Greater Greater Washington

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For DC Council: Elissa Silverman and Robert White

With 15 people on the ballot for two DC Council at-large seats on Tuesday, many voters have little information on this race, which has gotten light press coverage and no independent polling. But an at-large council seat is a very important post. Voters will be able to pick two candidates, and we recommend Elissa Silverman and Robert White.


White and Silverman. Images from the candidates' websites.

In addition, while they stand virtually no chance of losing, we hope voters will happily cast ballots for Brianne Nadeau for the council seat in Ward 1, Mary Cheh in Ward 3, Kenyan McDuffie in Ward 5, and Charles Allen in Ward 6. Cheh and McDuffie have been exemplary councilmembers, and Nadeau and Allen are sure to be as well.

There was no consensus to make an endorsement for DC mayor, attorney general, chairman of the council, or delegate and shadow races. Greater Greater Washington contributors do strongly support voting Yes on Initiative 71, marijuana legalization. Our endorsements come from a survey of contributors, with the editorial board making a determination of whether there is strong enough consensus to warrant an endorsement.

Robert White has made it clear that he supports smart growth and progressive transportation measures. His transportation issue page focuses on about improving transit and walkability and recognizes such solutions will help decrease congestion. He also has an intriguing plan to convert underused office and retail space into housing. White supports streetcars and bus lanes, completing the Metropolitan Branch Trail, and much more. He will be an effective councilmember, already gaining the support of GGW allies David Grosso and Kenyan McDuffie as well as Yvette Alexander and multiple newspapers.

We previously endorsed Elissa Silverman in the 2013 special election. She is a supporter of transit and a crusader for affordable housing as well as other programs to help less fortunate residents. While she had softer positions on some elements of the zoning update and has called herself "a moderate" on streetcars, there is more to legislating in DC than just parking minimums, and she is on the right side of most issues. With support from DC's progressive organizations and Marion Barry, hopefully Silverman can help bring the city together to move forward in a way that benefits all.

Kishan Putta, a sitting Dupont Circle Advisory Neighborhood Commission member and first-time candidate for higher office, also deserves special mention. He has made the 16th Street bus lane a centerpiece of his work both on the ANC and in this campaign. This has helped elevate it to a top city priority and gotten other candidates on the record in favor as well. While he is unlikely to win a seat next Tuesday, his candidacy has been positive and we hope to see him continue to be involved in transit and other issues in the years to come.

The mayoral race between Muriel Bowser, David Catania, and Carol Schwartz has gotten the lion's share of press and voter attention. However, our own process reached no clear enough consensus for an endorsement. We encourage our readers to read our chats with Bowser and Catania and make up their own minds.

On Initiative 71, no contributor voted to oppose the measure. Marijuana has been shown to be less harmful than alcohol, tobacco, and many legal drugs, and most of all, enforcement against it has overwhelmingly harmed communities of color. It's clear that the negative effects of keeping marijuana illegal have far outweighed any benefits, and voters should take the next step with Initiative 71.

We will have posts about Maryland and Virginia as well as some Advisory Neighborhood Commission races over the coming days. Regardless of your views, if you are an eligible voter in DC, please be sure to vote on Tuesday, November 4 or in early voting until Saturday, November 1.

Ask GGW: How much pain will riders face while Metro replaces the Bethesda escalators?

Metro is replacing the Bethesda Metro's three escalators. Why is it happening now, and will the station have to close?


Photo by Mike Sandman on Flickr.

The 2½ year project began earlier this month to replace all three of the station's entrance escalators. WMATA's press release said, "For safety reasons, Metro may need to temporarily close Bethesda Station to prevent overcrowding during service disruptions or other events, such as a disabled train, medical emergency, infrastructure problem or power failure. This may happen with little advance notice."

What does this mean? Will Bethesda station really have to close? What will the impact on riders be? We talked with WMATA spokesperson Dan Stessel about the project.

Why do this now?

Bethesda station is going to get a new, second entrance in tandem with the Purple Line. That construction is scheduled to start in 2016. Can the escalator rehab wait until there is another entrance? Metro already will be closing the Red Line for 14 weekends between Friendship Heights and Grosvenor for that and other repair work.

Stessel says this can't wait:

For more than a year now, [the escalator division] has permanently assigned a maintenance team, composed of two technicians and one master technician, to Bethesda and Medical Centerjust those two stations (something that is unheard of among our peers in the transit industry). That's in addition to emergency response personnel and supervisors. That level of attention has yielded positive results, but it is not sustainable in the long term.

The escalators are original equipment, installed when the station was built and in service since it opened. As you know, the longer the escalator, the more parts/sensors, the harder to maintain. These units are well past their useful life and need to go. Kicking this can down the road is not a good option.

Also, [General Manager] Sarles personally made a commitment to Bethesda riders three years ago, and we are making good on it.

Stessel also said that the work couldn't go any faster if workers closed the whole station because they can't fix more than one escalator at a time:
KONE, our contractorand one of the global leaders in this industry, would still only be able to work on one unit at a time, because one unit must be maintained for worker access to the shaft and crane activity can only occur on a single unit due to space constraints. Meanwhile, we would continue to expend huge resources to maintain outdated, outmoded escalators. I believe that if you spoke with most Bethesda customers, they would agree that getting this project done sooner is better.
What if an escalator breaks down?

Bethesda has three escalators from the station fare control area to the bus garage area (where you can exit or take other, shorter escalators to Wisconsin Avenue). If one is under repair, that leaves two, one going up and one down.

According to DC Metro Metrics, Bethesda's three escalators have been down 6.63%, 4.55%, and 4.81% of the time. (And that is with the dedicated repair personnel Stessel talked about above).

Given these numbers, if we assume that each breaks down totally independently of the others, the probability that two or more escalators is broken at the same time would be less than 1%. But when only two escalators are functioning, the average probability that one or both escalators is broken rises to 10.4%.

What happens when one of these escalators breaks down, leaving only one functioning escalator? Stessel says:

We will have [escalator] techs physically at Bethesda every hour the station is open for the entire duration of the project. They're there to quickly respond to any outage.

In most cases, the escalators can be reset by the techsor the problem can be quickly resolved. If that's the case, no closure necessary.

If we have a longer, more complex outage, that may or may not result in a closure depending on a few factors:

  • As long as there is an ascending escalator available and the second, out of service unit is available as a walker [a shut-off escalator you can walk up or down], the station can stay open. Personnel can reverse a working descending unit to ascend if that helps.
  • If either of the two remaining units is barricaded for any reason (not available as a walker), the station will close due to the extremely limited capacity for exit.
  • If both units are out of service (i.e. for a power outage or fire alarm), the station will close.
When else might the station close?

Bethesda could close even if two escalators are still working. That's because, Stessel said, with only two escalators there is less capacity to get people out of the station:

The station will be closed/bypassed if there is a delay that causes crowding beyond normal rush hour levels. ...

We have a team of personnel at Bethesda every hour that the station is open, including MTPD officers and an official, [escalator] techs, a safety officer, a rail supervisor and an [escalator company] rep. These personnel are there to monitor conditions and effect an evacuation if necessary.

The decision to bypass the station is made by the ranking MTPD official based on actual crowd conditions or the potential for crowds. Types of incidents that could prompt bypassing include single tracking events, medical emergencies, arcing insulators, person struck, power outages, and so on. Factors such as peak vs. off-peak are taken into consideration. We won't needlessly inconvenience riders, but we will always put safety first.

In fact, the day we were emailing back and forth with Stessel, he said the Bethesda station was going to close because of single-tracking and "a reported track problem" like an arcing insulator outside Bethesda. But then the track inspectors found everything to be okay, so the station stayed open.

It sounds like there's really no good answer here. It's likely that the station will close some of the time, and even though Metro will provide shuttle bus service from Medical Center when that happens, it would still add a lot of time to a trip. Still, Metro has good reasons for moving forward. It's just unfortunate that Bethesda riders may have to deal with some significant inconveniences as a result.

Breakfast links: Rejuvenate


Photo by Victoria Pickering on Flickr.
Revive Bethesda's plaza: A vision for a grand new park on the plaza at Bethesda Metro envisions a lawn, retail, water features, and maybe ping pong or bocce. The current plaza is uninviting and underutilized. (BethesdaNow)

More affordable housing in DC?: A bill to require affordable housing in development projects on public land passed the DC Council yesterday, but not before Muriel Bowser and Phil Mendelson weakened it by adding some loopholes. (Post)

What's next for bikeshare: The new owners of Alta Bicycle Share, which also operates CaBi and other systems, will double the size of Citibike. There are yet no details on how they will get new equipment or what this means for Capital Bikeshare expansion. (Streetsblog, City Paper)

Biking safer despite headlines: The Governors Highway Safety Association may have done bike safety a disservice when it reported higher bike fatalities while ignoring rising bike ridership. It also blames crashes on drinking and not wearing helmets without evidence. GHSA has now been backpedaling on Twitter. (Streetsblog, BikePortland)

Boost for bikes and peds: Fairfax County approved its Bicycle Master Plan last night. A $100 million bond referendum on the ballot next week, if passed, would pay for many bike and pedestrian projects. (WAMU)

Glowing bike lane: A bike lane in the Netherlands has glow-in-the-dark paint which recharges during the day and glows at night to make it more visible. (BBC)

Real estate bits: A mixed-use development with affordable units will replace Glenarden Apartments, a low-income complex near Landover. (Post) ... Georgetown's Latham Hotel will become micro-units. (UrbanTurf) ... GSA may hand an underutilized building near Navy Yard to DC in exchange for construction services at St. Elizabeths. (WBJ)

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Events roundup: Georgetown and Fairfax

How can communities change while preserving what's important? Learn about these challenges in historic Georgetown and developing Route 1 in Fairfax. Also, learn about transportation financing, water and equity, and Ride On service at upcoming events around the region.


Photo by terratrekking on Flickr.

Change in Georgetown: Moving historic neighbor­hoods into the future can be difficult. Georgetown is trying to do that with its "Georgetown 2028" plan. On Tuesday, November 4, Georgetown BID transportation director Will Handsfield will discuss how the area can continue to develop a thriving commercial district and preserve its historic flair. That's at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW from 12:30 to 1:30 pm.

Growth and stormwater: The Coalition for Smarter Growth's next tour takes you to Route 1 in Fairfax, where growth will affect the local watersheds. Experts will talk about how Fairfax can add housing, stores, and jobs while preserving water quality. You need to RSVP for the tour, which is 10 am to noon this Saturday, November 1.

Public-private transportation: Curious about how the nation will finance transportation infrastructure? Tonight, Tuesday, October 28, the American Public Transportation Association (APTA) is hosting David Connolly and Ward McCarragher, both from the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, to discuss a new report about how public-private partnerships can fund transportation. A wine and cheese reception will begin at 5 pm and the presentation will be 5:30-6:30 at 1666 K Street, NW, 11th floor. Please RSVP.

Ride On more: Montgomery County is planning to increase service on six routes, and will discuss the changes at a public forum Wednesday, October 29, starting at 6:30 at the Silver Spring Civic Building, One Veterans Place.

Social equity and water: Georgetown's Urban and Regional Planning program's weekly lecture series is talking about "big investments in big cities." On Monday, November 3 at 5:30 pm, George Hawkins, the general manager of DC Water, will discuss how infrastructure also affects social equity. The talk is at Georgetown's SCS building at 640 Massachusetts Ave, NW. RSVP here.

Do you know of an upcoming event that may be interesting, relevant, or important to Greater Greater Washington readers? Send it to us at events@ggwash.org.

Gas is suddenly cheap(er); the reason is bigger than you think

Gas prices have fallen below $3 per gallon in much of the US, and the explanation isn't the simple seasonal differences that always make gas cheaper in autumn. The bigger reason: US oil shale deposits are turning the global oil market on its head.


Photo by Wil C. Fry on Flickr.

How did cheap gas happen?

In the simplest terms, supply is up and demand is down.

Travel drops between the summer travel season and the holidays, and cooler temperatures actually make gas cheaper to produce. That's why gas prices always fall in the fall.

But that's not enough to explain this autumn's decline, since gas hasn't dropped this low in years. China is also using less gas than expected, but that's also only part of the explanation.

The bigger piece is that supply is also up, in a huge way. North American oil shale is hitting the market like never before, and it's totally unbalancing the global oil market. Oil shale has become so cheap, and North American shale producers are making such a dent in traditional crude, that some prognosticators are proclaiming that "OPEC is over."

It's that serious a shift in the market.

Will this last?

Yes and no.

The annual fall price drop will end by Thanksgiving, just like it always does. Next summer, prices will rise just like they always do. Those dynamics haven't changed at all.

Likewise, gasoline demand in China and the rest of the developing world will certainly continue to grow. Whether it outpaces or under-performs predictions matters less in the long term than the fact that it will keep rising. That hasn't changed either.

But the supply issue has definitely changed. Oil shale is here to stay, at least for a while. Oil shale production might keep rising or it might stabilize, but either way OPEC crude is no longer the only game in town.

Of course, oil shale isn't limitless. Eventually shale will hit peak production just like crude did. When that happens it will inevitably become more expensive as we use up the easy to refine reserves and have to fall back on more expensive sources. That's a mathematical certainty. But it's not going to happen tomorrow. In the meantime, oil shale isn't very scarce.

So the bottom line is that demand will go back up in a matter of weeks, and the supply will probably stabilize, but at higher levels than before.

What does this mean?

Here's what it doesn't mean: There's never going to be another 1990s bonanza of $1/gallon fill-ups. Gas will be cheaper than it was in 2013, but the 20th Century gravy train of truly cheap oil is over.

Oil shale costs more to extract and refine than crude oil. Prices have to be high simply to make refining oil shale worth the cost, which is why we've only recently started refining it at large scales. Shale wouldn't be profitable if prices dropped to 1990s levels. In that sense, oil shale is sort of like HOT lanes on a congested highway, which only provide benefits if the main road remains congested.

So shale can only take gas prices down to a little below current levels. And eventually increased demand will inevitably overwhelm the new supply. How long that will take is anybody's guess.

In the ultimate long term, oil shale doesn't change most of the big questions surrounding sustainable energy. Prices are still going to rise, except for occasional blips. We still need better sustainable alternatives. Fossil fuels are still wreaking environmental catastrophe, and the fracking process that's necessary to produce oil shale is particularly bad. It would be foolish in the extreme for our civilization to abandon the progress we've made on those fronts and go back to the SUV culture of the 20th Century.

There will probably be lasting effects on OPEC economies. The geopolitical situation could become more interesting.

In the meantime, enjoy the windfall.

Cross-posted at BeyondDC.

The Purple Line will likely beat ridership forecasts

Tucson's new streetcar and the light rail between Minneapolis and St. Paul are beating ridership forecasts. It's a good bet that the Purple Line, which will break ground next year, will do the same. What do they have in common? All run through the heart of major state universities.


A Green Line train passing through the University of Minnesota. Image from Wikipedia.

Planners predicted that Tucson's new streetcar would carry 3,600 passengers a day. Just three months after it opened, the figure is 4,700. The light rail between Minneapolis and St Paul that started running in June foresaw 33,000 daily riders in 2015; the count has already passed 37,000.

The forecasts in Minnesota and Arizona did not fall short for lack of effort. A lot of work goes into ridership estimates, and the Federal Transit Administration carefully vets them. Indeed, that vetting may be the cause of the lowball predictions.

Since the federal agency has the job of choosing the best among many projects seeking funding, it can't let local governments puff up their numbers. So it insists that forecasters begin with computer models approved by regional planning agencies and lets them deviate only when hard evidence justifies it. The models are slanted against transitthey ignore the ongoing return to the city and assume a future of more sprawl and more driving.

On top of that, they treat universities like any other workplace. That's a good enough approximation if you're trying to predict rush-hour highway traffic, the models' original purpose, but it undercounts potential transit riders.

For many reasons, transit gets more use at universities than elsewhere:

  • Students tend to have less income than their neighbors.
  • Cultural change is turning younger adults, especially the college-educated, away from driving.
  • Few students have children, so they have less need of cars for errands.
  • College campuses are more walkable than elsewhere, especially in suburban areas.
  • Parking at universities is often scarce and is usually a long walk from classrooms and offices.
The FTA recognizes the limitations of its models, and it allows plans for new rail lines to take the behavior of students into account. But it's not easy to put numbers on diffuse social trends, and walkability is hard to measure.

The Tucson streetcar project tried to count its students, but it had trouble backing up its estimates and left them out of its official forecast. Minnesota rail planners treated students as a separate category of commuter, willing to put up with more delay on a bus or train than someone going to work. In both cities ridership beat forecasts even before school started, showing that the university effect is not just about students.

There's every reason to think the same thing will happen when the Purple Line runs through College Park. Its forecasts don't include the new riders who will be attracted by vastly improved transit service from the campus to Bethesda and Silver Spring.

The model predicts 550 daily boardings in 2030 by university employees at the stop in front of the Student Union. But shuttle buses from there to the College Park and Silver Spring Metro stations already carry 600 employee round trips a day.


Rendering of the Purple Line station at the University of Maryland. Image from the Maryland MTA.

Purple Line forecasters did add an estimate of student riders to the computer calculation of employees. Here, again, the numbers look to be low. They predicted only 25% more students on light rail than the number now riding the two shuttles and parallel bus routes. That is merely the increase in bus ridership that will come from enrollment growth and tighter restrictions on parking. It's more reasonable to expect the Purple Line to far outperform the current buses, which run infrequently to Silver Spring and only in rush hour to Bethesda.

The success of transit lines depends on more than measurable quantities of jobs and homes. Walkability and culture matter too. The Purple Line, anchored in the three urbanizing centers of College Park, Bethesda, and Silver Spring, is poised to join the list of outperformers.

Vision Zero won't be easy

Both Muriel Bowser and David Catania say they support the idea of "Vision Zero" and the end of traffic deaths and injuries in the District of Columbia. It's an admirable position, but will either be willing to make the unpopular decisions to see it through?


Image from Transportation Alternatives via Streetsblog.

On Monday, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio signed into law a new, slower 25 mph speed limit. Nick Paumgarten bemoaned the new limit in The New Yorker, saying it "demonize[s] speed" and suggesting that it contradicts the true, fast-paced nature that is essential to life in New York and to the livelihoods of working New Yorkers, who have to drive through the city for their jobs.

Paumgarten concluded with a quotation from a crane rigger who said, "I'd say it's time to give the city back to the cars." On the other hand, Paumgarten also acknowledged the safety issue here, saying, "Fourteen children were killed by drivers last year. You won't find a citizen who didn't wish that this number were zero."

In response, Brooklyn Spoke's Doug Gordon wrote, "Of course not. But what you will find are a lot of people who don't want to do anything that could make that wish come true."

I believe that both Bowser and Catania support safer streets. Endorsing Vision Zero is a good first step. But safer streets won't come from slogans alone. They require dedicated effort in the face of sustained opposition and an entrenched status quo.

Vision Zero will require spending political capital (in addition to real capital and public money) and could mean lowering speed limits, removing parking spaces, or reducing of travel lanes. Any of these could alienate supporters and anger allies.

Vision Zero, like all other major policy initiatives, won't just happen because we say we want it to happen. A long-term, genuine commitment to Vision Zero could require some unpopular choices. Will either be willing to make them?

Breakfast links: Fight for infrastructure


Photo by Peter Lee on Flickr.
Stadium delay: A council hearing on the new soccer stadium set for today has been delayed until after the election, making some question if a deal can pass before the council adjourns in December. (Post)

Pay to play: Loudoun County pays for high school stadiums but not its elementary school playgrounds, instead relying on parents and community members to raise funds. But now the school board wants to explore public funding. (Post)

Bikeshare buyout: REQX Ventures bought out Alta, the company that operates Capital Bikeshare and New York's Citibike. REQX plans to double the Citibike fleet, but can it quickly fix the supply chain problems that have limited cities' expansion? (Streetsblog)

Bourgeois bikeshare: Bikeshare systems across North America still struggle to reach low-income riders. Are barriers like credit card ownership, poor infrastructure, and perception to blame? Or do cities not put stations in low-income areas? (CityLab)

Streetcar "referendum": Many see the Arlington County Board elections as a referendum on the Columbia Pike streetcar with a rematch between pro-streetcar Alan Howze and opponent John Vihstadt, who wants buses. (WAMU)

Not a war: Responding to a reader who charged DC is waging a "war on cars," Bob Thomson responded, "I can't see how trying to protect pedestrians amounts to a 'War on Cars.'" (Scroll to the 7th question.) Thanks, Bob. (Post)

A bad deal: An SUV driver deliberately hit a cyclist in New York. Prosecutors pursued charges, but then the Manhattan DA offered a $250 plea bargain deal. (Gothamist)

Put a parking garage on it: Last year, Portland passed a law to require new buildings to have parking. Now those garages sit mostly empty as residents opt for free street parking or biking. (Bike Portland)

Happy birthday: New York City's subway turned 110 years old yesterday. 150,000 people rode the subway on its very first day to much fanfare: "...in two days it will seem to New York as if it had never ridden anywhere but in the subway." (CityLab, NYT)

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Do you know the station? It's whichWMATA week 26

It's time for the twenty-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 Wednesday. We'll hide the comments so the early birds don't spoil the fun for the rest of you.

Making room for transit can make better streets for everyone

Many proposed transit projects in our region, from streetcars to bus rapid transit and the Purple Line, involve vehicles running in the street. Giving transit a place on our busy streets can be a hard sell, especially when it means displacing cars. But a recent trip to Minneapolis shows how it can create better places for everyone, including drivers.


The new Green Line runs through the University of Minnesota. Photo by Michael Hicks on Flickr.

Minneapolis finds a compromise on the Green Line

While presenting at Rail~Volution last month in Minneapolis, I had a chance to ride the Green Line, a new light-rail between downtown Minneapolis and downtown St. Paul. The 11-mile line bears a striking similarity to the proposed Purple Line here in Montgomery and Prince George's counties. Like the Purple Line, the Green Line faced resistance from a Republican governor and concerns about gentrification and neighborhood disruption from nearby large immigrant communities.

But it's how the Green Line interacts with the University of Minnesota, and how community leaders came together to make it a success, that might be the biggest lesson for our area. Like the Purple Line, which would pass through the University of Maryland, the Green Line travels on Washington Avenue, the main street at the University of Minnesota.


Washington Avenue before and after. Photos from Google Street View.

The University of Minnesota, also known as the U, opposed banning cars from Washington Avenue, a busy commuter route into downtown Minneapolis, and turning it into a transit mall. Scientists in the over 80 labs along the street worried that vibrations from light rail trains would disturb their research.

Officials preferred a more circuitous route that went north of the campus, which would inconvenience fewer drivers but also reduce transit access to campus. The U sued to block the project, but after negotiating with the regional Metropolitan Council, officials eventually came to an agreement. The council would pay to reduce vibrations and electromagnetic interference, while the U would move some labs away from the line.

A busy road becomes a place

Since then, the U has worked to make the Green Line as successful as possible. It distributed over 6,700 special passes to students, faculty, and staff that allow them to ride between the three on-campus stations for free, and rerouted campus buses to divert more traffic away from Washington Avenue.


A plaza runs down the middle of Washington Avenue, with light rail and bus/bike lanes on the sides. Photo by the author.

The U's cooperation with the Metropolitan Council meant that the Green Line could transform Washington Avenue from a traffic sewer to a gathering place. Today, the street feels like a natural extension of the campus. Trains run down the middle of the street, and there are shared bus and bike lanes on either side. The sidewalks are wider, and the crosswalks have special paving materials to make them more visible.

There's also more green space than there was before. Since the Green Line stations are in the center of the street, there's a space between the tracks. It would have been easy to just make it a grassy median, or find a way to squeeze in a car lane. Instead, it's a plaza with tables, chairs, and lush landscaping.


Bikes, buses, and transit share the reconfigured Washington Avenue at the University of Minnesota. Photo by the author.

A significant amount of development is happening around the Green Line as a result. Over 2,500 apartments have been built around the U's three Green Line stations, with another 2,000 in the pipeline. New shops and restaurants have opened along the tracks to cater to the influx of students.

When I visited, Washington Avenue was bustling with students walking to class, cyclists headed downtown, and light rail trains gliding down the street. It was a nice place to be, but it was still a transportation corridor. In fact, the transition was so seamless that it wasn't until I flew home and I looked at a map that I even realized cars were banned from part of the street.

Better streets make better transit

The development around the Green Line, coupled with the dramatically improved walking and bicycling environment, supports and reinforces the use of transit, making the Green Line more successful. Even before the line opened, 20% of faculty and staff and 40% of students used transit. But since the Green Line opened, it already has over 40,000 riders each day, higher than the projected ridership in 2030. The three University of Minnesota stations are the line's busiest.


Passengers wait for a train on Washington Avenue. Photo by Michael Hicks on Flickr.

And diverting drivers away from campus hasn't created the traffic congestion that some people feared. In 2011, there was an average of 18,800 cars on Washington Avenue through campus each day. According to the state's traffic counts, some of those cars have shifted over to nearby University Avenue, which had an increase over 8,000 cars since then.

But on other nearby streets, traffic increased by a very small amount, or even decreased. It's likely because some drivers chose to take the Green Line instead, opening up street space for others.

The Green Line required leaders to accept that, in order for transit to be successful on Washington Avenue, it had to be seen as a place for people, not just for cars. This is standard operating procedure in other countries, where transit usually gets top priority, but here it requires some persuasion. Hopefully, the success of projects like the Green Line can be a guide for leaders in the DC area as they try to build transit that not only moves people, but creates stronger places.

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