed in the Washington Post.

Plus, this week's other opinion pieces talk about how the height limit hurts housing affordability, injustice in DC's budget, and, for those who live in the single-family homes that aren't facing imminent doom from the zoning update no matter what some people fear, what critters you might see out your window.


Weekend links: Can of worms

Photo by Ivan Lian on Flickr.
Thomas had help: Harry Thomas Jr. seems to have had help with his money theft scheme from within Children and Youth Investment Trust. His nonprofits received special treatment and lax oversight from the agency, but who was responsible, and why, are a mystery. (Examiner)

... but Graham is on it: To help unravel the mystery of who helped Thomas, Councilmember Graham has been given subpoena power to investigate. The Mayor's office isn't pleased, though, arguing that the council's investigation will interfere with the federal one. (City Paper)

A party as old as tea: Tea Party opposition to planning and development may not be so different from traditional opposition, though the language is sometimes different. To properly address their concerns, one should treat them like anyone else. (Planetizen)

The sordid world of fare jumping: Fare evasion is the most often-cited crime on Metro, but it's likely many more get by, costing the system around $1.8 million per year. Yet fines don't go to WMATA, but to the state where the infraction occurred. (FOX 5)

DC does foliage: DC does a fabulous job planting new street trees but doesn't do nearly enough to protect them. Casey Trees' annual report card said the city needs to do more maintenance if it wants to grow the canopy. (DCist)

The invisible helmet: Rather than go without a bicycle helmet, either to protect your carefully gelled hair or to feel the wind on your balding scalp, perhaps you should invest in an airbag collar that only appears when you're in a crash. (Bloomberg)

And...: The bus operator thought to have viral meningitis didn't have it after all. (Post) ... The new streetcars are due in 545 days, which means mid-October 2013. (TBD) ... Portland's limo companies get in trouble for offering Groupon discounts. (IJ) ... HPRB approves the latest version of the Hine project. (DCmud)

Have a tip for the links? Submit it here.


Waterfront views by the Flickr pool

Here are our favorite new images from the Greater and Lesser Washington Flickr pool, showcasing the best and worst of the Washington region.

The Yards bridge. Photo by eakidwell.

Georgetown Waterfront Park. Photo by ekelly80.

White House vegetable garden. Photo by philliefan99.

Surrounded. Photo by Rich Renomeron.

McMillan Reservoir. Photo by Chris Wieland.


DC scores 4th in first Transit Score rankings

Yesterday, Walk Scoredeveloper of the popular method for evaluating neighborhood walkability (and filling out NCAA tournament brackets)—announced its first ranking of cities by Transit Score, a measure of the "usefulness" of a city's transit system.

Transit Score map of San Francisco. Image from Walk Score.

On a 100-point scale, New York and San Francisco took the top two spots with scores of 81 and 80 respectively, while Boston (74), Washington DC (69), and Philadelphia (68) round out the top five (see the full rankings).

Walk Score CEO Josh Herst believes this is an important time to begin evaluating cities in terms of transit, and all the Americans who rode transit 10.4 billion times in 2011 would likely agree with him. "Heading to the gas pump this season is about as much fun as getting a root canal," Herst said in the official release (PDF).

"With gas prices expected to hit new highs, more people are riding transit, walking and biking to save money. And being able to leave your car at home more often is great for your wallet, your waistline and the environment," he said.

The company generates Transit Scores using data provided by transit agencies, and takes into account the number of nearby transit routes (weighted differently by mode), how often those routes run, and how far away the stations are from any given point. A city's score is based on a population-weighted average of all individual point scores. For an excellent discussion of the Transit Score methodology, check out this exchange between transit expert Jarrett Walker and Walk Score's Matt Lerner from early 2011.

Overall, it's fair to say that few American cities score well on the system. Of the 25 largest cities that make their transit data available to the public, only ten topped a Transit Score of 50, which is the lowest score qualifying as "good transit," described as "many transit options nearby." Most (14) fall into the "some transit" bracket, and the 25th-highest Transit Score among the cities evaluated—Raleigh, NC—is a 23, the upper end of "minimal transit."

The scale is non-linear; that is, raising a city's Transit Score from 70 to 80 would take much more work than raising it from 60 to 70. Because of the population weighting, the more people who live in a city, the harder it is to raise the score: As the Walk Score website explains, one additional bus route means a lot more for a small town than it would for a big city.

Furthermore, rail transit (including subways and light rail) is weighted at twice the value of a bus route, with ferries, cable cars, and other modes splitting the difference between the two. These numbers weren't pulled out of thin air—they reflect research that shows a range of effects of different transit modes on the value of surrounding land.

Because of this, Transit Scores will tend to be higher in the center of cities where multiple rail lines converge, but where residential population may not be at its densest. It's not hard to see how development near rail stations could make or break a city's Transit Score.

No doubt, Transit Score is a useful way to compare different neighborhoods within a city, and now entire cities as a whole. But it primarily reflects how easy it is to get to transit, rather than where you can go and what you can do with transit once you're on it.

Cross-posted at Streetsblog Capitol Hill.


New data show ridership patterns on the Brunswick Line

MARC is proposing changes to the schedule on its Brunswick Line which significantly improves service to Montgomery County stations. The changes reflect new, recently-released boarding statistics for the line's 19 stations, statistics which can help them better serve commuters.

Photo by Mark Fisher on Flickr.

The data show, among other things, that Mont­gom­ery County stations account for roughly half of the line's eastbound riders; Germantown is one of MARC's big stations; riders go to destinations other than Rockville, Silver Spring, and Union Station; and Frederick branch ridership is not meeting proj­ec­tions, probably due to its infrequent service.

In addition, the Brunswick Line is a significant part of MARC's service; Brunswick and Point of Rocks ridership is big but smaller than Montgomery County's; and West Virginia has hundreds of people who ride the train despite infrequent service, long travel times, and ticket surcharges due to lack of state funding.

The Brunswick Line is arguably the most complicated of MARC's 3 lines. It's certainly the longest, running for 73 miles northwest through Montgomery and Frederick Counties and on to Martinsburg, West Virginia, with a 13.5-mile branch line to Frederick.

In addition, like MARC's Camden Line, it runs on tracks owned and controlled by freight carrier CSX. And it is constrained, despite growing ridership, because CSX refuses to allow MARC to add trains until the State of Maryland funds and builds a third track.

On weekday mornings, Brunswick Line trains bring people from Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia to jobs in Montgomery County, the District, and Alexandria and Arlington. On weekday afternoons and evenings, Brunswick Line trains take them home.

Meanwhile, there are big plans for the future along the line. Montgomery County is encouraging transit-oriented development on its part of the Brunswick Line. Frederick County is doing the same in and near Frederick. Even West Virginia is getting in on the act.

But good policy requires good data. So, where do the ridership data come from, and what do they show?

MARC's counting method

The data come from counts conducted on Wednesday, February 8, and Wednesday, March 14. MTA passed out the data at the monthly MARC Riders Advisory Council meeting on April 19.

On count days, conductors are supposed to count everybody who gets on and off their train at each station. The total number of people getting on and off each train is supposed to be equal.

The boarding numbers are misleadingly precise. That is, a count of 123 eastbound boardings on Frederick on March 14 does not mean that exactly 123 people got on. However, the numbers are still useful, as they are probably generally accurate, and anyway, they are the only numbers available.

The Brunswick Line overall

The Brunswick Line accounted for roughly 1/5 of total MARC boardings, while the Penn Line accounted for roughly 2/3, and the Camden Line accounted for the rest. Here is a comparison of Brunswick Line boardings to MARC's other two lines:

MARC LineDirection/TotalFebruary 8March 14
Brunswick LineEastbound (am)3,8984,102
Brunswick LineWestbound (pm)3,5623,844
Brunswick LineTotal7,4607,946
Camden LineTotal4,9654,711
Penn LineTotal22,91126,218

On both days, there were more eastbound than westbound boardings on the Brunswick Line. This may be a precision error, or there may actually have been 300-some people each day who went to work on MARC and home a different way.

Montgomery County

Montgomery County has 11 stations: Silver Spring, Kensington, Garrett Park, Rockville, Washington Grove, Gaithersburg, Metropolitan Grove, Germantown, Boyds, Barnesville, and Dickerson. Rockville and Silver Spring are major destination stations as well as origin stations.

9 daily trains in each direction currently make stops in Montgomery County. 2 eastbound and 4 westbound daily trains currently stop at all of the county stations.

Here are the boardings for Montgomery County:

Direction/TotalStation/TotalFebruary 8March 14
Silver Spring605654
*Kensington, Garrett Park, Gaithersburg, Metropolitan Grove, Germantown

The data show three notable facts:

  1. Germantown is a big station, by MARC standards. It's the biggest station in Montgomery County and on the Brunswick Line overall, and it's bigger, in terms of one-way boardings, than all Camden Line stations and all but 4 Penn Line stations (Odenton, Halethorpe, BWI, and Penn Station). (This comparison excludes Union Station.)
  2. Rockville and Silver Spring are not the only destination stations in the county. People also ride MARC to jobs in Germantown, Metropolitan Grove, Gaithersburg, Garrett Park, and Kensington.
  3. On the March 14 count day, there were more eastbound boardings at Montgomery County stations than at all other stations on the Brunswick Line combined.
The Frederick branch

The Frederick branch has 2 stations: Monocacy and Frederick. The trains run on a 13.5-mile line that branches off just east of (and not connecting to) the Point of Rocks station. The State of Maryland built and owns most of the track. Currently, 3 eastbound trains leave from Frederick between 5:12 and 7:10 am, and 3 trains bound west for Frederick leave Union Station between 3:50 and 6:30 pm.

Here are the boarding numbers (all eastbound) on the Frederick Line:

StationFebruary 8March 14

The Frederick branch opened in 2001 with 3 eastbound and 3 westbound trains. Projected ridership was 1,600 by 2005, with double the number of trains. Obviously, Frederick ridership is still much less; on the other hand, the number of trains is still the same as in 2001. That more frequent trains would increase ridership is a reasonable assumption.

Brunswick and Point of Rocks

There are also 2 stations in Frederick County that are not on the Frederick branch: Point of Rocks and Brunswick. Currently, 6 eastbound trains leave Brunswick between 5:00 and 7:40 am, and 6 daily westbound trains stopping at Brunswick and Point of Rocks leave Union Station between 3:35 and 7:15 pm.

Here are the boarding numbers at Point of Rocks and Brunswick:

Direction/TotalStation/TotalFebruary 8March 14
Point of Rocks448485
Point of Rocks12

Brunswick is the second-biggest origin station on the Brunswick Line, and Point of Rocks is roughly tied for third with Gaithersburg.

The eastbound boarders include residents of Virginia and West Virginia as well as Maryland. However, there do not seem to be any data on how many.

Some of the westbound boardings may represent West Virginia residents who work in Kensington, Gaithersburg, Metropolitan Grove, or Germantown, and transfer from a Brunswick-bound train to the West Virginia super-express that leaves Union Station at 4:55 pm. In Montgomery County, the super-express stops only in Silver Spring and Rockville.

West Virginia

West Virginia has 3 stations: Harpers Ferry, Duffields, and Martinsburg. Currently, 2 eastbound trains leave Martinsburg at 5:25 and 6:30 am, and 3 trains bound west for Martinsburg leave Union Station between 4:55 and 7:15 pm.

Here are the boarding numbers (all eastbound) at the West Virginia stations:

StationFebruary 8March 14
Harpers Ferry10592

West Virginia no longer contributes to MARC funding. Eastern Panhandle legislators are trying to do something about this. Meanwhile, since 2009, West Virginia riders have paid a surcharge of $2 per one-way ticket, $20 per weekly ticket, and $80 per monthly ticket.


Breakfast links: Motion like the tide

Photo by greghartmann on Flickr.
Anacostia fears tsunami: The wake of Lumen8­Anacostia and Cherry Blast have left questions and concerns in Anacostian minds. Could the neighbor­hood control a wave of gentrification if it comes to Anacostia's shore? (City Paper)

DDOT moves, but slowly: DDOT has now placed its order for 2 new streetcars. But councilmembers worry that it's been slow with hiring, streetcar purchases, and more. (WTOP, TBD)

Barry blames press: Asian and Pacific Islander residents criticized Marion Barry for his recent comments; Barry responded by blaming the media for blowing up the issue. He's also reached out to the Phillipine ambassador who called for an apology. (Post)

Back to work: Maryland needs 2 special sessions to for the budget and gambling legislation, though the Senate wants to deal with transportation instead. Perhaps it's time for the state to move to a full-time legislature? (Washington Times, FreeStater)

Costco not winning hearts: Costco tried to convince nearby residents that the large gas station it wants to build behind a new Wheaton store won't harm air quality and the neighborhood. Most were unconvinced, but liked the landscape architecture. (Patch)

Infant mortality improves: DC's infant mortality rate has improved markedly, moving from 23.1 deaths per 1,000 to only 8 deaths per 1,000. Home health visits and better healthcare outreach contributed to the improvement. (Post)

Hope from DC's renaissance: Detroit's current plight is much like DC's in the 1990s: loss of financial control, declining population, and rampant violence. Yet if DC could turn around, Detroit can, too. (MLive)

The snarl reaches Brazil: São Paulo's traffic is obscenely bad, largely from onerous parking minimums that often double the space a developer needs to build. (IBT)

And...: DC's major development projects continue to crawl forward. (WBJ) ... San Jose is plotting a major shift towards sustainable growth and transportation. (Sociecity) ... The Sierra Club endorses candidates for Falls Church City Council. (BlueVirginia)

Have a tip for the links? Submit it here.
Support Us
DC Maryland Virginia Arlington Alexandria Montgomery Prince George's Fairfax Charles Prince William Loudoun Howard Anne Arundel Frederick Tysons Corner Baltimore Falls Church Fairfax City